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Fic - Pyro - Some Kind of Boy 7

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  • Tara Ann
    Title: One of Us, One of Them (Some Kind of Boy – story 7) author: Tara Ann summary: John meets a new girl, John and Rogue get drunk, the road to
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 14, 2005
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      Title: One of Us, One of Them (Some Kind of Boy – story 7)
      author: Tara Ann
      summary: John meets a new girl, John and Rogue get drunk, "the road
      to redemption is a rocky path." X2/Buffy/Angel/Tru Calling
      crossover – one doesn't need to know Faith to read the story.
      Rating/warning & pairing: G (unless I missed something).
      Pyro/Faith, Pyro/Professor, Pyro/Rogue, Pyro/Mystique, Pyro/Magneto,
      Pyro/The Brotherhood, Pyro/Jill
      *Characters do not belong to me except for Jill – she is mine and
      looks like Claire Danes.
      *lyrics taken from "Silent Legacy" by Melissa Etheridge.
      ** I've liked Pyro from the first moment I saw him in X2. He's
      complex with confidence and vulnerability. I only hope I give St.
      John Allerdyce the respect and understanding he deserves. He is the
      boy with the soft edges and the palest pout.



      why did you steal the matches
      from the one room motel
      once they gave you answers
      now they give you hell
      they will never understand
      they wonder where did they go wrong
      how could you be so selfish
      why can't you get along*



      Professor Xavier was talking to them, the students, but John wasn't
      listening. He stared down at his empty notebook; he didn't take
      notes. He used to, but he didn't see the purpose now. He hadn't
      seen the purpose then, either. His dark brown eyes glanced upwards
      towards the window which shut out the outside world, the sky blue-
      grey and the trees changing the colors of their leaves from green to
      crisp oranges, reds, and browns. Then he noticed Rogue looking at
      him, watching him, her eyes glistening and curious. She sat next to
      Bobby, whose own attention on the Professor seemed clouded by
      personal troubles, personal troubles with Rogue, probably. John
      smiled to himself and when Rogue smiled faintly at him he looked down
      at the blank loose-leaf and sighed. He could still feel her eyes on
      him and he suddenly realized he wasn't like them, anymore. He wasn't
      one of them, he didn't even want to be in the room, listening to
      Xavier; John was bored.
      John had always been easily bored. School had never been too
      exciting, not even this one with its Danger Room and extreme X-jet.
      He liked to read, but he didn't need to go to school to read.
      He rested his leg over his knee, waiting for the session to end. He
      could have walked out, but something made him stay.
      When the session was over the Professor asked him to wait and John
      reluctantly obliged. Rogue lingered near the door, holding her
      notebook, her green-gloved hand touching the doorway.
      "John, I'll see you later?" she said.
      He looked at her and barely nodded. Then she left. She had been
      talking to him more lately. It seemed like once you made one choice
      no one else approved of you became the center of gossip and details.
      John sat back down on the couch, feeling suddenly suffocated in his
      brown leather jacket.
      "I've always detected decisiveness in you," the Professor said. "Are
      you not happy here?"
      Settling into his usual laid back demeanor with casual shoulders,
      John flicked his shark-mouthed metal lighter once.
      "It's not about being happy," said John. "You think I'm maladjusted
      and disconnected. Troubled? I've heard it before, but I know what
      I'm doing. I'm not gonna sit with my hands in my lap, keeping my
      mouth shut, when everything that I am is in jeopardy."
      "Patience is strength," Professor X said.
      "Tolerance is the biggest myth," said John.
      His troublemaking began early, when he was nine, stealing candy bars
      and pencils he didn't need. Detention after school almost became his
      second home. His mother tried her best to give him a secure and
      loving home, but the nights to his days always resulted in him
      watching his father bully her down with cheap verbal abuse. He never
      interfered because he was scared and he resented being scared. His
      mother would hug him, she rarely cried, but he didn't know what to do
      for her so he often remained still in her arms, staring into the wall
      until she let him go. She worked in a laundry mat down the corner
      from their apartment and the night his father left them he pushed her
      into the dryer and slapped John hard on the face.
      "You're gonna be weak just like her," he told John.
      He watched his father walk out of the laundry, his cheek burning, and
      for the first time his mother didn't run after the guy. Instead she
      held him, her son, kissed his cheek and told him not to worry.
      John began to hang out on the streets more, got involved in petty
      robbery, spent some time in juvie, and realized he was making his
      mother cry, the woman who never cried down any injustice thrown at
      her. So he ran away to lessen the pain, her pain and his own, but he
      returned because he didn't want to leave her, not like his father had
      left her. Maybe that was why he was so surprised and quietly hurt
      when she encouraged him to go to Xavier's school; he didn't know if
      she thought it was a place to keep her boy out of trouble or a place
      to send him away to. He told her he would go and then ran away the
      night before his first day, roaming the streets for three weeks
      before showing up on the school's doorstep, ready to find out what
      kind of rules they would bombard him with and already willing to
      break them. Except, while he was there he realized there weren't
      many rules to break and it was perhaps the most adjusted place he'd
      ever been in his life. Until he became restless and Rogue hooked up
      with Bobby. John had tried to fit into their perfect nourishing
      world, but he felt like he was lying to himself and that one day
      everyone there would realize he didn't belong. He also wanted to
      play with the big kids.
      Professor Xavier talked about belonging, finding one's place in the
      world, in the universe – couldn't it be a simple truth that maybe not
      everyone was meant to belong or find their place? John coveted
      everything he did not have – the happy face family, the adoring
      girlfriend, people to believe in him. He had believed his side was
      the only side he could trust; he was the only one who could help
      himself, except there was another side, the "twisted" opposite of the
      side he was currently still entertaining with his ambiguous guest
      appearances.
      John was in pain, but he didn't know what kind. He was angry and the
      more bitter, enraged, eager, and resentful he became the more lonely
      he felt, and it made the empty pain hurt more. His ability to
      manipulate and destroy made things temporarily hurt less.
      "Erik is seductive and persuasive," Professor X said, rolling out
      from behind his chair, his wheelchair sleek and strong. "I would
      hope that you remain here with us."
      "Why? You just don't want me to hurt people, but you know they
      deserve it."
      Charles Xavier baffled young John Allerdyce. How could someone so
      powerful and intelligent be so understanding and non-judgmental?
      "When I first located you with cerebro, your power was already fully
      ignited, though, you didn't know it, yet. You were scared, but I
      sensed a disturbed calm within you.
      "While you were here I watched you become more confident and you
      seemed content in being docile, with the exception of occasional
      tricks and thrills, and you chose to maintain your talent as a second
      nature. Your recent realization could prove to be quite harmful, not
      only to others, but to yourself. What are you looking for, John?"
      "I found my purpose," John said.
      "As mutants we are extraordinary, but so are humans," said the
      Professor. "Why do you want to abandon the connections you've made
      here?"
      "No," said John, not looking at him. "I don't have to listen to you."
      "You do, you listen to everyone surrounding you," the Professor
      said. "You can not fool yourself. You seek guidance. You will come
      into your own, but you can't skip the steps in between.
      "Erik and I differ tremendously on our approach on mutant freedom,
      but we respect each other."
      John sighed. "They think we're freaks. Very dangerous freaks. I'm
      gonna be the freak they learn to fear."
      He thought of when he first found out he was a mutant. He'd sit on
      the fire escape and watch the people in the street. He had decided
      he would try to fit in with them, but his view had changed since
      then, because something inside him seemed to love to rebel; maybe it
      was the attention he gained from others, whether positive or negative.
      "When you look in the mirror how do you see yourself?"
      "I don't look too hard," said John.
      "I think you do."
      "I don't hate myself."
      "No, you hate everything that makes you feel inferior or trapped and
      there's no need for it. You don't have to hide who you are, John,"
      said the Professor. "No one here wants you to, but you don't have to
      hurt everyone else, either.
      "You have to figure out if you're angry at others or if you're angry
      at yourself before you make any dramatic decision."
      John closed the lighter, stared into the Professor's narrow gleaming
      eyes, and closed his blue spiraled notebook.

