You're Better Than This Now
The X-Mansion had taken a trip to the mall. They didn’t go for the sheer pleasure of shopping of course. As a school they took a field trip to one of New York’s oldest theatres – not Broadway – to see a theatre production for educational purposes of course. Miraculously while they were there, no one misbehaved and no one else suspected a thing. The children were treated as children. No one thought they were anything but children, not mutants or freaks or outcasts of society. The trip to the mall was the treat that came afterward. Thankfully, none of the members of the team, the X-Men, were recognized so far. Not even the Wolverine or Cyclops or Storm. So all in all it was a pretty good trip so far.
While the students were eating in the mall’s food court, the teacher supervising them and paying for their meals, Jane and Pietro had snuck away to explore the mall a little by themselves. If they missed the ride back that would be fine. Pietro could always take them home. They enjoyed walking around the mall and window shopping, hand in hand. Sometimes they stopped into stores to look, like at video games or stylish clothing, but otherwise they were just enjoying the others’ company. It was a wonderful opportunity to act like a normal young couple so in love. Of course Pietro was a little tempted to snatch some jewelry for Jane, or even grab her a cupcake or a pretzel, but Jane said it would be best to not arouse suspicion. “Besides, we have to set an example for the children.” He was only a little downtrodden; that is until she pulled out her wad of cash and bought them both a slice of pizza and a cappuccino – she made sure his didn’t have anything remotely resembling caffeine in it. With his super speed, that wasn’t needed or he’d bounce off the wall.
Enjoying their time together, they were walking past the Victoria’s Secret when they quite literally ran into Darcy. She had a shopping bag clutched in her hand and looked, not exactly ashamed but secretive. “Oh, I’m sorry.” The telepath apologized for running into them. “I was trying to avoid Logan while he’s busy watching the kids.” Her smile was rueful and evil, a smile Pietro was normally familiar with seeing on Jane’s face before she did something drop-dead sexy. “Don’t tell Logan I was here. It’s a surprise.”
Realizing what exactly Darcy bought, Pietro felt more than a bit awkward. Jane just cackled though, and looked as though she wanted a peek inside Darcy’s bag. Turning to Pietro, Jane teased, “Maybe I should just pop inside and see what they have. Perhaps something green? Or would you prefer silver?” There was that rueful and evil smile. Not really evil, just something that promised trouble – the good kind of trouble of course.
“Or nothing?” Pietro lightly joked back, half-serious all the same. He wanted to say more but Darcy was still standing there, probably reading his mind and thinking he was a filthy, perverted boy. Oh well, she was ten times worse, he knew, from what Jane had told him about her before.
Jane looked back at Darcy, who was standing there squinting at something in the distance, curiously silent. Normally the woman would say something completely inappropriate or would have left them be, but she seemed distracted. Something was wrong. “Darcy? What is it?” Jane could tell something was bothering Darcy enough that she wasn’t paying attention to them. She could only hope that it wasn’t the children that Darcy was focusing on.
“That man,” Darcy’s voice was a growl bordering dangerously on a literal animal noise like a tiger. “Him.” She raised her chin in the direction of the man she was staring at so intently with distrustful and narrow amber-orange eyes behind the florescent glare of the lights shining on her glasses. The man in question was an older, white male. Nondescript with boring blonde hair in a common hair style. He had no facial hair, seemed to be average height, and wore a striped polo shirt and khaki pants and a popular brand of shoes. The man was just sitting across the way on one of the mall’s benches interspersed throughout its interior for its customers. Seemingly normal, he was reading a newspaper. The only thing that seemed out of place on him was his sunglasses, which he wore inside the brightly lit store.
“What about him?” Jane didn’t have the same sort of tone as Darcy did, but immediately her posture tensed and she dropped Pietro’s hand to clench both of hers into fists at her sides. Amazed, Pietro watched her shift into something similar to her attack position she dropped into during their X-Men missions. Jane trusted Darcy’s judgment of the man, and Pietro was reminded of Darcy’s mind-reading ability. She had to be right then.
“He wants to abduct one of the children.” Darcy’s growl was so low that Pietro strained to hear her in the busy, crowded, and noisy mall.
Naturally Jane didn’t seem to like that. She cracked her neck and then her knuckles, the metallic sound of her adamantium bones clicking together startling loud in Pietro’s ears. “Why? For experimentation?” Jane had a personal history with that. This wasn’t going to end well for the strange man.
“If only it were so simple.” Darcy’s teeth were bared in anything but a smile now. “He doesn’t even know that they’re mutants. He’s just a monster.”
“Darcy,” Jane whispered to her under her breath like a hiss of air, “tell me.”
“You don’t want me to tell you.”
