A/N: written for the LJ Apocalyptothon. Story request by nekare: "Rogue, Bobby and John end up having to deal each other again when they find themselves pretty much alone."
Come on Up, Lay Your Hands in Mine
Somewhere around hour five in the vault it occurs to Marie that something must have gone wrong. She leans her head back against the wall and watches Pyro pace, catches him checking his watch when he thinks she and Bobby aren't looking. Bobby has his hand on her wrist like he's worried she's planning something stupid, but it's coming to the point where she wishes someone would do something . "John, how long are you going to keep us here?" Bobby asks, and she can tell he's trying to say as it much like Cyclops as possible.
Pyro smirks at them. "Hey, Magneto said to hold you two down here until I got the signal, and that's what I'm gonna do. Don't act like it's my fault you two were both sloppy enough to get caught." He crosses his arms and leans his shoulder against the wall. "Don't worry though, once I get the word you'll all get to meet the big man up close and personal. Well, meet him again for you, Rogue," he says, and she can feel him eyeing the stripe in her hair.
"Shut up, John."
"My name is Pyro . You two can pretend to be like the rest of the sheep all you want, but I know what I am."
"And what's that?" Bobby says, rolling his eyes.
"On the winning side," Pyro says, and that pretty much puts an end to the conversation.
After another three hours even Pyro starts getting antsy. She hears him mumble something about the signal not getting through, then before she can react he's standing over her and wrenching her to her feet by her hair. "Get up," he orders, "and don't try anything cute. We're going to take a quick look outside. And you," he says, pointing at Bobby, "you even move and she burns. Got it?" Bobby locks eyes with her, and she nods her head just the smallest fraction. His mouth flattens into a thin line but he settles back against the wall, coiled like a copperhead waiting for its chance. Then she loses sight of him as she's shoved up the stairs and out of the vault.
The transition from dim vault to bright sunlight dazzles her, and anyway she loses her footing when Pyro pushes her across the vault threshold. She's still staring at the ground, trying to work up the nerve to touch him and end this, when she hears his soft, whispered " Fuck."
She looks up and sees exactly what he means.
She sees a car half-buried nose-first in the pavement twenty feet away. The houses that had lined the nice suburban street leading to the bank Magneto had ordered them held in are ripped into kindling; one's roof is lying in the middle of the street, balancing on its point like the bow of a grounded ship. Another house, a cute little colonial that Marie remembers had all of its trim painted pink, is reduced to a free standing door frame, the front door swinging slowly back and forth, its "Welcome!" plaque dangling from one corner. Even the bank is reduced to a single wall.
A hot, constant wind blows in their faces. The horizon looks strange to her until she finally puzzles out why. "What happened to the city?" she says, trying to overlay the missing skyline in her mind. "A whole city can't just disappear." She looks over at John and sees that he's trying to look at everything at once. He opens his mouth but nothing comes out; Marie can see his Adam's apple bobbing as he swallows.
Suddenly she hears steps pounding up from the vault, and she has a moment to wonder how long they'd been standing there before Bobby rushes past her and tackles Pyro to the ground. The fight is on then, and as Pyro's lighter comes out she could swear he looks relieved.
It takes long enough for the futility of someone with fire powers and someone with ice powers fighting to sink in that Rogue actually finds herself getting bored. She sits in the dust and watches the battle devolve into the mutant-powered equivalent of exhausted, blind punching, neither able to do any significant damage to the other. Finally, when the two of them are both gasping and barely able to keep their feet, Rogue speaks up: "Are either of you as hungry as I am?"
The two boys study each other, tiny slivers of flame dancing around Pyro's head, icicles hanging down from Bobby's arms, then they simultaneously back off. "We'll finish this later, Iceman," Pyro sneers, then he shuts off his flames. "C'mon, we're heading out."
Rogue gets back to her feet, and she and Iceman share a questioning look, which Pyro catches. "Don't forget, you two," he says, "you're both still my prisoners. The only reason I'm even talking to you is that Magneto wants you both alive." He makes flame wreath around himself to underscore the threat. "If he can't come here for some reason, that just means he expects me to bring you to him. Either of you gonna have problem with that?"
Rogue glances over at Bobby, who just gives her a helpless shrug. Pyro interprets that as surrender and laughs. "Knew you'd see it my way. Follow me." He turns his back on them and starts walking.
They both follow after him. There really isn't much of an alternative.
They walk. Midway through the first day they happen upon half of a supermarket still standing and raid it. Without electricity the meat has long since started to go south, so Marie and Bobby grab as much pop tarts and canned goods and bottled water as they can carry, since the market was the first even semi-standing building they'd seen since the vault and neither is willing to gamble on when they'll find another. Pyro rolls his eyes and only takes enough for a night or two; he tells them, loudly and repeatedly, that they're wasting their time, since they'll have caught up with Magneto and the others in a few days.
The floors are covered with an inch-thick level of fine dust; it billows up with each step, getting in their eyes and making them sneeze. Marie forces herself to think of it as dust because knows she the alternative isn't something she's able to deal with just yet. Having dust caked on her boots is one thing; anything else (ash, bodies, people) and she knows she would just stop.
Rationalizations only go so far, though; as she passes the produce aisle her mouth suddenly starts watering for a fresh pear---right until she sees that it's covered with the same dust as the floor. Suddenly the thought of putting that in her mouth makes her gag, and she runs outside so she won't get sick all over the floors. That would be too big a desecration, even more than what they were already doing, and now she can't stop imagining the supermarket full of old people with pushcarts and mothers checking lists and little kids begging for candy. She wonders how many of those people are on her boots and then she does get sick. By the time Bobby finds her she's crying hysterically, her throat burning and her chest aching, and she can't even tell him why because it'll just start everything all over again.
John is actually nice enough to let her recover before bossing them around ("He looked a little green himself," Bobby tells her later). Getting moving again is actually a relief.
By the end of the second day she's cursing whoever decided that the X-Men uniforms should be made out of leather. It's hot at night and it's hotter during the day, and there's no shade. It's not as bad as it could be; every so often Bobby cools her down, but even so she's entertaining vivid fantasies about changes of clothes. Everyone's complaining about the uniforms, even John, and it's nice to hear him admit something about the Brotherhood isn't made of daisies and angel tears.
Bitching about uniform chafing keeps them from having to talk about everything else --- like the arm they find lying in the middle of the road, with no sign of the rest of the owner. Marie doesn't know which is worse: not finding anyone, or just finding bits of them. The worst is when they have to cross the bridge; every inch is packed with cars, just stopped like they're waiting for traffic to move. John climbs up on one of the roofs and hops from car to car; Marie hopes he falls, but she can tell from the way Bobby's watching that he'd just catch him with some kind of ice net. She tortures herself by looking in each of the cars as she passes. Some are empty; those are the easiest.
Others aren't. The smell is indescribable, and if there's a pattern who got atomized and who were left as a pair of arms gripping the steering wheel Marie can't find it. After the crossing they make the mutual decision to stick to back roads.
Shortly before dusk that day they find a farmhouse standing completely untouched, the only sign of the original owners is a man-shaped shadow burned into the front of the building. Pyro magnanimously lets them go in and have a look around.
Upstairs Marie finds a room painted pink with a poster of the singer Jubilee always gushed about hanging on the door. The clothes in the closet look like they're around her size, and she doesn't waste any time stripping off her uniform. She slips into the adjoining bathroom and takes her first shower since the world turned sideways, and when she comes out she gets dressed in a stranger's clothes. She tries not to think about the girl who'd picked out her skirt, whether she'd liked the way it had hanged, whether she'd stared at herself in the mirror trying it on, whether she'd bought it to impress a cute boy at school. She finds a knapsack by the bed, dumps out the books and scribbled papers, and fills it with clothes.
