"Who's Seducing Stevie?"

by Samy Merchi



1) This material is not used for monetary profit in any manner. It is done solely for enjoyment purposes, and as homage to the great stories and characters of Marvel Comics Group

2) All the characters, events, and locations portrayed within are recognized as property of Marvel Comics Group should they so wish.

3) This story has been written by Samy Merchi <samerc@utu.fi>. Any commentary in the form of compliments or critique is welcomed, and eagerly hoped for. So go ahead and drop me a line telling me what you thought, okay? It'll make my day. ;)

4) This story is based on a scene in X-Force #19. Some dialogue is taken from that issue.

His hand tingled slightly as he unleashed the power of the sun in an immensely hot solar blast from his very hand. He watched, almost lazily at the surface of the lake as his mutant powers vaporized the water into steam. But he wasn't lazy. Not at the moment, anyway. He was lost in his thoughts. So far lost he wished he could stay there. But the silence, thus far broken only by the quiet hissing of his solar blast contacting the water, was just about to be terminated. Only to leave him with more thoughts.

"'Berto..." came a familiar female voice from behind him which he immediately recognized. It had been a long time. Maybe too long, he mused. He didn't turn his head. He knew who was there. "Stevie", was his near-emotionless reply. He wasn't really sure how to react, true, but the cause of his distance was more due to the recent changes in his life. He had too much on his mind right now to be cheerful. Too much to worry about. To brood about.

The autumn grass rustled softly under Stevie's feet as she took a few steps closer. "Still getting adjusted to this new manifestation of your solar absorption abilities, aren't you?" she asked, breaking the silence. Her tone was calm as usual, she was one of the most level-headed and down-to-earth people associated with Xavier's School. Roberto had always liked her. Ever since he had started taking dance lessons from her in Salem Center, she had started to become his reference point to the real world. Something that was -outside- the X-Mansion. Stevie hadn't even known about him or his classmates at Xavier's School For Gifted Youngsters to be mutants, let alone that the mansion also served as base for a team of senior mutants, the X-Men.

Stevie, even more than Molly Savoy, the barmaid at Harry's Hideaway, had been Roberto's guide, in a fashion. Someone he asked what was right and what was wrong. Someone that kept him on the right path. Someone whose opinions and words he respected. For the one and only reason that she didn't talk down to him. She didn't treat him as a child, even back when he had been fourteen. She had treated her as an adult, taking his worries and thoughts seriously. And never once had she let their discussions leak to other people. But now...?

His newly-augmented solar powers were something Roberto thought about a lot. All those years as a New Mutant, he had just been the strongman. He had just used his powers for what came naturally. It had never even occurred to him that there might have been other uses for his powers. But he realized it now and it worried him. If he could unleash his powers as solar blasts, what -else- could he do? If there was one way to improve his powers, couldn't there be more?

And now, confronted with Stevie's question, he merely shrugged a bit, as he shut down the heat blasting from his hand to the surface of his lake. o O (Adjusted is a good word, I suppose. Getting used to them. Learning about them. Only this time I'm in X-Force. Not the New Mutants. And I'm learning the X-Force way. Out in the world. I never liked the Danger Room anyway. It was just a game. Always just a game. And I didn't sign onto this business to play games.)

Confronted with Roberto's silence, Stevie tilted her head a bit in concern. The young boy who had always been so full of anger, so much hate. She hadn't even seen him since his father had died. How much must have happened in his life since then. And there was no one for him. No one he could talk to. How much thoughts he must be holding inside him, trying to deal with them. "When you were students here, all of you always came out here when you wanted to think things out", she noted. It seems that at least one thing about the New Mutants hasn't changed even if they all have, she thought. "Dani, Rahne... -especially- you."

