You aren’t sure how to process what you’re hearing. And to be honest you already weren’t quite sure what to think when you had opened your front door to the two people standing in front of you now. They were both a bit strange, this girl with her pixie cut and dark lipstick stained scowl and the tall man covered in tattoos. They might have been the ones coming to you, but that didn’t seem to help with there standoffishness. Nor did the fact that what they were telling you was absolutely insane and horrifying. They both maintain straight, unchanged faces as they tell you that a man who had become interested in you was a complete psychopath and that you might be in danger because of it. Neither of them even tried to comfort you as they told you the man you’d come to mainly just come to know as a good tipper when he came in to the diner where you worked at was actually a very dangerous criminal.
You’re quick to slam the door to your apartment in their faces, assuming they were both out of their minds. You couldn’t seem to stop thinking about what all they had just told you as you locked every lock on your door before moving to sit on your couch. And more specifically about how it didn’t actually seem completely out of the realm of possibility. You had always gotten a weird vibe from this man, especially after noticing how his knuckles were often all cut up, as if he spent a lot of his time punching something, or someone. About how it would explain some of the weird stuff that had happened lately, like how you had found a bouquet of your favorite flowers randomly on your doorstep on a couple of different occasions or why he was always staring at you. It would explain why he seemed to only come in when you were working, even though he shouldn’t have any way of knowing your schedule and why he was always so rude to any of the men who worked with you, and only the men. And of course, it would explain the car with the dark windows that you kept seeing everywhere you went.
In fact, the more you thought about it the more it actually made sense that he could be exactly what they had told you he was. And the more you thought about the possibility of him actually being what they had said, being some sort of vicious mob enforcer, the more nervous and paranoid you became. You hadn’t even realized how late it had gotten, you were so caught up in your thoughts. At this point your heart seemed to be trying to beat its way out of your chest and your hands were shaking so bad that you could barely grab your keys off of the hook by your door without dropping them. Your mind feels so scattered and you aren’t even thinking through anything you were doing at this point. You don’t know where you’re going, and you had absolutely no idea what to do next. You just knew that you needed to get out of your small, constraining apartment.
Though in the end, you didn’t need to think through it much longer, because you didn’t even make it fully out of your entryway before noticing the tall man, alone this time, who was now sitting against the wall across from your apartment. He’s quick to hold his hands out in front of himself in a passive gesture when he notices the worried look placed on your face due to his presence, though you are quick to try to hide the emotion, not wanting to show this strange man any weakness. You take a deep breath before forcing yourself to speak, “W-What are you still doing here?”
He slowly pulls his large body up into a standing position before answering your question, “Someone has to be here to make sure you don’t get hurt, whether you believe us about your situation or not.”
Something about the way he says it throws you off. The monotone voice he uses and the relaxed way he is leaning his shoulder against the wall behind him makes it seem as if he couldn’t give less of a shit about you or whether or not you’re ok. Like this is nothing more than a job to him. It throws you off enough that you don’t make any move to stop him when he pushes past you and makes his way into your small apartment.
Your quick to pull yourself out of your daze though and cautiously follow him inside, though you make sure to stand close enough to the door to make a quick exit, just in case it comes to that.
“Can you prove it?” You try to keep your voice steady this time, not wanting him to know just how truly terrified you actually are. He takes a moment to look around before answering you. You watch him carefully as his eyes wander around the brightly lit apartment, taking in your large bookshelf and the photos of your friends and family that decorate the small place before allowing his eyes to wander over to you.
“I can,” he starts, his eyes staring straight into yours, an almost hypnotizing glow to them, “But, I don’t think a sweet girl like you’s gonna like what’s on the photos I have, so how bout you let me actually fully explain what’s going on and then you can decide whether or not you want to see them?”
He words it like it’s a question, like he’s giving you the choice, but the way he says it and the look he’s giving you say otherwise. So, instead of replying you just stand there, staring at him and raising your eyebrows, the closest he’s gonna get to an actual response from you. The corner of his mouth quirks up a little at your response as he walks towards your couch and sits down, making himself at home. You scoff when he gestures to the seat next to him, which gains an eye roll from him.
“If I wanted to hurt you, I would of already and that weak door wouldn’t have stopped me from getting in here. Now please, sit?” His first sentence is rough and cocky, which seems to just be his general vibe, but when he asks you to sit it’s gentler, more calming the agitating. After a moment of hesitation, you move from your spot near the door and sit on the far end of the couch from him. He nods at this before turning his eyes up towards the ceiling, trying to find the right words for what he is about to say.
