Log in

"my imagination is rattling in its cage" (X-Men: First Class) - Ladies Fest 2011

ni l'un ni l'autre posting in Ladies Fest 2011
User: ladies_fest (posted by la_petite_singe)
Date: 2011-11-30 16:15
Subject: "my imagination is rattling in its cage" (X-Men: First Class)
Security: Public
Tags:author: la_petite_singe, character: angel salvatore, character: emma frost, fandom: x-men first class
Title: my imagination is rattling in its cage
Author: la_petite_singe
Rating/Warnings: PG-13
Original Prompt: X-Men: First Class - Angel/Emma- f/f: i have been playing / too many of those boy girl games / she says honey you are safe here / this is a girl girl thing (x)
Summary: Emma has worked hard to become who she is now, and she wouldn't change a thing. But sometimes she wonders if the first version is still in there.
Notes: ...OK, um, the prompt was actually Angel/Raven. But I copied it down wrong and did a ton of background ~research on Emma and then wrote this and then realized what I did and I was like HOLY SHIT WHAT. I'm sorry, prompter! I swear I did not meant to change it; I am just legitimately a moron. Ask anyone. D8 Anyway, hope it's all right as-is...! I've written too much Raven anyway. :P (Betad by the lovely mutantjules.)

It's just something Azazel says one day that really gets to her.

She had been lounging on the boat deck in the late afternoon hot sun in her white two-piece when she'd heard catcalls and shouts coming from somewhere, and had opened her eyes to see another boat drifting by with a gaggle of young men leaning over the railing and waving at her. "Come on, honey, give us a look," that sort of thing. She'd raised a lazy arm over her head and turned her face very deliberately away, but that had only seemed to encourage them, and they'd whistled and called at her some more.

And then Azazel had materialized about three feet away from her, teleporting from a lower deck when he could've just as easily walked, just to make a point. She was so used to him doing this by now that she barely blinked, but the yells from the guys instantly switched to yelps of panic at the sudden sight of him, with his fierce red face and his tail. One of them nearly fell over the edge of the ship as they shoved each other, either trying to get away or get a closer look, it was hard to say. Emma just rolled her eyes and readjusted the straps of her swimsuit, and Azazel flicked his tail in a self-satisfied sort of way and started to make himself a drink from the bar on the starboard side.

"Well, that was terribly mature," she shot at him, giving him a look over her sunglasses. "Is that really how you entertain yourself these days?"

"Why not? It's amusing," he replied in his rough voice, reaching for a crystal decanter. "I apologize if I interrupted something, though, perhaps you were enjoying that."

"And what's that supposed to mean?"

"Oh, come now, Emma," he said, and she hated how much he sounded like Sebastian sometimes lately. "We all know how much you've always liked them looking at you."

Maybe it was just the word 'always' that got under her skin, but temper flared inside of her and she snapped "Because you're really one to talk." She gestured at the other boat, which was nearly past theirs now; she could still see the boys leaning over the railing for a look.

He gave a growling chuckle. "I like them to know their place. But you want them to admire you." Her anger must have shown on her face because he added "Don't be offended, Emma, society's always fond of beautiful people. No reason you shouldn't take advantage of it."

Emma got to her feet and grabbed her silk robe, pulling it around herself and tying the sash tightly. "Please don't act like you understand a thing about it, you'll just embarrass yourself." Usually they got along fairly well, but now she suddenly couldn't stand to be around him.

He raised an eyebrow over his glass. "Have I touched a nerve?"

"Hardly." But of course he had, and the most annoying part was that she couldn't even argue with him, because he was right--and yet he wasn't, but she couldn't tell him that without telling him far more than he had the right to know. She couldn't make her point without bringing someone else into it: the old Emma, the first version, the brown-haired, quiet Emma who was knocked down in the corridors and silent at the dinner table...

He was still looking entirely too pleased with himself as she marched across the deck, heading for her berth below, so at the door she turned and looked at him with concentration, her eyes narrowing. "What?"

