Age of the Geek, Baby (lorax) wrote,
Age of the Geek, Baby
lorax

Fic: But We Are Not Snakes (X-Men Movieverse)

Reposted here for archiving's sake.

Author: SullenSiren (sullensiren(at)gmail(dot)com)
Title: But We Are Not Snakes
Rating: NC-17/Adult
Fandom: X-Men Movieverse
Disclaimer: I own nothing. Marvel and Fox own all rights, and I'm not making any profit.
Summary: "It is easier to be no one when there is another to be no one with." Pyro catches a plane out of the country after the events of X3, and runs into Gambit on the same flight.
Written for: Eldee
Pairing: Pyro/Gambit, allusions to Iceman/Pyro, Magneto/Pyro, and random NPC's.
Warnings: Fairly explicit m/m sex, threesomes, and allusions of het sex. Language abounds, and certain bits of unhappy comic canon are hinted at.
Author's Notes: Written for the X-Men Movieverse Ficathon challenge. I drew Eldee, who asked for Pyro/Gambit post X3 but would settle for a few other pairings. I hope this works for you! I didn't write out Remy's accent, as comic-canon or not, I find it obnoxious to read in fic, and didn't think I could be consistent with it anyway. I don't speak French, and any used herein was the result of internet translators or friends who are smarter than me, any mistakes herein are my own. Thank you to mommyfox and likeadeuce for the beta, and tygress for the initial read-through. Title taken from the Patty Griffin song, "Forgiveness".


But We Are Not Snakes
"She said 'feed me flowers.'
So I glow in the sun.
Everyday I learn what to say and
what not to have done.

And I taste of ashes,
of a fire long since gone.
But I want to be around to see
who lost and then who won. "
-- Tom Mcrae, "Black Heart Rodeo"


Pyro meets him on a plane flying out of Atlanta. The guy wears sunglasses inside when the light slanting through windows and glass doors is dim and barely strains its way through the clouds. When he smiles at the woman beside the metal detectors, her plump face dimples and she waves him through no questions asked, no alarms blaring. He turns with a swirl of brown leather and an elegant gesture of thanks, and Pyro sees a glint of red eyes behind the glasses, notices the corners of his mouth are curved up in the kind of smile Pyro has always known meant trouble.

He sees red and he thinks of Cyclops. He thinks of Grey, as she'd been at Alcatraz. Red makes him think of dead men and monsters. Every color has its own memory, now. Jubilee yellow. Bobby blue. Metal gray. Red above everything. Red like dead men and that guy's eyes.

Pyro hates him immediately.

Pyro only gets through the detectors because there's two guys behind him with skin and accents that scream "middle east", and security is so busy running them through a battery of 'random screenings' that he breezes through. He clutches a pack of matches in one hand, his zippo checked in the only other bag he owns, out of reach and illegal to hold. He itches without it. It's line after line, customs and detectors and security checks, but finally he's inside the inner echelon.

He drifts nameless and unnoticed through the airport, toward his plane, just another no one in a sea of them. It's comforting and appalling all at once.

He doesn't remember the man until he's on the plane, sandwiched in the middle seat between an old woman that smells like lemons and cough syrup, and a guy two sizes too big to fit comfortably in his seat. Whenever he shifts, his elbow brushes the guy's gut, and the woman is narrow-eyed and disapproving when he can't quite stop fidgeting.

Pyro thinks to himself that if she knew, she'd look away. She'd be afraid. But the patchy beard and dyed black hair distances him from the bleached-blond terrorist whose blurred face made all the papers. To her he's not Pyro. He's not even John. To her he's just a punk kid heading off to backpack across Europe. He looks at her, and some part of his mind remembers that she's an insect, and he is a god. But it sounds thin in the recesses of his mind, now, and he looks away, pulls headphones over his ears and tries to forget that he's in a fucking plane. He hates flying and always has .

When a hand brushes his, he's unprepared, and he sits bolt upright, matches springing to his hand. The stewardess is looking at him, mouth set in the kind of smile people never give him. The fat fuck is staring down her top. Like he'd ever have a shot with her. "I'm sorry, sir, but we have to ask you to change seats," she tells Pyro, pleasant and businesslike, but there's something like a laugh beneath her voice that says he's not getting something.

He doesn't trust it, but he doesn't want trouble – he can't afford it, now. Not if he wants to get where he's going. So he gets up. She leads him past the gilded curtain, into First Class, and the Wizard of fucking Oz sprawls like a young king in his throne, red eyes hidden behind glasses and a smirk still painted across his lips. "You will be more comfortable here, mon ami," he assures Pyro, patting the seat beside him, unspoken invitation to sit, join him.

The guy throws the stewardess a smile and she sways toward him like there's a string between the curve of his lips and her cleavage, tugging her wherever he wants her to be. She giggles as he murmurs something Pyro can't hear. "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain," he imagines it being. He wonders if that makes him Dorothy, the Witch, or just a fucked up mutant who Jubilee once talked into dressing up like the Scarecrow, back when he was her friend, not across a line from her friends.

He wonders for just a second if she even remembers that Halloween. If she tries not to think about it, now.

The stewardess slips away again, making vague promises of drinks and panty hurling or something, and Pyro looks down at the guy. His brown hair is laced with red, but not enough to make him think of Jean.

He pulls his glasses up, and his eyes are red on black, like something that should come with a forked fucking tail. "Isn't there a prison cell somewhere missing you?" he asks, abrupt and playful, and Pyro wonders if he always sounds like he's smug, or if it's just for his benefit.

He feels his body go stiff and the matches in his hand dig into his palm. He feels less sure of them than he does his zippo. "You want to turn me in, fuck you."

The guy just smiles, shrugs one shoulder. "There is, sometimes, no shame in doing what must be done, if it is what you believe in." He looks out the window and Pyro knows people well enough to know that the diffidence is artifice – it's just well done. "We are ducks awaiting the hunters. It is easier to stay flying if there is someone at your back, no?"

Pyro isn't sure what he believes anymore, but he relaxes again, sinking into the offered seat. "Screw me over, and I can take the whole fucking plane out – blow the engines and everyone on it."

The smile stretches and twists up at the corner and he draws a card from his sleeve somehow. "Remy," he offers, flipping it deftly between his fingers.

