Paint the Silence

Britt Marshall sighed, and ran a hand through her straight brown hair. She had been away from home for at least a week now, and had no intention of going back. Her parents despised her for what she was, and what she could do, so Britt had resolutely decided she would never come into contact with them again. Ever.

Staring at her silhouette in the dirty, old mirror, she stared down at her hands and felt tears welling up in her eyes. I hate my gift, she thought. It's a burden and a curse…

"Only a burden if you let it be one," a kind, male voice shattered the darkness of the dingy flat.

"W-Who's there?" Britt whispered into the shadows, turning around to face the dark room.

"I suggest you use your talent to reveal my identity," the same male voice said. Britt weighted her options. What if this man was not to be trusted? He could be part of some society that set out to destroy all mutants. However, Britt's impulsiveness got the better of her and she turned the palm of her hand up towards the ceiling, thought hard, and a fireball suddenly appeared out of thin air, barely brushing her skin. It floated there, burning brightly, and its beautiful light began to cast shadows around the room and finally, Britt found who had spoken.

A man (much older than she was) stepped (or rather wheeled) closer into the light. He was completely bald, with crinkles around his eyes and he had a serious expression, although he did not look unkind.

"Ms Marshall, it's a real pleasure to finally meet you. I'm Professor Charles Xavier, and if you will listen, I have an offer that I hope you will not refuse," the man said. He had such a kind voice that Britt couldn't help but automatically trust him.

"Would it be possible to light up the whole of this room?" he asked.

Britt took a deep breath and sighed. Her brother had asked her nearly the exact same question a week ago, right before she had run away.

"I… I c-can't do that, sir," Britt said, feeling rather sheepish. The flame hovering above her hand burned out.

"I understand, Ms Marshall. And I don't mean to be rude, but, is there electricity in this place?"

Britt smiled in the darkness and Xavier heard her scurry over to one side of the room, and at the flick of a switch, the darkness was obliterated by the light coming from a solitary bulb above their heads.

"Much better, thank you. Shall we sit?" Xavier asked, gesturing towards a chair by an incredibly dusty table.

Britt nodded in reply and went to sit in one chair whilst Xavier rolled over towards her.

"You are probably wondering what I am doing here." He didn't wait for an answer before continuing. Britt just blinked at him. Xavier went on to talk about his own special school for mutants, and how other mutants, just like she, lived there and learned to control and evolve their powers effectively. He told her he had come to offer her a place at the school, and would be very happy if she accepted.

Britt was rendered speechless. Finally, something good was happening in her life… something that might help her forget the horrific past. Finding her voice, she said, "I'd love to go to your school."

Xavier smiled and the lines around his eyes crinkled. "I knew you were going to say that."

Intrigued, Britt asked, "How?"

"Why, I'm surprised you haven't figured it out yet. I have the ability to read minds, and manipulate minds. Don't worry," he added at the look on Britt's face. "I would never manipulate the minds of my students, unless there was a pertinent reason to do so."

Britt felt more relaxed at these words, and waited for Xavier to continue.

"Now, before we leave, I'd really like to learn more about your power, and if you don't mind, why you are staying here when you have family in Cincinnati?"

Britt wondered why Xavier bothered asking questions when all he had to do was read her mind for an answer.

"I feel it rude to find the answer in someone's thoughts sometimes, preferring to hear it from their own mouths. I hope you understand this," Xavier said quickly, clearing up any misunderstanding.

Britt nodded, and proceeded to create a fire ball in her hand, and it hovered over her palm.

"Well, this is it," she announced, her eyes fixated on the flames. When Xavier did not say anything, Britt continued. "I discovered this gift a few months ago, in all honesty. I found out I can only create the fire, but cannot manipulate it in any way. Although, if …" Britt stopped speaking and hesitated. Xavier gave her a reassuring nod, and she found the strength to go on. "If I place this fire near an object, it will burst into flames on immediate contact." She felt her breath catch in her throat suddenly, and couldn't go further with her story. The flame on her hand disappeared.

"Thank you. I daresay you and one of my current students will have a lot in common, Ms Marshall."

