This is a one-shot based on an idea I had in London the other day. Being a hater of the underground myself, it was pretty easy to write this. It's based before everything…before the movie…we're going back to the M.I.T days guys. Sue and Reed's first meeting. Their first interaction. I hope you like it!
Leave Me Breathless
Rush hour. Perhaps the worst time to be out in London. Reed Richards had learnt that a long time ago. His father had been a keen traveller, although all of his trips were for scientific studies rather than tourism and local attractions, so he had been taken to London many times through the rush hour business. However, it was only once he grew older that he was allowed somewhere other than the hotel room when they visited. Usually, he'd be made to stay there whilst his father visited his associates and fellow researchers, so that he wouldn't get into trouble or break something. He'd been a clumsy child. When he had started to get older, though, his father would give him some money, and Reed would wander around London with a tourist map, taking photographs for memories of London Zoo, Tower Bridge and Regents Park.
However, one thing he didn't like about the city was travelling in rush hour, and it was something they'd always had to do. He could remember being seven years old, and clinging tightly to his fathers arm whilst people rushed on and off of the tube stations to get into the trains. Even now, he subconsciously reached out and held onto the railing he was standing near to whenever the doors opened, just in case he got flooded out with the rest of the passengers that were leaving.
At the moment, though, he wasn't there for tourism, and he'd definitely forgotten to bring a camera. If he needed one, he'd buy a disposable one and get it developed back home, but, like his father, he was now in the city for research. A trip had been organised by the M.I.T, the college research unit he was studying for. Those in their fourth and final year were given the opportunity to present certain ideas and theories to some of England's best scientists, in the hope of being able to continue on their work with them once their studies were over, but the trip had been open to those in their third year as well, which is why Reed was currently in the city.
At his side, on the train, was his greatest and oldest friend, Ben Grimm. The two of them had worked and played together for as long as he could remember. Many times, when his father had left for research, Reed had been sent down the road to stay with Ben's family, particularly on long trips which would have been inconvenient for Reed to miss so much school for. There were about thirty other students on the train, mixtures of the third year students and fourth year students, but the one that caught his eye across the carriage was one that he knew to be a third year, like himself and Ben.
She had golden blonde hair, which, at the moment was half clasped back over her shoulders, with the rest of the length cascading down her back. He'd seen her around a lot at M.I.T, and yet he'd never spoken to her. Why? Because he was too nervous. This woman, this young woman who was easily the most beautiful he had ever seen, had captured his mind and affections since he had first arrived at M.I.T and seen her getting out of the car which had pulled up beside his. They both studied genetics research as their major, and he knew that her name was Susan, but he'd always backed out of actually talking to her. After all, she was smart and beautiful, she had everything...why would she want to have anything to do with him?
Now, though, the reason he was staring wasn't because of the blatant beauty which had, on occasions that had shocked him, taken over his mind when science had always been at the front of it. But instead, because of the paleness of her cheeks. She was standing further down the carriage, in the next small landing area where the doors were, holding so tightly onto the yellow metal railing beside her that even from where he was standing in a similar position, he could see her knuckles underneath her skin. Her eyes, which were usually an enticing bright blue, were closed tightly, and the wondrous colour now hidden by her closed lids.
"What are you looking at?" Ben asked him, nudging him from the side. It sent his other arm flying into the plastic wall that blocked him from falling onto the man sitting beside them.
Reed was forced to look away from Susan, which wasn't so much of a difference as she hadn't seen him, but he frowned all the same. "That woman..."
"Susie Storm?" Ben asked, following to where Reed had been staring.
"Yeah. Susan. Is she okay?"
Ben looked at him incredulously. "Why ask me? I'm not psychic." He pointed out.
Reed simply frowned again, and looked back to the pale-faced beauty. "She doesn't look okay."
Ben put his hand on Reed's shoulder, shaking him lightly. "Reed, man, we're in London!" He reminded him. "We're on a research trip. Think of all the scientists you're going to meet. I'm surprised you haven't starting jumping up and down like a five year old on a sugar high."
