Disclaimer: I don't own this, otherwise this wouldn't be here. Marvel does, obviously. I don't profit from this beyond mental self-gratification. Sucks to be a fanfiction author supporting rare/odd couples, eh?
"So this is where you've been hiding."
Elixir stares at the girl tiredly, and she notes that he looks much older than she last remembered. Not physically, of course, but it was the feeling she got off him. In fact, Joshua Foley hadn't aged a day since they last met- she knew this was one of the many nuances of timetravel.
She should know, after all.
Josh broke their deadlock to level his gaze back towards the wasteland in front of him and the graves with no names.
"You've returned." He comments and she nods sharply. Josh feels he should add 'safely' out of habit but quickly realizes the foolishness of it. The ironic thing was, it wasn't just because they were mutants, but because of whom she was.
Her footfalls left boot prints on the sand with her approach, her tattered cloak swaying with the ocean breeze.
"Why are you like this?" She exclaims tightly, gesturing towards him. She is not angry, not really, but despite bullying Cyclops into letting her read the account of what exactly happened, she could not really believe in them fully.
She had only seen Josh like this once, and he reverted back to his same compassionate, goofball-self afterwards.
That he remained like this- obsidian skin and eyes darker than last she'd seen- spoke a lot of how he was feeling.
"It's a long story." And he didn't want to tell her, really. He looks at her, and his lips curl into a wry smile. "You're looking good."
He's immediately leveled with a harsh glare and he's thankful she doesn't have Cyclops mutation. Elixir doubts even he could survive an optic blast at the caliber she would be emitting.
"Alright, I'm trying to be nice here." She takes in a breath in an attempt to calm down. Gods, the air here actually tasted acridly oppressive. "But damn it, Josh! Seriously, what the hell?"
Another wistful smile. "Hell's a good way of putting it."
She grabs his collar while her other fist rises warningly. "I'm not going to have even you speaking like that to me. God know everyone's been acting secretive enough."
"Cyclops giving you a hard time?"
The twitch of her brow tells him he's right and she abruptly lets go, folding her arms against her breasts crossly.
"When isn't he?"
He finds that a fair question, but his solitude has given him much time to think. Contemplate.
Josh Foley isn't enlightened, but he has matured. He hopes so, anyway, and he thus changes the subject.
And immediately, old habits kick in.
"Like your dad was any better."
Open mouth, insert foot.
The glare he received was more baleful than the one previous and his mouth thins into a line. Elixir isn't the most perceptive of people, but even he could see the obvious maelstrom of emotions swirling in her emerald eyes.
"My dad is dead." She grits out finally, and he could tell the admission was tearing her apart.
No small wonder considering her dad was all she had growing up.
"Sorry." Elixir finds that he doesn't care as much as he should. Death had always struck him as something painful and yet now it felt more like inevitability.
"I see." He says. "A lot has happened." He adds.
"But I'm not here to discuss that." Her gaze becomes stoic. She's good at that; letting the soldier inside of her take over. "I need you in my team."
"Team?" He questions her curiously and once again jumps into conclusions. "Is Cyclops recalling me?"
"No." She answers the more important question. "But Cyclops has given me permission to make contact and recruit the new mutants."
"New…mutants…" Josh tests the words and finds them quite alien.
"Yeah. Five lights lit up across the globe and I volunteered to find them."
Well, more like she twisted Cyclops' arm; semantics.
"And you need me because…?"
"You're a healer." Plain and simple, and then her brows begin to knit when he lifts an obsidian arm for her eyes to feast. "Well, not now obviously, but that's your power."
"Not exactly. I have the power to reconfigure organic particles at an atomic level." Or so he remembers Dr. Nemesis stating. It's all fuzzy to him; all he knows is he can heal and kill at a touch, and with each successive use of his power, his body changes. Adapts. Evolves.
After all, he is an Omega Level mutant. Continuous evolution was part of the package.
"English, man!" She scoffs and he smiles.
There's still a child inside of her, despite all she's seen.
"I have the power to heal and kill." He explains what he knows. "And at the moment, I'm having trouble with the 'healing' thing."
"Well, I don't." Josh cocks his head to the side at the tone she used, and her pearly white teeth gleam in a triumphant grin. "I've finally manifested my power. I can do whatever you can do. If you're nearby."
