A/N: I've always known there was something wrong with me and I shall declare it: I have problems writing for another story when most of my focus is on something that's already brewing.
I'll apologize right now that, contrary to what I previously declared, this update isn't the conclusion of The Search for Cyclops omake (and wow, what a doozy of an omake this is...). I still need to finish tying in the Rachel, Cable, and Captain America storylines I have running =( Anyways, I needed to post this so I could shift my attention to my Dissidia Duodecim: Final Fantasy story for a quick update '_'
I offer no other excuses; just more apologies to those that have been waiting for this one to end. Omake 2 will, soon!
A review reply:
Ronn: I honestly didn't think to include Legion in my original plans, and I feel this omake is getting too long for its own good to add yet another character :'D~ Maybe in future stories, I'll include Legion too.
Omake 2: The Search for Cyclops - Evening Side
"Everyone can make a choice after they've learned what it will result in. It's so easy to say 'we should have done it this way' afterwards. But...! You can't know what your choice will result in before actually choosing, you know? The thing is, you don't know! You never know anything! But the time keeps on moving, it won't stop just because you want it to! And there will surely come a time when you have to make a choice, even though you have no idea what the result will be!"
- Armin Arlert to Jean Kirstein, Shingeki no Kyojin
Rachel's eyes were pressed shut in quiet meditation as she floated high above the ground, legs folded in much the same manner Betsy did whenever the Eurasian psi sought stillness of mind.
Inner peace was exactly what Rachel hoped to achieve this very moment.
Her life was in disarray; her thoughts a chaotic mess of selfishness and selflessness.
When had things become so complicated?
It seemed so long ago—much too long ago—when Gabriel Summers, the thankfully deceased Vulcan, barged into her world and dragged her away from her life on Earth. It seemed even longer still when that harlot Emma Frost took advantage of her father's moment of weakness, setting off a chain of events that lead to Jean Grey-Summer's death.
No, that's no quite right, young lady, a stray voice that sounded suspiciously like her deceased grandmother broke her building anger; and you know it.
At once, Rachel was bombarded with memories of that day; of her greatest failure; of the Grey line nearly exterminated by the detestable Shi'ar. She remembered her grandmother's scathing curse amidst the Shi'ars judgment. And Rachel remembered, most of all, how childish she had been.
She could only see her own pain, and never those that surrounded her.
Rachel's eyes shot open with a silent gasp. Her heart pounded cold thorns through her veins and it took all of her willpower not to scream and let loose with her gift to just break everything around her.
"Rachel!" A gruff shout from below drew her attention to Wolverine staring up at her with arms crossed. "Can I get a word?"
The daughter of Cyclops paused for a moment before nodding. She took her time floating back to the ground to so she could recollect herself.
"What is it?" Rachel asked curiously when she was within earshot.
"You helped X get one of our jet." Wolverine quickly cut to the chase, throwing her an accusatory glare.
"I did." Rachel admitted. There was no point lying to someone that could literally smell lies. It was better to move things along.
"Why?" The short man continued with the same tone.
"Laura asked me." Rachel refused to cower under her superior's scowl. "We still have the Blackbird for transport, anyway."
"Did X say how long she's keeping it? Or what she's doing with it?"
"Laura will return it in due time and, again, we still have the Blackbird. We don't really need the X-Jet—especially since you've been using the Quinjet for transport."
"And my other question?" Wolverine pressed.
Rachel steeled herself. "Laura's looking for my dad."
Wolverine's frown deepened and it did not need a telepath to know what the short Canadian was thinking. Still, Rachel remained silent, patiently waiting for the man to make up his mind.
"Alright." Wolverine finally spoke while his posture remained tense.
Rachel waited a few moments longer before finally frowning.
"Alright?" She parroted. Rachel had expected Logan to blow-up. Lately, the short Canadian had an even shorter fuse for all-things Scott Summers.
"Yeah." Wolverine nodded his head. "X can look after her back. I will have to talk to her when she gets back, though."
The thought made Wolverine frown; Laura was just so much like him even up to the point of taking people's stuff to make their journey. Still, he wasn't worried about what would happen if Laura actually met that bastard Cyclops. Laura was a mature enough young woman to know what's what.
"Come inside, Ray." He coaxed his employee. "I can't have another teacher skiving work. We're understaffed as it is." He grumbled, turning his back on her and began walking.
Rachel let out a breath of relief that this encounter didn't turn out as bad as she had expected. The young teacher quickly followed the headmaster's steps.
"I'm proud of you, Ray." Logan suddenly said while they made their way to the school. He glanced over his shoulder and found the young Grey regarding him questioningly. He gave her a reassuring smirk. "X asked you to join her, didn't she? And you declined."
"Yes." Rachel nodded. Though that decision was almost two days previous, it continued to haunt her with what ifs.
"You made the right choice." The Avenger reassured his fellow teacher. "No good comes chasing after hopeless cases. Slim may be a lunatic, but he knows what he is doing—and that is scary." He didn't pay any heed to the way Rachel tensed at his words. No matter what she felt, these were words that needed saying. "Best prepare for whatever hell Cyclops has planned than worry yourself stupid trying to anticipate his every move. I still don't know how much longer McCoy plans to stay cooped up in S.W.O.R.D. with Brand—it's not worth it, and we need him to finish diagnosing Cerebro." Logan could have sworn that Brand was intentionally keeping Beast busy with whatever space cop-type things they did up there. "In the meantime, make good with your duties."
Logan opened the door and motioned for Rachel to enter.
"Like teaching these kids what's what."
Rachel glanced between Logan and the children flittering about inside the school before nodding her head resolutely.
"You're right." The psychic mutant agreed. "I've got other duties to fulfill."
Taking a deep breath, Rachel Grey-Summers faced the Avenger.
"I need to speak with my brother." She declared determinedly. "I'm meeting with Nathan."
Carol Danvers blinked in mild stupor when she checked her smartphone.
On display was her twitter feed with a picture of a cinema at the very front posted by the enigmatic Ruby. It seemed the person she was following was nearby—maybe… just maybe…
It was a longshot, surely, and it defied all conventional logic, but…
The blonde superhuman pursed her lips, contemplating what she should do about this particular situation before deciding to hell with it. There was no telling when such an opportunity will present itself again.
"Tony," She called to the handsomely dressed billionaire lounging on the sofa with an unopened bottle of red wine—a present from kindly sponsors no doubt hoping to get into the genius' good graces. A pity they did not research deeper into Tony's background; that bottle will go to waste. "I need to go." Carol informed him before adding a vague, "Urgent matters."
Tony looked up at her with a pout at the sudden change of plans. "Who am I to entertain tonight, then?"
"I'm sure you can find someone else." Carol held up a magazine. "According to this, there's a fashion show at-"
"7pm sharp this evening, but I'm sure I can excuse one or two lovely ladies to model for me in the gala instead." Tony finished with a wink. At Carol's raised brow, Tony calmly supplied, "Plan B, my dear. I always have a plan B. Would you need a lift to wherever it is you are leaving me for?"
Carol was almost tempted to point out Rachel, but she quickly realized she would never win against Tony Stark in an argument of semantics.