There's a picture on the dresser of a broad-faced, smiling man with his arm around a red-haired girl; Marie stares at the picture for a few minutes, then takes the photo out of the frame and slides it into her pocket.
She leaves her uniform stretched out on the bed. As she passes one of the other rooms, she sees Bobby roll up his own uniform and pack it in his own looted knapsack. She leaves hers where it is.
She knows deep down she'll never wear it again.
It's been three days, and none of them have had a full night's sleep. Pyro only lets them sleep in shifts, and only for a few hours. Then it's up again and more walking towards the rendezvous point where Pyro's convinced the Brotherhood is waiting.
Bobby finally explains it. "He doesn't know how he's supposed to keep an eye on us if he falls asleep. I don't think he's slept at all."
Now that Bobby's said it, Marie can see the dilemma written all over Pyro's face. His cheeks are sunken and there are great dark circles drawn under his eyes; she's betting it won't be long until he just falls over if he keeps up this rate. He keeps snapping at them, reminding them they're his prisoners, but his eyes dart around and he looks more unsure by the second. If Bobby couldn't just freeze off the rope, she knew he would try tying them up.
At night he catches himself nodding off and stomps around, trying to keep his eyes open. If she wasn't so tired and didn't despise him so much, it would almost be funny.
Finally, one night he can't keep his eyes open anymore and slumps over by the fire. Marie and Bobby watch him for a few minutes, then she nudges him. "Shouldn't we leave?"
Bobby lays back and looks up at the stars. "Where're we going to go?"
She doesn't have an answer for him. He reaches out an arm and she snuggles carefully against him.
In the morning, Pyro first awakens in panic, but once he sees that Bobby and Marie are still right where he put them the swagger creeps back into his walk. It's worth putting up with his crowing to get some sleep at night.
It turns out that having someone with fire powers around when camping out comes in pretty handy. Bobby keeps the water cold, but it's John who starts the fires at night and heats up the food so it's edible. It would almost be nice if they weren't the last people left on Earth and if Pyro would just shut up about Magneto already. Every chance he gets, he brings up Magneto's great master plan, how Magneto was going to unite all the mutants, how Magneto was going to reward him for bring them in. It was getting to the point where it would almost be worth touching him and going through everything that meant just to get some peace and quiet.
Finally, Bobby loses his patience. "You can't still think he's out there," he says, interrupting anther sermon.
Pyro just looks at him like Bobby had just asked if he actually thought water was wet. "Of course he's out there," he says, shaking his head. "Look," he says, and Marie can tell he's using his most magnanimous tone of voice, "I know you guys are worried, but you don't have to be. Everything's different now. Without the X-Men..."
"We don't know they're all dead," Bobby mutters. Pyro gives him a pitying look, and it's all Marie can do not to punch him.
"C'mon, Iceman," he says. "Think about it. There's a ton more X-Men than we have in the Brotherhood. Don't you think we would've seen one of them by now? Felt some voices in our heads? Something?" He clicks his tongue at them. "Face it, guys, whatever this was," he says, waving his hand around to indicate the general devastation, "your team got the worst of it. It's over. We won. But anyway, as I was saying," and he glares at Bobby, "we're all on the same team now. Without the X-Men, there's no one to keep Magneto from doing what he needs to do. He can lead all of us mutants like he's supposed to, and hell, it's not like they're even a lot of humans left to get in the way."
Bobby's mouth drops open, and Marie tries to tell herself he couldn't possibly have meant that the way it sounded. "You're not sayin' Magneto planned this, are you? That this is what he wanted?"
Pyro's mouth opens and closes, and some of the crazy drains from his eyes. "Nah," he admits, finally. "I don't think so. Scorched Earth, this isn't his style. He wants to lead the world, not wreck it. He doesn't even really want to kill all the humans, he just thinks mutants should be running the show."
"That's big of him," Bobby says, rolling his eyes.
"It's true. And I guess they are now, aren't they."
"What's true is that he's a lunatic, and he's got you talking just like him, John. Do you even listen to yourself? You're talking about the apocalypse like it's a good thing."
"I keep telling you, stop calling me that."
"Oh man, you're not going to say that it's your slave name or something, are you? It's like he has you brainwashed."
"Hey, I see the world the way it is. At least Magneto doesn't want us to pretend we live in a candy-coated happy land like Xavier." Bobby stalks off to the edge of their little clearing, leaving Marie sitting alone with Pyro. "He'll come around," he says, and Marie rolls her eyes. "He'd better, he's not gonna have much of a choice. That goes for both of you," he says, and it dawns on Marie that he actually thinks he's being helpful. "You two have to learn to play ball."
"You just can't wait to get back the Brotherhood, can you?"
"Nope." He leans closer. "Look, I know this sounds pretty harsh, but this might be for the best. Think of it as the world's trash being taken out all at once." It was as if once Marie had thought he'd finally said the most evil thing possible, he felt like he had to go out and top himself. "And besides, someone has to be in charge."
"And you think that someone should be Magneto."
"Well, yeah." He plays with the flames from the campfire, shaping them into Brotherhood members. "Even if this all didn't go exactly according to his plan," he says, and she can tell it's paining him a bit to admit even that, "he'll know what to do. He always knows what to do. As long as I've known him, he always, always has a plan."
Three weeks later they find Magneto. Stumble onto him, really; all of a sudden the ground dips and they can see into the wide, shallow valley practically before they know it's there. Marie can tell instantly that whatever the battle was, this was where it ended.
Magneto's not the first they find, though; first is Cyclops' visor, which Bobby picks up from the dirt, cracked and half-buried. Marie finds the rosary beads Storm had given Nightcrawler last Christmas, and tries to convince herself that he could have teleported away even though she can't explain why he'd leave the beads behind. Storm herself she finds a few feet away, reduced to little more than white hair, a few bones, and a cape. She forces herself to look for metal claws, black tufted hair. There's no sign of either, and she'd given up hope so long ago that when it starts burning again it actually hurts.
She does find someone else. She screams at the top of her lungs for Bobby, and when he comes over with John all three of them try to believe their eyes.
Magneto lies there at their feet a shrunken, blasted husk encased in armor. His skin is bleached white and pulled back like a mummy's, his cape twisted beneath him. She wonders if he was flying when it happened; she pictures him trying to hold a magnetic field together to try to ward off what killed him. He would be arrogant enough to think he could hold off the end of the world. She hopes it hurt like hell.
She's forgotten entirely about Pyro until she hears his voice. "No," he says, and his voice is high and strangled. He can't seem to stop staring at the body. "No. That's...that's not...he can't die. He can't be dead."
"John," Bobby says, putting his hand on Pyro's shoulder, but Pyro shrugs him off and backs up a few steps. "Don't touch me!" He looks back and forth from Bobby to Marie and back to what used to be the Master of Magnetism. "Stay away from me."
"John, it's over, c'mon, he's..."
"No!" His expression shifts from confusion to fury before Marie can blink. "Shut up! you two, you don't know. He's Magneto. He can't die. He can't."
Bobby looks to her for help, but she's not about to touch him now, not with him on the edge of a breakdown like this. "There's just...there's no way. This is his chance. This is our chance. He can't die."
Bobby tries to touch him again, but Pyro jerks away. "Don't fucking touch me. Leave me alone." He turns on his heel and takes off running. Bobby starts to follow him, but Marie grabs his arm. "Let him go," she says, trying to talk him down. "Just let him go. It'll just be a fight if you head out after him now." Bobby finally listens and stares after him, still holding Cyclops' broken visor in his hand.
It takes three days for John to come back. Bobby's stubborn about not breaking camp, and he ignores Marie's hints that maybe they should keep moving. She gets the feeling that if he were willing to leave her alone he would head out looking, and she doesn't know whether she loves him for being so good or wants to hit him for being so dumb.
