TITLE: NOVOCAINE FOR THE SOUL
FANDOM: X-Men (AU)
SERIES: NONE
STATUS: 1/1 aka standalone

RATING: PG-13
WARNINGS: rated just for the language
PAIRING: Rogue/Pyro
SUMMARY: What if Rogue's answer to the infamous question asked by John in the jet before taking off, had not been the timid silence that it was, but a firm "no" instead? What if she'd gone with him?

PROMPT: #036 ideal for 50scenes at livejournal.
A/N: I have no excuses other than that a bitchy writer's block hit me and I had to find a way to break free from the damned thing. Obviously, this is the path I chose and hopefully you guys will like it. The title was inspired by Eels' "Novocaine for the soul" because it's one pretty song and well, that's that. This thing hasn't been betaread (yet) mainly because I was too tired to ship it off. It'll be done, eventually. For now, feel free to point out all errors and whatnot... and since it's 5.30 in the morning, I think I'll just go to bed and focus on fixing this thing another day ; I am exhausted and half blind now, I swear.
DISCLAIMER: Not mine and the last time I checked, I got no money out of this, either. Even the 'homo sapiens' line belongs to Magneto who said it or something like it in X-Men 1.

NOVOCAINE FOR THE SOUL

Ever since accidentally putting her first boyfriend to coma for three weeks and running away from home carrying nothing but a single duffel bag filled with everything that still connected her to the world, she hasn't been one to care for earthly possessions.

She appreciates all sorts of beautiful things like anyone would and has taken a liking to snow globes featuring countries she's never seen or even heard of, but she rarely if ever feels the need to have them sitting on top of a drawer or decorating the fireplace.

Still, the apartment which she occupies at the moment isn't empty of those. Some people are comforted by material things, she's noticed this, and she really doesn't count herself as one.

She just happens to live with one, is all.

There are, in fact, a few brand new snow globes above the fireplace, but most of the random things one sees lying around here and there aren't even hers and definitely the kinds she could live without. Technically, of course, they're theirs as the two of them share an account as well as each other, but to her, they're more his than anything else.

They're something he buys or steals, depending on the situation and brings home to show her and she's happy every time he does, but not for the same reasons he is. She's happy because during those rare moments, he's once again the young boy he was when she first saw him in that classroom all those years ago, playing not only with his lighter, but with the fire in his veins... showing off, as usual. The memory as well as the thought brings a flash of smile to her eyes and to the corner of her mouth, but only for a second.

She never tells him, never lets it leak through her carefully guarded shield, but sometimes she finds herself missing those days and that innocence because once upon a time, it was the only consistent thing she ever had.

Every new snow globe he brings her, partly because he knows she likes them, but mostly because he needs the assurance, is another reminder of why she has stayed with him through it all, no matter how ugly it has gotten between them. In his own twisted way, he loves her and she loves him back just as much, just as passionately, and in this fucked up world she figures it's more than one can ask for.

She finds it funny somehow that every damn time they've been made and forced on the move again (which actually hasn't happened that often lately, she notes) it's him that wants everything boxed, saved, and taken away with them to the new, unknown destination.

But she's okay with it, with all his demands and quirks, because while he'd never admit it, those things he claims are just for her, or for cover, do mean a lot to him and she figures he's lost enough as it is. She doesn't want to add to the burden he's already carrying so heavy on his shoulders that sometimes he stands in the shower for hours, refusing to come out. He never makes a sound then but sometimes when she's leaning against the bathroom door, pleading him to come out and tell her what's wrong, she's pretty sure she can smell his tears and feel his body tremble in the kind of waves only profound pain can cause.

They never talk about it.

Perhaps it's a burden he has always been carrying, she wouldn't know because she doesn't know that much of his past. He never talks about that one, either, and if she asks, he shuts her out completely with a stern glare relished with equally demanding silence. But the hurt, bitter look that briefly visits his eyes whenever she brings it up and before he can shake it off, well, it tells her more than his words or denial ever could.

And sometimes she thinks it's probably better that she doesn't know.

Right now, though, none of that sentimental, angst-flavored crap with what she always tries to justify his actions as well as her own, matter the slightest. In fact, she only forced herself to think of the snow globes in the first place to get rid of the foul mood she's in but the pretty things aren't really doing the trick this time. She isn't sure why because it usually works like a charm.

