This is just a short little ficlet Mitai requested a while back. I'm sorry I took so long, hon! This has no particular place in continuity, so pick a place. If there's a continuity error, you picked the wrong one. :) Special thanks to Persephone Kore for her continued help and patience, and to Timey and Lyssie for putting up with my spam.
Pretty much everything in here belongs to Marvel. The chains are Mitai's. Feedback is worshipped and adored at firstname.lastname@example.org
Most people would be very disturbed to wake up and find themselves chained to a wall.
Of course, most people weren't Scott Summers, aka Cyclops, leader of the mutant vigilante group known as the X-Men. He was cool under fire and a superb tactician. He'd also been thrown out of a plane as a child and raised in an orphanage run by a mad scientist from Victorian England. He'd also had his first love impersonated by a cosmic entity and killed, married her clone, and worked with his resurrected love to prevent his ex-wife from sacrificing their child to demons.
He'd spent twelve years in the 38th century raising that child, who was currently older than *he* was. He'd discovered his father was a space pirate and his... step-mother was a cat. And in between, he'd been kidnapped by or fought with virtually every mutant criminal on the planet, plus a wide assortment of aliens, demons, and unclassifiable... things that didn't really bear thinking about.
No, most people weren't Scott Summers. So when HE woke up and found himself chained to a wall, he knew there was just one thing to do.
He leaned his head back and groaned. "Sometimes I hate my life."
"How intriguing," an amused voice spoke up. "While *I* have, of course, hated your existence for years, I really didn't think you shared the feeling."
Scott *almost* opened his eyes before registering the absence of a familiar weight on his face. No glasses. Blast. Which he *would*, if he opened his eyes now.
It was probably a bad sign, Scott reflected, when you couldn't even laugh at your own jokes. Of course, the fact that he WAS joking in such a circumstance was completely Bobby's fault. He'd have to put Iceman through a Danger Room session when he got home.
Pushing aside those thoughts for now, Scott concentrated on the voice. He had a good ear for voices--something he'd developed thanks to being blind on occasion. This one sounded very similar to his son's, but with a slightly different accent. Harsher. And, even while sounding vaguely amused, bitter.
"Hello, Cyclops," the voice returned, oozing with contemptuous politeness. They might have met at a garden party.
...Stryfe at a garden party was a disturbing enough mental image to distract Scott for a moment, but he forcibly returned his train of thought to the correct track. "What do you want with me?"
"What do *I* want with *you*?" Stryfe repeated, still sounding amused. Scott wished *he* could take as much pleasure at the situation. "That's your problem, you know. Always jumping to conclusions before gathering all the facts." Stryfe clucked his tongue. "And I thought you were supposed to be a brilliant strategist."
"I'm formulating plans based on past experience. When should I expect to be fed baby food this time?" Scott spat contemptuously.
"Oh, I'm sure that can be arranged. But not by me." A bitter chuckle. "You can open your eyes, you know. I assure you, the inhibitor field in here is... disturbingly strong."
Why would Stryfe be disturbed by his own inhibitor field? Scott only puzzled over that for a moment, instead taking the time to tilt his head slightly down and out--where he'd be less likely to injure anyone if this was a trick--and opened his eyes. When a red bolt didn't immediately shoot out, he blinked a few times and then lifted his head to look around the room.
He stopped short when he saw Stryfe chained to the wall in a posture disturbingly reminiscent of his own.
He must have been staring a little TOO obviously, because Stryfe leveled a glare at him that could melt stone. "You don't have to look so amused. I didn't *have* to let you know you could see."
"I would've figured it out eventually. I'm a brilliant strategist, remember?" Scott replied dryly. "I never thought it mattered much to you what I thought."
"It might have, once." Stryfe's voice was bitterly ironic. "Don't all sons care about what their father thinks of them? Of course, *I* put that foolish notion aside when I was twelve. And besides all that, I'm not really your son anyway."
"You could have been," Scott said quietly. "If you'd given us the chance."
Stryfe snorted. "It is very easy to say that now."
"That doesn't make it any less true."
Stryfe made a derisive noise in the back of his throat. "I don't know why we insist on having this conversation every time we meet. We never accomplish anything but sore throats."
"I keep hoping someday you'll listen."
"You always were an idealist, Cyclops."
"I don't know why people keep saying that like it's an insult," Scott replied mildly. Since his vision was no longer hampered by having to keep his eyes closed, Scott turned his attention away from his fellow prisoner and opted to look around their cell instead.
It was fairly typical. He probably could've found a picture of it under "Villain's Dungeon" in a handbook. He really wished they'd run up against someone with a little more creativity occasionally. At least then it was easier to guess a person's identity. There was only so much dank stone walls and metal chains could tell you about a villain, after all. "So since we're stuck here together," Scott ventured, after he'd learned as much as he could from what he could see of their surroundings, "I don't suppose you know just who has us? And why?"
