Warnings: Femslash, sex, and violence. A lot of it for this many words. You've been warned.
The Bitter and the Sweet
Hong Kong's Kowloon area buzzed with an energy tonight. The summer rains passed, another monsoon season weathered, and the cabin feverish denizens needed release. They needed to feel the world, to drink well into the night, to rub shoulder and shoulder against each other in this primal yet modern ritual known only to the world's most overpopulated cities.
They called this slice of Kowloon "Mong Kok," roughly translated from Cantonese into "busy corner." Tall buildings surrounded everything, pressing everyone into neat, compact rows. Vendors of all ilks lined the closed off roads while the herds rushed into their waiting grasps. Smells of curry and noodles and desserts and other unnamable but imaginative dishes overwhelmed passersby.
Leather boots hammered against the beat up sidewalk and peeled through the throngs like a shark swimming through water.
She was taller than most of the locals. Her dark skin contrasted with their lighter tones. Her long white hair highlighted her amongst the crowds. Men, women, and children stared at her, gawking and pointing at this anomaly, at this stranger in this stranger filled land. She was different from anyone they'd ever seen, and even in a metropolis like Hong Kong, those who were different got treated differently.
Not that Ororo cared.
Oh, in another time she might've shifted her eyes around and silently challenged the ones giving her too long of a stare. For tonight, she ignored them out of apathy, not nobility.
Tonight, she had death on her mind.
The biting wind caused her to blink. In that moment between here and there, two memories--one sweet, one bitter--flashed across her heart and hitched her breath.
The sweet started like this: in a high class bar not far from here, Felix's.
This bar sat atop the Peninsula Hotel, one of the world's most elegant lodgings which played host to countless dignitaries and celebrities. Locals gathered with tourists, many hoping for a view of the famous and powerful, most hoping for an opportunity to socialize with them. Under this electric anticipation, the evening officially got under way, spurred to life by the live jazz band pounding out the first notes of a Duke Ellington song. Ororo sat by herself, a much too expensive cosmopolitan in front of her and a view of the entire Hong Kong universe a stone's throw away. Many focused on her but she brushed them off.
They weren't the ones she wanted to see.
As the music eased into the background, her finely tuned senses drew her to the far corner elevator. Out stepped a mirage of a woman, familiar only by impersonal pictures in a file. Her parents, rest their souls, named her Gloria Dolores Munoz but the world knew her as Risqué. Hugging leather seemed painted onto every inch of her body, a second skin which left nothing to the imagination. Between that and her high cheeked, exotic yet enticing face, the Felix's regulars moved their blasé stares to her without hesitation.
Even the blind would've known she more than lived up to her namesake.
Risqué. Like a cat waking from her slumber, she slowly scanned the room, and actually not to scan the either, but rather to squeeze the final drops of anticipation from the bar's veins.
She flicked her hair back and glided to Ororo, foreigner to foreigner, exotic to erotic, mirage to ghost. Men--and not a few women--reached into their fantasies and conjured the ravenous, unmentionable things these two strangers would do to each other later tonight. Prophets these people weren't, but people didn't have to be prophets to be right.
Risqué tasted this collective moan of sexual tension and jutted her ample chest out as she waved a waiter over. The poor man nearly tripped over himself coming to her.
"Martini," she said, the "r" rolling off her tongue like a flute's trill, "Extra dirty."
Dismissed. Her drink ordered, he served no other purpose save to be ignored. Now Ororo, the purported weather witch, she was interesting. What would ever possess Charles Xavier to send one of his prized X-Men to meet with her? He wanted something badly, bad enough to tap this tasty morsel with chocolaty brown skin and clear blue eyes.
But that was neither here nor there. "For a place so alive, you barely have a pulse."
The cosmo untouched (She never drank while on business.). The intense and focused gaze (She never forgot the mission objective.). The statue-like stillness (She never tipped her hand.). The steely uncaringness toward her surroundings (She never let trivial things distract her.). Ororo held Risque's image like she was the only person in the room and not one of a million others.
