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What If I Stumble?

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Summary: As Marie walks the line between good and evil… the front lines and the sidelines… not even she knows where she'll eventually end up. Holiday fic-a-thon response for TubbsMcGee.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Multiple Crossings > Fred/Illyria-Centered(Moderator)JoeHundredaireFR181949,5971212944,00621 Dec 0724 Jan 08Yes

Chapter Nineteen

Joe's Note: This chapter wraps up the last of the current arc. There will be some downtime as I outline the next arc, which will redo the Black Costume saga in a manner that's hopefully better than the movie. Then another arc that will bring Sylar and the Hulk, and by then hopefully The Dark Knight will be out and we'll be on our way to Gotham.



     When the police car he was riding in rolled up to the base of Stark Tower and he saw the assembled mass of photographers and video cameras, Peter was suddenly very glad that he had opted to keep his identity a secret. Good God. If not for the mask, he probably wouldn't make it halfway to the door without his picture being taken, identity checked, and a news crew on its way to his aunt's house to ask her what it was like to be related to Spider-Man.

     Actually, come to think of it, when he took the mask off publicly, that might be a good way for her to help solve her financial problems. 'I Raised Spider-Man: The Story of May Parker'.

     It was a sad truth, but given that his new residence was furnished, his entire life now fit into three duffle bags stuffed in the trunk of the Crown Victoria. Peter shouldered them easily and trudged into the lobby, where… Gwen and Courtney were waiting for him. The two were glaring at each other but both pasted smiles on when they saw him. Well crap.

     Ever since Gwen had joined the group, life had both gotten easier and harder for him. Having a friend at school who could cover for him on Spider-Man issues was handy, as was having someone new to talk to about that kind of life. But while he liked Gwen, he still liked Courtney too much to break off the odd little… whatever they had going… and so he was stuck trying to balance the two so they didn't come to blows. Or come after him, for that matter.

     He wasn't going to get anywhere standing in the lobby, though. He didn't know the layout well enough to try and crawl up the outside wall to find his new apartment, nor did he know how to open the windows if they even opened at all. And since they were between him and the elevator… "Ladies. I'm guessing you're my tour guides for the afternoon?"

     "I am!"

     "I am!"

     The two shot glares at each other and Peter was privately thankful they were mad at each other for the other's presence and not him. "Well, we're all going the same place. We can go together, right?" Two sulky nods. "Alright then. Where are we going?"

     Gwen leaned over and pushed the 'up' button, and the elevator doors slid open. She shot Courtney a smug look before leading the way inside, as if operating the doors had been some sort of major victory. Oy. Girls. "We're on floors two through four. Well, SHART is. Operations is on Two, living quarters are on Four, and Three is mostly empty right now. I think Marie and Tony are assuming we'll expand."

     It was still weird to be on the first name with one of the richest men in the world, but Peter was getting used to it. "Cool. So, Court, I assume you've been helping them with furnishings and stuff for our rooms?" Courtney nodded and latched onto his arm. A moment later, he extended his left arm and Gwen latched on as well. "I hope you made my room extra nice…"

     He'd been teasing, but the way Courtney nodded rapidly made Peter wonder if perhaps he shouldn't have. "I made sure that your furniture is nowhere near the window and it's the only one in the building that opens easily, so you can swing out. Well, you can crawl out. There's nothing tall enough nearby to really swing from. Oh! And we share a bathroom."

     Do what?

     "We all share a bathroom." The elevator stopped on the fourth floor and Peter felt tugs on both arms as the girls led him away. "Since you're the only guy so far, Courtney wanted to give you a private bathroom but then we got into a fight because she wanted her room to connect to yours and so did I, but if either her or me was to connected to you by the bathroom, it could be awkward. So it's sorta… euro-shape? Like an 'E', but with a bathroom on the other side of the main line? You'll see when we get there."

     Oh yeah, cuz all three of them having to pass through a common area to get to the same bathroom was definitely a path to less awkwardness than two of them having bedrooms connected by a bathroom. Peter shook his head at the odd girl logic there, looking around as they led him down the hall. "What about the others?"

     Courtney pointed to one of the doors as they passed. "Marie has this like, goddess-big suite to herself. Then again, there will be a goddess in there with her sometimes, so it makes sense. Kate's still around since Marie doesn't want to send her back to the Bishops, and her and Elle are sharing a room near Skotti. And there's some common room, like a kitchen, a living room, and a game room. That still leaves us with half a floor for if Clarice or John move in, or we get new members. Or I can convince you to impregnate me and we need a nursery."

     "What?!"

     "Just kidding. You're much too high-strung, Peter." Peter eyed Courtney, who smiled back at him innocently. She'd better be joking. He was way, way too young to be a father. "Here we are." She opened a door and let go of his arm, deciding it was better to be the proud designer for the moment than the one on his arm. The door was at one end of a hall; three doors ran along the right side of the hallway, with a single door on the left that was directly across from the middle of those three doors. "I'm the first door, you're the second, and Gwen is on the end. If you want, I can give you a tour of my room later."

