Later that afternoon, Xander was happier than he’d ever been to leave the Baxter Building. Ever since he’d revealed his admittedly minor talent for Atlantean, Reed had been pestering him for information on exactly how that supposedly impossible feat had been achieved.
Now Reed’s pestering, though irritating, would have been something Xander could deal with, mostly because he had been having fun messing with the rubber limbed genius, but then Sue had mentioned Jean in front of Johnny.
The Human Torch and the ever-loving, blue-eyed Thing, in a display of maturity that did not quite match their respective ages, had proceeded to alternate between mocking Xander and pestering him for details.
That too, though annoying, was something Xander could deal with. It’s what happened when Xander had admitted that his and Jean’s ‘relationship’ was being fabricated purely for the good press it would generate that he had to deal with Sue, who was far more affronted by the lie than Xander would have expected.
Now Johnny, Ben and Reed, powers or no powers, were easy. Sue, on the other hand? It benefitted no one to have an angry woman out to get you. Particularly not when that woman could summon forcefields in any
location she wished and an intimate
knowledge of the human body.
Xander was fairly certain that she was responsible for some very unpleasant things that were currently happening in his lower intestines.
As a result, when 3pm rolled around, Xander was only too happy to sprint out the front door of the Baxter Building, clocking in at about 343mph as he made his way out of the city.
Dashing his way through NYC, Xander led himself to a small café in Westchester, the address for which he had memorised the previous evening, coming to a stop very carefully in a nearby alleyway, purposefully out of sight of passerby's.
Already dressed in civvies, jeans and a plain T-shirt, as well as his now characteristic dark sunglasses, Xander pulled a New York Yankees baseball cap from his back pocket, pulling it sloppily over his head to cover his electric blue hair.
Confident in his disguise, Xander casually strolled out of the alley and onto the street.
It wasn’t an overly crowded area. Dotted with restaurants and cafés, it saw much more business in the early evening, rather than the afternoon, but there was still enough of a crowd to keep the places open, which suited Xander’s current needs fine.
Walking slowly to his destination, he paused to check his reflection in a window.
Dressed casually, with his hair covered and the cap pulled down low over his dark glasses, no one passing him on the street would recognize him. But, he knew, if anyone were to take a closer look, they were likely to notice that the glasses he was wearing were the customary models used by ‘Surge’ and may see the tufts of electric blue hair sticking out at the back of his head, where the cap did not cover.
Basically, were anyone to recognize him he looked very much like he was trying to disguise himself.
Finally coming up to the café he and Jean had agreed upon, he noticed that she was thinking much the same thing, not even bothering to hide her particularly vibrant red hair and using little more than a pair of very small sunglasses to disguise her very public face.
She was sitting at an otherwise empty table on the street and turned to face him as he approached, recognizing the presence of his mind easily in the crowd, smiling winningly at him, which he returned as he sat down.
“Jean,” he said warmly, reaching out to take her right hand in his, bringing it to his lips in a soft kiss, something Betty had done her best to ingrain into him when she taught him how to go about an interview. She'd failed in that respect, of course, but he still pulled it out occasionally.
“Sparky,” she returned with another smile, motioning the paper on the table between them, “You were right about the reaction.”
With another grin, she began to recite from the article in which the pair of them were featured, “‘If one of our trusted protectors can accept these mutants so willingly into his heart, then surely we, as a nation, can find it within us to offer them the olive branch?’ God, if I’d known the secret to human/mutant coexistence was dating you, we’d’ve married a year ago.”
“Yeah, well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves,” Xander grinned, “Us having a fling won’t change the world, but Fury’s doing his best to make it last.”
“Oh?” Jean leaned forward, curiosity piqued, “How?”
“With public opinion the way it is, Fury’s been talking to Jan about coming out as a mutant,” Xander told her, a hand brushing the exposed portion of his hair self-consciously as he adjusted his cap, “And, well, this is how the media reacts when I’m dating a mutant. Imagine what’ll happen if another one of their ‘trusted protectors’ comes forward as one.”
“It’s a hell of a step in the right direction,” Jean smiled, quieting when a waitress approached the table.
