IX. Drive

"Alice, Betty, Carol, Dana, Elly, Freida, Gilda, Hannah, Ivy.." John sat on his bed, surrounded by lighters.

"What are you doing?" asked Bobby, coming into their room.

"Naming my new lighters."

"After women?"

"Fire is a dangerous and deadly thing. It may be beautiful, but it'll kill you if you make a wrong move. Like women. Fire, like ships, cars, and computers, is female, and so are lighters."

"Ah. Gonna do my chem homework now."

"Okay, mate." He resumed naming. "Janice, Kate, Lora, Mindy, Noreen, Olive, Portia, Queenie, Rita, Sandy, Tasha, Ulla, Vanessa, Wendy, Yvonne, Xenia, and Zoe!" He peered over Bobby's shoulder. "You forgot to subtract the pressure of the water vapor."

Bobby double-checked his work. "Oh, yeah. Thanks." He fixed his mistake. "How do you know so much about chemistry, anyway?"

John shrugged. "Me ol' man was a scientist…works developing explosives and lighter fluids and firestarters….that sort of thing."

'So that's where he gets it.' "And your mom?" "Dead. Same time as da. She was his lab assistant….da was testing a new explosive fluid, but the fume vents were broken, and they didn't know, so all the previous test residue was floating in the air. They lit a match, and poof! Poor lil' St. John's all on his lonesome. Lived with my gran till she keeled over. Never liked her…wouldn't let me play with fire."

Bobby stopped working on his homework. "How'd you end up with Magneto, then?"

"When I manifested, I accidentally burned down the fozzie home I was in. No one killed…but I was damned if they'd put me in another. So I lit out and started hitchiking. No goal in particular. And one night….he stopped. Offered me a job and all the lighters I wanted. I said yes."

"What drove you to work for such a loony?"

"Free room and board…get to burn stuff….didn't really have anywhere else to go…I did what he said, I got paid, and the rest of my time was free. But then I realized that you know….mutant supremacy is a bunch of shite. And since Remy an' Petey were defecting…I figured 'what the hell?' and went for it." He shrugged. "Glad I did, though. Otherwise I wouldn't've gotten a chance to get to know someone..."

"Who?"

"Oh, just a handsome, intelligent, prankster who's almost as crazy as me and whose elemental mastery is incredibly attractive..."

"Elemental mastery? Have you been reading romance novels again, John?"

John hushed Bobby with his lips. He had a new drive now.