     Gwen let out a cough that sounded suspiciously like 'slut'.

     Turning around, Courtney glared at her. "I'm sorry, what did you say Miss 'Likes To Wear Short Skirts And Bend At The Waist'?"

     "Hey, Peter likes the view. And you'd still be trying to pull it off if you could manage it without falling on your face from the high heels you insist on wearing even though you can barely walk in them." Peter still wasn't quite sure why Courtney had switched from her… well, on her, the old-fashioned dresses WERE normal to something more modern. He actually preferred the long gowns to the miniskirts and high heels, especially since Courtney didn't pull off the look she was trying to steal from Gwen anywhere near as well as the original. "I didn't come up with the game, I just kick your ass at it."

     The two girls went silent and glared at each other, and Peter sighed. Oh yeah, this was a great idea.



     Giving her new quarters one last look, Marie breezed through the doorway and locked it behind her. There were elevators in the lobby that would take her into any floor in the building, but for where she wanted to go, she decided to try out the high-speed specialty elevator that Stark's people had just finished installing. The red doors made it stand out compared to the others and there were only two buttons: SHART and Parking. She pushed Parking.

     The elevator rocketed downward and Marie was hard-pressed not to use her powers to lift up off the floor to protect herself from getting killed on impact. At the last second, it decelerated and the doors swished open, revealing the bland concrete of a parking garage. "Skotti?"

     "Here." Marie turned and found her teammate fussing over a large black vehicle. There were two sleek motorcycles parked next to it, but Skotti's attention was firmly focused on what looked like a Hummer. "Whenever we go somewhere, I've got motherfucking dibs on driving this bad boy."

     Marie blinked and smiled. "Hey, whatever. I'm more a motorcycle girl. If you want the Hummer, go for it."

     Jaw dropping, Skotti looked from the Hummer to Marie and back. "Do you know what this is? It's not a Hummer, Marie. It's a Humvee. Somehow, the NYPD found a way to score us a M114 Up-Armored Humvee. This isn't just military grade, this is the kind of Humvee that the people were bitching weren't being given to soldiers in Iraq. Over here? This is going to be like… a tank. I'd put a few bullets into the side just to show off how safe we are, but I'd probably eat one on the rebound and I like my body without holes in it. Just being around it makes me want to hop in there and do some stuff I probably shouldn't until after we get it Scotchgarded."

     "I'm not even going to ask how we got our hands on it, then. Although I'm guessing our generous benefactor has something to do with it." Marie leaned her head back and stared up at the ceiling. "You've been spending time with him and his daughter, playing with all his guns and stuff. You haven't picked up anything from him?"

     Skotti shook her head as she hopped up to sit on the hood of the Humvee. "Nada. I swear, Tony Stark doesn't use that gizmo of his to keep his heart going, he flat out replaced it. The man is cold. Cleopatra isn't much better. And there are areas he won't show me, and I'm never left alone long enough to try and break into. He's up to something, but I don't think we're going to know what until the shit hits the fan."

     Sighing, Marie wondered where to go from there. Illyria had asked her to keep an eye out and she was doing that, but she wasn't sure how much more aggressively to pursue things. Tony donating a portion of Stark Tower and some financial resources to SHART had been invaluable in getting the team up and running quickly. Not to mention toys like this Humvee that Skotti was so enamored with. Alienating him would be seriously detrimental to the team's future.

     "Alright, take a break. Take your new toy out for the afternoon and…" Marie reached up to brush her finger over the headset she wore. "Rogue to Shadowcat."

     After a momentary pause, Kate's voice came back. There was a sort of sweet revenge in recycling that codename, especially given that Kate had a much higher chance of becoming publicly known as part of the brains behind SHART than Kitty did as an X-Man. "What's up, Boss Girl?"

     Marie grinned at the suddenly pale (well, paler) Skotti. "Can you send Perendi down to the garage? Piper was just about to take one of our new toys out for a test, and I think she could use some company."

     "…you are one evil bitch, Rogue." Kate laughed and there was some muttered conversation before she returned. "Perendi is on her way down now."

     The connection closed and Skotti slid off the hood. "I hate you so hard."



     "I got a freight delivery for a Mister… 'Logan'? No last name?" The UPS worker looked up from his clipboard and furrowed his brow. "I hope that makes sense to you people, because you're not even supposed to be able to send a package with us unless you have a complete name and address."

     Grunting, Logan went back to looking over the motorcycle in front of him. "Ain't got a last name. Amnesia will do that to you. How big a crate we looking at here?"