During the days they try to bury everyone as best they can, even Magneto and the other Brotherhood members they find. Bobby says there's no point in holding grudges now. He doesn't understand why she can't let go, and she can't find the right way to explain how being used the way Magneto used her, like a weapon, a thing, is still too big a violation to forgive. She wishes she could talk to Logan. Logan always understood.
He's the only member of the team they find no sign of, and when she finally lets herself believe he might be alive she has to go off by herself and cry.
John slinks back in the dead of the third night; she and Bobby are on the edge of sleep when they hear his footsteps approaching. They watch him hunker down with his back to their inept little fire, not looking in their direction.
After a few minutes he starts sobbing. She and Bobby stay motionless, pretending to be asleep. Nobody gets any rest.
When dawn comes they break camp like John had never left. No one brings up the previous night.
A few days later Bobby and John get into a fistfight over Xavier and Magneto. Marie isn't paying attention when the argument begins, and before she realizes it John's called Xavier a coward and Bobby's thrown the first punch.
John stands his ground and wipes the blood from his lip. "Touchy, Drake. Truth hurt?"
Marie can see the muscle in Bobby's jaw clenching. "Take it back."
John sneers. "Make me."
Bobby throws another punch, but this time John sidesteps and trips him. "Man, that Danger Room training must've just gone downhill since I left."
Bobby regains his feet and launches himself at John, this time connecting on the jaw and knocking John on his ass. "I said take it back."
Bobby grabs John by the shoulders and tries to stand him up, but John pushes him back. "I'm not gonna take it back, because it's true! If he wasn't a coward, why wouldn't he tell the world he's a mutant? Why wouldn't he tell everyone what kind of school he really runs? Either he's a coward or he's just ashamed."
"He's neither and you know it. No one would send their kids to the school if they knew it was for mutants."
"All the more reason to put it out in everyone's face. Or maybe you agree with him," he says. "Maybe you're ashamed too. Took you long enough to come out, didn't it?"
Marie sees Bobby flinch. "Not everyone's like you, John. Some of us actually have a family to think about."
Marie feels herself brought up short by that; she'd never known that about John. In any case, if Bobby had been trying to draw blood it didn't work, because he just smirks at Bobby. "Yeah, fat lot of good they did you, huh?"
Bobby tackles John to the ground. "You shut up about my family," he says, trying to pin John down to the ground, but John twists out of it and wrestles Bobby's arm behind his back.
"Oh, poor widdle Robert Drake, so scared to tell anyone he's a mutant. What would mommy and daddy say?" He slams Bobby hard against the ground, pushing his face in the dirt. "Say it, Drake. Say you're a coward. Say you're a coward just like Xavier, just like him and everyone else in that stupid mansion who'd rather hide than actually fix anything. Say it!"
Bobby sputters in the dust, and John lets him up so he can answer. "I'd rather be a coward than a traitor any day," he finally says.
John lets him go and sits back on his heels. "You're jealous."
Bobby gets back to his feet. "What"?
John laughs like he's finally figured out the answer. "You heard me."
"You're jealous because Xavier took in any moron with mutant powers, and Magneto actually picked me."
Marie had never seen a more disgusted look on anyone's face in her life. "He only picked you because he knew he could control you."
"You don't know anything."
"I know that he looked right at you and saw 'minion' written across your forehead."
John's punch comes so fast Marie knows Bobby never sees it coming. He lands flat on his back, and John stands over him. "You don't know anything about the Brotherhood. I mattered. I was important. Magneto picked me because he knew I was different from all the rest of you."
"Yeah," Bobby says, trying to get back up. "He knew he could make you kill for him."
"That's right," he says, and Marie feels sick to her stomach at how much pride there is in his voice. "I'd've done a lot worse if he'd asked. We were changing the world, and I was a part of it. In the Brotherhood, everything I did mattered."
Bobby takes another swing, but John's the one who connects. "He could tell I was special, that I was better than all the rest of you. He could see that. He showed me who I was." He punches Bobby again, and this time Marie realizes that Bobby's letting John hit him. Tears run down John's his face as he rants some about the Brotherhood and about Magneto, and Bobby takes a few more punches before he reaches up and wrestles John down. He squirms to get free, but Bobby has his arms pinned and all the leverage.
"That's it," Bobby says. "That's it. I'm done. It's over." John struggles some more, and Bobby finally lets him up. Marie expects him to take another swing, but he spits at Bobby instead. "Fuck you, Drake," he says, and then he stalks off.
Bobby plops down; his face is already swelling up, and Marie wishes she'd thought to steal a towel so Bobby could make himself an icepack. She takes her least favorite shirt out of her pack and tears the sleeve off. "Why didn't you hit him again?" she asks as she starts wiping off his face.
"Didn't need to," he says, then "Ow," as she hits a tender spot.
"Baby." She goes more carefully anyway. "Think he'll be back?"
"Yeah," he says, wincing as he tries to rotate his arm. "Where's he gonna go?"
Bobby's right, of course. Marie expects the fight to just make everything worse, so she's surprised when later that night she sees the two of them chatting by the fire and comparing wounds. When she asks Bobby about it, he shrugs. "I don't know. Sometimes it's good to just punch things out, you know? Gets all the bad stuff out in the open." He grins. "Back at the mansion, whenever me and John would get on each other's nerves we'd both go work it out in the Danger Room, and then everything would be cool again. I guess this was kind of the same thing. Well, without lasers, anyway."
She just shakes her head at both of them. "Boys."
It rains for the first time since the catastrophe, hard cold drops like bags of tacks being poured from the sky. They're all caught out in the open, and Bobby makes a little ice shelter to shield them. The monotonous thud of the rain falling against the ice walls gradually makes her eyelids droop until every few seconds she catches herself nodding off. Finally she feels Bobby lay her down on the ground wrapped up in his jacket. "Get some sleep," he says, and she can hear him and John conspiring about something just before she drifts off.
It seems like just s minute later when she feels Bobby nudge her awake. "Rogue," he whispers, "time to get up now. I want you to see this."
She opens her eyes and is so dazzled she almost forgets how to breathe. What had been a simple shelter is now a castle out of a fairy tale; a vault ceiling arches over her head, and through the clear ice walls she can see slanting buttresses and delicate spires reaching up into the sky. "Oh. Oh, Bobby."
"I wanted to see what I could do," he says, shrugging. "It wasn't even as hard as I thought it would be." She stares at him open-mouthed, and he crouches in front of her, grinning. "We're not done yet. John, your go."
John smirks and flicks on his lighter, cupping his hand around the flame. Then he gestures like a stage magician, and the entire castle lights up. Tiny flames flicker in every corner, refracting so soft pinks and oranges and reds color the ice walls. She lays back and watches the thousands of tiny flames dance and has to blink back tears, because it's been so long since she's seen anything beautiful.
They find a ham radio in the basement of one house while rummaging around for supplies. "Oh!" Marie says, clearing off the stack of ancient Field and Streams burying it. "David had one of these. He used to fiddle around with it all the time. He had a friend in...I think it was Scotland that he used to talk to."
She sits down and starts turning the knobs. Bobby sidles up behind her, taking in the knobs and dials. "You really know how to work this?"
Marie shrugs. "Well, I never actually used one myself, but I watched David do it often enough. I could give it a shot."
"Man, how cool would it be if we could get a signal?"
"And what would the point of that be?" Marie rolls her eyes as John stomps his way down the stairs to join them. "It's not like there's anyone out there to..."
And then they hear a voice. It's faint, tinny, but undeniably a voice. All three of them stare at the radio for a few seconds, no one wanting to be the first to ask "Did you hear that?" for fear they'd jinx it.
The voice comes through again, breaking the spell. "That's German," Bobby says, grabbing a seat next to Marie. "He's speaking German."