"But..." He started protest, motioning weakly in Susan's direction, but Ben cut him off.
"I'm sure she's fine." He assured him. "Come on, man. London!"
Reed took a deep breath. "I'm going to talk to her." He announced.
Ben looked at him incredulously once more. In the three years that he had watched his best friend pine after Sue Storm, he had never actually seen his friend speak to her. In fact, he didn't want to tell him, but he was pretty sure that Sue didn't know Reed was on the face of the planet, as she had her head up in the stars as much as Reed did most of the time. He cast a wary look in Sue's direction. "She doesn't look like she wants to talk much right now." Ben pointed out.
Reed raised an eyebrow at him. "I thought you said you weren't psychic?" He challenged. "Besides, she doesn't look like she wants to be on her own either."
Without hearing another word from Ben, Reed started to push himself through the people blocking his way to her. Ben simply stared after his friend, unsure where his sudden burst of courage to speak to the girl he admired had come from.
"Well," He grumbled to himself, gripping the handle above him as the underground train rattled on the tracks once more. "I like London."
When he reached Sue, Reed looked around. There were a few other people from M.I.T around her, including a brown-haired tall boy that he often saw with her. At the moment though, this boy was doing something with his cell-phone and ignoring all discomfort on Sue's face. Reaching up and taking hold of a steadying handle with one hand, he placed his other on her upper arm.
"Are you okay?" He asked her quietly, even though the tube was buzzing with sound from the excited students around them both.
His touch and his words seemed to jerk her back into a reality she had been trying to ignore, and she looked up to see him, slightly shocked. "Excuse me?" She asked.
"I said, are you okay?" Reed repeated.
She stared at him for a moment. This wasn't just any guy standing before her. This was the guy that she saw watching her sometimes. The guy that disappeared before she ever had a chance to speak to him. The guy who's name she didn't know, but who she always harboured an attraction for. "I...I'm fine." She stuttered.
"You don't look fine." Reed observed, seeing the discomfort that was still taking hold of her.
She sighed. "I just...I don't like being underground much." She explained slowly.
"Okay, I don't like being underground at all." She admitted fully, giving him an awkward smile.
"Don't worry." He assured her, lightly squeezing the hand that held her arm. "We've only got five more stops to go."
"Only?" She repeated, as if five more stops were her idea of Hell.
However, before Reed could reply, the carriage jerked again, and this time, a small boy went flying into their legs, dropping the action figure he had been holding in his hands. Both Reed and Sue instantly reached down to help him up. When he was back on his feet, Reed saw that the boy was only seven years old, at least, but he was clearly on his own on the tube.
"Sorry." The boy mumbled to them both.
"That's okay." Sue assured him, with her hand on his shoulder still.
The boy suddenly looked alarmed and looked around him on the floor. "Spiderman." He said. "Where's my Spiderman? I dropped him."
Reed looked around on the ground between peoples feet, finally spotting the red and blue action figure that the boy had dropped when he had fallen. "Is this him?" He asked, picking up the plastic figure and holding it out to the boy.
"Yeah!" The boy said, grinning and taking the action figure. "Thank you."
"You're welcome." Reed told him with a smile.
Instead of leaving them, like they both thought he might, the boy continued to talk to them both, looking up at Reed. "Do you like Spiderman?" He asked him.
"I don't really know much about Spiderman." Reed admitted. He'd never been a fan of the comics as a child, more interested in schoolwork.
"Oh." The boy said, slightly disappointed, before turning to Sue. "Do you?" He asked her.
She nodded a little, still looking shaky and pale, but the boys presence and interaction with her was clearly distracting her from the fear of being underground. "I know a bit about Spiderman." She told him.
"You're from America, aren't you?" The boy asked.
Reed smiled and nodded. "Yes, yes we are."
"All the superheroes come from America." The boy told them. "Are you superheroes."
They both laughed lightly at the idea, and Reed leaned down a little, closer to the boy. "If I were a superhero, I'd have found a way for this pretty lady not to have go on the tube."
"Is that so?" Sue asked him with a blush.
"You have to, though." The boy said, before Reed could answer through his own slight blush. "It's faster than the bus."