      xo

      you've seen it in the movies
      and you've heard it on the street
      craving the affection
      your blood is full of heat
      they don't listen to your reasons
      as original as sin
      deny all that you feel
      and they will bring you home again*

      The Hollow. Violet and yellow light hummed softly throughout
      the jazz metal club and the ground was covered with glittering red,
      purple, and orange leaves. The walls were lined in lavender velvet.
      They danced, Rogue moving like a wayward star in the smoky sky, John
      watching her, uncertain of what he was doing with her. She mostly
      danced with her eyes closed, like she was imagining she was in some
      other place, in some other world. Occasionally her hip touched his,
      her exposed skin deceptive, inviting him to caress her. He wanted to
      hold her and touch her body up and down, but he didn't dare. It was
      too bad because he knew she would enjoy it. Midnight blue pants
      enticed her hips and she wore a matching choker halter top. Her
      brown hair was styled on top of her head, and the white streak on the
      left side of her head was crimped in an existential zig zag design.
      On her arms she wore purple velvet gloves. Her eyelashes were curled
      in forest green. When she opened her eyes she smiled.
      "I'm thirsty," she said, taking his hand and leading him to one of
      the burnt pink sofas in the corner. The table in the center was an
      oval-shaped, red-tinted mirror.
      She motioned to one of the waiters and snatched a glass of cherry
      champagne, gulping it down and bobbing to the music.
      Her smile was bright and sparkled energetically like her brown eyes.
      John sat back, his shoulders relaxed; his brown leather jacket looked
      like it was breathing independently of him under the glowing lights.
      Under the lighting John's dark brown, slicked back hair was tinted
      hazel-red like soft embers.
      "You ever smoke cigars? They're really gross," said Rogue. "I
      borrowed one from Logan."
      "I don't smoke," said John.
      He watched her stand up and turn slowly, her hand tracing along her
      neck and down her breasts. He wondered if she'd let him touch one of
      her breasts. He wondered if she let Bobby touch her. Of course,
      every type of touching would have to take place over her clothing.
      It was almost a shameful waste. However, the thought was enough to
      stir arousal beneath his own clothing. She was like a little mermaid
      duckling and her flirtations, though harmless, made him want to sigh
      endlessly.
      "Would you give it up?"
      Her brown eyes locked on him sharply and she said, "Give what up?"
      "Your power?"
      "Maybe for twenty-four hours."
      "Only twenty-four?"
      Rogue smiled at the invitation of his devil handsome smile and the
      obvious invitation of his eyebrows. Standing in front of him she
      moved her hips softly to the throbbing music, the gentle strong drums
      reflecting the beating of her heart. He had dismissed her choosing
      Bobby over him as a simple loss, but the more he saw them together
      the more he believed it was because he didn't deserve her, that
      something good like her would always be right out of his grasp. John
      had been more than confident in his approach to turn her affections
      towards him, but it had all been superficial tricks and quick
      thrills. It wasn't that he lacked sensitivity and the understanding
      of it, it was that he chose to ignore it. He could have opened up to
      her during those months when she first arrived, but he chose to
      protect himself. Guys like him didn't get everything they wanted;
      longing was only a hopeless indulgement. He learned to settle and
      hanging out with her and Bobby was the closest he got to everything
      that he ever wanted. Rogue was one of the kindest people John had
      ever known and deep down he decided he wasn't good enough for her.
      He didn't know if she thought what he believed, but it didn't matter.
      "What makes you laugh, John?" she said, her eyes dazed.
      "I think you had too much to drink," he said.
      "I don't think so." She peeled one of her gloves off her arm and
      laid it across John's lap.
      Her pink ruby smile mirrored the glimmer in his dark eyes and with
      her other hand she held his cheek.
      "I bet you have the softest skin," she said.
      "Did you bring me here to seduce me?"
      He took her hand from his face, holding her small gloved fingers.
      "I brought you here because I was lonely."
      Rogue picked up her glove, her skin glowing pale lavender in the soft
      light.
      "It's burlesque," she said and giggled, tossing it behind her. Then
      she remembered what Jean had told her. She looked at John and
