Title: Story Time
Prompt: 11. How John Survived Before He Got to the Mansion
Words: 1,949 words
“John what’d you do before you came to the Mansion?”
They always started their nights like this. It was something Bobby had dubbed story time. Originally, it had been made so John could tell Bobby more about himself and not feel threatened and exercise some creativity at the same time. John would come up with two or three stories to tell Bobby before they fell asleep, one would be the truth and the other(s) would be fiction and it was up to Bobby to figure out which was which.
“I was a cowboy, drug dealer, and a normal kid.” John started, rolling over so he was lying next to Bobby rather than on top of him. “Which do you want to hear first?”
“I don’t care.” These nights were all about John and Bobby did as little to intrude in them as possible, even picking which story John would tell him first. Waiting for John to begin Bobby began running his fingers through the pyrokinetic’s brown hair.
“Well, I was born outside this tiny town called Caldwell; it’s about sixty miles East of Austin, the capital of Texas.” John began; hazel eyes closed as he envisioned or imagined the story and told it to Bobby. “I have a pretty big family, three sisters, two great uncles, all four of my grandparents, two of my great grandparents, two great aunts, two parents, and a million cousins, second cousins, and third cousins.
“One of my great uncles, his wife, and their two sons live on a house in the ranch that my great uncle, Jerald, made. It sits on the top of a huge hill with a bunch of tall trees surrounding it. We go to that house for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and family reunions. My great-grandfather and his girlfriend live in another house there, closer to the road than Jerald. People meet up there before coming to Jerald’s. Next to them is the renter’s house, at the edge of our property away from all the cattle and woods.
“I live with my parents and sisters in a two story house in the back eighteen acres of our ranch, farther from the main road than my PawPaw or Uncle Jerald.” As John spoke he gained an accent, a slight drawl on his letters and a slowing of his speech. “I never left the ranch except for funerals and weddings, I was home schooled because of how far we lived from town. The ranch was my life; we raise mixed cattle - Braymer and Angus. We’ve got over five hundred head total and it has been good. When I was thirteen I first found out about my powers. . .” A pause and John’s eyes don’t open he only takes a deep breath before continuing.
“It was Thanksgiving and my aunt Gayle - Jerald’s wife - was helping me and Dad set up a bonfire. My dad was always more of a pyromaniac than me; he’d always say a bonfire wasn’t big enough unless you could see it from space.” John chuckled dryly and shook his head at the (imagined?) memory. “We’d hauled three dead trees into the empty space in front of the house and doused it in gasoline. My Aunt Gayle was going to light the bonfire that year - I don’t even remember why she got the privilege. Either way when she lit the lighter she hadn’t washed her hands and had them covered in gasoline. Her hands started burning and she started screaming, everyone started freaking out. All I wanted was for my Aunt Gayle to be safe and for the fire not to hurt her.” Another slight pause. “And then before I knew it, the fire was listening to me. In front of my entire family I showed them I was a mutant.
“I thought they were going to disown me for sure. They were always racist against something. First it was black and Mexicans, then after 9/11 it was Arabs, then gays with the whole gay rights thing, then mutants. I was so afraid I looked at my dad and he said that I should go home and wait for him. So, I got in my truck and went back to the house. I went to my room and sat on my bed and stared at my hands until my dad came into my room. He sat on the bed next to me then he hugged me. Didn’t yell at me, didn’t hit me, didn’t disown me, he just hugged me and said everything was going to be alright.” John’s voice caught in his throat and he was quiet for a few moments, getting himself under control again. “I never cried until then Bobby, ever. A week later Jean Grey and the Professor showed up, told my parents about Xavier’s and then they sent me here.”
Then John slid into his second story, the drug dealer one. “Grew up in Austin, Texas.” Bobby wondered what it was with John and this place, was he reading a book about it or was he really from there? “Well, South Austin. It was lower working to lower middle class. I lived in a three bedroom house with my mom, brother, stepsister, grandparents, uncle, and whatever friend or cousin was crashing with us. Mom got one room with her brother - Uncle Bruce, grandparents got the other, brother - Darrel - got the last bedroom, and then we converted the garage into a room for my stepsister, Caroline. That left me with the couch in the living room.
“It sucked.” John’s voice sounded like any other teenager’s complaining about their family. “Everyone would stay up late playing poker, drinking, watching TV and I couldn’t sleep until they left then Mom would be up at five getting ready for work. So, I started sleeping during the day instead of going to class, just so I could sleep. No one cared that I missed school, grandparents were too old, Mom had two jobs, Uncle Bruce was always gone on some drug or another, Darrel and Caroline didn’t give a fuck what their little brother did.