Quickly ordering themselves a few drinks, coffee for Jean and a coke for Xander, both of the teens noticed the waitress’s eyes flicking from the paper on the table, still opened to the image of Marvel Girl and Surge kissing, to each of them, slowly widening in recognition before she scurried back to the counter.
“She figured it out already?” Xander asked Jean for confirmation.
“It’s not like we’re trying to hide,” she told him dryly.
“How long do you give it before the photographers get here?”
“Oh, ten minutes,” Jean shrugged, “Probably less.”
With a quick grin, she continued, “Gives us time before we make our great escape. Whattaya say, do you carry me out or do I carry you?”
“Oh, definitely me,” Xander smirked, “I can sweep you up into my arms, all romantic like, pose for the cameras and then we’ll be gone with the wind. The papers’ll love it.”
Jean grinned again, watching as the waitress came back, shaking slightly with their orders in her hands, “Sounds like fun.”
“Thanks,” Xander flashed a grin at the girl, pulling his wallet out and passing her a $10 note. “Keep the change.”
While he was smiling at the now tittering waitress, Jean frowned and gave a soft cough, drawing Xander’s attention and amusement.
“What?” He asked innocently, once the girl had left.
“Please remember that I’m
the fake girlfriend here,” she told him, amused.
“And I’m not allowed to smile anymore?” Xander grinned.
“Not to non-threateningly cute waitresses,” Jean told him airily.
“Oh?” Xander’s grin widened as he laughed, “But I’m supposed to be okay with you living with that Cyclops dude? For all I know, you’re just trying to make him jealous.”
“Not trying,” she smirked, “Succeeding. Scott almost used the morning paper for target practice.”
“Remind me not to go anywhere near the mansion for a while,” Xander said, suddenly a tad nervous. “I’d really hate to start dodging laser beams on my days off.”
“Not just laser beams,” Jean told him matter-of-factly, “Ororo and Hank think the whole thing’s hilarious and Piotr was giving me his congratulations before I told him we were staging it, but Bobby and Kitty are jumping down my throat about ‘betraying them to the enemy’. You come near the mansion and you’re a popsicle six feet underground.”
“Yikes,” Xander tugged at his collar, “And they say mutants are peaceful.”
“Watch it,” Jean warned him.
“Sure, sure,” Xander raised his arms in surrender, before checking, “Bobby... that’s the Ice Kid, right?”
“Yep,” she nodded.
“Right, can you tell him I’m sorry about the thing?”
“Tell him yourself,” Jean smirked.
“I swear I didn’t know that the ice would react that badly to a little lightning,” he swore earnestly.
Jean chuckled at that. Bobby had whined about electrical burns for weeks after his first encounter with Surge.
“What about your teams?” She asked, “Do I need to worry about anyone coming after me to defend your honor?”
“Well,” Xander said thoughtfully, “Jan might want to give you a talking to, and I’d probably be on the look out for invisible snakes in my underwear drawer, but nothing other than that.”
“...invisible snakes in my underwear drawer?” Jean repeated doubtfully.
“Poisonous ones,” Xander elaborated, “Trained to go straight for the eyes.”
Jean continued to stare blankly at him, and Xander could tell that she was resisting the urge to look into his mind.
“Sue Storm. The Invisible Woman,” he explained. “She’s more devious than you might think.”
“Right,” Jean accepted hesitantly, “Well, I’m never going to look at my underwear drawer the same way again.”
“Hey,” Xander pointed out, “At least you can always just summon your unmentionables with your crazy mind power. I’ve still got to dig my hand into my drawers and pray to God in heaven that I haven’t ticked Sue off without noticing... again.”
“Again?” Jean raised an eyebrow questioningly.
“Let’s just say she didn’t like me much when we first met her and leave it at that,” he told her with a sigh, “Thankfully, my charming personality eventually did win her over in the end, though she still
refuses to leave Reed for me, but hope springs eternal and all that jazz.”
“Right,” Jean was laughing again, “You know, I don’t think I’ve actually met anyone from your ‘Fantastic Five’ team.”
“You haven’t?” Xander asked, “Oh, we’ve gotta get them and the X-men in the same room. Seriously, Ben needs someone who can actually spot him when he’s on the weights, Sue’s going nuts only ever talking to four guys and her dad about her powers and Johnny...?”