      said, "Girls flirt with the dangerous guy. They bring the good guy
      home."
      Still holding his hand she twirled within the music.
      "I'm not the real bad guy," he said, his lips lush like a pale pout.
      Everything outward about John was closed, even the glow of his skin
      was gentle and somber. His behavior bordered on distinguished
      surliness, woven together into an introverted intellectual
      rebelliousness; when he wasn't fooling around he carried himself with
      sullen complexity.
      She kneeled on the couch, one knee positioned between his legs, her
      lips close to his, her eyes looking into his deepness. He could feel
      his heart pounding and he knew he should bring her home, but she was
      old enough and so was he.
      John exuded strong casual sexual energy that Rogue hadn't failed to
      notice; it seemed to be hiding behind the glistening intensity that
      engulfed him.
      Rogue made him nervous; she was the forbidden fruit. He just didn't
      realize he was hers.
      Her white zig-zagged streak tickled his cheek.
      "I know you don't like uncomfortable silences," she said.
      "Aren't you afraid you'll hurt me?"
      "I know you won't let me."
      She kissed him deep, giving him tongue, delicious and uninterruppted
      for several moments. Then he felt it; he called it soul stealing,
      the inside out orgasm. John couldn't breathe and dizziness rushed
      through him until he pulled away, breathing hard.
      "I'm sorry," Rogue said, her voice soft and sad.
      John closed his eyes and massaged his forehead. His blood was
      rushing. Rogue settled next to him, her hands in her lap.
      "Why are you sorry? You shouldn't apologize for things that aren't
      your fault."
      "It's simple etiquette," she said.
      "I don't feel so good," he said, his hand over his stomach and one
      hand on his thigh. "Too much champagne."
      Rogue rested her head on his shoulder and closed her eyes. He had
      never felt so aroused and sick at the same time, but his quickened
      excitement seemed to numb the queasy shivers rampaging through his
      body. John leaned his head back, closed his eyes, and Rogue took his
      hand in her gloved one.
      "What do you want from me?" he said, his smile slight, his voice
      flatly confused, less intrigued and suddenly more irritated.
      He could feel her warm breath on his neck and the faint coconut scent
      that lingered on his skin swirled through her head. Rogue linked her
      arm through his, her cheek crushed into his shoulder.
      "I just want you to be my friend, John," she said.
      He twirled her white streak loosely around his finger.
      "Are you gonna break up with Bobby?"
      "Things just seem easier with you," she said.
      "Why?"
      "'Cause you're not my boyfriend."
      John wanted to get up, and leave, but he was too tired to move. His
      head felt heavy. He let go of her hair and shifted as if to push her
      off, but she didn't move.
      "I can't have a boyfriend," she said. "Why do you kiss me if you're
      scared of me?"
      "I'm not scared of you," he said. "I'm just cautious. Don't touch
      me unless you ask me first."
      "I don't think Bobby likes me, anymore," said Rogue.
      "I don't think you should think that," John said. "I don't think it's
      true."
      "Really?"
      "Yeah, really."
      "On Halloween we're gonna have A Nightmare on Elm Street marathon and
      carve jack-o'-lanterns," said Rogue.
      "Do you want me to come? I never carved a jack-o'-lantern."
      "Me neither," she said. "Yes, I want you to come. Please? Stay
      with us."
      "I want to throw eggs at Cyclops's car."
      "Sounds sweet," she said. "I thought you stole his car."
      "Nope," said John. "I was interrupted."
      "What happened to your girlfriend?"
      John didn't have enough energy to shrug.
      "I don't know," he said. "I haven't seen her." He rubbed at his
      eye, trying to dissolve the sleepiness seducing him, the music
      drumming around them.
      "Do you have lots of sex?"
      He smiled slightly. "With my girlfriend?"
      "I feel like part of me is going to be incomplete. What if I want a
      baby one day?"
      "Why would you want a baby?"
      She rubbed her cheek against his shoulder. John wished he could have
      sex with her, but even if she could be intimate with someone, it
      didn't mean she would choose him. Maybe he didn't really want her in
      that way at all; he had told himself he didn't, but her sudden
      interest in him was making him change his mind. He didn't know what
      kind of boyfriend he could be for her, but he knew he didn't want to
      play the substitute boy toy.
      He was going to tell her so, but she had already fallen asleep and
      his voice was already swimming in his sleep.