“It’s not a large gang,” He starts, still hesitant, “but they have some power behind them and a very anti-mutant agenda. That’s why we started paying attention to them.” His jaw clenches as he says this, though he’s thrown off when a chuckle escapes your lips, lips that he’s already had a hard time keeping his eyes off of if he’s being honest with himself.
You’re about to explain when he starts speaking again, “Which is why you’re important. From what we’ve heard, their doing experiments on some missing mutants, most of them homeless kids they’ve picked off the street. And this guy who’s interested in you clearly doesn’t know about your mutation, I’d assume?”
You’re not able to keep the shock from your face when he says this. You didn’t how he knew about that and it worries you. You’ve tried so hard to keep it a secret. He waits a moment for you to process what he’s said before speaking again. He explains how a friend of yours had gone to his group for help after figuring out who the man from the diner – Lenny, he calls him – was. He tells her that while the not so casual stalking was already bad enough, him finding out about your powers could be worse.
At this point you have began to shake even worse than you had been earlier. He must have notice this too because he leans towards you slightly before saying in a gentle voice, “It’s gonna be ok though. We’re close to getting him anyways and until then, I’m gonna keep you safe.”
He seems to soften just slightly when he says this, though he’s quick to hide it. You don’t even know where to begin with the questions you have at this point. You don’t know whether you should ask about his plan for keeping you safe or why this group of his cares about some random mutant girl who can barely make ends meet or even who his group was, so instead you ask the question that just keeps clawing its way to the front of you mind, hoping it doesn’t sound too rude, “Why you?”
He looks away when you ask this, trying to ignore the fact that he is hurt by some random girl he doesn’t even know. You start talking again before he can answer, already feeling bad, “Not that I don’t appreciate it! I do! It’s just that-“ You stop for a second trying to find the right words, “That I don’t get why you, your group would want to help me. I’m not important or anything. And you, well honestly you don’t really seem to care all that much.”
He fails to keep himself from staring at your lips when you start to bite them, but he pulls himself out of it quickly and answers you, “We can’t exactly just sit by and let an innocent girl get hurt and I happen to be the only one free enough to watch out for you.” There’s only a little bit of malice in the way he says it, but it’s still enough for you to know that you did in fact offend him, which only makes you feel worse.
Instead of forcing the topic though, you move on and ask him your next most pressing question, “So, what’s the plan then?”
To say that the next couple of days are awkward would be an understatement. You and Zeitgeist, as he had told you to call him, didn’t exactly mesh all that well. He’s all sharp edges and bitter words, while you are much softer, gentler. Neither of you seem to be adjusting well to being around each other as much as you have to be for this to work. And of course you didn’t. You had gone from not knowing each other whatsoever to spending all of your free time together. He walked you to and from work, your internship, friend’s houses, and wherever else you were going on any given day and after more gifts had started to appear on your doorstep, he had even started staying at your place, sleeping on you couch. Which only made everything that much more awkward.
You felt bad that he was stuck sleeping on you small, crappy couch, – especially with how large of a man he is – and had been trying to make it up to him by making him breakfast and coffee in the mornings and trying to find little things in common that you guys had to talk about, but all of this only seemed to make him like you even less. He clearly isn’t much of a talker, and you get that, you really do, but would it kill him to have the occasional, casual conversation with the girl he’s stuck spending all his time with.
That wasn’t to say he wasn’t keeping up his end of the bargain. You did absolutely feel safer with him around. He was an intimidating guy and Lenny had been coming into the diner less and less lately because of it. In fact, the only times Zeitgeist had been truly kind to you were the couple of times you had become truly worried for your safety. Like yesterday when a bottle of strong smelling perfume was left on your doorstep and he had kneeled down in front of you by the couch and talked you out of an anxiety attack, carefully to give you your space, but still keeping a hand on you knee. It had been just enough contact for you to ground yourself, and it reminded you that you weren’t alone.
After that though, he barely said a word to you on your walk to the diner, only nodding along every now and then while you were talking to him. He had actually barely said anything to you since. It’s not until you get back to your place after your day at the news station you interned at that you brought it up.
“Are you mad at me?” You ask him in a small, nervous voice.
He can hear the worry in your voice when you ask him. He almost wants to coo at how sweet you sound, but is quick to remind himself that this is just a job and you are just some random girl he’s been told to protect. That this was all gonna be over eventually and then you would probably never see each other again. And he wasn’t about to lie to himself and pretend like you two were the kind of people to have any sort of unforced relationship. He knew you were both too different for that. There was no point in getting attached.