Britt stood alone in her newly acquired room, unpacking her things and putting them into empty drawers and hanging some on coat hangers. She had been at the mansion for only twenty minutes, but it seemed like two hours had passed since she had gone through the large doors to be greeted with great enthusiasm by the other students her own age. She couldn't remember all their names, but the first she had met surely stood out from the rest. Storm, one of the teachers, who explained she was able to control the weather, gave Britt a warm welcome and told her a few things about the mansion, including certain rules. They were shortly joined by Bobby and Rogue, who seemed to be really close friends. Britt suspected something more, but didn't ask about it. The pair started to ask questions about her when even more students came into the room, wanting to know who she was. Not really wanting to be the centre of attention, Britt asked if she could be shown to a room. Bobby and Rogue took up the offer immediately and they took her to the place she was currently in now, Rogue chattering incessantly about the school and Bobby trailing behind them, carrying Britt's things like a gentleman.

Britt wasn't sure if she wanted the pair to leave her, but then again she needed some space to consider all that had happened during the past week and recollect her thoughts. Suddenly, she sensed someone watching her, and looking up towards the doorway she saw a young man leaning against the door frame ever-so casually. He had dirty blonde hair that had been slicked back but was threatening to fall over his eyes. Britt thought he might be around 5'9, as she was 5'6, and she couldn't deny he was pretty good-looking, and had quite a charismatic presence.

"So, you're the new kid, huh?" he said smoothly.

"Good observation," Britt replied, not at all fazed by his brashness, but she wasn't sure she liked the way he seemed to drill a hole through her. Perhaps he was like Professor Xavier, and could read minds too?

"What can you do then?" He flicked up the lid of the Zippo lighter he was carrying and Britt upturned her nose. She wasn't a big fan of smoking, and had never tried a cigarette in her life. He continued to flick open the lid, and then close it. Click, click. It was getting rather irritating.

"Could you stop that?" she asked politely.

The young man rolled his eyes and said, "You telling me what to do?"

Britt furrowed her brows and stared at him impatiently as he continued to flick open the lighter and then close it. She glared at him when he started smirking, and then put her attention back on the lighter. Click, click. Click, click. Click – Britt impulsively leapt the two paces towards the doorway and grabbed the lighter right out of his hands, quickly rushing back over to her bed.

"You give that back!" he said, voice rising, clearly very annoyed. He stepped into her room a bit more.

"Give me one good reason," Britt replied bravely.

The young man looked murderous, and yet Britt was keeping relatively calm.

"Flick it open," he said suddenly. Britt raised an eyebrow. "Flick – it – open," he demanded through gritted teeth.

Lifting her hands up as in surrender, Britt flicked open the lighter and a flame appeared.

"Ooh, I'm so scared by a teeny weeny flame," she said in a teasing voice, although she appeared braver than she actually felt. She didn't know what this guy was capable of.

"You not scared of a single flame?" he asked, although it was more a statement than an actual question. Britt nodded anyway, raising her eyebrows at him. "Fine, then maybe you won't be afraid of this."

Before Britt could do anything, he had taken the flame right from the lighter and it hovered there, above his palm. He winked at her and the flame got a little bigger… and bigger… and bigger. Soon it was a fairly good-sized fireball and Britt suddenly realised this guy could manipulate fire. She had read about such cases on the internet, and how these kinds of mutants weren't actually able to create their own flames, hence the lighter he had been carrying.

Britt felt a little intimated by the large, overbearing flame, which was heating up the whole room, but she suddenly had a brainwave and held out her palm in front of her. She was going to show him a thing or two. The young man stared at her palm quizzically, and then Britt created a flame to appear above it - out of nowhere.

"Bet you can't do that," she said icily, and the young man looked rather affronted.

"That's bullshit," he spat, and the fireball hovering over his palm grew just a little larger.

"Do you even know what I can do with this flame?" Britt asked, and he continued to stare at her. "If this singular, innocent little flame touches ANY object, any at all, it will immediately burst into flames. Every last bit of the object will be completely submerged in this flame. And it will burn, or them – from the inside-out." She stepped closer towards him on the last three words, and she was surprised to see fear in his eyes, but it didn't last long.

"Well, you know what? I can manipulate any flames I see with my mind. I could make this whole place burn down if I wanted to. I can create fireballs like this, and larger. Now who has the upper hand?"

"But you can't create them," Britt pointed out, her voice raising a syllable.

"You can't make them MOVE!" the young man yelled.

