"Wow, Ardor! Somebody's ready for a public appearance!" Voltage grins when she sees me. "You look great."
"Thanks." I blush at the compliment. I hope she's not just being nice, because I just spent a good forty minutes in a public restroom working on my hair and makeup. It better be worth all the gasps and horrified looks I got from the stream of angry women queued up outside when I left in full uniform.
"Where's Pyro?" She asks, searching the area. "Shouldn't he be here by now?"
"I don't know." I reply bluntly.
"Ask him?" She suggests, as if it should be obvious.
"Oh, yeah. Sorry." I close my eyes to strengthen our connection. "John. Where are you?"
"I'm on my way." Is his stern reply.
"He's coming now." I tell her quietly.
"What's up with you two?" She eyes me suspiciously. "Did something happen last night?"
"No." I snap back, a little too bluntly.
"Okay," She elongates the word, showing her doubt at my answer. "Oh crap!"
"What? What is it?" What's wrong? Has something happened with the plan?
"Umm... A certain mutant supergroup may be standing about fifty feet to your right." She fiddles with the bottom of her mask nervously.
"What?! The X-Men are here?" Anger and pain emerge in my chest at the sight of the blue and yellow uniforms of my old teammates.
"Ardor, we're here for a valid reason that does not involve them." Voltage steps closer to me in an almost protective manner. "Just ignore them."
"Okay." I agree, but I don't think it's that simple. This is the first time I'm seeing my friends since I ruined everything with them. It's difficult to simply ignore that.
"You wait here for John; I'm going to set up." She smiles reassuringly. It's strange to think how much I used to dislike this girl, and how much our relationship has changed in the last twenty four hours.
"Sure." She leaves. I am now alone. In a public place. In an outfit that would publicly out my as a mutant even if I wasn't already a wanted criminal. I didn't really think this through.
Beginning to panic, I slip into the thick crowd, hoping that I won't stick out so much here.
"Hey! It's her, the mutant!" Someone yells.
"Everyone, run!" A woman squeals. Crap. This was a bad idea! I walk faster through the crowd, turning back to check that I'm not being followed. I'm not. They're all running scared.
Suddenly, I crash into someone. Two strong, yet familiar hands grasp my shoulders as I try to get away. I squeal as I am pulled around a large tree, away from the commotion. I push the hands from my shoulders.
"What the hell do you think you're-" My words are cut off when I see the face above me. "Scott..."
"Why are you wearing your X-Men uniform?" He asks bluntly. "And what have you done to your hair?"
"It's not my X-Men uniform." I shrug, before turning my attention to my hair, brushing my fingers through it, suddenly self-conscious. "I dyed it. Don't you like it?"
"What are these?" He takes hold of my wrist, spotting the burns. I yank my arm from his grasp.
"Burns." I say dismissively. "What's wrong with my hair?"
"You can't be burnt." He states. "And no, I don't like your hair. It's not you."
"How do you know what's 'me'? I'm not the same girl you fell in love with, Scott Summers!" I snap back. I don't mean it. But building up my walls is easier than admitting to him how much I'm falling apart inside.
"You're right, you're not the girl I fell in love with." His words are like a knife in my heart. "Why are you here, Ardor?"
"I could ask you the same the same thing, Cyclops!" Using our code names seems to help keep the distance between us.
"You're not an X-Man anymore, Ardor. So, that doesn't concern you." His reply is curt, almost rude. "Anyway, I don't know what you're doing, but you shouldn't be here."
"You don't own me." I growl.
"No, but I still love you. Even though that makes me a total idiot, I do." He confession takes me by surprise. He's so open. "And that's why you need to leave. You're not safe in public. Especially today."
"I can't go." I am conscious that my emotions are starting to show through in my voice. "I'm here with someone."
"Who?" His defensiveness is obvious. As if on cue, Voltage stumbles through the tree branches.
"Finally! I've been looking for you every-" She stops when she sees Scott. "Where..."
"Her?" He raises his eyebrows. "The girl who pushed you out of an eighth story window?"
"I wanted a team. She was there." My voice is smooth, professional.
"So, that's why you're wearing that outfit?"
"Yes." Is my simple reply. I can't keep this up much longer. Being around him is tearing me apart.
"Is there a problem here?" John's voice beside me makes me jump. He wraps his arm around my shoulders. I turn my face away from his, embarrassed at the contact.
"You've got to be kidding me?" I notice Scott's body tense.
"Scott, you don't understand. He was just-"
"Did he do that to you?" He asks, taking my wrist again.
"That's none of your business!" I snap, pulling my hand to my chest.
"Come on, Summers." John sounds smug. He squeezes my shoulders slightly. "You dated a pyrokinetic, you know what happens when we get... Passionate."
"Get away from her." Scott growls.
"Why should I? You left her." John places a light kiss on my check. I look up at the sky and take a deep breath - this is not going to end well.
"John, stop it." I order telepathically.
"That doesn't mean she should be with you!"
"Can you stop talking about me like I'm an object? Jeez! I don't belong to either of you!" I yell, more than irritated by their bickering.
"True." John's satisfied smile grows. "By he wasn't the one in your bed last night, was he?"
"Shut up!" Scott's entire body is tense now. It amazes me that he hasn't already punched John in the face... Or worse. I have to admit, even I have the temptation.
"Pyro, I think we should go." Voltage speaks up. "I think these two have some stuff to discuss."
"Don't bother." Scott cuts in. "I'm leaving."
"Scott! Wait!" I beg, the desperation clear in my tone.