Saints and Sinners
Disclaimer: I don't own these characters. Well, kids, your Uncle TLM is back. I might be a little rusty at this but we'll see what we can do. R/R.
It was always the same dream. He woke in a cold sweat night after night to the same dream. His nightmares subsided when he first arrived in America. Lately, they had returned. St. John Allerdyce assumed that it was because of boredom. You could only watch a tape of your boss exploding so many times before it lost its appeal. The boredom would creep in and with it would come the nightmares just as always. Usually when that happened, Pyro would pack up his life and outrun the ghosts that haunted him. He had been having the nightmares for weeks before he left Australia. Magneto coming to recruit him was like a Godsend. Pyro didn't believe in God though.
It was cold outside. Pyro wasn't used to the cold. It was one of the culture shocks he got when he came to America. His homeland was many things but cold was never one of them. He sucked in a breath of frigid air and looked at the contents of the storage unit. A locker would've been easier and cheaper but he preferred this for some odd reason unknown to even him. The only item in the unit was a clothes rack. The only item on the rack was his costume. The visor hung from the collar like a pair of sunglasses, casting an accusatory gaze at him. It was time to run again. It was time to start over. Realistically, there was no reason to continue being Pyro. The Acolytes were done, their great leader nothing more than a memory. It was time to hang up his flamethrowers and find something else to do with his life.
"Right sad sight that is," he said to himself, patting himself down for a pack of cigarettes and pulling out his lighter with his other hand. "Had some larks didn't we? Good times."
The lighter flicked open with the clink of metal. It was an old lighter he carried with him from home. It had been with him even before he started smoking. The flame of the lighter danced before his eyes and without thinking he reached out to it with his powers. The flame leapt down to the floor and then spiraled upward. It took the shape of a woman just as it always did when he was alone with it.
'Don't go. Please.'
The fire said that to him sometimes. It teased him at some moments but was vulnerable at others. St. John always loved the fire. She was another thing that came with him from his homeland. She was another thing he had to leave behind. Things just weren't the same anymore. He wanted more. He wanted to run. She always ran with him but not this time. It was time to be something new. It was time to make the nightmares stop.
"Have to, luv," he told the fiery construct. "We had some good times though."
'What did I do? What did I do to make you not want me?'
It wasn't her. He wanted to make her understand that but somehow he knew she never would. The thing he learned about fire, and people as well, was that it had to breathe. It consumed oxygen to sustain itself just like a person. People had to breathe. They had to grow and sometimes they outgrew other people. That was the thing about fire. You could only contain it for so long before it grew too large to control.
"Nothin' ya did, luv," he told the fire.
She didn't like the response but it was true. St. John Allerdyce turned to leave, the lighter slipping back into his pocket and his craving for a cigarette momentarily forgotten. He had memorized the bus schedule and had to muster up the courage to take the last one for the evening.
'You'll come back! You always come back and you come back crawling! You'll come back to me in the end!"
The fire dissipated as he closed the door and locked the storage unit. He knew she wouldn't understand. That was the crux of their relationship. They needed each other but now the nightmares were too much. Their relationship was different now. St. John had learned that was what people did. They grew apart from each other. Nothing could last forever. Everything burned out sooner or later. Sometimes he felt like he was living in a dark hole, in a pit that he couldn't quite get out of. Maybe that was why he picked a storage unit instead of a locker. He figured that she could live in there, spruce the place up and make it a good home. He was giving her some space and he hoped that she could afford him the same courtesy. St. John pulled his coat tighter around him and sighed. It was a long walk to the bus station.
St. John was starting to forget the sound of her voice by the time he approached the station. The weird thing was how easy it was to let someone go. He thought it would be harder. He thought it would involve more arguing and fighting. It was a quiet and somber dissolution. Fire could rage with all its fury and power but when it died, it died a slow and quiet death. He had never imagined such a death for himself. He always assumed it would be a blaze of glory for Pyro, a grand and glorious death. In the end though, Pyro just died a slow and quiet death with St. John Allerdyce as his only mourner. He thought it was better that way.
St. John was about to step into the bus station but there was a commotion off to the side. It was late at night and not many people were around. The noise could be heard quite clearly but it seemed he was the only one interested. St. John tried to tell himself not to pay any attention to it. He was no hero, no knight in shining armor. The one time he tried to be still haunted him in his dreams. No, better to stick to his mission than to get sidetracked with other things. It was when he heard the frightened yelp of a girl that he knew he couldn't ignore it any longer.
St. John moved calmly into the alley and studied the scene. There were two thugs and one girl. He guessed her age around eleven or twelve though it was hard given the lack of proper light. Still, it wasn't hard to guess what was going on. In his line of work, or perhaps it was just Pyro's line of work, he got used to such things. He knew that some things could haunt you though.
"I told ya to shut 'er up."
St. John was interested to note the man's accent. It was the same as his. Not many people from the land of Oz made it to the city limits of Bayville. As far as St. John knew, he was the only one.
"It ain't like there's anybody around to hear her."
That voice was American, no mistaking that. St. John moved towards the two men who had now succeeded in their task of silencing the girl. They were average for their occupations. Thugs weren't known for their flamboyancy. Super-villains went in for that but not your average thug.
"Oy!" he hailed the duo. "Got a light fer a bloke? Seems I lost mine." He held up a pack of cigarettes to help sell his story. "Might be willin' ta share."
"Get lost, pal," said the American. "This is private business. Not your concern."
"Who's the girl?" asked St. John and neither of the thugs seemed inclined to answer. "Not gonna share? That's alright. See I got a light aftah all. It's right 'ere."