Pyro thought it might have been glowing. "Pyro," he tells him, because some days he forgets he has another name, and technically right now, he doesn't have one at all. Just a half dozen fake Id's and a questionable criminal record. "I'm not a fucking duck."

Remy laughs, glasses sliding back over his strange eyes. "No – I think you would not be one for water." He slips the card away too quickly for Pyro to follow. "What flock do you follow then?"

Pyro didn't know, and he doesn't answer, and Remy doesn't ask again. When the plane lifts off he tightens his fingers on the armrest and pretends he's still on the ground.

Beside him Remy's long fingers curl around the armrest, too tense and uneasy. And Pyro can't tell if it's a show or the truth, but either way – he lets it be a comfort.

*************

He gets off the plane in the heart of Paris and he doesn't speak the language. For some reason he hadn't thought about what a bad fucking idea that was.

Somehow he finds himself following Remy. Remy who speaks French like a native, or close enough, anyway. Sometimes, before that . . . whatever it is Remy does kicks in, Pyro sees lips start to curl in distaste at his accent, but he wins them over easily enough. Pyro'd heard of a silver tongue, but he never really believed in it. Everywhere they go, people bend over backward to make Remy happy.

It isn't like the guy needs it, either. They're on some back alley fencing a necklace Remy had gotten off a porcelain-pretty girl at the train station (He hadn't even stolen the damn thing, she'd just handed it over as a memento) when these two guys jump them. It takes Pyro a second to get a spark in the rain and in the meantime, Remy pulls some big collapsible fucking stick out of his coat and lays them both low.

Pyro had kind of figured maybe Remy was dragging him along because he was the muscle. Turns out he didn't need muscle. Pyro is starting to wonder what he does need.

People look at him differently with Remy. The black washes out of his hair and he starts to shave again, but people still smile. Give him assessing looks as if judging if he's the competition or a potential ally. Pyro doesn't know what to make of it, but it makes him think of shit he tries to forget. It's been a long time since he was anywhere where people smiled at him without any real reason behind it.

Remy covers the red with lenses, or sunglasses, and sometimes Pyro wants to tell him that only a fucking coward hides what he is. But then he remembers that he ran a half a world away to hide, and thinks that sunglasses are probably brave by comparison.

Remy teaches him the rudiments of French, and the basics of poker. He finds games in high-class clubs and dives alike, and teaches Pyro how to lose so it looks natural (not hard) and how to be pretend he doesn't know that Remy's cheating his Cajun ass off (harder).

At night they keep to separate beds, sometimes separate rooms. Pyro knows nothing more about Remy than what he can figure out by watching, and Remy never asks about him. At night he dreams of fire and ice and gods turning into old men with tired eyes. He dreams of lying alone in the snow while his blood boils and his head cracks, and knows this is how it will end, again, the way he thought it would the first time. He dreams of nothing, and that's the one that brings him awake. Most nights he doesn't sleep much. When he does, sometimes Remy's hand shakes him awake, red eyes distant and hand gone as soon as he comes awake. The familiarity of it makes John want to burn, or leave and not come back. He remembers another hand, cooler and smoother, and another room and how for a while, he hadn't dreamed at all. But he has no where to go, and he doesn't leave.

****************

Night after night they end up in one room or another, watching as the news runs the same tired stories and the same blurry, faraway pictures of Pyro's face in profile, fist flung in the air and fire exploding from his fingertips. The French news slants the stories different ways. Once they play snippets of an interview with a captive terrorist, her dark hair growing long and un-kept and her river-blue eyes bitter and sharp without the predator's glint they had when they were yellow.

She seems lessened, and it makes something inside him that he doesn't understand twist and ache.

Remy lounges across the other bed, red eyes bent on the picture as a reporter tells a life story that Pyro doubts tells even half of the truth of what Mystique was. "She is beautiful, for a terrorist," he drawls, trying to tease.

"You should have seen her before," Pyro answers, ignoring the echo of old words in his head.

"What was she like, then?" Remy asks.

"Everything," Pyro answers, and he hears the sharpness of his voice, the thin line behind it that gave too much away. "She was everything. Everyone. Could do anything." Maybe once in a while, he'd wondered if underneath all of that, if she was still anyone save Magneto's ever-changing weapon. And then she'd been on the floor, and they'd left her, and he'd stopped wondering.

She'd taken him shopping, once. When the others started flocking to their cause, Kelly's funds and wherever the hell else she got money from kept them all in gear and clothes – but she never went with them. She let them get their own shit.

That had always meant something.

Remy watches him, and he can feel it, itching along his skin. "What is your name, peu de flamme," he asks. He'd started calling Pyro that before he knew what it meant, and now he was used to it, ignoring the meaning. He'd been called worse things than a little flame.

Pyro watches the screen cut away as she is led out, bright orange jumpsuit turning pale skin sallow, and shoulders slumped in a way that makes her look older than her face. "John."

"John. It is a good name. Like the King. The bathroom. The Saint and the Baptist." Remy's lips turn up at the edge. "It is no wonder they want your head on a platter."

He snorts. "You the church-type, Cajun?" he asks.

Remy grins. "Remy take all the help he can get, John, even though he don't need any." The name sounds odd on his lips, but Pyro doesn't question it. "They call me Gambit, in Nawlins," he rolls the name the way that would never sound right on Pyro's tongue. He gets it though. Tit for tat. Something offered because Pyro'd offered something. It was the rule of thumb on the streets, when who you'd been could always be turned into a weapon against who you were.

"Why are you here, Gambit?" The name tastes as odd as his had sounded when Remy used it.

"Because Nawlins stopped being the place for Remy to be"

Pyro thinks of long hallways and classrooms and a room that was always a little too cold. He thinks of Bobby laughing. When he'd been there, he'd never felt like it was where he was meant to be. Now . . . he didn't know if he'd recognize that even if it had been. "Why do you give a fuck where I go?"

Remy has a stillness that feels like a crouching cat, sometimes, coiled and waiting. "I have never said that I did. But it is easier to be no one when there is another to be no one with."

Pyro thinks about that. "I wasn't a terrorist."

"Non. I have never said you were."