He takes a deep breath, before replying in a tight voice, “No. I don’t even talk much with my friends. What do you expect from me? This is just a job, Hannah.”
He immediately feels bad about how harsh he sounded when he sees your hurt face and the way your eyes widen at his sharp tone. He feels the need to reach out to comfort you but is quick to remind himself that getting close with you would only end with both of you hurting. The conversation comes to a quick conclusion when you mumble a quiet, “Ok.”
It goes on like that for about the next week and a half. Neither of you talk all that much, though you do continue to make him breakfast and even goes as far as to buy him a bigger blanket the next time you go to the store when you notice that the one you had given him doesn’t cover his whole body very well. You refuse to let his standoffishness affect you, choosing instead to continue to be sweet to the man protecting you. And to your surprise, it almost seemed to be working. I mean, he didn’t exactly turn into a giant sweetheart overnight, but you had started to notice a bit of a softer side to him.
You don’t know if he even knew he was showing it though. But you noticed. You noticed how he had started to hold doors open for you and how he had started to be less subtle with his protectiveness, even going so far as to occasionally rest his hand on the small of your back when you guys were in a shady area of town. And while you didn’t bring it up, you had noticed how he had thrown a blanket over you the one time you had fallen asleep on the couch while watching tv after a particularly long day, before eventually carrying you to bed when it got late. And of course, there was the fact that he could never stop a slight blush from gliding over his cheeks the couple of times you had accidently let the nickname ‘Ziggy’ pass through your lips.
Zeitgeist had noticed however, and if he was being honest with himself, it was really started to piss him off. Spending time around pretty girls wasn’t exactly anything new for him, especially since he had joined the X-Force team, but none of them had affected him the way you did.
And to be fair, your current circumstances are more than a little different than how it had been with those girls. They were normally just one nights stands that he had met in some shitty bar. He didn’t ever really get, or in some cases give himself, the chance to get to know them the way he had with you. He didn’t know their favorite tv shows or their hobbies. He had never watched them dance around their kitchens in the morning to cheery music while they made him breakfast. And if he was being honest with himself, he knew that those girls didn’t really care for him, at least not much. They were mostly just with him because he was some fucked up sort of superhero.
It didn’t feel that way with you though. I mean sure, he was only around you because of him being part of the X-Force, but you didn’t seem to idolize him for it the way the others had. You were kind to him just for the sake of being kind. You tried to have conversations with him because you genuinely wanted to, and on the rare occasion that he actually did join in, you truly listened to him, because you really cared about what he had to say.
And despite how hard he was trying, he couldn’t seem to stop himself from getting attached to you. You and your sweet smile and big e/c eyes. He just couldn’t stop himself from falling for you and your kind heart. And he hated it.
The more he recognized this, the more he tried to push you away. The way he saw it, it was better to push you away now then to have both of you become attached and just make it all that much harder when you inevitably lose track of each other. The two of you aren’t similar enough to stay close without the forced circumstances you were currently under. Or at least that’s what he though.
So, instead of just allowing his walls to get knocked down by you and your sweetness, he had started pushing back against his feelings, and therefore you harder. Which had led you both to where you were tonight.
You had only been back in your apartment for about 20 minutes when his bitter response to your question about dinner had set you off. It honestly wasn’t even the worst thing that had ever been said to you, and normally you would just let it go, but for whatever reason, today it set you off. Maybe it was the fact that your day had been an absolute trainwreck, one bad thing followed by the next, or maybe it was how little you had slept lately due to the anxiety of having a psychopathic stalker, but you finally just hit your breaking point.
“Does pasta sound ok? I haven’t really had the chance to go to the store lately, so there’s not much else to make.”
Even Axel doesn’t like what comes out of his mouth next, he just says it hoping that you’ll eventually tell him to go to hell and stop being so nice to him, “Maybe if you spent less of your time trying to force me to talk you’d of had the time.”
He knows it’s a low blow before he’s even had a chance to look at your face to see your response. He’s not expecting what you say next though.
“What in the hell is your problem with me?” You throw the dish rag you were holding down on the counter and cross your arms over your chest, “I understand that you don’t want to spend all of your time babysitting some random girl, ok! I get that, but I have gone out of my way to be nice to you and the least you could do is not be a giant asshole!”
