"I'm a nightmare, a disaster
That's what they always said
I'm a lost cause, not a hero"
Simple Plan – Me against the world
John barely remembers Sydney. He remembers it being sunny and bright. He remembers his grandmother's flat in bright yellow and orange and how safe he felt here. He remembers the smell and taste of her cooking, he remembers eating figs and oranges and drinking grape juice and the cold chocolate milk she made him every morning before school. He remembers primary school and homework and his friends although he can only barely remember their faces and their names anymore. He remembers laughing and playing and planning the future where they would be astronauts and surfers and shape the world to their dreams.
All these memories pale against the moment when they told him that his grandmother was dead and that they would send him to his dad in America.
Indianapolis is cold and grey and his dad isn't very nice to him because he doesn't know John, never wanted to meet him and doesn't know what to do with a ten year old boy. He yells at John when John asks if he can turn the heater on and when John does something his dad doesn't like he sends him to his room without dinner. He rarely has milk in the fridge and no chocolate powder and he never makes John breakfast or gives him something to eat while he's in school. The other kids at school make fun of his accent, which John tries to hide as good as he can. He's hungry and cold all the time.
John is eleven when he begins to steal food and light little fires in his room to himself warm. The smoke and the scorch marks make his father only angrier but he has a new job now and John is left alone at home more often than not.
John's power emerges with thirteen when he accidentally sets a table in fire. It's during chemistry, so everyone chalks it up as an accident but John knows what he has done and he begins to practice it. He can't make fire, which he hates but he can decide how hot it burns and he can shape it into any form. Also, it can't hurt him when it touches him and its touch is warm and bright yellow and orange and brings up good memory from the place he called home.
His father catches him, of course. He doesn't even bother to yell at John but simply gives him a few minutes to pack and then tells him to never come back. The first few hours feel like liberation.
He goes to the bus station and decides to go to New Orleans. He read a novel about it once and it was described as warm and sunny and generally a great place to be. He has only enough money for a ticket to Louisville but he's determined to get to New Orleans no matter what.
He's just outside of Louisville when he sucks a guy's cock for the first time. He doesn't like it but it gets him twenty dollars.
"You understand the only life we have is here and now,"
Hoobastank - Say The Same
In a small town north of Nashville he meets Gabriel. Gabriel is tall and lanky and has a shy, boyish smile, a mop of black hair and black eyes. It's only one afternoon but they eat ice-cream and laugh and Gabriel shows him a few tricks that John will need in their business.
When Gabriel kisses him just before John enters the bus to Nashville, John decides that he likes kissing a lot.
In Birmingham he blows a guy when the man decides that he wants more. John may have the agility of a wild cat but in the end he's just a five foot, scrawny thirteen year old boy who doesn't have the strength to fight a grown man and he can't reach his lighter either.
It's the first time he truly feels how vulnerable and dependant he is as long as he can't create fire.
As soon as the man is done raping him and pulls out, John grabs his lighter ad burns him down to a heap of ashes.
"I don't know you, you don't know me.
It could have been a disaster"
Heroes – 1x16
New Orleans isn't as glamorous as he imagined it to be but he still likes it better than every other place he has seen so far.
John has rules he won't cross: no fucking and no kissing. The second guy who thinks he can do with John what he wants is ashes only a moment later. That is how he meets Remy LeBeau. Everyone in New Orleans has heard of Remy but he's different from what John thought he would be:
a) he's a lot more attractive
b) he's just as damaged as John if not more
c) for some reason he takes John with him
John lets Remy fuck him and kiss him and learns that sex can feel nice, too. Remy never asks questions and neither does John. Not even when this bulky, animalistic guy turns up and Remy lets him do with him what he wants while glaring at him hatefully. It's none of John's business.
But John grows restless. He's looking for something which he doesn't know what it is but he knows that he won't find it in New Orleans. He leaves and decides to go west. California and Los Angeles and Hollywood call to him as much as to any other teenager in the world and from the pictures he has seen California reminds him of Australia.
Coming to Los Angeles is a dumb idea. There are too many aspiring actors, musicians and models that earn their living the same way he does. Here he's just another whore and not attractive enough to interest most people.
