Fandom: X-Men Movieverse, post X2
Summary: Pyro's education with Magneto is a little different from what he's used to. Pyro comma Magneto (ie: it's gen!) Suitable for ages of all people.
Notes: Written for xmenflashfic Challenge #2: Education. & A tip of the hat to Salman Rushdie.
There were, in fact, days when Pyro actually missed classes. He didn't really miss the lame subjects they'd tried to teach him at Xavier's-- who needed physics when you could get a hands-on lesson in explosives? who needed European history (since 1450) when you could make history?-- but he missed the little opportunities to show off, to goof off. He was certain Magneto would not be entertained if Pyro set his desk on fire ("It wasn't really on fire," he had protested, "I was careful not to let the fire actually touch the wood," but Miss Munroe had still given him detention). And anyway, he didn't have a desk anymore. And if he did, it would have been made out of steel.
But mostly (he told himself) he was happy with the Brotherhood, and if he got more bruises training with Mystique, at least he got less homework from Magneto. Usually.
So now, why did he find himself frowning at a 532-page book? Because Magneto had stalked into Pyro's bedroom and handed it to him.
"Have you ever read this?" he asked.
"Nope," said Pyro, making a bit of a face. Reading wasn't really his thing, although disapproving glances like the one Magneto was giving him right then were enough to make him want to start. Well, maybe to start with Spark Notes, at least.
"No, of course not. It's only won the Booker Prize, and the Booker of Bookers. Why would you want to waste your time with such drivel?" Pyro guessed, accurately, that the best response to this question would be silence and a slightly chagrined face. The worse response would probably be to point out that he had never heard of the Booker Prize.
Magneto paused, took in Pyro's expression, and continued, "Perhaps your interest would be piqued if you knew that the Friends of Humanity recently staged several mass burnings of this book, and that they're calling for it to be banned from all public libraries?"
Pyro shrugged. "Yeah, I guess if they don't like it it's probably pretty good."
"Indeed." He set the book down on Pyro's bed, gave him a parting look that made Pyro not only want to start reading but also to clean his room, and left. The door silently shut itself behind him.
So here he was, staring down the cover of a very thick book. Midnight's Children, the cover proclaimed. Salman Rushdie, author of the bestselling The Ground Beneath Her Feet, it said.
Well, it would probably be better than The Scarlet Letter. He had hated The Scarlet Letter. And, he hoped, Magneto probably wouldn't make him write an essay about it.
He turned to the first page and found a note in Magneto's precise pen. Remember, Pyro: "Wherever they burn books they will also, in the end, burn human beings." -- Heinrich Heine.
He turned past that and found himself bewildered by the book. Was it supposed to be funny? How much of it was true? What did any of this have to do with him? And yet he found himself compelled, somehow, and kept reading. It wasn't until nearly halfway through the book when he realized what, precisely this all had to do with him.
Understand what I'm saying: during the first hour of August 15th, 1947-- between midnight and one am-- no less than one thousand and one children were born within the frontiers of the infant sovereign state of India. In itself, that is not an unusual fact (although the resonances of the number are strangely literary)-- at the time, births in our part of the world exceeded deaths by approximately six hundred and eighty-seven an hour. What made the event noteworthy (noteworthy! There's a dispassionate word, if you like!) was the nature of these children, every one of whom was, through some freak of biology, or perhaps owing to some preternatural power of the moment, or just conceivably by sheer coincidence (although synchronicity on such a scale would stagger even C. G. Jung), endowed with features, talents, or faculties which can only be described as wondrous. It was as though-- if you will permit me one moment of fancy in what will otherwise be, I promise, the most sober account I can manage-- as though history, arriving at a point of the highest significance and promise, had chosen to sow, in that instant, the seeds of a future which would genuinely differ from anything the world had seen up to that time.
Pyro flipped back to read the author bio, then. Was Mr. Rushdie a mutant? When had this even been written? He had never really read anything that talked about mutants-- because, clearly, these Midnight's Children must be mutants-- in such a way. He had heard Magneto talk (at length) and he agreed, of course, yet seeing it written-- in a real book, a real book that had won a real prize (or something)-- made him feel, well, good. Until he remembered that they were burning it.
He kept reading, engrossed by the gifts of the children and disappointed when the story suddenly shifted to the future. Or was it the past?
He paused for meals but kept returning to the book, startled (and maybe even impressed) at how quickly he was making his way through the thick volume. He was unsurprised but still saddened when the Children of Midnight were captured and locked up, when the awakening from anesthesia was cruel indeed, and whispering through the wall came the tale of their undoing, the tormented cry of children who had lost their magic: she had cut it out of us, gorgeously with wide rolling hips she had devised the operation of our annihilation, and now we were nothing, who were we, a mere 0.00007 percent, now fishes could not be multiplied nor base metals transmuted; gone forever, the possibilities of flight and lycanthropy and the originally-one-thousand-and-one marvelous promises of a numinous midnight.
Briefly, Pyro felt like crying; but then, no, he realized, he felt angry. And perhaps, for the briefest of moments, afraid. Could something like that happen to him? To the Brotherhood? To his old friends from Xavier's?
Yes, he knew, it could. But at least he-- and Magneto, and Mystique, and the others, the others to whom Magneto sometimes made mysterious phone calls-- would not go down without a fight.
He kept reading, made it all the way to the end, where he read, Yes, they will trample me underfoot, the numbers marching one two three, four hundred million five hundred six, reducing me to specks of voiceless dust, just as, in all good time, they will trample my son who is not my son, and his son who will nto be his, and his who will not be his, until the thousand and first generation, until a thousand and one midnights have bestowed their terrible gifts and a thousand and one children have died, because it is the privilege and the curse of midnight's children to be both masters and victims of their times, to forsake privacy and be sucked into the annihilating whirlpool of the multitudes, and to be unable to live or die in peace.
He lay awake for a long time before he fell asleep, and the next morning, crankier than usual at breakfast, he could only nod sullenly when Magneto asked him if he had finished the book (sometimes he found it simply convenient to play the role of brooding teenager, but he couldn't get away with it for long).
"And?" Magneto asked. "What were your thoughts on this... inflammatory piece of literature?"
Pyro looked him in the eye and said, "It won't take us a thousand and one generations." Magneto gave him an approving half-smile, and Pyro knew he would never, ever return to Xavier's school, would never return to the X-Men who would let themselves be trampled into dust by pathetic humanity.
PS; The alternate title to this story is: [Insert Pun on Book-Burning Here].
PS2; The italicized quotes are, of course, from Salman Rushdie's wonderful Midnight's Children and are, of course, used without permission.