- Work in Progress
- Abuse - Sexual
- Dark Themes
- Death - Child
- Death - Major Character
- Death - Minor Character
- Discussion - Child Abuse
- Discussion - Murder
- Discussion - Other Trigger Topics
- Discussion - Sexual Abuse
- Discussion - Torture
- Disturbing Imagery
- Permanent Injury
- Suicide - Attempted
- Violence - Canon-Level
- Violence - Graphic
- Violence - Sexual
- Action Adventure
- Alternate Universe
- Challenge Response
- Episode Related
- Fix It
Art by WaterSoter
A hundred and twenty-two stories above the streets was not a place anyone should be comfortable at. With the tiny lights below, moving people and cars, trucks, taxis; life. How many of them rushing home, rushing to work, rushing to meet friends or lovers? How many others lost among the horde. One more face among thousands, forgotten, lost.
Dani sipped her cold coffee. Grimacing at the taste. She could be one of those faces. Friends, a regular job, a boyfriend, maybe. Before her powers, she would have been encouraged for one guy above another, one family above another. In their small community, Dani would have had expectations, her family would have had expectations and she would have done what she was told like the dutiful child of the tribe.
If not for her powers, she would be married, with at least two children by now, working on the only shop in their entire reservation, wearing the same jeans everyone wore, the same shirts, the same hairstyles.
On days like today Dani wondered if that wasn’t the better option. That life that could have been hers but never would be. Her very own what if. She glanced over at the newspaper as it fluttered with a sudden gust of wind. The headline tall and bold, inescapable even at a distance. The photo larger than life, color muted, like the second part of a one-two punch.
Dani slapped a hand down on it to keep it in place, glanced back at the inky sky. With its spread of stars sparkling like tiny diamonds on a velvet canvas. The night was quiet. Despite the noise rising from the city, there was a kind of stillness that she didn’t like.
There was a splash of blue and gold out of the corner of her eye. Dani looked over but it was only Sam and some kid with reptilian skin the color of rust doing a fly by and not an Avenger breaking their unspoken agreement. Both sides stayed on their sides of the city and supposedly kept the peace, between them at least. After yesterday Dani wasn’t counting on them keeping to that.
Sam waved at her, slowing as he passed. The kid flapped dragon wings to match Sam, but hid behind Sam. Head down, eyes averted before they both took off to do their usual rounds. She hoped they wouldn’t run into any of the Avengers but she wasn’t holding her breath.
Another two kids passed her, heading deep into the heart of the city. Dani frowned. When a group of three shot past at neck breaking speeds, Dani checked her communicator to make sure it was working. Not that they needed them with telepaths, but after the past week, no one was taking any changes.
Her stomach churned, a cold lump forming. She tried reminding herself that if there was anything happening, she would be among the first to know. That, even if not as visible as her and the aerial patrols, there was enough security to stop the invasion of Normandy cold. Erik made sure of that.
Two more kids passed her. Their sense of urgency clear in the flap of wings and the push for speed in the sharp angle of their bodies. Dani stood, watched them fade. She grabbed her communicator, placed her hand over her mouth and hesitated. A telepath would be more secure. In a world of people like Stark, Pym, and Richards among others, a telepath would be the only secure line of communication they had anymore.
She focused on Betsy first, when there was no responding mental touch, on Rachel. I need to talk to Sam. She thought, and felt that familiar combination of warm embers and tempered inferno then a snap and twist that was the telltale sign of an open connection. Sam?
She kept her mind calm like a summer’s breeze as her attention stayed on the sky and the buildings in her line of sight. Yes, what’s going on, Sam?
A screech behind her and Dani had her knives in hand. A constant after being depowered after M-day. She blinked at the red hair turned a deep purple in the silvery light. Then she tensed as a familiar if long missed face came up behind her.
Dani forced her mind to retain its careful calm or she risked shoving her turbulent emotions on Sam, who certainly didn’t deserve them. A giant squid is making it’s way up the Hudson.
A breath then, What?
It’s real loony but it doesn’t look like it’s trying to eat anyone. Rachel stepped forward, her normally green eyes glowing a slight gold. I think it’s stealing suits from some boutique.
Dani didn’t think back anything right away. She really needed a moment to wrap her head around that. She had dealt with alien invasions, godlike creatures, immortals and more crazy than she could ever count. But this was beyond even all that.
The Avengers are here. Dani closed her eyes, that was the last thing they needed. Don’t engage, Sam. Make sure everyone gets the message. If the Avengers want to take care of it, let them.
She could feel Sam wanting to buck at that and couldn’t blame him. But there was so much more at stake than bruised egos and simmering animosity. Sam knew it and from Rachel’s clenched jaw, she knew it too.
Everything felt like such a compromise lately. Like they were chipping away at their resolve, their identity just so they could continue to have the public’s waning support. A fickle public that at any time could turn on them as easily as the Avengers had and the government had and so many other people that they had counted as friends and allies and supporters.
In that, she missed the old Scott. The Scott who told the world to screw themselves and build an island sanctuary and faced down the entirety of the superhero world on the slim chance that one stupid, self-centered, stubborn, surprisingly brave girl could save them all.