"I believed he was right." The TV is showing some talk show now, a woman in the audience waving her arms wildly. Without sound she looks like a marionette, jerking as her strings are pulled. "I was a soldier."

"I was a thief." Remy smiles, adds before John can counter that. "It is not the same to steal as it is to be a thief." Pyro doesn't understand, but he believes him anyway. "Now I am no one."

That Pyro doesn't believe. No matter what he does, where he goes – Remy is someone. He's the one they smile at, the hands they let slip into their purses and under their shirts. Somewhere, someday, someone will call Remy back to whatever he left. Pyro doesn't know how he knows, but he does. "Is it enough?" he asks anyway.

"What else is there, mon ami?" Remy's voice is soft and too close.

You should never have left. Bobby's voice in his head overshadows times when it lacked venom, and Pyro thinks of every door he could have walked through, and how firmly shut they are now. "Nothing."

"Then it will be enough." Pyro doesn't know if he believes that, either, but Remy's voice is right by his ear, and the puppet on the screen sinks down, invisible strings loosened, another jerking from his seat. Over his shoulder Remy is watching the same thing he is. "We are not what others are."

"Gods among insects," Pyro tells him, and it sounds derisive when he says it. Like a mockery of something he once believed.

Remy's laugh tickles his ear and he shivers without meaning to. "There are no gods. We are just the insects who bite. It is enough." It wasn't. It isn't. But for now he lets it sound like the truth.

Remy's mouth on his neck is warm and Pyro shuts his eyes, letting it slide up to his ear before he turns, lips finding his, kiss bruising, fierce and demanding. This is what sex has always been.

Remy moves at his own pace though. Pyro had learned that in their first days together. He doesn't rush unless it's his idea, doesn't worry unless he has reason. And, apparently, he doesn't fuck in a hurry. His mouth on Pyro's is slow and unhurried, kiss deep and tongue teasing. Pyro's fingers dig into his skin, but Remy's ghost over his, teasing and testing, learning the shape of his back and texture of his skin.

Pyro pushes, sending them back into the bed, trying to turn it into the kind of fuck that is half war and half defeat, but for every twist of his spine and press of his fingers, Remy smiles, stretches. Pyro's never been slow, but he has nothing on Remy. He could pull fire from the shit wiring in the walls and roast him alive – but when he finds himself on his back, Remy on top of him, lips painting shapes onto his chest, there's no upper hand to regain. No battle and no fight, and Pyro doesn't know what to do with that.

Remy kisses him, and Pyro grips his hair, pulling him away. Red eyes he can never quite read look down at him, heavy-lidded and soft-lashed. "It is enough for now," he murmurs, fingers curling at Pyro's jaw.

Pyro thinks of all the smiling girls and blushing women. Thinks of a hundred people who give Remy just what he wants and wonders how well he's been managed. If he's just one more puppet who didn't see the strings in time. If he's being led toward something he doesn't see, and it makes him want to throw Remy off, pull fire around himself like a wall, and run.

But there's no where to go, and no one who'll care, and this isn't enough, but it's the only option he has. Pyro doesn't know how not to fight. There's always a battle. If it's not with someone else, it's with himself.

But sometimes, even he gets tired. And if there's one thing he's used to, it's not having enough.

John tips his head up, lets Remy's lips move over his jaw, kisses back and winds his fingers in too-long hair. Lets his leg slide up Remy's side and his hips grind them together, denim hiding the heat, lessening the friction into a tease that makes him groan. Given permission, Remy's hands are everywhere, gliding under clothes, slipping between them to trace the shape of his cock through his jeans. And he keeps kissing him.

It isn't love, and it isn't soft, but it's the kind of kissing that is an end unto itself, and that he's never done. And as his back arches up and his head tips back, lips parting under Remy's, he admits that it's something he's never allowed anyone to do, even if he'd wanted them to.

He barely notices his clothes peeling off until he feels cool air on his skin and a lukewarm hand (warm to anyone else, but he's heated and flushed with want and it raises his temperature, turns him into something closer to the fire he's never been able to create and always coveted) wraps around him.

Remy's clothes come off a good deal less easily, and he grins, careless and smug, when John finds a knife stashed in the back of his belt – but he manages.

Pyro touches him, but every time fingers find his cock, Remy twists and strokes his hand over him and John loses focus, bucks his hips. He gives up soon enough, fingers digging half-moons into Remy's arms as he thrusts against Remy's grip. Pyro shuts his eyes when he comes, thinks of nothing at all fiercely enough to keep faces from flashing behind his eyelids, and biting down hard on his lip, slumping back onto the bed as Remy curls half on top of him. The weight makes him want to tense and pull away, but everything feels liquid and heavy, and John just stays. Lets Remy smooth fingers down his belly. When he finally lifts a languid hand to reach for him, Remy's fingers – stronger than his, and that's another small annoyance in a sea of them that he can't seem to make matter – close around his wrist, pulling it away. "Non, not tonight. You can owe me."

Pyro doesn't like to owe anyone anything, and he knows Remy knows that. Remy's laughing when they kiss, and Pyro wants to punch him in the face or throw him on his back and blow him, make him beg.

But he closes his eyes again. Kisses back. Remy never lets a debt hang. Every guy who over-bets and promises his dead mother's ring the next day – Remy finds them. Gets what he's promised. John owes him, so Remy won't vanish.

He hates that knowing that is comforting.

That night Remy's back presses against his when he moves, and he dreams of things he'd denied ever wanting. A kiss to his shoulder wakes him and he stares at the ceiling, a silent agreement letting both of them pretend they think the other is sleeping.

Remy doesn't sleep much either.

************

It's not every night. It's not even that often. The night after, Remy brings back a perfumed French girl with flowers in her hair and a diamond the size of Texas on her finger. Pyro sits outside and smokes his way through all of her expensive, fucking pansy-ass French cigarettes and watches the people drift in and out of their rooms. He likes hotels. He always has, even when he couldn't afford them. They're a place where no one is at home, so everyone's on even footing. There has always been something appealing in that.

The girl is all giggles and swollen lips when she leaves, her finger lighter by one giant rock than when she came, and she either doesn't notice or doesn't care. Pyro heaves himself up, goes inside and drops across his own bed, flipping the TV on and staring mindlessly at it.

