Greer watched with a bemused smirk and an arched brow as Wanda attended to her mass of unruly auburn curls. She couldn’t remember her friend ever looking so happy. Ever since the elf had come into her life, Greer would often catch her humming to herself, a sweet smile curling her lips…
“So where are you two love birds off to tonight?” She asked.
“To see the philharmonic orchestra at the Met…and it’s not like that, Greer…” Wanda glanced at the reflection of the cat woman in the mirror in front of her. “We’re…friends…”
“Uh huh…” Greer nodded sagely, obviously not believing a word.
“It’s the truth.” Wanda insisted.
“Wanda…” Greer smiled. “A man and a woman can’t just be friends…sex always gets in the way.”
Wanda turned to face her, a crooked smile on her face. “Have you been watching When Harry Met Sally again?”
“It’s the truth…” She purred.
“No it’s not…” Wanda countered. “We have a great time together and sex has never once entered into it. Apart from my hand, he hasn’t even tried to kiss me…”
“WHAT?” That caught her by surprise. She frowned. “Six months and he hasn’t even tried to plant the flag?” She wriggled her eyebrows suggestively.
“GREER!” Wanda was flabbergasted at her friend’s implication. “I told you…it’s not that kind of relationship!”
“Well, why the hell not?” She asked. “You’re always going on about how wonderful he is…how charming and sensitive and thoughtful…you make him sound like the perfect guy…” She arched a brow at the expression on Wanda’s face. “And he’s such a babe!”
“Greer…” Wanda warned, blushing slightly.
“You haven’t noticed?”
“He may not be as beefy as some of the other X-Men…or even the guys around here…but he’s got one hot little bod…” Her eyes sparkled mischievously. “And that tight little tuckus…” She mimicked the shape with her hands. “So round and firm and fuzzy…must be like a peach…” She smirked at her friend. “Can you honestly say you’ve never wanted to take a bite?”
Wanda’s jaw dropped and her cheeks flared.
“By that expression…I’m guessing you have…”
“What if I have?” She shrugged slightly. “He obviously isn’t interested in me that way or he’d have made a move by now. He’s always flirting…but it never leads to anything…it’s all totally, playfully harmless…”
“Or maybe he’s just waiting for a definite sign from you…” Greer suggested.
Wanda frowned slightly at the comment.
“You have told him about your past relationships, right?”
“We talk about everything…” Wanda admitted. “He’s my best friend…outside of this mansion…” She smiled reassuringly, not wanting Greer to think she and Janet had been replaced.
“And they haven’t been all that successful, have they?” Greer continued.
“Rub it in why don’t you…” Wanda mumbled.
“If he’d told you something like that, wouldn’t you be waiting for a sign from him that he was ready for something beyond friendship?”
“I…guess…” Wanda admitted.
“So…?” Greer arched a brow.
“I’ve got to tell you, Kurt…” Janet was saying. “It’s nice to see a man who knows how to dress.” She circled him, appreciating him from every angle. The blue-furred X-Man was looking resplendent in a simple dark suit. He wasn’t wearing a tie, but rather a high-necked, collar-less shirt. “But then…with a build like yours…and that bone structure…you could probably make a potato sack look good…”
It was then that she noticed the rather uncomfortable look on his face.
“Sorry…” She smiled. “It’s just the designer in me coming out…you’ve got such good lines…” She noticed the tail, flicking slowly back and forth. “A few extra ones…but all good…”
“Thank you…” He said uncertainly. “I think…”
“Still…” Her smile didn’t falter. “I’d LOVE to dress you…”
“So all I am to you is a life size, anatomically correct, blue-furred Ken doll?” He queried.
“I suppose that’s not inaccurate…” She chuckled.
“Don’t take it personally, Blue…” Greer smiled as she entered with Wanda. “She looks at most perfect physical specimens like that…” She trailed off as she noticed that the only thing he was noticing was the auburn-haired beauty at her side. Wanda smiled shyly and dipped her head, glancing at him through her curls.