"Why should I bother sharing anything I know with you, Cyclops?"
"Because--" Scott paused to try for something that might actually make sense to Stryfe. "Well, unless I'm missing something fairly significant, you *are* stuck here too, and if I know what's going on I have a slightly higher chance of thinking of something that might get us out than if I don't."
"Oh, that." Stryfe tried to wave his hand to brush the thought away, but all he managed through the restraint was wiggling his fingers a bit. "He'll let me go as soon as I've had the opportunity to... appeal to his higher reasoning capabilities." He paused thoughtfully. "Or threaten him. Probably a bit of both, actually."
"Am I to take that to mean that you DO know who has us here?"
"Well, of course." Stryfe sounded slightly affronted. "Do you think any of *your* little pitiful enemies would manage to take *me* unawares? There IS someone, however, with a decided interest in *you* and still harbors a most unprofessional grudge towards me. Essex."
"Not *again*," Scott sighed. "I keep hoping he'll get tired of this eventually." A pause. "Incidentally," he added, trying to keep the curiosity out of his voice, "why does Sinister have a grudge against you?"
Another finger-waggling wave. "I was supposed to give him your genetic samples and released Legacy instead. Really. I was dead at the time; you'd think he wouldn't hold a grudge for so long."
"Having a grudge against you over Legacy isn't that unusual," Scott pointed out reasonably. "Most people do. That doesn't really explain why he decided to put us together like this."
"A twisted sense of humor? He still regards himself as Cable's grandfather. Perhaps he simply decided to give us a chance for a father-son chat. Bonding." Stryfe's tone was very dry. He looked up at his hands briefly and added, "Though perhaps he has that confused with bondage..."
Scott managed to mostly control the choking. "Yes, well," he managed to say neutrally after a moment, "neither one does me much good." He frowned, his fingers starting to move almost imperceptibly.
"I never realized you were so indecisive. I think I prefer it."
"As opposed to other people who can abandon their children to someone they just met, without asking if they intend to make a *clone* or anything. Or if they intend on actually bothering to take *care* of one if they made it? I prefer my own methods, thank you."
"There wasn't really time to ask a lot of questions, beyond, 'Can you save my son's life?'" Scott said through gritted teeth.
"You know what they say about history," Stryfe replied silkily. "It's written by the victors."
"I think I'm the last person I'd call a 'victor' out of that situation."
"Stryfe, you can believe what you like, but I *didn't* intend for what happened to you to happen. I would've given anything--"
"No, you wouldn't. You had that chance," Stryfe interrupted. "Cyclops, you can talk about this until you grow hoarse, it won't change what *happened*. So why waste your breath, my patience, and *both* our time?"
"Such concern for my welfare," Scott said dryly, falling back on barbed witticisms where sympathy and sincerity obviously failed. "Careful. I may start to think you like me."
Stryfe's snort was eloquent.
There was a moment of silence. Neither party had a watch handy, so they couldn't quite time it, but it extended for long enough that a rather bold rat decided to scuttle from one end of the cell to the other, disappearing in a crack in the wall. Scott shuddered slightly. "I'd've thought Sinister would take better care of his dungeons," he muttered, fingers still moving ever so slightly. "So, just out of curiosity, have you been doing anything with your time here *other* than arguing with me?"
"I wasn't arguing. I was expressing a difference of opinions. When I argue with you, Cyclops, you'll know it."
"Is this what passes for wit among you X-Men?"
"I'm sorry if I'm not up to your usual standard of co-prisoner. Or am I not allowed to say that you either?"
Stryfe glared at him with more heat than he'd shown yet in the entire exchange. "In *your* case, I will only say sorry has no meaning because you don't MEAN it! Do *not* compare me to that flonqing group of... *women*."
He pronounced "women" the way most people would say "vermin".
"Most people don't think 'women' is an insult, you know," Scott replied mildly. "And while I'd be the first to admit the Askani had their downsides, they weren't *all* bad."
"Oh yes, your precious daughter. You taught her well, didn't you?" Stryfe's voice dripped with contempt. "Tell me, was it you or your dear wife who taught her how to see people as nothing but objects? Or at least *certain* people. I suppose you'd understand that well."
"I don't see people as objects," Scott said tightly.
"No, just as stand-ins until the *real* one shows up," Stryfe snapped back. "Tell me, how long did it take Madelyne to realize *that*?"
"Madelyne was NOT a *stand-in*!" Scott snapped, every muscle going rigid. He glared at the other man for a long moment. Stryfe smirked back, acknowledging the hit.
After a long moment, Scott took a deep breath, then another, pulling himself back under control. He willed his muscles to relax again. This wouldn't get him anywhere. His fingers began to move again.