Remy saunters out of the shower and drops across his bed, and Pyro can tell that he's being studied. Searched for reactions he doesn't have. He's not jealous. He's not angry. He's nothing, and he isn't sure if that's what Remy wants or not. "She any good?"

"She is a widely traveled road, mon ami," Remy answers with a faux wisdom that makes Pyro's mouth quirk up in a smile. "But worth riding down once." He grins more widely. "Our business is concluded."

She didn't owe him anything, he means, and somehow Pyro knows that and smiles again. "Next time, fuck you, get another room."

Remy laughs, reaching across the narrow space between the beds to snag the remote, fingers brushing John's wrist. John evades the reach and smirks. "You have shit taste in television," Remy complains, for what might be the fiftieth time. He reaches into his bag, extracting one of the letters he picks up infrequently and reading it with a lazy indifference John's never believed, but never questioned. There are things they don't ask, and lines they don't cross. Spidery writing and a name like a poison are two of them.

John flicks him off. Lets him flip mindlessly through the channels. He can still smell the girl's perfume. It smells like lilacs, the way Storm's garden did, the spring he came to the mansion. He lights up the last of her cigarettes to hide the smell.

He wonders when he let this get comfortable, and how long he has left before he starts to feel like he has to leave, before he's left first.

***********

Remy's good. He slides past trouble with a smile and a wink, most of the time, but sometimes even he doesn't get by. They're in Amsterdam when he runs up against a table he can't cheat and a guy he can't back down.

Pyro'd lost count of the number of weeks they'd been together. Hotels rooms were starting to feel more like home than any place he'd been since the Mansion's walls stretched solid and opulent around him. Something hard had been growing in his chest and he wakes each day with the slow-growing certainty that he's settled too long, and that there's something expected of him that he can't give.

But he stays. He watches the news and he paces hotel hallways. Sometimes he drops to his knees or watches Remy sink to his, or sprawls across a bed with him, and he waits.

He wasn't sure what he was waiting for. But trouble in Amsterdam is familiar and an excuse, and Pyro takes it without thinking about why. The fucker they're facing down's got walrus tusks on his pinched, mean face. He's big enough to make Colossus look like a lightweight, and Pyro itches to be away from him, or to burn him until he's black and charred and his narrow eyes show fear instead of derision. He's practically got bully tattooed on his fucking forehead, and John learned to hate bullies early on. He feels sparks in the wall, grips a lighter in his hands, feels the heat in combustion engines outside and fireplaces down the street and he thinks maybe this is what he's waiting for. To burn it all down. Pull the rug before it's pulled.

When the table is upended and people start reaching for guns, Pyro grabs his lighter as Remy goes for his staff. He hasn't burned in forever and the table goes up so fast it might have been dipped in gasoline. It takes the money with it, but Pyro forgets to care. The fire takes hold and he snakes tendrils in dancing little circles around them, daring them to move. Over the sound of the fire he hears Remy's voice, but can't tell what he's saying. The fire has all of his attention.

They're screaming and he smells the big one's fat starting to burn, like a prime roast no one trimmed down. Pyro remembers Boston. Remembers the lab he lit up like a beacon – a flaring statement of what they wouldn't stand for.

He remembers Alcatraz, and waking up long enough to see Bobby carrying him away. How he saw guilt in Bobby's face and he remembers the way his blurry eyes saw people drifting into dust and imagined he'd burnt them all to ash.

Maybe he'd forgotten, since then, and this is all he is. Just the fire meant to burn clean until it's put out. Maybe he should be dust floating on the water around Alcatraz.

He's barely aware when Remy yanks him away, pulls him outside. Behind him the fire still burns and he's controlling it until Remy slams him against a wall two blocks away. "Put it out," he hisses. The sirens are already wailing and smoke is climbing toward the sky. Pyro feels the fire and looks at Remy.

Remy doesn't look afraid, but it's something close. Pyro wonders if that's what he wants from Gambit, but he can't decide. Can't focus on anything but fanning the distant fires.

Another hard shake and Pyro's head hits concrete. There are buildings pressed kissing-close to the one he's burning. He could take out the whole row. The whole block. Burn it down to the block and cinder.

He puts the fire out. Looks into the red eyes Remy forgot to cover, and he feels, for the first time since Alcatraz, like something dangerous and inhuman. It's easy. It's easier than feeling like nothing. He'd forgotten that.

Remy drags him away, into a taxi and back to the hotel. Pyro's blood hums and he feels a pulse-beat in his veins that makes him remember what it was like to have Magneto beside him. Somewhere along the way the almost-fear shifts into something else in Gambit, and Pyro feels it.

Inside the room he's flung back against a wall again, Remy pressed to his front, and just that fast Pyro is hard. It doesn't take much. The taste of ash still in the back of his throat and the heat he can still taste was almost enough.

"What the fuck are you doing?" Remy hisses, and he's angry. It's unfamiliar and almost welcome. Pyro lifts his head, grins, and Remy's fingers dig into his arms. "You are a fool."

"Fuck them. They thought they could take us out. They were trash. They weren't one of us," Pyro answers, and he hears Magneto in his voice. The disdain. The hate. The careful distance between those who have the gene but no purpose, and them, who have both.

Another hard shake and Pyro's head hits the wall. "What are we that they are not, John?"

"Pyro," it's abrupt and automatic, a warning in the tone. Remy is smooth. Remy steals and smiles and fucks. Pyro burns shit to the ground. Pyro is a terrorist. Pyro is a murderer. Anger is Pyro. This isn't Remy and there's some surge of triumph in bringing him down to his level.

"JOHN," Remy repeats. "They are mutants. They are thieves. They are men who hide in the shadows and they're assholes. How are we any different?"

"We're better. They don't believe in shit. They don't know-"

Remy cuts him off. "What do you believe, John? In the old man who is no longer a mutant? In that woman who sits in a cell? In the cause that gained us nothing but more suspicion? You do not even know what you are. And you condemn them for being less."

Pyro's face twists, and he pushes roughly at Remy. He damns the taller body, the tight grip, the greater weight – because Remy doesn't budge. "Get the fuck off me."