"Nothing," she said breezily. "You might not want to drink too much of that, though. Janos is waiting for you downstairs and--" She cocked her head thoughtfully. "He'd like it if you lasted a little longer next time." She noted with some annoyance that she was still too irked to fully appreciate the stunned reaction on his face--it was certainly amusing to see him go even redder, though--and then spun on her heel and left. Know their place, indeed. She was the only one around here allowed to know what anyone else was thinking.

Maybe it was just that she had trained herself not to think about her anymore. She threw herself down on her bed and looked up at the mirrored ceiling (Sebastian had had them installed because, as he said, he liked to see her from all angles. Liked to see himself, more like, she'd always thought) and pondered: maybe it was like being reminded of a person she'd betrayed and left behind, or someone she'd killed. But she'd only done what she had to, hadn't she? Former-Emma was never going to make it, not in this world, not with the people in it. Not in that home.

So she'd gone out on her own and become someone new, someone entirely of her own creation, and when she'd noticed how people were responding to her, when she'd felt the pull of their desire, she'd figured out how to get what she wanted from them in return. And why shouldn't I? She didn't regret it; not a thing. She'd found Sebastian; she gave him what he wanted and got plenty in return. That was how the world worked, and she was happy to play along. She was good at it, and that meant she deserved whatever she took.

It wasn't that she disliked where she was now, she decided, staring up at herself, blonde hair fanned out behind her head. This was a good place to be, for now. She'd move on when something better came along, and not before. It wasn't that she missed her former life, either. She hadn't even thought about it in a while now. But somehow, that was just it--she had to remember it, her, that other girl, the one who fled the school dance with a torn dress, the one who collapsed every time the voices in her head got too loud. Somehow, only she made who she was now make sense. She had to remember who she'd been to understand who she was.

And that's why, a few nights later, when they dock for a few days to refuel, she tells the others that she is going sightseeing alone and whispers to Sebastian, with her patented sphinx smile, that she intends to buy something lacy that he'll like and wouldn't want to ruin the surprise ahead of time. And then she slips into the bathroom and takes off most of her makeup, unzipping her short white sundress and pulling on loose-fitting trousers and a simple button-down she'd stolen from Janos. When she glances in the mirror she sees that the curve of her hips and chest are a dead giveaway, but it's not really about trying to be someone else. She just wants to do the watching for once, rather than be the one watched.

There's one in every town if you look hard enough, or so it seems. It isn't long before she turns down a sidestreet and sees the bright lights and lurid signs over a door with peeling paint, and she remembers the first time she ever entered one of those places, her heart pounding so hard in her throat that she didn't think she'd be able to speak. She'd been laughed out the door the first time, and a few times after that, but then she'd found the Hellfire Club and knew it was the place for her, knew it was the sort of glamour she wanted and deserved. And it hadn't been hard at all to make them hire her; she just showed them what they wanted to see, simple as that. That was the first time she learned that she wasn't the sort of person who needed to ask twice.

She enters the strip club now and takes a seat at the rounded bar. A few of the men seated nearby do a double take when they see her, but she turns their heads back with one clear shot: I'm not here for you. Not that she's entirely sure why she's here at all, but somehow she needs to go back to where it all began; where the White Queen was born--or rather, made.

This place isn't much like the Hellfire Club, though. The clientele certainly isn't as elite, and the girls aren't nearly as good. They smile and twirl their hips convincingly, but she can sense their boredom and their distaste for the leering men as they slide fingers across their lapels and whisper in the ears everything they want to hear. That's the difference, she thinks, between herself and them--they were giving more than they were getting, and she'd promised herself that she would never do that again.

But one of them is different. She senses her with her mind before she finds her with her eyes; the feel of her is so strong, her confidence, her...enjoyment? There's something about her that sets her entirely apart. Emma looks around and sees her across the room: dark hair, cinnamon skin, high boots, black fabric just barely clinging to her. She dances with her eyes closed, seemingly lost in the music. She's a natural, her movements graceful and sensual, absentmindedly biting the edge of a berry-stained lip. The men nearby watch with hungry eyes, waving money and calling out to her, but she doesn't seem to remember that they're there. And Emma can tell: she's not pretending, she's not baiting them to make them reach for bigger bills. She's not there for them, either.

