In a lot of ways, Rogue was glad the return to the Institute was as chaotic as it was. Scared kids gave her something to do, gave her something to focus on with the part of her mind that was still hers. A headcount had to be taken. The damage to the mansion needed to be inspected. Appropriate calls needed to be made to the parents who still cared about their mutant kids. And when that was over, there would be the memorial service for Professor Grey.
Rogue volunteered for the work, even though she was exhausted and wanted nothing more than a nap. Not that she would have gotten much sleep, anyway. When she was this tired, she couldn't focus on keeping the voices out. Professor Xavier had been working with her on that, but it wasn't like controlling one's telepathy. That was about keeping outside stuff outside. But Rogue's voices were all in her head. Sometimes sleep was an escape and sometimes it was traveling further down the rabbit hole.
She hadn't seen Bobby since the team had returned from Washington. She didn't blame his silence. He had a lot on his mind. He could probably never go back home again, not after John had set his entire front lawn ablaze. A stand-off with the police aside, his parents hadn't looked too thrilled about finding out their precious eldest son was actually a mutant. And of course, through all of that, Rogue couldn't ignore the way he'd forcibly pulled away from the kiss.
Rogue knew that was how it was going to happen. She still had the voice of the first boy she'd ever kissed in her head, a grumbling teenager. He didn't age and he didn't fade, and she didn't know if she'd ever get rid of him. She'd had a moment of weakness and now Bobby was relegated to the same fate. She wondered what would happen to him if she absorbed him again. Not that she thought she'd be doing that any time soon.
After about an hour or so of logging repairs - the refrigerator bearing stab marks, the hole in the wall where Colossus had thrown one of Stryker's men - Storm had sent Rogue off on her own, claiming that Rogue needed a break. Although Rogue suspected it was more a case of Storm needing to be alone with her thoughts. So Rogue found herself wandering the garden, hoping to be alone with a few thoughts of her own.
She settled onto a stone bench that was chilled slightly from the sun setting on the other side of the mansion, and curled her knees against her chest. It was only then that she realized exactly little time she'd had to breathe.
It was peaceful out in the garden, with everyone inside and a light breeze stirring the bushes and wafting the scent of flowers over her. She took a deep breath to take in the scent, then took in another, just because it felt good. It felt calming, and Rogue so desperately needed calming. Focus, was the buzzword Professor Xavier always threw at her. Hell, it was the word of the day for the whole Institute. As if it was easy to focus with people invading and dying left and right.
Mostly, she was just glad to get away from the gossip. Everyone was so excited to tell what had happened to everyone after the Institute had been invaded. All she'd heard all day were tales of where all the kids had gone, how scary it had been when their heads started screaming. From there, the kids started asking what had happened to everyone else. Where had John gone? Why hadn't he come back? And every time his name came up, she heard him in her head: What'd I tell you, you people can barely function without me. It stung, every time.
But that wasn't the worst part. The worst was when she'd first absorbed him, in an attempt to quench his power and steal it for herself. Even as she attempted to put out the flaming cop cars, she could feel his urge to make the flames go higher. It had almost grown past a simple survival instinct, because he'd never done anything on this scale before. Why stop? Why not see how far it could go? The way these people were looking at them, thinking they could tell them what to do. They were just stupid, regular humans. He was the one with the power. They were the ones running scared.
It scared her, how much the John in her head resembled the Magneto in her head. The strength of his voice in her head was great, the longer she drew his power from him, and she had to fight to remember that these were his thoughts, not hers.
Weren't they hers, though? Deep down inside? She wanted people to stay away from her, too. For everyone's safety. It was why she wore layers in the summer. It was why she had a quiet, polite boyfriend that was little more than a handsome accessory for all she did with him, but he served as a convenient buffer keeping everyone else away, too. It was why even now, when she should have been participating in the 'we almost died' love-fest taking place inside the Institute, with her boyfriend and friends, she was alone in the garden, trying to fight off the voices (John, Magneto, even Logan) that were encouraging her she'd be better off alone.
He's going to get bored and he's going to leave you, John sneered.
They can't be trusted, smirked Magneto.
No one can, kid, said Logan.
The last voice was Professor Xavier's, though she'd never absorbed him. It was just what he always told her in the one-on-one sessions. Focus. She was trying to. She tried to concentrate on the way the leather suit felt against her skin. Being an X-Man was the end goal for almost everyone at the Institute. Getting to prove that their powers weren't just a burden, but useful, that they meant something. This suit, snug and showing no skin from the neck down, was a symbol of belonging, of purpose. It meant something. It meant she wasn't supposed to be alone. Logan wandered around, but he came back here. John only left because he felt he'd belong better elsewhere. And Magneto was always looking for new recruits. None of them was really alone, nor did they want to be.
Shut up, she said to everyone else, then dusted off the butt of her shiny new suit and went inside.