Since starting this series, I've learned that movie Mystique and comic book Mystique are very different creatures. I choose to stick with the movie version: a woman who, when taking the place of Senator Kelly, does nothing more threatening than lobby against the Mutant Registration Act. Seems to me like a woman with a conscience.
Thanks to Katherine the Art Chick, among others, for reading "Recovery Period" and saying, "I want to see Halloween!" And thanks as usual to Jedimom for encouragement and ideas and feedback.
"I don't know about this."
"We're going out."
"This crown's going to fall off."
"No it's not."
"Are you sure I look okay in this suit?"
"You look fabulous."
"You know, I don't really like normal people."
"Neither do I. The joke's on them tonight. The cab's here. Let's go."
"I could just drive."
"No, we're having drinks. Come on."
Mystique snags me by the arm and practically drags me bodily out of her home. Halloween. How did I let her talk me into this? I feel so exposed. God, I hate people.
She shoves me into the cab, and the driver turns around and grins at our "costumes." "You the frog prince?" he asks.
"Toad king," Mystique says with a smile. "And queen." The color doesn't look so bad on her. Hell, leprosy would look great on her. She's nailed my coloration perfectly, although she's kept her own teeth. Can't say I blame her.
"Well, Happy Halloween, you two. Where to?"
"The Green Iguana."
"That's a fun place for Halloween," he says, turning back around and pulling into traffic. "I hope you have reservations."
"We do," Mystique replies, putting her hand on my knee.
"Well that's good," he replies. "The waiting list at the door tonight is going to be mighty long. You two ever been there before?" Is he ever going to shut up? I look over at Mystique despairingly, and she shoots me an exasperated look.
"I have, but my friend hasn't," she replies. She's encouraging him! Thanks a lot. I turn and look out the window at all the little kids in their costumes going trick-or-treating. Some of the costumes are pretty grotesque. I wonder what it's like to choose to be grotesque, then go home and take it off and be normal? Strange thing to choose, really. I don't understand normal people.
"So, Toad King and Queen, eh? Is that really what you're dressed as?"
I snap my head back around and catch his eye in the rear view mirror. "What d'you mean?" I ask.
He shrugs. "Well, some people like to dress up as mutants for Halloween, and I just don't think that's fair. Strikes me as discrimination."
Mystique squeezes my thigh and says, "We wouldn't do that. You're right, it's not fair."
"Well that's good," he says. "I have to say, I'm very proud of Senator Kelly for having that change of heart. Took a lot of courage to come forward and say he was wrong, especially considering all the threats he got for doing that."
Mystique and I exchange a glance, then she says, "It's a shame about his family. Having to go into hiding and all."
"I do feel bad for his children," the cabbie agrees. "But he's doing the right thing, and that's important. You're not from this country, are you sir?"
"Me? No," I say.
"Yeah, I thought I caught an accent. Don't know how much you know about this country's history, but my grandparents used to tell me stories about the discrimination they went through, just because they were black. And I think it's a damned shame that people don't realize it's just as wrong to do that to a mutant, just because they were born different from everyone else."
Oh yeah, he is black. I don't usually pay attention to what normal people look like. Mutant or non-mutant, human-looking or not human-looking. That's all I notice. That's all that counts to me. Maybe I should pay a little more attention to normal people. I mean, I do realize they discriminate against each other for all sorts of stupid reasons, but at least they have laws to protect them.
"So, you from England?"
"Yeah, originally. Been here for a few years, though."
"How do they treat mutants over there in England?"
"I dunno. Same as everywhere else, I guess."
"You know, some day a group of mutants is gonna create a homeland, just like African-Americans did with Liberia."
"Do you think so?" Mystique asks, leaning forward with obvious interest.
"I hope so," he replies. "Either that, or some day when some country puts laws into place protecting mutants, there's going to be a huge migration. I hear Sweden's talking about it right now."
Sweden? I wonder how hard it is to learn Swedish? I look over at Mystique, and it looks like she's thinking the same thing. "Well, that sounds interesting. I'll have to keep an eye on the news," she says.