With a sigh, Roberto looked downwards. She still knew him as well as she used to. Especially him. Because he had so much to talk about. No one else ever seemed to have so many problems as him. The patronizing attitude of the X-Men. The overprotectiveness of Xavier. The others never seemed to have trouble with those. And himself? he had this dark, vicious side to him, like the flip side of the coin - on the other side this noble knight he so much was pressured into being, constantly being taught the ideals of Xavier, how bad Magneto and the Hellfire Club were... And then, later, Magneto had become the -headmaster- of the New Mutants, and Storm and Magneto had -joined- the Hellfire Club. And the New Mutants had started to slowly resent that, especially Magneto. He didn't want to leave his teammates. He wanted to be a great hero. He had to stick to his good side. How naive he had been. Now, in X-Force he had learned that there are differing degrees to good and evil. It is not all black and white. They were outlaw fugitives now, and could be turned over to the authorities by Xavier any hour now. He wouldn't go quietly. And he knew the rest of X-Force wouldn't either. If they had to, they would fight their way out. He knew some of the team were more than willing to even kill the X-Men for their freedom. Would he? He didn't know,honestly.

He ran his hand thru his hair, lost in his thoughts. o O (Especially me, yes. And you know why, Stevie. You know why I always have so much to think about. It was easy for me to come out here. If I didn't want to talk to Xavier, I just came out here. He never came after us. It was an easy way to avoid him. A cold way. I know. I know it's cold. Damn it! It's just that...) He closed his eyes for a moment, and looked over his shoulder to Stevie as he opened them again. "It's cold."

"I wouldn't think you'd feel it... When you're solar charged, I mean." Stevie crouched down, sitting onto a stone beside him, looking towards the lake, the mood still silent. Tense enough to cut with a knife.

Roberto shook his head as he also looked lakewards, but in a different direction in order to avoid Stevie's eyes. "No... I meant our reasons for coming out here... They were kind of cold", he corrected. "We -knew- the professor hated running his wheelchair on the grass... It was hard for him to come all the way out here."

He paused and his head turned slowly, his attention breaking from the faraway point on the lake his eyes had been vacantly fixed on.. "So we knew he wouldn't bother... And then we could get some privacy."

A small adjustment in Stevie's position, her muscles tensing up to push her up from her sitting position. "Oh", she said silently, her eyes looking into the distance as well. "You want me to leave?" Respectful as ever, Roberto thought and was pleased. At least some things never changed. He wanted to smile at her, put her at ease. If there was someone he could talk to, it was her. But he couldn't. The smile just didn't come. He was too...detached to even make his face form any semblance of expression.

"I don't know if I even want ME to leave, Stevie", he said quietly, in slight resignation. So many stages of 'leaving'. Leaving this place, the Spuyten Dyvil Cove. Hadn't he thought enough already? There was nowhere he was really going to get with this brooding. Only action tended to help him. Which brought him to the next stage. Leaving the mansion. What was going to happen? Would the professor send his former students to jail? Would he? And if he would, what would Roberto do? Would he fight? He wouldn't go to jail. He could try to escape right now, leave the grounds and be to Salem Center before anyone would know. And from there, where then? What would he have left? Gideon? Hardly. Even if the side of 'Good' betrayed him, he won't go back to Gideon. Ever. The Fallen Angels? Maybe. Wasn't he a fallen angel himself now? And if he wasn't yet, he would be one day. But he wasn't going to leave his team here. He wasn't going to escape without them. He wasn't going to leave his best friend to serve a prison sentence. Stand or fall, he would stand by Sam.

Leaving the side of Good?

A more difficult question. One that plagued him every day. Xavier already believed X-Force to be Evil. So did the law. What did they have to lose anymore? What did they have to lose anymore...except their souls. But who defined what was Good and what was Evil? Everyone did, themselves. It was all up to individual morality codes. There was no absolute Good and Evil. There was nothing for him to feel guilty about. What X-Force did was not wrong just because it may be Evil in Xavier's mind. Roberto had seen enough of the world to realize that now. The Fallen Angels, Gideon and X-Force all had taught him different points of view. No one man could condemn other people. And he wasn't about to let Xavier condemn him. He was not the naive young boy anymore. He had run one of Brazil's largest corporations and he had done a damn good job at it. He wasn't going to be talked down to or judged by Xavier. He was a man now, who followed no one else's path. He followed his own path now, and for the moment that path coincided with X-Force's. Right now, he was still too scared to step off that path. Too afraid of what he knew was -really- his path. And so he stayed. For now.