She can't take her eyes from the girl. It's as if there's a bright spotlight on her that throws everyone else in the room into shadow; she can't understand why they're paying attention to any of the rest of them. Can't they tell that she's the only one who really deserves their worship? She deserves it because she doesn't need it, she barely cares, she's there for herself. It seems absurd that they can't all tell that she's a cut above the rest of them, that she's got something special, that...

It takes Emma an extra minute to realize what she's sensing, but then she figures it out: she is different, she's better than the rest of them in the very best way of all, because she's not one of them at all. She's one of hers. Emma can't quite tell what her power is from here; she's not using it right now, whatever it is. She's captivating all on her own. It doesn't seem that anyone else knows--a quick scan of all the minds in the room tells Emma that, yes, it's just the two of them--and yet she seems entirely self-assured, as though it's her knowledge of herself that's making her smile that way. She doesn't mind being the only one. It took Emma years to feel that way about herself, and that was only because she learned how to use it to save herself from all the rest of them. This girl, though: she is entirely herself.

After a few minutes Emma realizes that the girl has opened her eyes, and she's looking over to where Emma is sitting--and staring. She doesn't even think about it: she reaches into Janos' shirt pocket and pulls out a fifty-dollar bill and holds it up. She doesn't quite know what she wants from her other than her attention, but these days, going after what she wants is just an instinct.

The men object loudly as the girl walks away from them, stepping nimbly across the tables and onto the bar, where she saunters over to Emma, her eyebrows quirking in slight surprise as she gets closer and realizes that she's a woman, but she comes over to hear and crouches down in front of her, a slow, swiveling motion that makes Emma grin. "Don't get too many gals in here by themselves," she says in a low, playful voice.

"I guess it's your lucky night, then," Emma returns boldly. The girl smiles, slow and sweet. A few of the men around them are glancing over now, but the girl doesn't blink. She looks at the bill still clutched in Emma's hand, although she doesn't take it.

"Do you wanna go somewhere private, then, doll?" she asks, her eyes sliding up and down Emma's face and form. The yes falls out of her mouth faster than she means it to, and the girl grins again. She stands, and so does Emma, and she extends a hand for Emma to help her down from the bar. And Emma, who hasn't extended a hand to anyone in any sense for what feels like years now, reaches out and takes it. When the girl steps onto the floor, she doesn't let go.

"Come on," she says. "This way." The bartender, who had been watching the whole thing out of the corner of his eye, now sets down the bottle and calls after her.

"Angel, what are you...?"

"Mind your business," she retorts, with a careless, dismissive gesture over her shoulder. Heads around the bar turn and follow them as she leads Emma into a small parlor room on the side, but she doesn't seem to notice. She still doesn't care about their eyes on her. The room is all lurid red and cheesy mood lighting; Emma sinks onto the edge of the bed and, now that she's closer, she can see the webbed tattoos--are they tattoos?--spreading over her shoulders. It gives her a slightly dangerous look, and for some reason Emma wants to touch the marks, wondering how they'd feel under her fingers. "Angel, is it?"

"That's what they call me," she replies, standing with her hands on her hips. "What's your name?" Emma raises her eyebrows--as far as she knows, that isn't how things go in scenes like this, and yet she wants to tell her, for some reason, and so she does. "So what's a girl like you doing in a place like this?"

"I--I suppose I could ask you the same thing," Emma says, and it's been so long since she's felt this way that she almost doesn't recognize her nervousness for what it is. It doesn't make sense; she's the White Queen, for God's sake, she can bring men to their knees with a thought--and yet with this girl, she has no idea what's coming next. She watches Angel looking at her and realizes she's waiting for her to make the next move. She wants that smile again. It seems Former Emma is still in there after all.

"Guess I just like to dance," she laughs. "And the free drinks aren't bad. What?" she asks, in response to the look on Emma's face. "Not what you expected?"

"Not quite," Emma answers, and somehow it's a thrill to her that she can still be surprised. Being able to read minds meant that didn't happen to her too often, but somehow now, here, she likes it. "I would have thought most of the girls out there would've said the tips, maybe, or the clientele." She nods towards the main room, where the other dancers are still strutting and batting their eyelashes.