“Yeah?” Jean prompted.
“Johnny really needs to meet a nice girl with superpowers who can drag him kicking and screaming back down to earth,” Xander finished with a grin.
“Got an ego on him?” Jean guessed.
“Like you wouldn’t believe,” he told her, “I swear, the kid can fly and helps take down a couple of alien monsters and suddenly he thinks he’s above everyone else. And, sure, he is
above everyone else, technically
, but that’s just because, y’know, he’s actually up in the air.”
Jean gave another chuckle, prompting Xander to do the same.
There was a momentary and mostly comfortable silence as both teens took sips from their respective drinks, before Jean’s eyebrow started to twitch.
“What’s wrong?” Xander asked.
“Say cheese,” she muttered, before pulling her lips back in a winning smile, just in time for the flash of a camera.
Xander turned to the source, in time to see an attractive young woman with a recording device, followed by the dude with the camera, striding quickly towards him.
“We’ve been made,” Xander said plainly, pushing his chair back as he got to his feet.
“Three times over,” Jean informed him as she too stood, directing his attention to two more individuals, both carrying raised cameras, who had also started moving towards them.
“Milady?” Xander quickly offered, extending a hand with a gallant bow.
“Sparky,” she replied dryly, accepting the hand and allowing him to pull her towards him, bending to sweep her into his arms bridal style.
“Surge, Marvel Girl, care to comment on allegations that the two of you are--”
“Sorry,” Xander smiled, shifting Jean’s weight into a more comfortable position, “No interviews today. Check out Channel 5 in a couple of hours if you wanna catch more of our gorgeous mugs though.”
Without another word, Xander and Jean disappeared in a blur of blue, even as the cameras continued to flash behind them.
“Next time,” Jean muttered forcefully, more than a little disorientated in Xander’s arms once the world stopped blurring, “We’re flying.”
“Yeah,” Xander smirked, gently putting Jean’s feet to the ground and helping her stand, “Good luck with that.”
“Where are we?” She asked, eyes closed as she tried to regain some equilibrium, leaning heavily against Xander while the world span around her.
“The Triskelion,” he answered simply.
“Thought we agreed to go back to the Mansion?”
“We did,” Xander told her honestly, “But then you told me that half your team would be happy to inflict creatively unique brands of pain upon me.”
“Whatever,” Xander shrugged, “Now come on, after lugging you clear across the county, I’m feeling thirsty.”
Jean peeked an eye open irritably, “Did you just call me fat?”
“Did I say fat?”
Jean’s eyes narrowed, “I can make you spend the rest of your life under the belief that you are a ten year old girl.”
Xander nodded carefully, if a little nervously, “Noted. Now come on, Betty wants to prep us for the interviews tonight.”
“Betty?” Jean asked warily, finally stabilizing a bit on her feet.
“Oh, right,” Xander grinned, “You haven’t met her yet. Sweetest woman you’ll ever meet. I swear, you’re going to just love
If she’d read his mind, hell, if she’d just known him better, Jean would have taken the grin as a warning and would have flown away at speeds which would put Surge to shame. As it was, however, she merely allowed herself to be led to the chilling domain of Betty Ross.
“You look terrible,” Ben noted, as Xander emerged from the stairwell at the roof of the Baxter Building.
“Like you can talk,” he grumbled sleepily in reply, rubbing grit out of his eyes, “What do you expect, man? It’s seven freaking thirty on a Monday!”
“Ah, get over it,” Ben waved dismissively.
Opening his eyes wide with a tired yawn, Xander quickly scanned the rooftop, seeing all four members of the Storm family off to the side whilst Ben stood patiently by the helicopter meant to take them out to the ship they’d be diving from.
“Where’s Reed?” Xander asked.
Rather than answer, Ben merely directed his gaze downwards, where a patch of blue could plainly be seen against the tarmac, stretching out beneath the helicopter.
“Oh no,” he muttered, striding purposefully up beside Ben and quickly stamping down on the elasticated form of ‘Mr. Fantastic’, eliciting a very satisfying yelp as Reed immediately pulled himself back into the open and re-solidified himself indignantly.