"I'm sure I can fly faster on my own." Carol smoothly declined his offer. If she was right—if she found who it was she was looking for, then things would quickly turn sour if Tony knew. "Thanks, and I'm really sorry about this."
"Bygones-" Tony began before a thought quickly crossed him. "Actually, you owe me a date. Call me, maybe?"
Carol stared at the familiar melody Tony mocked. "Remind me to update your playlist. I'll see you back in New York."
Tony nodded and smiled and waved. "Au revoir."
Scott supposed that he shouldn't be too surprised that a night's rest hadn't banished the questions of the previous night. Sleep never did work for him, really. It was a wonder his hair hadn't turned grey like his son's yet.
Maybe it was part of his mutation?
Shaking his head of such random musing, Scott planted his feet on the cool wooden floor and gathered his thoughts before pushing off, standing tall with the indomitability Cyclops was known for—and then he caught himself.
Inhale… and exhale.
Scott breathed in deeply and then breathed in the ambiance. His ears picked up the idle laughter of the semi-busy streets; the intermittent roars of passing cars; and the occasional chirping of a singing bird. Sunlight danced past the window, bringing brightness to everything it touched.
The eldest Summers finally smiled.
It was such a wonderful day.
So wonderful, in fact, that Scott almost backed out from checking on Illyana. It wasn't that he had anything against the young mutant, no. What made the former X-Men leader apprehensive was his last experience visiting the slightly unhinged ruler of Limbo.
As much as Scott treasured his relationship with Illyana Rasputin, he could feel his sanity dropping several points just speaking with her. As one that prided himself of keeping his mental faculties even in the direst of situations, the feeling Illyana brought to the table was downright terrifying.
Terrifying… but liberating.
Not that he'd tell the mischievous opportunist that, of course. Scott was not that insane. Yet.
Illyana had blossomed into a beautiful young woman that oozed femme fatale with her every chilling smirk. Limbo… it had really done a lot to her—changed her in so many ways.
Scott vehemently tried to repress the memory of that night he shared with Illyana and the even sultrier future-Illyana. Despite his words, a part of him still saw the innocent little snowflake whenever he looked at her—and it was this part of him that managed to iron his will against succumbing to the wiles of the unhinged young mutant.
But just because Illyana scared a part of him didn't mean he should shirk his responsibility towards her. Like, clearing the awkwardness he felt when in the same room as her after their not-quite tryst.
"Illyana?" Scott asked, knocking on the door to the room she shared with Ruby. "It's Scott. Are you in?"
An involuntary shiver ran down his spine when Illyana's fairy-like monotone reply came. "Yes."
Scott grinned uneasily as he banished the pill of déjà vu that made his hair stand.
"I need to speak with you." He explained. "May I come in?"
"Yes." Came her reply.
Scott frowned at Illyana's distracted tone, but decided not to think too deeply into it. Perhaps she just woke up?
With an understanding smile on his face, Scott opened the door to the demon queen's room. He quickly glanced around and sighed in relief at the absence of Limbo-esque furniture. Feeling more confident, his eyes finally settled on Illyana's back; the young mutant was squatting on the floor before him, tinkering with something out of his sight.
"What are you doing?" He asked curiously, opening the conversation.
It was clearly the wrong thing to ask as Illyana arched her back to glance up at him, giving him a generous view of the supple swell of her breasts and the phallic beast she cradled in one hand.
"Ah, Scott. Just in time." Illyana opened with a delighted smile, absently stroking the huge studded dildo with the cloth in her other hand. She presented the monster to him and asked in an innocent tone, "Do you like it?"
She twisted her body towards him so that she could fully offer his eyes her treat.
Scott broke into a cold sweat when he realized Illyana was only decked in a loose spaghetti top and panties with a suspicious-looking groove just below the equally suspicious-looking belt on her waist.
"That's—was that a question?" Scott stammered in fear when he realized that Illyana was holding one-half of a strap-on set while wearing the other.
His glutes reflexively tensed before the sight of unimaginable terror. Dear sweet Batman, was Illyana serious!
"Yes." Illyana looked strangely serious. "I need to know your opinion."
It seemed Scott's mind finally fried.
Illyana's eyes immediately narrowed. "This is not for you." The ruler of Limbo sounded offended by the notion before suddenly looking thoughtful. "Unless you want me to."
And as if to punctuate her caveat, Illyana masterfully attached the dildo in one smooth click, grinning lasciviously when she felt one end press against her. The sound made Scott take a step back.
"NO!" Scott exclaimed as if hell was upon him.
"Fuh." Illyana huffed in bitter disappointment but conceded that maybe she was a tad impatient. "Fine. I still need your opinion on this."
She gestured to the fake phallus without breaking eye contact with him. Scott found it slightly disturbing that Illyana was absently stroking the damn thing.
This was beyond strange even for a mutant's standards.
"Please stop that." Scott pleaded with a grimace. What she was doing with her delicate-looking fingers made him shiver—and not in a good way. "It's distracting."
Illyana pouted but nonetheless complied and rested both her palms on the base of the strap-on.
"Well?" She pressed eagerly.
"It's…" Scott cringed and lamely continued. "It's huge."
Yep. A scoop of awkward ice cream whenever around Illyana Rasputin.
"Yes." Illyana nodded in understanding. "I chose one that is larger than yours."
Scott blanched. "Oookaaay…"
Double on the awkward awkwardness.
"Do you think this will break Ruby?" Illyana asked him earnestly.
"What does Ruby have to do with this!" Scott exclaimed in horror.
An ominous glint lighted from Illyana's eyes and the demon queen chuckled darkly. "Ruby busted my ass when I tried to rape you in your sleep." Illyana admitted without shame. Scott's heart plummeted and his brain's functions ceased. "And so, her ass is mine."
Viewed in a strange light, one might say that Illyana planned to cheat on Scott with his daughter.
Alright. Triple scoop on the awkward with disturbing sprinkles.
Scott tried hard not to think of what Ruby did to provoke such a reaction from Illyana, and what the vindictive Illyana planned to do with the phallic monster with Ruby. Or in Ruby.
Oh god; too late!
Sweet Batman, what was it with the pink elephant syndrome!
:.: Dad? :.: Ruby's disquieted voice entered his mind. The sound caused Scott to involuntarily shiver.
:.: Not a good time. :.: Scott thought back hurriedly. Maybe if he kicked her out fast enough-!
:.: I can see that. :.:
Crap. Too late.
:.: Dad… :.: Ruby hesitantly began. Scott could just imagine the uneasy smile on his daughter's face. :.: Whatever goes on in your mind is your own business but… :.: Ruby paused as if mulling over how she could better phrase what she intended to say. :.: But you can be a freak, you know? :.:
"Scott?" Illyana asked the broken mutant before her. "Are you… crying?"
Scott wiped the lone tear that slipped past his battered constraint and hardened his gaze at Illyana.
"Yes, Illyana." He declared tepidly. "Yes I am."
And it was such a wonderful day, too.
:.: Is there anything else, Ruby? :.:
:.: Yeah. :.: His daughter replied seriously. :.: There's a mutant in town that has been tracking you. :.:
Illyana stopped stroking her newest toy when she saw Cyclops return.