"Most of 'em probably would," Angel agrees with a shrug, and she sits beside Emma on the bed. Emma can't take her eyes from the line running between her legs when she crosses them. "Not me, though, not really. Guess I don't believe in doing too much of anything just for other people's enjoyment. It's gotta be for you as well."

"I like that," Emma tells her, and she does. "I rather think that's one of my mantras as well."

"That so?" Angel casts an interested eye over her again. "So what do you do? You look kinda like a painter or something."

Emma has to laugh at the idea. The daughter of Winston Frost, running off to become a bohemian painter in a seaside town--well, perhaps it wasn't much more absurd than what she'd really done, and what she was doing now...which was what, really? "I don't know," she answers after a moment. "I'm not really sure I do much of anything these days." For a while she'd liked that about her new life--there were no expectations, really, not like when she was growing up and heard every day how much she owed to the family and the name, how much she had to prove herself and make them (him, really) look good. So for a time, life with Sebastian and the others had seemed like just the opposite; they lived as they pleased, beholden to no one, making their own rules. But now, as she thinks about it, it seems oddly like the same thing. "When I was young I wanted to be a teacher," she says suddenly. "I'd almost forgotten that. I suppose that sounds more than a bit foolish."

"A teacher?" Angel seems to like that. “Far out. Maybe you still could be."

"I doubt it," Emma says with slight, wry smile. "I think my life gone too far in another direction, let's say."

"You could still try, if you wanted," she tells her, and when she brushes Emma's hair off her shoulder it makes her shiver. "You don't seem to me like the kind of gal who's afraid to try new things."

"Oh no?" It doesn't make any sense at all; she can't understand why she cares, but she wants to know: "What kind of gal do I seem like, then?"

Angel bites her lip again and her eyes move over Emma's face, as though she's really thinking about it, and Emma realizes no one has looked at her like that in years. She can make everyone else see whatever she wants them to, and yet that's all it ever is: she lets them think they have what they want from her so she can take something in return. Angel's looking at her like she wants to give her something, like she wants to know what it is that she, Emma, wants. She's so used to taking what she wants that she's forgotten how it feels to be asked.

"Like someone who knows herself," she says after a brief pause. "Like someone without any doubts." She grins, and this time it's slightly naughty. "Am I right?"

"I don't know," Emma says again, softly this time. "Sometimes. Sometimes that's who I am." She looks into her brown eyes and feels the unfamiliar taste of questions forming on her tongue. She's not used to that, either; when she wants to know someone, it's just a matter of taking a peek inside their minds. But not with her. Somehow, with her, it matters if it's in her voice. It matters that she chooses her as being worthy to hear her secrets. "And who are you, then?"

Angel gives a soft chuckle that is half breath. "You really are something special," she says. "Can't remember the last time anyone asked me anything about myself in here. Most of 'em don't really want to chat."

"Maybe I'm not most of them."

"You're definitely not," she says, and now she's playing with her hair again. "You haven't even asked me to dance for you yet."

"Well, you haven't taken my money," Emma points out, holding up the bill still crunched between her fingers. Angel laughs as though she hadn't noticed.

"All right then, honey," she says, and rests a hand on Emma's thigh. "So what is it that you want?"

Where to begin? She wants a million things; she wants to remember how she got here, she wants to remember why she left herself behind, she wants to know Angel's story and where she found that ease and that strength and that smile, she wants to know where Former Emma stops and where she begins and where Angel fits between them. She does want to be admired after all, but not in the way she's always thought. She's the girl who's never had to ask twice, and yet it takes her a good minute to find the words.

"I want--do you want to get out of here and have a drink with me?" The lift of a question sounds unfamiliar in her voice, and yet she likes the way it tastes, almost as much as she likes the way Angel smiles at her and gives her knee a slight squeeze.

"Yeah," she says. "Yeah, I do." Emma thinks, so this is how it really feels to be chosen. It feels like Angel's hand, soft in hers again.

(x-posted to A03, maybe.)
Post A Comment | Share | Link

my journal
December 2011