Watching the two women, Pietro felt a shiver run down his spine. Whatever Darcy had seen in the man’s mind couldn’t possibly be good. Pietro didn’t feel sorrow for the man for the wrath he incurred in his girlfriend Jane and her oldest and best friend Darcy. The two immortal women were not going to let this go lightly.
Quite suddenly Darcy snapped her head back to look at them, no longer glaring hatefully at the man in sunglasses. “I’m going to get the children and make sure none of them are missing.” She stared intently at Jane, conveying without words her meaning to her friend. Stalking away quickly to where the children were sitting in the nearby food court, Pietro watched her go, noticing how tightly she gripped the bag in her claws. It was no small wonder that the plastic didn’t rip from her ruthlessly puncturing it in her anger.
It was a mistake for Pietro to let his attention slip away from Jane. By the time he realized she was gone it was too late. She had sprung into action the moment Darcy had stepped away. Quickly looking for her, he spotted her approaching the mysterious man head on. Jane had the prowl of a predator like the fierce she-wolf she had the affinity to as a feral mutant. Compelled to join her before she did anything too rash that she would regret, Pietro followed after her as fast as he could short of using his super speed.
From a distance he watched her say a few words to the man before he neatly folded up his newspaper and rose to his feet. Both of them walked to the common restroom area, and Pietro felt a spike of fear stab through his heart at the sight. This couldn’t possibly be good for anyone involved. Quickening his pace, Pietro barely managed to catch sight of Jane suddenly pushing the man through a door with the bold letters that read ‘EXIT’. Not caring if anyone saw him, he broke into his speed of sound and followed them outside.
In the parking lot, Jane had the man pinned up against the side of the mall’s building. Her elbow was digging into his windpipe with his sunglasses broken underfoot. While he gasped for air, Jane increased the pressure. Her face was one of hatred, and Pietro knew that wasn’t going to stop.
“Jane! No! Put him down!”
Glancing at Pietro from the corner of her brightly lit green eyes, he felt himself be restrained by the mystical green glow of her energy. She was using her telekinetic powers to keep him out of her way. This had happened before on missions where she didn’t want him to get hurt, but she was the one who needed to be pulled away from the situation in this particular case.
“Jane, you can’t do this. I believe in you! You can do good things in this world without killing people.” She had murdered before over less, but he strongly believed that she would kill this man for harming a child for malicious, unknown reasons – probably sick reasons, but Pietro wasn’t going to dwell on that nastiness. “You’re not a cold-blooded killer, despite your past actions and what you may think about yourself. You’re better than this, Jane. Please, don’t do this!” Getting desperate, Pietro couldn’t help but throw Jane’s earlier words back in her face in an attempt to get her to listen to him and heed his advice. “We have to set an example for the children!”
At the mention of the children, the entire reason they were here in the first place, Jane stepped away from the man and let him drop to the filthy concrete pavement. He fell heavily, nearly passed out from lack of oxygen, and barely managed to sit up. Now he looked spitting angry, veins pulsing and eyes almost bulged out of his head. With a red face, he looked like he was about to attack Jane, but she only kicked him across the face. In that one assault he was knocked out completely. Jane only stood there, staring down at his limp body, before her magic around Pietro dispersed. “We can’t just let him get away with this. He’ll do it again. I’ll bet he’s even done this before. Guys like this should be dead.”
“They should be in prison.” Pietro argued with her, and joined her at her side. “But they’ll probably die there, too.” He shrugged apathetically. This man didn’t deserve the mercy. He deserved the death. But Jane didn’t deserve any more blood on her hands than there already was. There would be an investigation and if this was ever traced back to them it would set mutant-kind back decades. Senator Kelly’s Mutant Registration Bill would surely be passed off of the surveillance tape that caught any of this. Speaking off…
There was a whirlwind of silver as Pietro used his gift to sneak into the mall’s security center and wipe the test that showed any kind of proof of what he and Jane had been doing. For good measure, he disabled that particular camera by pointing it at the wall. Then he cut off the audio, too, just to be safe. Returning to Jane’s side, he joined her in her observation of the unconscious man. He was bleeding from his nose and his lip. She had broken the nose and busted the lip with that one ninja kick. He’d probably have a black eye, too. Jane did have the legs of Chuck Norris.
“We can’t just leave him here,” Jane repeated. She was still simmering in her anger, justifiably so.
“We aren’t.” Reaching down, Pietro picked his pockets until he found his keys. He also took his money. The man wouldn’t be able to use it in jail anyway. “We just gotta dig up some dirt on this guy or frame him for something. Then I’m sure they’ll find out about his past.” Pressing the panic button, Pietro followed the sound of the alarm to his car and immediately stopped the alarm. Since he traveled at the speed of sound, the alarm that sounded only resembled a car horn signaling the car is locked or something; either way, it went relatively unnoticed.
