Notes: Thank you for your continued patience with me! Life has gotten very busy and fanfiction has officially become a "backburner" kind of activity. Hope you enjoy this newest offering!
The Frost Identity
"… reports three bank employees injured, two undisclosed deaths, and a brief glimpse of the suspect on the security camera. As you can see, our suspect has a hostage and-"
Magnus put his young daughter down as he stared at the television. That was her, the failed assassin! Blonde hair, a fluid gait, and empty eyes—he'd never forget the split second they'd spotted each other, her brandishing a pistol on the balcony, him playing with his children as he was now. He tried to tear the pistol out of her hands, but the cursed woman's gun wasn't metal. That split second shock allowed her to fire, but she didn't.
For some forsaken reason, she hesitated.
Then someone shot her one, twice, the third missed. None of his guards were in the room so his assassin's assailant had to come from the outside, but he didn't care. Not wasting such a golden opportunity, he grabbed Pietro and Wanda and lunged behind the bed. He vaguely remembered roaring "GUARDS" at the top of his lungs. Using his powers, he ripped a piece of copper pipe out of the wall and hurled it toward the balcony. There was a sharp ding of metal on bone just as a giant boot pulverized the hotel door, Cain Marko, Elisabeth Braddock, and Kurt Wagner charging through not a second later. His trio of royal guards would later tell him they saw the woman tumble over the balcony's railing and fall into the Mediterranean's waters.
Despite teleporting all over the shores, Kurt couldn't find the body.
Despite intensive scanning before, during, and after the failed attack, Elisabeth sensed nothing.
But the assassin was on the television now, proof positive she'd survived and that the Italian government was inept. Time for diplomatic niceties were over. Genosha might've been a fledgling nation, but it was a loyal nation, entrenched in pride born from scorn and hatred. Magnus loved his people and in return his people loved him.
He'd find this assassin and show the world Genosha would not be trifled with. For mutants everywhere, for his children, he had to succeed.
Two hours into my sleep, the nightmares woke me. Blood, so much blood, and I bathed in it. Pained shrieks and nebulous pleading wrapped around me like a shroud while the blood kept coming. I remembered no faces, but I knew my victims ran the gamut when it came to ages because of the brief glimpses of their mutilated bodies. The worst part? In my dreams, I silently watched. I made no attempt to get away or apologize. I didn't laugh at the pitiful wailing or revel in the gore at my feet. I just was, and while that might've been good enough for me a few days ago, it wasn't anymore.
Blame it on fear that's been eating me alive.
Since then, I'd been sitting in bed looking at these wedding bands. If Jean wasn't asleep, I would've asked her more about me. She supposedly rummaged through my brain to stop my sociopath tendencies: she must've seen something. Who was I married to? What were my children's names? What was I like before I became this killer?
I couldn't imagine myself a dotting mother, fawning over little girls' hair and driving them to doctor's appointment. I couldn't imagine myself much of anything besides this murdering automaton.
I slipped the smaller ring on. No memory, no emotion, but it was a perfect fit. The second, slightly larger, much more worn ring remained as quiet as its companion. Who did it belong to? Why was it worn? Who in their right mind would love me?
My eyes settled on the bed next to mine: Jean. Our relationship was more than what she claimed, but how much more? Why did she go through so much trouble for me? Subtle breathless moments, inflections in certain words, and a subconscious quirk of always keeping me close spoke of her attraction. Conversely, she made me feel safe; more than once, I found myself trying to explain her actions in the best light possible.
There had to be something more.
Holding my breath, I snuck out from under the covers and went to her. As luck would have, her arms were splayed out over the blankets allowing me a perfect view of her left ring finger.
A left ring finger with a white loop of flesh at its base.
Was she my… wife? That's why she would brave this "Hellfire" group for me. That's why her breath hitched when I looked at her a certain way. That's why I couldn't stop staring at her and wanting to hold her in my arms. Her red hair just drew me to her like a moth to flame.
