A/N : So it's over a year since I last updated. Exams are over, and one long summer is ahead before I start university in September. This chapter is for all those who are waiting faithfully for an update. I hereby proclaim you the best readers and reviewers EVER (hands over a huge jar of cookies). Please, take as many as you like, sit back, and enjoy my latest instalment!



John was dreaming.

At least, he thought he was. There was no way that his parents, Bobby, Professor Xavier and Rogue would all be in the same room at the same time. Besides, no-one should be in there anyway, he thought as he gazed around the room. The walls and furniture were engulfed in flames, slowly being incinerated. The five people with him stood still, unaware of the fire which danced around them. John was frightened. The room could collapse at any minute, killing them all. He opened his mouth to shout, only to find no sound came out. He had to save them; the fire was getting worse –

He looked down at his hands. Hot, luminous flames were emitting from his fingertips, rushing forcefully around the room. John was fuelling this fire and he couldn't stop. He was going to kill Rogue, Bobby and Xavier, and murder his parents... all over again. He watched in horror as he shot flames towards them, sending each one back into the walls. Rogue's eyes were wide and fearful. He didn't want to hurt her, but he couldn't control the fire burning in his palms. The blazing flames blasted from his hands straight towards her –

John woke screaming. Sweat trickled down his face. He tried to get up, but found he was strapped down. He tried to force his way up, but whatever was holding him was too strong. An unpleasant sense of nostalgia washed over him: it was exactly like the last time. What had he done now?

"Try not to move, John. Just calm down for a moment."

John stopped wriggling and lay still. He opened his eyes to find the source of the voice. After a moment, he saw Professor Xavier across the room –

John's heart began racing. He could see. His sight had finally been restored. Tears clouded his vision. Emotion choking him slightly, John began to speak.

"Professor, what happened? I can't remember anything. Why am I strapped to this table? How come I can see – "

"Patience, John. Too many questions at once!" Xavier's eyes sparkled in amusement. "What is the last thing you remember?"

John struggled to think. It was as though his mind was blank. Slowly, blurry images of a classroom began appearing. "Mr Summers' class. I wanted to go and see Rogue, and he wouldn't let me. When was that?"

"Three days ago," Xavier replied. "John, you took another student hostage and threatened to kill her if Scott didn't let you see Rogue."

John stared at the Professor blankly. "I did what? I don't remember any of this!"

"You collapsed shortly afterwards." Xavier paused, his expression grave, as though thinking how to continue. "John, I need to tell you something. It's not good news."

John felt his heartbeat speed up rapidly again. "Is this about Rogue?" he stammered. "Is she okay? Can I see her?"

"It is partly to do with Rogue, yes. All I ask is that you listen and let me speak. This may be difficult for you to understand.

"Some time ago now, both you and Miss D'Ancanto were injected with the Cure for mutations. What no-one knew back then was that a particular batch of the Cure mutated. All mutants who received an injection from this batch are currently suffering from differing side effects. We know of four class four mutants and one class three mutant who have already passed away due to this."

Xavier stopped to allow John to take this in. The former class four mutant's expression was empty and unreadable, yet the Professor didn't have to be a telepath to know what was going on in his mind.

"John, the Cure is not permanent. Your powers will return sooner or later. Rogue's powers have already manifested, and due to the infection, she is currently experiencing some particularly nasty side effects. If it weren't for my suppressing them, she would be in considerable pain right now. Keeping her like this prevents her conditions from worsening. Do you understand?"

The Professor watched John nod slowly in acceptance. "We don't know how or if the virus will affect you as of yet, but I assume what happened three days ago will be some side effect of it. I'd like to keep you down here for closer examination, and to ensure no harm comes to any of the other students."

"Whatever it takes, Professor," murmured John lifelessly. He was about to continue when a door swept open somewhere, and Dr McCoy strode purposefully into the lab, clipboard in hand.

"Good evening Charles. Mr Allerdyce, glad to see you're awake. How're you feeling?" Hank came into John's view and began untying the restraints which held him down. John carefully sat up, nursing where his wrists had been bound. "I'm sorry about that John, but it was a necessity, understand?"

John blanched. "Um, yeah, but I'm sort of wondering why you're both being so freaking friendly."

Hank sighed in exasperation. "John, what Professor Xavier has just told you is very serious. We currently have no idea whether or not you have become infected, yet with what happened the other day, we're beginning to assume this may be the case. I want to keep you here for further analysis, and this way, if anything bad does happen, we can contain you here."

Dr McCoy watched the distant John gaze around the lab. "So this will be my home for the next few days... weeks?"

"I'm sorry, John," Hank apologised sympathetically. "Your powers will return soon enough, and if you are infected, we need to make sure no harm comes to the students."

"Sure, doc; no problem."

"Would you like to see Rogue?" asked Hank. "I can take you to her." Wordlessly, John was on his feet immediately. "This way, please."

Using his telepathy, Xavier contacted Hank. "I haven't told him the finer points of Rogue's condition. Make sure you break it to him gently." Understanding, Hank nodded, and led John from the lab.

