Pairing: Ultimate Scott/Warren
Archive: Eiluned, as always. Anyone else, please ask first.
Author's Note: Talking! Dinner! Tension! Adult concepts! It has it all . . . events in Ultimate X-Men certainly won't go this way, but hey, that's why its fanfic.
Follows in sequence: "Ultimate . . Choice, Flight, Designs, Denial, Tasks, and Mercy" 7/26/01
New Improved Disclaimer: Characters belong to Marvel Comics. This story is not sanctioned by them. Nobody makes any money here, so your over-priced and bored lawyers should just consider this free advertising. However, I might actually convince someone (besides me) to buy an issue of your silly marketing ploy thinly disguised as a new title. . . even if it's just so they can make SURE none of this happens. . .
Closer to an hour later rather than the few minutes he'd originally said, Scott Summers led Elizabeth Braddock into the main dining room of the mansion. He'd given her a brief tour as they moved up through the lower levels, pointing out a few of the hidden features along the way; the hangar, the training room, the situation room, Cerebro.
And every step of the way she hung on his arm. Literally. Her slender arms looped through his right arm tightly, her fingers wound with his. Clearly he was the only thing she trusted in this strange new environment. It was pleasant, at first, and kind of flattering, but by the time they reached the dining room, he was ready for a little distance.
She had emerged from the medlab bathroom transformed like the butterfly of his idle musings. Her hair freshly washed and brushed, swept up into an elegant pile on top of her head with glittering combs. Make up hid the worst of the bruises and scratches on her face. A long silk scarf had been wound around her throat to disguise the circular bite-bruises there. What she thought of those, she had yet to say. She wore a simple pale yellow dress with a short matching jacket over the top of it, delicate heeled sandals on her feet. She was elegant and cool and sophisticated.
He'd felt decidedly underdressed in his plain black tee shirt and worn black chinos. But then she'd given him such a dazzling smile that he'd forgotten his first sense of unease upon sight of her. That it was all just careful armor.
He stood in the doorway of the dining room, looking down the long table to see the Professor seated in his customary place at the head. The table was set for the entire team, but only the Professor and Jean were there. Jean was dressed in the same green sundress she'd worn for the trip to London. She sat beside the Professor on his left, a frozen smile on her face as she took in the other woman's chic attire. And her death-grip on Scott's arm.
"Welcome to Westchester, Miss Braddock," the Professor said gravely. "I am Professor Charles Xavier."
"I remember conversing with you, Professor," Betsy said with cool formality, inclining her head graciously. "You have a lovely home. Scott has been telling me all about it. The lower levels are quite. . . fascinating."
The Professor just raised a dark brow at her words, then glanced at Scott. Reminded that they were still standing in the door, he led Betsy to the Professor's right hand and pulled her chair out automatically. Even though he couldn't remember being taught to do so, or ever doing it for a woman before. Jean glared ice at him from across the table. Betsy sat down hesitantly, releasing his arm with obvious reluctance. He gave her hand a reassuring squeeze as he dropped into the chair beside her.
"Jean Grey," Jean introduced herself shortly, giving the other woman a short wave. "I'm telekinetic and a telepath too. But we met in London."
"Yes, Jean, I remember," Betsy said, a troubled look passing briefly over her face. Scott frowned at Jean who gave him a disbelieving, narrow-eyed glare in return.
There was a brief commotion at the near door and Ororo and Peter walked in. Peter moved over to sit by Jean and Ororo took the chair beyond Scott. Betsy stared at the two of them with wide, bemused eyes.
"Betsy Braddock, this is Ororo Monroe and Peter Rasputin," Scott said nodding at each of them in turn. "Weather control and an organic steel skin." Betsy blinked at Peter in confusion. He smiled warmly at her.
"I would be pleased to demonstrate for you later, Miss Braddock," Peter said with a formality similar to her own. Ororo gaped at him in patent disbelief for his display of manners, then leaned around Scott to look down the table at the lavender haired woman. She gave her a thin, predatory smile that made Scott suddenly nervous.
"Great dress, babe, and that hair is killer," Ororo said with a slight smirk over at Jean who bristled slightly. Ororo was wearing her usual tattered jeans and a halter top, her hair caught back in a casual tail; mischief danced in her tawny eyes. She, very obviously, had not tried to dress up.