"AT LEAST I DON'T HAVE TO USE A PATHETIC LIGHTER!" Britt was yelling too now, her face flushed and eyes glistened with hatred.


But before Britt could find out what he would do, Bobby walked in her room, saw the situation they were in and put two and two together.

"CUT IT OUT, for goodness sake! Real good example, John." Bobby iced both Britt's and the young man's flames and shook his head. "You want to get us all killed?" Both the flames, now ice balls, dropped to the floor and evaporated.

"Tell her to give me my lighter back!" John said indignantly.

"Britt, please." Bobby sighed. He feared something like this might happen one day. Playing with fire was a dangerous thing for one mutant, but for two?

Britt looked down at the lighter still in her hands. She felt guilty. She had only been at the school for an hour and had already caused a scene with another student. And it just so happened to be a student who could manipulate fire. Taking one last look at the shark design, Britt chucked the lighter back to John who caught it with one hand.

He didn't even say thanks, but gave her one last glower and stalked out of the room. Bobby watched him turn the corner, but John waited until Bobby had stepped inside Britt's room. Then he walked quietly back down the hallway, and stood just outside the door to listen to what they were saying.

"Listen Britt, you don't really wanna mess around with… John. He has issues, especially if someone reminds him he can't create fire," Bobby explained as he walked in. Britt flopped down onto the bed and put her head in her hands.

"I've fucked things up now, haven't I?" she said quietly, her voice shaking. Outside the door, John leaned closer to the doorway to hear.

"I don't really think you have, Britt. Well, maybe just a little but…"

"Bobby, I really didn't expect for that to happen… He was just so cocky and the way he was flicking that lighter!" Britt said, starting to feel her eyes brimming with tears.

"Listen, John will cool off. I'll talk to him, if you want," Bobby suggested.

"No, don't do that."

"Well, then you talk to him!" Bobby said.

"If I wasn't questioning his sanity, then maybe I would," Britt said and Bobby grinned a little, but turned serious again.

"Well, I'm not your normal kind of guy," John muttered to himself outside. Unfortunately, Bobby heard it and stood up. He knew John had a tendency to eavesdrop.

"Listen; just stay here for a sec…"

Puzzled, Britt watched Bobby walk out of the door. She could hear whispering, and this made her even more curious. Then, expecting Bobby to walk back through the door, Britt was shocked when who should walk in but John.

"What are you doing here?" she asked dejectedly, clearly not in the mood to argue.

John took a deep breath, and mumbled, "IcametosayI'msorry."


"I said I'm sorry, alright." Britt figured it had taken a lot to say that – but she reckoned Bobby had something to do with it.

"I suppose I'm sorry, too, for getting you all worked up like …" Britt trailed off and stood up, putting her hands in her jeans pockets. "Shall we start over? I'm Britt," she suggested, sticking out a hand for him to shake.

John looked at it warily. Great going, Britt, she chastised herself for such a ludicrous idea. But then she decided to add some humour.

"I'm not going to set you alight, you know." This broke up some of the tension surrounding them and John placed his hand in hers for a brief, but firm handshake.

"John, but I like to call myself Pyro," he said.

"As in pyromaniac?"

"Kinda…" He looked at the ground. "So, what's your name?"

"I already told you, it's Britt," she replied, wondering what he was talking about.

"No, I mean your real name." John rolled his eyes, and started flicking the lid of his lighter again. Britt ignored it.

"Oh, it's Blaze." Britt had only just come up with it but he wasn't to know that.

John nodded, and there was a sudden silence. "Listen, I don't like awkward silences," he said, "so I'm gonna go, ok? See you around."

"Okay… Bye then," Britt said, feeling a little abashed, and then he left, leaving her to stare at the spot where he had previously been.

She suddenly remembered what Professor Xavier had told her:

"…I daresay you and one of my current students will have a lot in common, Ms Marshall."

"Maybe we have too much in common?" she wondered aloud, sighed, and turned to finish unpacking.

The next few weeks passed rather slowly as Britt found herself more at home in the school. She attended several classes a week and made good friends with Bobby and Rogue, who were more than happy to help her settle in properly. This was all well and good, but Britt was longing to be more in contact with John, even though they had had a rocky start. They both filled each other's voids in terms of powers; Britt creating fire, John manipulating it. Both could do what the other couldn't, and somehow she thought they might make a very good team; if she could even find him to begin with.