John nearly felt his breathing stop as he encountered Rogue unconscious in the lab next door. It was the first time he'd seen her with his own eyes since he left to join Magneto at Alkali Lake. Though she appeared peaceful, just seeing her, as though dead, shocked him more than he had initially thought. John sank to his knees and stared vacantly at her stationary form, laid out on a make shift bed. Still dressed in her night gown, Rogue's dark hair fanned out behind her. John fought the urge to touch her. Something was wrong: he knew it.

Hank moved behind him. "John, we think Rogue is dying." His voice was no more than a whisper. John didn't move – he simply stared at her. "The infection is causing Rogue to drain herself of her own life force. We're doing everything we can, but you need to prepare yourself for the worst."

John struggled to take it all. It was such a cruel twist of fate: she didn't deserve this. All she wanted was to be normal, to fit in. He'd condemned her for it, taunted her, made her life more difficult than it already was. A thought crossed his mind. "Does Bobby know?" Hank shook his head.

"We've told the students we're keeping her here for observation, but we have yet to tell them why. Bobby doesn't know."

"Could I have a minute?" John's voice was soft and controlled.

Hank nodded. "Of course. I'll just be outside." The door shut as John took the chair at Rogue's bedside. Again, John resisted the temptation to reach out and take her hand, or stroke her face. She couldn't be dying – he'd only just found her again! John had never felt so protective of anyone but her. To lose her would hurt beyond anything he had ever suffered, physically or mentally. Not even the loss of his sight, or even his beloved powers would compare to losing her. She brought out the best him, she always had.

John remembered when she first arrived at the mansion. Once she'd settled after her ordeal on the Statue of Liberty, Rogue, Bobby and John became fast friends. Despite the obvious attraction between her and Bobby, for a good year the three remained inseparable. John lightened up around Rogue; his stubborn, cocky attitude transformed into frequent teasing and playfulness.

Not long before Stryker's attack on the mansion, Piotr had cornered John, observing that he had a crush on Rogue. The night previously, he had caught John sneaking out of Rogue's room at five in the morning. John's excuse had been that they'd been talking and lost track the time, their heart-to-heart lasting most of the night. John's reaction had been defensive: it was absurd that he should have feelings for one of his best friends. Absurd...

Although, it wasn't appearing so absurd now. Originally, when he first discovered that he felt more than friendship for Rogue, John told himself it was simply because he'd never been close to a female before, save his mother.

Throwing aside reason, John followed his instinct and grasped Rogue's hand between his own. He didn't care if she sucked the life from him – just to feel her skin would be enough to reassure him, and hopefully, she'd realise she wasn't alone.

In an instant, John felt his energy levels drop drastically, but at the same time, Rogue's pulse quickened. He couldn't tell if he was making the situation worse or not, but he decided to take the risk. Something was happening...

His vision was rapidly becoming blurry. A wave of tiredness rushed over him, yet still he gripped Rogue's hand, as though holding on for dear life. "Rogue," he gasped breathlessly, "Marie, please wake up. Don't leave me..."

His eyes slid shut as he succumbed to the darkness.

In the lab next door, Xavier and Hank were in deep discussion when the Professor's eyes widened in complete horror.

"What is it, Charles?" pressed Hank.

"Get next door! Something's wrong – quickly!"

"Bobby – catch!"

Outside on the basketball court, Bobby, Warren and Piotr were shooting some hoops in the warm midday sun. Bobby had been standing completely still, gazing vacantly in no particular direction, when Piotr had passed him the ball, which hit him squarely in the head. His reaction was slow and his expression clouded.

"Um, yeah?"

Piotr shook his head irritably. "Are we playing or what? You're somewhere else!"

"He's right," Warren chipped in as he downed the water in his bottle, "you haven't been with it for the past few days." He regarded Bobby with care: his eyes were tired, his hair unkempt and his posture low. "We're all worried about her too, you know," he said softly.

Bobby rubbed the back of his head nervously. "It's just that... we don't hear anything. All we know is that they're keeping her there for tests. Anything could have happened to her." His sigh was melancholy. "They're keeping us in the dark, I know it."

"They wouldn't," Warren muttered half-heartedly, as though he didn't believe his own words.

"Don't you think it's more than a coincidence that they're keeping John under their watch too, and we don't hear anything about him either?" Bobby asked in exasperation, bouncing the basketball harshly against the ground. "I just – I feel so useless."

"Speaking of John," Piotr cut in abruptly, "don't you think he and Rogue have been getting on well since he's been back?"

Bobby shrugged nonchalantly. "I suppose so. They used to be good friends; it's nice to see them getting along again."

Piotr frowned in amusement. "You know that's not what I meant."

"Is this about your delusional idea that John had a thing for Rogue?" asked Bobby in disbelief. "I'd have known if he did, I would I noticed something..." he trailed off, unsure.

"All I'm saying is that you two haven't been all that close lately, and who do you think she's been turning to for support?" Piotr questioned knowingly. Bobby didn't answer. "I just think you need to be prepared to fight for her, if you're willing to that is."

Confused and uncertain, Bobby bounced the basketball back to Warren, grabbed his towel and left the court.