"I don't mind taking my time, though." Sue told him, glancing at Reed from the corner of her eye as she did so.
"Me neither." He agreed.
"It's confusing, but it's good." The boy continued. "It's really fast. I like fast things. Like Spiderman. Spiderman's fast."
"Spiderman sucks." The brown-haired, tall man from beside Sue said, without looking up from his cell-phone.
"Johnny!" Susan scolded with a hiss, when she saw the boy's downhearted expression.
"What? He does." He said, looking up from his phone. "He's a--"
This time, it was the boy that cut him off. Looking up at Johnny with a determined stare. "If you were a superhero, I think Spiderman would think that you suck as well." He said.
Johnny looked down at the boy, putting his cell-phone into his pocket as he clearly found a more interesting challenge. "Oh, would he now?"
"Yeah." The boy told him. "I don't think you'd be a very good superhero."
"Because you're not nice like these two people." The boy said, pointing at Reed and Sue. "Superheroes have to be nice."
"I can be nice." Johnny insisted.
"I bet it's hard, though." The boy told him, causing Sue to laugh lightly.
"Oh, yeah?" Johnny challenged, glaring at Sue out of the corner of his eye. "I'm gonna be nice, right now." He decided, putting his hands on the boys shoulders and steering him through the people. "Come on, let's got and find your mother."
As Johnny and the young boy left them, disappearing into the next carriage, Reed and Sue were left standing beside one another, an awkwardness hanging over the air now that they didn't have the youngster providing most of the conversation.
"Boyfriend?" Reed asked in mention to Johnny.
Sue looked at him, completely horrified. "Oh, God, no!" She said quickly. "He's my little brother."
"Oh!" Reed said, glad now for all the worrying that he had done wondering whether it was her boyfriend or not. "He's at M.I.T as well?"
"Yeah, second year." She said. "God knows how he got in on this trip. He never wants to admit that he wants to be here."
"It's confusing, I know." She acknowledged. "He's smart, but he's a daredevil as well. He'd rather be snowboarding down Everest than be in a city like London."
"Really?" Reed asked, unable to believe how someone could pass up this city. "I always liked London."
"Me too." She agreed. "I love the city, I just..."
"...hate the underground." Reed finished for her.
"Exactly." She nodded.
The lights in their carriage flickered for a moment, and Sue frowned. When they came back on, the tube train rolled to a stop, with a final jerk forwards before the brakes kicked in, which sent Sue sideways into Reed. He steadied her, but when he went to release her, she didn't let go of him.
"Why has it stopped?" She asked, her voice shaky, and her grip on him tight.
"It's okay. It happens sometimes." He explained, remembering his panic from the first time he had been taken on a tube.
She shook her head. "There has to be a reason why we've stopped." She insisted worriedly.
"We're just waiting for the station ahead of us to clear, that's all." He assured her.
"What if it's not that?" She panicked.
"What else would it be?"
"What if we've broken down?" She suggested wildly. "What if we're stuck here?"
"We haven't." He said firmly. "The lights are still on, so the power isn't out. We can't have broken down."
At that moment, the lights flickered again. This time, when they came back on completely, the light was dimmer, and the darkness of the tunnel directly outside the windows seemed blacker than it was before. Then, there was an overhead beep, and a voice floated through the intercom in a scratchy tone.
"Ladies and gentlemen, this is the driver speaking. We're experiencing a small fault on the line ahead of us, which should be cleared up within in the next few moments. There is no cause for anyone to be alarmed, but I'd like to ask that you remain in the carriage you are currently in for the duration of the stop, until we begin moving again. Thank you."
Sue instantly looked towards the doors which her brother had passed through a moment ago. If they weren't supposed to move carriages, then he wouldn't be able to get back through until they started moving again. "Oh no..." She murmured.
"Just...relax, it's okay." Reed assured her.
She started to take sharp, shaking breaths. "We're stuck in a tunnel..."
"Just for a few minutes. It's fine." He assured her, realising that he was holding onto her just as tightly as she was to him now, even though, for him, there was no fear of being underground.