      xo

      your body is alive
      but no one told you what you'd feel
      the empty aching hours
      trying to conceal
      the natural progression
      is the coming of your age
      but they cover it with shame
      and turn it into rage*

      Anti-mutant protesters crowded in font of the courthouse with
      their silly signs proclaiming their ignorant hatred and fear. There
      were a few pro-mutant protesters holding their signs proud, but those
      who didn't believe there was a "mutant problem" were mostly
      inconspicuous and hiding in the background. Cops were present in
      case things got messy, but they couldn't have predicted how messy
      things were going to become.
      John stood in the crowd, his hands in the pockets of his
      brown leather jacket. The day was cool, not too chilly, and the sun
      was full and bright. Mystique was somewhere incognito and Toad and
      Sabertooth were most likely waiting impatiently at their appointed
      posts. Magneto didn't wait or hide; he liked center stage
      A little blonde girl was sitting on top of her father's
      shoulders; she smiled at John when he looked up, but he didn't simile
      back. John glanced around and caught the eye of a pretty girl with
      sea-swept cascading dirty blonde hair and smoky green eye shadow.
      There was a faint cleft in her chin and she smiled at him. He looked
      up at the sign she was holding; it read, "Mutant – No Problem." When
      he looked back at her face she was still watching him.
      "What side are you on?" she said. Then she pushed her way
      through the people and found a place next to him. She rolled her
      eyes. "These people are crazy?"
      "Which people?" he said.
      "The ever increasingly stupid mutant-loathers," she
      said, "unless you're one of them."
      John smiled knowingly, the dark twinkle in his eye silently
      winking at her. "I'm definitely not. I'm just here to watch."
      She nodded. "That's good, I guess. So you're undecided?
      Neutral?"
      "No," he said. His dark eyes gazed over her sign. "Did you
      make that yourself?"
      "Yeah," she said. "I like to voice my opinions and beliefs
      and ignore everyone who doesn't listen to them. These people are
      just dumb and very, very wrong. I wish I could shoot them all – bang-
      bang, chaio and aviar."
      She blew a kiss up into the sky.
      "Are you a mutant?"
      "No," she said. "I'm Jillian LaBoy. Self-proclaimed gypsy
      girl."
      She held out her hand; she wore purple fishnet gloves with
      the fingers cut off. John paused, then took her hand.
      "John Allerdyce."
      Her breasts were small and she wore a short flowing skirt
      with orange fishnet stockings and blue converse sneakers. On her
      fingers she wore pink sapphires and blue diamonds. He could have
      never known she stole them from Claire's or that they weren't the
      real thing. She had a beauty mark near her left eye.
      "You think things are gonna get rowdy?"
      "Yes," he said.
      "You're a thrill seeker, aren't you?" she said with a smile
      and started twirling the edge of her yellow silk scarf. She looked
      like the little match girl.
      "Most of the time," he said.
      "When this is over do you want to get some cherry whiskey with me? I
      forgot to bring jawbreakers and lollipops. My throat gets dry.
      Sometimes I barely have enough saliva to lick my own lips."
      John was pretty confident in nature, but he realized when it came to
      girls, especially pretty girls, he wasn't quite sure what to do or
      what to say and he usually ended up exuding indifference or
      insensitivity, even when he didn't intend to.
      "Maybe you should go. This isn't safe," he said.
      "What do you mean?" Her hazel-blue eyes glittered with sincere
      innocence.
      He looked at her and said, "See you around." Then he disappeared
      deeper into the crowd and the fireworks began to rumble. One flick
      of his shark-mouthed lighter and the anti-mutants signs went up in
      flames. People screamed, people ran, people pointed and accused.
      The police pulled out their guns. Magneto raised cars and dropped
      them loudly for dramatic effect, one of his favorite tricks. Toad
      and Sabertooth fooled and did what they did best – disrupt the so-
      called peace. Mystique, in cop-drag, beat up on unsuspecting anti-
      mutant protesters. Pyro exploded some police cars for the perfect
      punctuation.
      When someone yelled derogatory comments at him he didn't hesitate to
      throw some faithful fire their way. He pushed through the crowd and
      headed towards the steps until he heard someone shouting his name.
      "John! John!"
      He turned and saw Faith running towards the out of control
      demonstration. He decided to ignore her, but she didn't give up.
      "Pyro!"
      Standing on the steps he moved his hand from one of the burning
      signs, directing a poignant stream of fire towards Faith and
      dismissing it into a tiny explosion by her feet. The small blast
      knocked her several feet away. She banged her elbow into the
      concrete and, her long brunette waves disheveled, looked upwards,
      hurt masked with sudden rage.
      John watched the people and wanted to light them up like birthday
      candles. He licked his lips and guided the relentless fire into tiny
      balls, creating a miniature rain of fire shooting back and forth
      within the crowd and searing flesh. Then a sudden blast of energy-
      like bubbles sunk into his chest and he stumbled backwards,
      He saw Jubliee and her large silver hoop earrings; she didn't blast
      hard enough to kill him. Tiny fire scorpions scurried down the steps
      and the crowd started to scatter into even more predictable chaos.
      Jubliee screamed and he noticed Rogue was standing beside her. The
      red scorpions crawled over anyone too slow to escape them. Bullets
      tunneled their way into the ground, more cars were tossed, and the
      sound of the fire engines could be heard wailing close.
      Sabertooth and Toad headed for the two girls and Rogue gave a shrill
      gasp when trickster Toad's tongue wrapped tightly around her wrist,
      twisting her arm. John's dark eyes flashed sudden concern and he
      threw a fire dart at Toad's tongue, piercing it, setting Rogue free.
      With determined concentration John summoned a huge gryphon in the sky
      and it came flying down towards Rogue, catching her in its fiery
      claws. She didn't know what was worse – the fire or her sudden fear
      of falling and hitting the ground. The fire bird didn't let her go,
      though, and instead carried her to a nearby roof, where it enclosed
      her for several seconds.
      The fire engines approached and John engulfed them with clouds of
      impenetrable fire. The devouring and delicious blaze reflected
      orange-red razor wisps off his slicked-back dark hair. He smiled
      slightly, watching the living flames that seemed harder to scratch
      out than his heart. Fire caressed his soul; he wasn't worried about
      losing it. John looked to the roof where he could see Rogue's
      outline peering down. Then Mystique grabbed his shoulder and he felt
      quickened dissatisfaction that the show, his show, would soon be over.
      They were gone from the scene untouched, but what they left behind
      would not easily fade away.