"I have an offer for you."
The extra dirty martini quietly clinked onto the table, harried hands retreating as fast as they arrived. Testing the drink, Risqué frowned at the aftertaste of cheap gin.
She immediately put her drink down and sighed. "You'd expect them to use quality alcohol."
"Please, call me Risqué."
Ororo blinked to compose herself. "Risqué," she began again, "Professor Xavier wants to know if you'd be interested in working with us."
Took her two seconds to answer. "No."
"May I ask why?"
Risqué folded her arms on the table and leaned into it, half conspiratorially, half seductively. "I don't work for free."
"I didn't ask you to-"
"You said if I'd be interested to work with you. Working WITH you implies an equal partnership, a sort of mutual self-sacrificing you and your friends like so much. I work FOR people in an exchange of services for payment."
Semantics--two could play at that game but Ororo refused to rise to the bait. "We don't expect you to work for free. You will be compensated."
"Well," smiled Risqué, perking up ever so much, "Keep talking."
The bus honked. A poor tourist nearly jumped out of his skin. In his hasty retreat, he bumped into Ororo.
Temple Street lazed before her now, not Felix's. The swanky bar disintegrated into this shady avenue. Puffs of acidic smoke rose from vents like a dragon's breath. Dancers whirled and twirled in the open, the very picture of this pulsing, nonstop atmosphere. Men and women dressed in archaic Chinese garb stood sentry with those selling counterfeit Nautica jackets and Gucci purses.
The stares dwindled away. The further she ventured, the more people minded their own business. This part of town wasn't a good place to ask questions, and out of professional courtesy, no one did. Staring meant asking; staring meant snitch or cop. No one liked cops here so no one stared.
They looked but never stared.
Ororo slipped into an alley sandwiched by two aging buildings. Trash and trashed people piled inside the narrow opening. They looked but the palatable feralness in her forced them to look away. With moves Logan would envy, she vaulted onto one of the old fashioned fire escapes nestled on the second story.
In any other place, the commotion of her impacting on metal and her subsequent scrambling up rickety steps would've caused an uproar, but this was Hong Kong and Hong Kong noise drowned out everything.
She made it up the building without incidence.
She let go of the breath she held: the alley's stench didn't reach up this far quite yet. From her back pocket, she produced a credit card sized piece of plastic. On touch, the little slip brightened like a computer screen, and like said computer screen, spat out data.
E-paper. The wave of the future here today. Amazing what one could get from opportunistic vendors here. With a few passwords and some remote connections, the power of Cerebra's mutant databases fit in her palm. She flipped through the impertinent information and settled on a search she ran earlier today.
Hong Kong. Kowloon. Temple Street. Two blocks away from the MTR station. Heightened mutant activity leaked in and out of the area but something was off. The X-genes' unique signatures dampened or diluted: it was like detecting a human and mutant in the same spot. Thing was, you either had the gene or you didn't, not maybe, kinda, sort of...
Except in one case...
The sweet continued like this: a semi-drunken stupor.
One drink turned into three, then three into five. Talking shop turned into talking dirty, twisted that way by Glori-
Twisted that way by Risque's batting eyelashes and sultry accent.
"So tell me, is Logan the man everyone claims him to be?"
"Maybe," slyly grinned Ororo, "Why do you think I'd know?"
"Please, half of you women slobber over him like bitches in heat. Doesn't he have a devote harem hovering over him all the time?"
Normally, that would've sounded offensive. Logan was a stout friend and dependable ally and Ororo felt the stirrings to defend him. Then again, she normally didn't have how many drinks in her. Normally, she didn't picture Kitty and Yukio and Jubilee and Jean (yes, even Jean) "hovering" over him like jealous gatekeepers. Normally, she would've told Risqué to hold her tongue and not venture into territory she had no business venturing into.
Tonight, normal went out the window. "You say half of us. I'm not part of that half."
The women placed her chin on top of her hands and winked. "So you're saying he does nothing for you?"
