Author's Note: My first Team Fortress fanfic, written in one sitting after the plotbunny popped into my head and refused to leave. Please don't kill me, new fandom!

Obviously, the issue of the Pyro's gender is a pretty well-known one. While I would like to think that the Pyro is female, knowing Valve I'm willing to bet that it's all a convoluted red herring and we'll never find out for sure one way or the other. Fortunately, the fandom writers have stepped up to the plate. However, when considering the possibility of a female Pyro, I think it's easy to forget that the Pyro is still . . . well, the Pyro. Fiery death is pretty much the center of this character's existence. With that in mind, I decided to write a sort of introspective/friendship/humor fic. I hope I succeeded.

Warning—this fic contains egregious French. Well, it contains the Spy, which is pretty much the same thing. Most of it should be pretty clear from the context, but it doesn't contain any real plot points, so I wouldn't worry too much about it.

Rating: T for language and references to nasty death.

Disclaimer: Team Fortress 2 and all associated characters and concepts are property of Valve, and I derive no profit from this. Please accept this in the spirit with which it is offered—as a work of respect and love, not an attempt to claim ownership or earn money from this intellectual property.

Burn, Baby, Burn

by Totenkinder Madchen

Part One: Meet the Pyro

Being a woman was secondary to being a Pyro. After all, one could get away with killing people all the time, and the other only could at certain times of the month.

The Pyro wasn't certain if people knew her gender, and frankly, she considered it a nonissue. It was probable that the Spy knew—sneaky bastard that he was. He'd probably stuck his nose into her locker, too. (Her mother had sent her the pink purse, for "weekends off base with some of those nice military men," as Mom had put it in her last letter. It was made of plastic, and wouldn't even burn properly. She'd settled for stashing it out of sight, where its non-flammability wouldn't offend her.) And it was possible that the Medic had an inkling, because when the other team's assault has been repelled and you have the luxury of actually rolling up your sleeve before getting a needle bigger than the Sniper's kidney capacity jabbed into your skin, he might have taken note of her not entirely masculine bone structure. The others? Unlikely. If you weren't a bottle, a sandwich, or a baseball, then you were probably not of interest.

Granted, being the BLU Pyro pretty much prevented developing any camaraderie. It was no secret that she liked to burn things; how could anyone not? The colors, blue at the heart and fading to yellow and red and orange and that wonderful greenish shade that you got when certain artificial fabrics ignited (or used to get, until the RED Scout wised up and stopped wearing nylon). The Pyro loved fire. And between her all-encompassing dedication to the business of burning things and the gigantic mask that made her sound like an obscene phone caller with a throat infection, the Pyro wasn't really part of the gang.

Not that she was actively excluded. She got her hits with the Medigun, just like everybody else, and the backslaps were never more common then when she'd toasted the RED Spy before he could get his hands on their intel. During the occasional lull in the fighting, she'd collect her rations from the machines and hole up in a quiet corner, just like the others did. But unlike them, the Pyro ate alone. It was a willingly self-imposed exile: the team gathered in groups to talk, but they never really said anything very interesting. After all, none of them talked about fire. Oh, they talked about sports, machinery, movies, liquor, women, and the best way to get brains out of your clothes. Sometimes they would mention flare guns, and she would listen in. But for the most part . . . boring.

On the rare occasions when she found herself craving company, she would climb up the tower and join the Sniper at his post. He'd seemed surprised the first time she turned up, but . . . well, neither of them had much to say when they were on duty, and if he was using the Huntsman, she could light his arrows for him. And his cigarettes, too, if he'd misplaced his lighter. The Pyro didn't mind: she never minded sharing fire.

And life carried on. Suffer an agonizing death three or four times a day. Awaken again at a "respawn" point, courtesy of a piece of highly advanced technology that still made the process feel like you were being given an intimate full-body massage by the Swamp Thing. Burn and repeat. For the most part.

* * *

The first time gender ever became an issue, the day had gone worse than usual.

The REDs had found their balls, somehow. An all-out frontal attack had been launched, and the RED Spy seemed to be everywhere—usually with his knife in someone's back. The Pyro backed up a Sniper that turned out to be that same damn Spy, had a horribly close encounter with a rotating saw blade (why did they have those things, anyway? There was no way this base was OSHA compliant) and, courtesy of mutual lack of fuel and ammo, had wound up in her first-ever Pyro-on-Pyro fistfight.

They protected the briefcase, barely. That little squeaky RED Scout almost had his hands on it when the BLU Spy shot him at point-blank range, and oh jeez, it looked like her teammate would definitely be needing some of those getting-brain-out-of-suits hints soon. The Pyro knew this because that embarrassing Pyro fistfight had taken place in the intel room, and the Spy had been smirking like all get out at the sight of two identical orange-suited fire enthusiasts shaking their weapons, dropping them, staring, and then attempting to pummel each other through inch-think asbestos-lined suits.

It had ended the only way it could—with the Pyro taking yet another fall out yet another window. By the time she had respawned, shivering a little behind the mask and trying to shake off the mental image of cold seaweedy hands, her RED opponent was unable to resume the bout due to reasons of having a butterfly knife jammed through his neck. The RED attack had been repulsed, but otherwise, the day had accomplished absolutely nothing.

That evening, she was still in a nasty mood. A Pyro, running out of fuel? A Pyro without fire. Worse, two Pyros without fire, resorting to using their fists. It was worse than annoying. It was practically obscene. This wasn't the kind of story she would tell to young Pyros; it wouldn't be appropriate for their tender ears. Even with a full fuel tank and all her gear back in top condition, the sheer idea of it was sickening.