You put your hand up to stop him when you notice him open his mouth to speak. You’re not ready to stop talking yet, even though the logical part of your brain is screaming at you to shut up, “You don’t get to just act like you’re some sort of sociopath who doesn’t care at all about the people around him, ok?! Because that’s bullshit and we both know it. You care Z, I know you do! You’re not as good at hiding it as you think you are and if you don’t knock it off, if you don’t start acting like a fucking human being, you’re not gonna have anyone left to care about because no one is gonna want to be around you!”
He can see your eyes widen when you say this last bit, clearly just as surprised as he is about how harsh you were being. He had never seen you like this before and he didn’t like it. He missed the gentle girl he had come know, who had given him her softest pillow to sleep on and who had made sure had manly smelling shampoo in her shower. But, he also knew that everything you were saying was true, whether he wanted to believe it or not. He couldn’t keep this up. And he had to start somewhere.
“Ziggy-“ He’s the one who holds his hand up to stop you this time, and it works. You stare up at him with big worried eyes.
“What?” You ask, surprised by both his strange reply and that fact that he said in such a calm voice, when you had half expected him to start yelling at you.
“My name, my real name. It’s Axel. Axel Cluney.”
And it’s a small start, but a start nonetheless.
Opening up to people hadn’t ever really been Axel’s strong suit, though he does have to admit, it is at least a little bit easier with you. Once he had finally decided to give you a chance anyways. You were easy to talk to and a quite a good listener, not that he talked all that much still. Though, he did join in on conversations quite a bit more now. He had even started to open up to you about his personal life. He tells you about the auto shop he owns and about how he had joined the X-Force team. He eventually even opens up to you about how he had found out about his powers in the first place, about the girl whose face he had burned as a teenager, though it does take a night of drinking shitty beer at your place before he tells you all about that one.
Nights like tonight had become pretty common place lately. Nights where you get home from work and order a pizza or some takeout instead of actually cooking. Nights where you both just chill out, binge watching some sci-fi show or playing some random video game. You quickly learn that Axel is incredibly good at first person shooter games, to the point that playing them with him can be almost annoying.
Tonight, the two of you are slumped on the couch watching the most recent season of The Walking Dead and eating sloppily from cartons of orange chicken and lo mein. You eat in silence for a while. The quiet is only interrupted a few times, like when you start fangirling over just how badass Michonne is and when he makes a comment about being hotter than Daryl is while covered in grime, which makes you giggle. At some point during the night, after the food is long since forgotten, you had wound up laying on your side on the couch with your feet in his lap and his hand gently rubbing up and down your calves. Small moments of affection like this has become a regular occurrence between the two of you. Almost mindless even. Some things hadn’t changed though.
You’re still careful not to refer to him by his real name in public, instead just sticking to little nicknames that still make him blush a little, like Z or Ziggy. And he had even slipped up a few times recently, letting pet names like Sweetheart and Angel roll off his tongue before blushing just a little and looking away. And his protective nature had only gotten all the more obvious. He keeps his hand on the small of your back most of the time that you two are out and about and is quick to stare down anyone he sees as a threat, namely Lenny.
And you don’t know if it’s because he’s scared of Axel or just because he doesn’t want anything to do with anyone assorted with such an obvious mutant, but the gifts stop coming. They are instead replaced with glares and snarled insults when he comes into the diner and you still see the same car around enough to know that whatever this is, isn’t over. So Axel continues to stick around and as you get to know him more, you can’t stop yourself from developing feelings for the man sitting underneath your legs at the moment.
You honestly can’t help yourself the more he shows his softer side around you and the more you realize that he really is just a gentle giant with a tough outer persona. And you can’t help but feel incredibly special that he’s willing to let down that persona for you.
You don’t realize that you’re staring at him until he does, when he turns his head to look back at you and gives you one of his rare, sweet smiles. You heart flutters at this and you almost want to kick yourself for letting this man turn you into a blushing school girl. He gives your leg a gentle squeeze before turning back to face the tv again.
Nights like this make you almost want to ask him what this unspoken thing between the two of you is, but you never do. You fear that bringing it up will throw off whatever this is. That your straightforwardness with scare off this kind man who was just starting to open up to you. Or even worse, that he won’t know what you’re talking about at all. What if he doesn’t feel the same way and is instead just a really affectionate guy with the people he is close to and only thinks of you as a friend? It would break your heart to lose him, and whatever you to have, so instead you just keep your mouth shut and enjoy moments like this when you have them. When your lucky enough to be near him and have his affections all focused on you.