"What about Scott? Do you eye him up and down like Betsy and Boom Boom?"
"No." Down went the rest of the midori sour. "And Tabitha likes to be called Meltdown now."
"She'll always be Boom Boom in my book."
Risqué shrugged. "Because that's the way the girl fucks."
The nosy waiter eavesdropping on them tripped over his own feet and sent his tray of appetizers to the floor. Pints of beer and cocktails shattered to the beat of "How High the Moon." Heads turned but Ororo ignored them and the bumbling waiter.
"I always wondered about Tabitha."
"Bi," Risqué supplied, equally unperturbed by the commotion. With a lazy swing, she consumed her shot of vodka. "She's good, real good, make you daydream about her good."
"Me? Oh, I'm great, have those straight ones begging for more great."
"How very modest of you."
As her face clouded over in longing mystery, the black hair woman crept ever closer and whispered, "Modesty is for the weak, Ororo. I can't help it if what I say is true."
Instead of sinking into her seat, Ororo bridged the distance till their breaths grazed over each other's aching flesh. Whiffs of perfume mixed with the stiff, effervescent alcohol. Neither woman looked away, neither woman back down, neither woman accepted the overwhelming tension nor the screaming voices in their head calling this encounter a "bad idea."
Ororo was too proud. Risqué was too turned on.
An eternity later, the nosy waiter cleared his throat beside them. "Um, madams? It's the final call. The bar is about to close."
There! Ororo ducked down and focused her binoculars on the trench coat wearing man. Summer made itself known in Hong Kong, bringing with it oppressive heat and sweltering humidity. That was before anyone factored in the enclosed island chock full of cars, people, and heat expelling air conditioning units. Anyone wearing a trench--even in the bustling night--screamed of questionable motives.
Not to mention the half mutant, half human blip from Cerebra matched the bulky man's movements.
And despite his bulkiness, he blazed a trail through the crowds, carrying his weight with a graceful ease. Ororo noticed his body seemed wrong in certain places, the cloth hanging off of his frame at odd angles then unnaturally bulging elsewhere.
So it was true: U-Men still existed.
She tracked his walk down Temple Street, past the row of street vendors and into a Chinese medicine shop. The blip on her e-paper screen persisted for a few seconds before disappearing. Her fingers wrapped around the pair of binoculars as teeth ground together.
The U-Men held a prominent position of hate in Ororo's heart. These... these... things, for they were no longer human (at least in spirit), subdued mutants and ran sickening experiments on them. The most common procedure? Grafting mutant parts onto their own bodies.
With the ample but misplaced genius of their leader, John Sublime, they managed this feat with great proficiency and began a campaign called the Third Species Movement wherein humans tried to "better" themselves by harvesting organs from mutants. In a bold move, he sent his blubbering U-Men against her X-Men, and in the tumultuous weeks following, he lost the war (and his own life) because of his brashness.
Supposedly, the U-Men scattered to the winds, their leader dead and their laboratories destroyed. Supposedly, the X-Men struck a blow against mutant haters everywhere. Supposedly, the victory was swift and decisive.
Supposedly. Truth was, victory came at a great cost.
The sweet ended like this: a blur of gratification.
In Risque's hotel room at the Peninsula, naked body draped on naked body, they explored each other like new toys. Ororo wrestled her way to the top and straddled the other woman's hips. Hungrily, she dove for the searing mouth and wet tongue. A freezing breeze swirled around the room, flowed between their bodies, and swept over their moist lips both lower and upper.
Goosebumps rose all over Risqué as she felt the physical cold and sexual heat all in the same abbreviated gasp for breath. Her hands reached around and palmed Ororo's rear. "Toned and silky," Risqué thought herself, just the way she liked them. Quickly, she spread Ororo's thighs out and forced that dripping sex to touch down on her skin with a tiny slap. The roughness of Ororo's shockingly white hair, the smoothness of that sex, the budding extension of her erect clit, the firmness of that ass, and that mouth, that probing mouth along with the contrast of cold and hot and wetness and excitement and danger made Risqué mew and shiver as the orgasm washed over her.