A mutant-power mimic.
"You're not surprised?"
This time, it is a warm smile that tugs at his lips. "I told you, didn't I? I know exactly what you are."
"Hmph." She huffs and folds her arms and promptly drops the subject. "Well, are you in or not?"
His answer catches her off-guard. He was an X-Man, wasn't he? He should answer to the call of duty.
"Why?" Her eyes narrow.
"Because I'm not ready." His gaze finds the unmarked graves once more. "Not yet."
"Oh come on, Josh! Get over yourself!" She shouts at him. She doesn't understand why he is like this, not empathetically, at least. "So you killed your friend. Fine! But he was trying to kill you and everyone else, too!"
It is simple logic to her; kill those that try to kill you.
And that is the difference between them.
Josh does not think like that, or at least, hasn't accepted that fact, yet. It was only little over a year since his powers activated; since the abrupt end of his childhood, of being, well, Homo sapien. He internally scoffs at how clueless he truly was about the world. He had always followed the status quo because it was so damn easy, and never once thought twice about what his actions could bring.
Even when his powers activated, he felt, 'this isn't any different'. He had gotten cool powers, wasn't deformed or such, and even attracted a total babe who didn't turn out to be some conservative church girl. He hadn't felt the weight of what it truly meant to be a mutant.
And thus he was in for a morbid culture shock.
"Hey, are you listening to me?" She was in his face with a stern glare in her eyes. The annoyance in her tone contrasted with the breathtaking sight he beheld.
Hope Summers is truly beautiful, for she embodied everything a young mutant needed to be to survive in this world.
"Yeah I am."
But there exists a fundamental difference between 'surviving' and 'living'. And Josh, having lived and survived, wonders; which does he want?
He doesn't know.
"But as I said, I am not ready." He speaks slowly, adamantly, vocalizing every syllable as if talking to a child.
In a way, Hope still is a child in this world.
"Bullshit!" She curses and Josh entertains the idea of her throwing a tantrum.
It is the truth though. He isn't ready.
"I'm not like you, Hope. I'm not a soldier." Not yet. "However, I will return when I'm needed." Translation, when Cyclops calls him back. Because, deep down, he knows that he can't spend his life brooding in this island. He has a responsibility, and he has friends to look after. "But until then, I'm staying here to control my power."
Staying here in the ruins of Genosha, Necrosha. There were still a lot of bodies to bury, as well.
It is clear to him that Hope doesn't like his decision. She wants to beat his senselessness out of his senses, but stays her hand because, she feels, she owes him for all he has done for her. Even if this Joshua Foley is not the Elixir she met as a child.
"Alright." She reluctantly speaks through her clenched teeth. "But I'm coming back for you, Josh." She declares. "So man up!"
A small smile makes it to his eyes.
"Don't be a stranger."
The next time she visits, she is a bit shocked to find him sitting on a Sentinel's head, the rest of its body splayed in pieces everywhere. Ever the soldier, her eyes take note of the various battle scars the mutant-killer sustained and was puzzled at what she saw.
She briefly entertains the notion of activating her powers to better understand what it is Elixir could do.
"You did this?" She asks in wonder, her fingers trailing across the melted metal as her eyes spy the cleanly cut head.
"Hmm." He nods and waves. "Hello to you too, Hope."
Hope feels Elixir is different from when they last parted. She smiles a friendly smile despite the sour mood she is in. "Glad to see you're alive."
It is the truth; it's why she is here.
She speaks as she climbs the head towards him. "How did a Sentinel end up here, anyway?"
Elixir shrugs. "It was flying overhead- probably heading to Utopia, or something- before it suddenly attacked." He extends an obsidian hand towards her to help her to his side. She doesn't take it; she doesn't need his help, after all. There is no hurt in his eyes when she sees them and he speaks with humor. "You'd have to tell me why though. I don't exactly have access to television from here."
A thought strikes the ginger mutant; Elixir had been here for a long time, and yet there were no signs of him pitching a campfire or anything.
"Utopia was under siege." Hope states as she pulls her tattered cloak around her frame.
"That's a given. It's a mutant haven, after all." He stared at her with wry humor before tapping on the metal they sat on. "But that doesn't explain this."
