Author's Note: I have no idea where this plot came from. I thought of it on a bus. I'm baffled as to why I felt so drawn to it. It's very AU and the premise is ridiculous. As far as plot goes, I think it's the best idea I've ever had, so just go with it, okay? I love you guys!
She stood poised in front of the cameras with a microphone in her hand. Her ruby red lips were curved in a smile that had long entered the hearts and living rooms of her many adoring fans. She was a professional to the core and unfazed by her audience, which today comprised of a seemingly endless sea of cheering, stomping people swept up in a way of dizzying excitement while the sun – warmer than usual for a November afternoon – shone upon their backs and promised a beautiful day for the much anticipated event. Her curvaceous figure was swathed in a scarlet, form-fitting suit that accentuated every delicious curve in a way that inspired thoughts in the minds of many across the country that no other typical news reporter would have been able to accomplish. She was stylish and beautiful and glowing with triumph. This was her stage.
In her ear she heard her cue, and a moment later came the sultry, familiar tones of the nation's best loved reporter, who stood alone on an outdoor stage in a beautiful park, presenting the biggest event of the year.
"This is MçKenzie Rhae for the Metropolitan News, coming to you live from the Arcturus Black Memorial Park. We are about to witness a tremendous sight this afternoon!"
Her voice rang loud and clear from a television which sat in a cosy little room in a cosy little apartment, where a pretty, dark-haired young woman named Mary was curled up like a cat on the plush yellow sofa. She was dressed in oversized pyjamas and sipping a large mug of tea. It was also heard in the adjoining kitchen, where a long-suffering young woman was trying, and failing, to ignore the broadcast with all of her might and main.
"For God's sake, Mary MacDonald!" she called over her shoulder, spooning baked beans out of a saucepan and onto four slices of hot, buttery toast. "Turn it down or turn it off!"
"No!" was the reply from the living room. "Where is my food? You're taking ages!"
Lily Evans was twenty-two years old, living with her best friend, redhead and proud, and quite possibly the only person in the city who wasn't interested in the event currently exploding all over her television. She gave a heavily resigned sigh and picked up the tray of beans on toast. Carrying it back into the living room, she set it down on the coffee table and placed her hands on her hips.
"I told you I didn't want to watch this bullshit," she reminded her best friend. "Why is it plastered all over my television?"
"Because." Mary picked up her fork and pointed it at the television. "That hot reporter up there is one of your dearest friends. Mine too," she added, setting the plate of toast on her lap. "Since this is the biggest gig she's ever gotten and you refused to go on principle, the least we can do is watch it from home to support her."
"Right, of course," Lily muttered, flopping down into a squishy leather armchair and drawing her plate towards her on the table. "She'll feel our support from all the way over here."
"It's called Friend Telepathy, and it's proven by science," said Mary, with her eyes glued to the screen and the pretty reporter occupying it. "Shut up and eat."
Lily rolled her eyes but did as she was told, shoving her soggy toast into her mouth with a vengeance. She tried to pretend that she wasn't happy for MçKenzie Rhae when of course, she was. Unfortunately it went against her nature to begrudge people happiness. She sighed again. Life was cruel.
Lily and MçKenzie had been friends since infancy and the outgoing girl had always dreamed of being an anchor on the news. Thanks to her vivacious personality and boundless talent, the ambitious young woman was already well on her way to nationwide fame. The fact that she had been selected by four of the most famous young men in the country as their personal press correspondent had only brought good things into MçKenzie's life. It was a bitter pill for Lily to swallow given her opinion of them, but it helped to know that her friend had become such a success.
"What did you tell her you were doing that made her let you off the hook, anyway?" Mary piped up during a particularly boring speech from an important political personage whom MçKenzie was interviewing. "She'd normally never let you miss stuff like this. She'd drag you out by the hair."
This was true. MçKenzie was the most forceful and demanding person in the world, and would normally have punched them both rather than allow either of her friends to miss one of her more important live broadcasts. Mary had been excused from attending this time on account of glandular fever, and even then it was after a long and stormy battle. Kenzie had even called Mary's doctor to convince him to tell Mary she should go, but had to concede defeat. Lily, on the other hand, had been given no choice but to attend.