The accent thickens Remy's words when he's angry, sharpens and softens at once and makes him sound like someone Pyro barely knows. "You are NOTHING. Pyro. You cannot go home. You do not have one. You mouth words that say you're better, but you never believe it. You think I have not seen what you are? What you do? You shut your eyes and say nothing that you think, because you do not know what you think, only that it is easier not to, and you-"

"You know SHIT about me!"

"Because there is nothing to know! You do not even know what you are when you are not what they make you!"

John straightens. "Like you're any better."

"I know who I am. You just have not wanted to know. You do not ask because you do not want to offer. And now you burn down a building in the middle of downtown." Remy shakes him again, and there's something in his voice John doesn't recognize. "You have given them a way to find you."

Concern. That's what it is. He's angry because John might be found. "You want to go, go."

Remy stares at him and his mouth twists up, no humor in the smile. "That is what you want? It would make it simpler, would it not? Then there will be no one who has stayed."

There might have been. But John left first. His choice to run. Before it got deep enough to hurt. He knows that. "Fuck you." He even knows that might be what he's doing now.

"Tell me you want me to leave you alone, then." Pyro doesn't answer, words heavy and acrid on the back of his tongue, and Remy's fingers shift, curl tight at his neck, half threat and half something else. "The only reason I care that you are found is because I am with you." It's a statement, not a question and Pyro looks away, heat thrumming in his veins. He tries to let that be enough to divert him. Remy's voice softens, just a little. "That is what you think. Is it not?" He makes a frustrated noise. "You are an idiot."

He kisses Pyro, and Pyro is still angry. Still burning. He wants Remy to run. To leave. Wants to strike out and make him, and all he can do is kiss back, violent and invasive.

Remy jerks away and he stares. "It has to be this for you, doesn't it?" he muses, and there's something brittle and sad in his voice that makes Pyro think of Xavier's face. Of the way Jean would look at him with just a little too much awareness. Of Bobby's expression the first time he slung an arm around his shoulders and John jerked reflexively away, blaming the cold he'd barely felt. He wants to hate it, but somehow it's not quite there.

Something shifts in Remy's face. And then Pyro can't read him again. Can't push past the red eyes and the too-handsome face to see what he's thinking. He hates that. He hates everything. He hates most of all that Remy's told the truth. He doesn't have time to dwell though, because Remy's mouth is back on his, hard and violent and that's different. It makes the last ebb of heat in his skin flare again. It's hot and it's familiar.

It's easy. So much fucking easier.

Narrow hips press against his and a long body covers him entirely, pinning him. Remy's mouth takes his – maps it and claims it and Pyro fights back, but not enough to win. Not enough to really be a fight. Just enough to make it something mindless and rough.

Remy's a fast fucker when he wants to be, and before Pyro can protest – and he might have. He doesn't know. It doesn't matter anyway because he's pinned on the bed, wrists pressed to the mattress by Remy's hands and Remy's weight heavy on top of him, thigh pressing hard between Pyro's legs. Pyro hears himself groan and bucks up against the press of Remy's leg, pulls at the hands holding him.

Remy goes still, stares down at him. "I do not like the idea of you in prison, peu de flamme," he murmurs. Ruining it.

Because when they kiss again, John can taste the concern there. The worry. And it's foreign and strange and he doesn't trust it, but it shifts everything anyway. Anger bleeds away to something sharp and needy, and when Remy lets go, Pyro's hands slide over his back, pulling him closer instead of pushing him away, dragging Remy's mouth back to his instead of pushing him on faster and harder to make this quick and dirty.

John is panting and gasping, all hands and need and swollen mouth. Remy is a blur of motion on him, hands and mouth touching – tasting – everywhere. John wants to calm down. To detach and shift things back to what he knows. Instead he just reacts.

It's not soft. There is no slow teasing or gentleness to it. Bruises left by fingers and raw groans rising when teeth scrape too hard against skin. John is only hazily aware of everything, senses overwhelmed and filled up with Remy and the lingering smell of fire.

It isn't until Remy pulls away, fingers rolling a condom on, that John really realizes how far gone he is. They are. Because Remy's breathing hard and his red eyes are too-bright. It's just a minute before he's back on top of John, catching his eye as his hand slides down, one finger pressing thick and blunt into him.

John groans, stab of pain a sudden reminder of where he is. Of what this is. He shuts his eyes. Feels the fingers Remy presses in, the way his own body starts to open to him. John wonders fleetingly if this will make them even. Erase the debt so Remy can be gone tomorrow.

He can't care enough to stop. Just moves back against the press of fingers, moving too fast to be comfortable. He wants it to hurt. It should hurt. He thinks of the last time he was like this, open and taken. It hadn't been about him. He'd just been there. A replacement for what the old man had lost.

John hadn't even wanted him. He'd just wanted to be close to that power. To understand where it came from. Find the line where Erik, who read old books and sometimes laughed over tea with Mystique, met Magneto – who'd left Raven human and helpless on the floor, and stood in front of an army willing to die on his whim and word.

He shuts his eyes, bucking down against Remy's fingers until the taller man moves up him, catches his leg and bends it up, blunt head of his cock pushing into him as John locks his legs around, hissing at the stretch and burn of it, but pushing down anyway – taking him in faster, head falling back and mind spinning images of yellow eyes and gray hair, of cold metal walls and the aching, empty freedom of knowing nothing was ever really about you.

Remy goes still. John can feel Remy's breath heavy and warm against his neck, feel the weight of his body and pulse of Remy's cock inside him. He strains, hips twisting, trying to make Remy move. It does no good and he opens his eyes finally, meeting Remy's. Red eyes watch him intently. "Where were you?" Remy asks quietly.

In the woods days before Alcatraz, being fucked by someone who never saw him. In a dim bathroom stall with someone he barely knew, squinting his eyes and wishing for cold. In the middle of that building, fire all around. On Alcatraz, Bobby's hands around his wrists feeling that surge of hate and relief that came when he thought it was over.

He doesn't answer. He just shuts his eyes again.

Remy's fingers push hair from his forehead, and his hips rock, cock sliding deeper into John, making him groan. "Who are you?" he asks instead, voice low and quiet beside John's ear.