"So then, why the Toad King and Queen?" he asks as we cross the bridge separating the suburbs from the city. There's a lot more people here. I can feel my heart thumping. Too many people. Keep a lid on it, Mortimer. You can do this. You can do this for Mystique. She's done a lot for you. You owe her.
Mystique shoots him a beautiful smile and says, "Why is it that when the princess kisses the toad, he turns into a prince? Why can't she turn into a toad? What's so wrong with toads?" And then she turns the smile on me and I'm lost.
"That's a damned good question. But I thought it was a frog, not a toad?"
Still looking into my eyes, she says, "Frogs are only princes. Toads are kings." I swallow hard. I don't think I've ever wanted her as much as I do right now, and that's saying a lot.
"Well, here you are," the cabbie says, pulling up in front of a brightly-decorated restaurant. "It was nice talking to you young people."
Mystique pays him, and as I look back, I think I catch a flash in his eye that shouldn't be there. He answers my questioning look with a grin and a tip of his hat and drives off. "I think he's one of us," I whisper.
"Not necessarily. We do have human sympathizers. Just not enough of them."
"Hey, uh, how long until our reservation?" I ask, licking my lips.
She glances down at her watch. How the hell does she make a functioning watch, anyway? "Ten minutes. Why?" And then she looks at me and grins. "Oh. I see. Plenty of time."
I look around, through the small crowd of people outside the restaurant, and see an alley. Right, the restaurant's just one story tall. No problem. Snagging her by the wrist, I drag her along behind me into the alley, and when everyone's out of sight, I grab her by the waist and jump up onto the roof.
"Mortimer!" she cries, but she's laughing, clothes morphing out of the way, leaving nothing but green skin, and all talk ceases as she climbs onto my lap, wraps herself around me and plants her mouth on mine. She's so sweet, so so sweet. I could kiss her for hours, but we've only got ten minutes, and she's hurrying things along by unfastening my pants. Wait a minute...two arms, two legs...okay, she's sprouted a couple extra limbs to work my zipper. I'm almost used to that by now. Almost.
A shift of her hips, and I groan as I find myself buried to the hilt. Please, please never let me get used to this. Never let this become routine, or normal, or expected. How can anyone possibly treat this like something casual, or meaningless? I tear my mouth away and bury my face in her shoulder, snaking my tongue down to reach between her legs, and I feel her stiffen and tighten around me, breath coming hard. She comes before I do, but as she clenches around me, she wrings my climax out of me, and it takes every ounce of will to keep from shouting and letting everyone on the ground know what's happening on the roof.
As I catch my breath, I look up at her, and she laughs. "See, I told you your crown wouldn't fall off," she says.
"What?" I reach up, and find it's still securely in place. "I'll be damned."
"Never underestimate the power of bobbypins and industrial-strength hairspray," she says, climbing off my lap and shifting back into her black evening gown.
"I'm rumpled, aren't I?" I say as I pull my pants back up and try and smooth the wrinkles out of my suit.
"It's fetching," she replies. "So, help a lady down?"
I scoop her into my arms and leap over the edge of the roof, back down onto the ground. Ow. Legs are still a little sore, but not too bad. She checks her watch, then says, "Still have two minutes left. Let's head in."
Now it's her turn to drag me by the wrist. The crowd in front of the restaurant has grown in the past eight minutes. Humans everywhere. No elbow room. Normals. They're looking at me and laughing. No, they think it's a costume. They're laughing at the costume. Suck it up, Mortimer. Mystique wants a night out. Don't start pounding people into the pavement. They're laughing at the costume. If they knew it wasn't a costume, they wouldn't be laughing. They'd be afraid. I like afraid better.
"Reservation for Raven Darkholme," she's saying, and I turn away from the crowd and look at the restaurant itself. It's...well, it's interesting. There's stuff dangling from the ceiling, everything's painted funny colors, and there's this huge papier-mache iguana. Music's good, but there's too many people. I guess it would be fun if we were the only ones here.
"Corner table, as requested," the waiter says as he leads us off through the throngs of people. Most of them are dressed up, but I don't recognize most of the costumes. Is that Snow White's stepmother? Cool. I remember watching that movie as a kid. Wait...that's a guy.
We settle down in the corner booth, backs to the wall, facing out. "Nice safe spot," Mystique murmurs. "How are you holding up?"