Sometimes he shows fire tricks in public to earn a few coins but the mutant scare runs through the City of Angels as it does through the rest of the world and being 'out' is dangerous. A few of the other kids look out for each other but John doesn't need protection. He learned to take care of himself long ago.
The bald guy in the wheelchair with the expensive clothes doesn't fit in with John's usual customers but as long as he gets paid everything goes. He doesn't even stick to his rules anymore or to the tips Gabriel has given what seems to be a lifetime ago. He can't afford to if he wants to eat and he has been hungry the whole eight months he has been here. If he looked more Latino it would be easier to leave LA because then he could work on one of the orange plantations or vineyards in the south but no one wants to hire a fifteen year old white boy and he doesn't know where else to go except for Australia and he has no passport and not even enough money to eat enough so how could he afford a plane ticket?
"John." The guy hasn't opened his mouth but John has heard his voice clearly in his head. His first instinct is to set a fire and run but something stops him.
"I won't hurt you, John." The man kindly assures him and John, who figures out that this guy is a mutant and he's pretty powerful if he can see inside of John's head, listens.
"And I'll never give myself to another
The way I gave it to you"
Rihanna - Rehab
John expected a prison or maybe a lab but the school is nothing like that. The beds are soft and everyone is nice to him. He keeps looking over his shoulder, expecting demands to be made at him every second but none come. He shares his room with a French-Canadian named Jean-Paul, a big Russian who is called Peter and Bobby from Boston. Bobby is full of easy smiles and honest laughter and his hair has the same colour John remembers from the curtains in his grandma's kitchen.
Bobby decides on their first day that he and John should be friends because John manipulates fire and Bobby creates ice.
John doesn't know how to reward Bobby's friendliness but in one way: he kisses Bobby. Bobby blushes and stutters but he doesn't kiss him back. John keeps to himself for the rest of the day, feeling hurt even though he's not sure why. He likes Bobby, likes him a lot and he wants Bobby to keep smiling at him, keep being his friend, keep sitting next him in class and helping him with his homework.
Bobby finds him after dinner.
"I'm sorry," he says and blushes again:"I didn't...I...Do you like me?"
"Yes," John's answers, feeling his heart pounding against his chest: "Yes, I like you."
"I like you too." Bobby smiles at him brightly and when he kisses John it's light and soft and easy.
Bobby likes to touch him, little casual touches that never hurt. He sits close to John when they watch a movie or holds his hand and he likes to sleep in the same bed as John even without having sex. They haven't had sex yet at all and it takes some time for John to figure out that it isn't that he has done something wrong but that Bobby has never had sex before and has no idea what to do.
John shows him but shows him in a way he learned from Remy: sweet and slow and so intense that it'll make you cry.
Bobby only enjoys sex when John enjoys it, too, which is entirely new to John. Even Remy wasn't above occasionally demanding a blowjob or a fuck from John without caring whether John wanted to or not.
In John's bed Bobby whispers "I love you," to him, his hand caressing John's face and their limps tangled together. John feels afraid because love is a word he only knows from books and the distant memory of his grandmother. He has never said to anyone since he was ten except for that one time to Remy but Remy asked him to lie, so John did that.
He doesn't know if love is the right word to describe how he feels around Bobby: like walking under the summer sun, like eating figs and drinking chocolate milk, as if he has woken up from a long illness and feels alive again. So he says:
"I love you, too." And when Bobby leans in and kisses him it feels like the right word.
"People are people and sometimes it doesn't work out"
Taylor Swift - Breathe
It ends in a hallways empty save for them. The new girl's name is Rogue and she can't touch anyone and she has a crush on Logan.
"It's okay. I know."
The thing that hurts the most is that Bobby is still trying to be his friend. John supposes that it's nice of him to make the effort – John doesn't have many friends beside Bobby – but it hurts to get a pale taste of what he had before.
In Alkali Lake Magneto offers him a chance and John takes it without looking back. Both Magneto and Mystique treat him like an adult and neither of them preach restraint. They teach him how to push himself over his own limit and to remember that he rules his power and not his power him.
It's the best three years of his life. They're moving around constantly; an old hideout at the sea, a bunker in the forest, cars, planes, boats, foreign countries...
But the best is that Magneto and Mystique are his family. It's like carrying his home around with him as long as the three of them are together.
