Minus Two

September 07, 2018:

With Tony Stark in a coma, Emma Frost moves to make certain that Rachel Summers does not attempt coming to an upcoming Hellfire Club member's private event.

A Coffee House

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Tony Stark, Sebastian Shaw, Selene, Jean Grey, Charles Xavier

Plot:

Mood Music: None.


Fade In…

Rachel is in that weird place between projects where she isn't sure what to do with herself. There's plenty of things to do, mind. Registration is looming large in Rachel's mind after her run-in with that Soccer Moms March on Mutants or whatever that event was called. Then there's the lingering matter of how disjointed and poorly organized the X-Men handled the Extremis problem. The Hulk problem alone threatens to make Rachel develop some anger tremors.

But the restlessness is unusual. Lots to work on, uncertainty on what to choose. Perhaps it's a mingling of wanting to rest and being socialized to never rest. 'Socialized' might not be the right word. Sure, mom and dad were work addicts, but…

And down this path lies a world of depressing thoughts about her past. Rachel shuts down the entire process, shoving the memories and musings back into the whirling semi-reality of her mind.

It's little internal conflict loops like this that have driven Rachel to get out of the mansion more. Being there is half creepy and half reassuring, but it's very, very difficult to get any kind of recovery done when you're in the proximity of hundreds of little dramas and skirmishes every single day. When she was in Excalibur it was as easy as putting on herself on do-not-disturb on the team group chat and maybe wandering off to the cliffs, but now such a thing warrants a full trip into the city.

Being on the cusp of changing seasons means a good excuse to wander around and get fashion ideas. Rachel is fairly settled in her aesthetic, but true fanatics can always find more use for inspiration. After a productively slouchy afternoon of wandering through resale shops and a few indie outlets, Rachel has retired to that most dangerous of youth strongholds: the coffeehouse.

RACHEL SUMMERS THE MARVEL GIRL STARS IN: 50K WORD COFFEE SHOP AU FANFIC

In the defense of Mojo the Ever-Watcher, the coffee shop is literally called AU Fanfic.

It took Rachel the better part of an hour to settle in here. This is easier to understand if one accounts not only for the time spent placing and receiving an order and waiting for a spot on a couch to open up, but also dealing with the various people who came up to speak with her. Her name getting splashed across the news stirred up much of that old Excalibur fame, bringing it to a new audience of activists and enthusiasts.

But that's finished now. Rachel being a good sport about the establishment's free publicity has earned her sole rights to the couch in the back, along with some free lemon bars that now grace the spot next to her over-sized coffee. (Black, naturally.) Rachel isn't concerned with it immediately, partially because she can keep the coffee eternally warm with creative application of her telekinesis, and partially because she has to catch up on phone drama.

She's an easy person to pick out if you're in the place. The obvious red hair, the eye-catching clothes: a gothy little tube dress with black and white polka dots, fishnets, a pair of high-gloss calf-high Doc Martens, and a taste in makeup that skips foundation and contouring (mercifully unneeded by some standards) in favor of going hard on eyeliner and an eye-catch shade of red lipstick.

She's an even easier person to pick out if you're a psychic. Rachel knows how to casually hide her astral self so she isn't a flare, but skills beat casual almost every day of the week.


When Emma arrives, her presence upon the astral landscape is of a different ilk. Rachel Summers, like so many of the Grey and Summers psychics, is a presence that must diminish itself in order to not dominate the terrain.

Emma has her power, true, but it is in the use of it—the adaptability that she has forced herself to hone—that she excels. She is there, sure enough, in the undercurrent. In she shadows. Summers has dulled herself to not shine so bright; Frost brings with her the strange sensation of a mirror for lack of a better descriptor. Glassy psychic defenses that both seeks to keep others out, but also to not notice her at all.

The infamous—or entirely unknown, depending on your circle—White Queen makes her arrival in this unlikely venue. Her white chiffon shirt is fitted, its cap sleeves ruffled and its neckline just plunging enough to catch attention without being overly daring. Her skirt is of the fashion forward variety, a short miniskirt overlaid with an asymetrical overlayer. Her sandals are appropriate for the fashion war at hand: gladiatorial sandals with thick bands of white leather and stiletto heels.

She looks utterly out of place. She revels in that fact.