This time the silence lasted long enough that the rat poked his twitching nose out again, examined the situation for a while, then scampered out into the cell. This time he even brought a playmate. Stryfe watched the rats with a disgusted eye for a while, then finally said, "I think they're mocking us."
"You really should work on this transference issue," Scott replied mildly.
"*You* are taking this entirely too calmly. Aren't you supposed to be ranting about the injustice of the universe about now?"
"The universe never listens. I got bored."
"So you *can* learn from your mistakes."
"You were much more amusing earlier," Stryfe grumbled. "Isn't this supposed to be your milieu?"
"Getting kidnapped by Sinister or being held prisoner in general?"
"Both. Shouldn't you be doing something a little more active than just *hanging* there?"
Stryfe ground his teeth. "The room is psi-shielded and protected with an inhibitor field."
"I always thought the problem with Apocalypse was that he emphasized mutant abilities to the exclusion of more practical skills."
"I am NOT Apocalypse!"
"You're still more a product of his training than you want to admit," Scott pointed out. "Such as, for example, thinking that if your mutant powers can't get you out of a situation, you're stuck there."
"I am strong, but Essex would not be so foolish as to put me in chains I could break out of," Stryfe spat out. "I have no weapons with me. What do you expect me to do?"
"Use your head. It's your most valuable weapon, as long as you don't lose it at the slightest provocation."
"Fatherly advice, Cyclops? Don't make me laugh."
"I wasn't trying to. Should I?" Scott tilted his head to one side for a moment, then offered, "Sinister, Apocalypse, and Magneto walked into a bar--"
"Oath! Are you always like this?"
"Only on special occasions."
"I'm beginning to think you were hit in the head when Essex brought you here."
"I was hit on the head a long time ago. It probably explains a lot."
Stryfe muttered something along the lines of, "It certainly does," but it was mostly unintelligible through gritted teeth. Scott had a little smile that might be better described as a smirk on his face by the time the rats deserted them again. Stryfe looked over at him again in disgust. "I will *never* understand you X-Men. You're enjoying this entirely too much."
"It's always nice to enjoy one's work."
"Even when your work involves getting repeatedly kidnapped?"
Scott shrugged. "You can at least get used to it. And be prepared for it."
"Your preparation doesn't seem to have done you much good in this situation. And here I'd always thought Slym Dayspring could perform miracles."
"I do my best." Scott paused. "Wait. You knew I was Slym Dayspring?"
Stryfe favored him with a look reserved for the particularly dense. "Let's just say you're hardly a master of disguise, Cyclops."
Now it was Scott's turn to mutter unintelligibly.
"Very well said," Stryfe said dryly. "Now I see why Slym Dayspring was never known for his inspiring speeches."
"You don't have to act like all I did was put on a fake mustache, you know. I *was* in an entirely different body. And a different century. I thought it was a fairly effective disguise."
Stryfe sighed regretfully. "And they say you're the brains of the operation. What a sad reflection of your team."
"I always thought Hank was the brains." Scott shrugged. "I hardly think I'm going to change your mind of me or the X-Men now."
"Giving up, Cyclops? What happened to your famous persistence?"
"I got tired of it."
"So you intend to simply hang here until Essex returns or your little team rescues you?"
"Of course not."
"Oh, so you DO have a plan. Please, enlighten me."
Scott grinned. "Why should I be sharing anything I know with you?"
"Because you're hopelessly idealistic." A pause. "And too good a strategist to completely leave out my capabilities in whatever plan you're hatching."
"Your capabilities? But there's an inhibitor field."
"Sarcasm doesn't become you."
"Really? Jean thinks so." Scott was grinning broadly now.
"I'm so glad I'm amusing you."
"Really. Then you DO enjoy being kidnapped." Stryfe shook his head. "I'm so glad I'm not you, Cyclops."
"So am I. I'd much rather be me right now." There was a slight *click*, then the restraints over Scott's wrists popped open.
Scott let his arms down with a heartfelt sigh and rubbed at his wrists for a moment to restore feeling. Stryfe simply goggled at him. "What?" Scott asked innocently.
"How--how did you...?"
Another grin. "A product of my misspent youth. The Professor stopped bothering to lock doors against me after the first month."
Stryfe blinked. Repeatedly. "I thought Gambit and Storm were the thieves of your team."
Scott shrugged. "They're much better than I am," he said modestly. "But given enough time, I can usually manage."
"How nice for you," Stryfe got out from between clenched teeth, watching as Scott crossed their little cell to the door.
Scott examined it for a few moments, crouching down to look at it from every angle, then reached out and gave it an experimental push. It creaked open half an inch. "Well. I'm not sure if I should be insulted or not."
"Essex clearly has faith in his restraints and inhibitors. Or," Stryfe pointed out, "it's a trap."
"Of course it could be a trap. *Or* he could've already gotten whatever it was he wanted us for, and doesn't care much whether we escape or not. He's like that sometimes. Only one way to find out."