"If we were a movie you'd be the right guy
And I'd be the best friend you'd fall in love with
In the end"
Hannah Montana – If we were a movie
In Crete, Greece they get an additional team member who calls himself Avalanche and whom John calls Nick.
John has heard of love at the first sight (and looking back that was what happened between him and Bobby) but what happens between him and Nick isn't love, it's friendship at the first sight.
Nick is the clown of their little group and John hopes that he'll erase every memory he has of Bobby in time.
Two things happen when they return to America: Nick leaves them but he stays in touch with John, long emails full of funny photos and Nick's bad puns. John writes postcards back and when Nick sends him a photo of his new flat John can see that one wall is covered with his cards.
The other thing that happens is that he runs into Bobby in Mississippi of all places when he has just stopped thinking about him on a daily basis.
"Are you still with Magneto?"
"So you won't come back."
"I have nothing to come back to."
"I'm not the only person you could come back to."
"No, but you're the only one I would want to." It's not a confession, it's a statement: "Are you still with Rogue?"
"Yes." And that's it. They've never before run out of words so quickly.
"If you want to," Bobby begins: "Your things are still in the mansion."
John wants to.
"When you kiss me
Do you still taste her?"Atreyu - Our sick story (thus far)
So he goes back to the mansion and inevitably, he ends up sleeping with Bobby. Afterwards he feels like he felt on that bathroom floor in Birmingham, vulnerable, weak, angry at himself for letting it happen and worthless.
John has killed men and he calls two of the country's top terrorists his family but all Bobby has to do is touch him and he breaks like a dropped mug.
"Come back, Johnny." Bobby whispers and kisses his shoulder blade. John has to close his eyes for a moment and remember his family and Nick who are waiting for him, because Bobby's soft, pleading tone has stripped him of all of his defences.
It physically hurts him to draw away from Bobby's touch and snap at him: "I'm not your whore. And even if I was, you're lacking the currency I accept," because if he could buy Bobby's love with his body or his heart or his soul if he has one, then he would.
Instead of going back to Magneto and Mystique, John holds himself together until he reaches Chicago and Nick opens his door wide enough for John to hurl himself into Nick's arms.
In Chicago, on a cold and windy day John sits on Nick's couch and tells him everything, starting with Sydney and ending with the mansion and Bobby's bed a few hours ago.
Nick doesn't understand everything, of course he doesn't but he tries and that' more than John can say of most people who met him.
"You got a fast car
I want a ticket to anywhere
Maybe we make a deal
Maybe together we can get somewhere"
Tracy Chapman – Fast Car
In a church in Boston John meets Quill for the first time. The meeting goes like this:
"Tough talk for a guy in a cape." Quill shouts after them and John draws a flame:
Magneto turns to them and doesn't let himself be challenged.
"Do you know now who you're talking to?" John asks Quill.
"Do you?" Quill asks back and flashes his spikes. John grins and Quill grins right back at him.
Quill is unlike everyone else John has ever met. Gabriel, Remy, Bobby, Nick, John himself even the Professor, Magneto and Mystique, they're all looking for something: a place to call home, someone to love, acceptance, equality, freedom, but Quill doesn't. He seems to be perfectly fine with the live he's leading.
John finds himself drawn to him like he hasn't in years, like he hasn't felt since he met Bobby.
In a truck on some road he loses Mystique. One second they're all bantering and John is rolling his eyes at the guy who checks Mystique out and in the next they are being attacked by a guard who should have been out cold. John thinks he should have killed him when they entered the truck and he does it now but it's too late.
Mystique dies as sure as if the guard had fired actually bullets at her and not the cure darts.
Magneto says as much and leaves her behind.
John doesn't agree with Magneto but he doesn't trust the Omegas either and he won't challenge Magneto's decision in front of them. He thinks that they don't know enough about the cure, that there is a chance they will get Mystique back.
He tries very hard not to think that Magneto dropped Mystique just as quickly for being forced to become human as too many parents have dropped their children for being born as mutants.
In New York City, in front of a clinic that distributes 'the Cure' John meets Bobby again. He genuinely believes that Bobby would sacrifice everything for the chance to go home to his family and sneers at him for it.
And then Bobby opens his mouth and says that he's looking for someone.