“What was that for?” He asked pointedly, glaring irritably at his so called ‘friend’.
“Tell me you were not fiddling with this thing,” Xander begged, gesturing to what was meant to be a S.H.I.E.L.D. issue helicopter, “Tell me you haven’t turned this thing into the ‘Fantasti-copter’ or the ‘Awesome Mark II’, because I think we all remember what happened to the last
few vehicles you messed with!”
“Relax,” Reed frowned wryly, “I was just checking to make sure the engines are powerful enough to deal with Ben’s weight.”
“No adjustments?” Xander asked warningly.
“Is this really necessary?” Reed replied testily.
“Sorry, Reed, but your record kinda speaks for itself,” Ben shrugged unapologetically.
“Surge,” Sue stepped in curtly before Reed could defend himself, “I don’t think you’ve met my mother, Dr. Storm.”
Xander turned to face the Storm family, noting that the only one of the bunch who didn’t look tense enough to go into cardiac arrest was the severe looking brunette woman he had never seen before.
He gave the woman a tight smile and a polite nod, and was about to turn back to Reed and Ben before she spoke up.
“So, this is the famous ‘Surge’,” she said airily, giving him an examining look, focussing particularly on his unmasked face, “I have to say... you’re not quite what I was expecting.”
“Yeah, the shades and the mystery add about two hundred and twenty points to the sex appeal,” Xander said curtly. "And, for the record, you tell anyone that you've seen my gorgeous mug and S.H.I.E.L.D. will obliterate your reputation in seconds."
“Something the matter?” She asked, noting his tone.
Xander’s eyes flicked from Sue to Johnny to their mother, before plainly stating, “Not a thing. We ready to get this ball rolling, or what?”
The question had been directed at Reed, who answered it in the affirmative.
“Good,” Sue said bluntly, not looking at anyone as she climbed into the helicopter.
With a tired sigh, the Mr. Dr. Storm followed his daughter, his ex-wife not far behind him, leaving the boys outside.
“So...” Ben said awkwardly, eyes darting to each of his teammates as he noted what each was doing.
Reed was staring after Sue, no doubt still trying to figure out how he could help her deal with her mother suddenly returning to her life.
Johnny was smiling just a bit too brightly as his eyes rested on his estranged mother, trying to hide his own pain at the situation, whilst Xander just seemed tired, which, Ben had to admit, was probably just due to the early hour. Though the way the speedster had talked to Sue’s Ma told Ben that she probably wasn’t helping any either.
“So,” Ben repeated, louder this time when he realized that he’d been thoroughly ignored, “Xander, hell of an interview last night. I swear, you were sweating buckets. What happened? Ants in the pants, or was Jeannie playing a little footsie under the table?”
That seemed to snap Xander out of his little funk, simultaneously managing to bring both Reed and Johnny back from their thoughts.
“Oh, dude, you would not even believe it,” Xander complained, getting a little energy back now that he had a chance to vent, “Okay, remember how I told you about General Ross’s daughter?”
“The She-Devil of the Triskelion,” Ben nodded, recalling more than a few horror stories that had been shared about the P.R. woman.
“That’s the one,” Xander confirmed, “Jean and I had to get prepped by her before the interview last night. I may have... ‘omitted’ a few minor details about her and, well, Jean was not amused.”
“What’d she do?” Johnny asked, as Reed and Ben leaned in involuntarily.
“She kept beaming me dirty jokes throughout the whole interview!” He told them, “And I’m talking seriously
dirty. Like, so dirty even Johnny
would think they were crass!”
“Hey!” Johnny objected through Ben’s quick burst of laughter, though he was swiftly ignored when Sue stuck her head back out of the ‘copter.
“Hey,” she demanded, “Are you four just going to stand there all day, or are we going to go scout out Atlantis?”
Author's Note: Alright, we didn't quite
get to Atlantis in this chapter, but, as promised, we did get to see a bit of Jean and Xander faking it for the press. We also got a look at Sue and Johnny's mother (does anyone know her actual name? Because 'Mrs. Dr. Storm' and 'Sue/Johnny's mother' are both getting old fast for me). So, tell me what you liked and tell me what you hated.