Hope folds her hands behind her head and throws her body backwards and stared upwards at the clear blue skies. "Well, this world turned out to be as bad as Nathan said." Her father's name causes a twinge on her chest, still, but it's more bearable now, albeit slightly. "I mean, seriously, this world's so messed up!" She exclaims to her silent listener. "Every country was harboring Sentinels. Sentinels! With the prime directive to kill mutants!"
"Welcome to mutant-kind."
She knocks him off their spot faster than he could blink for his dry quip.
"Ow, damn it!" He moans when his body hits the dirt with a thud. "That hurt!"
"Suck it, Josh." Hope snaps back, still not bothering to break her staring contest with the clouds. "Use your powers and heal yourself if it hurts so much."
"How the hell did you grow up to be so bitchy." His voice to her side tells her he's managed to climb back.
"When you've lived my life, you'll see." Hope states plainly.
Josh silently acquiesces to her point but feels she could stand to be less violent all the same.
"So, what brings you here?" He finally asks, leaning backwards on his hands lazily. "Or did you just want to rant about the obvious?"
Hope curls to her side, away from him, and Josh feels something big has happened while he was away.
"The X-Men are divided." The girl states and Josh blinks. "Wolverine has left Utopia with the others."
Josh wants to ask who else remained but realized it was a pointless question and instead questions, "Someone you know left?" His brows knit and he clarifies, "A close friend of yours, I mean."
"Yeah…" She still refused to look at him. "One of my Lights, Idie."
"The new mutants I recruited." Hope explained simply. "Idie's- she's- troubled. She didn't want to go. Neither did I."
"So…you forced her to leave?" She remained still. "Even if you both didn't want to?"
"I had no choice." Elixir didn't comment at how her voice, normally so strong, quivered. "Idie believes she is a monster- staying in Utopia would only poison her mind more!" He saw her shoulders tremble. "I couldn't save her…"
Hope peeked over her shoulder, her eyes glimmering with unshed tears. "Josh, you said you know what I am." She slowly sits up, her red mane swaying against the wind. "Am I really the mutant Messiah?"
Can she really save people?
They stared at each other in silence. Hope's eyes searched answers in Josh's blue orbs as the self-exiled mutant gathered his thoughts.
"I…can't answer that for you, Hope." He finally admitted.
Hope's lips quivered before a spark of indignation ignited in her eyes. "What the hell-"
Josh raised a hand to placate her. "You are immensely powerful, Hope, but power is nothing if you choose not to use them."
She scoffs and folds her arms at his attempt to sound like a fortune cookie before remarking. "Pot calling kettle black?"
"Hilarious." Elixir deadpans because it's true, in more ways than one. "But seriously Hope, when things go down, it's all about the choices you make."
Hope wasn't convinced. "But what if the choices I make end up hurting others?"
"Choices always hurt people. Trust me on that." He grins at her. Hope now knows something changed in Elixir. "Tell me Hope, why do you fight? Do you really wish to save people?"
At her unresponsiveness, Josh continues. "I can't understand you, Hope, because I'm not like you. I'm not a soldier like you." He tells her, again. "However, what I do know is that your head has always been in the right place. And you're strong. Stronger than I could ever be."
She tucks a stray lock behind her ear as her eyes remain rapt in his. "What are you saying, Josh?"
"Stop thinking about fulfilling your role as the mutant Messiah." Elixir tells her simply. "The time will come when you'll have to make a choice, and I know you will do the right thing. And besides," His eyes glimmer with sincerity. "It sounds to me like you've saved at least one person already."
Another moment of silence descends upon the pair of young mutants before Hope realizes she has to breathe.
She lightly punches his shoulder. "When did you get so smart?"
It is Josh's turn to scoff indignantly. "I'll have you know that I've scored my share of A's in Xavier's."
Hope stares at him blankly, "You did?"
A giggle escapes her lips and she feels good. Josh joins her soon, though he doesn't really know why and figures this is one of those infectious things.
"Josh," she calls him after she has calmed down. "Come with me back to Utopia."
He understands it's her way of asking.
Hope immediately knows his answer when his eyes cloud with thought.