"I'm okay," I lie.
"Well, let's get a couple drinks in you. Maybe you'll relax a little."
A waitress shows up. She's dressed like a cow. Okay, I suppose that's more embarrassing than being a Toad full-time. "Can I start you off with drinks?" she asks.
"Painkiller pitcher," Mystique says, then turns back to me. "Trust me, you'll like it."
"Okay, I'll be right back." The cow leaves.
"Painkiller?" I ask.
"It's sweet. I know you like sweet."
"I don't drink much."
"This doesn't taste like alcohol. If you'd rather not drink, that's cool."
"No, I don't mind," I shrug. "I just don't do it much."
I open the menu, and try to focus, but it's just too loud in here. I can't think. Reading's hard enough when it's quiet and the light is good, but this is impossible.
I think Mystique notices, because she says, "I can help you with that if you need it."
"That would be great," I say with a relieved sigh.
"It's a pretty standard Mexican menu. What do you like?"
"Um, I've never had Mexican before."
"Oh." She looks surprised. "Okay. Do you like spicy? Like, peppers spicy?"
"I don't know. I'm willing to give it a go. I'll eat anything."
"So I've noticed," she says, wincing at me comically. I can't help but smile back. "Hmm. Actually, most of the meals aren't that spicy. Ooh, but the appetizer platter's got a couple of hot things on it. We can get that and you can see if you like hot food."
The drink pitcher arrives, and it's pretty damned big. I don't catch what Mystique orders for us. Actually I don't understand what she orders. I catch the words "chicken" and "cheese," but the rest doesn't make sense. As the waitress leaves, Mystique pours me a drink from the pitcher. "If you don't like this, we can try the Iguana Spit instead." I shoot her a look, and she laughs and says, "It's just a name. Here, drink up."
Wow. This is really good. "You sure this is alcoholic?"
"Positive. Don't guzzle it."
"I wasn't going to."
"Just checking. I don't want to have to carry you home."
"I wouldn't do that to you." I take another sip and look around at everyone. Most people are just dressed a little funny, but others have some really amazing costumes on. I wish I recognized more of them. I'm starting to catch up on some of the movies I've missed, but there's so many. But not all of these are movie costumes, I think. There's a ladybug. Someone else in something historical. A bellydancer. It's neat. So far, we're the only ones dressed like freaks. Wait, no, there's someone covered in blue fuzz with big googly eyes on his head. And what's with the blonde girl walking around carrying a wooden stake?
They're all having so much fun.
God, I hate them.
"Mortimer, are you okay?"
"You're glaring at everyone."
"This is all just a game for them, isn't it?" I snort, gesturing at them. "They can go out any day they want."
"So could you."
"Only if I want people to laugh at me."
She leans forward and asks, "Have you ever thought about dying your hair? Getting contacts? Wearing a little makeup? Getting your teeth fixed? With a little work, you could blend in."
"That's not the point."
"Then what is the point?"
"The point is that they can go out without any effort. I shouldn't have to go through all that just to walk out the front door."
She sighs and takes a big sip of her drink. "No, you shouldn't. You're right. But right now, it's the only way."
"Well it shouldn't be."
"I know. But change takes time."
"I don't want to wait for change!" Mystique gestures at me frantically, trying to get me to lower my voice. "I don't want to wait for change," I say more quietly. "I want to live to see it."
"I'm working on killing the Mutant Registration Act," she protests.
"That's not enough, and you know it. That still won't let me go out to the corner store without people laughing and pointing, or trying to beat me up. The last time I tried that, a group of kids followed me around on their bikes the whole time, yelling shit at me. And the store owner kicked me out without letting me buy anything."
"But that was a long time ago, wasn't it?"
"Mystique, it was two years ago."
The waitress breaks our long silence by arriving with the appetizers. "Be careful. The plate's a little hot."
"Thanks," Mystique says, and the waitress leaves. She turns back to me and says, "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have made you come out."
"No, it's okay. Really. You wanted to go out. I shouldn't be ruining your evening." Right, time to change the subject so she stops blaming herself. It's not her fault people hate me. "So, what's the hot stuff on this plate?"