Working quickly at his speed of sound because he didn’t think it was safe to leave Jane with the creep for too long, he looked through the car, rummaging through the trunk and the garbage rolling around his backseat. The last place he looked was the glove compartment. Of course that is where the fruits of his labor were. Gingerly, with clever thief fingers, he sorted through the pictures there. As soon as he could tell what the photographs were, he immediately felt super dirty, but knew he had his dirt on the guy. When he rushed back to Jane again, he was victorious, but at the cost of really, really hating that guy.
“The creep has dirty pictures in his car where the registration is kept.” Pietro made a face and absentmindedly – or maybe, rather purposefully – kicked dirt in the unconscious man’s face. The action literally rubbed dirt in the man’s bloody wounds. “So, here’s the idea I have…”
While Pietro explained his plan of action, Jane’s face lit up and this time her smile truly was one of malicious intent. Together they set the man up and let their plan go into place.
One of the mall cops that patrolled the parking lot in his golf cart was currently parked under a tree, enjoying the cool relief of the shade and the sugary sweetness of his powdered, sprinkled, jelly-filled donuts. Licking his fingers and his mustache when he finished his dessert, he had just moved on to eating his meal of a meatball sub when a car zoomed right past him at way too fast of a speed inside a parking lot. Now normally, since the mall cop was a man who enjoyed his food over the power and responsibility given to him by his job, he’d let the guy go in favor of finishing his sandwich while it was still warm. But the car that just zoomed past was laying on the horn continuously in one long, loud honk. This caused the mall cop to drop his sub and it spilled its meaty, red, and very hot sauce down the front of the white shirt of his uniform. Cursing loudly and mourning the loss of his lunch, he sprung into action to pursue the vehicle for ruining his day. Never had this mall cop moved so fast before. Considering he was driving a golf cart, and the car was already speeding, it should have been easily able to get away; however, the car wrecked into another parked car. Thankfully there was no one inside. This made the mall cops job not only that much easier, but also way more entertaining. The arrest would be very satisfying for the mall cop, but not as much as his delicious Subway meatball sub would have been.
Catching up to the now wrecked car, the mall cop took his time getting out of his golf cart and wandering up to the crashed vehicle with a gloating air about him. Once he reached the blackened out car window, he knocked on the glass. It rolled down, and a confused looking man with a dirty, bloody nose looked at him. Before the man could say anything, the mall cop held up a hand and simply asked, “License and Registration.” While the confused man fumbled to comply, the mall cop noticed all the clothes and appliances piled in the backseat. In the passenger chair there was a brand new TV. This all looked very suspicious, and then looked downright criminal when – as soon as the man opened the glove compartment – out popped out so many dirty pictures that they spilled everywhere across the floor board.
Shocked at his discovery, the mall cop demanded, “Out of the car, creep. You’re under arrest for shoplifting, reckless driving, and for being a son of a bitch.” He muscled the man out of the car and cuffed him with his hands behind his back the best he could. The mall cop has never really had the opportunity to use his handcuffs before on an actual criminal. Normally the schools asked him to do it to teenagers who stole from the lockers, but this was something else entirely. As soon as he had the cuffs on him, he was speaking into the radio on his shoulder, “Hey, Josie, I need you to call the police. We have someone to take to county downtown.”
“Listen, man, you’ve got the wrong guy. Those aren’t my pictures. I’ve never seen any of that stuff before. I don’t know what the hell just happened.”
“Shut up! You’re going to jail!” shouted the mall cop, and then read him his Miranda Rights, the best he could remember of them. Technically that was the police officers job when they arrived, but he caught a big, nasty fish today. He figured he deserved the privilege since he had nowhere else to be for the rest of his 30 minute lunch break.
From a medium or so distance across the parking lot, Jane and Pietro say in her vermillion Lamborghini and watched it all take place. “You see how easy it is for the creep to get what he deserves when you let them do it, Janie baby? It’s lawful.”
“It’s barely justice,” she obstinately argued. Pietro sighed. She only continued, “It’s slow and he’ll weasel out of some charges with a lawyer. It’ll be all too suspicious. The case may be dropped.” Jane was about to list further reasons, but Pietro interrupted.
“It’s okay if he doesn’t go to jail for shoplifting or if the charges get dropped on the damaged car or whatever. He’s guilty for the dirty pictures. They won’t let him get away with that.”
Jane was silent for a moment, and Pietro could visibly see the anger drain from her with the deep breath she took and released. Once she had finally gained control of herself, she turned her head finally to look at Pietro straight on. “Thank you.”
“I know you’re not a monster, Jane. You may have killed people, but you are nothing like him and you never will be. In fact, you never have to murder again. I believe in you.”
There was a silence again, contemplative. Then Jane cranked the car. “Let’s go home, Pietro.”
“Home is whenever I’m with you, Janie baby.”
“Shut up, you’re so lame.”