"Illyana," Cyclops leveled the demon queen with a wry smile. "It seems we've been found."
Quickly understanding what he meant, the demonic mutant's eyes gleamed.
"I can drop them in the sun." Magik offered excitedly, her soulsword materializing in her grasp thanks to her stepping discs. "Just say the word."
"Maybe as a last resort." Cyclops humored her. Though both knew he had no intention of pulling through, Magik couldn't help but smile at the gesture.
:.: Ruby. :.: Cyclops called to his daughter. :.: Gather the Cuckoos. We have a guest to greet. :.:
Laura Kinney glanced around sharply, her green eyes mapping every street and building while scanning the crowds for any sign of Scott Summer's presence. From what the former assassin had gleaned, she was in the right place.
The air was fresh even in this busy segment of in Geneva. It was very different from the big apple, and it made tracking Cyclops' crew that much easier.
Indeed, it hadn't taken Laura longer than a breath since exiting the X-Jet when her hunter's nose immediately picked up Megan Gwynn's flowery perfume amidst the telltale ozone of Noriko Ashida. There were other familiar scents mixed in like the smell of disinfectant that only Dr. Nemesis could wear and a distinct albeit trace scent of rusted Shi'ar metal that Danger used in case of emergencies. There were even a few surprises such as David Alleyne's spice and Josh Foley's musk. The crispness of Geneva's air even made it easy for Laura to recognize each of the Cuckoos without even seeing them.
It goes without saying that Laura was already able to identify Scott Summers and even pinpoint his general location and, with determined footfalls, was already making her way to their place of lodging.
"Something on your mind, Laura?" A voice from behind her suddenly broke her thoughts.
"Raaarrgh!" Laura quickly spun around, claws drawn as she glared at the mutant that somehow slipped past her senses calmly standing a meter away from her. "Cyclops!"
Cyclops didn't seem to be paying her any attention as he glanced around once before settling his gaze on the jade-eyed mutant.
"So you really are alone." He concluded, lowering his hand from where it was stationed on his ruby-quartz frame when he realized there was no immediate danger. Cyclops flashed her a tired smile. "Well, you found me. I take it you haven't eaten yet?"
"How did you do that?" X-23 remained tense. Her eyes darted to her surroundings and she found that everyone appeared to be ignoring the mutant standoff despite the bustling on the street.
No, that was not quite right.
X-23 realized that the Cuckoos were here and they tweaked every bystander's perception of reality.
"You're thinking along the right track." Cyclops affirmed when he took in the look of comprehension in X-23's eyes. Cyclops knew that she was a very capable mutant. "I'm sure you understand that you can't harm me, so why don't you put those claws away so we can find a place to settle down for brunch?"
X-23 glared at him piercingly. "Why don't you force me?"
Cyclops stared at her blankly before finally shaking his head. "I suppose I could." He mused, scratching the back of his head sheepishly. "But if I can reason with you, then I won't have to. You came searching for me by yourself. That tells me two things."
X-23 tensed when Cyclops calmly closed the distance between them while thinking out loud.
"Either you want to kill me or you want to speak with me." He glanced down at the much shorter mutant and smiled at her confidently. "And since I'm still standing here before you, I can safely assume that you're here for the latter." He nodded to himself in satisfaction. "So, sausages or crêpes?"
Laura Kinney finally allowed herself to relax before the fugitive mutant, her blades returning back to their fleshy sheaths. Their brief exchange showed her that Scott Summers will not harm her—at least, not for the moment.
"I am not picky." Laura said, accepting the offer of her former commander. "Will everyone else join us?"
This may well be an opportune time to see who exactly followed Scott on his exodus, too. There were far too many Utopians unaccounted for.
"Maybe. Everyone has their own plans—some have left this side of Geneva to explore. Some even left the country."
"And Mindee, Phoebe, and Celeste?"
:.: We shall be keeping watch. :.: The Cuckoos chorused in both Scott and Laura's minds.
:.: You do not trust me. :.: Laura stated.
:.: Give us a reason to, first. :.: One of the Cuckoos, Laura wasn't quite sure who, quipped.
:.: Don't pick on her too much, Phoebe. :.: Scott reminded.
:.: Yes, Mr. Summers. :.:
"C'mon, Laura." Scott pocketed his hands and walked past the young woman. "There's a really good crêperie this way."
"How is it?" Scott asked after both he and Laura had finally settled down in a secluded spot overlooking the lake. Whereas Scott filled his sweet meal with mangoes and cinnamon apples, Laura had opted for a protein-filled crêpe.
"It is good." Laura appraised, taking perfect bites off her meal.
Scott marveled at how strange it was to observe Laura eat. The young mutant seemed to know exactly what her body needed, how much food her mouth could contain and, Scott found after critical observation, precision chewing. That is, Laura chewed the same number of times with each mouthful before swallowing.
'Uncanny' was only an introductory description to Laura's machine-like eating etiquette.
"I'm glad you're doing fine, Laura." Scott complimented her honestly.
"Thank you." Laura nodded. She gave Scott a cursory once-over before returning, "You seem fine as well. You do not appear to have gained or lost any weight. You do present with weariness though, by your degree, I conjecture it is caused by something recent." She suddenly leaned in closer and sniffed his neck, pulling back before Scott could react and stating, "You smell of Illyana Rasputin and one other unknown female. I further conjecture that these two are the culprits."
Scott raised a very impressed brow at the young mutant. "Very good. Anything else you want to add?"
"Yes." Scott blinked behind his frame when Laura calmly continued, "I have been tracking you using what I believed was a reliable source of information. That it lead me to where we are now only further proves my hypothesis: the unknown female is named 'Ruby', and she is the same woman that aided your escape from the Avengers and the X-Men."
A series of violent coughs erupted from Scott when the crêpe he was swallowing entered the wrong pipe in his surprise at Laura's astute deduction. For her part, Laura calmly reached out a hand to slowly rub the older mutant's back while she patiently waited for him to recover.
"A- a question." Scott finally managed to wheeze when he finally averted an embarrassing end, throwing a grateful smile at his petite companion. "What is this 'reliable source' of yours and how does it relate to Ruby?"
He already had his suspicion—modern social media networking was very scary—but he needed confirmation.
"Twitter." Laura simply stated.
Well, damn. Scott made a mental note to berate his daughter for her carelessness. Not that they were trying to hide, of course, but Scott didn't want any unexpected confrontations—particularly with more volatile people—happening.
"Alright." Scott grimaced. "Should I be expecting anyone else dropping by? Logan? Steve?" He hesitated before anxiously adding, "...Rachel?"
"I do not think so." Laura supplied. "If Logan and Steve Rogers were truly serious about finding you, they would have already done so." After all, Logan may as well be the world's greatest tracker while Steve Rogers had the entire might of the world's most powerful country at his disposal. "Rachel Grey declined my assistance in locating you."
It would have been nice to say that Rachel's decision surprised Scott, but he could only managed a resigned, "I see."
Rachel's reaction was as expected. As much as Scott wanted to deny it, this only proved Ruby right even more—Rachel only considered him her father when it was convenient for her.