‘Oh, yeah…’ Greer thought as she rolled her eyes. ‘They’re JUST FRIENDS…’ She glanced from one to the other, at the shy awkwardness of their body language. ‘God…how old are they…sixteen?’
“Ah, Gartenwicke…” Kurt purred as he snapped out of it, taking hold of Wanda’s hands and spreading her arms so he could admire the gown she was wearing. “For me?” He asked with a twinkle in his glowing golden eyes.
“It’s one of mine.” Janet informed him.
“Really?” Kurt turned to her. “This isn’t the sort of thing you meant when you wanted to dress me is it?”
“No…” Janet smiled. “Though I mostly design for women, I’ve been considering branching out…into men’s attire.”
“Super threads for super bods.” Greer beamed. Kurt arched a brow at her. He had become more or less used to her not so veiled innuendoes, but he still remembered her fascination with his tail, and his teammates, from Hank’s birthday party.
“We had better get going if we don’t want to miss the opening curtain.” Kurt smiled sweetly, offering his arm to Wanda.
“Have fun…” Janet said as Wanda slipped her arm through Kurt’s.
“We won’t wait up.” Greer teased. Kurt didn’t see Wanda throw her a scathing look.
Wanda tried not to be obvious as she glanced at Kurt. Greer’s comments had had an impact on her. In truth, she hadn’t thought of Kurt in that way. Not really, any way. He was a friend, and she’d never thought he’d be anything more than that. But as she watched the play of emotions on his face she couldn’t help but smile. He was so moved by the music, and he wasn’t afraid to show it. He was everything that women so often said they wished they could find in a man.
Greer was right. So what was it that was holding her back? Was she afraid because she’d been hurt before? Or was she just worried that he didn’t feel that way about her?
‘Nothing ventured…nothing gained…’
She reached out a gently touched his hand. So soft, like dusty velvet beneath her fingers. He didn’t flinch from her touch. He glanced at her, a soft glow in his eyes, smiled slightly, then turned his hand over beneath hers to make it slightly easier for her to twine her fingers through his. She realised then just how hard it was to hold his hand in the traditional manner. But she also marvelled at just how right it felt.
She gazed in wonder at her pale, slender fingers entwined with his thick, dark ones. She looked up at him, into his still softly glowing eyes. She’d been more than a little disconcerted by them when she’d first met him, and not just by their unearthly light. He had no pupils that she could see, she’d never been sure of just where he was looking.
Now, it didn’t bother her at all. The glow was no longer frightening, it was just a physical manifestation of the warmth of his soul. She began to slowly lean towards him, her eyelids drooping slightly. Never before had she ever wanted to kiss him so desperately.
Though manipulation of magnetic fields was her father’s power, it was almost as if she’d somehow tapped into it as Kurt slowly leaned towards her. The glow of his eyes seemed to intensify as he began to close his eyes. The music swelling around them only added to the mood.
It also helped to remind them of where they were.
They paused, gazing at each other for a moment as they realised just how public a place they were in. Wanda recalled an article that Greer had shown her in one of those awful tabloids about Spider-Man and some soap opera actress. The actress had flatly denied any connection between herself and the costumed vigilante, but the papers refused to leave it alone. She really didn’t want to give those sleaze merchants any more fodder.
They both sat back, starring straight ahead. But their grip on the other’s hand only tightened.
Waiting for the concert to finished seemed to take longer than anything else either had experienced. But when they stepped out into the cool night air they found it difficult to say anything.
Kurt led Wanda over to the large, ornamental fountain, helping her to sit on the cool edge before sitting beside her. They listened to the water falling behind them for a few moments.
“I guess we need to talk…” Wanda said softly. “About what…nearly happened in there…”
“Yes…” Kurt said, equally softly.
