Instead, I bring fic. And a dad story.
First the dad story.
My dad is a bit like a hound. Kept caged and then released with a target in mind. In this case, shopping. See, you can't say something to my dad like "gee a new TV would be nice" because in a month or so, he will come home with a new TV. He will have researched it thoroughly and gotten the best possible TV he could afford. Or, you know, not afford. But if, for example, your old TV was 17 inches and the new one you wanted was the same size, he will come home with one that you have to purchase a new home to accommodate.
So, for Mother's Day my dad asked my mom what she wanted. She, being a foolish woman, told him she wanted a little fish tank.
And the hound was unleashed.
He ran forth to find his prey, stalking local pet stores and pet product places. researching. Etc.
The day before Mother's Day he pulls me into the spare room. There is something appallingly large against one wall, a fuzzy blanket draped over it. He unveils it to reveal an elaborate cabinet with a 65 gallon fishtank on the top.
Shamu could live in our house now.
Naturally there is not room in the living room - where my mom wanted it - for Shamu's house. So the fishtank stays in the spare room until Father's Day weekend where my dad spends all day rearranging his speakers (We will not go into how many speakers he has) in the living room to make room for the fishtank.
So now we have a very large, admittedly very nice fishtank in the living room. That has no fish. Because he hasn't bought the pump yet because he spent too much on the tank.
How can you not love that man?
And now, fic
Only my second attempt at X-verse. So be kind.
Title: The Grayest Pile
Author: SullenSiren (adena(at)direcway(dot)com)
Fandom: X-Men Movieverse
Characters: John/Pyro, Bobby/Iceman, Rogue
Pairing: Bobby/Rogue, John/Bobby (Implied), Rogue/Logan (Hinted At)
Summary: "John counted that a victory - another mark in the column of things that were just his. No one could make Bobby mad like he could." John drifts further from Bobby and counts what he still can call his, until he realizes there's nothing left. (Spoilers through the End of X2)
Word Count: 3800
Disclaimer: I own nothing. Characters belong to Marvel and Fox - I'm just playing with them a little!
Feedback: Would be lovely!
Author's Notes: Title taken from a Dickinson poem whose title I lost. But the full line goes "ASHES denote that fire was;/Respect the grayest pile/For the departed creature’s sake/That hovered there awhile."
"My friend, why have you drifted so far away? All motion is relative, maybe it is you who have
moved away by standing still."
Bobby's house carried sound like it was fucking wired for it. St. John could hear footsteps above them, the low murmur of voices as Rogue and he spoke. He flicked the lighter in his hand to cover the sound, and wondered if half the reason Bobby was uptight enough to date a girl he couldn't touch was because he'd spent his life listening to his parents fuck two doors down. That'd be enough to fuck up anyone's head, John figured. God knows hearing his foster parents - any of them - going at it had been bad enough.
Bobby's house was cold as shit, which John should be used to but minded more here, in a place that wasn't his room and Bobby's room - it was his parents'. Tastefully upper middle class with smiling pictures on the mantle. John looked at Bobby in them and realized he had his mother's nose. It was weird. The glass of the frame showed him his own face alongside theirs. He didn't have anyone's nose. It was just his. If there was someone with the same one somewhere, they were either dead or as good as.
It wasn't a fucking great nose anyway.
He wore the clothes he'd slept in, which were too thin and still felt wet from the flight down the tunnel, and cold from Bobby's presence - still and grim and freezing - beside him in the car here. He'd gone to get Rogue clothes first, which St. John thought was fucked up, since how often did Bobby get to see her wearing that little anyway? And Rogue wasn't exactly John's type, but he hadn't minded the fucking view, either. Never mind that while he ran and fetched her shit John sat there freezing. Fuck Bobby anyway.
He flicked his lighter, stared at the pictures, and watched Logan pace, all lean strength and barely leashed temper. John counted the times his nose twitched when he sniffed at something before Logan noticed and caught his eye. John looked away and wondered what the odds were of the Wolverine pretending not to notice if he nabbed one of those pricey fucking imported beers from the fridge.