She wanted that Scott to make Emma link him to Sam, have him order them to do what they needed and always be five steps ahead of their enemies except the one moment it had counted beyond the ones before. She wanted the leader of the X-Men. Fearless, a stalwart for their people and a battering ram to the rest.
Not that zombie that shuffled from room to room, as if he didn’t know where he was half the time and the other half couldn’t believe any of it was real. The one that stayed in his room for hours at a time, staring at nothing that any of them could hope to see without invading his privacy more than it had already been. Dani had never been more grateful for the lack of telepathy than at that moment. She had seen the scars, the ones that were still healing and those that were a map of his time in jail.
Rachel’s eyes went back to normal, but they remained focused on distant, faraway places. In that moment and despite her uncanny resemblance to her mom, she looked so much like Scott did nowadays that Dani resisted to urge to shake her. If only to wipe that look off her face. Instead she sheathed knives, careful to slide them back into place. Her attention once again on the skyline.
Nothing had changed. For now she let herself breathe a little easier. Behind her she heard footsteps fade away, the roof door open and close. Lock, latch and beep as Madison Jeffries’ insane security system reengaged.
She felt eyes on her back and knew who she would see if she turned around. Nate Grey. Bangs made silvery by the moonlight. No longer with that awful shorn. Fuller, healthier face instead of that horrible gaunt thinness etched deeply in every sharp line of his face.
“Dani . . .”
“I thought you were dead.” She swallowed back a barrage of things that wanted to jump out of her mouth and beat him to it. “Two years, Nate. Two years and not a word. Not a phone call, not a letter. I would have settled for a smoke signal instead of thinking that you were dead and that it was somehow my fault.”
Those had been pretty terrible times. Anyone connected to Utopia that had not sided with the Avengers on that final battle, hunted down, unless they threw themselves under the mercy of Logan and his school. Counting heads and coming out short. Few people to turn to and fewer even that could be trusted.
Dani didn’t miss those days. She didn’t miss the nomadic lifestyle trying to stay one step ahead of SHIELD and the Avengers. “We looked for you. It was hard, with SHIELD and the Avengers on us but we looked for you.”
She watched as Sam shot through the sky along with the rest of the team that had followed him out to the Hudson. None of them looked hurt and their uniforms weren’t torn or singed. All good signs.
Dani turned around, he was rubbing the back of his neck in an eerie familiar gesture. How many times had she seen Scott do that when he was at his most awkward? A telling gesture that had all but disappeared after M-day and was frequent since his acquittal.
“Are you at least going to tell me where you where all this time?” Nate shifted in place, shoved his hands into the pockets of his jeans. For someone that had never been raised by either of his genetic donors, he looked so much like Scott it was almost surreal. Just as the way his blue eyes shifted and his eyebrows furrowed made him look like Nathan though that at least made more sense, since genetically they were the same person even if they had been born in different realities.
“I needed time.” Came the lame response. Dani whipped around, bit her lip hard enough to leave teeth marks, hands clenched into fists over her legs. “Dani, after everything, I just wanted to . . .”
Dani could imagine him waving his hands in the air. Trying to encompass everything he meant with a single gesture. And it wasn’t as if Dani didn’t understand. After Utopia fell, after Scott and Emma were jailed, Dani wanted nothing more than to disappear into the sea of anonymity. Pretending that there was no one counting on her, that she didn’t have responsibilities. There was and she did and unlike others, she didn’t have that luxury.
“You could had let me know.” Utopia had been burning, the world had been burning and still Roberto, Amara, James and even Clarice, who hardly owed her anything had made sure Dani knew they were alive and safe.
Dani sighed, deeper this time. What a mess. She felt the familiar flare of anger at Logan and Hank, at the Avengers, mostly she just felt tired. Their family was shattered beyond repair and it had taken someone trusted to rip them apart and leave them bleeding in the sand.
“I was angry too,” She said. Two kids few at a distance in the usual patrols. She would never get tired of seeing unfamiliar faces sharing their genetic quirk. “At Scott. I was so angry I couldn’t even think.”
Nate’s brows furrowed, and he was quiet for a long while. “But you’re here.”
Dani shrugged, reached for her disgustingly cold coffee and nearly jumped when a thermos was thrust into her face, without the aid of hands. She sent an inquiry look at Nate but he just looked away, placed a plate piled with sandwiched between. Dani eyed them cautiously, hoping that Nate hadn’t tried his hand at cooking again. The disaster of last time still resonated unpleasantly in her stomach.
“Scott’s not perfect.” She took a cautious bite and was surprised that it not only was edible, but tasted really good. “I think sometimes we forget that.”
Nate watched her for a long moment then sat down, his feet dangling over the side as if one wrong move would plunge him to his death. Or maybe not. She opened the thermos to deliciously warm coffee. “Your powers?”
He shrugged, and didn’t say anything more. His eyes locked on the kids flying in a designated pattern around them and the surrounding buildings. A sort of wonder fell on his healthier face. Yeah, Dani got that only too well.
Off the horizon, the first glimpses of a false dawn began to brighten the sky. Dani ate sandwiches and drank coffee. They sat in silence, too many questions and years between them but for the moment Dani was okay letting it go. There would be time, now, there would be time. Nate was alive and Dani didn’t know how to feel about a lot of things but for now, they could sit back and enjoy watching as their people flourished.