"Well, the wings are supposed to be fairly hot, and the jalapeño poppers are extremely hot. The shrimp and the corn fritters should be normal though. Here, why don't you try one of the shrimp while I see how hot the wings are?"
"Okay." Oh man these are good. Okay, I guess there are some advantages to going out.
Mystique looks over at me, mouth smeared with sauce, and says, "You know, most people don't eat the shrimp tails."
"Never mind. The wings aren't too hot. Want to give one a try?"
As I reach over to grab one, she says, "Oh, and we're in public, so don't eat the bones."
I roll my eyes, then carefully bite the meat from the bone. This is really good too. "This is hot?" I ask.
"Wait a second for it to kick in."
"Okay. Ooh, my mouth is tingling."
"Do you like it?"
"Yeah. Wait, it's getting worse."
"Your eyes are wide."
"I don't think I like this anymore."
"Take a sip of your drink. Its got cream in it. That should soothe your mouth."
She's right. Oh, thank god, she's right. Damn, that hurt. "People really eat stuff like this?" I ask incredulously, digging through my pockets for my lip balm.
"I like it," she grins, taking the half-eaten wing from my hands and polishing it off. "Oh shit, I forgot about your lips."
"It's no big deal," I say, smearing on the balm. Until two minutes ago, I thought they were fully healed.
"Well, whatever you do, don't touch the jalapeños. They're much hotter than this."
"Are you going to eat them?"
She just grins.
I think my eyes are wide again. "I think I'll try the corn fritters."
"Dip 'em in the maple syrup."
Wow. These are really good too. "Maybe I should get makeup and contacts so I can eat out every now and then," I say, sucking the syrup from my fingers.
"You're right, though. You shouldn't have to."
"I liked the cab driver's idea. Our own Liberia."
Mystique shakes her head. "It sounds nice, but there's no place on Earth left that we could move to. Anything hospitable is already inhabited."
I grab the pitcher and refill both our glasses. "Unless we want to go to Antarctica like Superman."
She shoots me an incredulous look. "Mortimer, you do realize that's just a comic book."
"Yeah, I know, but if Magneto can build his lair, then why not something like that?"
"We'd have better luck trying to live on the moon."
"I was joking," she says, wiping her fingers off on her napkin.
I pop the last shrimp in my mouth, swallow it, then say, "But maybe that's something we could do. I mean, could Senator Kelly try and get the space program going again?"
"I think we'd be better off trying to find an Earth-based solution," she says, pulling a cherry from her drink and eating it. "Hey, can you tie a cherry stem in a knot with your tongue?"
I shrug. "Yeah, why?"
"With your tongue inside your mouth?"
"Without your cheeks bulging?"
Ooh. Tough one. "I dunno. Why?"
"Oh, it's an old bar trick. Anyone who can do that is supposedly a great lover," she grins. "But we already know you have a talented tongue."
She holds out the stem with a twinkle in her eye, and I can't help but smile back. I pluck it from her fingers, pop it in my mouth, and yeah, I can do it without bulging my cheeks. Pulling out the neatly tied stem, I ask, "Does this answer your question?"
The cow waitress does a double take as she passes our table. "Wow! That was quick!" she gushes. She then looks over at Mystique and asks, "So, is it true what they say?"
"Oh yeah," she says with a huge grin.
The waitress casts an appraising eye at me, then sighs and says, "Pity he's taken," before heading off to another table.
"Did she just..."
"Uh huh. She just flirted with you."
I take another drink. Oh boy. This wasn't what I was expecting. Then again, she doesn't realize that this isn't a costume. If she did, she wouldn't have done that. Never in a million years. Heh. That was fun.
"So, Earth-based solutions," Mystique says.
"We were talking about Earth-based solutions for our problem."
"Oh, right." Okay, this may not taste alcoholic, but I'm starting to feel it. My head's feeling a little fuzzy. Not bad fuzzy, but takes a little effort to think fuzzy. It's kind of nice. When I was a teenager, I used to try to drink as an escape. I never really got into the casual drinking with a meal thing. Never really had the opportunity. This is kind of nice. I wonder what it would be like to have sex when I'm tipsy? Oh boy. Think about other things. Earth-based solutions, not undulating blue skin... I cross my legs, pull my thoughts together, and say, "You know, maybe we could have public schools like Xavier's, where mutant kids didn't have to spend time with normal kids."
