Title: To drown out the other voices
Author: Alena Fryin
Summary: After Alcatraz, Pyro heads for New York.
Rating: PG/PG-13 for language.
Disclaimer: Don't own it, never did.

Notes: Title from U2's "New York".

To drown out the other voices

1

With Magneto and Mystique gone, Pyro turns himself back into John and goes to New York, not because he likes New York but because it's as far away from San Francisco as you can get on four hundred bucks and warmer than his other potential destination, Nome. The snow sucks and the cold sucks but there's a million different crowds to get lost in and nobody ever bothers to get his name. In New York, John isn't John or Pyro. He's 'Hey you' and 'Fuck face' and 'Asshole' and 'Kid' depending on the time and place and he's down with that. He doesn't mind being anonymous; having your face plastered on the front page of every paper from here to Tokyo is overrated.

Magneto taught him that, even if he didn't intend to.

The second day in New York, he goes to a diner to get breakfast and somehow ends up as a chef. He makes waffles and pancakes and ham and cheese omelets and hamburgers and smokes out back, the scent of the nicotine winding off the orange tip of his cigarette entwined with the less pleasant aroma of old meat and damp bread. But he knows he's going to get lucky with one of the waitresses soon and considering all he does is grill food guaranteed to give you a heart attack in ten servings or less, he gets paid pretty goddamn well.

Sometimes he thinks about going back to Xavier's, which isn't really Xavier's anymore because Xavier is, you know, dead. Dr. Grey killed him and it's too, too weird to think about it. Dr. Grey was nice and looked at her plain Jane shoes whenever anyone gave her a compliment and liked Dr. Pepper. Phoenix's eyes looked like puncture wounds in Reality's skin and she spoke in cheerless monotone and hated everyone. It's easier for John to think Phoenix killed Professor Xavier, like Phoenix and Dr. Grey weren't the same lady.

You'd think the Professor would have warned somebody Jean Grey might go slouching towards the land of insanity like the beast in a poem by a dead white guy but he never did, and maybe that's why he's munching a dirt sandwich and not making the world a better place one fucked up mutant teenager at a time.

But yeah, sometimes he does think about going back. They'd accept him. They'd read his e-mail and bug all the phones and Rogue and Bobby might corner him and cry on him and ask him why he decided to embrace the Dark Side of the Force or whatever, but nobody would kick his ass. Okay, Logan would kick his ass and John would appreciate having his ass kicked.

He deserves to have his ass kicked.

John could go back to Xavier's and after a year of skittering around pretending like he was the invisible boy and kissing Storm's ass, everything would go back to the way it was. He and Bobby would commandeer a TV every chance they got so they could dick around on the Playstation and he would hit on Rogue even though he hasn't been in love with her since they were like, fourteen and he'd put off algebra homework and projects on the theory of relativity and papers on the Scarlet Letter the night before they were due and then freak out. It'd be the same as ever, like he never ran off and joined the Brotherhood and betrayed his best friends and helped destroy a national landmark and got totally, totally fucked by a crazy old guy.

And that's why John doesn't go.

2

John goes to coffee houses in Greenwich Village and reads paperbacks whose covers fell off way back in the middle of the 20th century and pretends like he goes to NYU. He drinks black tea, no cream, no sugar. He reads and people watches and it's all really fucking funny to him. None of these people, not the beats with their moth eaten sweaters, not the wanna-be hippies with their hem necklaces and clove cigarettes, not the incredulous leftists discussing the President's latest fuck up, know what he is. They're all freaks, but not like John is a freak. They make pop art out of Campbell's soup cans and talk trash about transcendentalist poets and write rip offs of Bob Dylan songs that weren't great to begin with and wahhh, they're so misunderstood. They cut up their arms with nail scissors and pop pills like sugar candy and there John is with his black tea and his paperbacks and the lighter in his pocket, his ticket to divinity. One flick and he's in business, baby.

One flick and he could blow them away.

He thinks about the blazing warmth of Magneto's cheeks as they watched the pawns meet their doom at Alcatraz and goes back to reading.

3

John rides the subway like every good New Yorker who isn't a stockbroker or some suicidal nitwit from Jersey. Stockbrokers can afford cabs and the Jersey people have unanimously decided crawling through traffic in a Subaru is a fantastic way to spent forty-five minutes every morning and evening. His backpack is slung over his shoulder. His left hand grips one of the straps, his right hand is securely latched onto one of the metal poles running down the center of the aisle.

Taking the subway is like being on a cheap rollercoaster and John likes standing, regardless of whether seats are available.

He got out late from the work and it's like, two AM and fucking freezing and all John wants to do is go back to his apartment and beat his piece of shit television into submission and watch a crappy movie before crashing for the night.

He got out late from work and it's like, two AM and the car stops and the doors open and one lone guy steps inside. The lone guy wears a long black coat like a movie phantom and a black hat and his skin the color of curdled milk. The lone guy's eyes are too blue and too crisp and his pupils are too small. The lone guy takes a seat at the opposite end of the car and crumples like a drop cloth as he touches down.

The lone guy is Magneto, is Erik and that's all it takes for John's heart to stop beating.

Magneto was a nut job who wanted peace, love and understanding to go hand in hand with blood and thunder but Erik scares John far, far more than his super villain counterpart ever did. Erik is the one who was under the stupid helmet, the one whose smile always looked coy and rocked by earthquakes of the spiritual variety. Erik is the one who is fucked up to the point of no return and wanted to do unto others as they did unto him.

Erik is weirdly human hunched over in his plastic chair, back rounded like the curve of a dark city skyline.

Magneto was like Pyro, except cooler and older and way more evil and he broke the Golden Gate bridge for crying out cloud! Erik isn't like John at all and all John wants to vacate the premise and go back to pretending to be deep at a coffee house.

He gives the metal rot his fingers are looped around a squeeze, as though to confirm its lack of malleability, as though to make sure it is Erik he is trapped with, not Magneto. He'll stare out the window and watch the concrete sailing by and get off at the next stop, providing the other man doesn't do the same.

He'll go back to acting like Erik and Raven are a couple of dead homo sapiens he never worked for and died for and cooked for and prayed to and for.

His hair is longer than the last time he saw anybody from the Brotherhood and he's got the jaded half grin thing down pat but John seriously wishes his sweatshirt had a hood. He doesn't want to deal with Eric, powerless Eric, human Eric and that's a half-truth. John doesn't want to deal with anything from his other life. He doesn't want to deal with Raven or Bobby or Rogue or Logan or a bunch of dead people who used to teach him about the difference between ionic and covalent bonds and the ethics of using fireballs to scare the shit out of people in museums.

Fuck dealing.

If he'd wanted to deal, he would have stayed in San Francisco after the battle.

The subway swerves around a turn and pulls into station painted a serendipitous blue from the lights flickering above it. Said station's population is two trash cans, am empty Diet Coke bottle and copy of the Times tented beside the staircase leading outside. John doesn't know where the station, population two trash cans, an empty Diet Coke bottle and a copy of the Times tented beside the staircase leading outside, is and he decides he doesn't care.

The doors creak open and he breezes out of the car, not daring to look at the slumped figure in the corner, not daring to inhale or exhale or think or do anything but stride onto the platform, head down, gaze hovering on the square of pavement he stands on top of it.

Eric's loony tunes and Raven's turned traitor and Bobby hates his guts and Rogue probably doesn't even remember his name and if he can just fade back into the scenery, it'll all be for the better.

Fading back means the past is past, what's done is done. Fading back means tomorrow will be better, will be brighter, will be more vibrant, will be…will be…

Oh god.