Betsy was in the middle of thanking her when a rough voice interrupted her. "Oh, you have got to be freakin' kidding me. This looks like an old Merchant Ivory flick, except for the bad costuming, of course. Do we bow to the lady of the manor next?" Hank McCoy shuffled into the room, big hands stuffed into his pockets, blue hair gleaming almost as brightly as his bared canines. Bobby Drake followed behind him, grinning nervously as he found a chair and clearly unable to tear his star-struck gaze away from Betsy. But he didn't even try to speak. Supermodel phobia, apparently.
Scott scowled at Hank and he could feel an embarrassed flush rising on his face. "We wanted to introduce her to the team slowly," Scott said sternly. Hank laughed wryly.
"Right, fearless leader," he said, parking his bulk in the chair beside Ororo who rolled her eyes at him as if to say, 'dress him up but just can't take him anywhere', before she shot him a quick grin. "That's why we're doing the ultra-polite dining room scene from 'A Room With A View' and all trying to pretend we didn't hear her screaming her lungs out this morning."
Scott started to rise to his feet, but Betsy's hand on his arm stopped him.
"He's right, Scott," she said softly. "I appreciate the effort, but if I'm to fit in you can't treat me any differently than anyone else." She glanced around the table at the mixed gazes, some wary, some reserved, some concerned, then reached up and yanked the scarf off her neck exposing the dark bruises to everyone. "And I want to be here. I need to be here, since I'm a mutant too and we need to stop the kind of thing that happened to me from happening to any other mutants."
Scott sat back in his chair, astounded by her words. That little speech had shown more strength of mind and character than she'd exhibited so far. It made him feel slightly embarrassed and guilty. Despite her recent trauma, Betsy Braddock clearly had a mind of her own. And for some reason, he'd been guiding her around like a porcelain doll. Protecting her. Even though she had passed the uneasy moment off with commendable skill and grace, Hank's glib attitude still grated on him.
"What's the matter with our fearless leader?" a cool voice said suddenly. "Get up on the wrong side of bed this morning?" Scott jerked his chin up, heart pounding with residual irritation and fresh chagrin, and glared over at Warren where he had appeared between the Professor and Betsy. The lavender-haired woman was staring at him as well, at his neatly folded wings actually, with a strange wide-eyed fascination.
"Good afternoon, Betsy," Warren said as he bent down and lifted her hand to his mouth, brushing his lips across the back of it. He froze there for an instant, as if remembering something, but recovered quickly and slowly lowered her hand again, a polite smile fixed on his face. "It is good to see you again, my dear, particularly looking so radiant."
"Oh, I'm gonna hurl," Hank said gruffly from down the table. "Give it a rest Worthington." Ororo laughed, the sound quickly stifled when Scott turned to glare at them. It just didn't matter that they couldn't see his eyes. They could tell.
"Warren," Betsy said, her own expression guarded. She didn't seem able to look far from his wings. And Scott flashed back in memory suddenly to those white wings spread wide across the seats of the Blackbird cockpit, the smell of fear and anguish sharp in the air. He shook his head once, glancing in some concern between the two of them.
This was going to be an interesting meal. He'd already lost his appetite.
Scott stood in the hallway outside the dining room, arms folded over his chest, glaring down at Hank McCoy. He'd followed Hank deliberately and stopped him from leaving with a hand to his shoulder. Everyone else, it appeared, had scattered out the other doorways, on to their own diversions now that dinner was complete and they'd finally met the mysterious new member of the team. The Professor had taken Betsy to his library, to discuss the practicalities of life in the mansion with her. The beseeching look edged with panic that she'd thrown him before she followed the Professor away still confused him. Did she want him to follow or not? But he had Hank to deal with first.
"You were way out of line in there," Scott snarled at the big man.
"Really? Betsy didn't seem to mind. And once you pull that stick out of your ass, you won't either," Hank replied, cocking his head and looking over the rims of his rectangular glasses at his obviously pissed-off field leader. "In fact, I think she kind of appreciated it. I broke the ice, so to speak."
"That woman's been through hell, McCoy. She doesn't need a smart-ass like you making her life any tougher," Scott snapped, leaning forward slightly, all his attention focused on the shorter man. Shorter but much, much brawnier. A fact he was currently ignoring. His hands itched to make fists and he wanted Hank to make just one more smart comment about Betsy. Then he was going to level him. He was angry, he realized dimly somewhere in the back of his mind, angrier than he should be over this. But it had been a tough few days.
"Well, this is something I never thought I'd be doing," a droll voice interrupted. "Intervening to save Henry McCoy's hick ass from a well-deserved whupping."