The blonde with her salon-perfect waves spilling over her shoulders like an Art Nouveau dream smiles a smile that is neither kind nor cruel. It is pitch perfect beauty with no obvious meaning at all.

“Miss Summers,” she greets upon finally entering the other female’s orbit, tone neutral but her pale gaze cool.

Rachel continues swiping through her phone. It's a hopeless battle, but Rachel has persevered through odds more grim than this. If only she hadn't introduced Meggan to Twitter.

As a result — and because Rachel desperately wants to try living without the paranoia of keeping her astral senses extended at all times — the redhead is unprepared to be ambushed by someone who isn't a well-meaning fan. That's where her mind goes at first, of course: another person wanting a pic and maybe to exchange a few affirming words on mutant rights.

"Oh, hey, one sec —"

Rachel finishes typing before looking up. The silence that ensues allows her expression to gracefully slip from affability to bemusement to realization. One can tell the arrival at the last stage when her eyebrows raise.

"Um. Miss… Frost?"

It's a little difficult IDing someone who is not quite a public figure but still has a public presence, but the context guides her there. The timing, the look, and — most of all — that subtle mirror-warp sheen that she can feel somewhere in the astral.

It puts some deep, aggressive part of Rachel's personality on edge. On the astral plane, her presence burns and shifts, weaving through paths with a predator's inborn sense of stalking and finding. It's all surprisingly brutal for someone who looks like a young Jean Grey with a dash of Scott Summer's gallant height and angularity.

Rachel seems unsure for a moment whether or not she should stand, but elects to do so, moving over to offer an obvious path to a part of the unused couch. She offers her hand since reaching over a thin coffee table isn't much of an imposition.


The smile on Emma’s lips does not change for the pulse in Rachel’s presence in the realm unseen by so many. It burns, and the chilled void of Frost’s own holds against it.

The younger woman offers her hand. Offers a seat.

The CEO takes neither, but rather tilts her head to one side to consider the other woman and settle her white patent leather clutch purse in front of her with both hands holding onto it.

“I won’t waste more of your time than is necessary,” she tells the redhead. “I am here because Tony Stark wanted me to be. I’d say ‘well done’ for getting him to waltz off to play the hero on your behalf, but… well. Mister Stark does make something of a habit of stupid ideas. If it wasn’t your cause last week, it would be something new this week.”

There’s a pause, and a shrug of one ruffle-clad shoulder.

“Granted, getting him to go toe to toe with me was was to encourage him a little beyond his usual levels of idiocy. So, nevermind. Huzzah for you, getting him to really challenge himself.”

The smile is gone entirely by the time she finishes talking. And perhaps Rachel will feel the shift as Emma begins to exert her powers, deadening the senses of those around them until they are deaf and blind to the conversation at hand between two psychics.

“I believe his coma, however, relieves you of the invitation that you had to a little upcoming get-together. You were to accompany him as his guest. He is no longer capable of guests, and yet he is still trying to get you into that party.”

Eyebrows lift as the woman offers slowly and flatly, “Huzzah, indeed.”

Rachel's offered hand hangs there. She lets it go on for a few moments longer than the point where it becomes clear that it's not going to happen. Eventually, she curls her fingers inward toward her palm and retracts her arm with a narrowing of her eyes. Okay, point taken.

Since there seems to be nothing but a cold front on the horizon, Rachel sinks back down into the couch so that at least she can be with her coffee and lemon bars. Not that she reaches for either right now, of course. She looks up at Emma, watching with an expression that's just a shade on the polite side of hard.

At some point, the stalking flames seem to have their chain jerked, because they break off and return back to their point of origination. Perhaps she realized what she was doing, where before it was some kind of bizarrely developed instinct. She wouldn't be the first psychic with an overdeveloped subconscious.

The room dampens. It's easy enough for Emma to confirm that Rachel noticed, because the redhead glances about the place as it happens. Her attention inevitably returns to Emma, with any nascent enthusiasm for the encounter visibly subtracted from her.

"Does that mean you talked to him recently?" she says. To clarify the point, she reaches up to tap the side of her head. As in, coma recently, through the wonders of telepathy. "Or did he send you one of those smug videos, too?"


“Video. I’m not talking to him right now.”

There’s an awkward pause as Emma realizes as soon as the words are out of her mouth that they sound entirely idiotic when referencing a comatose super genius who is also paradoxically a super moron. Her lips—painted an exquisite matte bordeaux—press into a fine line.