"…" She inhales deeply, wondering why it pained her to hear his rejection again and realizes that she enjoys Josh's friendship and perspective. She squashes the small tendril of fear slithering towards her at the closeness she's experiencing. "I…see." Her eyes turn downcast, hidden in the shadows cast by her red bangs. "Are you heading to Wolverine's school then?"
Josh shoots her an incredulous look. "He started a school? Where?"
His question lifted her spirits and she blinks up at him. "Yeah, in Westchester."
Elixir palms his head.
"The hell is he thinking? After everything that's happened there…"
Hope realizes Josh is muttering to himself and promptly draws his attention. "Cyclops thinks it's a good idea." Well, not exactly. "Wolverine's making sure the kids won't be caught up in battle."
It's funny how they address the other young mutants as 'kids'.
An exasperated sigh leaves Josh's lips. "While I can understand that…" he trails off before muttering darkly. "He better protect everyone properly this time."
"What do you mean?"
"Last time, a bunch of fanatics blew up a bus full of our depowered friends."
"I heard." Hope admits carefully, knowing this was a sore subject to his generation. "But I meant, how can you understand Wolverine's choice?" She peers curiously into his eyes. "He essentially halved our numbers."
Elixir stares at her again and Hope has the distinct feeling that he was making fun of her. "We're not like you, Hope. We weren't raised as soldiers." Hope sees his gaze harden. "Some of us just aren't ready to make the choice."
"But is that really a good thing? Deluding themselves into thinking the world isn't out to kill them?"
Especially now, when their numbers were so few?
"Who knows?" He definitely doesn't, and Hope's brow twitches at his careless shrug. "Either way, when the time comes, will you still protect them?"
"Of course." She answers without pause.
"That's what's important." Josh nods with a sagely smile.
Hope shakes her head again. Elixir was so sure of himself, this time.
"Then…why won't you return with me back to Utopia?"
"I'm not ready yet, Hope." He motions to his obsidian skin again. "I haven't gotten my power under control yet."
"When will you get it under control?" She prods. Hope really wants him to return to Utopia; they could use a mutant like him.
The edges of his lips twitch upwards as he realizes that Hope still hasn't understood what he's been telling her; that he wasn't a soldier like her. Josh stilled his tongue, though, because he realizes that Hope was the type of person to learn from experience. He silently prayed that when the time does come, nobody, most of all her, wouldn't get hurt.
God knows how much of her childhood was robbed from her already no thanks in small part to Lucas Bishop.
"Soon." He answers her vaguely, and Hope isn't amused.
"I need you Josh." She pleads with him. "Not just because of your power, but also since you can understand me."
"And others will, too, Hope." He comforts her with a sincere smile, placing his hands on her shoulders as she stares up at him. "Just…stop treating your friends like soldiers."
"Yeah…" Hope trails off and Elixir could tell from her tone that she still didn't understand what he meant.
Such a stubborn girl, this one, but then again, if she didn't fight, then she wouldn't have survived this long.
"Alright." His hands fall to his lap.
As Hope stands and dusts off her clothes, preparing to depart, Elixir calls out to her.
"To answer your question, it's 'no'." Elixir tells her. "I'm not joining Wolverine's side. Someone has to keep mutant-kind's enemies at bay, after all."
Hope nods stiffly, still feeling a tightness in her chest from his rejection albeit lessened now by his admission. Josh picks up on her mood and continues speaking.
"For what it's worth, Hope, I trust in you."
She gives him a sad smile. "Thanks. At least one of us does…"
"Hope," he grabs her wrist firmly out of impulse. She turns towards him and Elixir can easily see the imperfections in this girl and realizes that Hope Summers was in for a tough ride ahead. "…" Their eyes searched one another. "…don't be a stranger, alright?" He finally says. "We- I…I'll support you."
He could tell that she doesn't understand what he means. Nonetheless, Hope nods her head before withdrawing her hand. "I'll see you around, Josh."
She turns away from him and leaps off the Sentinel's head.
He spots her approaching from the distance and he can't help but realize that the day of reckoning was finally here. Ever since the skies suddenly lit up, Josh knew it, and she, was coming.
"Josh." She calls out to him when she nears.
He is at the beaches now, his feet immersed in the salt water while she stood a safe distance in front of him on the water; far enough that he wouldn't burn in her flames but close enough to be heard.