It's nearly one in the morning and he isn't home yet, which is why she's pacing around the dimly lit living-room like a mother expecting her daughter home on a prom night well after the agreed time. Except that she's no mother and he's no little girl and he doesn't owe her anything anyways.

They share a rented apartment with cracking wallpapers, a dangerous job that defines them and spiraling lives, a life, but they've never had such things as agreed homecoming times.

She's beginning to think that hell, maybe they should.

After gazing the clock on the wall for the fifth time, she decides it's batteries are probably dying on her as according to the damned thing, time doesn't seem to go forward at all whereas to her it feels like she's been pacing around the room since morning. She hasn't, but it makes no difference.

Where the fuck is he?

She never really worries for his well-being like this and so she is growing annoyed not only at him for making her worry, but at herself too.

The years spent together have taught her a thing or two, after all, and she knows, so fucking well, that he is more than capable when it comes to protecting his own ass. So, honestly, why is she wasting her time worrying when she could simply take a few painkillers, go to bed and sleep everything away?

Yeah, she echoes her own thoughts silently, then snorts aloud and places a gentle hand around her middle hoping pressure would somehow relief the cutting pain.

The little mission she'd been sent on a few days ago had not worked out exactly like she'd planned it to and the nasty wound on her side is starting to make itself known again.

She'd tried reaching his cell earlier, a few hours ago or so, but had only been greeted coldly by his answering message saying, Me. Leave a message if you have to.

What a fucking way to greet your lover. She'd growled and cursed, whined fuck, Johnny and demanded him to call her as soon as possible because if he didn't, she might come after him herself instead of sending a search party and hang him by the balls no matter what kind of situation he was in.

She figured the message, both the words and the venomous tone (as well as the fact she called him Johnny which is something he hates), had been clear enough and still, not a word from the guy.

Unbelievable, really... but mainly because it isn't like him. He can be an ass at times, an idiot when he wants to and a jerk even when he doesn't. He's one of those that can go from sweet and gentle to a total son of a bitch in a second, just like that, but this is something he simply does not do. Not even after a fight of theirs, no matter how huge it'd been or what kind of words had been exchanged, never did he make her wait like this.

My gods, if it turns out he is enjoying himself in a strip club somewhere with his mates, drinking away all his problems and theirs while at it, she'll make him sleep on the couch for the next month or so. Not that he would stay there, on the couch, that is. He never does because he isn't someone you can push around and she's learned that too, but at least by voicing it, she can let him know she is actually pissed off and he'd be forced to acknowledge his actions and their consequences. It isn't something he likes to do, isn't even good at, but he does it sometimes, just for her.

Still, as unpleasant as the whole thought of a strip club is, she holds onto that a little while longer and by doing so, refuses to think of the alternatives. Mainly because after her own mission gone bad, most of those other theories her mind comes up with, leads to a fight of his, also gone wrong. That naturally leads to dark images of blood on his pale face, makes her see his lifeless body thrown into a ditch somewhere and that is something she is not prepared to think about.

So she keeps pacing and cursing and thinking of ways to make him feel as anxious as she was feeling.

When the front door finally makes a sound, key twisting in its lock and then, the familiar creak as it's pushed open, she stops pacing immediately and spins around to stare at the door.

She can't see him, just his fingers curling around the edge of the door and, "yeah, yeah," he says, voice dripping with fatigue and something else that she can't recognize, but would sure as hell like to.

"Don't worry about it, 'kay?" he continues, "it's gonna be fine, the whole thing. These damn things happen."

Someone says something but she can't make out the words. But she does hear him chuckle at the words spoken and, "Yeah, well, you should've seen Rogue the other day. If that ain't a mission gone sour, I don't know what is so really, don't worry. I'll be peachy by the time Magneto's done with your lecture, I swear. Not like I've never taken a bullet before." A pause, then, "Ciao."

The tired smile on his bruised face dies the minute he steps inside and sees the glazed look on hers.

"Oh," John exhales, tongue testing the cut on his bottom lip only to realize it's still bleeding, "you're up. Thought you'd be sleeping by now."

Her answer is an accusing glare and a pair of pursued lips, accompanied by a slight tilt of her head. She notes there's a cut on his lip and another across his cheek. She wonders how many new cuts and bruises she'll find on him after tonight. How many new scars she'll have to kiss and memorize.

His hair is a messy bundle of brown locks, blood and possibly dirt and the color red, it paints his face and all of his clothes, gathering into a small pool right beside his feet.