"Don't do me any favors, society boy," Hank said, glaring at Warren Worthington where he leaned in the dining room doorway behind them. Scott tensed even more, feeling Warren's gaze on the back of his neck almost like a touch. Hank glanced between the two of them, a speculative look passing briefly over his broad features, then a hard grin. "You need to lighten up, fearless leader. You are wound too damn tight lately. The sun shines without your help."
"Watch yourself, McCoy," Scott spat. "Or I'll hand you your head. Don't think I can't." And right then, at that moment, he knew he would. But Hank just shrugged his broad shoulders and stuffed his hands in his pockets again.
"Okay, okay, I'll play nice with the new girl," he said, turning away, then added over his shoulder. "I'd get the hell out of here too if I was you, Worthington, or Mr. Surly here'll feed you those pretty wings of yours."
"Thanks for the concern, McCoy," Warren said wryly, not shifting from his place behind Scott. Scott watched through narrowed eyes as Hank strode off, heading for the stairs and taking them four at a time to the upper level. Toward the women's wing. Storm's room, probably. The thought did nothing to calm him down.
"Is everyone getting laid around here except me?" he said under his breath.
"What was that, Scott?" Warren asked quietly. Anger flared again and he spun around, his face hard. The other man was watching him with a faintly amused expression on his face.
"Back off, Worthington. I suggest you take Hank's advice," he snarled, on the edge, then he whirled and stalked away down the hall. Heading for the gym. Determined to work these feelings off there. And not certain if he was grateful or disappointed that Warren didn't follow him, which only added to his mood. Once he reached the dim, glass-walled room, still warm from the afternoon sun, he ducked into the nearby locker room, quickly stripping off his shirt as he walked to his own locker.
He paused in front of it, staring at the paper someone had taped to his locker door. It was a picture of a silly cartoon bulldog - the hulking Warner Brothers one with the ridiculously tiny back legs - barking and snarling at the little black kitten standing before it who was blissfully ignoring the dog's ferocity, and looking out from the image with huge ingenuous blue eyes. A pained laugh escaped him.
He leaned his forehead with a thump against the cool metal of the locker, his hand rising to rip the picture away, shaken and embarrassed. But instead, he smoothed the picture down, his fingers trembling as they brushed across the image of the little black kitten.
Which one was he supposed to be, he wondered with a mental shiver. Then he straightened up, yanking the locker open to get at his workout clothes. He changed quickly, tying his court shoes with excessive force. Then he retrieved a sleeve of handballs from the equipment cabinet, disdaining gloves, and went out into the small partitioned-off handball court.
He bounced the rubber ball off the smooth floor a few times, sighing deeply, before he hauled off and slapped it hard, savoring the sting of impact on his palm, the lingering ache in his shoulder. He slipped easily into calculating angles, anticipating bounces, meeting the ball each and every time with a hard smack. Sprinting, reaching, spinning. His body loosening slowly. He hadn't taken the time to warm up, to stretch like he should. He would probably be sore later. And that was okay.
As he worked out - his body reacting automatically - his mind began to drift. To Warren. To his own confusion. He tried to turn his thoughts away; to Jean, to Betsy, to the team. But they came back every time to the strange wary dance he seemed to be locked in with the other man.
Did he hate him? It was hard to say. He felt like he should. Warren brought back so many terrible memories with his unexpected pursuit. Their first bitter encounter in the hallway seemed almost like a bizarre dream. Something that had happened a long time ago and to other people entirely. But he knew it hadn't. Warren had used him. Used him like the whore he once had been; played with him. Then had seemed surprised when he reacted so badly at the boathouse. Well, he wouldn't be used again.
Didn't he understand it wasn't a game? That lives and hopes and people weren't just there for his privileged amusement? Yet Warren had been strangely solicitous of him as well later. Humbled. Even ashamed, before the Professor had had to take those memories away to keep him sane. In spite of that, the connection between them was still there. In his own memories of his mouth willingly on Warren's to comfort him. In Warren's curious refusal to leave him alone; in his callous flirtations.
Smack. Bounce-bounce. Dive. Smack again. Feeling the fluid motion of his own body as he sent the ball ricocheting around the small room, the harsh burn of air in his lungs, the sting of his palm; feeling his strength. He'd worked so hard to become someone who wouldn't be a victim anymore. Found something worth fighting for. Then the first real challenge came and he crumbled. Submitted. A victim to his own past.
