Title: Scarred for Life 4/4 -- Acceptance
Characters: Rictor and Shatterstar
Genre: Angst, Romance, Fluff
Disclaimer: I do not own a damn thing
Summary: After months of darks days sunshine is back in Shatty’s life…but is it for good this time?
A/N - Takes place AU post Messiah Complex. Taking all solicits, rumors, and comic previews into affect and making my own happy story with them, mmkay? :D WHICH MEANNNNNNNS that this takes place quite a few months after the last installment. Please keep that in mind when thinking about characterization.
“That’ll be $21.50, cutie.”
I look up at the woman with a frown. “$21.50? But the sign says ‘sale’…I thought…”
She blinks, and the mascara caked on her eyelashes makes it look like a task. “It’s called taxes, buddy.”
“Oh, right,” I sigh and dig into my wallet, pull out two dollar bills, and slap them down on the counter with the twenty I had placed there previously.
“Don’t look so glum,” she smiles, snapping her bubble gum. “It’s Christmas Day, honey. You should get home to see yer family and drink some egg nog or somethin’. That frown on yer face is even bringin’ me down.”
It is Christmas? I did not even remember that; it is just as well considering I do not have anyone to spend it with anyways. “I apologize,” I tell her, and grab my bag from the counter. “Have a…merry day.”
She laughs. “Yeah you too, sweet cheeks.” She gives me one more smile before I turn away, letting her tend to the customer in line behind me. I am feeling rather contemplative after looking at my wallet; I have no food in the apartment and that twenty was one of my last. I have been out of work for over three weeks now, and I fear that I may not find anything soon.
Stepping outside, the cool air hits my face. The market is only across the street from where I live -- an apartment above a downtown shop -- and I find it strange how empty the streets are. Usually
It amazes me that a simple holiday can cause such a change.
Funnily, most things so simple still easily amaze me. For the past year I have been working on fitting in amongst my human neighbors. Being away from the slums of Madripoor and the fight circuit definitely helps, as does being in regular contact with X-Force. Sunspot is now Lord Imperial of the Hellfire New York branch, but he is very easy to see. Tabitha and Domino are living close by, and we make it a habit to see each other regularly. With Domino and I it is a little bit different because we are both working together still; since destroying SHIELD property after M-Day, we have to take spontaneous missions when they need dirty work done to pay back for what we did. However, our contracts ran out about one month ago, but we were told we would be on standby.
Which is why my fridge is getting empty.
But the fact that I have accepted my role in society and my place with my friends and teammates helps me more than I ever would have expected. I have learned there is a time and a place for a warrior to battle -- when there is a cause or reason -- and in my time off it is acceptable to assume the role of a man with a private life. To take time out to smell the vegetation.
…or roses. I believe that is what Tabitha said.
“Good morning, Benjamin!” a short, plump woman calls and waves to me with a knitted mitten on her hand. I bow my head to her.
“What are you doing out here? Aren’t you celebrating Christmas with your family today?”
I sigh; the landlady is always asking such questions. Her concern has always baffled me, but she seems friendly enough. Domino always gets into conversations with her about current affairs, but I do not like to partake in such things. I give her my rent money when she asks and fix things for her when she needs them done, but that is all.
So I simply shrug at her and dig out my keys. “They are all…away. Far away from here.”
She perks an eyebrow at me. “Then what about that man upstairs? He told me he was family.”
I narrow my eyes. “Man? I do not know to whom you are referring to. Is Dom with him? What does he look like?”
“Slow down on the questions,” she laughs. “He just said he was looking for you. Except he called you something else. ’Star’ or something like that.” A few wrinkles appear at the sides of her eyes when she smiles. “Kinda cute if you ask me; it suits you! With the tattoo on your face and all.”
I shift the grocery bag in my arms and take a deep breath. “I will go see him. Good-bye.” Without another word to her I push past and enter the stairwell. I was not expecting company and the idea of it confuses me. The only male visitor I get occasionally is Bobby, but she knows him. X-Force are the only ones who know of each other’s whereabouts for safety purposes; it is a security plan that we have in place.
