Disclaimer: do not own anything, just borrowing, yada yada

First, a word of warning. This chapter isn't happy. So if you are delicate at heart, beware. Now, on with the story!

Despite all evidence to the contrary, the world was not ending.

The sun was going to rise tomorrow, and the earth's rotation was going to continue unfettered. Life was, after all, quite resilient to the many assaults and outbursts of man.

But if the world were to end, Bobby Drake imagined that it would look no worse than the scene that unfolded before him.

He was, after all, clinging to a doubtful strip of piping for dear life as people and objects happened to spontaneously combust all around him. Although chance had spared him so far, he remained tragically unprotected from an impending flood of ocean water that was momentarily held at bay above the island of Alcatraz as if by magic.

"I think Dr. Grey might be a tad obsessed with drowning," he said out loud to no one in particular, to the rushing wind, and the rustling ashes.

Maybe his parents were right. Maybe life as a self-fashioned super-hero-slash-action-figure wasn't all it was cut out to be. Especially not if it ended suddenly, and prematurely on this god-forsaken rock.

"We need to get out of here!" he yelled at anyone who would listen.

But then someone yelled:

"Where's Wolverine?"

He squinted, and tried to scan the billowing cinders for any sign of the wolf-man. He finally spotted his prone form splayed out across the rubble, less that fifty yards from where he was crouching.

Promptly, his training kicked in, and he bellowed:

"Wolverine's down. I'm moving in for recovery."

Adopting the nifty new maneuver he had learned today, Bobby allowed his skin to frost over, and hoped against all hopes that he could continue generating a new layer of frost faster than it could be telekinetically disintegrated.

Then he took off in the direction of Wolverine, the fiery tendrils of Phoenix's mind pounding against him and tearing at his makeshift armor. When he was about two seconds away from his target, something else caught his eye.

A lone figure, a mere speck against the cyclone of fire, stood its ground, endured, fought its way closer to the heart of the beast.

"Is that ... "

The figure's frame was barely clad in charred strips of clothing. But its skin ... it's skin was ablaze, a flaming meteor cast in bright contrast against the ashen sky.


The figure should have been writhing in the floor with pain, should have been reduced to crumbling cinders like the others. But instead of disintegrating, the figure's skin continued to regenerate.


When did she get here? What the hell was she doing? What was she thinking?

The answer, simply put, was as follows: Rogue definitely was not thinking at all. Not when her flesh scorched violently, crumbled away, and knit itself back together again. Not when the tremendous pain overloaded her senses, and suffocated any semblance of coherent thought. And definitely not when her mind was exposed, stripped raw, and left naked before the all seeing eyes of the mighty Phoenix.

She drew in her last reserves of energy – a dwindling stock of rashness and pure adrenalin – in a final attempt to force her legs forward, to anesthetize her mind. And it hurt ... Christ it hurt so much.

"I am numb. I feel nothing, see nothing, hear nothing. I am but a wind in a canyon, a lilly upon a lake. I am ... oh God ..."

There were tears in her eyes, but they never fell. How could they, when the ravenous inferno vaporized everything in its wake?

"There is no pain, no fire, just a purifying salve. I am purging away my sins ... my curse ... my skin. My skin is but a husk to be shed, to be whisked away by the wind."

Somehow, she felt better. Perhaps the fire, even the pain, were necessary. God knows she had hated her skin so much, that in her darkest hour she had dreamt of burning it away in a cleansing blaze.

But something was amiss. Her neurons were somehow still transmitting signals to her brain. Why wasn't she on the ground already, convulsing and drooling? Why was she still able to move her limbs at all?

There was no doubt about it. Phoenix wanted her to get closer, beckoned to her like a flame would beckon an entranced moth. She had lulled her into ignoring the deterioration of her healing abilities, until, all at once, they were gone entirely, leaving nothing but pain and dread in their wake.

But no matter: she had already arrived at her destination.

There, in the eye of the storm, time stood still. Nothing existed beyond the moment. Nothing beyond Phoenix ... her paralyzing smile ... and Marie.

But Phoenix faltered. Her smile fractured, only to be replaced by the pleading, anguished eyes of Jean Grey.

"Please Rogue... please kill me ... I can't control her ..." , Jean said, and her broken defeat was enough to rend anyone's soul.

It was enough to make Rogue consider her offer, but only for a millisecond.

"I ... I can't kill you. But I can take her away."

Rogue sounded more confident than she felt. She had, after all, never done anything like this before. But maybe, maybe if she focused entirely on the Phoenix, she could draw her in within herself.

A fleeting shadow of hope glimmered across Jean's eyes.

It was all Rogue needed in the form of agreement.

"Let me take away your demons," she whispered, as she lifted a set of trembling fingers, and gently brushed them across Jean Grey's brow.

The voices came immediately, at first shallow whispers, like the babble of a brook tucked deep within the canyon of her subconscious. But then they accelerated, crescendoed into the roar of a river, then a tumultuous crash of an ocean, demolishing the walls of her mind, and flooding everything. There were thousands of them, perhaps millions, and they spoke at once, happy, afraid, angry, hopeful. They overwhelmed her, and she gasped for air, but in vain. She screamed, but her voice was lost in the frenzy of foreign thoughts.