      xo

      you are digging for the answers
      until your fingers bleed
      to satisfy the hunger
      to satiate the need
      they feed you on the guilt
      to keep you humble keep you low
      some man and myth they made up
      a thousand years ago*

      Faith didn't know why she was turning John into an obsession; she
      didn't understand why she felt she needed to be the one to save him.
      When she had fallen Angel had been there to pick her up. Now Angel
      was dead; Angelus was dead, too. Faith didn't know why she felt she
      needed to be the one to pick John up when he fell apart; maybe she
      was scared that he wouldn't.
      She told him to meet her at the morgue and he knew he shouldn't, but
      there she was, her arms folded across her chest, more angry than self-
      righteous. Faith didn't know how to be self-righteous because she
      believed it made her a hypocrite and lies only twisted everything
      deeper. Faith only knew how to kill things and save people; it was
      what she did; she was a champion in the good fight. Slayers didn't
      live long lives, but she had proved them wrong. She had found her
      purpose in the world.
      John saw the hurt more visible than he'd ever seen before in her.
      When Faith looked at him she knew that she had fallen in love, not
      with him, but with the idea of saving him, and she wondered if, in
      some other world, they could have made it work. She walked towards
      him and grabbed his arm hard, pulling him through the morgue door.
      Her fingers seemed to claw into his arm, despite the layers of his
      brown leather jacket and shirt. He was master of the living flame
      and this girl Faith was breathing fire; their blood pulsed with it.
      She shoved him into the metal draws, the handles digging into
      his back, and with the softest touch she stroked his face, her brown
      horizontal tear dropped eyes holding tender tears. He didn't want to
      look at her, but he couldn't turn his eyes away.
      John's soft face was edged with too much hidden pain and
      trouble, but she knew it was there, lurking inside and under his
      skin. It wasn't simply going to crawl out, it was going to lash at
      everyone and everything. Maybe he felt no one listened, no one
      noticed, but she had felt that way once until she wanted to die.
      Fire like that didn't make one stronger, it only killed one more
      slowly, gnawing from the inside out. Destruction only turned into
      self-destruction.
      "You really kind of scared me," said Faith. She kissed his
      lips. Then she punched him in the arm.
      "Ow," he said.
      "Ow? Is that it?" Faith said. Her eyes were strong and the
      tears had temporarily vanished. "Don't be fucking stupid! You
      better think of something else to say other than `ow.'"
      He watched her walk to the cold metal table and swallowed
      when he saw there was a body on it.
      "Come here."
      John walked over to the table.
      "Dead people freak you out, right?" said Faith, the black
      leather of her heeled boots unscuffed. She pulled the white sheet
      back, revealing a blonde little girl with burns on her left
      arm. "Congratulations, John, you're a murderer."
      He stared down at the child.
      "That couldn't have killed her," he said.
      "No, the impact of the fire threw her several feet and she
      broke her neck."
      He brought his hands to his hips and then let his arms rest
      at his sides. His dark eyes stared at Faith unblinking and he
      said, "What's your point?"
      Faith pulled the sheet back over the little girl.
      "Maybe she'll ask you to save her and you'll relive the day
      like you always do," he said.
      She smiled, her eyes just as empty as his. "It doesn't work
      that way, babe. If she was gonna ask she'd ask." Faith looked at
      the lifeless little girl. "I guess you found your purpose in the
      world."
      "From the moment I met you you've done nothing but lecture
      me," he said. "Why do you think you're so much better than I am?"
      "I'm not," she said, "but I know. Don't you feel something?
      Just a little bit? I've seen this before, `the tough little boy'
      routine. Why are you pretending so hard?"
      "I'm not pretending," said John.
      "I don't believe you," she said. "I can't believe you."
      "This is a war. People die in wars. Innocent people. It's
      the way the world goes round."
      "Why do you have to do this?" Faith said.
      "Because I believe in it," he said.
      She took his hand, her lips glossed and determined, "I
      believe in you."
      He smiled faintly. "Why? I already have people who believe
      in me."
      Her eyes softened. "I don't matter, do I? You and me, you
      were feeling something, I was feeling something, what the fuck
      happened?"
      Faith's fingers were soft against his hand, but he pulled
      away from her.
      "Wars aren't won with remorse," he said. "I know you think
      I'm like you, but I'm not. I don't know why you did the things you
      did, but I have reasons, reasons that are good enough for me and if
      they're not good enough for you, that's not my concern. Just stay
      out of my way."
      Her eyes lingered on him, the darkness of his eyes flashing
      like midnight silver saucers. One of the sleeves of her red shirt
      was singed and she touched the fabric absently. Then she punched
      John in the face and he toppled backwards on to the floor.
      Holding his jaw he looked up at her, suddenly enraged. She
      felt the pain rushing into her, the lust, and she believed if she
      beat the crap out of him she could somehow change him. She stood
      with her hands on her hips, her blue jeans dark, her long brunette
      waves breathing her fury. She knew if she started on him she
      wouldn't stop; she knew she would possibly kill him.
      He didn't care what she was thinking, but he knew what he was
      thinking and he flicked his shark-mouthed lighter once, the flame
      igniting and soaring past her head.
      Faith turned and watched it dissolve into tiny orange-red
      clouds.
      "You don't wanna fight me, John," she said.
      "I don't really wanna hurt you," he said. "Don't hit me
      again."
      He stood up and she turned sharply, kicking the lighter out
      of his hand and bruising his fingers.
      "You really want to end it this way?"
      He cradled his hand in his other one, his breathing heavy and
      angry, "We live in different worlds. You won't even remember I
      exist."
      "You're wrong," said Faith.
      "You're the craziest chick I've ever known," he said. "Just leave me
      alone. There's this song, `No one's gonna pick you up when you fall
      down. Not if you fall down more than twice.'"
      "Is that your fucked up philosophy?"
      "Maybe," said John, walking to the other side of the room and picking
      up his lighter. He slipped it into his jacket pocket.
      "It's complete bullshit," said Faith.
      "Yeah, well, I'm not gonna fall down."
      Faith watched him walk out of the room and she wondered if she would
      ever see him again. She leaned against the metal morgue drawers,
      banged her head once against them, and closed her eyes. Maybe John
      didn't need to be saved; maybe his choices were valid. Maybe Faith
      didn't understand everything like she thought she did. He wasn't
      her, their worlds were different, but it wasn't fair. He wouldn't
      give up his beliefs and she wouldn't give up hers. If he ever did
      fall she hoped someone would be there for him. Maybe it would be
      her. Maybe it would be someone else. It wouldn't be easy, but it
      would be less lonely. And if he didn't, if somehow he triumphed
      through it, then she hoped she wasn't the one unlucky enough to cross
      his path. Faith was through playing with fire, her own and everyone
      else's; no one could burn her, no one could choke her, no one could
      touch her sense of self that she had worked so hard in reclaiming and
      maintaining. John wasn't her fight.

      xo

      mothers tell your children
      be quick you must be strong
      life is full of wonder
      love is never wrong
      remember how they taught you
      how much of it was fear
      refuse to hand it down
      the legacy stops here*