"Since when do you speak German?" John says, now also crowding around the radio.
"I only know a little bit," Bobby says. "Kurt tried to teach us, but I only remember the basics."
"That's more than I do," Marie says, shoving the microphone to Bobby. "See how you make out.
Bobby grips the microphone with both hands; Marie can see the white in his knuckles. "Guten tag," he starts. "Um...mein name ist Bobby Drake. Ich bin in America, es gibt drei von uns." Sweat starts to bead on his forehead. "Jeder ist...dammit, what's dead? Oh, right, um, jeder ist sonst tot. Um...over?"
There's silence for a few seconds, then excited, rapid-fire German explodes from the speaker. "Whoa, whoa, too fast," Bobby says. "Um... verlangsamen! I can't follow you!" The stream of words continues unabated, and Marie thinks she hears another voice adding to the clamor in the background. Then suddenly the signal cuts off, the voice replaced by static.
"What happened?" John asks, leaning over the table. "Why'd it stop?"
"I don't know!" Marie turns the knobs and tries everything she can think of, but there's no change in the static. "It wasn't that strong a signal to begin with, an' these things can be temperamental sometimes." She looks to at Bobby. "Did you catch any of that?"
"Just bits and pieces here and there," he says. "'Gott in Himmel,' that's 'God in Heaven,' Kurt said that all the time. I think the word he kept repeating was "survivor"; it's a big long word and I can't pronounce it, but I recognize it. And the word for 'alive,' he repeated that too. I think he said he was in Frankfurt." He let out a long breath. "I know one sentence was "Thank God someone's out there."
The three of them fall silent. They've found the answer to one question: whatever had happened, apparently it happened on a worldwide scale.
John decides that their new German friend's name is Rolf; they spend their idle moments wondering what Rolf's up too and devising plans to contact him again. They never do get that radio to work again, but Marie writes down the frequency, just in case they stumble upon another one.
They cling to the voice and take turns convincing themselves that they all actually heard it. It's proof they're not the only three people left on Earth
One day they come across a vintage Porsche by the side of the road, completely untouched, and John decides to hotwire it. He talks Bobby into freezing open the lock, and before Marie knows it they've all piled into the car. "How do you even know how to do this?" she asks as John removes the panel under the steering wheel and starts messing with wires.
"I've seen Gone in Sixty Seconds forty-three times," he says, as if that's a perfectly reasonable answer. Bobby snickers, and when he sees the look on her face John quickly clarifies, "The original, not the remake. What kind of monster do you think I am?"
"I don't believe you just admitted that out loud," Bobby says. "And you have the nerve to call me a dork."
"Oh yeah, 'cause it's much cooler to have seen Top Gun eighty-five times," John says, keeping his eyes on his work.
Bobby blushes bright red, and Marie turns to stare at him. "Eighty-five?"
"It was up to eighty-five when I left," John continues, "so God only knows what it's up to now. Didn't you ever notice that was what he always nominated for movie night?"
"Shut up, John."
"Wait," Marie says, as something clicks into place, "Is that why you decided to call yourself Iceman?"
"No!" he says, sputtering as John starts to crack up. "I have ice powers, and I'm a guy. It's a perfectly reasonable name to..."
"No, that's it," she says. "That's absolutely it. People were throwing names at you left and right, really good names, an' no one could figure out why you were so stuck on Iceman. An' that's why you got so defensive when Jubilee made fun of it that one time!"
"Busted, Drake. Just sit back and take it like a man."
Bobby glances back and forth between and John and Marie. "Since when are you two on the same side?"
Just then the car springs to life beneath them, and John sits back and plants his hands on the steering wheel. "Yeah! Listen to that," he says, moving the seat back as the engine purrs. "We are sitting in a work of art right now."
Bobby nods towards John and mouths the word "dork" to Marie. "I saw that, Drake," John says, but the smile doesn't drop from his face. "All right, you two, settle back. We're gonna ride in style."
The tires screech as John pulls away from the curb, and Marie clutches onto the seat. "Do you even have a license?"
John laughs, a sound that barely comes through over the revving engines. "Oh shit, you're right! I might get a ticket!" Then they're tearing down the deserted country road, taking the sharp turns as fast as the car can go. John puts the top down and Marie stretches out across the back seat, the wind whipping her hair around her face, and laughs as Bobby alternates between telling John to watch out and urging him on faster. John fires up the CD player and all three sing along at the top of the their lungs to every song, making up lyrics when they don't know the real ones, and Marie hadn't realized how much she'd missed music until then. They almost crash three times, and each near miss makes them all nearly collapse in hysterical laughter.
Hours later they finally run out of gas, and they walk away from the Porsche high on adrenaline and speed, singing their made-up lyrics. The giggles still overtake them every so often, and it feels so good to have something to laugh about.
That night it occurs to Marie that it's been days since she's thought of John as "Pyro". Later on she realizes she can't remember the last time she thought of herself as Rogue.
"Your turn, Bobby."
"I know, I know, give me a second to decide."
John lets out an exasperated groan. "There's only two choices. Why do you always take forever to do this?"
"You're such a puss, Drake. Would it kill you to pick dare just once?"
Bobby props himself up against the couch. "I have nothing to hide. Ask away."
It's been getting more and more common to find abandoned houses to crash in; tonight's house is a lovely split-level ranch that formerly belonged to the Andersons, who were thoughtful enough to have a fully stocked liquor cabinet in the event of Apocalypse. Marie taps her fingernail against her tumbler of rum and tries to think of a good question; Bobby had stubbornly picked Truth every time his turn came around, and she was running out of things to ask.
Also, the rum wasn't helping. "Um...all right, who's the first girl you've kissed?"
"Susan Donner, third grade," John and Bobby both say at once. "You asked that one already," John says. "Drink up."
"Oh. Right." Repeat questions mean you have to take a drink, as does not answering a question if you pick truth or not doing a dare. They were well into their second bottle already; Marie thinks she likes this pineapple flavored stuff better than the straight rum they'd started with. "Okay, then. Guess it's your turn."
A few more rounds go by; John winds up forced to climb up on the roof to shout, "I'm king of the world," by Bobby (John always picks dare, which is also why his hair is currently purple), and Marie proves that she can in fact sing all the female roles from "Once More with Feeling." Finally Bobby's turn comes around again, and again he picks Truth. Marie can tell John's about to leap up and strangle him.
"All right, um..." She fumbles for a question that Bobby hasn't already answered; she already knows the whens, wheres and hows of his first kiss (Susan Donner in third grade under the monkey bars), where he was when his powers kicked in (he turned his swimming pool into a skating rink accidently), the worst trouble his powers had ever gotten him in, pre-X Men (he'd had to outrun the cops after they caught him making ice slides in Central Park), who the hottest teacher at the school was (Jean, of course, it was always Jean), and any number of other things she isn't quite sober enough to remember. She keeps wanting to ask about kisses; she knows it's because the only way she'll get to kiss Bobby is vicariously, but all the same it's a bit like ripping off a scab each time. She wonders if she can blame this masochistic streak on the rum.
He seems to be reading her mind. "You already know everything about every girl I've ever kissed," he says. "Y'know. Before you ask again."
She glares at him; drinking brought out a smirky side to him that she didn't care for at all. "Fine," she says, words rushing out on impulse, "who's the first guy you've kissed then, if I've run through all the girls."
She expects him to roll his eyes and laugh. When instead he goes pale as a ghost and his eyes wide as saucers, her attention piques, and when he knocks back some rum instead of answering she feels the game really start to get interesting. "You've kissed a guy?" she says, her voice rising to a squeal. "Who?"
"Hey," Bobby protests, "it's not my turn anymore, I took the drink..."
"I'm just gonna ask during the next go-round, so you might as well answer now."
"But that's not how the rules..."