This was not a night for spending time with the Sniper. In her mood, she would probably set him on fire and then douse it with his own Jarate jars. Granted, the chemicals in dried urine residue turned some beautiful colors . . . damn, that was tempting. But no, she'd never hear the end of it. The team got really whiny about friendly fire, and pointing out that she wasn't feeling friendly when she set him on fire wouldn't do much to clear the air. She settled for climbing one of the guard towers and having a sulk.

It was easy to see, even through the thick eyepieces of her mask. The sun had almost set by the time she got up there, and in the west, only a glowing streak of orange remained. The sky above it had faded to violet, the same sort of violet she saw sometimes when one of the Engineer's more ambitious projects exploded. It wasn't a burny color, but it would do. Her little vantage point was protected from the eastwards RED base by a jutting chimney, and she felt safe enough to swing her legs over the edge of the roof, deep in thought.

"It is beautiful, non?"

Her finger was already on the trigger of her flamethrower when the BLU Spy decloaked, leaning casually against the chimney with cigarette case in hand. The Pyro relaxed a little, annoyed that her sulking time had been interrupted by the team's most interfering member. She had nothing against the BLU Spy, but she disliked Spies in general, and had enjoyed setting them on fire many times. They often preferred silk shirts, too, which burned beautifully.

"Mrahh mronhh cahrr," she mumbled noncommittally, turning her attention back to the strip of orange on the horizon. If the Spy wanted to hang around on rooftops, that was his business. She wasn't obligated to talk to him.

"I have seen ze sky over many places," the Spy continued, apparently unfazed by the fact that she was ignoring him. "Prague. Milan. Paris," he added, rolling the R and drawing out the Par-ee in a way that was so obscenely French that she could practically smell the croissants. "Ahh, ze City of Lights in summer . . . il est très magnifique. But it is most beautiful when you have successfully fucked an enemy."

The Pyro couldn't help herself; she swung towards him, tilting her head quizzically as she wondered if she'd actually heard what she thought she'd heard.

"Mrohh raah waah yuhrrr durrhn wihh rahh Rrouht," she said.

The Spy grinned. "A crude metaphor only, ma chère dame. But ze RED attack, it failed, non? They tried to fuck us. We have fucked them." He opened his cigarette case, removed a cigarette, detached the false mustache that was clinging to it, and tapped the cigarette against his palm. "And unless I miss my guess, ze soulless demon of a RED Pyro will be thinking twice about forgetting his fire axe."

"Rrubh ihhh rrihnn," the Pyro muttered sourly.

"I am a Spy. I am ze master of ze backstab, in all its forms." The Spy cupped his cigarette in one hand and reached for his lighter with the other. The Pyro wasn't feeling particularly charitable towards him at that moment, but fire was fire, and she reached for her flamethrower before he could flick his lighter. To her surprise, the Spy waved her off.

"I am also a gentleman. And a gentleman does not allow a lady to light his cigarette."

Four shocks in one day. If this kept up, she was going to have a heart attack.

Her stunned expression must have been apparent even through her mask, because the Spy chuckled as he thumbed the silver lighter. A tiny, brilliant flame appeared, and for a moment, the Spy's eyes reflected the orange gleam of it.

A love of fire teaches you about practicality in its many forms. Daydreaming will get you killed. Not wearing protective gear will get you killed. Not paying attention will get you killed. Seeing no point in inhibiting communication now that the secret was out, the Pyro unbuckled her mask and pulled it off, blotting the sweat on her forehead with the sleeve of her suit. She watched the Spy warily, wondering what was going to happen next. She didn't care if she was female; fire was the important thing. The question was, would the rest of the team see it that way? The Soldier was notoriously illogical, and if anybody would make an issue out of someone having slightly different squishy parts, it could well be him. And the Spy, well, he had just admitted to being a backstabbing jackass. She wondered how much trouble she would get in for toasting him.

"Was it the purse?" she said flatly. Her voice sounded strange to her ears, hoarse after so many years of breathing through a filter and inhaling smoke and asbestos.

The Spy shook his head, still grinning. Oh please, the Pyro thought. Let me singe him just a little.

"Ah, non. It was ze way you put ze boot to ze RED Pyro." He shook his head, and for a moment looked almost wistful. "In my day, I have seen many beautiful ladieswishing to remove ze viande et deux légumes. Zis is an experience zat is not so worthy of a Spy, and so, I learn to recognize ze warning signs." He took a drag on his cigarette, and once again, there was that tiny spark of flame reflected in his eyes.

The Pyro watched that spark. "Gonna tell?"

"I think not." The Spy flicked his cigarette, and a glowing spot of ash sailed off into the rapidly gathering darkness. Its weak flame had died out before it even crossed the edge of the rooftop. "Zis is nothing to do with ze briefcases or ze mission. Zis is . . . a lady's business."

And with that, he vanished.

Sneaky bastard.

* * *

The next time the team saw the Pyro, she was wearing her mask again. And the next time she saw the Spy, it was as if the conversation on the rooftop had never occurred. Though she would never admit it, she was secretly grateful: the whole business of genders had nothing to do with the price of fuel oil or anything else important, but it could have caused some annoyances with the team. It seemed to her that everything had gone back to normal.

He still wouldn't let her give him a light, though.