      Respect. John respected himself more than anyone else did. He
      shared his secrets with himself, his desires, his intangible longings
      that seemed so alien to him, all he could do was fantasize about
      them . . . most importantly he respected his mutant power because it
      was the one thing that made him stronger than everyone else. He
      didn't need to be the victim; he had the power to fight back. The X-
      Men could live in their tiny world of false faith and hope, but the
      fight was happening now and what they believed in didn't seem loud
      enough. Magneto's ideals, survival of the fittest, crush before you
      get crushed, it seemed more realistic to John and he could finally be
      appreciated for bringing his mutant power into play. He would never
      be scolded by Magneto and Mystique, he was part of their team, and
      together they would hold on to the freedom they deserved as
      individuals and as a group.
      John walked past the bathroom, then he heard Mystique call his name.
      When he stepped into the room she was soaking in blackberry jasmine
      bubble bath.
      He stared at her and said, "What?" He said it as if she was keeping
      him from something important.
      "I was impressed with the fire show," she said, her red hair sleek,
      her eyes yellow; Mystique was the definition of exotic.
      "I don't do the tricks to impress," he said.
      "Where are your troubles?"
      "Not here." He looked at her, her blue skin dark and ideal. John
      shook his head, "I don't have troubles."
      "You broke up with the girl?"
      "Faith? I guess we did."
      "She doesn't understand," said Mystique. Her voice became
      cutting. "She can't."
      "No, she," he began, but he stopped himself. He thought of Rogue and
      wondered if she hated him after what happened in front of the
      courthouse. He decided he'd still show up to trick and treat. "Do
      you ever think of what it would be like if everyone else . . ."
      He didn't finish his sentence and tried desperately not to finish his
      thought. Vulnerability was something John didn't want to expose to
      anyone, even those he trusted. Vulnerability was dangerous. Then he
      realized he didn't really trust anyone, allies or enemies, they were
      all the same.
      "I have a son," she said.
      John's dark eyes flickered with a surprised flash.
      "Is he . . ."
      "He's safe," she said, her voice firm.
      In their home of rebel mutants John Allerdyce a.k.a Pyro was the dark-
      eyed boy with the beautiful face and dangerous rage. Sometimes he
      reminded Mystique of how much she missed her son Kurt Wagner a.k.a
      The Incredible Nightcrawler, but she was content with the knowledge
      of his secure well-being.
      "Is he a mutant? Like you?"
      She smiled faintly, "Yes."
      "Is his father a mutant?"
      Her yellow eyes glanced over him; she no longer wanted to talk about
      the tender topic.
      John sighed and licked his lips.
      "You should try not to involve yourself with the little girl," she
      said.
      "Rogue's not a little girl," he said, maybe too strongly.
      Mystique's smile became more full. Then she became serious. She
      thought of Wolverine and traced her fingers over the three scars
      above her abdomen.
      "We don't have time for silly obsessions," she said. "Foolish
      concerns shouldn't be pursued."
      She didn't look at John and he shrugged. He watched her and she
      suddenly was more fascinating than he'd ever thought before because
      she had a son. Mystique was someone's mother. She was fighting the
      fight for her son and for herself. John had never thought of having
      kids with anyone. He didn't think he could find the right person and
      he didn't think it was anything he'd ever want. He also didn't want
      to risk passing on the mutant gene to some unsuspecting kid who never
      wished to be born in the first place, but he would never openly
      confess that secret fear. John wasn't certain he was capable of
      loving anyone; he'd screwed it up with Faith and Rogue didn't even
      count as an infatuation. Sex was easier for John to commit to
      because its rules were like candy; the actual relationship part
      wasn't as sleek and tight. It was all about wanting and not having,
      and one couldn't just take love. If he ever did get Rogue he
      wouldn't know what to do with her. One had to feel love and he
      didn't really know what he felt except that sometimes he wished it
      would just go away and leave him alone. He was almost certain he
      wouldn't know how to love any kids he ever had with anyone. The
      thought was too difficult and vacant for him to imagine. It was
      simply not destined for his life's choice; families were for `normal'