"Hope." He greets with a tight smile.
"You're not surprised…" She says as the ocean sizzles at her feet, the steam rising around her causing her hair and cloak to billow upwards.
"I told you, didn't I?" Elixir says. "I've always known exactly what you are."
The host of the Phoenix. Ever since healing her for the first time, Josh had always known that the harbinger of destruction and rebirth would one day come to claim Hope Summers.
"War has erupted between the Avengers and the X-Men." She informs him. "All over me."
Elixir nods his head. "I guess it makes sense that the Avengers would attempt to claim you."
"This is it, isn't it?" There's no fear in her voice, and she may as well have just stated instead of question.
"Yes." He admits. "Why aren't you with the X-Men?"
"Cyclops refuses to let me fight. Even though I'm the one the Phoenix is after."
Deep down, she knows, loathe as she is to admit, that Cyclops just doesn't want any harm to befall on her, and she scoffs; hadn't she proven her worth, already? She is competent and strong; she could easily lay waste to the Avengers so that the X-Men could confront the Phoenix. Or maybe, laying waste to the Avengers is something Cyclops doesn't want, at all? Time will tell.
"…You intend to confront the Phoenix." He states seriously. "You want to take matters into your own hands."
Hope nods her head. "Yes." Her mask of certainty cracks. "This is…this is what I was trained for, after all. This is why Cyclops was pushing me, strengthening me. I need to confront the Phoenix and subdue it."
Elixir runs his obsidian hands through his golden hair. "And this is your choice?"
"…" Hope contemplates the question before their eyes meet once again. Green eyes stared at the mutant standing on the shore, hard with resolve. "Yes. I choose to fight."
A smile forms on Josh's lips and he scratches the back of his head sheepishly; he already knows why she's here. For him. "Then, count me in."
His words caused her breath to hitch. "You're…ready, then?"
"As ready as I'll ever be." He admits. "And like I said; I trust in you. I'll support you."
Hope's eyes widen when the obsidian of his skin slowly turned into gold.
They become wider, still, when Josh hovers above the water's surface towards her.
"I told you, didn't I? I needed to control my power." He stops as close to her as he can get without catching fire. "Shall we?"
For the first time since she arrived in this world, Hope feels utterly relieved.
She just hoped that this wouldn't be the last.
It was time to meet her destiny.
As the two mutants leave the ruins of Genosha behind, Hope sends a glance at the man beside her.
She was not alone, not anymore.
And she'd be damned if she'll ever be alone, again.
A/N: No idea where this came from, really. I originally wanted to write a Cyclops/Rachel Grey father-daughter oneshot concerning her choice in Schism, or a 'What if?' where Rogue hadn't sent that message to Utopia in X-Men Legacy 262, leading to an injured Cyclops and calling out Wolverine in his hypocrisy, stupidity, and naivety. Exodus had them clearly outmatched (and mind-controlled), and still Logan insists that they 'could take care of him by themselves'.
As you can probably tell, I dislike Wolverine and have always found him overrated. He was tolerable in other media and the comics, but now I find him intolerable.
Anyways, it's odd how I came from that to this, but I always felt this meeting was long-overdue; we haven't seen X-23 or Elixir interact with the now-grown up Hope Summers despite them bonding (off-panel) during Messiah War. That, and it's no secret I'm an Elixir fanboy.
Damn it Marvel, bring him back already! As on Omega-level mutant with the power to rewrite his own DNA (and other's), he could theoretically end up as a power mimic like Hope and, in a way, Rogue, or the ultimate support by boosting everyone else's powers or taking away others'. Hell, he could grant himself more powers! And that's on top of his established heal/death touch! Not to mention Omega-levels continuously evolve, so there is no limit to his abilities!
On another note, I'm tempted to write a Scott Summers/(Women of Marvel) drabble series a la Maximus Reborn's 'Everybody Loves Spidey'. I admit it's just to fuel my great dislike for Hank McCoy, and so it'd grant me great satisfaction to see Cyclops tap Abigail Brand; she's such an awesome character whom our hypocritical furry does not deserve. I do wonder how he'd react to learning that Agent Brand isn't averse to using underhanded tactics to achieve success, if her 'mutual blackmail' with Cyclops is any indication.