Rogue. For a whole second John wants to ask why Bobby can follow her to New York but couldn't even walk down a ramp for him. God, he can't be this bitter still. It's been too long for the memory to hurt.
This time Bobby doesn't try to make him come back or even touches him and John is thankful for that. The last few days have been awful and he doesn't want to test his already weak resilience against Bobby when he doesn't have to.
Instead he sneers about Rogue and tries to pick a fight with Bobby while he knows that it won't work.
He waits until Bobby is lost in the crowd before he envelops the clinic in flames. It's easy and very satisfying. The fire inside him has been begging for release since he saw Bobby this morning but despite everything he can't bring himself to attack Bobby unprovoked. It's a weakness he hopes he will never have to face.
In Washington Forrest, someone places their hands over John's eyes and asks in a familiar accent: "Guess who?"
John doesn't even bother to answer before he tackles Nick in a hug. They haven't seen each other for over a year and Nick's once short hair now reaches down to his shoulders.
"Are there no hairdressers in Chicago?" John jokes.
"What about you? Did you lose a bet with yours?" Nick asks back and pulls playfully at John's blond strands.
"I like the colour." Nick gives him a doubting look: "Do you now."
"Does Magneto know you here?" he tries to change the subject.
"Yeah, where's Mystique by the way? The mutant grapevine said you freed her but-"
"We lost her." John looks down, not wanting Nick to read the truth in his eyes.
"Shit, I'm so sorry, John." Nick replies and wraps his arms around John again: "Tell me you fried the bastard who did this."
"Yeah, I did." John feels save in Nick's arms. If only Mystique was here as well, then he could pretend that everything is like it used to be.
"Pyro? Magneto wants-" when John looks up he can see Quill who stopped speaking when he saw John in Nick's arms. John takes a step away from Nick.
"Avalanche, Quill, Quill Avalanche," he introduces them before he turns to Quill: "You were saying?" Quill looks Nick up and down for a moment before he answers: "Magneto wants to see you."
"See you later." He says to Nick and goes to find Magneto.
Around a fire in Washington Forest, John plays with the flames, shaping them into anything that comes to his mind.
"You're getting better." Nick acknowledges.
"Still can't create it." The thought still stings him but it's less of an actual wound now and more an occasionally aching scar.
"You'll never get over that one, will you?" Nick asks lightly. John only shrugs as an answer and Nick changes the topic: "That guy, Quill, he likes you."
"Quite obvious, isn't it?" John grins.
"Are you going to..." Nick trails off.
"Think so. Last night on Earth and everything." John's grin turns lecherous and Nick rolls his eyes.
In the last night of Earth John crawls into Quills tent and has to grin when Quill looks surprised.
"Do I have to convince you that this is our last night on Earth and we should use it or can we skip the small talk since I know you're interested, I know I'm interested and now you definitely know as well that I'm interested." John asks cheekily from the tent entrance.
"I didn't think you would come." Quill replies and closes the tent behind John.
"Why?" John asks, slipping his hands under Quill's t-shirt.
"Your friend, the handsome Greek guy."
"I don't fuck my friends." John says between kissing Quill hungrily.
"So we're not friends?"
"Good. I don't fuck my friends, either." Quill unbuckles John's belt and opens his trousers. It's tricky, undressing in a tent as small as this one but they managed somehow and push their clothes to the foot of the tent. If this is truly their last night on earth then they want to savour every moment of it. Dawn will come soon enough. John lets go of his memories, of all the places he has been to be here tonight. To get lost in the long, delicious slide of Quill's body against his, of warm, sweaty skin against skin.
God he wants to get closer, wants to melt into Quill's skin and be a part of him. Then they will never have to return to the world, and this will never have to end...
"My hands are at your throat and I think I hate you
We made the same mistakes, mistakes like friends do"Story Of The Year - Until The Day I Die
On Alcatraz he meets Bobby again and maybe for the last time. A part of him has wanted this fight since they met, to see who is more powerful fire or ice.
It seems like John is winning. He cannot help but relish in that feeling, his triumph over Bobby. After this night Bobby will finally be gone from his life forever, for good.
Suddenly for a split second everything freezes and for a moment there's no war, no mutants, no cure and no death.
Just John and Bobby and their all encompassing, raging, ridiculous love.
Then Bobby headbutts him and everything goes black.