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On Milkshakes and Mutants

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Parker doesn’t use her power.

Parker has made a career out of not using her power.

When she was nine, she was in a foster home with seven other children and one of them, Owen, who was older and bigger and stronger, ordered them all around. Fetch me a glass of water, do my homework, clean my room, make my bed, eat that worm, do something funny.

And if you didn’t do it, he hit you, or hurt one of the really small ones and made them say you did it.

Parker hated him.

Her power is too much like Owen for her to be comfortable with, to use it. So instead of making people give her things, she takes them.

It’s much more exciting than just ordering them, anyway.

So she travels around the world, takes whatever she wants with her skills, not her power, doesn’t use it for months and years and eternities and it’s okay. It’s good. Parker is Parker, and she’s weird, but she’s not a freak and she doesn’t make people do stuff.

Well, okay. She does. But not in that way. She bats her lashes at Hardison like Sophie showed her and she punches Eliot in the shoulder and tells him, “But I want to,” and they both help her rob an art gallery on a weekend on nothing but a whim and a ‘pretty please’.

But that’s not a power, that’s not cheating, that’s just because they’re Eliot and Hardison and they’re her boys and they do a lot of stupid stuff for her, just like she does for them.

She lets Eliot rant about that one cooking show he hates and tries out Alec’s gadgets for him and when he hides behind a screen too long, she throws him off a building and then leaps after him and when Eliot gets hurt, she wraps herself around him very carefully, her back to the door, for once, to keep watch so he can sleep and heal.

That’s feelings and Parker isn’t very good at it, but good enough for them.

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And that’s the problem. Feelings.

Because the job goes wrong, Sophie and Nate are trapped and cut-off and there are half a dozen thugs holding half a dozen gun to Alec’s and Eliot’s heads. Alec has no tools and Eliot can’t reach them because they’re professionals, staying out of range and there is nothing anyone can do, nothing, nothing, nothing and the boys are going to die, holes in their heads and their faces gone and Eliot will never feed her again and Alec will never spend all night letting her beat him at Halo again and Parker will be alone again and no.

No.

So she drops out of the air vent, ignores Eliot’s scream for her to leave them, leave them, run, and turns to face the bad guys. Well, the worse guys.

“Drop the guns,” she says and she lets it into her voice, the other, the weird and the men’s eyes go glassy.

“Drop them,” she repeats, and they all do, their gazes unfocused and Parker bites her lip and keeps going. “Go to the wall. Face it. Sit down. Put your head between your knees and stay there until you’ve counted to ten thousand. Slowly.”

She gives them a shove with her mind, with her power, with it and they all turn and walk to the wall and sit down and put their heads between their knees and start counting and Eliot and Hardison are staring at her, but Parker just shakes her head and says, “Sophie and Nate.”

And they’re off to save the other two, Eliot beats a few people up and Hardison blows something up a little and then everyone is free and okay and alive and they drop Nate and Sophie at the bar and Alec opens his mouth to ask and Eliot’s gaze settles on her like a weight and Parker lunges out of the car and runs.

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She doesn’t run home because the boys know where that is (stupid) and she doesn’t go to her safehouses because the boys know where those are (stupid), doesn’t even rob one of her stashes because they boys know where those are, too (stupid).

Instead she runs until they stop chasing, runs some more and then pickpockets a dozen people in under five minutes, enough cash to get her out of town, because she knows what happens now.

Her power is scary.

It even scares Parker herself, so of course it scares them, too. She could make them do anything. And how can they know she hasn’t already? Maybe she made them do all kinds of things and then made them forget it. She could.

She never would, but they don’t know it.

Her power is scary and it’s creepy and Parker hates it and now they’ll hate it too.

So it’s better if she just goes.

But first she needs something to eat, because using her power makes her tired and hungry and exhausted and if she doesn’t eat, she might pass out and that’s a problem.

It’s late, so she finds a random fast food joint, doesn’t think about Hardison, orders two burgers, large fries and a milkshake and sits down.

Eats.

She’s on the second burger when a guy with really weird sunglasses and a woman with white hair sit down across from her.

“Hello, Parker,” the woman says, and Parker draws her legs under her, tenses to run.

The man raises both hands. “Please, we’re only here to talk. We mean no harm.”

“We’re like you,” the woman says.

“Like me?”

“Mutants,” she woman says. Her voice is soft and her accent is like when Alec tries to do African businessman and overshoots again, but more melodic. It’s a nice voice. Parker doesn’t fall for it.