Lily took a dainty bite of her toast and ruined the effect by talking with her mouth full. "I told her I had an emergency appointment with the gynaecologist."
"Didn't you tell her you were at the gynaecologist when she asked you to come to her office to interview those guys last week?" said Mary who, never to be outdone, was also chewing with her mouth full. Both Mary and Lily were charmingly ladylike.
"Yup," Lily replied. "But this is an emergency appointment. Perhaps I'm fictitiously pregnant."
"And Kenzie actually believed that?"
"She must have." Lily shrugged. "She's believed stupider excuses. She actually congratulated me for finally getting some."
Mary snorted. "Yeah, you getting some, that's believable."
"Oh, that's nice! Am I so completely undesirable that –"
"Ooh!" Mary cut Lily off remorselessly, waving her toast and sending beans flying all over the living room. "Shut up! Look, it's them!"
The tell-tale roar of machinery blasted from the television at ear-splitting volume and Lily groaned as an impossibly large motorbike shot out onto the stage from seemingly nowhere, surrounded by a customary cloud of black smoke. Three dazzling streaks of gold light streaked downwards from on high and soared over the crowd, weaving around one another at breakneck speed before coming to land on stage beside the motorbike. A terrible electric guitar solo blared from the television speakers as the crowd burst into mass hysteria and the smoke cleared to reveal the four young men they had all been waiting for.
"Ladies and gentlemen!" cried MçKenzie, as fireworks exploded in every direction. "The Marauders!"
Lily pushed her toast away from her. "I feel sick."
If Lily were asked to describe the Marauders, she would talk of four arrogant, mediocre, barely attractive young men who hungered for fame to such a horrifying extent that they exaggerated their supposed achievements and exploited thousands of people who loved them in order to gain popularity and wealth. They had the entire world fooled into believing that everything they did was for the good of humanity, but Lily knew better. She had liked them once, but had been forced to see the light and knew now that they were nothing more than a quartet of heinous brats with a very obvious agenda.
They also happened to be the most famous superheroes that the world had ever known.
"I want to be there!" Mary whined, and a bunny slipper flew into the air as she kicked out in frustration. "It's going to be so much fun, Lily. They're having a private champagne reception afterwards and so many famous people are going to be there and Kenzie could have gotten us in!" She looked imploringly at her friend with wide eyes. "To hell with my fever, take me to the park!"
"So we can stand there like fools and cheer on those morons?" Lily raised her eyebrows at Mary. "I think I'd rather actually be pregnant."
"They're not nearly as bad as you think," said Mary fairly. "I mean, they're a bit stupid, but if you were honest with yourself you would admit that you're pissed because they're getting credit for stuff they haven't been doing."
"Well, it's true!" Lily squeaked in indignation. "Why are they pretending otherwise? It's not fair!"
"The media will make their own assumptions without needing anybody to claim responsibility for anything." Having a friend in the business had taught the girls that lesson. "You know that."
"I don't," Lily argued. "Everybody knows their style. They can't bring anyone down without making a massive fuss, even a low grade burglar. They'd never hand a rapist to the authorities by actually letting the authorities handle it once they caught him." She scowled at the television. "They'd send him flying into the news cameras with a flaming catapult, but everybody just assumes it's down to them, and what happens? They get given awards."
She pointed at the television, where the four assembled boys had finally stopped waving and blowing kisses at the audience. "Awards, Mary, for things they didn't even do!"
"If it bothers you so much, discredit them," Mary suggested, with a shrug. "If anybody can do it, you can do it. Go shift some focus."
"You know I can't possibly do that," Lily reminded her.
"Then stop whining and watch," said Mary cruelly, and nodded at the television. "She's interviewing your boyfriend."
"Great." Lily's scowl immediately became more pronounced. "Captain Dickhead."