Or maybe Rachel was furious at him for he told her when he left?
Regardless the reason, it was as Laura said. Despite his group's tampering of Cerebro before they extracted him, if anyone truly wanted to find him, then they would have. Laura Kinney, a mutant with no other reason to meet with him beyond selfish curiosity, was proof of that.
Scott shook his head of such pointless daydreams. That wasn't important.
"As long as she's doing fine." Scott murmured to himself in relief. After all, since Rachel appeared to be more content to stay in Logan's school, then that meant she finally found what she needed the most. He had made the right choice, then, when he rejected her desperate plea.
With her keen hearing, Laura managed to catch his words but didn't know how to respond, and so she kept her silence, continuing to observe him.
"I am not good with conversations." Laura finally said. Scott found that she had already finished her meal and was now turning her full attention on him. "Therefore I shall get to the point. Will you return to ensuring our species' survival?"
"That's quite considerate of you." He commented.
"Yes." Laura narrowed her eyes at him critically. "I would be grateful if you would not detract from the subject."
Scott's lips curled wryly at the sharp young mutant.
"I don't know." Scott finally confessed at Laura's nudging.
"Why?" Laura's emerald eyes glinted despite her neutral tone.
"Why, you ask…?" Scott trailed, not quite sure how to answer. "I suppose I just don't want anybody to die anymore because of me."
"What of our sacrifices? What of all the mutants that died? Were their deaths meaningless?" Laura's eyes blazed with an emerald fury. "Are you stopping now just because it was Emma Frost that was sacrificed?"
"No, that's not it." Scott disagreed.
"Then why won't you continue fighting? Why won't you give meaning to the sacrifices of the departed?"
Scott chuckled to himself humorlessly. What was it with the world? He had just been pondering this very same question the night previous, and now Laura appeared before him.
Was there a greater purpose to this serendipity? Or was he reading into these coincidences too hard?
"My vow was to prevent our species from becoming extinct." Scott began slowly. "I vowed to lead us out of the Scarlet Witch's curse. But you know what? I'm done. I'm through fighting."
Laura seemed ready to interrupt, but Scott raised both his hands to show he wasn't finished.
"Mutantkind does not need Scott Summers or Cyclops, and I'm fine with that." He told her quietly and offered his silent listener a tender smile. "I honestly believe that Wanda's curse will be lifted. The price we've had to pay for her selfishness, all the sacrifices and death we've had to endure, will be rewarded."
Laura dearly wanted to know the source of his confidence. How could Scott possibly declare that the trials her fellow children of the atom had gone through—the horrors and tragedies they had to face; the blood she was made to further drench her soul in—was not without merit when the Phoenix Force itself had abandoned them.
It seemed that Scott knew what she was thinking for he slowly took her hands in his warmer palms, and though Laura could not see past his framed gaze, she could feel a type of reassurance that she once thought was lost in the leader of their species.
"We fought for something, Laura. Our trials had meaning. Mutantkind will prosper once more, but it will not be through these bloodstained hands—yours or mine." He slowly let her go, allowing her time to digest his statement. "The Avengers have started, haven't they? I've seen Alex on the news leading a unity team. They're treading a rocky path, but that's to be expected. Everyone is in safer hands. We can now afford to wait."
"Do you believe that, Scott?" Laura questioned him skeptically. "Can the Avengers understand us?"
Could exalted gods truly understand what it was like to be a heretic?
"I'll pose you a question, Laura." Scott smiled at her reassuringly. "How can things change if our handling remains the same?"
Scott waited patiently for an answer from the young mutant. Eventually, Laura shook her head, unable to come up with anything. He continued in the same warm tone, "Maybe it's time a different approach is needed. My approach… well, it will lead to more pain—more hardships… and I don't wish the future my actions will bring on anyone."
Laura's eyes narrowed. Scott Summers knew something. "Have you seen the future?"
"The future of my actions, yes." Scott nodded somberly.
"Then change it." Laura challenged him fiercely. "Now that you know everything, you may change your approach."
Good people died for the sake of a future only Cyclops could see, and though they had progressed so far, he now decided to abandon his ship just because he encountered an iceberg?
"That's exactly what I am doing." Scott calmly agreed, ignoring the heat in Laura's words.
"No. You have to fight." Scott was stunned by the vehemence in the young mutant's tone. "You cared about us enough to stand your ground instead of retreating until there was no ground left."
Scott suddenly stood up, his heart pounding with guilt at Laura's faltering tone.
"Then why did you leave, Laura? Why did you move if you believed in our cause?"
"Because I believe in the necessity of Logan's school, too. I believe in you both. Neither of your ways alone is correct. The fighting needs to be led by those who choose to fight." Finally, Laura's gaze softened, her eyes slightly downcast and her prim posture slack. "That is why… I know I cannot force you."
At his sides, Scott's fists balled tightly as he warred within himself.
Was what he was doing right? Every fiber of his being screamed at him to take up the fight again. Just looking at the world the way it is, Scott felt that things had to change. The paradigm that the majority would instinctively reject what was different had to change…
…but at what cost?
Laura's heart sank when she deciphered Scott's decision from his posture.
"I don't want to be responsible for the sacrifices I'll have to let others make."
Scott didn't want to be that heartless again. He didn't want to abandon what was important to him again. He didn't want to throw away his humanity again.
It was just cruel that a person without such conviction, no matter how saintly, couldn't change the world, especially when the monsters inside of men surfaced.
The spirit in men was incredibly beautiful but equally fragile.
"I see." Laura said tersely. "That is unfortunate."
Scott sighed, turning away from the contemplating mutant towards the distant horizon.
It was such a wonderful day, too…
…but that didn't mean he couldn't make it wonderful again.
"Laura," Scott tilted his head towards her. Laura looked up at him, and Scott saw a certain uncharacteristic hopelessness in her emerald orbs. Heh, either the Avengers' Academy had truly changed the former assassin, or he was getting that much better at reading people now that he took the time to notice. "What do you plan to do now?"
"I…" She had her answers. They weren't the answers she wanted to hear, but they were the answers she was given. "I will have to return the X-Jet to the Jean Grey School."
But beyond that, Laura wasn't sure what she would do.
"Do you want to stay with us for now?" Scott offered. "Maybe experience this new culture."
"You and I know this lifestyle will not last." Laura said with utmost finality.
"Then let's enjoy this while it lasts." Scott countered. When Laura was quiet for a few moments longer, Scott added, "I'm sure your batch would like to see you again."
"Noriko Ashida and I did not part on friendly terms." Laura frowned, but Scott could see that Laura did want to experience what they had to offer.
Scott supposed that he was being a bit unfair in capitalizing on Laura's curiosity, but he honestly wanted the young mutant to know that, just maybe, there were better things to do in life than take up a crusade… even if Scott was still in the process of convincing himself.
His eyes had always been wide open until, now, they were dry; pained. It was hard to even blink with paranoia having set in.
But still, Scott tried. He had faith in the friends that had proven themselves to him; he had faith that the cross he once thought, in his selfishness, was only his to bear could be carried by someone else.
So, slowly and with great difficulty, Scott was learning to let go and move on.
