by Twinkledru J.

Not long after Logan had split, they'd had a fourth of July barbecue. Rogue didn't quite get it, 'cuz they didn't really have much reason to get real excited about a country that hated them even though they saved it.

Or a world, for that matter. But they didn't make a big deal out of Earth Day, so that wasn't as big an issue.

Still, she'd kinda been looking forward to it, even though she didn't quite get it. Jubilee was good with fireworks, of course, and Bobby wouldn't stop bugging her to come on out and play basketball with them, to get out here and sit next to him. "Come on, Rogue," he said, "Scott's cooking. We're trying to get him to wear an apron."

They stepped outside, and there were Scott and Jean, each standing at a grill (because they had a whole school to feed). Jean was doing the burgers, Scott the hot dogs, and every so often they would look over at each other and smile about something.

Bobby took a deep breath. "Smells great, doesn't it?" he asked Rogue. She inhaled deeply, smelling the smoke that hung in the air, the smell of burning animal flesh, and then she screamed at the top of her lungs.

Rogue couldn't breathe, it seemed, or she didn't want to, because with each breath, she smelled it, tasted it, and she turned on her heel and ran inside, still screaming. She heard people running after her, heard Scott's shoes on the wood, and Jean's heels were even worse, echoing *crack crack crack*. When Scott caught her, grabbed her gloved wrist, she screamed again and clawed, kicked, shoved, punched, and scrambled to the corner of the room, where she curled up.

Scott and Jean approached her more carefully, and she screamed louder for they still smelt of it, of burning flesh burning.

"What is going on here?"

Silence, even from Rogue, who curled up tighter and put a hand over her mouth and nose, smelled her own living skin and the thin cloth of the glove. Jean was explaining as best she could to the Professor, but wholly, things were quiet, quiet as cold nights quiet as weeping quiet as snow way up north quiet as death.

"Move away from her," Charles said, just as quietly, even as he moved slowly closer. "Can you hear me?" he asked gently when he was beside her in her corner.

She fell still now, looked up, and reached out with a gloved hand. He took it in his own, and simply held it there until she was calm again. He said nothing more, and she slowly drew to her feet to stand beside him, and did not pull her hand back.

"Make her a salad," the Professor said softly. "I think that it may take a little time before she will be comfortable eating cooked meat again."

Jean was still staring. Scott, too, but he shook himself, realizing what the Professor had said, and the two of them turned and walked off. Rogue shivered as Jean's shoes echoed like heavy boots along the hard, polished wood.

"Are you all right?" he asked, and she suddenly recalled a more pleasant memory of him, much younger, asking the same thing when she awoke, sweating and cold and screaming, from a nightmare.

Not her.

"I -- " her voice was shaking. "I've been better."

"I'm sure you have," he answered wryly, and smiled gently, squeezing her hand a bit.

She smiled weakly, trembling, and realized that he had called the comforting memory to her mind from all the chaos. She yanked her hand away then. "Sneaking around..." she whispered, and her voice was more precise than that of a teenaged Southern girl.

Things were silent again, then, and she took a deep, shaking breath, and smelt only the school.

"Sorry," Rogue muttered.

"It's all right," the Professor said, completely calm and forgiving, as usual.

"I'm just gonna wait inside," she stammered. "Until they're done cooking. I don't really wanna freak out again."

He nodded.

She tried to smile, and turned away instead.


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