He'd lost count, but he figured it was around the thirtieth twitch when Logan looked upward suddenly. Bobby's footsteps a few moments later, ash-grey color around his eyes and mouth in a thin line. John had seen that expression once before. Of all the times for him to make a move. Had to give Bobby-boy some credit for balls. But for a smart kid, he was a fucking idiot. Just because everything had gone to hell and people were dead and missing didn't mean the Untouchable girl was suddenly a safe zone.
He flicked his lighter as Logan looked assessingly at Bobby - and John didn't miss the look on his face, which was a little too unreadable to not give a shit - and then started up the stairs. The familiar flick of the lighter and the flare of the flame brought Bobby's eyes to him. "Come on," he said abruptly, the edge of command in his voice that said Cyclops would make him team leader, someday, in his tense voice.
John fucking hated that tone. He had authority issues and would have definite Bobby-in-authority issues. Even if the bastard would probably be good at it.
He got up though, following Bobby as the taller boy led him up the stairs and into his room. It was a weird sort of moment, since they went in as Logan and Rogue came out, Logan's hand on her shoulder and Rogue skittish and avoiding Bobby's eyes, mumbling an apology that had Logan practically growling. Big guy didn't like that, John noted, trying not to be amused and failing. It was fucking funny.
John sometimes thought if she just said fuck it and wasn't so goddamned scared of what she could do, that maybe she'd be able to control it. Maybe all mutations were like his - a hum in the blood that beat at the cage of their skin unless they let it out. He'd never said anything to her though. Rogue and he were friends by proxy - because once it had been Bobby&John and then it was Bobby&Rogue. And Bobby was the sort of conscientious asshole who would make sure that it was Bobby&Rogue&John enough that John didn't feel left out. If it had been anyone else pandering to him like that, John would have told them to fuck off.
Bobby's room was neat and cool and had pictures of his family on the dresser. Old soccer trophies along one wall and an alphabetically arranged bookshelf along the other. Everything in its place. The room he shared with John had been like that before John came in with his clothes flung on the floor and his soft-core porn mags stuffed under the mattress - old comic books hidden beneath. Before John left Frito bags on the nightstand and paperbacks no one but Bobby ever knew he read - Vonnegut and Lawrence, Salinger and Rushdie - tossed idly into corners when he was done. In the beginning the line between Bobby's side and his was marked with mess. After a while John's things wandered to Bobby's side, and Bobby left his shoes out and forgot to alphabetize his books. Neither knew whose things were whose now, most days, and half of John's CD's disappeared into Bobby's collection. (Half of Bobby's CD's disappeared entirely because he listened to Shit and John melted them.)
Here it was Bobby's Room. Not theirs. Not Bobby&John - and their room was the last place where they were that. The was Bobby's. This was the Bobby smiling from pictures. Family boy Bobby, who'd gone to the right schools and worn the right clothes. Who'd never set fires just to watch them burn or hidden in dark alleys with pilfered matches, shaking and waiting for footsteps to follow. Who could look in a mirror and see where his nose came from. Who didn't want things he shouldn't have, he just wanted things he could never touch.
If this Bobby hadn't looked so much like his, John would have hated him. If he couldn’t remember the first time Bobby told him beer wasn't allowed in the dorms and how he'd grinned and shrugged and held his hand out when John asked him if he always did what he was told, then he might have told Bobby how much of a fucking lie this room - and those pictures - were.
". . . whatever you want," Bobby was saying, voice tired and with a hard edge of bitter frustration that was there more and more often these days. He never let Rogue hear it, John knew. One other thing - like the lineless room - that was still just John's.
John nodded, knowing what he'd been saying without asking. He rummaged through the closet, yanking off a shirt at random. He had to dig further back through to find a pair of jeans Bobby had outgrown, since he'd be tripping on the fucking cuffs if he didn't. "You get a feel of anything good before she started to kill you?" he asked casually, watching Bobby from the corner of his eye.
Like a puppet dangling from strings John pulled, Bobby's spine snapped straight and he scowled. "Shut up!" he snapped.
John wiggled the string. "What did you think? This time it wouldn't happen, because you were at your parents' and you should get to fuck the little woman before they meet her?"
Bobby's hands were ice cold when they shoved him against the closet door. The handle dug into his back and blue eyes stared at him with the sort of anger few but John could ever really inspire in him. John counted that a victory - another mark in the column of things that were just his. No one could make Bobby mad like he could.