Still, Ororo wasn't done. The weather witch slipped away and stopped that breeze of hers. Instead, the room became humid, rain forest humid. As Risqué came back to herself, she noticed herself sweating, at least sweating more than she should've. Ororo still remained above her, the moonlight sneaking through the open window and casting her chocolaty body in a glistening, surreal beauty. They paused and examined each other for the briefest moment, the promise of competitive satisfaction speeding their pulses and breaths.
A leg wormed under Risque's. Ororo moved with nimble purpose, each stretch a melodious slur to the next graceful act. Sweat came between them and rubbed their skin together. Before she could wonder aloud what was going on, the now familiar folds of Ororo's innermost flesh pressed against Risque's own core. The contact made Risqué gasp, her ears thundering with running blood and her nipples standing even taller than they were before. Ororo's eyes grew completely white as if she was using a great deal of her powers.
Perhaps she was.
The first thrusts were awkward and rough. Risqué liked rough, not awkward. A shift here, a shift there, and soon, they fell into rhythm. Risqué arched her back and groaned with effort; Ororo pressed forward, alarmed and excited at how good this felt.
Ororo came first this time, the arousal of seeing Risqué come the first time around carrying over to now. As she screamed, Risqué quickened her pace, the wetness gushing out of one and into the other. She followed soon after.
Slender fingers reached down to their sexes and rubbed both of them. Risqué lazily grinned at her busy digits before licking them clean.
"Mmm," she chuckled, the sucking noises loud and clear for effect, "We have to do this again."
As Ororo extracted herself from the tangle of limbs and crawled back up to the pillows, the room's temperature and humidity returned to normal. Clear, sky blue eyes replaced the white orbs of nothingness.
Well, that and a smile. "Again you say?"
"If I'd known Xavier was going to pay me like this, I would've joined you X-Men years ago."
A feigned growl of anger rumbled from Ororo's throat before she took Risqué again.
"You want find something?"
Ororo surveyed the cramped medicine store: one door in, one door to the back room, and one old man sitting behind the cash register. Dried herbs and animal parts resided in glass counters, in jars on walls, and in cardboard boxes on the floor. Chinese characters littered everything, some spats of English interspersed within breaking up the monotony.
Clearing her throat, Ororo assumed the role of a panicked tourist. "Excuse me, could I use your restroom?"
The old man's welcoming demeanor darkened. "No buy anything? Get out! No restroom here!"
"Please?" she pressed, fumbling in her pockets for money, "I could pay-"
"No restroom. Go somewhere else!"
Before she got another word in, the door to the back room opened, readmitting the trench coat wearing man she tracked into this place. He looked like he was about to say something to the old man but his eyes caught sight of Ororo. He shrugged and looked ready to open his mouth but his head whipped around, double-taking.
Lights went off somewhere in his mind. His lips moved before his better sense took over.
The bitter started like this: a phone call.
"When are you coming over?"
Ororo rolled her eyes and continued watering her poor, recently neglected plants. "That's the fourth time you've asked me."
Risqué giggled--actually giggled--on the other end of the line. "I could ask you something else, like, oh... Do you know what I'm not wearing right now?"
The leader of the X-Men stifled her amused sigh. Risqué truly lived up to her moniker every chance she got. That charged pursuit and devil-may-care attitude spoke to Ororo's instincts the way Yukio did during the X-Men's trip to Japan.
For all her cool, calm, and collectedness, Ororo was still wild at heart. Risqué lived those buried urgings, and for months now, slowly but surely coaxed them forth. The two might've been separated by oceans and continents, but strange enough, their want of each other and each other's qualities never dwindled. Ororo found herself talking on the telephone more than ever; Risqué gladly obliged with random calls from time zones away.
