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Chapter 3: In Which the Queen Hires the Merc

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Hours had passed since Wade had been tossed into the cell, and Emma could tell that the mercenary was getting bored. He fiddled with his metal bowl of mush, making the occasional comment about the food's taste and texture. "It's looks and feels like day-old oatmeal… but it tastes like cheap cardboard. And sadly," he babbled, "I think that freeze-dried astronaut food tastes better than this – and that stuff tastes like chalk! Hey, Frost, don't astronauts have to recycle their pee to make drinking water?"

Putting a hand up over her mouth, the blue-eyed young woman tried to stifle her smile.

Though occasionally irritating, Wade Wilson was guaranteed to be a constant source of entertainment. And frankly, Emma Frost was grateful for his loudmouthed, extroverted presence – far too often she found herself getting lost in her own thoughts. But with her mercenary neighbor? Well, she found that his ADHD kept her mentally present, if only to marvel at what topic his leapfrog-mind would jump to next.

"So do I get to join your little cell-block society club?" Wade jested, turning to face the blonde with a sideways grin.

"Well…" Emma drawled, pursing her lips and giving the mercenary a mock once-over with her eyes. "I suppose you'll do. You're a bit old, though," she could not help adding.

Wade Wilson was all false outraged astonishment. "What? I'll have you know that this body is prime goods!" he told the blonde, sending her a wink as he moved his hands over his chest as demonstration.

Unconsciously, Emma's attentive blue eyes followed the movement. His chest was broad and strong and all-too visible through the white tanktop that – combined with the burgundy coverall – made up the prisoners' uniform. As she watched his hands, she silently thanked her lucky stars that the man had pushed down the top of the coverall to wear it as only pants… It gave her quite the view.

The young blonde's eyes widened in shock over the direction her thoughts had been going. Quickly averting her eyes, she prayed that the man had not noticed her practically salivating over his body – he would never let her live it down. But it was too late. Wade – always watching her carefully – noticed it, his own grin widening further at his audience's response.

"Oh, there's nothing to be shy about, sweet cheeks!" he crowed. His voice lowered, then, and his sharp eyes became intent on her own. "I like looking at your chest, too…"

Emma's jaw tightened. If the cell bars were not separating them, she would have given him a slap like he would not believe… "You're such a lecher, Wade," she rebuked, sending him a glare.

"Hey," he replied, putting his hands up in surrender, "I'm not the one who started our little mutual appreciation workshop. Remember, Hungry Eyes? Besides, you should have told me you wanted something a little less blatant! How about a nice sonnet, hm? Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?/ Nay, thou art frostier and bustier./ No matter what that spitfire blonde might say,/ I know she wants to flash me her brassiere./ If snow be white, why then her breasts are sparkly;/ If hairs be wires, hers can turn to diamond…"

"Wade, please stop," Emma garbled out, half-shocked and shaking with suppressed laughter.

"Oh good," he agreed. "I wasn't sure where I was going with that…"

Laughing aloud now, the blonde shook her head. "That was a horrible poem, I hope you know."

"Yes," he agreed, "I'm no Byron. And taking Shakespeare's words in vain? Despicable of me. But still, at least it sort of rhymed…"

"Sort of, yes."

He nodded, grinning and pleased with himself at her admission. "So, do I get to know the secret handshake for the Captives Club now that I've made you laugh?"

"No handshake, I'm afraid – just three signals," Emma corrected.

Wade tilted his head, confused. "Three? I thought it was only two?"

Biting back her initial response of smiling at his bemusement, the White Queen confided, "You were only supposed to overhear two." The man shrugged, focusing all of his attention on her as he waited to get the tutorial. Raising her hand above the concrete, Emma smacked it down as if to bang it against the floor – but she paused, just before contact. "One rap means 'incoming' – used for Victor, Zero, the lab techs and the rest. Twice signals that they've left. And three times…" she drew out, her eyes twinkling, "means 'Wade Wilson' – it indicates that you've either arrived or left the warehouse."

Eyes wide, the mercenary looked like an enthralled schoolboy. "You're pulling my leg, Frost. Little ol' me getting my own signal? Unlikely."

"No, it's true," Emma pressed with a small smile. "You're always hanging around, anyway, so we don't use it often – just a few times a day. With Sabretooth and the rest, I feel like every couple of hours we're pounding out signals…"

"Yeah," the man frowned in disgust, "That overgrown cat does have an unhealthy fixation on you guys – well, you guys and his brother Jimmy. I swear, the guy has a complex. Maybe two or five."

"He gives us all the willies, that's for sure," Emma nodded. Shaking off the shiver of terror that crawled up her spine even at the thought of Sabretooth, the young woman changed topics. "Wade… Now that you know about Weapon XI, will you help me and the others escape from here?"

"Escape?" Wade nearly laughed at the thought. "You and what army? This place is locked down tight, Frost – military style. As in, surrender or they will shoot on sight."

Emma smirked. "Take a look around, Wade. We're mutants. We're our own army – and we don't need to stop and reload on bullets. We can do this, I know we can. We just need a feasible plan."

Wade's eyes turned contemplative. "…I suppose you're right. To an extent," he agreed. "You all have powerful abilities. Useful ones. But all of you are still just kids. You're not soldiers. Not yet."

"Exactly! We're not soldiers yet." Emma breathed deeply before sharing her thoughts further. "The way I figure it, the situation will turn us into soldiers one way or another. But there are different kinds of soldiers… When Stryker's done experimenting with us, what's to stop him from trying to control us, too? We'd become mindless killing machines, then. But if we teach ourselves to fight back, not to kill or maim or seek revenge but for a cause – our survival and freedom, then that's a whole different ballgame, isn't it? In fact, I don't think we'd be soldiers at all – we'd be warriors."

"Interesting assessment, Frost," Wade smirked in reply. "And not all wrong, either. But still, I doubt these kids would have it in them to do what's necessary to reach freedom."

Emma shook her head. "You've watched us all this while, but you don't see it? A cornered animal is the most dangerous… And we've sat here, day by day, stewing in our own resentment and desperation. I can feel what's happening around me Wade, with and without the telepathy. If you strike a match among us, we'd explode. The time is coming when we'll fight back… and either reach our freedom or die in the attempt. Besides, we have to try soon no matter what, before the captivity takes too great a toll upon us mentally. I've done what I can to encourage socialization and greater stability – even our own sort of infrastructure and chain of command – in order to keep us all better grounded. But it won't last forever. Soon, someone will crack. Badly. Irreparably. And everyone else will have to witness it. From there, it will be panic and an avalanche of mental instability. It's amazing we've lasted this long, actually – being unable to feel safe at any moment of the day… it wears away at one's nerves."

The mercenary soaked in her words. "You've thought about this a lot, haven't you?" The girl nodded. He sighed. "You've done a brilliant job keeping everyone grounded and in line, I'll give you that." Mussing his hair weakly with one hand, he continued, "So tell me… what do we have in our arsenal? I know the powers, but we need to know the capabilities of the people – that's what really decides their usefulness."

"Is that your answer then, Wade?" Emma wondered, excitement and hope rising up in her throat, thick enough to choke on.

"Yeah, I guess it is."

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Words: 1,421

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