"Just tell her, Drake," John says, spinning the empty bottle on the floor. "You're holding everything up. It's not that big a deal."
"Wait, you know?" she starts to say, but then she sees the panicked way Bobby's looking at John out of the corner of his eye, practically screaming shut up shut up shut up, and the way John's lips are curving up ever so slightly in response, like he knows the joke and is waiting for everyone else to catch on. She's glad that she's already sitting down. "You two?" she says. "Bobby, John's the guy you've kissed?"
John smiles full-on then, and Bobby starts stammering, "Look, Rogue, I'm sorry, I should have told you, I know, don't be mad, I'm sorry..."
She's far too confused to be mad at the moment. "Wait, when did this even start?"
"About a month after we both started at Xavier's," John says, and Bobby shoots him an incredulous why would you say that? look.
"So...wait, that's when it started, when did it stop?" Guilt flashes through Bobby's eyes, and she knows the answer to her next question even as she asks it. "Bobby, where you and John still carrying on after we got together?"
Both boys start talking at once, until finally John whaps Bobby on the shoulder to shut him up. "Not the whole time. Mostly in the beginning."
Marie keeps looking back and forth between Bobby and John. "You were cheating on me?"
John rolls his eyes. "Would'ya stop being so dramatic?" he says. "Look, we were just messing around. It doesn't even count, really."
"Why? Because you're both guys?"
John just shrugs his shoulders. "Well, yeah. It's not like he was making out with another girl behind your back or anything. It's just not the same."
She's certain that the logic to that doesn't scan at all, but she doesn't feel up to grappling with it just now. Bobby's flushed almost cherry red, which makes her think of what the slang term "cherry" means, which brings her back around to trying to picture Bobby and John. She knows that she should feel much more upset about this revelation than she actually does, that this strange, lightheaded, close-to-giddy feeling wasn't the appropriate response. She blames the rum.
"Show me," she says, and she blames the rum for that too.
Bobby blanches. "Hey look, let's just get back to the game..."
"Bobby, c'mon. You were kissin' him behind my back for the Lord only knows how long. That's better than doin' it so I can see?"
Bobby sputters a little more, until John's finally had enough. "Just shut it, Drake," he says, getting up (only slightly unsteadily) and walking over to Bobby. "Let's just get this over with." With that he pulls Bobby up by his arm, leans forward (Marie leans forward, too), and kisses him full on the mouth.
For a moment they're all still as statues. Everyone's holding their breath, and then like a dam breaking the tension bleeds away and Bobby returns the kiss. Marie can feel her blood rushing hot and fast through her veins; she notices everything: John's hair hanging in Bobby's face, the way his right hand is cradling the nape of his neck. She sees Bobby's arm reach up, his hand pressed against John's side, and wonders if Bobby's even knows he's doing it. She sees quick flashes of tongue, notices how Bobby, not John, is the one who leans forward now to press into the kiss. By the time John pulls away a few seconds later, she's just as flushed and breathless as the two of them.
Bobby plops back down next to the couch, and John walks back over to his previous spot. For a few moments no one says anything, then John drains the rum left in his glass. "Okay, so, it's my turn now..."
The next night they play again, and this time John and Bobby do more than kiss. Marie watches then, too.
They meet their first survivor while rummaging for supplies in a little town just past the Kentucky state line (they know because half of the "Welcome to Kentucky! The Bluegrass State!" was still standing). They've been alone been so long they've forgotten to be careful, so when the man comes up behind Marie and locks his right arm around her neck and holds a razor blade under her chin with his left, he catches them completely off-guard. "I don't want any trouble, now!" he says, dragging her away from the dumbfounded boys.
It takes a second for them to shake off the surprise, but then the fire and ice come out. "Well, you've got it," says Bobby, frost covering his fingers.
"Don't want no trouble!" he says again "Been looking for my daughter for weeks now. Always runnin' off, but I found her, now we just got to go home. April, say goodbye to your friends, now." The volume is rising with each rambling word; Marie angles her head enough to see the man's face, especially his huge, bloodshot, and completely insane eyes. "We just want to go home."
"Let her go," Bobby says, and she can see John's eyes flick around as he looks for something advantageous to burn.
"Just want to take my daughter home," he repeats, but this time sobs break through the words. He forces the point of the blade under her chin, and John and Bobby both stop. "We just want to go home."
"I'm not your daughter," Marie says, forcing her voice to stay even. For all of his strength, she can feel that the man is skin and bones. "My name's Marie. I'm from Mississippi. We're survivors, just like you."
He shakes his head wildly. "You don't worry, Daddy's found you. Daddy'll keep you safe now, don't you worry. Everything's gong to be just fine now." He tightens his arm around her neck, and dark spots start to appear in front of her eyes. She can see Bobby take a step forward, but John pulls him back; Bobby has a mutinous look on his face, but she wants to tell him that John's right. She can feel the point of the blade pricking her skin, and all it would take would be a flick of the wrist and her throat would be open.
The man's still rambling on about his daughter as he drags her out of the house. Between the cuff of her glove and the sleeve of her blouse there's the smallest sliver of wrist visible. She can see out of the corner of her eye that the man's shirt has a rip in the elbow, and slowly, very, very slowly, she raises her arm and presses her skin against his.
She only intends to stun, but it's been too long since she's been forced to do this, and her control was never the best. She sees his life in a flash; Roger, a welder, he was repairing a vault and so escaped. She sees the daughter, green-eyed and laughing and everything good in the world, and indeed there's a resemblance there. She feels the desperate search, the empty town pressing down on her, the isolation and despair turning to madness and obsession as his life flows into her like water from a broken faucet. She wants to let go and can't, and as his mind slips down into blackness she follows it, down the way she'd followed David's but further and deeper into the vast, inky, suffocating darkness.
When she comes to she's screaming and can't stop. She's clutched onto John and doesn't know how she got there; he's got his arms around her and muttering words into her ear, holding her up as she screams her throat raw. Bobby steps forward, reaches out to touch her, but she shrinks way, and she can feel John put himself between herself and Bobby. "Back off, Drake."
"You have any idea what it's like to kill someone? Any idea? No? Then back the fuck I off." She sees Bobby draw back white with shock, then she buries her face against John's shoulder so she doesn't have to look at him---or the broken body on the ground behind him.
Bobby's turn comes two weeks later. Where the man was raving, this woman is angry. She comes on them like a whirlwind; bedraggled hair and a threadbare executive's suit that Marie could tell cost hundred of dollars back when that would have meant something.
She has John on the ground; his lighter's been knocked out of reach, and the muzzle of the woman's rifle is inches from his face. Marie's head is ringing from being struck with the stock, and her hand comes back bloody when she pushes her hair out of her eyes.
"Mutie freaks," the woman says. Her voice is calm and steady. "You did this. Everyone's dead, and it's because of freakshows like you. The government should have rounded you all up and gassed you when it had the chance."
"Please," Marie says, "we didn't do anything." She can see Bobby icing up out of the corner of her eye. "Just let him go."
John tries to skitter towards his lighter, and the woman presses the rifle against his temple. "I'll bet you three thought humans were defenseless now," she says, ignoring Marie completely. "I'll show you how defenseless we really are." Marie sees the hammer pull back and knows she can't get there in time. She closes her eyes and waits for the blast.
It doesn't come. She opens her eyes and sees the woman still standing over John, but with the gun lying at her feet and a very strange look on her face. Her mouth opens several times, but no words come out, and it's now that Marie sees the growing blood stains all down the woman's chest. She crumples to the ground in what seems like slow motion, her hands clutching spasmodically at the dirt before finally going still. It isn't until the woman's on the ground that Marie sees what killed her --- a series of ice knives down her back.