     After a moment's check, the UPS man looked up again. "About seven hundred fifty pounds." He looked around and winced. "Christ, I hate bulk freight. Alright, I have a dolly that'll handle that and a ramp built into the truck, but I'm going to have to ask for some help here…"

     "Don't worry about it." Lucky for the poor guy, he was at mutant high. There were students who could lift something like that with their mind, or… "Piotr. Wanna give the man a hand for me?"

     Piotr looked up from where he was doing… Logan wasn't quite sure what he was up to. It involved the open hood of a car and a sketchpad, but other than that, Logan had no clue. "Da. I can easily handle that much weight." As he crossed the garage to where the man was waiting, there was a horrible screech of metal on metal as his armor appeared, making Logan wince. The poor driver looked like he was gonna shit himself.

     A few minutes later, there was a loud thump as Piotr dropped a wooden crate next to where he was working. Logan eyed it before looking at the bike. Roughly the same shape and dimensions… roughly the same weight… who out there would possibly send him something..? Had to be Marie. If it wasn't… it was probably a really big bomb and they should evacuate the school.

     Popping one claw, Logan made easy work of the nails holding the lid down. Adamantium versus steel wasn't really a contest. In no time at all, he slid the piece of wood off and stared down into the crate. And just as he'd suspected, it was the missing bike. Huh. He'd be damned. There was a note on the seat and Logan picked it up to read.

     'Hey Logan. Got better toys. Here's yours back. - Marie'

     Snorting, Logan went back to what he was doing. One-Eye's old bike could wait until he was done with what he was working on. Wasn't like he'd need it anytime soon. He paused at the rather irreverent (even for him) thought, and then went back to work.



     Cleopatra Stark watched her friend's fingers flex and relax several times, shiny metal claws extending and retracting from the tips. "You do know my father will kill me if he ever figures out I helped you. Which I'm sure he will."

     Pulling off the black glove that housed her new claws, Felicia Hardy shook her head. "Right. Your father, the man whose toys include suits of armor that can kick an entire army's ass and fly places faster than a jet, is going to be pissed that you gave a cat her claws. Get real."

     "Well, it's general principle. Giving advanced technology to you less-developed types." Felicia stuck her tongue out at that one and Cleopatra grinned. "Not to mention that the metal for just one set of claws probably costs more than your plastic surgery did, and I'm giving you both hands and both feet to boot."

     Felicia extended the claws again and raked them over Cleopatra's arm, causing a horrible screech as they played over the metal gauntlet of the armor that protected it. "Uh huh. On top of all these cool toys, Tony Stark has like… more money than God. He could buy everyone in New York plastic surgery and not make a dent in his fortune. Like he's going to miss whatever you spent on these."

     Sighing, Cleopatra took a step backward and examined her armor. No scratches, thankfully. The armor was fairly hard to damage, but they'd never matched it up against weapons made of the same metal. Now they knew what would happen. "Alright, fine. I'm worried about your little obsession, okay? I didn't say anything when you started wallpapering your room with Spider-Man articles, or when you started sneaking into those stupid fight clubs to get stronger, but this is pushing it. I've met Spider-Man. He lives downstairs, even. He's a brainiac who goes to Columbia and runs around in spandex after class. You're just going to end up disappointed."

     "Well if I want to be disappointed, that's my choice, isn't it?" Felicia scowled as she tugged her new gloves off and started stuffing things into her oversized purse. "I'm running out of mountains to climb. I'm sexy and witty enough to charm my way into any rich guy's bed, it's getting harder to find an opponent I can't beat, and I'll die before I end up holding down a nine to five, sitting in a cubicle every day for forty years. This girl needs adventure, and right now I'm going with Operation: Catch The Spider."

     Cleopatra was sorely tempted to break her oath to her father and reveal what she knew about the people behind the codenames, if only to save Felicia the trouble of pursuing a man already pursued by two others, but decided against it. Her father needed SHART here and friendly. As much as she cared about her friend's wellbeing, saving Felicia from humiliation wasn't worth the massive setbacks that SHART pulling out of Stark Tower would cause.

     A chirp from her suit's internal communicator saved her from having to deal with the situation further. Cleopatra scooped up the black helmet sitting on her workbench and headed for the door. "Listen, I can't tell you what to do. But I think this is a really, really bad idea. Okay?"

     "Whatever. It's my life." Felicia brushed past her, purse thrown over one shoulder and bulging from all the toys Cleopatra had given her that evening. "We still on for shopping tomorrow?"

     Snorting, a small smile spread over Cleopatra's lips. "Duhh. I may be MENSA girl and have an allowance bigger than A-Rod's contract, but I still can't get the hang of spending it 'properly'. Meet me here at ten. Actually, I'm not sure how long a flight we're going out for tonight. Better make it eleven."

     "Pshaw, I know you. I'll be here at two tomorrow afternoon, and not a minute earlier."

The End

You have reached the end of "What If I Stumble?". This story is complete.

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