She hopes the hallway doesn't look as bad as their floor will. The janitor, that old bastard of a man, hates them enough as it is and they don't need another reason to be told off.

Somewhere in the back of her mind, she's also thinking, holy fucking shit and it takes every ounce of willpower she has not to step forward and cradle him just because he's taken a beating and apparently a fucking bullet too, and thank God, thank God, thank God, thank God-

He's still alive.

He studies her features for a short moment before calmly closing the door behind him. He isn't exactly sure where he's standing with her right now or if she's actually mad or what, but he figures she'll tell him without him asking. So, without saying anything else, he lets his gaze drop from her eyes while he opens his leather jacket and shakes it off, grimacing at the pain shooting through his arm with every single move he makes.

Fucking homo sapiens and their stupid guns.

"You've been shot," she declares then, as if the words she heard and the state of his appearance would only now be sinking in. It isn't the first question she meant to ask, but it is the first that gets out.

And then, "How the fuck did you get shot, huh?" she asks, because it's the only reasonable follow-up she can think of right now.

She doesn't understand why he's smirking at her like that, like nothing was wrong, but John, he actually thinks it's kind of amusing how she seems to be angry at him for getting shot.

"Hey," he says softly and with a smile tugging at his lips because really, it is somewhat hilarious in that freaky, surreal kind of way, "the damn bullet came after me, not the other way 'round."

Yeah, he would've gladly jumped away from its target line, and he tried to, which is why it only pushed through his arm, not through his chest. But he leaves that unsaid.

"Okay," she spits through gritted teeth, "Fine."

He's about to say something, but she beats him to it, "I left you a message," she tells, voice still accusing him of all the crimes ever committed in the whole wide world.

"My fucking battery died," he confesses as his jacket lands somewhere near the clothing rack on his right and soon after, his beloved flame thrower device is thrown on the floor next to it. She watches him in silence and doesn't even attempt to help him.

After the task is complete, his eyes return hers, but she's still sending the kind of cold vibes that make him frown curiously. He knows her, this woman in front of him probably better than he knows himself and so he can tell without a shadow of a doubt that she's somehow different tonight.

Rogue sighs and there's something vulnerable in that sound, something that gives him the feeling she's softening up. Good.

She eyes him from head to toes, taking in his looks and decides the fight, or whatever it was that she was after only a moment ago, it'll simply have to wait. Whatever it is, she'll throw it at his face in the morning, or some other time when he won't hurt himself further by trying to grab her.

Because wounded or not, that's one thing she knows he'll try and do, and right now, it would only make his state a lot worse, a lot more painful.

"Want something to eat?" She asks then, actually managing to surprise them both. He cocks his head and then takes a step forward. Since she stands her ground, not moving away or showing any signs of retreating, he takes another and another till he finally reaches her.

"Well, yeah," he tells her matter-of-fact, healthy hand wrapping around her waist and bringing her close, "I'm starving."

She smiles faintly, resisting the urge to tell him that it's nothing new; he's always hungry. Instead, she lets out all the air from her lungs, shoulders collapsing and eyes closing on their own and for the first time in hours, her body seems to relax. She feels him rest his forehead against hers the way he often does and everything seems a little better, a little brighter. Safer, warmer.

She breathes in again, taking in air as well as his scent, drawing endless amounts of power from something so small and simple. But then, that's the way it's always worked between them.

Suddenly his fingers on her hip dig a little deeper into her flesh, his breathing stops and then it's nothing but YOU ALWAYS DO WHAT YOU'RE TOLD NO THE COME ONE I DON'T KNOW IF THAT'S SUCH A SMART BUT AND YOU ALWAYS DO YOU ALWAYS ALWAYS DO WHAT YOU'RE TOLD AND NO-

She breaks the skin contact by turning her head to the side the second she feels fragments of his mind fusing with hers. Usually he's able to resist her mutation longer, usually she wouldn't mind even if he didn't, but given the weakened state he's in, she concludes it's no wonder and probably not wise, either.

"You're bleeding all over the carpet," she whispers, eyes still shut, but he can detect the hint of amusement lurking behind the front of her words and it twists his lips into a mischievous smirk.

He tells her, "I'll buy you a new fucking carpet" but opens his own eyes nevertheless and straightens his back.