She was drowning.

Suddenly, the thoughts disappeared with unparalleled swiftness, and the voices fell silent. Then, through the stillness one voice rang out, clear, and absolute.

One voice. Phoenix's voice.

"Reckless child," she mocked, "Did you think your feeble mind could hold the essence of a God?"

Phoenix's laughter reverberated violently through her skull.

"Your body and mind are mine to command," Phoenix said, and her power echoed through Rogue's mind once more, forcing her consciousness to tremble beneath her. Rogue struggled to maintain a solid foothold as the constructs of logic, reason, and awareness shook and shattered all around her. She knew then that she was slipping, moments away from tumbling into the abyss.

But damned if she went down without doing some form of damage control first.

At that precise moment, Bobby remembered to breathe. He had watched, horrified, as Jean Grey crumpled to the ground, watched as Rogue surveyed the destruction around her with a pair of coal black eyes. He continued to watch as Rogue raised her hands, and commanded the fires to die, and the whirlwind to stop. The walls of water receded calmly, dropping back to the ocean they came from as though they had never left it. And for the first time that dreadful evening, relief washed over him, cool and serene.

"It's over," Bobby thought, and after checking Wolverine's vitals, he defrosted himself, and began to make his way towards Rogue, a thousand questions poised on the tip of his tongue. But, when he had crossed about half the distance, Rogue turned in his direction. Instantly her rigid, unwavering black eyes fell upon his. And when he stared into their fathomless darkness he, the famous Iceman, froze in his tracks, and shuddered.

"Bobby" she said, her voice betraying some warmth, some recognition. But her ruthless eyes continued to lay him bare, to pick at his thoughts. He felt his emotions bleed towards her from his mind, all his flaws and his deepest desires, all the thoughts he had about her, and the thoughts he had about someone ... else. Try as he may, he could not break away from her gaze, or her hold on his mind. He tasted blood against his lips, and realized that his nose was bleeding.

"Rogue ... stop ... you're hurting me."

Rogue blinked a few times. Bobby imagined he saw a small hint of remorse creep into the blackness of her eyes as he felt her grip on him ease slightly. But, all at once, a flash of pain flitted across her features, and she emitted a piercing, inhuman shriek as stumbled backwards, lifting her clutch off of him entirely. Bobby watched, aghast, as the debris around him began to rattle ominously. The cyclone of fire gradually began to pick up again, but this time, it was Rogue who commanded its every whim.

Bobby needed to get to her fast. His feet broke into a run.

"I can't control her Bobby ... she's too powerful ... my mind can't hold her much longer ..." Rogue spluttered when he had finally reached her. Bobby tried to steady her, clutched her shoulders tightly as her entire body became racked with spasms.

The next instant, her voice was different, colder, like steel.

"Foolish mortal!" Rogue spat at him, but the words were Phoenix's. "Blind puppets, all of you! You do not see the darkness to come, the darkness born of the minds of man. Let me cleanse the earth of its hatred. Let me burn away the poison embedded in the hearts of its creatures. Only then can the earth can be reborn."

With a thought, she tossed him away from her, and his back collided painfully with the rocky ground several feet away.

As though a switch had flipped again, Rogue gasped violently and dropped to her knees, her eyes clenched shut, her breathing harsh and irregular. Her hands manically clung to her head like she thought it might explode any second. When he met her eyes again, they had reverted to their original tinge of green, yet they were strained with exhaustion. His heart fell when he read the desperation held within them.

"I have to stop her. I have to stop her before she takes over completely, before she destroys anything else."

She stood up, and with seemly enormous effort, took a few steps away from Worthington labs and towards the tip of the island, towards the cliff against which the Golden Gate bridge pivoted, and Alcatraz's rocky fringes met the ocean.

But Bobby was no fool. He scampered to his feet, and froze the ground before him so that he could glide over it quickly and easily.

"Stop!" he yelled at her, panic lacing his voice. "You can fight her Rogue. We can take you back to the institute ... and –"

His limbs were too slow. Something was ... Rogue was somehow suppressing his motor functions, intercepting the signals from his brain to his legs. She was dispersing the signals that were commanding his body to do something ... anything ... to stop her, like freeze her feet in place. Even when she had reached the edge of the cliff, he was still too far away ... too far, damn it!

His heart stilled when Rogue turned to look at him, a doleful smile on her lips.

Then, she disappeared beyond the rim.

A/N: Hmmm... going through the last chapter again made me realize this one has an entire different tone. Darker, less sarcastic. Hope you enjoyed it. I kinda cheated, and took out the continuation for this chapter, with the intention of tacking it on to the next one. What can I say? This chapter needed to end right there! Thanks for all the kind reviews of the last chapter, and a special shout to the anonymous reviewers since I have no means of getting back to you :D. Anyway, please let me know what you think so far. And I'm off to edit the next chapter.