But when I get to the top of the stairs and see who is waiting in front of my door, my mouth dries out. He pushes off the wall he is leaning on and approaches me with a tired looking smile. He has a pack slung on his back over a long trench coat, and a winter hat on his head. It appears as though he has not seen sleep for days. “Hey, amigo.”
“Rictor,” I manage to smile back; this is a surprise. “How did you find me?”
He jams his hands into his pockets and shrugs. “I was a private investigator for months. I have my ways.”
“You're registered in the system, aren’t you?” I ask with a cautious tone.
He holds his hands up and grins. “You caught me.” I nod in return before stepping past him to unlock the door. I hold it open for him and he ducks inside, looking around and surveying the area before turning to me. “Nice digs! How’d you manage to score this place?”
“Domino,” I say simply and remove my coat. He does the same, placing it on the back of a chair. “She has many friends around
He nods and watches as I place the bag down on the counter. He appears to be happy to see me, yet I cannot help but notice how sad he seems. His demeanor is slumped and he always tends to smile with the left side of his face first when he is faking. Overall though he looks a lot different; he lost a lot of weight and has bags under his eyes. At first glance one would assume that his time with X-Factor has not treated him very well, and suddenly I feel for him. I want to reach out and ask him if he is all right, but I refrain from doing so. My feelings for him have not changed at all, yet I do not want to make any wrong moves.
“Good old Dom,” he murmurs before sitting down in the chair. “How is she doing?”
“Bad,” I tell him.
I shrug, and begin to put my groceries away. “She was very upset when Cable died. Tabitha and I visited with her a lot, but she did not like to talk or ‘take charity’. She is rather difficult and annoying when she wants to be.”
“Si,” Ric nodded. “But Cable is alive.”
“I know,” I admit. “Which is why she is doing bad. She is angry and wants to kill him.”
He snorts then, pinching the bridge of his nose. “
I nod. “So it seems. I don’t really understand what it is they do, but I don’t ask. One time I did and Domino punched me in the face and shot me in the foot.”
Rictor blinks. “That’s -- well that was nice of her.”
I shrug. “I stabbed her back, so we are even.”
“Dios, 'Star,” he laughs then, an awkward laugh but one that he sounds relieved to release. Something is truly bothering him, and it makes a strange, tight feeling come over me. My chest aches because of it, and I frown.
“Julio, why are you here?”
“Uhm…” he is still laughing a little bit, and he removes his hat to mess with his hair. “I’m just-- it’s Christmas and I wanted to see you.”
“You came all the way to
“Yep,” he nods, and reaches down into his backpack he had placed on the floor when he came in. “And I got you something, by the way.”
“Julio why? I do not normally celebrate Christmas, and I didn’t get you…”
“Shut up,” he smirks and tosses me a ball cap. “Ya didn’t know I was coming, so you’re hardly to blame.” He zips his bag back up and watches me. “Red Sox won the ‘Series this year, you know. I saw that and thought of ya so I picked it up.”
I knew that they did. Julio and I had gone to a Red Sox game in
“Thank you,” I tell him, and place it on the hook with my coat. “I will make you breakfast. I just returned from the store.”
“Sure if you want,” he replies. “I missed your food.”
“I’m sure you did with your culinary skills,” I scoff before sitting on a chair across the table from him. “But before we eat I do believe you should answer my question. What are you really doing here?”
He swallows and sighs. “Aren’t happy to see me?”
“Did I say that?”
I take a deep breath and hesitate before reaching over the table and grabbing his hand. The look of shock on his face is very apparent, but he does not pull away -- so neither do
“That obvious, huh?” he scoffs slightly and his gaze falls to the table. “Look, I didn’t mean to come here and dump all my shit on you, I just…”
“It’s okay,” I tell him. “I do not mind you being here. I am actually quite happy that you are.”
His gaze returns to me and he nods. “Things just got…ugly. I dunno, 'Star it’s probably all really stupid, you know? But I just need a break, or something. Ever since I lost my powers it just fucking sucks doing everything.”
“It’s not stupid,” I tell him.
“Thanks,” he says, but there isn’t much enthusiasm behind it.
“What happened?” I ask. “Were you hurt?”