Pyro. John. St. John. Mutant. Terrorist. Fugitive. Runaway. Traitor. Nothing. No one. Another slow thrust inside him and John gasps. "John," Remy murmurs. "Look at me."

John let his eyes open. He watches Remy move. Watches Remy watch him. Moves with him. Feels the thick slide of his cock and the tight grip of his hands. John stops thinking about it. Lets each thrust move him, pull his strings and make him twist and dance and want.

He reaches up, catches fingers hard in Remy's shaggy hair and drags Remy's mouth down to his, kissing hard and needy. Lets go and lets Remy kiss him instead. "John," Remy murmurs again, against his lips. John slides his legs higher on Remy's side, shuddering as each thrust turns his world to white heat.

Remy's stillness, his control, is gone now, and John can taste the lingering concern. The worry. Can feel it in the way Remy's slamming into him, the way his breath catches whenever John tightens around him.

Remy's hand closes around him finally, and John hears himself whimper in relief, bucking up against his fist and down against his cock, uneven, awkwardly need and desperate in a way he never wanted to be. He doesn't care.

When he comes it's hard and sudden and the name he shouts isn't Remy's. He feels Remy follow a moment later, shuddering and thrusting deep inside him before going still.

John lets himself go lax. Sink into the mattress. Shut his eyes, breathe, and try to clear the swirling chaos of his head. Remy is still there. Heavy on top of him and softening inside him and after a few long moments John opens his eyes again, sees Remy watching him with that same awareness. "That is where you go," he murmurs quietly. He smiles, soft and wry, and kisses John again before rolling away, tying the condom off and tossing it into the trash before dropping back beside John, not quite touching him.

John wants Remy to touch him, and that's fucked up enough that he would get up, if his muscles would obey. He doesn't though. Just lies there, staring up at the ceiling, feeling emptier than he can remember feeling for a long time. "Who are the letters from?" he asks without meaning to, hearing the hoarseness of his own voice, feeling the shadow of aches that will paint him in bruises and burning muscles tomorrow.

"Someone who used to be home to me," Remy answers, and John can hear the honesty.

"She wants you back?" John doesn't want to hear the answer. This isn't love, but it's what he has. He wants to be the one who walks away. He doesn't know what love is, except he thinks it hurts more than he'll ever let this hurt.

"Non, not as you mean it. It is complicated."

Complicated means ties and stories and things that will always draw you back. John is simple, except when he isn't. And the only things he's ever been complicated for are gone or closed to him. There is nothing to call him back. And he'd never called anyone or anywhere home since he was old enough to know there was a difference between a house and a home. "You'll go back."

Remy doesn't answer, and that's answer enough.

Spidery writing and a name like a poison.

John wonders in a year or two, when someone else is stretched out where he is, if he'll even merit "complicated", or if he is just something that fills the time. He's not sure which he wants to be true.

He dreams of Magneto. Of Mystique in a cage. Of Bobby laughing and Remy kissing someone who looks like Uma Thurman in Batman & Robin, because the subconscious mind is full of shit and her name had been poison. He dreams of his own face, head carved out and hollow and his fingers pale as a ghost's on the mirror's frame.

Remy kisses him awake and murmurs in French and John turns his head away and goes back to sleep, Remy curled around him.

When he wakes up, Remy hovers near the edge of the bed and he's curled into the corner of it. Separate sides. He wonders if that means anything.

******************

They move on the next day and after that they keep moving. They share a bed and fuck more often. Remy still vanishes to get his letters, and John wonders where they come from, how they know where to reach him, but he doesn't ask.

Remy asks questions, now and then. Sometimes John answers, sometimes he doesn't. He still wakes up with the urge to leave first, but he ignores it. Greater than that is a sense of fatigue and futility. John is so fucking tired of running. Fighting is easier than running, and sometimes they're the same thing, and he thinks he's tired of both.

He stops watching the news. Tired of the same old stories with new faces and new slants. Tired of his own ghost and the nagging desire to find out who else is left that he once called friend or foe. Remy never asks him why he stops. He just changes the channel without a word when John comes into the room.

There are still girls. They fall into Remy's bed and into his arms and John wonders if he's supposed to be jealous, but he never is. The girls leave in the morning and then it's just them. There are three nights in a row, once, and John goes to a bar, gets six beers in and finds a blonde girl with perfume that smells of jasmine and nails that scratch delicate and slow over his neck as she whispers in his ears.

He leaves her there and goes back to the hotel. Remy and his redhead are half-naked and Remy's eyes are heavy-lidded when he looks at John. Inviting. The girl doesn't protest and they fuck her while she shudders and gasps, eyes locked on each other, her cherry-red lips wrapped around John's cock while Remy thrusts into her, rocking all three of them with every movement. Neither of them have any illusion that it's about the girl.

The next night Remy looks at him while the brunette he brought back sheds her bra, looking even less opposed than the last one did.

John leaves them to each other. In the back room of the bar he fucks the cute blond bartender, her legs locked around his waist and a case of beer under her ass.

Later, he can't remember her name, and he knows she won't remember his, and he wonders how many people across the ocean can't remember his face, his name, his touch or when he was anything but a killer.

She's gone when he goes back and he climbs into bed with Remy without asking. "Was she any good?" Remy murmurs against his ear, the French almost easy to understand now, his face pressing into John's neck, smelling the girl's perfume on him.

"I don't know." She was just there. He was just there.

That used to be enough.

***************

The woman is tall and stacked with a sway to her hips and the kind of body that makes pin-ups jealous. That isn't unusual. Remy has good taste. She winks across the bar at them one night, and Remy flashes a grin and goes to talk to her. Heads bend together all night and something nags at John that he can't name but it makes him restless and pacing.

Remy comes back without her and fucks John.

For the first time, John wonders if he's a stand-in for what Remy failed to get.

They stay for three days and on the third John comes back from the cheap movie theater he'd found to see her sitting on Remy's bed, long legs crossed and back straight, leaning back on her hands.

She smiles at him, and he knows. "Mystique."

A flash of white teeth and yellow eyes hidden within chocolate brown, and she shifts, all long-legged grace and predatory sensuality.

For a moment, he's fiercely, dangerously glad to see her. To see her as she was. As she should be. "You came back." She doesn't answer, but he knows her well enough to see the amusement in her expression. "I left you." He's not sure where that came from, but he doesn't apologize. Mystique had never liked excuses.