With those thoughts, his eyes moistened slightly. "I've screwed up so much the last year...I feel as if I need someone to TELL me who to be...what to do...because I don't know myself anymore!" he mused silently. But was that the truth? He knew very well who to be and what to do, but it scared him. Scared him so much he hid it, buried it down into the deepest, darkest recesses of his soul. And tried to ignore it. Forget it. Denying his true path, and confusing himself because he didn't know which path to take if the right one was hidden. And that was why he hung back. Let other people make his decisions. Let Sam take charge of the situation. Because he is simply...lost. Alone. "LOOK AT ME!" he shouted. "Gideon manipulated me inside AND out! WHO am I going to be? WHAT am I going to do?" His frustration at the confusion, the hidden path, exploded from the palm of his outstretched hand, superheating the water near him into bubbling, boiling liquid.

Stevie leaned closer, her arms coming around him and pulling him against her. She still used the same perfume, he noticed. 'Nocturne'. And she was still every bit as soft as years ago, when they tended to practice ballet together, in private sessions after all the other students had went home. Almost every time, the passion of the music had led them close, their bodies intimately against each other, feeling the rhythm... And every time, she hadn't let it get any further. Wistfully, he leaned onto her shoulder, feeling something from those days once more.

"I don't know, Bobby..." she whispered. "I don't know what's going to happen to -any- of you..." She swallowed a bit and held him closer, her arms tightening around him. What was she going to do? Did they deserve imprisonment? Did she think so? No. She knows Sam and especially Bobby well enough to know that they wouldn't do anything unless they thought was necessary for a good cause. Well, Roberto would, given the right circumstances, but he hasn't shown any reason to start doubting him now. If she can just help him a bit...talk to him, maybe she can help him get some of his anger and hate under control. God, he looked even better these days than years ago. Almost a full-grown man. If only she wasn't over ten years older...

Roberto turned his head faintly, to look into Stevie's eyes from the corner of his own left eye. As he noticed her eyes on him, his head turned further, to face her completely. "Stevie..." he started, his hand reaching up for her face.

As she noticed his hand, Stevie turned her head away. She didn't want to give him any silly dreams to hang onto. The truth was, she was too old for him. Was there something else? Was she worried about being involved with someone who might be a fugitive from law? Not really. Stevie didn't care about the law. She knew Roberto as a person, knew what he was capable of. She didn't care what others thought, including the law. But she was worried about his constant involvement in danger, being away, maybe dead for long times, his hopping around the globe. She didn't even know where he had lived the last few months. But she doubted it was anywhere near Salem Center. "'Berto, please..." she whispered quietly, hoping he wouldn't push it. Hoping she wouldn't have to face up to her feelings.

"Trust me", he whispered in return, his hand gently coming up to her left cheek and turning her head to look back at his face. She looked so beautiful, her light, brown hair flowing in the wind, the scent of Nocturne, olive oil and raspberries filling his nostrils. He inhaled deeply, that usual flirtatious twinkle coming to his eyes as he looked into Stevie's.

"Oh, I trust you, 'Berto", she commented and pulled back a bit, that flirtatiousness having the very opposite effect as it awakened Stevie to reality, reminding her of Roberto's nature. "I just don't trust your libido, lover boy", she grinned and put one of her fingers over his lips.

As he gently kissed the finger, his left hand came up, and then came down over Stevie's forearm. Slowly, he started taking her arm downwards, the finger falling from his lips. "Trust me", he repeated, this time his eyes serious as he leaned closer, his lips parted.

