May 24, 2003
Disclaimers: Nothing here is mine, dammit.
Spoilers: X-Men: The Movie, X2.
Summary: "Rhetoric may be defined as the faculty of observing in any given case the available means of persuasion." -- Aristotle
Ratings Note: NC-17.
Author's Note: Jenn made me. Okay, I was thinking it, but it's still her fault.
Acknowledgments: To the IRC crew for encouragement and Jenn for audiencing.
Feedback: Always. firstname.lastname@example.org
John didn't much like school -- or, well, the school aspects of school -- but there were some things that resonated. Physics, the strength and flexibility training with Scott.
He especially loved the way the Professor -- Xavier taught it. All low, classical-type voice and the way he watched you, watched all of them, like he was trying to put the knowledge in with the power of his mind. And who knew? Maybe he was. Rhetoric was not truth, or not necessarily truth, or sometimes truth with a fine spin on it.
Spin wasn't a good or bad thing, but it could win you debates. The hearts and minds of the populace. Xavier hadn't said it like that, or not entirely like that, but it was on his face. Like while he taught he was thinking about those idiots in Washington and the way he could make them listen without lifting a finger.
John liked that. He'd thought, maybe, there was something to learning all the literature and crap they tried to shove into his brain if he could use it to get something out of the world. Something like that satisfied little smile on Xavier's face.
But... he needed more than that. He needed more then and he needed it now.
There was a moment when he was in Bobby's house, staring at the pictures of smiling Mom and smiling Dad and smiling Bobby and smiling Ronnie and thinking... hey, this could work. He distinctly remembered thinking that. It didn't all have to be about parents shunting you off to relative after relative after kindly family friend until you wound up in a houseful of mutants all with the same level of shame and fear about their powers.
It could be about family, and pretty little suburban homes with pretty little suburban toys...
And then there was Ronnie. Ronnie. He hadn't needed to hear Bobby say it, he thought he'd maybe known from the time the kid ran up the stairs. Magneto -- Erik -- would probably say it had more to do with fear than anything else, but he knew.
Jealousy. Bitterness. Golden boy getting the girl and the power and the...
He flicked the Zippo open, closed, open. Pressed it to his mouth and smelled butane, tasted the fire just waiting to bloom...
It was tempting to just light the thing, to open that place in his head where it sometimes felt like every fire in the world lived and just...
They were in a warehouse somewhere in Maryland. He had a room to himself, a bed of a bare mattress on the cold, hard floor. He hated the cold, but Erik assured him things would be better soon.
He knew that it wasn't really the best idea to trust him -- remembered the way Rogue talked about what it was like on the Statue of Liberty -- but there was something...
The way he had looked at him, and asked his real name, as if John was just... something to hide behind. Like everyone who had called him John was just lying to him or to themselves. It had been...
It had made something rise up in him, like maybe he didn't need cigarettes or lighters or anything. Like all he really needed was the desire and the hunger and he'd be able to... He'd be Pyro, for good and all.
He remembered a night when neither he nor Bobby could seem to get to sleep, and the way he'd had to huddle under the blankets because Bobby was making things in ice and the whole room was like a little square of winter. Faces and symbols and random curls and swirls of ice, over and over, like Bobby couldn't help himself.
Bobby had talked about what it felt like, how sometimes he thought he could be almost like Storm, and make the whole world cold and hard and made for him.
"Do you know what that's like? I mean... does it feel the same with the fire?"
And John had thought about it. How it felt when he would rip the flame off the top of the Zippo, and send it here, or there, how it felt like he maybe didn't have to breathe, and how he wanted to anyway, needed to, because he had to feel the smoke in his lungs, the heat that went all the way through him.
Like if he cut himself he'd bleed molten lava, or maybe just burn away everything and everyone until it was just him on a pile of soft, greasy ash.
He remembered getting hard, and having to turn over so it wouldn't show through the blankets. Curling up around himself and that beautiful, faceless desire. "Go to sleep, Bobby," he'd said, and eventually found his way there himself.
Tonight... he didn't want to sleep. He didn't particularly see anything he wanted to burn, either, and that was frustrating. Like being a kid and surrounded by things he couldn't touch or hold or break. But... this was the loft.