Mystique shakes her head. "I don't think you can do that with public schools. It's illegal."
"Is it? Why?"
"It's called 'separate but equal.' It was ruled unconstitutional several decades ago during the Civil Rights movement. Maybe Magneto could fund a rival private school instead, where the kids wouldn't be indoctrinated to just lie back and take it like they are at Xavier's."
"God, how can they stand doing nothing?" I fume. "You'd think that with all the power they've got, they'd use it!"
"They're trying to be good examples," Mystique scowls.
"Fat lot of good that's doing. What are they thinking?"
"They think that by showing the world how cute and normal and harmless mutants are, the world will change their mind about us." She snorts in derision.
"But we're not normal! That's the whole point!"
"Keep it down, Mortimer."
I take another sip, then say, "You know, that was the only thing I didn't like about Magneto's plan."
"Him trying to make mutants normal. We're not. That's the whole point. Besides, even if we were, the ones who didn't look normal would still get laughed at."
"Maybe I should introduce legislation to add mutants to anti-discrimination laws," Mystique muses. "Although I'm starting to wonder if I should pull the senator from the public eye. Maybe get him killed off."
"You can't do that. You can't waste this opportunity," I protest.
"But what about his family?" she asks. "They think he's still alive. They think they need to stay in hiding and never see him. It's killing them."
"What about the greater good?" I challenge.
"You don't have to look them in the eye," she replies. "I do."
"Yeah, but I wouldn't care."
"Well, that's the price of shapeshifting," she says, crossing her arms and looking away. "You can't be convincing if you don't have empathy."
Shit, I did it again. "I'm sorry," I say. Ugh. Trust me to ruin a nice evening out. I have no idea how to handle stuff like this anyway. I've never really just gone out.
She rubs her face, then says, "No, I'm sorry. There's no reason for you to have any empathy for normal people. Not after the life you've had. Just trust me to do my job, okay? I know what I'm doing, more or less. This thing with the senator has to end soon before something happens to destroy plausibility. If nothing else, I'll slip in front of his family sooner or later and they'll figure out that I'm not him."
"But do you think you could do the anti-discrimination thing first?" I ask.
She looks down, obviously thinking about it. "If I do that, then get 'assassinated,' his martyrdom could give the bill a lot of momentum."
I squirm in my seat. "I'd rather it weren't an assassination."
She takes my hand, gives it a squeeze, and says, "Right, then an accident. I'll draft and introduce the bill this week, then arrange the accident, then we'll spring Magneto."
"Why not get him out first?"
"Because he'll try to talk me into doing something more radical. Or try to keep me from killing off the senator. And I'm not going to let him do that."
"But we need to do something radical."
"Oh, I agree. But not with Kelly. Hey, I think that's our food."
I look over at our cow, who is doing a pretty good job of balancing a large tray. If I didn't know any better, I'd say she was a mutant who had a special arrangement with gravity. "Why is there smoke pouring from that plate?" I ask.
"Because I ordered you a chicken fajita," Mystique replies. Trust me, you'll love it."
The waitress fills our table with plates of food, then says, "Don't touch that plate. It's very hot." Thanks for stating the obvious.
We finally stop talking politics as we dig in to dinner. This is really amazingly good stuff. I think chicken fajitas are my new favorite food, although Mystique's cheese, broccoli, and spinach quesadillas are good too. I'm thinking that I'll definitely have to get makeup and contacts so I can go out to eat again. Or at least to be able to get stuff delivered without scaring off the delivery guy. I can't believe I've been missing all of this. I can't believe I've been letting normal people scare me away from this. God I hate them for that. Just when I thought I'd run out of new reasons to hate them, along comes another one. How dare they keep me from this?
But then again, a normal person probably cooked all of this. And the bartender's probably normal too. So's the waitress who flirted with me. Urgh. This would be so much easier if I could just hate them all. I mean, usually I do, but then something happens that makes me realize that they're not all bad, like that cabbie earlier tonight. Most of them are, though. Well, that I've seen. But Mystique seems to have a good time when she's out with normal people. I'll keep trying tonight. For her. Damn, this makes my head hurt. This was so much simpler before tonight. I shouldn't have agreed to go out.