He wasn't sure when he'd started keeping score of what was his and what was Rogue's, but he knew that his list was shorter. Much shorter. He wondered how much his white-bread, smiling fucking family had, how long their list was. He wondered if they even knew him half as well as John did. He hated that he wondered sometimes if he knew Bobby as well as Rogue.
"Just . . . fuck, John, just shut up. Why do you have to be such an asshole? It's not like that. I just . . . kissed her."
The hands pulled away and Bobby shrank back, face falling. "I thought maybe it'd be alright, this time."
John flicked his lighter and then set it on the windowsill, yanking off the too-thin tee shirt and pulling on the one he'd taken from Bobby. "Eternal fucking optimist. Is it worth it, Bobby-boy? Is she hot enough to spend all your time jerking off in showers and never get to touch her?"
Bobby looked away as John changed into the jeans and John rolled his eyes inwardly. Repressed WASP boy. Definitely heard his parents fuck one too many times. "It was. Usually."
John buttoned up his fly and looked up to see Bobby watching him, blue eyes soft and confused. John sighed inwardly. Fucking puppy eyes. "Not even you can hold out without touching forever, Bobby-boy. Shouldn't beat yourself up if it's starting to get old. Not your fault. Not hers. Just the way it is." He lifted a hand to pat Bobby's cheek condescendingly, but Bobby saw the movement coming and moved his head.
John's hand settled on his chin instead. Without intending to, his thumb traced the line of Bobby's lips. Blue eyes widened a little, confusion and something else John couldn't quite identify in them. He drew away and John dropped his hand, covering with a fuck-you smirk. "Everyone needs to be touched, Drake. Even Saint-fucking-Bobby."
He turned to go, fingers reclaiming his lighter from the window, and a moment later a pair of shoes thunked into his shoulder. He swore and turned around to find Bobby smirking at him. "You're the saint, not me, asshole. Socks in the drawer. And don't burn that damn shirt - I like it."
John flicked his lighter - dangerously close to the shirt's hem - and grinned at him. "Fuck you," he answered, digging out a pair of socks. Bobby smacked him upside the head as he passed, hand trailing down the back of his neck - fuck he was always cool - as he walked away, ducking his head a little and avoiding John's eyes as his hand fell away.
John sat down on the bed to pull on the too-big shoes (fucking big feet) and socks and grinned. Add that to the fucking list. He could touch Bobby.
Her hand around his ankle had felt vice-tight and like it was draining away everything inside him, leaving nothing but the shell. John's power - the kinship to flame - ran in his veins, even though he couldn't generate it. It powered him and drove him. It was there in every movement, every thought, every rushed decision he'd ever made. It was how he defined himself.
When she drained it away it felt like she was draining him away. He guessed that's what she'd been doing.
He could feel the imprint of her hand still, and his stomach was clenched and tight in memory of the sickness her touch had brought. When he shut his eyes and tried not to think of it, he thought of the fire. Of the heat of it and the orange glow. Of the cars that lifted into the air. Of the feeling of burning out.
He'd expected a bullet to end it. Metal burrowing into his skin and bleeding out his life. He hadn't expected her hand. Hadn't expected to feel everything he was wrenched away. The power that made him what he was leashed and then taken.
It hadn't been how he wanted to die, and for a moment - when he'd thought it was the end - he'd hated her.
Rogue hadn't spoken to him since. Bobby had tried, halting and uncertain words that ended in a shake of his head and a softly murmured question. "What the hell were you doing, John?"
He'd almost said "What you couldn't," but he didn't. He'd added it to the list of things he could do for Bobby that Rogue couldn't. He could hate for him. He'd hated the picture-perfect family that surrounded Bobby because it was false. (And maybe because it was something he'd never have, too.) He'd hated the ignorant uniformed cops who came on a call from a fucking stupid kid. Hated the face of Bobby's brother, who looked scared when he realized what he'd done. Hated the parents who didn't run outside to stop it.
St. John could hate. Hate ran fire-hot and he understood fire.