He shrugs. “A little, I guess. Just the team was always kinda copping me out ‘cause I didn’t have any powers to help them, you know? Then I ran into some shit with some dude who was able to restore powers and there was this big fiasco. Someone exploded and someone else or two got stabbed…”
“That's unfortunate,” I tell him, not really knowing exactly how he felt but it was the only thing I could think to say.
He shrugs. “That stuff I can get over, but more shit kept happening and happening. I dunno, man, I don’t wanna sound like a bitch to you-- I’m just-- I dunno. My fucking girlfriend fucked off on me and then the X-Men sent me on this mission with all these freaking guns and I almost got killed. Saw a bunch of little kids get fucked up too. It screwed me up a bit.”
An unexpected pang of envy hits me. “Girlfriend?”
He shrugs. “Well I thought she was. Apparently I was wrong, but whatever.”
“Oh?” he perks an eyebrow then and regards me. “Sounds like you wanna say more than that.”
I bite back a growl and shrug. “It’s nothing. I was just-- I thought that you-- uhm…I was not aware you were back to being attracted to women.”
“I never ‘went back’ to anything,” he sighs and pulls his hand away to run it through his hair. “I just-- I had a really messed up year and I didn’t really know what I was doing. I just wanted someone, and I don’t think I really cared who it was.”
Maybe his feelings have changed. I have made him wait too long. “I’m sorry, Julio.”
“Nah, don’t be. I don’t even think I could tell you what it was that made me feel that way anyways. It was stupid on my part,” he admits with a shrug. “Things were just messed up, buddy. It’s long over anyhow.”
I nod feeling slightly better, but still just a tad bit jealous. “Oh, well, that’s too bad.”
“The guns were worse anyways,” he mutters, rubbing his hands along his face. “Fucking X-Men sent me into this place and all these little kids got messed up. Impaled right through the guts just like Sammy had been, remember that?" he shakes his head. "Man, made me think about all the fucked up shit that happened when I was a kid, you know? I was younger than them when X-Factor picked me up.”
“Why would they send you there?” I ask him, feeling upset at the fact.
“Because I ain’t one of them anymore,” he replies, sounding both a little sad and bitter. “Dios, 'Star, I hadn’t even seen a shipping order that big in all my life, amigo. I’ve seen gun orders big enough to supply militaries, but never anything like that.”
“Those X-Men aren’t very respectable,” I tell him. “At one time in my life I considered them heroes of legend. They’ve turned out to be quite a disappointment.”
He nods. “Yeah, you’re tellin’ me.”
“So how long do you plan on ‘taking a break’ for?”
Rictor shrugs. “I dunno; half my team is gone now,” he frowns. “I just got on my bike and left. I didn’t really have anything there but clothes and I got ‘em all with me anyways. I was contemplating not even going back. Too much bad shit’s happened.”
I blink. “And you came here looking for a place to stay?”
He looks away then, blush reddening his cheeks and a nervous glint in his eyes. “No…I mean-- I just wanted to stop by, you know? We’ve been talkin’ awhile but I haven’t seen you at all since…”
He shrugs awkwardly and just stares up at the ceiling. “It’s all good, man. I realize that I fucking made a mistake, and I’m sorry. I never meant to do that to you, if I would’ve known I would’ve never even bothered. All this shit made me realize I’d just rather have you there -- at least as friend if not anything else.”
Something stirs inside of me at that declaration. He regrets what he has done and is apologizing for it. This confuses me. If he had not done what he done I would not have been able to go through my identity crisis. I would not have been able to figure out exactly what I want from this life, nor would I have been able to finally adjust to living in society to the best of my ability. Julio fixed all of that for me, and the fact he is having regrets almost hurts. I wonder briefly what would happen if I were to tell him everything that had happened -- if he would be mad or happy with me.
How would he feel if he knew that I finally returned his feelings so many months later?
He is sad, I can tell from sitting across from him and it makes me wonder if there is complete truth in his words. Everything in his world appears to be shattered and instantly I am reminded of dark, lonely nights in Madripoor with nothing else but blood and weapons. Here he sits, scars from his power loss and feeling as though he does not have a friend in the world. The sight of it saddens me and I have an overwhelming urge to comfort him. To run my hand up his back like he had done to me all those months ago in
To finally love him back.