Bobby comes forward like a sleepwalker. "I didn't...I mean, I wasn't trying to..." He looks back and forth between John and Marie. "I couldn't aim, she was going to kill him, I didn't have time..." His breath is coming ragged now, and his voice breaks. "I...oh God, I swear, I didn't..."
He turns away from the body. John picks himself up and reclaims his lighter, all the while looking at Bobby like he's never seen him before, and Marie wonders if John really thought Bobby wouldn't save him.
She holds Bobby as he retches, and John incinerates the body behind them, the flames rising high.
A few nights later Bobby jolts awake from another nightmare, waking Marie up along with him. "John?" he says, after a few minutes. "John, you up?"
They hear a groan from a few feet away. "I am now. Whatta you want, Drake?"
"Was that what it was like? When you were running with the Brotherhood?" There's no answer, and Bobby presses on. "I know you killed people. Was it like that every time?"
"Yeah." His voice is empty of its usual bravado, sounding so unlike himself that feels like she's meeting him for the first time. "Every time."
"Fuck, John, I had no idea."
She hears John rolling over. "Yeah. Kinda wish you still didn't, to be honest."
A minute or so passes. "We done?" says John's voice. "Can I go back to sleep now, or do we have to bond some more first?"
Bobby laughs, and Marie's glad to hear that sound again. "Fuck you, John."
"Back at you, Drake."
Bobby laughs again, and as she drifts back to sleep Marie can feel that something's shifted between the three of them.
"You know what really sucks?"
It's been raining all day, and they've worked most of the way through a bottle of wine. The topic of, "Hey, you know what I miss?" had come up, and they'd spent a few hours discussing X-Boxes and sno-cones and really salty movie popcorn. John brought up that that he missed porn, which had made Marie throw a pillow at his head. It had also made her think, though.
"I mean," she continues, "aside from the death and destruction, what sucks for me personally?"
John's sprawled out in an armchair, trying to balance the now-empty wine bottle on his head. "Is there any way you won't tell us? 'Cause I'll do it, whatever it takes."
"Shut up, John, no one's talkin' to you." She throws herself down on the couch, narrowly missing Bobby, who's stretched out with his legs dangling over the armrest. "At least at Xavier's there was the chance that we'd figure out how to control my powers somehow. Now that's probably not ever gonna happen."
She doesn't have anything handy to throw at John, but if she did, oh, would she be throwing. "So I managed to survive the Apocalypse. Great, but that means I'm never gonna be able to kiss my boyfriend and I'm gonna to die a virgin. That sucks."
Bobby makes a little strangled sound, and Marie knows without looking that he's bright red.
She expects John to continue mocking her misery, but instead he's listening, with his head cocked to the side. "Really? You're still a virgin?"
Marie shoots him a glare that could melt stone, and he quickly says, "You know I didn't mean it like that. I mean, you and that other guy, you never...?"
"We just kissed that one time," she says. "An' you know how that turned out."
She doesn't understand why John looks so befuddled. "But, you and Drake've been together a I while /I . You must've done something."
"Well...no, not really."
"Nothing? Not even handjobs? C'mon, you can do that."
"We were takin' it slow," Marie says, and she never realized how lame that sounds until she says it aloud.
"Besides," Bobby says, "it didn't seem fair for her to do that if I couldn't get her..."
John groans and buries his head in his hands. "You two can not be this dumb. Tell me you're shitting me, please." He looks up, and seems convinced that yes, the two of them are in fact being truthful. "Look, I know you guys can't go all the way or anything --- although if you got one of those full-on latex suits you could probably manage --- but c'mon, there's lots of shit you could still do."
It was rapidly becoming the most mortifying conversation in the history of the world. "This ain't none of your business, John."
"Fine, but you guys are morons. Seriously."
The long, uncomfortable minutes stretch by, and finally Marie feels compelled to speak. "So what are we supposed to be doing? We can't even touch each other."
John rolls his eyes from his new spot stretched out on the floor, his feet up on the chair. "Yeah, you can, you're just not thinking about how to do it. And besides, if you're really that paranoid about it, you can always just watch each other get off. Rogue, you like watching anyway."
Marie feels the heat creep up her cheeks; she and Bobby are making very sure not to look at each other. "That's not really havin' sex, though is it?"
"Eh," John says. "If it would get you kicked out of the dorms, I think it counts."
Marie isn't sure if something like that would actually get someone expelled, but she's sure it would at least earn a stern talking to from Cyclops, which frankly might be enough put someone off sex forever. "Still," she mutters. Marie doesn't know why she can't let this conversation go. "It'd be nice to know what it felt like, y'know?"
"Well, it feels like it does when you're by yourself, you know?" John trails off, and Marie doesn't know what she did to give herself away, but John suddenly sits up. "Holy shit, you don't know."
Marie wishes with every fiber of her being that she could manifest Kitty's power and phase through the floor. "Can we talk about somethin' else, please?"
"No, we're talking about this. I'm right, aren't I. You've never gotten off."
Now Bobby's propped up on one elbow, looking at her, and Marie feels like she's grown another set of arms. "Really?" he says, in the exact same tone of voice he'd use it she'd confessed she was actually an alien. "Not even by yourself?"
She picks at the armrest upholstery, not willing to look at either of them. "No. I mean, not really, I guess." John snickers at the "not really." "I tried a couple of times, but...I don't know. I got bored after a while. I don't see what the big deal is," she finishes, trying to save a little face.
John heaves himself off the floor. "My God, you two are such virgins, the both of you. And Drake, you just have no excuse here, you've watched just as much porn as I have." Bobby makes a strangled sound and flashes Marie a No! That's not true! look. John throws on his coat and head for the door. "I'll be back in a bit. This is just too pathetic." The door slams behind him, and Marie and Bobby look at each other, trying to figure out what just happened.
John strolls back in two hours later carrying a plastic bag. "Bedroom. Now," he says, taking the stairs two at a time, and Marie and Bobby both shrug their shoulders and follow.
The house they're squatting in has three bedrooms, and John's made for the biggest one. He's already taking items out of the bag when they come in. "All righty," he says. "Class, eyes on me. Now, these are gloves," he says, holding up two sets of opera length latex gloves. "They go on your hands, so that when you touch stuff, there's no skin contact. With me so far?"
"John, where did you..."
"We passed a sex shop up on the main street, right after we got here. I bought some other stuff too," he says, shaking the bag, "but you two are so freaked out that I think we should just keep things simple."
Marie and Bobby both protest at the same time, "We're not freaked out," then look at each other. John perches on the bed, a smug smile on his face.
"Oh yeah. You guys are doing great. You two have been hooked up, what? A year?" He nods to Bobby. "I bet you've never even seen her naked."
Bobby sputters and goes beet red. "Yeah, that's what I thought. Pitiful."
"Hello! Standin' right here!"
John sits cross-legged on the bed, watching the two of them. "Look, I don't know what's gone wrong with you two, but you should've been able to figure ways around this ages ago. Since you didn't, I'm just trying to give you a push. You should at least try."
Marie doesn't want to try. She wants to run out of the room and disappear. She wants to go back in time and forget this whole day ever happened. She wants to kill John for putting ideas in Bobby's head, because she knows that if they start anything physical, there's only two possible outcomes: either someone makes a mistake and winds up dead, or it brings home how much he's missing out on by being with her; he wouldn't leave, because where would he go, but all the same he'll start resenting her, hating her.
She's not sure which possibility frightens her more. "I don't..."
"Let's try it." Bobby looks at her, his blue eyes earnest and hopeful. "It's not like we can lose anything by trying, right?"
Marie wants to say that they can lose everything by trying, but John speaks up first. "Look, it's up to you two," he says softly, addressing them both but looking at Marie, "but we could be looking at fifty or so years of life left, and they way you two have been going on is no way to spend it. And even if one of us croaks tomorrow, going out without even getting off once would just be such a fucking waste. We only have to do it the once, and if you don't like it, I'll leave it alone. I won't even mock you two for it. Deal?"