Was this love? Perhaps, but love was too strong a word. This was lust taken to the extremes, enhanced by separation and sweetened fantasies. This was their relationship, attached to each other but not able to be with each other enough. It was frustrating and maddening, but at the same time, it was heavenly torture.
Was there love? Certainly. Was there passion? Of course. Was whatever they had what Scott and Jean shared?
No... but a nagging voice--the rebel in her, the thing which Risqué spoke to--wanted it to be.
Frankly, the ache in her grew too painful to ignore.
Too much thinking. "I'm still here."
Another rich laugh. "Did your imagination run a little out of control there? I can help you out and give you some clues. Lemme see, I'm touching my-"
"Risqué, not tonight." Oh, she wanted it tonight but her reasonable side chastised her for even considering love, for entertaining the possibility of flying into Risque's arms and team be damned. "We have an early danger room session tomorrow."
"Excuses, excuses. If you hang up now, I'll just have to finish myself off without you. Mmm, and it won't take long eith-"
A muffled shout on the other end interrupted Risqué. A hurried "Fine, keep that face paint of yours on!" fired back to the unidentifiable voice.
"Well now," said Risqué sadly, "Domino's back. Apparently, she heard rumors about people trafficking mutant body parts and wants me to check it out. Guess you'll get your early bedtime after all."
"Trafficking body parts? In Hong Kong?"
"Hey, I don't make these things up. The people here already sell anything and everything anyway, so why not leg of Toad and claws of Wolverine?"
"But trafficking mutant body parts?"
"Look, Domino shakes people down and I check out the news--it's a simple process, really. As Cable likes to say, 'If it ain't broke, don't fuck with it.'"
"Just... be careful. If the rumors are true, you two might need our help."
"Help? We're X-Corps--we're always understaffed, outgunned, and outnumbered. We're used to it."
A jagged streak of lightning hurled the man into the safe-like door. The electrical surge ran through the metal and into the security keypad, overloading circuitry and neutralizing defensive mechanisms. As the now dead man slumped to the floor, the door unlatched and swung open.
Two others--one with muscular, green arms and another with bug-like, segmented eyes--glanced at Ororo and shouted warnings to their friends. Too bad most of the warnings petered out thanks to the gale force winds picking them up and smashing them into the ceiling with a wet but crunchy smack.
Behind the façade of this campy Chinese herb store lay this cornucopia of the macabre. Even here, two steps into these U-Men's base, the ground had spackles of dried blood. Rusty prison bars separated room from room, and within these cages, operatories and high tech equipment sat quietly, oblivious to their owners' purpose.
Down the hall, a U-Man worked on one of his comrades, but because of Ororo, abandoned the job to meet the threat. He rushed through the open cell he operated in and spat a stream of steaming bile at her. Ororo pulled the gale she summoned close, catching the caustic liquid midair and redirecting it back to the man. Caught unaware, the surgeon-wanna-be-mutant tore at his eyes as his acid digested his face, skin and blood drooping down globs at a time.
Ororo stepped over the writhing man. With a dismissive wave, she shorted out the life-support systems which kept the U-Man on the operating table alive.
The bitter ended like this: a phone call.
It was three in the morning. The previous day had been hell and the last thing Ororo needed was someone interrupting her much needed sleep. Natural reflexes made her answer the phone but the voice was so unfamiliar she was tempted to hang up.
"Who is this?"
"Domino. I need help from the X-Men now."
Wait, Domino? "You're in Hong Kong..."
"No shit, Sherlock, and I need back up. This place is coming apart faster than one of Cable's battle plans so I'd appreciate it if you'd get up and get going!"
What? The word sucked the sleep out of Ororo. She gripped the phone tightly and whispered, "You're joking."
"I don't have time for this. Meet me in front of the Marco Polo Prince Hotel in seven hours, no ands, ifs, or buts."
Ororo stared at the phone. Dead? How? What happened? Oh God, she was checking out those people trafficking mutant body parts. What if they killed her? What if...