Downstairs, there was a big, open space set up with rough-hewn targets where Erik kept taking the Zippo away from him and making him concentrate, focus. Hell, maybe he wanted John to fucking meditate on the essential target-ness of the targets. It didn't matter. They were still there, still whole and solid. Splintering wood and straw for hair like big, flammable teases.
John flicked the lighter shut and got up off the mattress. He didn't have to use his powers. It wouldn't hurt to just... get another look at them. Maybe he'd see something... different.
Down the stairs in bare feet, iron cold and begging to be melted into something sweeter... of course Erik would surround himself with metal. It made perfect sense, annoying and cold as it all was. If someone had shut him away for months and years, surrounded him with water or asbestos...
He didn't know what he'd do. No, he knew -- he'd be out of his fucking mind. There was something wrong with a world that couldn't burn, and he bet Erik thought the same thing about a world of nothing but plastic.
John had seen a picture and it was like this big white box hanging in the middle of nowhere. Something that would reek if it burned.
The targets were still there, of course, and Mystique's car -- no, Senator Kelly's car all mellow and gleaming and off to the side. And... that was something.
He would bet money that Xavier and the rest of the teachers had known full well that it wasn't the real Senator Kelly in Washington, trying to keep mutants from being rounded up in some World War II nightmare. Hell, even the youngest students had told stories about how the man had just dissolved.
So, if they knew Kelly was dead, and that some mutant was just impersonating him, and that there just weren't too many mutants who could have done it, hold that form for that long... they must have known it was Mystique.
The same Mystique that they had fought, who was supposed to be so bad, so full of the wrong ideas...
And they'd just let it happen.
And maybe he wasn't the smartest guy around, and he knew he probably missed a lot of the subtle things they'd tried to teach him, but he didn't think that was quite... right. He had no idea how letting Mystique impersonate a U.S. Senator who she'd helped to kill could possibly fit in with all the peace and love and fucking tolerance they were all supposed to believe in.
He was pretty sure it didn't. At all.
There was rhetoric, and there was talk, and then there was fact.
And the facts were that it was better to have a mutant in a position of power than it was to have just another bigoted asshole. And if it was right, if it was a fact that that mutant had to be Mystique...
Then what was he supposed to believe?
Whatever he wanted to, that's what.
Something in the air, both familiar and not, and when he looked up Erik was there, floating down to the ground on his disk, a little smile on his face like he knew something John didn't.
He shrugged. "I was just... thinking. About stuff." He winced inwardly. He fucking hated when he couldn't come up with anything halfway smart to say. Somehow it was even worse with people who didn't know him, or know him well. Like they would make up their minds and look at him and see nothing but just another punk kid.
But Erik just nodded and looked at the car with him, like he'd said something smart after all.
"What about you?"
The smile got a little wider. "Thinking about stuff. Making plans... Pyro." Erik turned just enough to face him. "You've made some difficult decisions lately. It's not abnormal for you to be feeling... hesitant."
And all he could do was blink at that for a moment, because he couldn't for the life of him figure out what that was supposed to mean. And then he could, but he had no idea how to say it. Mystique's car, the police, the whole world full of people who hated and feared... in the end, the best he could manage was, "I'm not. At least... not about this."
Erik just looked at him for a long moment, and then nodded. "Then what is on your mind, if you don't mind my asking?"
Same classic-y voice as Xavier's, but... rougher. More... something. The kind of voice that demanded attention. It was hard to imagine anyone getting away with doing anything bad to a guy with a voice like that, but there were bruises on his face. "Humans," he said.
Another nod, and Erik looked at the car again. "There are people who would have you believe... almost anything but what you can plainly see with your own eyes. They would have you think we're the same..."
Storm, talking about the means of mutation, just as if she used the name her human parents gave her for more than just signing papers. He frowned. "I know."
Erik looked at him again, something like amusement on his face. "Do you now? Let me tell you a story."
John nodded and leaned back against the car, scraping the lighter a little against the finish. It wasn't as if he was tired.
Erik steepled his fingers and gave John a little bow, as if he'd done something courtly, as opposed to just agreeing to pay attention. "When I was younger, back in the seventies... possibly before you were even born, I knew a woman named Rosalie Adams. She was of mixed parentage."
"Human and mutant?"
A small, sharp smile. "Black and White." He paced a little, and seemed to be looking at the ceiling for answers for a moment before he went back to looking at John. "She never referred to herself as anything but Black, though, in truth, if she were just a few shades lighter, she could've probably... passed."