Hold it, hold it, getting ahead of myself. Plenty women wore rings and not all of them were married to me (at least, I hoped not). Were same sex marriages legal in where I was from?
Carefully, I took her hand in my own, lifted her finger up, and put the ring on.
Shit, it was too loose. Whereas mine used a bit of force to get past my knuckle, this one dangled, ready to drop. Not my wife or significant other. Shit.
I pocketed the ring and flopped back onto the bed. Yet another gap in my mind unfilled, and with it came defeat. This puzzle known as my life refused to come together and I had just about enough.
Suddenly, the door to the hotel room burst open. While Jean bolted up, startled, I rolled to the floor. I sensed no one coming in the door but I distinctly heard footsteps. Our assailant must've come with mental shielding, but that was the least of my worries. What I had to get over were the blinding sparks shooting in my general direction.
Every multicolored speck combusted into a brilliant flash, shaming even the sun's light. Ear splitting screeches made hearing impossible. Despite the dark blots clouding my vision and the sharp headache threatening to cripple me, I fished out my gun, pointed at the door, and squeezed off four rounds, each of soaring under the bed.
One hit wall.
Another hit door.
The third hit a foot.
The last one hit an ankle.
Toward the door, a "Fucking bitch!" rose above the chaos.
I knew that voice. Checking my gun (three bullets left), I jumped up and put her writhing form in my sights.
Ms. Jubilation Lee clutched her bleeding wounds.
I called over my shoulder, "Jean?"
Somewhere to my left and close to the ground, I heard, "I'm ok!"
By all accounts, my heart should've been racing. My deep breaths should've coincided with Jean's and Jubilation's. I should've been wide eyed, questions spewing out of my mouth on why I was attacked. I should've been a wreck, but I wasn't. With a clinical detachment, I noted no further threats coming from the hallway, Jubilation raising her gun at me, and a split second decision to be made.
Kill or be killed.
I fired into her forehead. The girl jerked once and lie motionless. Me, I eased the door as closed as it was going to get in its battered state and immediately began searching the body. Gun? No, one was enough, though I did scavenge the bullets and extra magazine. Tucked in each boot were bloody knives not worth my time. No identification. No keys. Only photos.
Grainy and blurred, they had to be from security cameras. A disconcerting fact? The background resembled the hotel's lobby. How did she get these? Was someone in this hotel associated with Hellfire? I was being baited, first to the Swiss National Bank where everyone in the world seemed to be waiting for me, then here were my enemies knew when I'd be checking in.
Jean's hand came to rest on my shoulder. "Are you alright?"
I tried to shrug off the people holding my shoulders still. "I wouldn't be here if I wasn't sure."
The brief, reoccurring image sent shivers through me. "Fine," I mumbled unsteadily. Before she could press further, I changed the subject. "Did you sense her?"
"Dampening bracelet," she replied, "it's how nontelepathtic Hellfire agents get the drop on telepaths."
"How come I could read her when we were at the bank?"
"She was at the bank?"
"She got my safe deposit box for me."
"Damn it, they're a step ahead of us."
"If we're lucky."
"Who else could be after me?"
Not answering, Jean scooped up her coat and tossed me mine. "I'll tell you in the car, but we have to get to Paris as soon as possible. We need to find out why you failed your last mission."
A strange burning lingered on my shoulder, exactly where Jean touched me. At first, I chalked it up to arousal, but the longer it stayed, the more I realized it wasn't turning me on. Bile rose in the back of my throat. Things seemed to crawl under my skin. Her touch on my shoulder was revolting, but one look into her bottomless green eyes quieted my physical unease… not so much my mental unease.
Another question to answer. Great.
"I'm sorry, your Highness, but there is no Antonio Ongaro in the database."
"You're certain?" asked Magnus as he paced about.
Running another search, Kitty Pryde nodded. "He's nowhere on the government payroll and there's no record of any coroner with that name. There isn't even a medical examiner with that name."