“In any sense.”

There. Better.

Rachel is wearing Russian Red on her lips. It looks good on everyone and there's tons of cheaper dupes.

The redhead crosses her arms, settling back into the squishy give of the couch. It's a coffee shop couch, of course it's going to be one of those nap-ready ones.

"Alright. So you said he's still trying to get me into that party, and you came by to see me instead of sending me a form letter telling me not to wait up, so clearly you've got some kind of dilemma going on," she says. "Are you going to share it, or…?"


“No. No dilemma at all, Miss Summers.” And the tone of Emma’s voice certainly sounds that way, the resonance bleeding off the telepath in the ways that feel like truth. She continues on, “I don’t know what you told him, and I really don’t care.”

She considers the other telepath with that withering gaze of hers, and then continues with the barest narrowing of her eyes. “I came in person to let you hear it from my lips. The next time you want to come check up on my comings and goings, have the audacity to do it like your beloved Jean Grey and your precious Charles Xavier: by appointment.”

Rachel holds Emma's gaze. Of course she does. The barest hint of a profile workup, even limiting one's self to media appearances, would suggest that Rachel isn't the kind of woman who backs down easily. The thematics just come so easily. Fiery lady, fiery temperament. The headlines write themselves.

When Emma finally delivers her barb — and it's a good one, Rachel is forced to admit — the redhead rolls her eyes and turns her head away while chuckling without a single note of humor. "Wow. Okay."

Rachel collects herself by putting her hands on her knees and leaning forward, shifting her poise to seem that much more engaged. She looks up at Emma with renewed scrutiny, the heavy black around her eyes aiding her with grim expressiveness.

"Actually, I don't recall you hanging around the Hellfire Club back when I showed myself around the place. Did you come in later? I remember Shaw, and of course Selene. Wasn't there a fat guy? Is he still around? I didn't catch his name because I was busy trying not to be made a psychic vampire's bitch."

Rachel mimics Emma's one-shoulder shrug from earlier with plenty of faux innocence in her expression.

"But I'm getting off topic. Let's return to how I'm clearly spying on your comings and goings."


“Oh, yes,” Frost says, her meaning anything but joy over the plan. “Let’s do that. That’s precisely what I meant: let’s talk more about the things that I’m clearly establishing as off-limits in the conversation. I’m so very glad you could use your considerable mind powers to discern that. Overjoyed. You are a Summers.”

Her bare, slender arms cross and her head falls to one side in the ultimate expression of her weariness of the world.

“So, by your return volley of sarcasm, I am gathering that you expect me to believe that your sudden interest in membership of the Club that I happen to be a member of, just prior to my start of teaching at the school, is entirely serendipitous. And/or that you actually didn’t know I was a member.” The height of Emma’s sculpted brow does not reduce in the slightest as she continues.

“Which means that you either think me an idiot, or you would think that I would just allow it. Now we know: neither of those things are true. I don’t believe in serendipity, but I do believe in the deeply seated distrust of the Xavier Institute.”

Bravado makes for a fine cloak when one’s Club gear is in another closet and out of season. Emma wraps it around herself like a mantle worthy of the queen she is, strengthens the glassy shine of her defenses. The distrust is, it seems, entirely mutual.

Rachel shifts her poise again, sitting up straight with such naturality that she looks weirdly prim and proper — weirdly for her outfit, anyway — as she folds her hands in her lap. There's a bit of chameleon in her. The ruse carries her through Emma's counterattack with nary an errant expression of displeasure allowed to slip through.

When the older woman is through, Rachel affects a mildly scandalized look, brushing her fingertips over her heart.

"Ms. Frost, whatever do you mean? I didn't tell Mr. Stark an inch of all that. I would never let slip the secrets of the Club " with audible title case "nor would I cross your boundaries."

Rachel keeps her pose, but lets the expression drop from her face, leaving her looking narrow-eyed at Emma.

"I don't think you're an idiot because I genuinely don't know anything about you. Other than that you're willing to put up with Tony despite talking like he's a terror in your life. Jean talks. Tony talks. I've been around a few dimensions. You? Nothing."

Rachel drops her hand, but her posture remains. That she can easily keep it up like this speaks to practice.