"No, it's not." She shook her head. "We're stuck."
"We're not stuck, we've just stopped." He corrected her.
She raised her head to his once more. "Look, I appreciate that you're trying to help, but when it comes to being underground, nothing helps." She told him, trying to hold back from snapping at him.
"You just need to relax and calm down." Reed told her.
"Which is easier said than done." She shunned.
"But that doesn't make it impossible." He pointed out. He spotted a seat that someone had moved from to ask someone for a newspaper they had finished with. Quickly, he led Sue to the empty seat. "Come on, sit down." He crouched on the floor beside her, ignoring the dirty floor beneath him, and looked up at her from the height advantage that she now had over him from the seat. "Right, now, take some deep breaths."
"Deep breaths don't work." She told him, shaking her head.
"Are you going to let me help you, or not?" He challenged her.
She caught his eye, and a connection flared between them. Neither could explain what it was, but there was something about the sudden meeting of the ocean blue and chocolate brown eyes which shocked them both, something they'd never experienced before. In fact, it shocked Sue so much, that she wasn't sure what was causing the rapid beating of her heart anymore.
Slowly, she nodded, maintaining the eye contact. "Okay." She whispered.
"Okay." He repeated, mimicking her nod. "Now, take some deep breaths. Good, that's it." He told her again, glad when she did so without second guessing him this time. However, after a short moment, the shaking in her limbs began again. Her fists clenched above her knees, and he encased her hands with his own. "No, no, no, steady, steady." He coached her. "You're having a panic attack, you need to calm down."
"That's bad." She realised. She'd freaked out being underground before, but she'd never had a panic attack because of it.
"Keep taking those deep breaths." He told her. "In through the nose, out through the mouth, that's it." He removed her hands from the fists they had become, and opened them up, placing his own hands in them, which she held onto tightly when he allowed her to. "Now, just remember," He spoke to her softly, so softly that no one in the carriage could hear them over the everyday bustle, including the person sitting beside them. "This is only a panic attack, there's nothing serious happening. All you need to do is reverse the adrenaline rush."
"How?" She asked him, her voice still shaking as much as her hands were.
"The deep breaths."
She nodded, and carried on breathing, each release of breathing becoming even more shakier as she tried to control them, but failed. After a short silence, Reed realised that every breath he took was mirrored to hers. Yet, the calming silence didn't last for long, because her breaths started to increase slightly, although still deep and controlled, and she shook her head, closing her eyes as the panic overtook her once more.
"I can't do this." She told him. "I can't stay down here."
"Yes, you can." He assured her. "Stop the negative."
"I can't." She repeated. "I can't stay in here, I need to get out. I need to get up."
"No, don't think like that." He told her calmly. "You're creating a loop...that's just going to start the adrenaline all over again. You need to stop it."
She let out a tiny whimper, taking one of her hands from his and placing it over her chest. "My chest hurts." She moaned, her eyes still tightly shut.
"It's just the panic attack." He assured her calmly, taking her hand from her chest and holding it in his once again. "It's just the adrenaline. The fear is what's making your heart pound harder, that's all. You're absolutely fine."
"I'm fine." She repeated his words, trying to believe them.
"That's right. You're okay."
"I'm okay." She nodded.
"Okay, just breathe..." He carried on. "Breathe...breathe...okay, maybe have a bit of a laugh to relieve the stress..." The sudden appearance of such randomness not only brought a smile to her face, but actually made her laugh a little, but he continued speaking over the top of her gentle laugh. "...that's it, and keep breathing. You're doing great."
The lights became brighter again, and Sue opened her eyes. The lights were working properly again, and the tube carriage jerked into movement once more, the sudden start moving Sue forwards so that her forearms were resting on her knees, very close to Reed. Slowly, she raised herself up. "We're moving again." She realised.
He nodded. "See, you did it." He smiled.
"Ladies and gentlemen, this is the driver speaking. I'd like to thank you for your patience during the brief stop, and we will be continuing onto our next stop as scheduled."
Sue smiled weakly, and looked down at Reed. "Thank you."
