Title: Having Writ, Moves On
Series: None. This is a one-shot.
Fandom/Scenario: X-Men movieverse, post-X2 fic
Disclaimer: None of these people belong to me.
Acknowledgments: Much thanks to extraordinarily helpful betas talktooloose and V.
Assignment was: What happened to Pyro after he left Alkali Lake with Magneto and Mystique and does he ever think about what he left behind?
Being a bad guy isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. That was the main thing Pyro had concluded, six months into his membership in the Brotherhood. He did what Magneto told him to do and he thought he was pretty good at it, but he wasn’t sure he’d made the right choice. He wasn’t so sure he was better off as Pyro than he’d been as Johnny.
He wasn’t sure why he’d gone out and done it, either. Maybe he was trying to convince himself he really was Pyro. Or maybe he was just bored.
Sometimes it was messy work, taking over the world. Sometimes you got hurt doing what you got told to do. Lots of times you hurt other people, because that’s what you got told to do. If you fucked up and disappointed Magneto, you were the one who got hurt after you got back. He knew how to hurt. You can hurt people lots of ways with metal.
Pyro didn’t mind messes and he didn’t mind cruelty. He didn’t even mind getting hurt himself, not so much anyway. You spend your life playing with fire and you get used to pain. What he hated was the godawful boredom. And there was a lot more of that than anything else.
There were days stretching into weeks when Magneto was doing whatever it was Magneto did when he locked himself up alone. No one saw him but Mystique those times. The rest of them would wait around hoping for something to do – intelligence to gather, a crime to commit, something. If Mystique came out of the boss’s room and left the door open, well then they’d know it was time to go in and get their assignments. If she closed the door, that meant the waiting – and the boredom – would continue.
Pyro sometimes wondered exactly what was going on in there when she’d disappear into the boss’s room for hours. Wondered with his hand on his dick more often than not. He wasn’t just guessing, either. He wouldn’t have even thought of him doing it with her, an old man like that, not on his own.
He knew because when Magneto didn’t call for Mystique, she made do with Pyro. Yeah, made do. He knew that’s what it was to her, because that’s what she’d told him the first time. “The boss doesn’t need me now. You’ll do.” And then taken him by the hand and led him into an empty bedroom.
It was a little disconcerting when she changed shape while they were doing it, particularly that first time when she turned into Bobby while she was sucking his cock. “Do you really think I want Bobby to blow me?” he’d said, afterwards.
“It didn’t stop you, did it? You like thinking about doing it with a guy sometimes?”
“A mouth is a mouth and a cock is a cock.” He shrugged, affecting indifference. “You like being a guy sometimes?”
He felt more confused by the Mystique/Bobby transformation than he’d let on. She was right, it hadn’t stopped him. If anything it had made his cock harder, made him want to push into her/his mouth deeper. That didn’t mean he’d want Bobby to do that, he told himself. Still, it was kind of exciting, just knowing she was really Mystique but she could be anybody. If Pyro was boss instead of Magneto, she’d change into what he wanted, he bet. So, then he’d think about who he’d want her to be, which would lead him to wonder who Magneto wanted her to be.
“Who does he make you become?” he asked her, but she’d never tell him.
“Ask him,” she’d say, confident that Pyro didn’t have the guts. Speculating about who she was when she was in Magneto’s bed helped pass some time. Not enough.
When he abandoned Xavier’s mutant salvation army to follow Magneto, he’d counted on being part of a grand plan, and living in grand surroundings to match. Somewhere befitting the gods Magneto had said they were. Mystique had told him that their lair was a fortress, a palace. Only what did she know, or Magneto. He’d been in prison and she’d been impersonating a dead man in the Senate. The fortress had been discovered and destroyed while they weren’t looking.
So they moved from place to place, some better than others. Some more private than others. Magneto always had his own room, but the rest of them usually had to share. It was like being back at Xavier’s, back in the dorms. Only his roommate was seven feet tall and hairy as an animal. And snored. And didn’t even bother to wash the blood off of his claws and his fur when he got back from one of Magneto’s assignments.
Pyro kept occupied sometimes by playing with his powers a bit. That is, he did if they were somewhere nobody could see him, somewhere he could burn stuff without anyone knowing. He was working on ways to control it better, ways to go for slow burns and giant conflagrations and all the different flames and heat in between. That kept him going for a while. Only they never stayed anywhere long enough for him to really have the time he needed. And then most of the places they ended up were not the kind of spot where you could burn things without people noticing. They were the kind of places where you had to be inconspicuous and stay hidden. That’s why they call them hideouts, he thought wryly. But if he couldn’t play with – no, work at – being Pyro, there really was nothing to do. And that’s when he started thinking he might as well have just stayed Johnny.
It was during one of those really long stretches of nothing to do that he did it. Really, just for something to do. He’d gone out looking for something. Looking for trouble, maybe, but not too much trouble. And then he’d thought of doing it, and thought why not? So he’d gone ahead. It hurt more than he’d thought it would, but he didn’t mind pain. It looked great. But he hadn’t told any of them, hadn’t shown any of them. And then Magneto had come out of his room and said he had a job for them all to do. So, the boredom had been over for a while again. Most of the time, Pyro almost forgot what he’d done. He looked at it in the shower, though. And touched it at night just before he went to sleep and again first thing when he got up. But none of them knew.
Well, not until the next time Mystique ended up in his bed. She’d looked at his arm and said, “When did you get that?”
He shrugged. “I guess since the last time I fucked you. Do you like it?”
It was his name. Pyro, tattooed in orange and red flames. On his upper arm.
“Yeah,” she’d said, “Mystique” appearing on her own arm in the same style. In green. “Just don’t let the boss see it.” Fear flashed briefly in those glowing eyes. That’s what happened sometimes when she talked about Magneto. The letters disappeared from her arm.