So, slowly and with great trepidation, Scott was rebuilding himself… and now he was no longer alone.
"People change." Scott assured the hesitant Laura. "You'll never know anything until you've tried."
"…Alright." Laura decided. "I will need to return the X-Jet first."
Scott grinned. "Either Megan or Illyana can handle that for you."
Laura's eyes suddenly dulled at the mention of Limbo's ruler; she suddenly remembered the scent she gathered in their Cyprian getaway home.
"Scott," The seriousness in Laura's tone once more made the elder mutant focus on her, "I cannot judge you because of my past, but I hope your relationship with Illyana Rasputin is at least consensual."
Scott was stunned stupid by Laura's words.
For her part, Laura calmly stood up before accepting, "The X-Jet is parked not far from the city. Shall I deliver the coordinates in person or will the Stepford Cuckoos take it from me?"
It was a wonderful day in the Jean Grey School when the staff and students almost suffered a heart attack when they were bathed by a familiar blue light.
"Magik is here! Brace yourselves!" Wolverine shouted, claws drawn as he charged through the windows to get the jump on-
-an unsuspecting X-Jet?
"Um, Logan?" Kitty Pryde piped in as she walked out from the front door. "I don't see Magik."
"Stay alert." Wolverine growled, eyes darting everywhere. "They may be hiding. Get the kids to the shelter."
"Do you want me to contact Rachel?"
Wolverine shook his head. "You know she'll only slow us down. Her head's all over the place, and that's not good for a psi."
Kitty was not convinced, but she respected Wolverine's authority. "If you say so."
:.: Dad? :.:
:.: Yes Ruby? :.:
:.: There's someone else here looking for you. :.:
Scott took a moment to digest her warning.
:.: You're pretty keen about this. :.:
:.: Thank you. :.:
Scott rolled his eyes.
:.: You and I both know that was not a compliment. :.:
:.: … :.:
:.: We'll talk about this later. :.:
:.: …K. :.:
Scott sighed and turned his gaze towards the evening sky.
:.: What's the situation? :.:
:.: Female. Non-hostile. Alone. Illyana can 'port her to the sun. :.:
:.: Maybe after I speak with her. Or the movie. Whichever comes first. :.:
Scott shook his head and pulled up the collar of his jacket.
:.: Tell everyone I'm going ahead. :.:
:.: Yes, Mr. Summers. :.:
:.: Ah, Mindee, Phoebe, Celeste—that was for Ruby. You three don't have to come. :.:
:.: We know, Mr. Summers. But we want to.:.:
:.: If you're really feeling bad— :.:
:.: – about relying on us— :.:
:.: –we'd love to be treated to dinner. :.:
:.: Down, girls. :.:
:.: If that's what they want, then I don't see the problem, Ruby. :.:
Scott innocently answered, feeling that he did owe the triplet telepaths for all the trouble he put them through.
:.: …freak. :.:
Hidden in a nearby alley, Carol Danvers quickly checked her phone before comparing the displayed picture with her surroundings. Indeed, this was the place Ruby said she would be watching The Avengers with her friends.
Not for the first time did doubts plague the Kree-enhanced superhero.
What she was doing defied all conventional logic. Really, following a person she hadn't met who just so happened to have one picture of Scott Summers and his group taken half a month back? Dropping an earlier arrangement with Tony and flying all the way here to Geneva on a hunch? This went beyond all her training, both in and out of the military!
But Carol couldn't help but hope that this wouldn't end as an embarrassing mess of misunderstanding.
This person, this Ruby was her only lead in finding her wayward friend.
Carol felt that she needed to speak with Scott—to clear airs with him before S.H.I.E.L.D. decided to do anything drastic; before Captain America was forced to bring down the hammer. As much as she knew Steve Rogers was a man trying to do right by his conscience, Carol understood the obligation he had to the country whose colors were carved into his person.
The last thing Carol wanted was for both her friends to fight again.
"I don't want to fight anyone, either." A familiar baritone spoke up from behind her.
Carol whirled around in alarm, her eyes widening with surprise, relief, and happiness when her worries were unanswered.
"Are you just going to gape?"
"Scott!" She leaped at him in excitement, her arms reaching out to wrap themselves around his neck and bury herself against his warmth; to reassure herself that he was here and he was alright.
It was only when she was suddenly frozen in mid-air when she realized that maybe Scott didn't come alone. Carol supposed that her years of experience working with the man should have already told her that, more likely than the contrary, he always traveled with a telepath.
"Umm…" Carol looked at Scott pensively. Yeah, this was an awkward start to a reunion she was looking forward to. "I don't mean any harm?"
"I know." Scott nodded before turning his head to the left. Carol noticed his brows crinkle as if he was frowning at someone. "Ladies, you know she doesn't mean any harm."
"Harm is a subjective term." A disembodied chorus answered him.
"Celeste, Phoebe, Irma." Carol quickly identified.
"Mindee." The slighted Cuckoo corrected with a superiority the likes of the late Emma Frost.
"Mindee." Carol corrected herself. She flashed the space where she believed the Cuckoos cloaked themselves a wide, albeit slightly strained smile. Being suspended in mid-air wasn't as comfortable as it looked. One of these days, maybe investing on anti-telepathy countermeasures was on the cards if a telepath could so easily hijack her coordination and perception. "Would you mind releasing me now?"
"We don't mind—"
"—it's just that—"
"—we don't want to."
"What should I do that will make you want to put me down?" Carol asked gently. She knew how to work women like these three. It was all about favors with them.
"We want you to do a couple of things."
"But for the moment, we want you to agree to Mr. Summers' terms."
"Don't worry, it won't harm you."
"And what are his terms?" Carol rolled her eyes in Scott's direction, silently telling him to state them just so she could finally be released from the telepathic restraints. "And can you show yourselves?"
"I'm sure you came here for something…" Scott prompted.
"To talk." When the Cuckoos remained invisible to her perception, Carol reluctantly added. "…and maybe to bring you back." Though Scott made no outward reaction, Carol hastily added, "But only depending on the answers I get!"
Scott closed his eyes, taking off his ruby-quartz frame so he could rub the bridge of his nose to stave off a headache. Replacing his shades on his person, he finally said, "Alright. We can talk," Carol's face lit up, "But only after the show."
"You're watching The Avengers."
Carol giggled slightly at the confirmation that Scott was indeed Ruby's accomplice. Now she just had to figure out who Ruby's identity.
"You don't appear surprised that I know what you're doing." Carol commented.
Scott shrugged. "You're not the first person to find me today. Something also tells me you might not be the last." He sighed, "I guess you found me through twitter, too?"
"Yes." Carol nodded before turning her gaze to the still-cloaked Cuckoos. "Alright. I will speak to Scott after the movie—but I will be joining you when you watch. Now, can you please set me down?"
When Scott snapped his head at the Cuckoo's direction, Carol was glad that she wasn't the only one surprised by their succinct refusal.
"As we've told you—"
"—there are a couple of things—"
"—that we want you to do."
"Alright." Carol braced herself. Their first request was mostly for Scott's benefit, it seemed. It was time to know what exactly the Cuckoos wanted from her, specifically. "What do you want? And you better promise to hold your end of the bargain this time."