His arm is hurting like hell and as much as he doesn't want to, he knows something has to be done about it. A fucking arm infection is the last thing he needs right now.

She doesn't need the skin contact to know what's on his mind and so she clears her throat, telling, "I'll go raid the fridge and you go clean that thing up."

He doesn't argue and she's already turned around and on her way to the kitchen, when she suddenly stops and faces him again. "You're okay, right? You can do it, right?"

"Yeah," he tells her, liking the fact she's for once showing actual signs of worry, "I can do it." It's not that she didn't usually worry, she does sometimes and he knows that because her eyes give it away every single time, but she's usually not that keen on showing it and she's gotten pretty good when it comes to hiding these things.

When he'd entered their flat, he'd honestly expected her to be asleep.

She opens the fridge and takes out enough ingredients to make a sandwich of a kind, but she doesn't even register half of the things she's doing. The knife moves and the cucumber is chopped to pieces and she doesn't even register she's the one doing it.

All she can think of or focus on really, are the small sounds she hears him making while moving from room to room. Footsteps telling her he hasn't fainted anywhere, the faucet being opened and closed making it known he got to the bathroom and then there are the snarls and growls, assuring her.

Well, perhaps she should be grateful her strip club theory didn't turn out to be correct.

The sandwiches are done in no time and after that, she cleans the counter without thinking about it, throws the used knives into the sink like she always does and then stands there for a moment, by the sink, just catching her breath.

She's always known their lifestyle is nothing if not dangerous and she's never had any trouble accepting it, which is why it feels weird to her she'd react this way to -- well honestly, she's not even sure to what she actually reacted in the first place.

She turns around only when she hears his footsteps approaching, both hands still gripping the edge of the sink. The knot in the pit of her stomach opens the minute he enters the kitchen for despite the swollen bruises, he looks more like himself now. Wet hair, worn jeans and a simple, white t-shirt and if she ignores the bandage on his arm, she can almost pretend it never happened.

"There," she mutters, voice cracking slightly while nodding towards the plate on the counter between them. He sits down on one of the stools, pulls the plate closer and eats in silence. She doesn't say anything either, but that's because she can't think of anything to say that doesn't sound childish or petty somehow. Pathetic, even.

And whatever she is, she refuses to be pathetic because that's all that Marie ever was and she's no longer her.

When he's done eating, he pushes the plate farther away and then crosses his arms dropping his elbows on the counter, eyes burning hers.

"You know," he starts voice husky and smiling faintly, "you could just tell me what's wrong."

She's quick to deny it, shakes her head and tells him, "Nothing's wrong." He's tempted to ask if she thinks he's really that fucking stupid or if the words were actually meant for her, not for him.

He doesn't ask though, because he indeed is not stupid and he really doesn't want to fight right now if it can be avoided but, "Oh yeah, this is how you act every time I come home from work."

She laughs at that, almost mocking.

Hell, "It's not work anymore, John," she tells him simply and if he wasn't so determined not to raise a fight, he'd once again ask, order, demand, beg her to call him Pyro. She never does, at least not when there isn't others around, and he always pleads her to simply out of habit. Frankly, if she started calling him Pyro now he'd probably find it suspicious and end up accusing her of fucking someone else.

Sometimes, as much as he hates to admit it, he even feels more like John than Pyro around her anyways.

His thoughts return the moment at hand and to the words she'd spoken, not that he'd really get what she's trying to say. "Then what is it?" He asks, curious. They get paid for it, whatever they do during the days and well, doesn't that define it as work?

She sighs, frustrated and tired and not really sure what it is that she's trying to say, either. It's something that's been bothering her for days now, weeks even, it's something she feels and thinks but afterwards forgets completely.

He watches how she raises a hand to massage the side of her neck in what seems to be a rather futile attempt to channel the stress away.

"Our life," she says then, shrugging casually.

"But-"

"I'm not complaining," she interrupts his argument bluntly, something she knows will agitate him for sure but she's not in the mood to care about that right now, "I'm just saying that it's all we do. Every day is another fight in a world that's so fucked up, so ugly that sometimes I don't think we'll ever stand a chance. When is it gonna stop, John?" She asks the question with a straight face, no self-pity or sadness within her voice and for that, he loves her a little bit more.

Just a simple question to which he's got an equally simple answer though in reality nothing is ever that simple.