Ever since the day John had left Britt's room, they hadn't spoken since. They shared one class; History, and didn't sit together, so it would look a bit obvious if Britt turned her attention on him all of a sudden. If they by chance passed in the hallways, he would look at her but quickly look away, not saying anything. Britt didn't even see him in the cafeteria. She assumed he took his food to eat up in his bedroom, and imagined he preferred to be alone than amongst large groups of people. Britt wanted to get to know him and he was avoiding her. Maybe he just doesn't like me?

John smoothed a hand through his dirty blonde hair and tried to concentrate on his studies. They had been learning about the American Revolution in History, and all John had taken in was the fact there were thirteen colonies. The reason he couldn't concentrate was obvious – his thoughts were elsewhere, on a girl with hair that flowed freely around her shoulders, eyes like a chocolate soufflé… Snap out of it, Pyro, he chastised himself. You're not getting soft over a girl are you?

As soon as he had left Britt's room, he had never really expected to find another mutant who had similar powers to himself. Or even one so feisty and he smirked at that. Normally girls would either be scared of his fire, or just stare at him and have dreamy looks on their faces. He despised it. And so when Britt had reacted in a completely different way, he hadn't known how to react.

If his suspicions were correct, Professor Xavier hadn't brought her to the school for the singular reason that she was a mutant, no. John believed he himself was somehow part of the reason. Nevertheless, John had found the new girl rather alluring, which was a first considering he hardly ever thought of anybody other than himself. But why have I been avoiding her? The answer was simple: he quite liked her, but if someone like Iceman got a hold of this notion, he would never let John forget it, and thus John kept his feelings bottled up, resorting to a cockier, more assertive attitude on the outside.

Britt lay in her bed, staring at the clean, white ceiling. This wouldn't have been the first time the 17-year-old couldn't get to sleep; the nights she had spent in the miserable, run-down apartment on the outskirts of Cincinnati had been of somnambulistic nature. Nights spent not being able to sleep, walking around aimlessly as the images running through her brain consumed her every thought. Not knowing what she would be eating the following mornings, or if somebody would find her. Disconcerting, worrying thoughts. Now that she was at the school, she had slept considerably well and even had the luxury of an ordinary dream – no nightmares. However, on this particular night Britt was restless, and decided to head down to the kitchen for a midnight snack.

Upon entering the kitchen, the sight that greeted her eyes rendered her rather speechless. There was Pyro, (as she now liked to refer to him) sitting at one of the counters looking quite disheartened, playing with a flame. The light flickered over his features and gave him a fairly intense demeanour. Britt wondered if he wanted to be alone, and if he had midnight escapades in the kitchen regularly. Dismissing these thoughts, she walked quietly into the room until she was in his line of vision, and said:

"Can't sleep?"

John looked up, a little startled, but softened when he saw who had spoken. Britt took this as a good sign. At least he didn't look angry or anything. After registering her question, he shook his head.

"Me neither," she replied. "So I guess we're the only insomniacs this evening?"

"Coffee?" John suggested, ignoring her statement and indicating towards his empty mug. He wasn't sure why he was being so nice to her.

"I much prefer hot chocolate."

"Same, but there's normally hardly any left because the younger ones nick all the sachets." He seemed annoyed just thinking about it.

Britt grinned at this and started to rummage through cupboard after cupboard, looking for mugs, spoons and the hot chocolate sachets.

"Need some light?" John asked.

"Yeah, please," Britt replied, knowing full well she could create light herself but she already knew he didn't like being reminded he couldn't actually create his own flame. He drew the flame closer to Britt so that she could see what she was doing. "Thanks, Pyro."

"Who said you could use my name?" John asked, giving her a quizzical look.

Suddenly Britt looked uncomfortable. "Sorry, John."

John hesitated. Maybe it wasn't such a bad idea if he let the new girl use his real name. After all, he felt a sense of self-satisfaction when hearing it out of someone else's mouth.

"Look, just call me Pyro alright. That'll make things easier," he said finally.

Britt didn't say anything, but he knew she had understood. She had also found what she was looking for in terms of kitchen cutlery. "Did you want one?" she asked a little timidly. This guy was so unpredictable.

"Who'd pass up hot chocolate?"