      people.
      "Hey Pyro!" said Toad with a cheery snickering smile. "I didn't
      appreciate the chivalry."
      He started to laugh and John, glancing over his shoulder, smiled
      back, "You want to taste charcoal for the rest of your life?"
      Sabertooth growled and said, "Settle this bet we have."
      John didn't really want to get involved in any nonsense Toad and
      Sabertooth were engaging in. He nodded to Mystique and closed the
      bathroom door.
      "Later," he said.
      Toad frowned sullenly and jumped off faster than a bumblebee.
      The long-sleeved shirt John wore was loose and covered his fingers.
      There wasn't much heat in the condemned church they called home to
      The Brotherhood, but there was a fireplace burning strong in
      Magneto's room.
      John stood in the doorway, staring at Erik's silhouette against the
      fire.
      He turned off the record player he was listening to, Chopin – the
      preludes and the nocturnes, and said, "One should always knock upon
      entering another's room."
      "I'm just standing in the doorway," John said.
      "I know," said Erik. Then he turned to the boy and smiled, warm and
      inviting.
      "Do you have any kids? Grandkids?"
      It was a question John didn't intend on asking, but it had already
      voiced itself voluntarily.
      Erik laughed, "Children aren't the frightening ones. They're the
      most promising."
      John turned to leave, but Erik continued, "Do you miss them?"
      "My friends?" John shrugged.
      John wasn't reluctant to prove himself to Magneto, but that was the
      problem because deep within John didn't feel the need to prove
      himself to anyone; things may have been blurred momentarily for him,
      but not for too much longer.
      "Come and sit with me."
      It was definitely warmer in Magneto's room and John sat in the
      cushioned chair by the fire.
      "Do you ever think this will be over?" said John.
      "No," said Erik, staring into the flames.
      "What are you going do when it is?"
      His eyes twinkled like a deviant Santa Claus, his smile faint, "I
      think the question is what are you going to do?"
      "What do you mean?" said John.
      "I mean I don't expect to live that long, but I'm definitely going to
      try."
      The calm flickering of the flames gave John's soft face disconnected
      warmth.
      "So you think that it's gonna take that long, huh?"
      John looked down at his empty hands; he always felt insecure without
      his shark-mouthed lighter.
      "You have quite the imagination," said Erik. "I look forward to the
      other shapes you plan on sharing with us."
      "I don't plan it out," said John.
      Erik's voice was wise and knowing, "You should."
      Fire seemed to be the only constant in John's life; the flames
      whispered to him from the fireplace like serene waves.
      "Some little girl died," he said. Then he remembered what Faith told
      him. "I'm a murderer."
      "'Murderer' is such an ugly word," said Erik. "We are
      revolutionaries and you are a child in this revolution."
      "I'm no child," said John.
      "No, you're not," Erik said. "I am very well aware of that.
      Childhood has come and gone. There's no more time for fruitless
      playing."
      John leaned forward and stared down at the floor.
      "Do not weep for them," said Erik. "They do not weep for us."
      He looked up at Erik, his dark eyes gleaming, and said, "I'm not."
      "Good. What else is there? Is there some girl?"
      Looking into Erik's eyes, John shook his head slowly.
      "There never was," John said.
      Erik gazed straight into the fire and said, "You're still young. You
      don't have to be afraid to fall in love. Whomever you find, make
      certain they're not afraid of you."
      "Maybe Rogue . . . maybe I can get her to join us."
      Erik was silent; he highly doubted it, but he didn't want to
      discourage the young man. Instead, in his knowledgeable and powerful
      voice he said, "Is that what you really want?"
      John stared him down. "I don't want her to get hurt."
      "Then don't put her in the position where she will," said Erik, his
      eyes grim, blue-gray, lacking hope, and his voice truthful.
      "I won't," said John, but he didn't know if he could keep that
      promise.
      "You shouldn't waste your energy on things that cannot be nourished.
      You must maintain your talent. Don't become an insolent little boy."
      Magneto's sharp turn startled John and he didn't really understand
      where it came from, but he resented the implication. John's eyes
      widened in their darkness and he didn't snicker or scoff. Without
      breaking eye contact, he said, "Maybe you're too old to fight."