Finally, the triplet of blondes appeared. Carol noted that, as usual, they wore identical clothes that somehow made them look both cute and mature.
"We have dinner plans with Mr. Summers." One of them declared.
"Quite frankly, you are a nuisance." Another of them seemed to scowl at her.
"If you would, please leave us alone until the movie starts." The last one wasn't asking.
"That's… fine." Carol slowly nodded. She was quite puzzled by what was happening.
"Good." They dropped Carol, who would have crashed on the ground in surprise had Scott not caught her. "Remember our deal, Ms. Danvers." They reminded the older blonde before, as one, they turned their attention to Scott. Carol could have sworn that their eyes were shimmering when they asked with sickeningly sweet voices, "Mr. Summers, shall we depart?"
After all, the sooner the Cuckoos could extract him, the more time they could spend with his undivided attention before more nuisances came along.
"R-right." Scott looked flustered when the three grabbed his arms and pulled him away from Carol before they led him out of the alley. "Er, thanks ladies. Carol," Scott threw the recovering woman an apologetic look, "I'll see you at the movie, alright? We're watching the next showing."
"Yeah…" Carol replied in a daze. "See you."
When the four mutants left, Carol sighed and slowly shook her head. It seemed things have changed around Scott far more absurdly than she could ever imagine.
"I can't believe you made me pay for my ticket." Carol whined at Scott as she settled in her chair. She was cradling a small tray of nachos—a sort-of peace offering from Scott even if it wasn't exclusively hers.
"You weren't invited." The woman Carol was introduced to as Ruby—the same Ruby from the twitter account—pointed out. While Carol had identified the blonde mutant as the same one that helped Scott escape, Carol also felt that Ruby was vaguely familiar—as if Carol had seen her somewhere before but just couldn't figure out where or when. Carol refrained from commenting about the shades she wore inside the already dimly-lit cinema.
"I've been set back." Scott ignored his daughter to answer the Avenger. "I didn't bring enough cash to spend on dinner and the movie."
"Thank you, Mr. Summers." The triplet of satisfied blondes happily sang without an ounce of guilt. It wasn't everyday they were treated to the same glamorous life as their mother. They had full intention of getting used to it, too.
"Why are you using cash?" Carol pouted.
"Plastic can be traced. Easily." Scott relaxed in his seat. He'd just have to work for more money, then. Really, he wasn't expecting to blow nearly a thousand euros in one night! Whose mind did the Cuckoos hack to find such a place! "While I'm not exactly trying to hide, I'd rather no uninvited guest drops by suddenly." He shot his unexpected visitors a dry look; at least Carol had the decency to look embarrassed, though he guessed he shouldn't really have expected a reaction out of Laura. "No matter how pleasant their company is."
"You're learning, Scott." Carol grinned at the offhand compliment.
Of course, Scott remained oblivious.
"Shhh!" A pink-haired mutant whom Carol remembered was called 'Pixie' silenced their noisy bantering. "The movie is about to start!"
"Sorry." Scott and Carol both apologized. On Scott's right, Ruby snickered at her chastised father.
Ignoring the bickering around her, Illyana offered the box of popcorn she had to Danger. "Want some?"
Danger stared at her once-prisoner. While she had previously concluded that Illyana had left her sanity in Limbo, at least the Siberian mutant was quite thoughtful. The gynoid grabbed a few pieces and ate.
"Thank you." Danger turned her attention back to what lay before them. The trailers were already finished, which meant, "The movie is beginning."
At once, Danger began discreetly recording the movie.
Samuel L. Jackson, with the aura of a boss just like always, walked into the screen.
"Wait, since when was Nick Fury black?" Ruby gasped, honestly confused by what was on screen and the memories she pilfered off her father when she was growing up. Several chairs from her, Laura nodded her head in agreement.
Scott shot a quick glance at his daughter. He had a feeling that this was going to be a long night.
Ruby nudged her father discreetly and whispered, "I don't quite get this flashback Cap is having."
"Cap got iced." Scott curtly explained, his full attention still on the movie.
"What he means to say," Carol interjected, having overheard the woman she had been stalking, "In one of the tie-in movies, Steve heroically crashed an enemy aircraft in the Arctic to prevent the weapons it contained from detonating in America. He was frozen there until present—which is why he looks disoriented now."
"Oh." Ruby nodded, glancing at the screen then back at the Avenger and her dad with the same quizzical expression. "Why couldn't he have just jumped off the plane before it crashed? Then all this drama would be spared."
It's what she would have done.
Peering quickly into Carol's mind, Ruby also found that, in the movie, the excavated enemy plane was in great condition for something that should have exploded in the forced crash-landing.
The two blondes just stared at each other in awkwardly.
"…the film did not accurately reflect history." Carol finally answered. "Let's leave it at that."
"Where does Cap get the right to look so mighty after blocking Chris Hemsworth once." Illyana complained. "If they fought, Chris could easily summon a bolt of lightning to smite, or he could simply tear off that shield from his soon-to-be-dead carcass."
Carol looked horrified at the Siberian mutant's suggestion and was suddenly remembered that this was the same mutant that threw her in hell. It was even more alarming to the Kree-enhanced Avenger that the rest of the group didn't seem to mind Illyana's outburst.
Ruby glanced at Illyana and snickered, ignoring the frantic look on their guest's face. "Oh, you're just annoyed because he made your boytoy look bad."
Illyana huffed. "Your dad is my boytoy, but I admit that I wouldn't mind having a Chris."
Ruby scowled but did not reply to her roommate's taunting.
Carol slowly edged away from the creepy mutant and tried to comprehend what she had just heard. A warm hand on hers made her glance at Scott, who shook his head slowly.
"For your own sanity—" he started somberly, offering her a comforting box of popcorn, "—it's best you not believe everything Illyana says."
"Is it true, though?" Carol whispered back. "Are you her boytoy?"
When Scott offered no reply but to simply turn back to watching the movie, Carol could honestly say she was worried.
"Agent Coulson, no!"
"Scott," Laura pipes up when, on screen, Loki had successfully scattered the Avengers after escaping the Helicarrier. "I want to clarify the events surrounding Loki's detainment."
Scott glanced at her direction and stated lowly so as not to disturb the other viewers, "Loki wanted to get himself captured so he could infiltrate S.H.I.E.L.D."
"That is what I have surmised." Laura agreed, but her emerald-eyed stare remained fixed on him. "I want to know why Captain America could not subdue Loki despite his intent to throw the fight."
Scott was at a loss for words.
"If anything—" Ruby couldn't help but add while snickering, "—it seemed Loki was annoyed that Cap couldn't put up a fight. Seriously, who throws their trump card at the beginning of a fight? Especially against an unknown hostile?"
"…Just enjoy the show." Scott said, feeling very weary.
"This is a movie for all ages." Carol defended in frustration. "You're not meant to think about it!"
The excitement the Cuckoos felt upon witnessing the Hulk's crowning moment of awesome when the green beast totally demolished the Chitauri's carriers as he entered into the fray rapidly evaporated when Captain America gave his battle plan.