"It's nothing, I-"
"No, really." She insisted, realising that she was still holding his hands as their eyes met once more and the connection burned between them again. "Thank you."
He nodded slowly, not wanting to break the eye contact. "You're welcome."
There was a silence again, but neither of them made to move elsewhere. "I've seen you around the campus." Sue told him. "Quite a lot, actually."
"Probably because I spend more time researching than I do at my dorm or at parties." He explained.
She nodded. "I know the feeling."
"That must explain why I see you a lot as well, then." He realised.
"I guess it does." She agreed.
He gave her a gentle frown, which was compromised by her smile. "And even though we've both been studying genetics research for three years, I've never properly met you." He pointed out.
She gave him a genuine smile, shaking one of the hands that she held in her own. "Susan Storm." She told him, before rolled her eyes, and starting again. "Sue." She nodded.
"Reed Richards." He replied.
At that moment, Johnny paraded back into the carriage with a grin on his face, going over to the two. "Aw, match made in heaven." He teased with no meaning. "Come on, Sue, this is our stop." He told her.
Reed stood up, the same time that Sue did. "I guess I'll see you around again." He said, taking a step back.
She smiled at him. "Yeah, I guess you will. Thanks again."
"You're welcome again."
The M.I.T students piled off of the tube and onto the station platform. Instantly, Johnny and Sue were lost to the crowd that streamed out, and Reed realised that she probably wanted to get to get out of the station as soon as possible, so he stood and waited for the crowd to thin. Spotting Ben further down the platform, he approached his friend, who was looking at him incredulously as they followed the signs for 'way out'.
"I don't believe it." Ben shook his head.
"If I hadn't seen it with my own eyes..."
"Ben, what are you talking about?" Reed asked him.
"You, Reed Richards, were flirting with a girl." Ben announced.
"I wasn't flirting-"
"And it wasn't just any girl...it was the girl." He realised.
"Three years, and you've finally spoken to her." Ben said, almost proudly, but Reed knew that he was getting a tease in.
"Does she know your name now?" He teased.
"Yes." Reed said firmly, trying to get him to drop it.
"And what?" He asked, as they got onto the escalator which took them to the surface level.
"When's the date?" Ben asked.
"There isn't going to be one." Reed told him, although knowing that if her brother hadn't interrupted them there might well have been one. "Now, come on. We've got a bus to catch."
By this time, Sue and Johnny were already up on the street, heading towards the bus station. She started checking the times on the schedule, whilst her brother simply stood beside her, looking at her curiously now that the colour had started to return to her cheeks.
"What were you doing with that guy?" He asked her.
"What guy?" She asked innocently.
"The guy that was kneeling on the floor with you." He pointed out, even though she knew exactly what guy he was talking about.
"We were talking." She told him briefly.
"Really?" He asked suspiciously.
Sue sighed, turning away from the bus timetable, and looked up at her brother. "Okay." She admitted. "I freaked out because I was underground and had a panic attack. He was helping me." She explained.
Johnny laughed. "I'm surprised he even noticed you."
"He's Reed Richards." He pointed out. "World's dumbest smart guy. He doesn't pay attention to anything unless it's in a lab."
"Oh, so you know him?" Sue realised, smiling at him airily.
He frowned. "Didn't you hear what I just said?" He asked her. "He's only interested in his work, Susie. Nothing else."
She turned to him and gave him a teasing smile. "Well, like you said, Johnny. Match made in heaven." She told him, turning his words around on him. Then, she noticed the grin that was still on his face, and her suspicious arose. "Anyway, what's that smile on your face for?"
He smirked at her, as their bus rounded the corner. "That kid's Mom was a young single parent." He explained simply.
She looked at him tiredly. "Oh, Johnny, you didn't..."
"Not yet." He assured her.
"Don't even think about it." She warned him.
"I mean it, Johnny." She told him, as she took their tickets from her purse. "You're the most promiscuous guy in America. You don't want to make that an international record."
"Don't I?" He smirked.
She shook her head, and gave him a gentle shove in the direction of the bus. "Come on, get on the bus."