No wonder the damned investigation amounted to nothing: one of his many enemies was leading him around. Idiot, should've done this earlier, should've not listened to this damned government and their obsession over doing things the old fashioned way.
"Who has the most to gain from these negotiations failing?"
Despite his assistant's puzzlement, Magnus continued his pacing. "The European Union is in a advantageous position, establishing trade with Genosha. They may be flatscans, but even the dullest of them realize the potential a nation of homo superiors can offer."
"But someone shot your attacker," Kitty pointed out, "and we're sure it wasn't one of our people."
"Why plant a false coroner in the Italian police? Why go through all that trouble?"
"Maybe there's more than one enemy at work?"
"Of that, Ms. Pryde, we can be certain." Magnus stopped pacing. Suddenly, his eyes went wide. "Ms. Braddock detected nothing of the woman that night."
"No, your Highness."
"Retrieve Charles Xavier's file."
"You think it's the work of the same assassin?"
"My dear friend, Charles, was the most powerful mind on the face of this planet and Ms. Braddock is not far behind. Even with the best of technology, completely eluding their senses is impossible."
"You suspect mutant involvement?"
"It's my best explanation. Then the question still remains: who has the most to gain from these negotiations failing?"
"The United States and China," Kitty offered. "They made their interest in Genosha known, and when we chose to only talk to Europe, they weren't happy. However, only the U.S. has a black-ops organization with even a hope of getting past our defenses."
"Antonio Ongaro and the United States will be your starting point. I'll have Mr. Marko and Ms. Braddock track the assassin." Magnus slammed his callused hands onto the desk. "My children will not live in fear because of me."
I couldn't stop looking at the photos. Enemies closed in all sides, distrust shadowed my every thought, and I had no chance. I was a lab rat caught in a maze, unable to control my environment. These photos… these goddamn photos, they told me how little power I had. Why run? Why even live?
"Why are we even going to Paris?" I wondered aloud.
"That was your home in Europe."
I rolled my eyes. "Jean, does it matter? I'm in a play where I'm the only person not privy to the script."
"Emma, you can't give up. That's exactly what Hellfire wants."
Hellfire wanted me to give up? I furrowed my brow, a sudden idea springing to life. "You said you killed my emotions. How come I'm feeling worn and exhausted? How come the more I stay awake, the more I feel? How come Hellfire knows they can break me?"
Silence from Jean. I looked expectantly at her, Jean my only guide in this mess, Jean the only real tie to my past. I tried to take some comfort in her presence, but the distrust wouldn't go away. The remembrance of her hand on my shoulder shortened my breaths almost as if I was drowning. Her dead stare reminded me of the man with a ponytail, my own echoing voice, and-
The car hit a bump and the photos flew out of my grasp. I bent over to pick them up and that's when I saw three words scrawled across the back in permanent marker.
I wanted to ask Jean if these were my daughters' names, but the drowning feeling reared its head with a vengeance. I took deep breaths and clutched my chest—useless. Dark spots filtered into my vision just as the photos took another tumble to the car floor. My heart threatened to explode. I grabbed at her arm but she kept driving, eyes ahead, no reaction. I… I…
… watched them sleep in their crib. They wore identical blue denim overalls and seemed to breathe in synchronization. Tufts of blonde hair sat atop their cute, chubby heads. Then, Celeste blinked. Her sky blue eyes locked onto me. She looked puzzled for a moment as she searched her infant memory for remembrances of me. Eventually she realized who I was and gurgled with joy. Mindee and Phoebe both started at the sound, neither happy with their sister if their little frowns were anything to go by. Sensing Phoebe the more displeased, I gathered her in my arms and kissed her forehead. She smiled…
… and said, "Mommy?"
The girls were taller now, a little above my knee. They acted like three peas in a pod, always together and always scheming to get the most out of their mommy. Like right now for instance, what with each girl holding a bag of unopened Heresy's Kisses in their arms.
"Can we?" Mindee asked.
The bags sported chew marks; their faces were a little too expectant. I bent down and asked them, "What time is it?"