"Did he just tell Hawkeye to go to a high place and scout for enemy tactics?" Phoebe asked her sisters disbelievingly.
"He also told Hulk to just smash." Celeste added.
Mindee rolled her eyes. "As if they couldn't think to do something so natural by themselves."
Overhearing the conversation, Carol couldn't help but have her exhilaration mercilessly dashed by the truth in the triplet's comments.
"Is it just me, or is Cap having problems against these Chitauri fodder?" Noriko gazed at the screen critically.
The alien invasion had finally happened, and the Avengers were putting up a valiant response. Captain America was currently saving a group of civilians trapped inside a building.
"I know, right?" Josh Foley answered in agreement. "Even Black Widow's doing more than Cap despite not having a nifty steroid. And she's not even making a big deal of getting hurt."
"Actually, that's a common misconception. Natasha was given a variant of the super-soldier serum, albeit a weaker one. She is also capable of biotechnological warfare through the nanites in her body."
"Scott, you're such a geek." Carol teased, honestly impressed by the depth of his knowledge.
Scott blushed in embarrassment and resumed watching the movie.
Everyone chuckled when Hulk punched Thor out of nowhere.
"Wait, so not only was Cap having a hard time against pawns, but Thor was forced to save him by blocking fire with his hammer because Cap couldn't do it with his indestructible shield?" Illyana hissed in outrage. "Where does he get the gall to act so superior!"
"Settle down, Illyana." Scott asked her tightly. He could tell the movie was about to finish and, well, he honestly couldn't say that he enjoyed this one as much as Les Mis, no thanks in small part to the ongoing commentary. Deciding to put his foot down, Scott declared, "This is just a movie. The director made them do it."
Elsewhere, fans of Firefly/Serenity and that X-Men comic book that chronicled the Astonishing Team's exploits in Breakworld with disturbing accuracy had the sudden urge to throw a brick at a legally-blind man's head.
Carol Danvers made a mental note to never watch movies with the X-Men again. The way they nonchalantly shattered her illusions with offhanded comments was more crippling than any torture she had experienced!
What a bunch of killjoys!
"Well, that was worth my money." Carol commented sarcastically after she and Scott had excused themselves to finally have that talk.
It had taken some convincing and a lot of reassurances and suffering through threats of bodily harm—most vehemently from Ruby and Magik—but Carol managed to have Scott all to herself. At least, she hoped so. It was difficult to hide from a telepath, let alone four experienced ones.
They had settled themselves on a relatively secluded spot along a moonlit stretch of Prom du Lac that ran through Jardin Anglais.
"I'm really sorry." Scott apologized. "Normally they're not like that."
"It's fine." Carol waved off his concern. "I've already watched this once with a few of the New Avengers. Granted, the first time was just as annoying."
"Oh?" Scott raised a brow. "Spider-Man?"
"Yeah." Carol shook her head in fond remembrance before throwing her gaze up at the moon. The celestial body looked so different here, somehow. "While he wasn't as critical about the movie, he kept joking that he should have been there—especially since there are already four movies about him."
"Wasn't there an issue about movie rights?"
"Yeah." She blinked at him. "You're up to date?"
"I wouldn't say that." Scott scratched his cheek sheepishly. "The children were talking about it last night."
"Ah." Carol pouted in mock disappointment. "And here I thought you've found yourself a hobby to keep you busy."
"I do have a hobby." Scott defended.
"Taking over the world and remaking it in your image?" Carol raised her brow.
Scott's lips suddenly flattened and Carol wondered if she had taken the bantering too far, too soon. Her body reflexively tensed under Scott's hidden gaze, ready to put a quick end to this if things got physical.
Mercifully, the worst case scenario passed them when Scott finally sighed.
"…I was only doing what I could with the power I was given." Scott said tightly. "I saw a problem that needed to be fixed, so I did."
"Was Emma a problem, too?" Carol solemnly asked.
Scott's jaw shut with a click, and it was then that Carol knew she had really gone too far. Sometimes, it was hard to believe that a righteous man like Scott had fallen in love with a woman as twisted as Emma Frost.
"Emma had a problem." Scott agreed and turned his gaze away from Carol. "I was just too late to fix it."
He should have acted swifter. He should have been more decisive.
Why? Why did he hesitate?
A warm hand settled on his shoulders, and it was only then that Scott realized he was trembling.
"I'm sorry, Scott." Carol's other hand gently cupped his chin and guided his gaze back towards her sincere blue eyes. "I didn't mean to reopen your wounds—especially when it's clear that they haven't fully closed. However, you can't deny that you did exactly as I have stated."
"What do you want, Carol?" Scott asked tiredly. It had already been quite the day.
"I needed to make sure you were alright." Carol told him softly. "You're still a dear friend to me, Scott. I hope you can believe me when I say that."
"What do you want?" Scott asked again as he waited for the other boot to drop.
"I want to know what you're thinking now."
"You want to know if I'm going to hurt America." Scott clarified angrily.
Carol shook her head slowly. "I want to know if you feel like rejecting what you were taught and, instead, will fight back against a world that hates and fears you."
The frown never left Scott's lips when he reminded, "You were there when I said I don't plan on fighting anymore."
"I was." Carol nodded, "But you and I know how much integrity such claims have. Steve—" The Avenger wondered if it was right to spill their leader's secrets, but decided to anyway, "—Steve and everyone else are brainstorming how to track and stop you."
She could feel the muscles of his jaw tighten with her fingertips.
"I don't plan on fighting." Scott repeated.
"But you have to admit that, more than anyone, you have a reason to harm and hurt those that antagonize you; us Avengers, included." Carol pointed out. The hand on his chin slowly trailed down his neck until it rested against his pounding heart—despite his stony countenance, Carol could feel all the anger and frustration coursing inside of him. "You've been hurt and shunned repeatedly and…" Carol glanced up at him sorrowfully, "And… you're not the only one to blame for Emma Frost's death. We are as much to blame as you."
Why couldn't they find another way than to stage a guerilla war against the X-Men? When Hawkeye admitted that it was Cyclops that had healed him—"For his sick pleasure", Clint had added—Carol was reminded that these Phoenix hosts were not Dr. Doom or anyone else. At the very least, Cyclops and Colossus were people she could have reasoned with—should have reasoned with and given him a chance.
Scott's hand flew up to his frame and Carol felt that he would blast her face off in blind fury—but she refused to move. They stayed like that, Carol so dangerously close to the eyes that could melt her with a glance; the Avenger silently waiting for the mutant to make his decision.
This was her finally giving her old friend that chance to prove that he was not as far-gone as everyone said he was.
When he took of his shades, Carol braced herself for the impending pain.
It never did come as Scott's eyes were pressed shut and he pinched its bridge with his free hand. Feeling emboldened by his reaction, a tender smile floated upon Carol's face and she massaged Scott's chest and shoulders comfortingly.
"Regardless," Scott managed to croak passed his parched throat, replacing his frames back on his face so he could finally see his friend, "I don't plan on fighting anymore. You all don't need to worry about that."
"Alright." The gently warmth of Carol's smile dropped slightly, and the Avenger had to take a moment to breathe before she could utter her next request, "Scott, can you come with me back to America where you can prove yourselves to our peers?"