Anger stirred. Anger at Warren for reminding him. Anger at himself for giving in. Remembering white feathers lying on a floor. And saving them. Remembering horror and desperate need. And helping at the cost of his own hard-won peace. Remembering the taste of the other man. And wanting . . .
He let out an anguished shout and stumbled forward, missing the careening ball. Falling hard and rolling; automatically protecting his head with his arms until he came to a stop, shaken and trembling, against the wall.
"Damn it!" he yelled, the words echoing harshly in the small space. He laid his arm over his forehead, above his glasses, panting hard, sweat dripping off of him. He closed his eyes, taking deep, shuddering breaths. He hurt already. Ached everywhere. His body, his heart, his soul.
"Damn it," he said again, softer, feeling the sting of tears building in his eyes and blinking, blinking them away.
He came out of the locker room much later to find Jean waiting for him, leaning against the wall and dribbling three basketballs at once with her telekinesis. He cursed inside, not ready for this confrontation. Not ready at all.
"Okay, Summers," she said, her gaze narrowing when she caught sight of him. She straightened up and the basketballs froze in mid-air. "What's the deal between you and the little English miss?"
His mind still chewing on the internal revelations from the handball court, he just stared blankly at her for a moment, trying to shift gears. She rolled her eyes in disgust and sauntered over to him, standing a little too close, like she usually did. He swayed back a half-step, then came back to his original position. Not to be cowed, not by her. And definitely not over this.
"You know, your head's been locked up tight since we got back from London," she said, searching his face, a trace of anxiety entering her gaze. "What gives?"
"Maybe I'm just tired of telepaths strolling in and out of my head whenever they feel like it," he said, looking down at her with a remote look on his face. "You're starting to outnumber the rest of us."
"Yeah, three now," she said, still looking into his face carefully. "But one's shut down right now. And oh, isn't she just so fragile and pretty and tragic." She gave a snort of disgust and folded her arms over her chest. "I thought that would push your protective he-man buttons, Scott Summers."
"What do you want from me, Jean?" he said, keeping his tone cool with effort. Why was she pulling this now? "You made it pretty damn plain you didn't want me when you started sharing beds with Wolverine. What changed your mind? The fact that he's an assassin? But wait, you knew that before you decided to sleep with him. . . so what's the deal, Jean? Or are you only interested now because you think I might actually have a chance with someone else?"
She recoiled from his harsh words, a flash of pain crossing her expressive features before the reflexive anger pushed it out. And he almost felt guilty for his words. Almost. She'd been blatantly jerking his chain since they both arrived at the mansion within weeks of each other. With never any intent to follow through, he understood now. So a few hard words weren't amiss here. Not with the raw way he was feeling lately. Raw and tired.
"Well forgive me for caring," she spat back sarcastically, eyes snapping with anger. "It's just that you've been. . . different lately, Scott, that's all. Upset, almost."
Trust her to pick up on the tension he most wanted to hide. But at least she didn't know it's true source. Yet.
"No, I've just been busy lately, Jean," he said, crossing his arms over his chest and staring down at her grimly. "And if I'm lucky, Wolverine will show up soon and keep you too busy to care again."
Her face paled and her mouth dropped open, green eyes wide in astonishment. Hurt and dismay hard on it's heels. Her eyes shimmered with tears. And he did feel sorry then. Like a jerk even.
"Hell, Jean, I didn't really mean that," he said, his tone softening. She closed her eyes briefly, sending a single tear down her cheek, but she quickly reached up and brushed it angrily away. Then her eyes flashed open again, and her hands fisted at her sides.
"Fuck yes you did," she said, a rough hitch to her voice. "And maybe I even deserve it. I'm sorry about Logan. But I thought at least we were friends, Scott. Am I wrong?"
"No," he said, his own voice husky. "But maybe you better start treating me like one. I'm not your lapdog, Jean."
With that, he turned away and left her staring after him, her mouth open again. Three basketballs fell to the floor and bounced noisily away.
I. Choice by paxnirvana
II. Flight by paxnirvana
III. Designs by paxnirvana
IV. Denial by paxnirvana
V. Tasks by paxnirvana
VI. Mercy by paxnirvana
VII. Thoughts by paxnirvana
VIII. Hope by paxnirvana
IX. Need by paxnirvana
X. Resolve by paxnirvana
XI. Requiem by paxnirvana
XII. Tolerance is a Six Letter Word by paxnirvana
XIII. the Place Beneath by paxnirvana
XIV. the Visionary Hand by paxnirvana