"A fair point!" Britt grinned; thankful Pyro hadn't rejected her, and began to prepare their hot chocolates whilst he held the flame steady and watched her. He admired the way she wasn't really all that frightened of him, and how she didn't get all shy by his presence, or worse, engrossed in his appearance.

"Do you have water and milk, or just milk?" Britt asked him.

"Just milk," Pyro replied, slightly amused at such a question but he realised it was a logical one. Just nobody had asked him it before.

"Good. That's the only way to have it." Britt gained a smirk from Pyro and she smiled.

After a few minutes of silence the hot chocolates were ready and Britt offered one mug to him. Pyro suddenly extinguished the flame in his hand and they were left in the dark.

"Pyro, what are you doing?"

"Just hang on, Blaze," he said and Britt liked the way he said her alias in his smooth American accent.

She heard him open a drawer somewhere and figured he knew the kitchen like the back of his hand. From the dim light filtering through the almost-closed blinds she could make out his silhouette by the counter. Suddenly, she saw a flame appear out of his lighter and realised what he was doing; he was lighting a few candles so they could drink but have light at the same time. Britt wasn't sure what his intentions were, after all candles were considered a romantic thing, but then perhaps if the kitchen lights were turned on it would be blinding to their now sensitive eyes, which had been used to the dark. Britt didn't realise that this was a side to him hardly anyone saw – his thoughtfulness.

After all six candles were lit, Pyro walked over to Britt to retrieve his mug. "Here you go," she said quietly.

"Thanks," he whispered back.

They sat next to each other at the counter, sipping their drinks in silence, both keeping their eyes on the iridescent flames of the candles. Britt was trying to come up with something to say but cowardice overran her former confidence. Feeling quite unimpressed with her inability to make conversation with a guy she might actually have a crush on, Britt sighed and perhaps this was the cue Pyro had been waiting for.

"I've been meaning to ask," he began, and Britt felt quite astonished. He'd wanted to talk to her? "Are you Australian?"

Britt chuckled. "Didn't you recognise my accent?"

"Well, I guess I was a little preoccupied with our, um… first meeting to really register it," Pyro admitted, and although the candle-light wasn't enough to light up his whole face, Britt could see he was trying hard not to remember what she'd said about his incapability to create fire.

"But yes, I'm Australian. I was born and bred in Sydney but we moved to Cincinnati when I turned fourteen. So I haven't quite picked up the Ohio dialect, yet."

Pyro's eyes went wide a little, and he suddenly grinned.

"I was born in Sydney, too…"

"You were!" Britt said, completely taken by surprise.

"Yeah. We moved to New York when I was five, though."

"Technically you're still an Aussie," Britt pointed out.

"Maybe," he replied.

"So why did you move to New York?" Britt asked, trying to keep the conversation going.

Pyro's face tensed slightly and he thought quickly before saying, "I really don't wanna talk about it." But the truth was he did want to talk about it. But could he trust this new girl? What if she just went blabbing to Bobby and Rogue straight afterwards?

"Okay, sure. No pressure," Britt said, draining the last of her hot chocolate and taking it over to the sink where she washed it out, drying it and placing it back in the cupboard.

Whilst she was doing this, Pyro seriously considered telling her about why they had moved to New York. He decided if she told Bobby he would set fire to her bed – but if she didn't tell anybody… then possibly Britt could be a real friend. Pyro had friends, sure, but not very close ones. He had become a third wheel the minute Bobby and Rogue had taken their friendship further, and he was fed up with the girls at school who followed him round like he was a Greek god. Britt seemed quite exceptional. They had so many connections, too… both born in Sydney, both associated with fire in some way. Both like hot chocolate, Pyro added as an afterthought. And so he decided to give the new girl a chance.

When Britt turned around and found Pyro staring at her, she bit her lip nervously but returned to her seat. A few of the candles had blown out and she instinctively extended her palm, creating fire to appear over the palm of her hand. She was just about to light the wick when Pyro grabbed her wrist and pulled it back a little.

"I haven't forgotten what you told me about your ability, Blaze," he said. "And if I'm not mistaken you would have made that candle into one sticky, horrible mess."

Britt looked horrified at the mistake she had almost made, and blushed. "Oh, shit."