"The court declared my innocence." Scott reminded her. "I don't have to prove anything."
"I'm not trying to antagonize you, Scott," Carol disclaimed, "But you and I know that Ruby had a hand in that trial."
"Ruby merely gave that man a nudge. She didn't hijack his mind." Scott clarified. "That man was one of many that couldn't speak up for fear of being ousted as a mutant-supporter. Is it so hard to believe that there are those that think my actions were just?"
"That's not what I'm saying, Scott." Carol slowly replied, trying to maintain an open mind. "But the fact is, there was a telepath tampering with your hearing."
"What Ruby did is comparable to a stranger whispering to their neighbor." Scott countered. "Are you going to stop people from speaking with each other in a court hearing?"
"I didn't say that." Carol shook her head. "But I just want you to come back and clear your name."
"Because—!" Carol quickly caught herself, her blue eyes widening at what she was about to say.
Unfortunately, Scott knew her all-too well.
"Because it would make you feel better?" Scott snidely supplied.
That seemed to stun Carol, and her gaze lowered.
"I'm sorry." Scott quickly apologized, catching her hands just as they slipped from his body. "I didn't mean it to be offensive."
"But you're right." Carol's ashamed eyes trailed from where their hands met and up towards his apologetic gaze. "I want you to come back and clear your name because it will make me feel better to know that other people still see you the way I do." She admitted honestly. "It's very selfish of me, but I just can't stomach people slandering your name without considering why you did what you did. It's as if they just want to hate you."
It was almost unbearable for her to see such ugliness in her friends.
"…I don't mind it if people hate me." Scott assured her softly. "I made my choices knowing that there would be consequences, Carol. And while some of those consequences are difficult to bear, I have found that, sometimes, I don't have to carry that cross alone."
Scott breathed in deeply and then enveloped his friend in a warm, grateful hug. Carol's eyes widened at the very uncharacteristic show of affection.
"Thank you for caring, Carol. Really." Scott whispered against her ear. "But I'm healing, here."
"Are you sure, Scott? Are you sure you don't want to come back with me?" Carol asked one last time, returning his embrace.
"Yeah, I'm sure." Scott replied, pulling back to offer her a reassuring grin.
"…Alright. I hope you will find what you are looking for." Carol pulled back as well. Blushing at the awkward atmosphere that descended between the two old friends, Carol coughed against her fist and declared, "It's time for me to head back. Duty, and all."
"Saving the world waits for no one, right?" Scott quipped before adding with a sincere smile. "At least now, I know for sure that with you around, the world is in much safer hands. Don't ever change, Carol."
"Oh, shush you, Scott." Carol's face turned an even more embarrassed scarlet. Remembering something, Carol added, "Can you tell Ruby that I will be following her tweets for updates on your adventures?"
"Ugh," Scott grimaced, "Isn't that like being a stalker? I still need to speak with her about closing her account."
"It's called being kept posted, Scott." Carol defended. "And I doubt Ruby will comply. She's just doing things she wasn't able to do, you know."
Scott raised a brow at Carol. "And how do you know that?"
"You were occupied for about two hours this evening, remember?" Carol pointed out. "I've spoken with Ruby. You really pick up the weirdest strays. Some people pick up cats and dogs, others pick up alien friends, but only you pick up alternate-reality offspring that are all-grown up. This is beyond adopting an orphan."
It also went without saying that Carol saw the future Ruby came from. The Avenger vowed that she would do everything in her power to make sure none of what Ruby went through would come to pass.
"It's probably karma." Scott shook his head with a wry smile.
"Yeah. That may be it." Carol gave him one last hug. "Take care of yourself, alright Scott? Don't be a stranger."
"I will." Scott returned her affection. "Stay safe."
Stepping back a couple of paces from her friend, Carol flashed him one last smile before taking off into the skies.
Scott watched until Carol disappeared from sight before slowly making his way back to the hotel.
It was reassuring to know that there were heroes like Carol Danvers.
Maybe he really didn't have to do anything.
While Scott and Carol were having their tête-à-tête, the rest of the movie viewers reappeared back in their hotel-HQ.
"Great job, team." Ruby congratulated the gathered. "I think we successfully trolled the fun out of Captain Marvel."
"Yes." Illyana's eyes glimmered mirthfully. "Did you see how she looked when the credits rolled? I wish I brought a camera!"
"I managed to acquire a photograph of her facial expression." Danger supplied. "Would you want me to send a copy to your mobile phone for posterity?"
"Yes!" Illyana and Ruby exclaimed.
"Can I also have a copy of the picture?" Josh asked innocently.
"Don't give it to him." The Stepford Cuckoos replied in unison. "His mind is even murkier than the gutters. It does not take a genius to figure out what he plans to do."
"Oh come on!" Josh whined. "I was holed up in an island for years!"
"It was only one." David called out his hyperbole.
"By myself! Without company!"
"Weren't you supposed to be reflecting?" Noriko accused.
"I did." Josh folded his arms and pouted. "It took two months. And the rest? Well, nobody would pick me up."
Laura walked up to her former X-Force teammate and placed a comforting hand on his shoulder. "I'm sorry. We forgot about you with everything happening."
"I know you're trying to comfort me, but I feel like crying now." Josh sighed but nonetheless smiled at her gratefully. "You don't have to be so blunt."
"Aw, Josh…" Megan cooed as she floated up to him with open arms. "Group hug!"
"Now I know you're not even serious!" Josh cried.
Still, despite Josh's protest, the new x-men huddled around their friends. Lavished with so much camaraderie, Laura unconsciously smiled. It was times like this that made it seem like the bloody past they shared was nothing more than a passing nightmare.
Watching the group, Ruby turned to Illyana with a question that had been plaguing her mind. "How did you convince Laura to be part of our plans?"
The time-traveler found Laura's comment to be honestly hilarious—and it also slipped under her radar.
Illyana shrugged. "She wasn't."
Ruby blinked. "Huh… That's nice."
"Ruby," Illyana asked her roommate. Ruby turned towards Limbo's queen and narrowed her eyes at the sinister vibes radiating from her smile. "Let's head to bed."
"…I'll wait for dad." Ruby wisely answered.
Illyana inwardly frowned. It seemed Ruby had very good survival instincts as she made sure not to think about her new toy.
Oh well, it was only a matter of time before she could rip into the meddlesome Summers. And, who knows? Maybe Ruby would put up as much a fight as her father!
A/N:I'm having a lot of fun portraying Illyana as an eccentric young woman that doesn't think along the social norms. I like Carol Danvers, too. In some ways, she's a very innocent woman; her (original) solo started out with her wanting to be the "best superhero ever", and while it lead her to a lot of questionable decisions, you can't help but admit that Carol had noble intentions pursuing them.
It seems that I might've been too vague about the segment where Carol muses about where she first saw Ruby. The following is the answer I gave Ihklan:
[Carol and Ruby didn't first meet during Scott's 'jailbreak' :)
It goes back to chapter 2- who were the Avengers looking after Cyclops while the reporters flooded in? When did Ruby first contact Scott? 8D]