So I swallow and reach out to take his hand again; thinking of the best thing I could say in such a situation. “I will always be there. You do not have to think otherwise.”
He tenses underneath by grasp and very slightly I can feel him shake. “I uh…came here because I didn’t really have anywhere else to go. Mi familia’s outta the question and everyone else I know just up and left after the whole thing that happened. I just…”
“It’s all right,” I repeat and get to my feet. “You can stay as long as you want. I would not mind the company, and maybe perhaps you can finally go see the others. They miss you as well.”
He nods slightly and still refuses to look me in the eye. “I just wanna stop, I think. You know? Get back on my feet and try and live a normal life.”
I nod. “It is a plausible adjustment. I have made it and so have Tabitha and Domino -- for the most part.” I scratch the back of my head. “It was rather difficult, however. Many things have happened since I seen you last.”
He finally meets my eye and the concern in them worries me. “I figured they would, hombre. You seem…different. Not in a bad way, of course, just like-- I dunno. More mature or something.”
“I told you that I needed time to figure things out, Julio,” I crouch down in front of him so we are eye level. “I have done a lot of thinking. I have lived many places and made a lot of mistakes, but I have learned from it. It is not an experience I regret whatsoever.”
He nods. “Oh, I’m glad.”
“It’s because you let me,” I tell him, once more grabbing his hand. “I still have some fears, but I am much more comfortable. Julio you let it happen and I…”
“I’m sorry…” he mutters. “I still kinda feel like I fucked it all up for ya.”
“Maybe you did, a little.”
“That makes me feel better,” he glares and tears his hand from mine. “Glad you haven’t lost your honesty.”
I roll my eyes. “There is no honor in lies.”
“Of course not,” he snaps and looks down at me. “I’m just-- fuck it. I dunno, 'Star. I’m just one fucked up dude, amigo.”
“Me too,” I admit. “But I have yet to meet a human who is not. There are many people who I believe are faulty. They annoy me greatly and their flaws are rather obvious. I believe that is actually normal even though for some reason the television says it's not. That has always confused me.”
He lets out an amused snort and shakes his head, and that tired look returns to his face. “I know, man. It’s fucking stupid, but like there’s anything that makes sense, you know? You just live and you learn and you feel and it either fucking sucks or it doesn’t.”
I nod. “That sounds like something Tabitha would say.”
He eyes me then. “Amigo, don’t tell me that! That would be like saying we share logic!”
“You’d be surprised,” I let a smile slip across my lips then. “She has taught me a lot, actually. I owe much to her.”
“I wish I could’ve helped you,” he tells me.
I nod before standing. “It’s all right. Everything turned out fine.”
He rises as well, following me across the kitchen. “Did it? I mean, all the times I talked to you over the past few months you’ve seemed distant, man. I was starting to wonder if I’d ever get mi amigo back.”
“I told you I would do so. It is my end of the bargain and I kept it.”
He frowns and stands in front of me. “I just…” he pauses, looking so broken that it hurts me. “Since you left everything has just gone to shit, 'Star. I don’t know what to do anymore. I feel like I’ve hit the end of the road, ya know?”
And suddenly I remember the day he first confessed that he loves me. We had a bad day and many of his family members had been arrested. He had been so emotionally vulnerable at the time that even I was not sure he was confident in his words. Yes, he had been very outright and desperate in his touch, but I knew he had been scared. I could smell the fear on him; if there was one thing I will never be able to change it is the fact I can recognize fright. He had been down on himself that day and it is the same thing standing in front of me right now. Julio only speaks of important things when he is upset; it is the only time he exposes himself that way. It also takes a certain degree of trust.
I am not good with emotions, but I know when I am able to associate Julio’s behaviors with certain actions and words. The man I see today is a spitting image of the man in our hotel room many months ago. After everything that we have been through it does not at all surprise me that he is here in front of me again. It is almost as if things had never changed.
But they had.
Because this time I refuse to fear him or myself.
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>><<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<< I am free, no longer a slave; I can do this.
I am free, no longer a slave; I can do this.
Go to Part Two