Marie bites her lip; her mouth suddenly feels like it's been stuffed with cotton. "Deal," she says, and Bobby's eyes light up. "But we stop if I say so."
"Well, duh, obviously. You could kill us both if we don't." John stands up and tosses a pair of the gloves to Bobby as Marie climbs onto the bed. She doesn't question whether John should be involved in this as he pulls on his gloves; she doesn't know whether it's because he's been the one supplying the momentum, or because she senses as well as he does that if left to there own devices she and Bobby would just stammer and stare nervously at each other for the rest of the night. Whatever the reason, it doesn't occur to her to tell him to leave.
"All right," he says, "you really have to get undressed now."
A little squeak escapes from her throat. In theory, she knew that this was the next step, but the thought of actually doing it suddenly fills her with panic. "No! I mean, it's not safe, do we have to..."
John finishes snapping the sleeves of his gloves up over the sleeve of his shirt; she looks over and sees that Bobby's done the same. "Look, we're as safe as we're gonna get. You've been with the poor slob a fucking year, at least give him that."
She worries her lip again. "Fine," she says, "but you two have to turn around first." Bobby gives her an indulgent smile and John rolls his eyes so far they almost fall out of his head, but they both do as she asks. She quickly slips off her blouse and jeans, and, after a moment's hesitation, strips off her bra and panties, too. She snuggles down on the bed, fighting the urge to pull the covers up over her. "Okay, turn around," she says. "Nobody laugh now."
Bobby doesn't laugh. His eyes are wide, his gaze traveling up her body, taking in slowly. "Wow," he says. "Wow, you're...you're amazing. You're just...wow." The inarticulate stammering touches her more than the most well crafted compliment ever could. He looks like he's finally seeing her for the first time, and it's so overwhelming she has to turn her face away.
"Okay, so now what?" she says, trying to keep her voice steady.
"Now you should probably close your eyes," John says. She looks at him in alarm, and he raises his hands. "This way you won't know who's doing what," he explains. "I know Drake's the one you want doing all the heavy lifting here, but he's kind of a dork and I figure I'll have to help him along, or we'll be here all night. That cool?"
She nods before she can change her mind. She settles back on the bed, shivering from chill and nerves.
Then she feels hands touch her skin. She's so touch-starved that her hips buck almost immediately; she feels fingertips trail down her thighs, the curve of her calves, the swell of her breasts. It doesn't feel anything at all like the few times she's tried it by herself; here each touch is a welcome surprise. She feels a fingertip slowly trace her areola, and a shiver rushes through her; whoever it is notices and keeps it up until she moans. She hears John say, "Don't be scared to use your powers," and suddenly she arches her back as a trail of cold creeps down her torso. She gasps and clutches at the sheets as the icy touch comes back up to her breast, and she thinks she hears Bobby laugh.
She starts to wonder if this is taking to long, if she should be saying something, doing something, when she hears John's voice in her ear. "Relax already," he says. "You're tensing up. Let us do the work, it's your first fucking time. Think of something hot and just enjoy yourself. It's supposed to be fun."
She nods and tries to follow the advice. She pictures Bobby touching her just the way his now, only with his hands bare and warm on her skin. She imagines Bobby on top of her, his arms wrapped around her. Someone's hand moves down between her legs, and she moans as fingertips stroke the perfect spot.
The visuals in her mind change; she's remembering the dreams she used to have about Logan, back when they first met, his dark eyes flashing and deep voice growling her name. Her hips start to move in rhythm, and she sees John on top of Bobby, Bobby's head tossing on the pillow as he gets closer to coming. She feels the pressure building, and she's never gotten this close on her own; she imagines Logan pushing her up against the wall back at the mansion, both in each other's mind until she doesn't where she ends or begins, then she's got Bobby against the wall, pressing against him in a kiss that never ends. The images in the mind keep pace with the rocking of her hips, and she's so close now that it's almost painful.
Just as she thinks it's never going to happen, that this is as close as it gets (and she wouldn't really be complaining if it was), there's one more touch and she comes with a moan. She feels the sudden throb of the orgasm spread through her, making lights dance before her eyes and electricity down her legs. When the sensation passes a few seconds later, she's boneless and spent, and she has no idea why she waited so long to feel that.
It's an effort to open her eyes, and when she finally manages it the first this she sees is Bobby. His eyes are shining. "That was incredible," he whispers. "God, I love you."
She smiles, and then John enters her frame of vision. She sees him strip off the gloves and come up behind Bobby, sliding his hands under Bobby's shirt. Bobby leans back against him as John starts undoing his jeans, and as sleep overtakes Marie her only regret about all of this is that she doesn't have enough energy to watch the ending.
Marie dreams of Logan often enough as it is, but now the dreams have a different color to them. Suddenly every night he's sneaking into her bed or has her stretched out on his motorcycle; it's like a floodgate has opened, and she can't get enough of him saying her name. Sometimes she comes so hard it wakes her up, and she lays there heavy-lidded and sated until the boys wake up.
One day she's asleep on the couch, but in her dream she and Logan are doing things in Cyclops' back seat that she knew he would never approve of. Suddenly she's shaken awake, and it's a moment before her bleary eyes can make out the shape standing over her. Still half in the dream, she sighs, "Logan" --- then Bobby's face comes into sharp focus.
They stare at each other for a second, then Bobby turns on his heel, without saying a word. She jumps up from the couch and tries to grab his arm; the look on his face is all it takes for her to be sure that he knows exactly what kind of dream he'd interrupted. "Bobby! Bobby, wait!"
He shakes her off. "I don't want to talk about it."
"Well, I do! Bobby, it was a dream, you can't be mad about a dream!"
"And how often do you have that dream, huh? Do you ever dream about me, or is it always him?"
And she does dream about Bobby, but she knows he wouldn't believe it now if she told him. "It's just a dream."
"Look," he says, "I know where I stand when it comes to this, okay? I've always known. Just leave me alone."
"I said leave me alone, alright? Go back to sleep so Wolverine can make you feel all better."
Then he storms out the front door, leaving her standing alone in the room.
A few hours later she's sitting on the porch, mentally rehearsing what's she'll say to Bobby when he comes back, when John plops down beside her. "Drake told me what went down."
She glares at him. "You gonna yell at me, too?"
He quirks one eyebrow. "You kidding? I just got done telling Drake what a fucktard he was. I'm actually on your side here."
"Yeah, shocked the hell out of him, too. He had that dying fish look on his face and everything." He glances over at her. "I dream about Magneto all the time, still. I keep expecting him to show up."
"Yeah? What kind of dreams?"
"Lots of different kinds. Sometimes it's like nothing ever changed, other times he's alive again. All different stuff."
"But you never mention it.
He shrugs. "You guys hate him. There's not much of a point."
She hugs her knees to her chest. She has a hard time wrapping her mind around how anyone couldn't hate Magneto, but she doesn't want to say that out loud and get into her second argument of the day. There's something odd in John's expression, something hungry, and a thought occurs to her. "John, you and Magneto, I mean...you where never..." She makes a vague hand motion. "You know what I mean."
A quick grin flashes across his face. "Nah. It wasn't like that."
The reaction she'd wanted was "My God, that's disgusting." Now she has to keep asking questions. "Well, good, but...I mean, you didn't really want it to be, did you?"
His hair's getting long; he has to flick it out of his eyes to look at her. "Maybe. I don't know. It doesn't matter now."
She realizes that her disgust must be written all over her face, because he rolls his eyes. "Oh, so what's wrong with that? I shouldn't be attracted to him because he's evil?"
"Yes! And besides, he's old enough to be your grandfather!"
"Yeah? And how old is Logan, anyway?"
She turns away and stubs her sneaker into the dirt. "That's different."