It had been a long time since he'd let himself burn like that. Boiled over and burned every fucking thing. At Xavier's it was about control. It was "calm down, John". It was Bobby's cool hand on his shoulder when his fire started to flare and Xavier's voice in his head reminding him that he must control his power, not let it control him.
When her hand drained away the fire, it left the hate. Hate without heat sits sludge-heavy in your stomach, burns at your insides and tastes like bile on your tongue.
The first thing Rogue says, she says when Bobby leaves and it's just them, the space between them wider than it should be and not nearly wide enough at the same time. Her voice is harsher than it usually is, and he watches her hands when she speaks. "People died," she tells him. "Someone's father, mother, brother - someone didn't come home. Because of you."
He flicks his lighter and smiles - he knows what it looks like. Smug and irritating all at once. "You rather Bobby take a bullet to the head?"
"He might have," she answered quietly, voice her own. She ran a gloved hand over her nose and he looked away because she was right. Bobby-fucking-Drake would probably rather have died than let some fucking cop go. Not that John would have let him. Rogue's nose was slim and perfect - and she didn't have anymore idea who else wore it than he did, her parents as false as his had been - though kinder. (How much he didn't know. Rogue spoke little of her past. Another trait in common. He hated that.) He didn't think she'd have let him, either. Sometimes when little Rogue with her pretty face and southern drawl looked at him, he thought he saw something iron behind her eyes, capable of ruthlessness.
"Fuck that." Her hands clenched and he remembered how they felt and the taste of bile, and for a moment, he hated her - heavy sludge of heatless hate for what she'd taken, for what she'd shown him, for what she was. "You like it? Sucking me dry? Fucking roller coaster, isn't it - felt the fire and the rush from your skin eating me. Better than kissing Bobby's cold away?"
She looked at him, and for a moment he thought she might hit him, but then she just shrugged. "Yes. And no." Her hair fell over her shoulder and John hated that she was beautiful, even when he hated her, and that part of him still felt sorry for her, and for what she'd never have. "You think you're the only one who wants what you don't have, sugar?" The question startled him enough that he didn't answer, just stared at her.
Rogue didn't wait for an answer anyway, she turned and walked away. When she spoke to him again, it was frustrated and sharp, harping at him for not helping, for being a jerk. Bobby was silent and her voice grated and for a moment he was almost grateful to her, until she twined a gloved hand over the back of Bobby's neck and reminded him how much easier hate was.
"People died." she'd told him.
He didn't know why he should mourn for them when none of them would have done the same for him. Or for Bobby.
Bobby shared his tent and between the two of them, the air was temperate and comfortable, the tension between them not managing to alter that - they balanced one another. They always had.
John couldn't sleep and the lack of snoring beside him said Bobby was the same. He flicked his lighter and he could hear the catch in Bobby's breath that said he was worrying at his lip with his teeth. When he spoke, John stilled. "You got the shirt all dirty. And burned the sleeve."
John smiled a little, fingers tracing the burn absently. "Sorry," he offered. St. John rarely apologized, and Bobby knew that. He wasn't sure what he did it now for. Maybe because he wasn't sorry for the shirt, and he wasn't sorry for the fire, but he was sorry for the parents who didn't come out, and the girl he couldn't touch, and the life he'd never go back to.
"It's alright," Bobby's voice was quiet and John could hear the pain in it. He reached out and settled a hand on Bobby's arm tentatively, squeezing lightly. After a moment Bobby's closed over his, squeezing back and then letting go. He rolled away and muttered. "Go to fucking sleep."
"Don't tell me what to do," John answered. His hand was cool where Bobby had held it and he tucked it beneath his head and shut his eyes, falling asleep at the first snore.
They were two, together. Bobby&Rogue. He sat between them and Magneto, lighter in hand, and Bobby's hand was cool on her arm - John remembered - when he stopped her. She pulled off her glove, angry and combative, hate in her eyes and John smirked, wondering if that was Rogue - or an echo of St. John in her head, egging her own.
If it had been John, he would have done it. A hand to each and sucked away all that they were. If he'd been Rogue, he would have done it. Because then he would have hated them for what they'd tried to do. St. John was always good at holding a grudge.
But she stopped, let herself be calmed. Empty threats. Bobby whispered about control in her ear, and the only space between them was the fabric of their clothes that kept her touch from killing him.