"Indeed." Erik took a step closer, and then another. John could smell something almost machine-like on him, and something else that was probably expensive cologne. If John reached out, he could touch the man. Feel the crisp whatever-the-hell that his dress shirt was made of, or... something.
It made John want to fidget.
"One day, I asked her why she did so, and why she never mentioned to people that her father had been White..." He tilted his head. "Do you know what she told me?"
John looked up until he could see Erik's eyes. They were... amused, but there was something darker there, too. "What?"
"She told me 'Erik, it doesn't matter what I call myself. To them, I'm always going to be a nigger. So I might as well be Black, don't you think?'"
John winced. That was... "That's..."
"Horrible? Cruel?" Erik took him by the chin, and there were calluses on his fingers. The kind people got from working so hard their hands bled. John closed his eyes for a moment, and when he opened them again the darkness was mostly gone. "Pyro, the world is what it is, and what it is... is rarely anything but ugly."
John tried a smile. "No one ever called you an optimist, did they?"
A short bark of laughter, and Erik's breath didn't smell of anything but coffee. "On the contrary, I would be a very depressed old man if I didn't believe I could make something out of the raw material of this world. Our world, Pyro." Another head tilt. "Do you understand?"
John blinked and nodded. And was about to say something when Erik kissed him. It was soft, and strange, and familiar, and there was something in his blood that didn't have anything to do with being constantly overheated, or even being a teenager. It was... power, and it made him gasp.
Open his mouth wider and Erik's tongue was hot, and wet, and just a little bitter with coffee, and he hadn't known he wanted this, hadn't even thought of it, but it was good.
Warm with the press of Erik's body against his own, cool with the feel of Mystique's car against his back, and when he put his arms up around Erik's neck and pressed the Zippo to the man's skin, he made a sound, and that was even better.
Rumbling through him until he could feel it, until he had to spread his legs and urge Erik on, press that long, lean body to his own and think of all the things he'd never be able to have.
And then Erik pulled away and John remembered to breathe, absently noting that he'd hiked one knee up to Erik's hip, that his own hips were rocking and pressing and moving. Couldn't stop. "I thought... you and Mystique -- oh God --"
Soft and predatory smile. "Things are rarely so simple as binary theory would have you believe, Pyro..."
"Fuck, stop talking --" And he kissed Erik, and teased his tongue back into his mouth, and Erik was laughing and kept laughing until John sucked his tongue.
And then he pressed hard against him, and somewhere beneath those expensive and classy slacks...
God, and nothing was better than this. Sex was just another way to build the fire inside him, make it bloom like... like some fucking flower, and in the end it didn't matter who it was on the other side of things, who it was stoking him up higher and higher.
Except it was Erik, fucking Magneto who could kill a man with just the iron in his blood, Erik with a hand down his pants and --
He thought it was maybe this, or something like that. That one beautiful thing just beyond his reach that would make the world flare so bright and die. But for now, all he wanted was more of this.
Sweet friction and not enough pre-come to make it not hurt, and just enough pain to make it good, and he wanted to give it back, wanted to get his own hand around Erik and make him feel this, but he couldn't stop clutching at the man's shoulders, couldn't stop jerking his hips up and getting his cock in --
And he had a moment, one sweet moment where it was perfect, where he thought if he wanted he could just blow the fucking roof off, and Erik's hand was gonna take him there, give him that, and then he had to throw his head back and cry out loud.
Shaking and coming and wanting more, again, this --
"Oh. Oh God yes..."
John came back to himself to the feel of Erik's mouth on his throat, soft and wet like something that just needed a little push to burn him right up. His cock twitched and Erik chuckled again, maybe thinking he was a kid, or maybe just thinking he was... good. Good for this.
He couldn't make himself pull away and look. He didn't want to be sure.
But Erik was still hard against his hip, and he could do something about that. Smiled to himself and slid his way down, t-shirt riding up and back scraping against the smooth, smooth finish of Mystique's car.
Closed his eyes and pressed his face against where Erik was hardest.
And pulled down the zipper.
This was... This was a hand on his hair, and a soft murmur of arousal, or maybe even approval.
Truth, with a hot, silky spin on it.
All he needed.
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