"Never," he tells her gently the only truth he's ever known. The world will never accept them for what they are, not while there are humans in it, and though she's so annoyingly hell-bent on making sure that no one that doesn't deserve to be hurt gets in the crossfire, he knows so much better.

He's come to terms with the fact that sometimes sacrifice doesn't mean losing your own life or losing the one you love, but living with the knowledge you've made others lose theirs.

Not that it'd bother him anymore; maybe it never really did, he can't remember. Either way, it's Rogue who still can't sleep through a night without nightmares after draining a life she didn't mean to take.

To him there's no real difference anyways, but he never sets her straight. Sometimes it's easier to let her have her delusions; they're what shape her, after all, and no matter how annoying the woman can get at times, it's still the shape of hers that he's grown so weirdly fond of.

He calls it love, not caring that he's not so sure how love is supposed to feel like to begin with.

"I can't keep doing this forever," she continues, waking him from his thoughts and he can sense a but approaching, an ultimatum of a sort, "I mean, I like the fact we're out there doing something important, but... I want a family one of these days, you know."

He blinks, surprised, "You do?"

What, a family? Like a bunch of little rogues running around the place, demanding, needing, looking all pretty with their big brown eyes and therefore making his life a little bit more complicated? That kind of family, huh?

Suddenly he's a little terrified which is a whole new concept, at least to him and that alone terrifies him even more. It's a fucking circle, he concludes, and a damn vicious one too. Hell, even when he'd been face to face with that damn gun, he hadn't been terrified. Not even scared. A little worried, maybe, but that was about it.

How is it that the simple thought of having a kid scares the living shit out of him?

Rogue looks at him, eyes searching, trying to find an actual answer somewhere between his features and his eyes, but she can't. He's glad to realize she's completely oblivious to the path his damn thoughts were about to step on. Did, in fact, step on.

She's fidgeting a little, though she tries not to, and he's pretty sure nothing good can come out of this one.

"Well," she questions then, the head of her thumb between her teeth, "don't you?"

No, his mind says instantly but his voice chooses a longer, more polite version for which his brain is actually grateful afterwards, "I've never thought of it," he tells and she seems satisfied enough by the vague reply.

She moves, tucking a lock of gray stripe behind her ear, eyes dropping onto the tile floor and, "Anyway," she starts, eyes avoiding his, "I'm tired so I'm gonna go to bed now."

He lets her exit the room without trying to stop her, without even saying anything. Without trying to explain.

Not that she would have expected anything.

All the way to the bedroom, she allows her fingers to travel against the wall, against the drawers, against the paintings he's hung there. It's her whole life, and his, beneath her fingertips and still she wants something more.

She assumes it quite possibly makes her a one selfish son of a bitch, but then again, he's always being a selfish son of a bitch too, so maybe it's only fair.

When she finally reaches the bedroom door, she's beyond tired. She's a wreck, both outside and inside and her whole body wants to shut down already. Her side is hurting, but she can't be bothered to find the pill jar and she can feel a headache setting in.

She closes the door behind her carefully and somehow it feels like she was actually separating two worlds by doing so.

Suddenly there's no more shield or shell or a layer of any kind to protect her from the cold and she's nothing but all alone.

She shivers involuntarily, but ignores it completely. Instead, she sheds her clothes on the floor, a pile forming by the bed and then, slips under the thick covers hoping they'll warm her enough. Lying on her stomach, face buried into the pillow, she falls asleep pretty much right away.

Unfortunately, she wakes up only about five minutes later to something soft and warm touching the back of her arm. Grunting a protest, she opens her eyes and mutters, "fuck of, Johnny, seriously."

And he only laughs at her crankiness, at the fierce look in her eyes and leans closer to kiss her shoulder quickly, but gently.

Her heart as well as her breathing stop momentarily, the way they always do when she's not prepared to be touched, and it's all it takes for her to be fully alert again.

The smirk on his lips tell her he knows something she doesn't, and so she stares at him with the kind of demanding glare that does all the speaking for her.

"I was thinking," he says then, offering an explanation alongside with a small shrug, all the while his index finger plays with one of her gray stripes, "I was thinking it's not the time, but it wouldn't be so bad if it was with you. Novocaine for the soul and all, you know?"

He doesn't have to word it any other way, doesn't have to say anything more because she knows exactly what he means.

In fact, she can't help but smile, a little amused, but mainly damn happy, because really-

it's nearly as good as if he'd brought her another damn snow globe, if not better.