“I used to get bitched at too. Someone was always sending me to get cigarettes or booze or drugs. It was because I was the smallest and I was always there and I knew where to get it. So I started smoking the cigarettes I bought, drinking the booze I bought, trying out the drugs I could.” He chuckled bitterly, shaking his head. “I never said no to a drug, but I never did heroin. And you know why?” He didn’t wait for an answer. “Because I didn’t know anyone who would share or who had it. I was such a dick.
“Then I sort of stumbled on dealing. I bought a bag of Ecstasy the day before it was made illegal. Then I had a five pound bag of Ecstasy that suddenly went up a good twenty bucks in price. So, I started selling the tabs for five bucks a pop instead of two. Made some nice dough, then people started asking me for other stuff and I had connections so I just cut out the connections and started bringing the people what they asked for personally. It was just easier for me and I made more dough that way.” A shrug as if it meant nothing to him. “I was doing some meth with a buddy of mine when I found out fire was my mutation. The fire under the spoon suddenly got all big and I didn’t burn my hand. At first I thought I was just that fucked up but then I came down and could still fuck with fire. It was awesome; I was psyched and started charging people to light their shit perfectly. Anything to make a buck.”
He stopped, either not wanting to continue or having to think of how to continue. “I was a total junkie when Summers and Storm came for me. Totally strung out on God knows what, track marks everywhere, skinny as a rail, and probably dead on my feet. Mom was too happy to send me away; I had been stealing cash from her for years. I mean, it wasn’t Mom’s fault she tried you know? But I’m a fuck up and she couldn’t fix me, not with all the work she had to do. Either way Storm and Summers picked me up and then wham! Next thing I know I’m here being forced to get clean.”
“Last one for tonight, Bobby-boy,” John said before starting his final tale. “I was just like you. I had a mom, a dad, grandparents, two sisters, and a dog. We lived in Pflugerville, a suburb of Austin, yeah we‘re still in Texas. My dad was a retired Marine, an electrical engineer who worked for IBM. When I was a kid, before my sisters were born, we moved around every few months, living on base and in trailers, before my dad finally retired and went to college. My mom had me young - sixteen - never finished high school, but she lied on her application and got a job managing an apartment complex called Timbers Apartments while my dad was in college. She was so good at it that they gave her three more complexes to manage and worked her to the bone. She always regretted not finishing school, she was smart. Four years down the road Mom quit her job, Dad graduated in the top one half percent in the nation, and we bought a house.
“I went to Pflugerville Middle School, then my Freshman year attending Pflugerville High School is when my powers finally caught up to me. My sisters were always messing with me, total and complete brats, the two of them. I was sitting in the living room, reading a book and one of them, Chelsea, my older younger sister, she’d have been twelve at the time. She grabbed my book and tossed it to my other sister, Aimee, who would have been eight. We were all four years apart. They started threatening to tear it to pieces and just being a pair of monsters when it happened. I was just so angry with them that I didn’t even think. I blinked and then the book and my sisters’ shirts were on fire and they were screaming. Dad came in and put the fires out; made sure everyone was alright hen asked me what had happened. When I told him that the fire from one of Mom’s million candles had jumped from its wick and onto my sisters he just nodded and went upstairs. I heard the computer turn on and tried to ignore the scorch marks on the carpet and my sisters’ ruined clothing.
“When Dad came back downstairs he was on the phone with Xavier. Next thing I know he’s telling me all these things about mutants and how I’m one and how I have to be careful, how I have to learn to suppress it, to keep people like my sisters safe from myself, how I had to learn control.” John stopped suddenly, taking a few deep breaths, in his nose and out of his mouth. Bobby realized he was calming himself down. “I had to learn how to bottle my emotions up, make myself safe for everyone else. A week later I was flown here with my Dad and we checked this place out, talked to the teachers, and then Dad went home and I started unpacking my stuff.” Bobby could feel John shrug.
“So, Bobby-boy, which one was real?”
A/N: Oh my God, that was hard to finish! Obviously, the last one I gaffed out on, for some reason it was the hardest to write and you can see it came out kinda choppy, not nearly as good as the first two - in my opinion anyway. So, how did you all like this one? Like I’ve said before I can’t do crack, but I hope I put an interesting twist on this.