The thugs seemed perplexed as St. John took out his lighter and flicked it open. Their bewilderment turned to terror as St. John blew the flame towards them and a fireball leapt forth instead. Both of them stumbled backwards and the one holding the girl let her go. Under St. John's direction, the fire morphed into a swarm of skittering insects that crawled all over the men. They screamed and thrashed, rolling in an attempt to get the insects off of them. St. John wasted little time in pulling the girl behind him and back up the way he had come in.
"You're a dead man for that!" snarled the American. He and his partner in crime managed to shake off the bugs and were coming towards him fast.
"Not tonight," said St. John and the fire moved from his lighter to make a wall that would halt their advance. "Dunno what you blokes want with 'er but it's not gonna happen."
The two thugs were irate but there was very little they could do beyond voice their displeasure. The wall could burn them very easily if they tried to force their way through it. St. John spent little time waiting to see if they would try it. He backed out of the alley with the girl in tow and then practically dragged her into the station. He wanted to get her into a crowded area and then let the building's security handle things from there. He also wanted to catch his bus and be on his way but it appeared as if it was too late for that.
"Those creeps were trying to kidnap me," said the girl.
"Bloody hell," sighed St. John when he realized the bus had already left. "That was the last bus outta here tonight and I missed it."
"But you saved my life," reminded the girl. "My name's Julie. What's yours?"
"SinJin," he replied, using the abbreviated version of his name.
"That's a weird name."
"Don't I know it." He sighed again and realized they needed to get somewhere safe for the night. "Those thugs are gonna be lookin' for ya. Tell me why."
Julie looked at the floor and studied it for a few moments before looking back up at him. He could see that he was right about her estimated age range. A lifetime ago when he was that age, he knew a girl that looked like Julie.
"I ran away from home and they found me," she explained. "My dad owns a software company. They probably want his money."
"Well they're not gonna get any," he promised her. "C'mon, we'll get us a nice hotel room and then pop off ta yer parents in the morning."
"I don't wanna go home," she stated.
"And why not?"
"Because I'm a mutant," she told him after another pause. "Dad doesn't like mutants."
St. John Allerdyce looked at this little girl who was more scared of herself than any mugger or kidnapper. He knew what a terrible thing it was to realize for the first time that you were a mutant. It was worse when you were a kid and the world was already scary enough.
"C'mon," he told her as he took her hand. "Let's get ya somewhere safe and then ya show me what ya do. I promise I won't call tha cops on ya or take ya home just yet."
"You won't get mad if I show you?"
"I'm one too."
"Oh." She seemed pleased by his confession and went with him as he tried to find a hotel that would be out of the way.
The hotel was cheap and it was far enough from the bus station that St. John was sure the thugs from the alley couldn't follow them. Magneto kept a small stash of money at the base, money that St. John had pilfered for his own use before leaving. He thought it was mostly there for when the boss's brat son stopped by to visit. He never thought much of Quicksilver. Pietro was his father's son, always scheming some master plan. St. John never went in for all that. It wasn't really his thing.
"This is it?" asked Julie.
"Not a bloody palace but it'll do." He wasn't sure what kind of accommodations she was used to but he imagined they were better than this. "It's just one night, Yer Highness."
Julie shot him a dirty look and then plopped on one of the beds before flicking on the TV. St. John looked at her, trying to shake away the memory that haunted him. He absently played with his lighter, flicking it open and then closing it. The memory of the acrid stench of smoke filled his nose and he threatened to choke on it. The clinking sound from his lighter became more insistent, almost manic.
'Told you that you'd come crawling back, John. I think you set a new record time.'
"Do you mind?" asked Julie and her words brought St. John back to the present and out of the past. "It's really annoying."
"Sorry," he apologized, draping his coat over the back of a chair and sitting on the other bed.
"Why do you keep staring at me?"
"Ya remind me o' someone I knew when I was yer age."
"So what happened to her?"
He didn't answer her question and instead motioned that she should turn off the TV and go to bed. She rolled her eyes and obliged. He didn't want to go into detail about what had happened to Olivia. That was the painful part of his past that he was trying to escape.
'But why escape, John? Why not live in the present with me?'
St. John Allerdyce sighed and put his lighter on the nightstand that was in between the two beds. He turned out the lights and hoped that there would be no nightmares this night. As usual, his hopes were in vain.
Whoever her rescuer was, the girl was now lost to the two thugs. They had doubled back around the wall of fire but by the time they did so, it was too late. They didn't waste any time in going to their superior with the news of their failed kidnapping.
"I gave ya one job," said the man they knew only as Cole. "One blasted job and ya bloody screw that up. We watched 'er place fer weeks ta plan this and then she decided to drop inta our laps instead. How daft do ya 'ave ta be ta screw that up?"
It wasn't our fault," said the American. "this guy showed up and rescued her. I think he was a mutant."
"Bloke 'ad an accent," added the Australian. "It was like ours. He did some tricks with fire."
Cole arched his eyebrow and lifted one of his cybernetic arms to rest his hand under his chin in a quizzical manner. There were few people from his homeland who could do what the two men described. In fact, there was only one that he knew of.
"SinJin," he muttered.
"Ya know him?"
"Yeah. He's an old mate," explained Cole. "The Claymore girl is too valuable to lose. We're gonna find them and get our hands on her. Her dad's gonna pay us a king's ransom for that brat. Reavers, spread out and track 'em down."
The other men in Cole's group moved to comply with his order. Cole smiled at the memory of St. John Allerdyce. Cole and St. John had met growing up on the streets back in Australia and now it seemed their paths would cross once again. Cole couldn't wait to catch up with his old friend though he doubted St. John would enjoy their little reunion.