kiev4am: (underwood)
[personal profile] kiev4am
Silly alt!X-Factor-#230 fic.

Title: The Short Straw
Fandom: X-Factor
Pairing/Characters: Rictor/Shatterstar, Jamie Madrox, Banshee (formerly Siryn), Monet St. Croix, Longshot, Strong Guy, Rahne Sinclair, Layla Miller, Pip the Troll (all Marvel Comics)
Rating: PG-13
Warnings: Just swearing.
Words: 1,187
Comments: Rictor hates democracy. A little response to X-Factor #230; just one of the ways I think I'd have preferred the whole 'leadership question' in Jamie's absence to go.


Rictor stared at the upturned hat on the kitchen table as if he expected a feral rabbit to climb out of it. Shock flushed the last cosy vestiges of alcohol from his brain. "You've gotta be kidding," he spluttered.

"No kidding," said Rahne, the appointed vote-counter. She spread the crumpled Post-Its on the table so he could see the scribbled names clearly: one vote for Monet, one for Layla, three for Terry... and four for him. Surrounding the hat was a battlefield of beer cans, takeaway cartons, liquor bottles and shot glasses: the familiar debris of an X-Factor crisis meeting.

"This is bullshit," Ric protested. Suddenly the room seemed too bright, too hot, too crowded with drunk, grinning colleagues. He felt like the punchline of a huge sick joke. "Whose dumbass idea was the hat thing, anyway?"

Rahne gestured at the bedraggled, thrift-shop fedora. "You're the only one who has a hat, you eejit. Democracy in action, you said." Under the ragged red hair there was a wolfish gleam in her eye.

"Democracy my ass," Rictor said wildly. He pawed through the Post-Its, trying to stem the panic. "This is a set-up. I'm gonna hunt down every one of you jerks who wrote my name down, I swear. Think I can't recognise your writing?"

"Hey, no tampering!" said Guido. "It's s'posed to be anonymous."

"Screw anonymous. This is a prank, and you're all gonna pay." Ric swiped a bottle from the table at random and gulped vodka, wishing fiercely that he was still good and drunk, then fanned the Post-Its like a hand of cards and glared at his teammates. "Okay, well. No prizes for guessing who voted for Monet."

Monet tossed her head. "Well, duh."

"And Layla, Longshot? Really?"

Longshot shuffled guiltily. "She knows stuff."

"Not any more she doesn't," Rictor growled. "Ain't that right, Butterfly?" Layla just watched from the doorway, hugging her ribs, just as she had been since Rahne had coaxed her from her vigil over Madrox' body. She looked so miserable that Ric felt a queasy jab of shame. "Okay, okay, I'm sorry." He buried himself in the votes, then looked up at her in disbelief. "You voted for me? Why the hell – ?"

Her voice was hardly a whisper. "Because Terry doesn't want it, and you're second best."

"Last resort, you mean. Sheesh, Layla." Then the rest hit him, and he looked at Terry. "You don't?"

Terry shook her head wryly. "Even less than you do, Ric."

Ric snorted. "Well, shit, 'cause I voted for you. And so did... uh, Guido and – and Pip."

Pip blushed to the roots of his hair as everyone stared at him. "What? Shut up. Redheads oughta stick together, that's all."

Rictor was rifling the votes in confusion. "But that means – that means everybody else – " He stopped. Shatterstar was giving him the sweet, hangdog look he usually reserved for accidental appliance breakage and internet mishap. "Aw, come on," Ric said weakly. "Why? Why would you do that when you know I don't want that kind of – "

'Star smiled hesitantly. "Because people who don't want power are the only ones you can trust with it?"

"Who says so?"

"You did, when we were watching The Daily Show."

"Agh, crap." Ric pinched the bridge of his nose. "No more politics TV for you," he muttered. The Post-Its dropped from his hand and he scowled helplessly at Terry and Rahne. "You two. I'd expect shenanigans from Layla, and – and dorkiness that's usually cute from 'Star, but – but you guys oughta know better, for crying out loud. Me? What the hell were you thinking?"

Rahne and Terry looked at each other, the two women in the world who knew him best, and then grinned at him. It wasn't helpful at all. "Because you can, because you should, because it's time," said Terry simply. "That's as much reason as you're going to get, so deal with it."

"You might have an out," said Layla suddenly.


She pointed at the hat. "Three-four to you. Jamie hasn't voted yet. Maybe he'll make it a tie and then Terry can share the job."

"Jamie?" Rictor gaped. "Are you nuts? What's he gonna do, bang on the inside of the freezer?"

Layla ducked from the doorway and they heard her running through the front office. Five minutes later she was back, holding a small folded scrap of paper.

"What's that?"

"Something from the safe."

Ric shook his finger at her. "Ohhh, no. Nonono. I know where this is going. You knew this would happen, so you told Jamie to leave his goddamn vote in the safe so that – that – wait." The tiredness and grief – the frankly unsettling self-doubt – had never left Layla's face. "But you didn't know, " he said, softer now. "Because you didn't know he was gonna die..."

She shook her head, and a tear streaked her face. "He told me. He said if anything ever happened to him, and we ever got to voting for a new team leader, he'd left his vote in the safe. He said to only use it if – if there were arguments..."

"And by if, he meant when," Rahne said wearily.

Ric took the paper from Layla's outstretched hand. He was dismayed to find his own hand shaking as he unfolded it. Goddammit, vote Terry, vote Terry. You know it makes sense, no-one in their right mind would vote for –

"What's it say, fer Chrissakes?" Guido demanded.

Ric handed him the paper wordlessly. His legs gave way and he flopped into a chair as Guido read it. "He says Rictor. Oh, and a p.s. 'Tell him to quit his whining and get on with it.' Heh. Heheheh. Congratulations, ya poor doomed bastard."

Rictor wrapped his arms around his head on the table. His voice was muffled. "You're all fired. Get outta here." He waited stubbornly while everybody wandered back to the living room, chuckling – all but that one set of sad little footsteps going back downstairs to the morgue, and Madrox. Goddamn him. Damn him to hell. He'd put every available resource on finding a way to resurrect Jamie, just so's he could kill him again. That'd teach him. Shit.

When there wasn't a single other noise left in the room he mumbled, "You still there?"

There was the scrape of a chair, and someone sat down and put an arm around him. Ric breathed in the reassuring smell of worn leather and sword-metal, then propped his chin on one arm and looked at Shatterstar pathetically. "I can't believe that just happened," he said.

"I can." There was an odd, light smile on 'Star's face. On any other occasion Ric would've called it pride, but that couldn't be right, could it?

"You really think I can do this?" He hated how needy his voice sounded.

Shatterstar put his head on one side, appearing to consider his response. Then he came to a decision – to be fair, the same one he usually came to when Rictor was bitterly freaked out about something. He reached over and kissed him. "Yes," he said. "Yes, I do."

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May 2012

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