Rogue looked at him, finally, and he read her eyes. Somewhere behind them he thought he saw a mirror of his own, but in front was her - grim determination and strength and hatred. For those he sat beside. Maybe a little for him, too. John wondered if she hated him because there'd been a Bobby&John before there'd been a Bobby&Rogue, or if she hated him because she'd felt what it was like to love the power you were born with.
St. John checked one thing off the list of what he could do for Bobby. Bobby didn't need him to hate on his behalf. He had Rogue.
Rogue could hate.
The old man beside him spoke, and suddenly he wasn't old and worn. John realized that Rogue had already known what it was to love the power you were given. She'd had Magneto in her head.
They called him the bad guy, but John didn't know what that meant anymore.
Magneto asked him his name, and John's hand felt the absence of the lighter the man had taken away, the flame in it only a partial comfort. He sought Bobby's eyes, but the blue of them was fixed on Rogue's face.
It was odd how suddenly a name could feel real, when you told someone. Pyro. He was Pyro, now. Maybe he always had been.
Later Bobby sat down beside him - Rogue standing in Logan's orbit and Bobby trying not to see. John had been that for Bobby, once - eyes to see what he couldn't. But now there were too many things Bobby didn't want to see, and John had stopped trying to show him. Bobby asked what Magneto had said, and Pyro shrugged and didn't answer. Inches between them but the distance became a palpable thing, somehow. Bobby dropped an arm along the back of Pyro's chair, fingers hovering near his neck but not touching.
Pyro pretended not to notice. Across the plane Rogue caught his eye and smiled - sad and understanding and angry all at once, and he hated her again because she understood, and he didn't want that. Not from her. Maybe not from anyone.
When Bobby went to her, Pyro let him go, fingers flicking the lighter. He burned the hem of a shirt that wasn't his and snuffed it out with his fingers, eyes seeking Bobby's blue ones. Bobby didn't notice, and Pyro didn't tell him. He could feel Mystique watching him.
It was fucking weird how it was comforting when someone watched you, even if it was the wrong person.
They left them there like fucking kids, questions half answered. "Go play while the grownups save the day, kiddies." They hadn't said it, but they hadn't had to. Left them here while they went to save the world.
Save it from who? From the government fucks who wanted to kill them, or from Xavier, who'd do it on accident and never bother to tell the kiddies at home how close good old Uncle Xavier came to offing them all? Millions of fucking mutants dead and ooops, like spilled milk. No one would cry over it.
Pyro hates being still. Hates waiting. Hates a dark that he can't light up fire-bright and see through. When he leaves, Bobby looks at him, confused and distant. Rogue looks at him and knows.
When he asks him if he always does what he told, Bobby doesn't answer, and John knows he doesn't remember.
The shirt is singed in new places and too cold for the snow of Alkali. It's a stark, unforgiving sort of cold, not Bobby-cold, and he hates it for that. The hate keeps him warm, raises his temperature, makes him forget that there aren't footsteps following him, asking where he'll go, telling him to get back in the plane.
When the pain sends him writhing to the floor, back freezing against the ground, head caught in a slow-closing vice he can't see, he realizes he's alone.
St. John hadn't thought he would die alone since the first time Bobby had loaned him a shirt and smiled at him. Pyro knew, in that moment, that he would. That Bobby wouldn’t come. That Bobby&Rogue would die on a heat-warmed plane, waiting for saviors that didn't save them, bare hand against gloved ones.
He's almost disappointed when it stops, pain vanishing as quickly as it came, leaving just the stark cold and the alone.
When he climbs onto the helicopter, two pairs of eyes watch him. If he left, they wouldn't follow, and he knows that. But they watch him like something they can use, not something they need to control.
He finds a coat beneath the seat in the helicopter and pulls it on, yanking off the shirt and zipping it up. He almost throws wide the door to toss it out, but doesn't, wadding it up and laying it on the seat beside him instead.
The beat of the helicopter rotors drown out the flick of the lighter, the burn of the flame as the shirt turns to ash and sifts away. If he said goodbye aloud, it drowned that out too, and he couldn’t tell if it had just been in his head.