She knows he's smirking without even having to turn around and see. "Why? 'Cause he doesn't look it? That's kind of shallow."
She hugs her arms around herself. Rising to his bait wasn't going to make her feel any better. "Bobby's never yelled at me like that before."
"Yeah, well, he's beating himself up for it now, believe me." He temples his chin on his hands. "You know what most of that was, right?"
She shakes her head. Tears are pricking at her eyes, and she doesn't want to start crying again. "He's scared to death that Wolverine's gonna show up one day and you'll run off with him. That he doesn't stand a chance in comparison." He cocks his head to the side. "He right?"
"I..." She imagines Logan suddenly appearing one day, alone for all this time, asking for her help. "I don't know," she finally admits.
"'Least you're honest."
"Well, what about you?" she says. "What if Magneto showed up tomorrow, would you go off with him?"
"In a second." The speed in which he answers knocks Marie back. "Not even a question."
"You can't really mean that."
"Yeah, I do." He leans back on his elbow. "You and Drake don't get it. Everything made sense with Magneto. Everything fit. He saw something in me no one else did, y'know? I was important. No one really cared what I did at Xavier's, but what I did mattered in the Brotherhood."
Marie wants to shake sense into him and scream He was just using you! until it finally breaks through. She wonders how long it'll take before that pedestal crumbles. "You mattered at Xavier's."
"C'mon. He didn't even send someone after me when I left. You, Drake, he would've at least tried. I didn't swallow the party line, so I was just kind of a spare." She about to protest some more, but he cuts her off. "Look, I'm not even saying I'm mad about it. That's just how it is. Besides, I was trying to make you feel better, not getting into all this again."
She tucks her knees up to her chest and fights the urge to sniffle. "Why're you bein' so nice to me, anyway? You don't even like me. I always knew you didn't like me."
John drums his fingers against his arm. "It wasn't that I didn't like you," he says, finally. "I didn't even really know you. I guess I was just tired of hearing about you." He sighs. "Me and Drake, we both started there the same day, and we were tight right away. Then all of a sudden you show up, and it's 'Oh, Rogue's had such a hard time,' and 'Wow, isn't Rogue amazing!' It was all he started talking about. Then you two actually started dating, and that was it, that was all he cared about."
"So...you were jealous? That's why you were such a jerk?"
"I wasn't jealous, I was...well, okay, maybe a little jealous. I missed my buddy, you know? It was like you kidnapped him. All of a sudden I was a third wheel."
"I didn't mean for that to happen."
"I didn't say it was your fault. Stuff that like just happens." He let out a long breath. "Anyway, I was a pretty big jerk, and I kind of wanted to apologize. Okay?"
She can see the flash of loneliness behind his eyes. "Okay."
"Well, good, then." He suddenly starts fidgeting. "Well, I'll just get lost then..."
"Wait," Marie says. "He's comin' back, right?"
John laughs. "Of course he is. And if he doesn't, we just have to go out and drag him."
Bobby does come back that night, and with flowers no less. They sit on the back porch and watch the stars come out, and out of the corner of her eye Marie see a shape skulking along in the shadows. When she finally makes John out she beckons for John to come over; he hesitates for a second, then saunters over as if he's been just on his way to do this very thing, thank you very much. Bobby shifts over to make room, and as John sits down he locks eyes with Marie. After a few minutes she sees John glance over, then reach out and take Bobby's hand. Instead of pulling away, she sees Bobby squeeze his hand back, and John settles back with a dumbfounded look on his face. Then Bobby wraps one arm around her shoulders, and they all watch the stars come out.
They chance across a map; it takes them most of a day to figure out the path they've been taking, but as they plot out their course they all come to realize that they've been heading for Westchester, like a trio of mutant homing pigeons. They briefly discuss going somewhere else, but then decide to just keep heading out.
It's as good a destination as any.
The nights settle into routine. They can find houses to sleep in more often than not, now; Marie can't remember the last time they've had to camp outside. She usually goes first; she's discovered that she likes being blindfolded so there's no chance of knowing whose hands are where, although as the nights go on she's finding that the distinction matters less and less. John whispers the filthiest things imaginable into her ear as Bobby's hands are everywhere at once, teasing and trailing cold until she's writhing and begging; then after she's finished she rolls over and watches the boys.
Bobby comes in gasps and whispers, half the time saying her name and the other half John's; John swears as he gets close, and the name he says is always Bobby's. Sometimes she joins in with them; double-teaming Bobby is especially fun, teasing and touching until his hair is plastered against his face, but most of the time she just watches them: the way John's hands trail down Bobby's ribs, the way the moonlight highlights John's collarbone as Bobby leans down to kiss him.
In the morning they pack up and move on. There's never need for discussion; all of their talking is done in the night.
Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters sits on Greymalkin Lane like an open wound. Marie doesn't know what she expected, but not this: torn open, bricks and glass and broken furniture littering the courtyard. Less then half of the building is still standing, but that's still a substantial amount of property, and John and Bobby decide to see what they can find.
Marie wanders the grounds, mentally trying to reconstruct the shattered building in her mind's eye. A part of her had hoped that the school would still be home.
She winds up in the kitchen and pulls out one of the chairs, the one Kitty and Piotr had carved their initials into. She's about to go and look for the boys when she sees something white and clean tacked onto the kitchen corkboard.
Something with her name on it.
She recognizes Logan's handwriting on the envelope immediately and tears it open: the letter is short, hurried, and the knot in her stomach grows a little more with each word.
I know you'll get this because I know that if anyone made it out of this, it's you. I know I'm not fit to be around people right now; after what happened I don't know if I ever will be again. Don't come looking for me. You won't like what you find.
You don't need me anymore. You haven't for a long time. Keep surviving.
John and Bobby come back as she's reading the letter for the fifth time. She hands it to them, and they take turns reading it. Finally, John tosses the letter on the table. "Man, what a dick." Bobby puts one arm around her shoulders, and John holds her hand for the first time.
They give her a minute alone. When she's sure neither of them are looking she begins to pocket the letter, but then stops. Instead she smoothes it out on the table and reads it again, memorizing every word, every curve and line. Then turns the letter over and, taking the marker hanging from the board, writes I will across the blank reverse side. Then she pins the letter back up in the same place where she found the envelope and walks away.
When they leave, none of them look back.
The three of them are sprawled out in the centerfield of the baseball diamond behind the school, watching the clouds. Marie feels like they should have found some answers here, but it's just been another dead end. Now what? is the question on everyone's mind.
"I've got family in Australia," John says suddenly. "Aunt and uncles and stuff. At least, I did. I was seven the last time I saw them; couldn't pick them out of a line-up now."
"Why would you have family in Australia?" Bobby says, plucking the grass from the ground.
"Oh, I don't know, maybe because I was born there?"
"You're Australian?" Bobby says, and Marie doesn't think Bobby could sound anymore surprised if John has announced he was actually a woman.
"Well, yeah, I guess. Like I said, moved here when I was seven."
A few minutes crawl by. "So, what?" Marie finally says. "You think we should run off to Australia to see if they're still there?"
John shrugs. "Why not? You two got other plans?"
"How would we get there?" Bobby asks. "And how do we know there's even anyone there?"
"There's still people in Germany, we know that," John says. "And the first question, you two have had Blackbird training, right?"
"I've got flight training, too. There's gotta be still planes that work somewhere. Unless you guys have a better idea.."
The look on Bobby's face is thoughtful. "It's a long way. It could take a while."
Marie squeeze. his hand. "We've got the time."
He smiles at her, then looks back at the sky. They've been wandering aimlessly for so long that actually having a goal is exciting in and of itself. "All right by me," he says, and John grins. A flock of geese fly overhead in a V, proof that the world is still turning. "Let's head out first thing in the morning."