“He doesn’t like tattoos.”
But of course that made him want to show it to Magneto. He hadn’t shown any of them before because he wanted it to be his secret for a while. Now that had all changed. He wore it like a badge of honor, displaying it all the time – wearing wife-beaters or rolling up his sleeve high enough to reveal it. And the next time Magneto said he wanted to see him, Pyro made sure it showed.
Magneto didn’t say anything about it. He’d been sitting at his desk, writing, when Pyro had come in. He told Pyro to sit down and then gave him his assignment, checking his name off the list after explaining what needed to be done.
Pyro was disappointed. He’d wanted to hear him say he doesn’t like tattoos, argue with him. Or hear that he did like this one. “What do you think?” Pyro finally said when Magneto clearly wasn’t going to bring it up. He pointed to his arm, just to make sure it was clear what he was asking.
“I don’t like tattoos.”
“Well, I like mine. I’m glad I got it.” I’m so fucking bored around here, what else am I supposed to do? He thought but didn’t say it.
Magneto shrugged. “I was glad of mine, too, when I got it. I don’t like it so much now, though.”
“You have a tattoo? Where?”
Lehnsherr pointed at the number on his arm. “How do you think they did it?” he asked. “Magic Marker?”
“I didn’t realize. I guess I didn’t think.” He thought now, about what Magneto had said. “Why were you glad?”
“It meant I was going to live, at least a little longer. They didn’t tattoo you if they were going to kill you right away. Waste of time. Waste of ink. Living longer seemed a good thing then.”
That’s all he said, no more talk about tattoos. And there was work there, for a while, so Pyro was keeping occupied. It wasn’t until the next long dry spell that he got itchy again, started wondering stuff. Knowing a little about Magneto made him want to know more. What did they do to him? Did they know he was a mutant? How did he get out?
But more than anything: who did he want Mystique to be when she was with him? He asked her all the time now. She kept teasing him, acting like she’d say and then deciding against it. “Ask him,” she’d say. “Tell him to show you her picture.”
So he knew it was a her, at least. “Did he show you her picture?”
She nodded. “I had to know what she looked like.”
“You never met her?”
She shook her head. “She’s been dead a long time.”
That was creepy. Here she was, turning into a dead woman. Creepy, but kind of fascinating, too. He started asking her to do that for him. He got pictures of Marilyn Monroe, Mata Hari, Ingrid Bergman. When she was in a good mood she did it for him. When she was in a bad mood, no telling who she’d turn into. And still he’d press her and still she wouldn’t tell him. But she did tell him one thing. “She had a tattoo.”
“Like his? A number?”
“No, something else.”
“Could you see it in her picture?”
“No, it didn’t show in clothes.”
“So how do you know?”
“He told me. He showed me a picture of another woman with one, so I could get it right. A picture in a book.” She didn’t say anything for a minute. Then, “It’s words, but it’s not in a language I know.”
“Can I see it? Would you turn into her for me?”
She shook her head. “I only do that for him.”
Two months earlier – even two weeks earlier – he wouldn’t have dared ask Magneto. But boredom and curiosity are a powerful combination. “Who was she?” he found himself asking.
“Who was who?”
“The woman you have Mystique turn into for you. What was her name?”
Magneto looked behind Pyro at Mystique, standing there in the doorway. The door was wood but the doorknob metal. He didn’t say a word to her before it slammed in her face.
“It’s none of your business,” he said to Pyro. “Her name was Rivka.”
“Long ago.” That’s all Pyro thought he would say, but after a moment he started talking. Not looking at Pyro, kind of staring into the distance. Talking as if he was talking to himself. “I met her in Cyprus. DP camp.”
“Displaced persons,” he answered, suddenly aware again of Pyro’s presence. “She was beautiful. And damaged. We were all damaged, but few were beautiful.” He looked away again, maybe at a beautiful and damaged woman who moved in his memory. “I wanted her to marry me. I thought she would. She let me make love to her. Only in the dark, though. Or with her clothes on. She didn’t want me to see it.”
He nodded, not seeming surprised that Pyro knew. “I forced the issue, finally. I told her it didn’t matter to me. I told her I wanted to see all of her.” He took out a book from the middle drawer of his desk. It was a book of photographs. It fell open to a page in the middle. “That’s not her,” he said, turning it around to show Pyro. “It’s just like hers, though.”
“What do the words mean?”
“Field Whore for the German Army.” Neither of them said anything for a while. “I don’t like tattoos,” Magneto said, finally. “You can have yours removed, you know. Laser surgery. It will hurt more than it hurt getting it, but it will be gone.”
“Are you getting yours removed?”
Magneto shook his head. “I’ll keep mine. And Rivka’s.” He looked the young man right in the eyes and said, “Have it removed. That’s not your name. I misjudged. You’re John after all. Go back to Charles Xavier, if he still wants you.”
“You firing me?”
“Yes, that’s exactly what I’m doing. Pack your things. I want you out of here by dawn.”
“Thanks a lot. Thanks for nothing.” He thought of saying more, but he thought his voice might shake. And he’d die before he’d let that happen in front of Magneto.
“Good bye.” Complete dismissal. Johnny got up and walked out of the room. Just before he left, though, he turned profile to Magneto, showing off the flaming letters on his arm. “That’s my name,” he said, voice strong and sure. “That’s who I am. You didn’t name me and you didn’t make me. I’m Pyro, whether I’m here or not, old man.”
He turned his back and walked out of the room. He heard Magneto say, “I don’t like tattoos.” Johnny turned back to look at him. Magneto was slowly closing the book as the door sighed closed.
Author’s note: The picture Magneto shows Pyro can be seen here.