"It was never your decision to make." He hadn't been the general. He'd been a soldier. That's what she means. It didn't mean she has forgiven him, and he knows that too.

"You sold us out."

"If I'd sold you out enough to matter, you would have been in chains too," she counters, and he knows it's true. One old location that Erik had known to abandon before she could give it away.

He hadn't been watching the news. Hadn't heard the rumors of failing cures and escaped convicts. He should have paid attention. "Where is he?"

Mystique smiles, and he should have known it was her sooner. Should have recognized her that night, three days ago, when Remy'd failed to bring her back and screwed him instead. He'd been good at it, by the end. Finding the mutant inside the shape she wore. How she always walked just a little bit like her. How her smile was always just a shade sharp. Just a hint of Mystique behind the mask of the best fucking actress in the world. "The Cajun?" she purrs. It's not what he means, and she knows it. Something churns in his stomach when he realizes that he hadn't even thought to ask about Remy first. "He's here," she answers, and she shifts, slim body changing to one older. Broader. Lines on her face and fierce blue eyes.

Magneto.

"Where the fuck is he?" Pyro had seen him. After Alcatraz. After it all crumpled. Before the plane and the flight and the strange companionship he'd found. He'd been just an old man rattling chess pieces in a park, day after day, waiting for his days to end. Like a dozen other men there.

Pyro'd hated seeing Erik like that.

She stands, posture his but movement her own, and it's weird enough that he looks away until she morphs back into the leggy brunette she'd worn over here. She doesn't speak, but she doesn't have to. John can see the truth in her expression. Because she wants him to.

Mystique had been betrayed. And Erik had paid for it. "What do you want?" It's more hollow than he wants it to be. He thinks about them on the plane, the first time he'd met them. Laughing while Rogue glared. Magneto's hand held out to his. God among insects.

What did it leave the rest of them, when Hera offed Zeus? What good was godhood when it just meant the same problems with more power behind them?

"There's still a war to be fought," she tells him, odd echo lending the words weight, but not the power Magneto would have.

"So you came to find me? How the fuck did you even find me?"

"Charles Xavier and Jean Grey were not the only telepaths in the world. And you're not as elusive as you'd like to believe." It's not an answer. Not really.

"So you want me to what? Come help you blow more shit up? Because it worked so well last time."

Her eyes gleam yellow and her voice is, for her, almost gentle. "You fought for what you believed."

Maybe. Or maybe he'd fought for what he wanted to believe, and for what they believed. He looks at her, and sees what she isn't saying. "You didn't come for me." She has killed the general. The recruiter. She needs someone new to charm them to follow her. That isn't him. That has never been him.

"Two birds with one stone," she answers, diplomatically. But Mystique can be ruthlessly honest when she's not living a lie, and she doesn't deny it.

She'd come to take Pyro back, too. But he wasn't the one she'd come here to bring back.

John doesn't know why that would hurt, but he feels the sharp twist of it in the pit of his stomach.

"He'll be back soon. Plead your own fucking case," John tells her, leaving her to it. He doesn't want to hear the sales pitch. He knows it by heart. Had stood on a stage in a Church and watched them worship at an old man's altar. Had bowed down with them. Sat at the right hand of God. His world had been so much easier when John had just believed in him, and followed.

He leaves her there, finds a bar and sits to nurse a beer. Pictures the scene. Pictures her sleek and yellow-eyed. Vehement and cool. Convincing. Blue fingers wrapping their way around Remy's strings. John had never even thought to reach for them himself. He doubts he could have pulled them anyway.

He doesn't know what he wants Remy to answer. He doesn't know what he wants to do.

John wants, just once, to feel like he's fucking sure of something again.

Mystique could make that so easy. Fall in line. Do as he's told.

He thinks there are those who would say he'd sell his soul to avoid making a decision. He's not sure he didn't sell it the day he walked off a jet at Alkali.

He's not sure he ever had one to sell.

****************

He doesn't go back until the next morning. Remy is sitting on the bed, back against the wall and eyes on the TV, flickering blue light turning the red of his eyes into gleaming, fire-lit coals. "You are going to go with her?" Remy asks him, smooth voice neutral.

"Not me she wants, Cajun."

Strange eyes fix on him. "She would settle for one."

John sinks into a chair beside the cheap table, feeling the breeze from the air conditioner blow cool across his skin. The room tastes like cigarette smoke, and it's not his, and it's not hers. He can't remember ever having seen Remy smoke. "You're not going?"

"I am not a terrorist. No matter how they mask it. And I will not be what she wants me to be." Remy looks away, back at the TV. "At home, I was to be something special. Bella and I. It did not go as it should, in many ways, and I left. She wishes me to go back. Be what I would not be then. Pull together and lead and make them an accessory to the Brotherhood. She will use anyone and everyone to get what she feels is right. To win this war she sees coming."

"You don't think there'll be a war? That they won't fucking come after us? That she's not right?" John hears Magneto in his head. A million speeches and a million reasons and a million pages of history, written in the blood red of war. "Nothing ever changes without people fucking killing everyone else over it."

"They have made a weapon." Remy's eyes are back on him and John feels hot and cold at the same time, and neither make fucking sense. Remy is so fucking sure and more than John's ever wanted anything Remy has or could do, John wants that surety. "The Cure – it was a weapon, but it was a hope, too. Now, because of what they did. Because of the fear they have sown, they have made a disease. A virus that floats through the air and kills only those who are like us. That is worth fighting over. It is worth hating for. But what good will that do? What will be better when those who have done it are dead, St. John?"

John had never told him the first part of his name. He wonders how many secrets Remy's kept to himself. "What good does lying down and taking it do?" he asks, bitter and jaded. "It leaves you dead. Ask fucking Xavier." He'd never said that name to Remy before.

Remy knew it anyway. "Perhaps I will." John doesn't think a dead man will say much. Pyro would have killed Xavier once. Without question. Flame and ash and a superheated wheelchair all that was left. He'd ached to. Because he'd believed it would have been wanted. He'd been wrong. He thinks he's been wrong about a lot of things. "Charles Xavier and those he teaches invited Remy to stay with them some time ago. He is gone, but I think perhaps it's time I took him up on it, anyway. I am tired of being no one." Remy looks at John steadily, question deliberate and knowing. "Aren't you?"