"I get a little nervous if someone from the Hellfire Club is signed up to work at the school and the woman theoretically in charge of said school has no idea who made the job offer — let's both just suspect Scott because I had a conversation with another one of his secrets this morning. I like to confront things that make me nervous."

Rachel reaches over to the table to pick up her cup. It steams in her grasp, but she apparently finds no discomfort in its touch. She adopts a neutral look of idle interest.

"I'd call it an exchange program, but I hear you've withdrawn. It's too bad. It would have been nice to have another telepathy teacher around for contrast."

“Except you didn’t confront me,” Emma counters, scoffing and her tone dismissive. “You tried to go behind my back. Which,” she continues, her gaze pulsing to the side as she admits, “I would say was appropriate, given the particular undertaking, except that I have no desire to allow you to claim both intentions—noble forthrightness and sly politics.”

A hand lifts, and she studies her manicure. “And you can say ‘it would have been nice’ all you like, but you needn’t bother.” Of Scott and his secrets, she says nothing. Instead, she moves her gaze back to Rachel—fiery Rachel— and continues on in her condescension. “I know that not everyone teaching at your school actually has the credentials for teaching as I do, but let me enlighten you as to the nature of exchange programs. They are not generally entered into without full discussion by and agreement of both parties. Furthermore, I have been undergoing tests and check ins for months and had to pass an exam to get as far as I had.” Again, her blue eyes turn to her perfect nails. “I grow weary of the double standard you hold. When I sought to teach there—to help there, I did not realize that it was so prevalent.”

The hand is lowered and the clutch purse held once more in both hands.

“I at least have admitted my mistakes.” She frowns, expression haughty. “Stopping Stark before he put your name in for consideration of membership was not among them.”

Emma's dismissal sets Rachel off, drawing a tension in her face and her hands. She shifts, her green eyes briefly catching a flash in the light. But Emma is still talking, and Rachel has at least the good graces to not interject.

Of course, all bets are off once there's enough silence to seize. Rachel comes snapping back with none of her flame dampened. That her voice is raised a level makes little difference with the psychic forces at play.

"Let's get something straight: I asked Stark to make an introduction. Isn't that the posh thing to do? Tell me how it's sneaking around when Tony," not Stark, "was going straight to you first. Should I have sent him with a pleading hand-written letter? I can do cursive and everything."

Rachel pauses to glower, but there's a curl in her lips that makes it clear she's not fully finished. When she speaks again, it's at a conversational noise level again even if this is all skating on the edge of what constitutes conversation compared to, say, an argument.

"He said I just had to get to know you. He really can be an optimist in the stupidest situations, can't he?"

“Except that a simple introduction is not what he asked for,” the blonde replies, as evenly as ever. That is not to say that she is placid. No, her gaze is sharp and keen in the predatorial way of someone who has survived in a very dangerous den. She is silk and velvet by presentation, her elegant arrangement of spine and shoulders a seemingly effortless art of human form perfected by practice and unending self-awareness. Her mettle is not so soft.

If Rachel’s glowering has any impact on Emma, it does not show. Her presence remains just as icy in the psychic realm as it does in the physical one, and she smiles in the quiet afforded by her dampening.

“Is there anything more that you care to say, Miss Summers, or may we consider our meeting concluded?”

"I sense the court has already rendered verdict," says Rachel.

Rachel settles back into the couch, taking her mug with her. The movement is something of a state reset for her. The aggression leaves her face and shoulders, and shortly enough Rachel is arranged more or less as she was when Emma came upon her. The redhead looks up from her coffee, familiar green eyes beneath thick mascara.

The fire smolders. This, too, is characteristic. Cycles of rebirth and all that.

"It was an experience meeting you, Ms. Frost. I'll tell Tony you said hello."

An experience meeting you, says Rachel Summers. And Emma Frost continues on, the corners of her mouth briefly tugging upwards an emphatic pulse before resolving once more into that meaningless curve that resembles a smile.

“If it makes you happy, but I said no such thing.”

She offers the start of an amused chuckle, but nothing more.

“Good afternoon, Miss Summers.”

And with that, the blonde indeed turns on the patch of earth she calls her own, letting her hold on the perceptions of the coffeehouse go so that the people gathered in it might see and hear everything once more as it is naturally occuring.

Then she sways out with no need or desire to linger.

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