      xo

      and as you pray in your darkness
      for wings to set you free
      you are bound to your silent legacy*

      John got into bed and what he really wished was that he could
      disappear. Maybe he could go to Australia and create a new life for
      himself. Journalism seemed like an interesting career choice.
      Writing everyday, maybe even publishing some books, giving his
      characters perfect lives or what he thought made the perfect life.
      Maybe he could find some vodka and whiskey. He hated the taste, but
      if it made him drunk enough to sleep without dreaming then he would
      learn to like it.
      Two days earlier John had demolished the local video store on a self-
      serving whim. Self-indulgence was perhaps his greatest vice; the
      power of it was sweeter than honey laced ecstasy. Magneto wasn't the
      only god playing in the playground and John would make them
      understand. It was bad boy fun and he would be lying if he denied
      that his sublime mental control over fire didn't kindle sexual
      arousal within him. However, his desire to destroy was more potent
      than any lust he coveted. Burn without getting burned – it was
      beautiful. It offered contentment, his own built-in natural high.
      He didn't talk much, definitely not big on the sharing gig, but he
      was far from being introverted; he may have been emotionally
      forbidden to those around him, but the fire, his dear and continuous
      fire was stronger and more precious than any words he could voice.
      He took his shark-mouthed lighter out from under his pillow and
      flicked it once. People could be hypnotized by a single flame, but
      not him. There was more than just fire breathing inside of him.
      There was so much more to him he didn't share. Maybe he didn't want
      to, maybe he didn't want to trust anyone enough, maybe he believed it
      didn't matter. He wondered if his life would be any different had he
      not been born with the mutant gene. Sometimes he wanted to cry and
      he didn't know why; sometimes he felt too empty to cry. He hadn't
      shed any tears since he was a kid; he couldn't remember what it felt
      like to cry. He wasn't big on smiling or laughing, either, though
      his reasons for the two when they did occur were usually based on
      brief and non-emotionally connected moments.
      His mother had cried once and he remembered the wetness of her tears
      on his cheek; he didn't like it. He didn't like when Faith looked
      like she going to cry for him or because of him. Tears only made
      wounds deeper.
      The flame seemed to meld into his dark brown eyes and he let the fire
      go, slipping the lighter under his pillow and closing his eyes.
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