"When I'm someone, I'm someone who'd go with her," John answers.

"You do not have to be. Everyone walks down paths they wish they hadn't. You can go back, John. It's just never easy."

John smirks, cruel and deliberate. "That why you're not heading home to warn them? Tell Bella you fucked up and fucked around?"

"One step at a time. First I choose my side, then I tell them. And her." It sounds so easy when Remy says it.

"I don't go where I'm not fucking wanted. And there isn't anyone there who wants me walking through the doors unless it's with a Cure in my fucking veins and my hands in cuffs," John tells him, fierce and angry. He thinks of Bobby's face and smile. Of how Storm used to talk to him during detention. Of a thousand little things he'd never let himself miss. "Why were you with me?" John asks. It's easier than answering.

"Because you were there," Remy answered, honest. And John thinks, not for the first time, that Gambit isn't without his own brand of cruelty, when it suits him. His voice softens. "That does not mean Remy wasn't glad to have found you. Or that he didn't already ask if the invitation was for two."

It's a sop to his ego, and John hates that Remy thinks he might need it. He hates more that Remy might be right, and he might need to hear it. He really hates that he can't decide if he's pleased or furious that Remy said anything to Xavier's people about him. That Remy might have led them to John, if they'd cared enough to look. Apparently they didn't. Terrorist or not, some things don't change. He still isn't worth going after. He hates that a little, too.

In his hands Remy shuffles a deck of cards back and forth. He flips one between two fingers and it glows, a thrum of power around it. Pyro wonders how many other secrets Remy kept, and why his own seemed to spill out into the open for the other man to see.

Remy gets up, walks over and curves an arm around him. Kisses him. It's slow and lingering and bitter, somehow. John sees a yawning chasm they could stand on separate sides of, and it's so familiar he wants to scream and burn. God he wants to burn.

Instead he kisses back. Takes over Remy's mouth and the other man lets him, guides John's hands as he strips off Remy's clothes, kisses down the length of neck and chest until he's nuzzling his face into a flat stomach, breathing in the scent of sweat and Remy, tongue swirling around his navel to make him gasp.

When John takes Remy in his mouth it's slow, but determined, tongue and lips working over him, hands roaming over long thighs, slipping between to fondle his balls, slip back and tease, press just barely into him, flooding him with sensation until Remy is gripping the drawers behind John for balance. He gasps in broken French, John's name winding through it, sending a stab of some fierce, wild emotion John can't name each time.

When he comes he leans back, tugging weakly at John until he stands, kisses him, letting him taste himself on John's tongue. John leans into him, hard and hot against his thigh, his pulse pounding in rhythm with Remy's.

Remy just kisses him. Touches him, guides him to bed and curves an arm around him. Shuts his eyes and pretends to sleep.

It's hours before John realizes that he doesn't owe Remy anything anymore. They're free to leave.

He can't decide if he wishes he'd walked away before it came to this, or is glad he didn't.

************

She's left them plane tickets. First class. Any flight they want to take, and a number to reach her. In the morning Remy takes one, packs his things and puts in his contacts. He kisses John goodbye like a brother. Keeping them even. "Whatever calls you back, peu de flamme, go because it is what you choose. Not because it is what is easy." Long fingers trail down his face. "I hope to see you soon."

And then Remy was gone, winging back to the States on the Brotherhood's dime to fall in with the X-Men John had left before even really joining.

John keeps his ticket tucked in his pocket. Checks the flight schedules and watches the news, again.

He's gotten too used to Remy's presence. Without him rooms feel too big and crowds too hostile. Pyro wants to hate them for the hostility. Hate Remy for leaving, and hate himself for having stayed too long.

But John is tired, and without anyone to wear a mask for, all he can do is admit that he's lonely.

The news shows Storm one night, white hair long again and chin lifted as she speaks on the virus. Legacy, they're calling it. She talks about devoting labs to finding a cure, to the importance of unity amongst humans and mutants alike in this time of hardship. It's almost easy to imagine Xavier sitting behind her, benevolent and kingly. He imagines that in the crowd behind her he sees a flash of red eyes.

Two days later he's flying out on Mystique's dime. He's not sure where he's going until the night he lands, sleeping off jetlag in a hotel he can only afford because Remy left him money, hidden in his things like tiny pots of gold. He wakes up and stands beneath the fluorescent lights in the bathroom, staring in the mirror.

His eyes are circled and dark marks stamp bruises against skin that looks too pale in this light. He's watched the news. He knows the facts. Part of him wants to rage. To go back to Mystique, let her pull his strings and press his buttons, turn him into a weapon until he's flamed out and gone.

But he hears Remy's voice, asking what good it will do. He sees Bobby's smile and his guilt when Bobby'd carried him. He sees Magneto as an old, broken man.

He sees himself. Stark and unforgiving. Mistakes and anger and a thousand ways of hiding away from the truth - that he'd never been anything to anyone. Not enough to matter. And that it had been as much his choice and his fear as it was anything else.

It's too late, and there's something appealing in just vanishing. In the thought that maybe somewhere at least one person will wonder about him. But animals drag themselves away to die. They go somewhere alone and isolated and wait for death to creep up.

John's many things, but he's not an animal. He's only ever felt like he could be at home twice, and now they were both in the same mansion, fighting for the same cause.

He drops across the bed and picks up the phone, dialing a number he still remembers by heart. The voice that answers is familiar and soft, and he doesn't acknowledge that he knows her. Doesn't ask how she is. He just asks for Remy.

The familiar voice sounds weaker over a phone line. Distilled and distorted, the charm and power of it stolen away by the thin phone lines. But it's still him. "Come pick me up," John orders.

There's a long pause and he can hear a smile, even over the wires between them. "You are coming home, St. John?"

John drops his head back against the pillows. "Yeah. I guess I am."

They'll still hate him. Some of them. He doesn't blame them.

Fuck them.

He won't be there long.

~End~

*Mon Ami- my friend.
*peu de flamme - little flame
Tags: fandom - marvel movieverse, fic, fic challenges
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