“I’m not a mutant,” she says, reflexively. Never admit anything.

“Yes, you are,” the man says. “the Professor felt your power and sent us to find you.”

Professor? That doesn’t sound good. Parker puts down her burger. The woman reaches over the table and Parker jerks back hard enough to almost spill her shake. The woman withdraws.

“Sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you. I’m Storm, and this is Scott. We’re mutants and we live in a place where it’s safe for people like us. A school. The professor is a telepath and he felt what you did today. He said your powers work a lot like his, and if you want to, he can teach you control.”

Parker almost snorts. She has control. She just doesn’t use her power. That’s control enough. And if that Professor guy hasn’t noticed her until now, well. It works, obviously. If it ain’t broke, Eliot would say, why try and fix it.

“I don’t need help,” she counters.

Scott does snort, obviously not believing her. He’s stupid. Storm seems nicer. “Everyone needs help. The school is a great place, Parker. It’s full of people like us, and you wouldn’t have to be scared. You’d be among friends.”

She looks like she wants to say more, but a deep voice from behind Parker growls, “She’s got enough friends. So scram.”

Parker looks at Eliot, who’s standing there in full battle mode, frowny face and balled fists and all, and Alec is looming behind him, looking almost as dangerous and Parker eeps. She’s not proud of it.

“Don’t beat them up,” she tells Eliot. “I think they’re good guys.” Because they offered help and they talked about a school and they weren’t lying. She can tell that they weren’t lying.

He snarls at her. “Don’t care. They ain’t taking you anywhere, girl.”

Scott doesn’t like that, “I think that’s Parker’s decision, not yours, whoever you are.”

“Yeah, well, no,” Alec counters, shouldering up beside Eliot. “I’m all for Parker doing whatever she wants, but not when she’s being dumb and she’s being dumb right now so no. You can’t have her. So scram before my very angry friend here loses his cool and folds you into a pretzel.”

For emphasis, Eliot slides one foot back into a ready position and throws his hair.

“I’m sorry,” Parker blurts. “But I had to, they were going to shoot you and I couldn’t let them do it and I promise I’ve never done it to you, please don’t be mad, I’m sorry!”

Her voice sounds too high-pitched at the end and Parker almost cringes because she’s not nine anymore. Storm makes an angry noise behind her and Parker spins to keep everyone in her sight and away from her back.

Hardison instantly softens. “We never thought you did, Parker. You wouldn’t do that. That why you ran?”

They don’t think she used her power on them? “But you looked angry?”

Eliot doesn’t take his eyes off Scott. “Because you were stupid and dropped into a room full of armed thugs, Parker. Not because you saved our lives. And not cause you’re a mutant.”

She flinches. Alec deflates completely and nudges past Eliot to squish into the booth next to her, stealing her shake. “Idiot,” he tells her fondly, wrapping his free arm around her. “You’re a bag of crazy, but you’re our bag of crazy.”

Storm opens her mouth to protest, maybe, but Parker shakes her head. “So it’s okay?”

“Yeah,” Eliot answers. “Running off though, that ain’t.”

He finally stops trying to kill Scott with his eyes and looks at her instead. “You don’t go runnin’ off, darling.”

“Sorry.”

“Parker, the school,” Scott starts again. He still looks angry at the boys. Parker gets it. Eliot can be scary, sometimes.

“Xavier’s?” Eliot asks suddenly.

Surprised, Storm nods. “Yes. You know it?”

“Logan still up there?”

She nods again.

“Tell him Spencer said hi. Fucker still owes me a beer.”

Then he shoves Alec into Parker and squeezes into the seat with them.

“Parker should be with her people,” Scott says because Scott is apparently a) a poophead and b) really grumpy. Parker doesn’t like him.

Alec pulls Parker into his side. “She is,” he says simply and he’s warm and smells like sweat and orange soda and Alec and Parker knows he’s really not mad at her.

She cranes around him to look at Eliot, who’s mopping up burger sauce with her leftover fries. He catches her look and winks. Not mad either.

She knows they’ll have to talk about it, because Alec is involved and he always wants to talk, but it’s okay.

They don’t hate her.

Parker steals her milkshake back, takes a long pull from the straw, smacks her lips and tell the other two mutants, “I’m staying with the boys. Never liked school anyway.”

Scott frowns, Storm smiles and Alec tries to get the milkshake again. She smacks his hand away and drains it in one go, even though the brain freeze is terrible. Eliot just rolls his eyes at them and complains that the fries are soggy and overly salted.

It’s okay.

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