Pyro almost laughed, but stopped himself. "Let me handle it." He concentrated on the fire in Britt's palm carefully, and very slowly the flame left her palm and travelled across the counter. Britt watched interestedly as he re-lit the candles scrupulously, his brows furrowed and lips slightly parted. Once he had lit the candles, he exhaled gently and only the flame hovering in the air blew out.

Britt was astonished at his sudden gentleness with the flame, but didn't comment on it. Before she could say anything, though, Pyro had spoken.

"Could I tell you something?" he asked.

Curious, Britt replied, "Sure."

"I'm not joking when I say this, but if I hear even a gist of what I'm about to tell you outside of these walls, I will personally kill you."

Britt couldn't tell if he was serious, or joking, but whatever the case she was a good secret-keeper and would never betray his sudden trust in her. "Your secret is safe with me."

And so Pyro quietly confided in her why he and his family had left for New York during the summer right before his 6th birthday. He explained that it had been an extremely hot day in Sydney when his parents found out he was a mutant.

"I was trying to make fire, you see. I had a few sticks piled up on top of each other on the dying grass outside our house, and I'd seen in some film this guy rub two sticks together to create a bonfire. I picked up two sticks and did as I remembered from that film, and I'm not sure how it happened, but the next thing I knew was I had created a bonfire with flames almost higher than the house…

"My parents, intelligent as they were, figured out I had the uncommon mutant ability to manipulate fire. They believe I created a small spark with the sticks, and then because of my determination to make fire, it just… burst out, if you know what I mean. But, after that, we moved to New York all of a sudden so I could get a 'better education'. But I know that's bullshit. They wanted to get me away from the pro-mutant society we were living in at the time. They thought I was going to tun into some pyromaniac." Britt was surprised to see him smirk a little, but he then turned serious again. "They didn't like looking at me… and my older sister refused to tuck me into bed like she used to, like I was some sort of poison."

Pausing briefly to re-gather his thoughts, Pyro continued. "As I grew older, my father started to beat me." Britt opened her mouth to speak, but Pyro cut her off. "Save it." Britt closed her mouth and rested her chin on her palm, her whole face lit up with concern. "Even as I got older it was hard to understand why he hit me more than he hit my sister. I guess I assumed he was just disciplining me, as you do to disobedient boys. But one day I figured out he only hit me because I was a 'gifted child', as my mother told me, a mutant. I used to love Mom. But she turned hostile towards me, just like everybody else.

"Growing up in an anti-mutant society didn't really help, either. Along with my dysfunctional family I didn't have any friends. I was pretty much tormented and ridiculed because of my powers. Everybody knew about them – my Mom was the suburb gossip. Older boys used to pick on me and tell me to make fire, but when I said that I couldn't…" Pyro stopped there, and Britt saw a tear slide down his cheek which he rubbed away hastily. "I reckon they could have killed me, right there and then. I owe my life to some kid who was smoking a cigarette. Did you know, even if I see the smallest of flames, I can still manipulate them and make them bigger with my mind? Well, I suppose you could guess the rest. Last I heard those kids were in hospital, mulling over their burns and wondering why they ever messed with a mutant, especially one like me."

Pyro's eyes suddenly glinted with malice. "Then Xavier found me as a fugitive, living life amongst other mutants who had been neglected and abused. At least I had been safe, away from all the bastards who despise who we are." He had flared up suddenly, and the flames of the candles grew.

"You're safe now," Britt spoke up suddenly. She had been silent the whole time, an excellent listener, but at her words Pyro seemed to grow even more malevolent.

"You know what I did recently? Before you came to the school?" he said, voice raising a syllable. Britt shook her head. "I let my anger get the better of me, and practically blew up a few police cars. I don't even know if I killed anyone or not." His voice was shaking now, and the candles' flames grew bigger still.

"W-Why?" Britt asked, feeling apprehensive.

Pyro's face softened, and he rubbed his forehead. "Because… first I was envious of Bobby's happy little family. Then he confessed to them that he was a mutant, and even demonstrated what he could do. But no, his parents were horrified and his fucked up brother had to go and call the police. Do you call that a happy family? It just made me so ANGRY!" The flames of the candles had risen so much that Britt feared they might scald the ceiling.