"Aren't you *forgetting* something?" Stryfe growled. Scott looked back at him and cocked an eyebrow. Stryfe glared back and rattled his chains for effect.
"I told you you should work on skills other than your mutant powers."
"Are you just going to stand there and gloat?"
"Of course not. I'm going to escape."
"I thought you were a *hero*, Cyclops. Leaving a fellow prisoner stranded isn't in the job description."
Scott crossed his arms and tilted his head a bit. "And yet you believe I'm the kind of person who would abandon his own son to Apocalypse?" he asked sadly. "You can't have it both ways, Stryfe."
Stryfe snorted. "Fine. I always knew what kind of man you were, Cyclops."
Scott looked at him for a long moment. "No," he said softly, "you never did."
Stryfe blinked at him in surprise when he crossed the room again and began to work on Stryfe's restraints without another word. "Should I even ask what you're doing?"
"I really thought you were more observant than that, Stryfe."
"I suppose you're up to something now."
"Absolutely. Getting out of here."
"That doesn't require *me*."
"For someone who didn't want to be left here, you're complaining a lot."
Stryfe hmphed. "Guilt always works well with you, Cyclops."
"For future reference, insulting the person who's trying to *help* you isn't really a good idea." Scott strained a little to reach the locks properly. Stryfe was taller than he was. They were practically standing nose to nose now.
Stryfe looked as uncomfortable about it as Scott was.
"You're a hero. You can't stop now."
"You know, letting villains go isn't really part of a hero's job description either. Be nice."
"Being 'nice' isn't part of a villain's job description!"
"True enough," Scott conceded with a slight grunt of effort, leaning back as the restraints popped open. It was fortunate he did, as Stryfe's arms flew to his side abruptly. Scott took another step back and said dryly, "You're welcome."
Stryfe just eyed him and rubbed his wrists, then turned and strode to the door.
"'Thank you, Scott. I really appreciate all the help.' Oh, no problem at all, Stryfe. It was my pleasure, honestly," Scott muttered as he followed.
"You might want to have these delusions checked out, Cyclops."
"So Hank keeps telling me." Scott refrained from tapping his foot impatiently behind the large man blocking the door. "All clear?"
"Yes." Stryfe took a deep breath and shook his head slightly. "In more ways than one." He looked over his shoulder at Scott, his left eye glowing slightly.
"Blast," Scott muttered, patting down his pockets. Nothing. He turned away from the door and started perusing the cell. Catching a faint glimmer in one corner, he walked over and crouched down. He picked up the mangled frames of his glasses. "Well, the frames are a mess, but the lenses are all right. This might work." He took a moment to bend them back into as close to normal of a position as he could manage, then slid them on his face. Stryfe was watching him dispassionately as he finally stepped back into the hallway. There was a slight tingle as he passed through the inhibitor field, but no red beams came crashing through the broken glasses.
"There's some spillover," Stryfe commented, narrowing his eyes slightly. "Just a bit of red around the edges."
"Well that's good. I wasn't really hoping to blast you right now."
Stryfe raised an eyebrow. "Weren't you?" he asked mildly, then turned and began stalking down the hallway.
As Scott trotted along in Stryfe's wake, he began to appreciate the benefits of a very large, moderately psychotic, heavily powered mutant. He'd been expecting a bit more resistance from the guards, but anyone who came running towards them was shortly either flying *away* or slumping to the ground where they stood. Stryfe didn't break his stride.
Ordinarily Scott wouldn't have approved of his methods, but 1.) he was in something of a hurry himself, and 2.) he knew good and well his opinion didn't matter one bit to Stryfe. So he kept his mouth shut and his eyes open for an exit.
With his telepathy restored, however, Stryfe didn't waste any time in finding the shortest route out. In this case, it was a pocket-sized hanger with a few single-person ships. "I think he's stealing our designs," Scott murmured. "I'm flattered."
Stryfe gave him an odd look and went to the nearest ship. "Looks airworthy, if not particularly comfortable. Not ALL of his Marauders are Prism's size; you think he'd accommodate."
Scott snorted. "You could mention it to him. With as many times as I've been through this, I keep meaning to write up a comment card."
Stryfe laughed, and looked immediately surprised at the sound. "An excellent idea. I'll be sure to give him one when I exact my revenge."
One side of Scott's mouth quirked up in a smile. "You do that." He popped the hatch on his own transport and put one leg inside, then looked back up at Stryfe. "...Take care."
Stryfe looked back at him and was silent for a long moment. He finally opened his mouth and said softly, "You realize this changes nothing, Scott."
"I know," Scott replied, sliding in the rest of the way. He activated the start-up sequence, then looked back up and smiled just a bit. He finished softly, "But it makes a nice change of pace."
Then the hatch was sliding closed and he was guiding the mini-jet out of the hangar and back home.