Lily wasn't fond of any of the Marauders, but one of them annoyed her more than the other three combined. If asked to name the one whom she would least like to kick in the balls, she would have named The Professor. He was a sandy-haired, serious looking young man, a known intellectual, and seemed like the nicest of the lot. He rarely spoke unless he was asked an opinion on some meaningful issue, and usually had something thoughtful and intelligent to say. Black Bachelor also kept quiet for the most part, but only because he was too busy posing on his bike wearing one of his stupid leather jackets, pouting darkly beneath his long hair and ignoring the girls who swooned and cried at his feet. Barbarian Boy seemed affable enough but had the most ridiculous name she had ever heard in her life. He was the only one who wore a mask to hide his face, and Lily assumed that it had been chosen because he was ugly and his team wanted to keep it hidden. After all, it was widely reported that Captain Spectacular chose all of their costumes, and Captain Spectacular was the vainest person on the planet.
It was unfortunate that Captain Spectacular did have some small reason to be vain, being tall and handsome and casually windswept as he was. What Lily really despised was his arrogance, blatant showmanship, and the fact that he prioritised fame and fortune over what should have been most important for someone with his ability. He was obnoxious, and as the acting spokesman for the Marauders he was so fond of the sound of his own voice that Lily felt her insides constrict whenever she had to look at his face. It baffled her that he was the most popular member. Commemorative plates with his face on them had outsold the others three to one.
Lily glared at the handsome young man on screen as he chatted gaily with her friend. "His name is the fruitiest thing I've ever heard."
"You're doing that thing where your inner monologue breaks free again," Mary informed her kindly. "It's cute and all, but I'm trying to listen to Captain Fruity's story about reading to orphans in central Nicaragua. It's very touching."
"He's reading to the orphans now?" Lily gasped, her eyes widening in shock. "He can read?"
Mary laughed. "He's not so bad, Lily. They have to be so popular for a reason."
"Good public relations."
"They donate a lot to charity."
"Not as much as they should."
"They're helping people!"
"Not enough people," said Lily quietly. These words had a fairly pronounced effect upon her best friend, who dropped her jokey tone and gave Lily a very serious look indeed.
"You know you need to let that go," said Mary, just as quietly, gazing concernedly at her friend. "If they'd known -"
"They did know. They're designed to know," Lily retorted, and a stinging pain shot through her head. She squeezed her eyes shut while it seared behind her eyes, and in a few minutes it had passed. "How ironic," she said, and rose to her feet. "I have to go."
"Wait a second, don't get upset!" Mary half-rose from her seat as Lily went to leave the room. "Do you want to talk about it? You've seemed to be so much better lately that -"
"No, I'm fine, it's not that." Lily pointed at her head and closed her eyes again, consumed by another stabbing pain. "It's this."
"Oh, I see." Mary sank back down on the sofa and raised an eyebrow at her friend. "One of those headaches again, eh?"
"Is it ever anything else these days?" Lily walked into her bedroom and pulled open her closet. A ratty old black hoodie hung next to her brighter, prettier clothes – she grabbed it, along with a pair of equally ratty black jeans. "I shouldn't be too long this time."
"I'll have the kettle on when you get back," Mary replied from the living room. "They're easily avoided, you know, those headaches."
"You try being in my shoes," Lily responded, twisting her long red hair up into a knot at the back of her head. "And you'll see how easy it is to ignore them."
"My moral code is less strict than yours, obviously," said Mary nonchalantly, as Lily came back into the living room, already fully dressed in her ugly black outfit. "You took longer than usual."
"I'm tired," Lily shrugged. "Wish me luck?"
"Yeah, always," said Mary, watching as Lily walked over to the window and pushed it open with ease. "Don't get killed, darling."
"Don't get killed." Lily gave Mary the thumbs up before pulling her mask, an old, black balaclava which lacked in any fuss or feathers, out of her hoodie pocket. She leaned out of the window. "I'll try to remember that."
Without so much as a backwards glance at Mary, or even a look down at the ground, which lay four whole storeys beneath them, black with mid-afternoon traffic and the sounds of the city, Lily fixed the mask over her head, shimmied out of the window, and jumped.
"Bring back milk," said Mary.