Whoa, I'm really feeling this drink now. The pitcher's totally empty and I need to pee. "Be right back," I say. When I stand up, it really hits me. Yep, I'm pretty drunk. Well, maybe not totally drunk. Tipsy. Buzzed. There are way too many words for drunk. But I can still walk a straight line, with some concentration, and I take that straight line to the bathroom. All that alcohol wants back out.
I walk over to the urinals, pick one, and cut loose. Ah. This is feeling a lot better.
"Impressive attention to detail."
I look over at the next urinal over, and there's a guy there staring down at my dick. My green dick. Oh shit. You idiot. Should have used a stall. If I were sober, I would have remembered. Right, play along. Maybe he's just as drunk. If he becomes a problem, I think I'm sober enough to pound him. "Thanks. Who are you dressed as?"
"Me? Lawrence of Arabia. I'm looking for my Prince Feisal, but I may just settle for a frog prince instead." And then he shoots me this grin.
Okay, I have no clue who Prince Feisal is, but I know I've just been propositioned. And he's not looking drunk. He knows I'm really this color all over, and he's still propositioning me. Maybe he's insane or something. Doesn't look like a mutant, but then again, most of them don't. Whoops, I'm gaping. "Sorry, I'm here with a date," I say.
"Pity," he shrugs, tucking himself back into his robes. "Anyone I know?"
I shrug and tuck back in as well. "Don't know if you'd know her."
"'Her'? Oh, I'm sorry." His eyes get a little wide, and he's looking at the exit.
"Hey, no big deal," I say. "I don't mind." And strangely enough, I don't. Even though he's probably normal.
I see him relax with a sigh, and we both head to the sink together. Okay, the shock of this encounter seems to have sobered me up a little. "Sorry for getting wiggy. I'm just sick of getting beat up," he says. "Well, you'd probably understand."
"Yeah, I do."
"I just figured that no straight guy would go out in public in a suit that well-tailored."
I laugh. "She picked it out for me. I can't dress for shit."
"Well, have a great evening with your date," he says. "And thanks for being so understanding."
I head back to the table, and Mystique says, "You're blushing."
"I just got propositioned."
"In the men's room?" She leans over with a wicked smile on her face. "Really?"
"Yeah. At the urinal."
"So he knew... Wow. Did you take him up on it?"
"Mystique!" Did I just squeal?
"Just curious," she says, squirming in her chair.
"I was only in there a couple of minutes."
"It doesn't have to take long."
"I can't believe you! You've done that before, haven't you?"
"Don't be such a prude," she chides. "So, who was it?"
I look around the restaurant and point him out. He's with a group of other guys, and they're all getting up to leave. "The one in the white robes over there."
Mystique lets out a low whistle. "Damn, he's a tasty one."
Lawrence of Arabia turns around, catches my eye, and winks. Mystique gives him a little wave, and he bursts out laughing as he heads out with his friends. She turns back to me and says, "You know, I'd pay good money to watch the two of you."
"Stop it!" I say, but I'm laughing, and I can feel the blush creeping back up into my cheeks.
"Well, I paid the bill while you were in there, and there's a long wait for tables, so, shall we?" She stands up, and holds out her arm.
I loop my arm through hers, and we head out to try and hail a cab.
"I take it dancing's out," she asks.
I wrap my arm around her waist and rest my head on her shoulder. She feels nice. "Yeah, I'm a little sore from the jump off the roof. And I'm kinda drunk. And I think I've had enough people for a while."
"Not a problem. I have a few other ideas for how to pass the rest of the night," she says as we climb into the back of a cab. She gives the cabbie her address, then leans over and starts kissing me on the lips. Mmm. Hmm? Ow.
I pull away with a wince. "Your lips burn."
She shoots me a puzzled look, then groans and drops her head in her hands. "It's the jalapeño poppers. Oh, I am such an idiot!"
I smear more lip balm on, then move her hands away from her face. "You know, only my lips are still sensitive from the accident."
The grin she shoots back is positively wicked.
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