"Oh oh oh!" giggled Celeste as she projected an image of the living room clock reading "4:37" into my mind. Her sisters frowned at her as I laughed.
"Very good, Celeste, but you know I want you to say it instead of think it. You'll be in pre-school soon and other people won't know what to do if you don't say it. So, tell me, what time is it?"
I glared at Mindee. "No helping Celeste."
That got a proper chastised look from my two schemers. Celeste, truly the most innocent of my brood, bit her lip and thought real hard. "Four… thirty… one, two, three, four, five, six, seven! Seven! Four thirty seven!"
"And four thirty seven is close to what time?"
"Dinner time!" they chimed at once.
With reflexes none of them expected, I snatched the three bags of candy from them and opened one. "That means I don't want any of you ruining your appetites. So, one for you, one for you, one for you…"
"… and two for me," I chuckled at my tummy.
Ok, I felt like a beached whale and none of my clothes fit anymore, but do you know what the perk was to being pregnant? Craving about anything and eating it too. No more personal trainer looking over my shoulder and counting calories to keep my figure, no more compulsion to be perfect—pregnancy was gluttony at its finest. Might as well enjoy the food now since many of my other vices were beyond my reach.
But those were choices I made for my children.
Children. I smiled at the idea. I never imagined myself a mother, not with the childhood I had. I loathed children, but now, I couldn't find it in my heart to even frown at the three little ones in me. I'd do better than my parents, I'd care for my daughters, I wouldn't leave to cry themselves to sleep at night, I would give them a better life than mine. I chalked it up to maternal instincts, but I knew my change of heart had a large part to do with my wife.
Married with children, Emma Grace Frost—funny ring and not a description any friend or acquaintance would've used on me. Times changed though, and so did people. As I put down the bowl of jelly beans I'd almost inhaled, I looked to my right to spy a wealth of blood red hair spilling out from under the covers. Poor baby, must've had a long day. I'd peek into her mind to see if she was feeling even a little frisky, but doing it the old fashioned way was much more fun.
"Honey?" I purred, slowly turning on my side. "I have a surprise for you."
Some grumbling followed a stubborn burrowing into the blankets.
"Big bad secret agent don't want to get up, huh?"
Mischievous grin overwhelming me, I fumbled around, found a patch of skin on a sensitive area, and pinched. A high pitched shriek echoed against the bedroom walls while she bolted up and pounced on me. The covers fell away and…
… I slammed my head against the front dash, still unable to breathe. Jean's hair was all wrong in relation to my fractured memories. Too long, too fiery, not crimson. She hadn't looked me even though I was gasping like a fish out of water. Why hadn't she looked me? Why was she so focused almost as if… if…
She was the one choking me.
Her lips turned up in a sinister smile. "Telekinesis is my second power. I can control objects down to the subatomic level if I concentrate enough. It's one of the reasons Hellfire chose me. It's also the reason I was accepted into the Inner Circle."
A foreign voice, equal parts playful and deadly, entered my mind. Its words were one-sided, like listening to one end of a phone conversation.
Hellfire's long, violent arm.
Murderers some would say.
A secret group within a secret organization with aspirations of world domination.
Best of the worst mutantkind had to offer.
Monsters perhaps, but definitely not human.
There's a license to kill and a license for overkill. Guess which one these fuckers have?
They need to be taken down a peg.
They need to be taken out.
Easier said than done.
Someone needs to do it.
Relax, I don't fail.
Don't feed the girls too much candy and tell 'em Mama will be back for Christmas.
Come here and give us a kiss, baby.
I lashed out at her but an invisible force smashed me against the passenger side door. Whatever precious air I had left rushed out of me.
"Sleep, Emma. When you wake up, you'll know why you exist."
As I glanced into the rearview mirror, a pair of glowing red eyes burrowed into me. Black hair billowed about, shielding the rest of the face. Despite not seeing a mouth, I could've sworn the lady smiled. The scene was all too familiar, but this time, I knew it wasn't a figment of my imagination.
- To be continued...