"Pyro, listen. You probably think I've come from a loving family, but I haven't." She unconsciously grasped Pyro's hand, but he didn't object. "My story might not match the… brutality of yours, but you might find comfort in knowing you're not alone, Pyro."

The flames of the candles were blown out suddenly, and Britt realised Pyro had tears rolling down his cheeks.

Unsure of what to do next, Britt awkwardly squeezed his hand tighter, and then let go. Pyro grasped for her arm, and before she knew it he had pulled her into a hug, tears falling rapidly down his face, dampening her pyjamas. She put her arms around him and rubbed his back, her feelings quite a mess.

Suddenly Pyro jumped back, as if he had been electrocuted. Britt looked confused. He shook his head and quickly rubbed away the tears. Getting up from his seat, he stared at Britt in disbelief, and then stalked from the kitchen, back to his bedroom, flicking the lid of his lighter vigorously as he went.

Britt gazed at his empty mug helplessly, and whispered to herself, "I thought you might like to know, Pyro… I killed my brother."

Britt stayed in the kitchen for another ten minutes, painting an impenetrable silence, before retreating to her room. Her dreams were filled with red hot flames, thick, black smoke, bone-chilling screams, and a pleading, barely audible voice, whispering the same thing over and over…

Don't let me die, Britt, please don't let me die.

Don't paint the silence black now save me
Don't leave it a day
You got a right to stand or die so maybe
You take chances all the same
Pain comes in stages
If we don't make it
Nothing changes

Now the violence sleeps inside

Abandoned feeling for just a state of mind

It's the reason why your teething side frustrates me

Pyro and Britt didn't speak to each other for quite a few days, but Rogue just happened to speak to both of them and had an inkling something had happened.

"Britt, do you know what's wrong with John?"

Bobby had Physics; Britt and Rogue a free study period, so they had decided to sit in the library together.

"Nope," Britt replied a little too quickly.

"You know something. And you know that I know you know something."

Britt looked at her with a baffled expression. "I think I just lost a brain cell trying to decipher what you just said." Rogue laughed, but sighed.

"Britt, John's different. That's all. He's being nice to everyone. He's not even showing off with his lighter. I thought you might know, since… well, since…" she trailed off.

"Since what?" Britt wondered.

"Since you keep staring at each other."

Britt blushed deeply. Had it really been that obvious?

"That doesn't prove anything," she said lamely, face still pink.

"Maybe he likes you," Rogue said with a silly grin on her face.

"Yeah, right," Britt replied. But she secretly wished Rogue's words were true.

"John's always been so secretive about his family, and what his life was like before he came to the school. Nobody here knows why," Rogue considered.

Britt felt a sudden urge of compassion towards Pyro, and even felt a little angry at Rogue's words. "Well, nobody ever went, or even wanted, to find out more about him, did they? Who's to blame for that?"

"We tried, you know. He just shut everyone out!" Rogue protested, surprised at Britt's outburst.

"He didn't shut me out," Britt muttered loud enough for only Rogue to hear. Then she got up from the table.

"Where are you going?"

"To find someone nobody else cares about."

After nearly fifteen minutes of aimless searching, Britt gave up. She had checked all the places Pyro usually hung-out, even his bedroom, but he was nowhere to be found. By chance she looked out a window of the top floor, and saw a lone figure striding across the snow, his dirty blonde hair being blown about by a slight wind. Could it be?

Not even thinking about getting her winter coat and gloves, Britt rushed down the stairs and pushed open the door to go outside onto the grounds. Shivering from the cold that greeted her exposed skin, Britt clung onto her thin jacket and followed the person's footsteps in the snow. She finally found them, or rather, him, and hesitated. Should she call out his name? What if it wasn't actually Pyro, but someone else? There were hundreds of students at the school. Making up her mind, Britt grinned slightly and then called, "HEY, PYRO!"

He turned around, and when Britt saw his face, she knew it was really him.

Pyro stood right on the edge of the grounds, the tall trees and the white snow creating a picturesque backdrop. His hands were in the pockets of his navy jacket, and although he was still a fair distance away from her, Britt could see he was surprised to see her.

They stared at each other for a few seconds until Pyro called, "Blaze?" and smiling, Britt ran up to where he was standing.

"Hi," she said, putting her hair behind her ear, her arms wrapped around her shivering body.

"You cold?" Pyro asked.

"I think I just might be," she breathed, her breath foggy against the chilly air.

