kaydeefalls: angel will charge double for both (double for both)
[personal profile] kaydeefalls
So I kind of adore Angel Salvadore, guys, for all the tragically short shrift she got in the movie. So, yeah.

Title: how the west was won
Author: [personal profile] kaydeefalls
Fandom: XMFC
Rating: PG-13
Characters: Angel (+ Magneto, Emma Frost, Mystique, Bolt, Storm, others)
Warnings: references to prostitution, abuse, 1960s racism
Disclaimer: Not mine, no profit, don't sue.
Summary: Angel has never been anyone but herself.
Notes: Written for [livejournal.com profile] femgenficathon. Huge thanks to [livejournal.com profile] pocky_slash for the beta! (Also available on AO3.)

Prompt: 92) Mankind's greatest gift, also its greatest curse, is that we have free choice. We can make our choices built from love or from fear. -- Elisabeth K├╝bler-Ross (1926-2004), Swiss psychiatrist, non-fiction author, supporter of hospice care and AIDS lecturer, best known for her delineation of the Five Stages of Grief.


When the others all joked around about code names -- seriously, Havok? -- she told them her stage name was Angel. That was true. She didn't mention that it was also the name her mother gave her at birth. Angel has never been anyone but herself.

*


She never killed anyone during her brief time with Shaw. For all that he relished the opportunity to show off his explosive energy, he rarely dirtied his hands with it. Emma Frost had been his favorite for inflicting pain, she was told; then Riptide for intimidation, and Azazel for certain death. She's not sure what place she held in their hierarchy. Temptation, perhaps.

On the fourth day of Magneto's leadership, a soldier tries to prevent their access to an arms facility with his machine gun. Angel spits a fireball right into his face. She didn't intend to kill him, just to stop him, but fire is a volatile element. He dies screaming.

Angel feels Magneto's hand rest on her shoulder for a moment, warm and heavy. "Your first kill?" he asks quietly. He sounds almost sympathetic.

She stares down at the melted face of the dead soldier. "No," she says.

*


Angel flies on dragonfly wings and spits fireballs. When her powers manifested, she was fourteen, cornered in the high school bathroom by three senior girls who thought she was trying to steal one of their boyfriends. She accidentally destroyed the wall and part of the classroom next door. The school expelled her for arson because they didn't know what else to call it; her mother called her a demon and threw her out of the house.

Her older brother Rico was already making a name for himself on the streets. He took her in and told her she was beautiful and that he knew some guys who would pay a lot of money to meet his beautiful sister.

*


After the instinctive diamond reaction, Emma Frost doesn't look particularly surprised to see them in her prison. She only has eyes for Magneto, but Angel can feel her sending out tendrils of telepathy, probing lightly at the edges of Angel's mind. Her touch is subtle, but one of the first things Xavier taught them at the CIA was how to recognize the intrusion of another mind within their own.

Of course, Angel had left before she'd learned how to block it.

Sebastian was quick to replace me in his affections, I see. Emma's mental voice is dispassionate as she rifles lightly through Angel's recent memories. How unsurprising.

Angel doesn't react. Shaw's attentions hadn't particularly bothered her. His fascination with her wings had bordered on the fetishistic, but he had never hurt her, and that was better than most. And if Emma means to call her a whore, she'd best look to her own glass house before casting that stone.

Diamond, actually, Emma remarks, coolly amused. But you don't seem to be spreading your legs for Erik. I suppose it's no longer a job requirement?

Angel can't help but think of Erik as she first met him, sprawled casually across the bed in her club, his shoulder brushing Xavier's. She'd wondered, then, why on earth they'd bothered hiring her.

Ah, Emma murmurs. So that's how it was. And when she offers her hand to Magneto, it's with a rare smile.

*


When Angel was fifteen, one of her johns fell in love with her. He was too young himself, a newly enlisted Army private, with pale, pale skin and a shock of freckles. He said things like what's a girl like you and take you away from all this like he meant them, like no one had ever thought to say such things before. The night before he shipped out (Korea? West Germany? Vietnam? She can't remember), he held her tight and kissed her breasts and promised he'd come back for her, he'd come back, he'd come back.

Maybe he did. Maybe he's still searching.

*


Mutant and proud, Mystique says, but she still plays the pretty, privileged white girl when she walks down a city street. Once she tries to bond with Angel, appropriates a black woman's skin and invites her out shopping in Chicago. Angel deliberately lets her lead the way onto Michigan Avenue, follows her thoughtless path into all those fancy department stores, and lets Mystique discover for herself what it is to be a minority.

Within an hour, Mystique is withdrawn and tired, and they call Azazel to come pick them up discreetly from an alleyway. She rallies quick enough afterward, her outspoken passion for civil rights newly rejuvenated, but she never tries to mimic Angel's skin tone in public again.