Wanda didn’t know how to continue. It wasn’t like she hadn’t wanted it to happen. And she was certain that Kurt felt the same way. And he seemed just as unsure about everything as she was.
He let out a sudden gasp, but not because of anything she had done. Somehow she knew he was telepathically conversing with someone else. He frowned, obviously annoyed with whoever it was that had intruded. He let out an exasperated sigh, then turned towards her.
“Bad news?” She asked.
“I have to go to work…” He said, with an air of regret in his voice.
“What was that?” She asked. “A psychic page or something?”
“Beats a beeper.” He shrugged.
“Anything I can help with?” She asked.
“Thank you, but no…” He smiled sadly. “There is already five X-Men at the scene…” He sighed heavily. “I really hate to do this…as cliché as it may sound…we really need to talk…”
“We can talk later…” She said, slightly reluctantly. She really didn’t want to leave it like this either. “Go help your friends.”
“I’ll get you a cab…”
“You’re home early…” Greer commented as Wanda flopped down on the couch beside her, dropping a pair of oddly shaped shoes on the floor. “What gives?” She asked, glancing at the shoes. “Most guys give you flowers…”
“He got a psychic summons…” Wanda sighed. “Said he needed to ditch the shoes so he could climb things…”
“A psychic summons?” Greer shuddered. “That’s just creepy…”
“You’re telling me…” Wanda said. She sighed and began to pick at some non-existent fluff on the arm of the sofa. Greer watched her for a moment. It was obvious that something had happened. Something important…
“Okay…spill girl…” Greer said. “What happened?”
“Well…” Wanda sighed. “We sorta…almost…”
Greer arched a brow, smirking evilly.
“Knock it off…” Wanda glared at her. “It was only a kiss…well…almost a kiss…”
“Why’d you stop?”
“We were in a auditorium full of people.” Wanda pointed out.
“So?” Greer shrugged.
“You don’t make out in the Met!”
“Where is that written?”
Wanda arched a brow. “It doesn’t have to be written, Greer.” She pointed out. “It’s just the proper way to act in public. Besides…remember that article you showed me?”
“Which one was that?” Greer asked. “The one about how to use your cape in a combat situation…or the one about highly resilient nail treatments?”
“The one about Spider-Man and he’s supposed affair with that soap star…”
“Oh…The Spider and the Showgirl…” Greer nodded as she remembered.
“How do you think it’d go over if the public got wind of me and Kurt?” She asked.
“Are you ashamed of him?” Greer asked, partially concerned, partially annoyed.
“Of course not!” Wanda protested. “I just think my personal life should be…well…personal!”
“Yeah…” She conceded. “I guess you’re right…” She cocked her head to one side. “So what did he ditch you for anyway? Where’d he go?”
“Some place on the park…” Wanda said absently. “I think he called it the Hellfire Club…”
“The Hellfire Club?” Greer pulled a face. “Sounds like a charming place to take the family…”
Kurt looked at the unassuming building from his perch in a tree across the street. He remembered the last time he’d been here. Things hadn’t gone well. The X-Men had almost died, Jean Gray had all but gone insane. Just looking at the place caused an uneasy feeling in the pit of his stomach.
But then…things had worked out in the end. They had survived, in a way only the X-Men seemed to be able to. Jean had conquered the dark side of her soul. She and Scott had been married shortly afterwards, for over five years now. Little Rachel was now rattling around the mansion, getting into anything and everything. She certainly favoured her mother, and pretty much adored everybody. Though her offhanded remarks about future events which often proved to be eerily accurate was a little disconcerting. But then, she was a second-generation mutant, just like Kurt, who had also had a certain amount of his gifts evident at birth.