You and Axel aren’t often very far apart when you aren’t at your separate jobs. Today though, he had had to walk off for a few minutes to take a private phone call from Wade, so he had left you sitting at a small table at your favorite coffee shop with some papers for your internship to look over while he stood outside and talked on the phone. You glance out the window to check on him and find him looking back at you with his phone still pressed to his ear. It’s clearly not a very happy phone call, so you send him a little smile and wave. He sends you back a small, timid grin but is quickly back into his phone call, so you go back to reading your papers.
Your eyes are drawn back away from your papers once again when the barista meanders over to your table and gives you a polite grin before asking if you need a refill. You decline, explaining to the young man that you should be heading out soon.
“Wells that’s a shame. ‘S always nice to have such a pretty face around here.”
You blush a little at his unasked-for compliment and thank him awkwardly, looking back towards Axel to see that he is still on his call. The barista, David his nametag says, continues to stand in front of you, a small grin still stretched over his tan face. He is attractive, that’s for sure, but something about having another man flirt with you seems wrong. And, of course, you know this is ridiculous. That there probably isn’t anything real going on between Axel and you and you know that you’ve probably just built it up in you head, but it still feels like you’re his somehow.
“What’s your name, beautiful?”
You once again hesitate a bit before replying, deciding that there was absolutely nothing wrong with one little conversation with the hot barista. Your voice is slightly less confident when you answer than you would like it to be, “Hannah. I’m Hannah.”
“David,” He says with a cocky smile, holding his hand out to you to shake.
Axel comes back in less than a minute later to find David flirting with you and you replying with forced laughs and kinda awkward jokes back. He heads straight towards you table, before coming to a stop right next to your chair, his shoulders back and arms crossed.
“Sorry that took so long. You ready to go, Angel?” He tries hard to keep the jealousy out of his voice, especially since he himself isn’t quite ready to admit that that is indeed what he is feeling.
You nod quickly, ready to get out of this uneasy situation and give David a quick smile before standing up and following Axel out the door. Neither of you try all that hard to start up a conversation on your way back home. The air between you two is tense, though not tense like it was before he had told you his name. It’s different this time.
His demeanor isn’t distant like it was back then. His hand is still resting on your back like it had been lately, his other one hanging in a fist at his side and his chest is puffed out a bit more than normal. He seems almost…jealous. You’re a bit shocked when you come to this conclusion honestly. He never seemed the possessive type to you, though you can’t say your entirely disliking this side of him.
He shuts your front door a bit harder then normal when you both step into your apartment and that’s when you finally decide to bring it up. “Is everything ok, Axel?”
Hearing you call him by his real name still did something to him, even though its been a while since he told you it and it’s still somehow enough to calm him down slightly.
“Yeah, why wouldn’t I be?”
You can barely stop yourself from rolling your eyes at this, and are quick to realize that if you wanted this actually resolved, you were gonna have to do it yourself.
“No, I don’t think you are.”
His eyebrows raise, and he can’t stop himself from letting his more defensive side get ahead of him. “Of really, sweetheart. And why’s that?” He crosses his arms back over his chest subconsciously.
“Because,” you stop for a second, unsure of how to fraise it, before deciding to just go for it, “I think you’re jealous.”
His eyes widen a bit, but you start speaking again before he can say anything, “And honestly, I don’t think you have the right to be.”
Your demeanor had started to imitate his and your arms had also made their way to cross over your chest. Though he uncrosses his just a moment later and scoffs slightly before running one of his large hands through his already messy hair. Axel isn’t used to being left speechless and he definitely doesn’t like it. But, at some point he knows that he has to just deal with the fact that you have some sort of crazy effect on him, because in all actuality, he kind of loves it.
His hands move to rest on his hips before he finally finds his voice again, “And how did you come to this conclusion?”
You take a deep breath before answering, forcing them out despite the anxiety they are causing you, “Well, you haven’t exactly claimed me in any way that would give you the right to be upset that another guy was flirting with me, now have you?”
His head tilts a bit to the side at this and he narrows his eyes at you. His long legs move him towards you slowly, careful to give you enough time to tell him to back off before he stops to stand directly in front of you, forcing your back against the wall behind you. “And is that what you want, Angel?”
Air catches in your throat at his gruff whisper, but you force yourself to nod. That is what you wanted anyways, to be his and have him be yours.
He has to lean down to get close enough to kiss you, mumbling a quietly as he does so, “Have it your way then.”