Seeing Through The Spaces
by Pearl-o

You find it a little funny, the way a decision made in the cold, in the woods, in a moment, can still seem like the right thing later on. When you're warm, and when you've had time to think, you still think that this little accident was a happy one.

You could have stayed at the plane with Bobby and Rogue. Been another place at the kiddie table, minding your manners, while the others did the grown-up work. Instead, you're here, and nobody treats you like a kid.

Mystique doesn't treat you like anything, really. You're pretty sure she doesn't like you. You're pretty sure she doesn't really like anybody. Besides Magneto, at least. But if Mystique is cold or bored with you, it's not because you're a kid. She might even treat you nicer than she does other people. And you're not sure what's going on in her head -- she's scary, to tell the truth -- but she trusts Magneto. And Magneto likes you.

Magneto treats you ... not like an equal, but something. Not like a kid, not like a jerk or an annoyance. Like you're someone useful. Important. Powerful.

It feels good.

You're not sure where you are right now. You're pretty sure you were still in Canada when Mystique landed the helicopter and you switched into the hidden plane, but you lost track on the second flight. Some place in the middle of nowhere, at least. Mystique has a cover here has an rich elderly woman, Magneto tells you; anybody who comes close to the house -- and there's no one for miles -- can easily dismiss her eccentricities.

It's been a couple weeks since you got here, and you'll probably be here for a couple more. Part of it's waiting for the heat to die down around Magneto. The other part's your training.

Some of your training isn't that different from the school. "You're frightfully ignorant, my dear boy," Magneto told you once, looking amused. "What has Charles been teaching you?" You'd flushed at that, annoyed, even more annoyed when he laughed at your reaction.

It's better than school, though, less stupid, even if you do cover some of the same crap of history and books and science. Magneto is so much more interesting than the professor, for one thing. The professor has done all sorts of cool things, too, you know, but you wouldn't know it from being around him. His lectures were dry as dust, all this stupid pointless stuff nobody cared about, nothing to do with anything important. Magneto tells you the stuff he's teaching you matters. And you believe him.

The rest of your training is with your powers. "Brute strength," Magneto said, "isn't enough -- but it's certainly part of it!" He raised his eyebrow and smiled, and you found yourself nodding along without even thinking about it.

That work is harder than you expected, and more boring, too; that surprises you, because you didn't think fire could get boring. It's weird, though, because you didn't expect the pride, either, the one that comes with doing something difficult, doing something well. It's like a rush through your entire body, and you can't help smiling. You get the same rush all over again when Magneto pats your shoulder, tells you "Well done, Pyro!", sounding pleased and approving.

The "Pyro" thing is weird, too. Not bad weird, but hard to get used to. You're pretty sure Magneto's real -- other name is Erik something, but you could be getting that wrong; you never paid that much attention. You wouldn't be all that surprised if Mystique never had a human identity at all.

The house here is small -- living room, bathroom, kitchen, bedrooms. You have a room to yourself, though, another thing different from school. Mystique and Magneto share the other, across the hall.

Once in a while, when you're falling asleep, you wonder vaguely what Mystique looks like while they're doing it. You wonder what it'd be like to have a girlfriend who could be anybody. You can't decide whether it's more sexy or creepy, and you feel a little bad afterwards about thinking about it. But that might be because you know Mystique could kill you without breaking a sweat. She might even enjoy it.

They're both awake before you, no matter how early you get up. So you're still eating your breakfast when you hear them talking about the X-men as they stand by the coffee machine. About the school and Professor Xavier and Ms. Grey.

It's almost funny how you didn't even wonder in any of this time what had happened to any of them up there. It's even funnier how you didn't think to wonder about what you were going to be doing to them in the future.

The pancakes feel as though they're going to make you gag, all of a sudden, and you push your chair back and stand up and go out to the yard without excusing yourself. It's chilly this morning, and you're still in your tshirt and boxers. You cross your arms in front of you and take long slow breathes of cold air.

You're not sure how long it is before Magneto is there. You don't look over at him when he approaches.

"Is there a problem, Pyro?" he says. His voice is sterner than it's even been towards you before, and when you look at his face now, you wouldn't admit it, but you're scared of him. It'd be cheesy to make metal metaphors, but it's hard to look at him and not think of steel.

You snort anyway as you break your gaze away. "Not at all. Everything's fucking fine. Perfect."

Magneto is silent for a second, and then you feel his grip tight on your arm. You hiss a breath in through your teeth, and look at him out of the corner of your eye.

"It takes," he says slowly, musingly, "an exceptional person to devote himself to our cause. To break off the ties of simple friendship and acquaintance, to put them aside for what we must do." His hand releases your arm, and you think you'll have time to catch your breath. But as he speaks again, in a more gentle tone, he moves his hand to your head, brushing softly through your hair. "I brought you here because I thought you were one such exceptional man. But if I was wrong..."

You're not sure if you turn because you want to or because he wants you to, but you're facing him as you look up sullenly.

Magneto smiles as he strokes the back of your neck. "We're not going to keep you here against your will. If going back to Charles' playpen is truly what you want, you're not much good to us." He leans in forward, closer to you, and whispers. "I must admit, I think it would be a waste. You're meant for so much more."

But you made your choice back there, in the woods, in the cold. "No," you say, firmly, louder than you intend to. "I'm not going anywhere."

He smiles again, a twisted wicked curve. "I am glad to hear it," he says, and it must be the cold that's making you shiver. "We have so much work to do. And this is where you belong." He drops his hand from your hair, brushing slowly against your skin before he steps away.

You follow him back inside, feeling again that same bizarre contentment.

And you believe him.


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