No. Ororo steeled herself, erected a cage around her bleeding heart. She had seven hours to rescue Domino, probably less. The grief could come later because the team came first. The team always came first, the team and the dream.
Like a battered warrior, she struggled to her feet and proceeded to sound the alarm.
"You gutted her."
Her palm's heel cracked the man's chin and mashed his teeth together. Blood leaked out of a cut in his mouth.
"You watched her crumble to the ground as she bled out."
The sharp tip of her leather boot knocked his sternum: he coughed and wheezed in response.
"You wanted her powers but none of you had any idea how she controlled gravity."
The same boot came down hard on his fingers. Snap, crackle, pop.
"You cut her arms off while she was still alive."
She picked him up and threw him against the shelves filled with preserved body parts.
"One of you said you should fuck her before she got cold."
He palmed a shard of broken glass in his unbroken hand and waited for the witch to come closer. She did.
"Your leader, John Sublime, told you to keep her brain just in case she was telekinetic."
He swiped at her but she was too quick for him. She grabbed his shaky wrist and jabbed the improvised shiv into his thigh.
"The police had to use a DNA test to identify her."
She twisted the glass and made sure it carved against bone.
"Even after the X-Men came, even after Sublime died, even after we destroyed every one of your bases, here you are doing this again."
She pulled him by his hair and dragged him on the glass riddled floor. She took him across the room past the incubation tubes full of limbs, past the bodies of his fellow U-Men, and in front of a sophisticated-looking tank.
Inside? A single brain floated in the middle, though by the thing's size, it probably once held many more organs.
"Tell me, is this her? Is this Risqué?"
The man coughed and wheezed some more. Ororo bent his arm at an odd angle and shoved his face against the glass.
"Is this Risqué!"
"That's a mystery you're going to have to puzzle out yourself, Ms. Munroe."
Ororo's eyes bulged: she recognized Sinister's voice anywhere. She frantically looked around the room but the only people in here were her and...
The hair she had a hold of started shifting. The piece of glass rubbing between sheets of muscle popped out. The back of his head turned into the front of his head, and soon, the entire body followed. Ororo jumped back, startled at the shifting flesh and changing face. Chinese features paled into ashen white while the bloodied lab coat melded into form fitting blue. In place of the bony physique was a well toned body.
Sinister, in all his revealed glory, rose to his feet and dusted himself off. "While I thoroughly enjoyed your company, I must say my time here is most definitely through. The U-Men have survived long enough for me to siphon away all their experimental records. You know how it is: data to analyze, conclusions to draw, and procedures to invent. In the name of science, I shall let you persist for another day."
He gave a deep bow. "Bonsoir, mademoiselle, you've caught me in my giddy school child mood. Count your lucky stars."
She should've taken his advice. She should've accepted his out and been glad. She should've reported back to the mansion or the X-Corps headquarters. She should've set this place ablaze and left it buried in the deepest, darkest regions of her mind. She should've done all those things but she didn't.
Sinister frowned. "Do not test my patience, mutant."
One foot in the grave already, wasn't it? She focused on the tank behind Sinister. She saw the brain and saw what might've been Risqué. She remembered their precious few nights together and the words left unsaid. She knew he was the devil, but some things were worth dealing with the devil.
She remembered the cage she put around her heart and how it did nothing to stem the hurt hounding her every waking second.
Her responsible side told her to stop and look at what she was doing. The other side of her, the side which brought her to Hong Kong in the dead of the night to commit bloody murder, told her hope still existed for Risqué, for them. They could've been something if only the dream hadn't consumed them both, hadn't cut Risque's life short and forced Ororo into a predestined path.
To dream but not feel life's sweetness. To feel life's sweetness but not to dream. What was worse? Neither, both were just... different.
Yes, different. Different like how she acted tonight. Different like how she'd been ever since Risqué came into her life. Different like when she went to Japan and came back with a leather vest and mohawk. Different.
Different didn't imply equal.
With her gaze on the tank and a million miles away, she said, "I'd like to make a deal with you."
- The End.