Thinking of Jean and Scott, and second-generation mutants, brought his thoughts back to Wanda. He wasn’t sure what was going on between them now. He had thought they were friends, and nothing more than that. He hadn’t thought of getting involved with her. But they had so much in common, including the fact that their past romantic liaisons had been confusing and had ended badly…
‘Okay, Kurt…’ He chided himself. ‘Get your mind back on business…’
He looked down at his attire with a sigh. He hadn’t chosen it for battle. He was glad he’d given Wanda his shoes for safe keeping, unorthodox as it was. Given the shape of his feet he had to get his shoes custom made, which was a rather expensive undertaking. He’d have hated to lose them…
‘Okay…enough…you’ve got a job to do…’
He teleported over to the roof, then flipped over the edge and began climbing down the wall. He peeked in an upper window. Seeing no one, he teleported inside. Glancing around his feelings of uncertainty intensified. It was quiet. Way too quiet.
If the X-Men were here and required back up, surely there’d be some kind of ruckus…
He heard cautious footsteps approaching and immediately leapt up to the ceiling, squashing himself as flat against it as he could. He almost chuckled when he recognised the form passing by beneath him.
He dropped down behind her, landing silently, than tapped her on the shoulder.
She spun, ready to deck him, but he was equally ready for her and ducked her well-aimed punch.
“Nice welcome…” He whispered at her.
“Kurt?” She hissed back. As angry as she was at him for the stunt he’d just pulled, she was relieved to see him. “What are you doing here…I thought you had a date…”
“Prof said you needed some back up…”
“I thought Logan was on standby?” She frowned.
“Prof couldn’t find him…besides…I was closest…” He shrugged. “So what’s going on?”
“The Inner Circle grabbed Scott and Jean…” She began.
“Yes…the Professor told me…you’d think they’d have come up with a new shtick by now…”
“Whatever…” Kitty sighed. “We split up to find ‘em…”
“Storm’s down one level…Iceman and Archangel are working the main level and Rogue’s got the basement…”
“Leaving the catacombs….” Kurt surmised. “I get all the good jobs…” he sighed.
“Well…you DID get here late…”
Kurt stuck to the upper walls as he worked his way through the underbelly of the Hellfire Club. He’d been down in the depths of the place before, he knew it quite well, and, though he hated to admit it, his vision made him the obvious choice for the area.
“They really aren’t the brightest, are they?” He heard a smug voice speak from around a bend in the corridor. “Do they honestly think we wouldn’t know they were here? We set the trap after all…”
He knew the voice. Shinobi Shaw, son of Sebastian Shaw, former Black King of the Hellfire Club. He was a smarmy and sadistic little bastard, even more so than his father. He enjoyed seeing the pain of others. To him, others were little more than playthings. He had gained the rank of Black King by slaughtering his own father.
So he’d kidnapped Scott and Jean just to gather a few more toys to play with…
Kurt held his breath as the young mutant walk past below him. He also recognised the woman with him. Dressed in a shiny, form fitting black gown. Long, equally black hair fell down her bare back.
Selene…the Black Queen…
“They have always been so predictable…” She agreed. “In fact…” She stopped, spinning quickly, her eyes narrowing as she looked about.
“What is it?” Shinobi asked.
“I thought I sensed something…” She frowned. “It’s not important…”
Kurt debated on whether to follow them or go back the way they’d come. Selene had almost spotted him once. He decided to investigate what they had left, rather than where they were going.
Keeping to the shadowy ceiling, he crept along in a way few could imitate. He found a large wooden door, slightly ajar. He pushed it open gently with his foot. He dropped silently to the floor and entered the room cautiously. He arched a brow when he found Scott and Jean quite literally chained to the wall, power inhibitors around their necks, apparently unconscious. He studied them for a moment, then slapped Scott’s cheek to rouse him.
“Hey!” Scott protested. At least he wasn’t too deeply under. His voice woke Jean.
“You know…” Kurt beamed. “I never would have taken you two for being into this kind of thing…” He wriggled a suggestive eyebrow at the pair.
“Fun-ie.” Scott said mirthlessly. “Just get us down, wise guy…”
“Okay…brace yourselves…” He took a hold of one wrist of each of them and teleported them both right out of their bonds. They both looked a little squeamish on their arrival. “Quick and effective.” He smiled.
