Pairing: Faith/Pyro (crossover with Angel)
Disclaimer: None of the characters mentioned herein are mine.
Notes: Spoilers for X2 and early Angel episodes that everybody's probably seen already. Title courtesy of dangermouse42. Apparently, it means "the phase between the early stage and the fully developed stage of a fire, where the radiant heat can become so intense that all combustible materials in the room ignite". Seemed suitable, somehow.
The next time Pyro saw Faith, it was just her photo on the TV, a matter of days later, as a newscaster solemnly reported that she'd been arrested for murder.
Since he had no pressing reason to stay away from the LA cops - at least, not yet - he called the prison and got himself a visiting order to go see her.
He barely recognised her. The girl with so much life who he'd met just a few days previously was gone, and in her place sat a crushed woman with lank hair and bruised eyes.
"Jesus, Faith. What the hell happened to you?"
She answered without looking at him.
"What happened to me? A few things I wasn't counting on, that's all."
"What did they get you for? Was it that guy you mentioned in the bar?"
"Who, Angel? No, he's still around. I didn't tell you everything - I did some bad shit back in Sunnydale, and that's why I'm here."
Pyro lowered his voice, so the guard wouldn't hear his next words.
"Listen, I can get you out of this place. The guy in charge of my group - he's called Magneto, and he can get metal to do whatever he wants - bend the bars, kill the guards, anything. Just say the word and we'll break you out."
At that, she finally raised her head, and he saw a flash of the person he'd met, the person she'd once been.
"No! This is where I need to be. Call it penance - call it whatever you like - but I can't leave. Truth is, I came up here knowing that either Angel or me was going to die, and it would probably be me. Do you get it? If I leave prison before they let me out, I'm dead."
"So join us! We could use someone with your strength, and we'll protect you…"
"Pyro. No. You don’t understand. I'm not saying anybody would kill me if I walked out of here right now - except myself. You'll get it one day, if you keep going the way you are."
"What do you mean?"
"Your little band of mutant freedom fighters. They kill people, don't they?"
"You're a good kid at heart, Pyro, and I think you know that. You've gotta lot of anger in you, but you're not evil. If you stick to this path, it'll either turn you dead inside, or it'll kill you. Some people tried to tell me the same thing, a long time ago, but it was already too late for me by then. I'd hate to see it happen to you."
Pyro just looked at her in silence, flicking his lighter open and closed. He could see she believed what she was saying, but he didn't like the implications. She continued:
"It's not too late for you, you know. Skip out. You leave town right now, and they'll never find you. You'll be OK."
"I can't. I've got nowhere else to go."
"How about that school of yours? Wouldn't they take you back?"
"Like hell they would! I told you that night in the bar, I nearly killed some cops, and almost burnt Bobby's house down with his family inside in the process. And then I walked out on them. No, they won't take me back."
"Are you sure? People can be more forgiving than you're giving them credit for, and I don’t think mutants are any different."
"Yes, I'm sure."
Faith looked at him for a long moment, seeing her own younger self in the boy, and knowing that she would never have taken this advice. Still, maybe there was still hope for him…
"OK, if you won't go back to them, will you do one thing for me?"
"Go to see Angel. He runs a business called Angel Investigations, they're in the phone book. If the Englishman and the cheerleader give you any shit, ignore them. Ask to see Angel and tell him I sent you. He'll help you if he can. Will you do that?"
"No promises, but…"
But before Pyro could finish his sentence, they were interrupted. A thin older man and a rather nondescript woman walked into the visitor's hall, and stared straight at them. The man called out:
"Pyro, are you ready yet? We do have things to do, you know."
Faith guessed that this was probably Magneto, or one of Pyro's mutant freedom fighters, at least. She made one last-ditch attempt to break through to the boy sitting in front of her.
"Pyro. Listen. Even if it's not today, or tomorrow, any time you want to get away from these people for good, call Angel, or go to him. Whatever you've done by then, he will help you. Look at me - I'm a murderer, and he still did his best for me. Go to him. Promise me?"
He held her gaze, and nodded, but he didn't say the words. As she watched him walk away from her towards his waiting friends, she could only hope she'd made enough of an impression to save him, one day. But he was so much like her; she didn’t have much hope of that happening soon.
She never saw him again, except on the news.