"Do you want my jacket?" he offered, and Britt bit her lip. She hadn't expected such a kind gesture.

"But then you'll be cold."

"I don't care. We can make fire to keep warm," Pyro replied, and proceeded to remove his jacket. Britt noted his use of the word 'we'. He passed his jacket over to her, and Britt took it gladly, whispering her thanks. She put it on and flushed a little – it was still warm.

Pyro began to walk again, so Britt trudged on alongside him, his jacket giving her the most comfortable warmth. They walked in silence for a while, not really knowing what to say. The night Pyro had spilled his secrets still rang in Britt's mind, and she had kept her promise by not telling a soul. She thought she owed him, and thus decided to tell him something that had been haunting her thoughts for the past few days.

"Pyro, I think you ought to know something about me," she said, thinking over her words carefully.

Pyro looked at her, seemingly intrigued, and his hazel eyes urged her to continue.

"Something happened the week before Xavier brought me to the school, and since you told me about your past, I think you ought to know about mine."


Britt had stopped walking. "Maybe we should sit down somewhere?"

Pyro nodded and they spotted a fallen tree trunk in the snow ten metres ahead of them. Walking up to it, the pair sat down, and Britt created fire to appear above her palm.

"This," she said, indicating towards the dancing flames, "is why my eight-year-old brother is no longer here today." Britt watched for Pyro's reaction. He raised his eyebrows slightly, but said nothing, so Britt continued.

"My brother and I were playing hide-and-seek in the spare room of our house. It's the best place to play the game because there are no windows, so of course when you close the door and turn off the light it's impossible to see. Anyway, we were playing around when suddenly my brother asked me, 'Can we light up this room?' I knew what he was referring to – he knew about my talent, and how I can create fire. So of course I showed him what I could do. What I didn't bargain on was him pulling my wrist towards a side-table lamp. He thought I could light it up without flicking the switch…

"Before I could pull my hand back, it was too late. The flames on my palm caught onto the lamp and it immediately burst into flame." Tears were sliding down Britt's face, but she ignored them and found strength to continue. "I couldn't stop the fire. It was like a domino effect – first the lamp, then some towels or whatever it was, and nearly the whole room was ablaze. The smoke clogged up my lungs and I could hardly breathe, let alone find where my brother had got to.

"Then, I saw what had happened. I was standing close to the door, and a line of fire had divided the room. My brother was on the other side, screaming my name. There was no way he was going to get out. The fire had him trapped. My fire, Pyro! The flames from my own hand KILLED HIM!"

Pyro could see Britt was struggling to fight back the tears, but she overcame them, wiping her eyes. She had already cried enough tears in the miserable flat and couldn't cry anymore. The flame that had been hovering over her palm at the start of her story had died out long ago. Pyro stared at her. He had to let her know he cared, and felt sorry for what had happened. But how could he, when words had failed him? An idea suddenly popped into his head, and he had to stop himself from smirking or Britt would think him insensitive.

Grasping her cold hand in his, Pyro used his free hand to tilt her chin up slightly so he could look into her eyes.

"Pyro -" Britt began, unsure of his intentions.

"Shhh," he hushed her gently, and Britt was finding it hard to look away from his intense gaze.

Then, the unexpected occurred. Pyro leant forward and when Britt didn't move away, he closed the gap between them and placed the softest kiss imaginable on her lips. Britt's eyes closed, and heart racing, was just about to reciprocate it when Pyro pulled away, much to her disappointment. Her face flushed prettily, both from the cold and the wonder of new discovery. Pyro took his hand away from her chin, and Britt expected him to get up and walk away. Instead, he placed his hand underneath her hair at the nape of her neck, before leaning closer to kiss her again… and again… and again…

And even though a battle raged on between the X-Men and the Brotherhood, Pyro and Blaze were content in each other's arms, if only for a short while.

Pain comes in stages

If we don't make it
Nothing changes

Now the violence sleeps inside


+ This was written for Britt (http/fadedpresence. + The lyrics featured in it are by South, from their song "Paint the Silence"
+ This was my first ever X-Men fic, so please be nice! I'm sorry if the characterisation of Pyro is a little haywire. And writing about his past was a bit hard... I think I'm alright with what I came up with, though.
+ Please review to let me know what you think!