“Quite…” Scott sighed. “Can you get these off?” He indicated the collars.
“Lock-picking’s more Storm’s bag than mine…” He admitted. “Besides…” He held up a hand and wriggled the three thick fingers. “I don’t exactly have the dexterity for such delicate work.”
Back at the mansion, Hank was startled by the sudden, terrified scream that echoed through the halls. He immediately bounded to its source.
Three-year-old Rachel was sitting up in bed, her little fingers gripping her bamf doll so tightly her knuckles were white. She was sobbing her eyes out. She held out one chubby arm towards the shaggy-furred mutant, refusing to release the bamf, clinging to it as if her life depended on it.
Hank scoped her up in his powerful arms, concerned as she burrowed into his chest. He stroked her red hair, trying to sooth her, but her crying just wouldn’t abate.
“C’mon, sweetie…” He cooed at her. “It was just a bad dream…”
She shook her head, denying his explanation.
“You’re worried about you’re Mommy and Daddy?” He surmised. She sniffed, then nodded. “It’s okay…they’ll be home soon…”
“What about Unca Kurt?” She asked, rubbing her cheek against the bamf’s fuzzy face.
That caught Hank by surprise. The little girl adored Kurt…she adored all of her extended family…but it seemed a little strange that she would single him out.
“I’m sure he’s fine…” Hank said softly.
“But…the sea lady…” Rachel said. “The sea lady hurt him…hurt him bad!”
“The sea lady?” Hank frowned.
Locating Storm proved easy enough. “Go and round up the others…” She said to Kurt as she began working on the inhibitor collars.
“Right.” Kurt said as he vanished in a puff of smoke and brimstone.
“I don’t like this…” Scott said, pacing as he watched Storm tinkering with the catch on Jean’s collar. “It was too easy…”
“Relax, Scott…” Jean smiled at him. “We’ll be out of here soon enough…”
“Ah…Cyclops is such a TRUSTING creature…” Shinobi smiled as he watched the security monitors.
“We’ve got eight X-Men….” Selene pointed out. “Two currently powerless…and three all by their lonesome…I’d say it’s time for a little fun…”
Kurt headed down to the basement first, searching for his sister. The lower levels of the venerable mansion were vast and full of shadows, which normally he would have been right at home in. But it made it difficult to locate Rogue.
He was crawling on the ceiling, searching left and right. ‘Why didn’t Storm just get Jean’s collar off so she could send out an psychic all clear or something?’ He wondered to himself. ‘To think I had to skip out on Wanda for this!’
He saw the female figure in the shadows to his right. Assuming it to be Rogue, after all, who else would be down here, he moved towards her. He gripped an exposed beam with his feet and swung down to tap her shoulder.
Before he could do so, the figure spun towards him. He felt an intense burning sensation across his belly, then he found it hard to breath. His toes slipped from the beam and he crumpled to the floor in an inelegant heap.
Instinctively, his hands went to the fiery feeling, which was quickly beginning to fade as his entire body began to fell numb. He could feel the warm stickiness against his fingers. His medical training took over as he pressed both hands as firmly as he could against his stomach, trying not to think about what they may actually be pressing against.
His breath caught in his throat. He looked up at the figure above him, tried to identify her, but his eyes refused to focus. She looked at him with wide startled eyes, that much he could tell. A hand covered her mouth in her shock. She shook her head, as if trying to deny what she’d just done.
“You weren’t supposed to be here…” She said in a hoarse whisper. He heard something metallic hit the floor as she began to back away.
His addled brain fought to identify the voice. He knew it, he was sure of that. As she continued to back away, the light caught her hair, setting it ablaze with colour.
“Mah...mah…ma…” He didn’t even have the strength to form words. The last thing he saw as his world fell into darkness was her, as she turned and fled.