kiev4am: (underwood)
[personal profile] kiev4am
Moar fic...


Title: The New Gear
Fandom: X-Factor
Pairing/Characters: Rictor/Shatterstar, Jamie Madrox, Monet St. Croix, Longshot, Strong Guy, Darwin, Layla Miller (all Marvel Comics)
Rating: PG-13
Warnings: Just swearing.
Words: 1,387
Comments: Set sometime between issue #50 and the renumbering to #200, where the team have their new costumes; then a jump to just after Avengers: Children's Crusade #6. This started out silly and then got all serious on me at the end: a little backstory for Rictor's rebellious half-civvies look.


Rictor propped his feet on the reception desk, side-eyeing the stack of clothes Monet had just dumped there. The rest of the team were lounging in doorways around them, looking annoyingly slick and bright in their new gear. Ric on the other hand was sweaty, grungy and beer-deprived, and his five-hour shift as receptionist had drained every atom of his extremely finite supply of goodwill. Not that Monet on a mission invited goodwill. The look on her face could have curdled milk.

"Look here, you little scruffbag, I have spent a disgusting sum of money and hours of my own time trying to get these right. I'll be damned if you're going to let the side down."

"Whose side, for Chrissake? What are we, a hive mind? I have to dress up just 'cause you can't keep track of our faces?" Ric poked sullenly at the pile of clothes. "I did the nineties. Once was enough." Just the thought of a uniform was giving him horrible flashbacks to those purple and gold things Cable had inflicted on them. Shatterstar had looked awesome, of course, but that didn't count; Ric was quite sure 'Star could look good in a grain sack. It wasn't the style, anyway... it was the idea of a uniform. The meaning of it. Deflecting, Ric kicked his chair around and looked Jamie up and down with a practised smirk.

"Surprised you okayed this, Madrox. Because nothing says noir like a trapeze artist in a trenchcoat."

Jamie glowered. "Did you become a fashion guru before or after the mohawk?"

"I thought you wanted us to be the anti-X-Men."

"Don't be silly," Jamie said. "It's just... we just moved back here, and we're gonna get buried if we don't find a way to stand out, to look... together. Let's face it, we don't even look like a team."

"We don't feel like one, either," Ric said mutinously, thinking of Terry. But he had the sense to mumble it. He glanced round at the others. Grudgingly, he had to admit that Monet had done a good job. She'd gauged size and fit perfectly, the colours were strong but not garish, and the cuts were close enough to street-clothes not to make them look like Utopia wannabes. Everything looked like you could fight and run in it, or even sit in a bar without getting pointed and laughed at any more than usual in New York. Crucially, everyone looked themselves, just glammed up a little: Jamie rocking the trenchcoat, Guido still in his brawler's vest, Darwin neatly awkward, Longshot agile and strung with knives, Monet as feline and stunning as ever. And Shatterstar – well, damn. First chance he got, Ric was going to have to drag 'Star up to their room and explain to him in detail just how good he looked in that outfit.

But.

He pushed the heap of clothes away from him. "There's no way I'm wearing this stuff," he said huskily.

"Oh, for God's sake!" Monet threw up her hands. "You are such a brat. Why do you always have to be different?"

"Because I fucking am different." Rictor was on his feet. He felt a saving rush of anger, like fuel igniting, keeping him warm. "Tell you what, M – the day I get my powers back, I'll wear your stupid goddamn catsuit. Until then, as far as I'm concerned, it's false advertising. I won't be a fake superhero, Monet."

Monet jabbed her finger at him, then paused. Ric could feel the others staying well back while the two of them glared at each other. Then Monet sighed noisily – a sound of reluctant understanding – and shook her head. "It's not a catsuit, you idiot. Give me some credit. Won't you at least look at it?"

"Shit, okay." He felt like an ass. Every time he thought he'd purged the depowered whining for good, there it was again, like a squeaking hinge. He picked up the belt that lay uppermost. Subtle; the belts were the only thing that drew the uniforms together, that made them a uniform at all. The buckle felt heavy and well-made and the slouchy second loop of the belt had a faintly western, gunslinger look that he secretly dug. The gloves were okay too, dark, plain and martial-looking. Underneath belt and gloves was a zipped vest, trousers a bit like Shatterstar's, and a leather jacket. They were shades of brown – earth colours, his colours – and it weirded him out that she'd put that much thought into it. He shook the jacket out of its folds. It was a good shape, just the right amount of attitude in the shoulders and collar without looking like it was trying too hard. She'd even used that scuffed vintage leather he liked. In spite of himself he glanced sidelong at 'Star, got a barely perceptible grin and nod in return. Upvote for the jacket.

"Okay," he said. "The jacket works, I'll give you that." Monet blinked at him, then looked quickly down at her feet; to his amazement, he realised she was flattered. He'd be damned if he was going to let her walk it, though. He gave her his most mulish scowl. "Jacket, belt, gloves. That's the deal, take it or leave it."

Monet reached over and ruffled his hair, none too gently. "It'll do."

*

Months later, someone hung the unused half of the costume on the back of his and Shatterstar's door. No-one owned up; Monet scoffed at the notion that she'd do anything so pointless and random and anyway, she said, poking Ric spitefully in the stomach, those pants might not fit him any more. She knew his weak spots. He was still fuming in the kitchen, trying to figure out a way to sneak to the gym without her gloating, when he heard the reception phone ringing, and it was Jessica Jones.

When they got back from that whole Avengers melée – staggered back, really, all of them shellshocked, 'Star and Jamie having to drunk-walk Ric most of the way home via a hasty detour to Central Park so he could hug the ground and try to get his shit together away from any populated buildings – he knew exactly who'd put the uniform there. "Get Layla," he whispered.

She didn't sit down; she stood very still in the middle of the room, her face terribly soft and blank. If he'd been able to see straight, he might have felt sorry for her.

"You knew," he said. "All this time – you knew." It hurt to get the words out. 'Star reached for his hand. It felt miles away, microscopic, just frail atoms rubbing together, vanishing in the yawn and bulk of the earth's spin; and then suddenly it was too close, too heavy, crushing him. He remembered these ricochets of feeling from his first mutation, but it didn't help.

Layla knotted her fingers. "I wanted to tell you. I really did."

"So why didn't you?" He'd never dared ask her. What if she'd said no? No, there's no way. No, I've seen the future for your entire lifetime and you never get it back. He'd have died.

"I didn't dare," Layla said, muffled. He realised, to his surprise, that she was close to tears. "I was afraid that if you knew, you'd do something differently, something else that mattered. Like, like not go Vermont with Guido, or... I just couldn't risk it. I only knew one way that you got your powers back, and it was this way, this sequence of events."

Ric pointed at the clothes on the door. "Why that, then?"

She shrugged helplessly. "It seemed funny when I thought of it. I woke up this morning, and I was so happy for you, and I couldn't tell you – it was killing me. This... knowing stuff kind of mangles your sense of humour."

Ric lay where he was, crashed on the bed, shaking. He listened to the earth trying to rock him to sleep, tectonic sighs booming like surf in his inner ear. 'Star stroked his head; Ric could feel joy and relief in the tiny tremors of his hand, keening at a whole different pitch from his own. "I'm not... quite sure I forgive you," he said at last.

Layla smiled her broken Mona Lisa smile. "Good," she said.

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May 2012

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