This time, she didn't pull back, and her lips met his, tentatively at first, but when his arms tenderly slipped around her, to hold her, cradling her against him, she found herself giving in more and more. His lips caressed hers, with the arrogance Stevie found so amusing in someone so young. But still gentle, and loving. The kiss, first starting out as the merest brush of lips onto lips, ended up being something so much more, as man and woman both finally let long held-back passions loose, and felt themselves almost consumed in a flare of fire and heat... No, wait!

The fire and heat had been real! Stevie opened her eyes in mid-kiss, and they suddenly went wide as she pulled away. "'Berto!!" she said in alarm. The whole grass around them had caught fire, forming a ring of fire around them.

Sometimes Roberto's impulsiveness was a good thing. Such as this time. With a burst of black energies, he instinctively powered up, turning to his obsidian black form. He quickly clamped a hand over Stevie's face in order to prevent her from inhaling fire and rushed thru the ring of fire with all the power of his superhuman muscles. With a few quick paces, he was already sloshing thru the water and dove forward, immersing himself and Stevie into the water, putting out what little flames had caught their hair and clothes.

With another splash, they returned to the surface and took a deep breath of air. Roberto quickly pointed his hand in the direction of the fire, and let loose a powerful concussive solar blast, that ripped open the ground, and left a small crater in its wake, extinguishing most of the flames. The rest of them died down quickly as he went over to apply some more refined blasts.

Stevie climbed out of the water after Roberto, taking her glasses off to wipe her face as she looked around, and shook her head in disbelief. A few steps took her next to him as he started to finish up the makeshift firefighting.

"Nice work at ruining the moment, lover boy", she commented teasingly and watched the torn-up ground. "Just one more reason for us to stay away from each other, I guess", she sighed and sat back down onto the ground. "You caused that fire, didn't you?" Her eyebrow rose slightly to accompany the question. "Another aspect of your solar powers?"

Roberto nodded quietly as he turned around after making sure there were no more fires. "I don't think I even know what all I can do..." he stated and sat down, opposite Stevie. "I almost killed you with my ignorance." He looked downwards, just sighing.

Her hand descended onto his shoulder, as she moved next to him. "I understand", she said softly. A slight smile came to her lips. "I think I'm flattered, actually. Not a lot of women can make a guy hot enough to start a fire."

"You know that I care about you, Stevie", Roberto replied with still downcast eyes. He knew and she knew. They both knew the nature of their relationship and it wasn't really enough for either of them. But going further would just be a lie and they knew that too.

Stevie nodded. "You care about me. Not love." She closed her eyes for a while and then opened them, looking to her right to Bobby. "We don't love each other, Bobby. You know that, don't you?"

Biting his lip a bit, Roberto remained silent for a few heartbeats. "I...think I know, yes. A few years ago, I had a crush on you, but it's mostly gone." He smirked faintly as his eyes turned to Stevie as well. "It just tends to come back every now and then." Then, his expression got serious. "I realize that I don't love you, but I care about you very much, Stevie. You are one of my best friends." He took her hands in his. "I want you to know that whatever happens, you can always count on me being your friend."

She grinned widely. "Another attempt to seduce me?" she chuckled.

He replied with a smirk. "No, I'm being sincere. Well, maybe both."

"Now that sounds like the Roberto Da Costa I know." She winked and then suddenly pounced on him, grabbing Bobby's muscular but small frame and pushing it ahead of her back into the lake.

Surprised and having faded back out of his solar form, he was pushed back and soon both of them were in the water, Stevie pushing Bobby's head underwater, grinning widely. Quickly twisting his legs behind him, he tackled Stevie's legs with his own, sending her sprawling to the water as well. Before she could react, he was on top of her. "You are going to pay for that, Stevie", she said teasingly while coughing the water from his lungs.

The water fight soon erupted into light laughter as Stevie and Roberto kept it up almost half an hour. By the time they climbed out of the water, they were both soaking wet and more exhausted than after any dance practice. And they were happy. For once, Roberto had managed to get the dark thoughts out of his head and just enjoy life with his dear friend. But things would get worse.

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