Mystique likes to complain about how Charles used to force her to hide all the time. Like she isn't hiding still. Like she doesn't get what a luxury it is to be able to hide at all.

Angel thinks about her own big brother, how much he loved to show off every last inch of her, and is suddenly, fiercely jealous. Charles Xavier did everything in his power to keep his sister safe. He was kind of an asshole about it, yeah, but still. Mystique has no fucking clue what she gave up when she walked away from him. When he let her walk away, allowed her the freedom of her own choice.

But Angel would have chosen the same herself, so who is she to judge?

*


Angel was sixteen the first time she killed a man. He was one of Rico's rivals, a swaggering Chicano pimp who didn't like that the Salvadore siblings came from a black momma. That was bad news, he said; didn't want none of them negroes nosing in on his territory. Bad for business.

Rico was good with a knife, but the other pimp was faster. Turned out, Angel was faster still.

Knives don't deflect acid.

*


Emma doesn't have Xavier's mental reach or Hank's device, but under Magneto's encouragement, she's developing her own methods of finding other mutants. When the two of them go out on a recruitment drive, Magneto brings Angel along with them.

"If you're trying to charm them, you should take Mystique instead," she points out -- not arguing, just stating a fact. "Everybody loves her tricks."

"I'm not interested in seduction," Magneto says, eyes distant. (We'll show you ours, if you'll show us yours, Erik whispers in her head; she wonders how far Magneto's willing to run from himself.) "I'm recruiting soldiers, not doe-eyed teenagers."

She wonders who that's supposed to be a dig at.

The first mutant they find is a quiet man working in a circus in Ohio. Emma links her arm with Magneto's and walks right on past his booth, giving Angel a mental nudge. Showtime, sugar. Holler if you need us.

The booth is just a tiny tent covered in electrical gadgetry, with a large light bulb burning front and center. When Angel stops and gives the mutant a smile, he returns it with disarming shyness. "Three tries to turn off the light," he tells her. His accent reminds her of Xavier's.

She glances around. It's a slow night, no other customers nearby. And Emma's probably diverting stray attention elsewhere anyway. "Nah," she says. "I'd rather let it burn. You know what they say about moths to a flame."

When she unfurls her wings, his smile never fades, but it shifts into something soft and sad. "Ah, sweetheart," he says, "what's a girl like you doing in a place like this?"

"There's a war coming," she tells him.

"There always is," he agrees. "That's how the West was won, you know."

He rests his palm on the hot bulb and it blinks out along with most of the electricity in the immediate vicinity, abruptly plunging his little corner of the fairgrounds into darkness. She blinks rapidly to regain her night vision, but he's already gone.

The next mutant they try to recruit is a small, vicious man who can project illusions. He taunts Angel with visions of what war really is until Emma coldly knocks him out with the much stronger force of her own mind.

"We could use him," Magneto points out dispassionately.

"We will," Emma says, pressing her fingertips to the unconscious mutant's skull. "But let me work on him first."

Neither of them check on Angel. She's never been scared off by the truth, after all. War is ugly and real, and she's barely even tasted it so far. She didn't need an illusionist to tell her that.

*


She ran away from Rico when she was seventeen, stole enough cash to get her across the California-Nevada border. Las Vegas was just as glitzy as Los Angeles on the outside and just as ugly underneath. But her third week in, she caught the eye of a nightclub owner who said he liked the fire in her eyes, offered to take her away from all this.

'All this' meant the dimly-lit alleys where a hundred other girls just like her wearily paraded their wares to disinterested johns; the strip club was a step up, she guessed. At least she was indoors, and her knees didn't get dirty on the red velvet couches.

He took just as big a cut of her earnings as Rico ever did, and she'd never had to suck Rico's dick, but the pay was still higher and she was given much nicer clothes to take back off again. She tried to tell herself she was moving up in the world, but Angel never had much interest in lying to herself.

Not moving up, then, but moving on. Fresh start. No one in Vegas knew she was a killer, anyway. That was something.

*


It's three months after the Cuban beach before the Brotherhood hears the full story of what happened to Charles Xavier. Mystique reverts back to her blonde disguise for a day, pale with shock and belated grief; Magneto rages in the privacy of his metal chambers while Emma rolls her eyes and mutters that she's never been so glad of his ridiculous helmet. "Casualty of war," Azazel says with a shrug, and Riptide clearly agrees. Xavier's their enemy. Who gives a fuck?

Angel does feel a sort of detached sympathy, but let's face it: Xavier's a mind-reader. He doesn't need his legs.

She still hasn't forgiven Havok for burning her wings.

*


Angel was eighteen when she moved up from the back rooms to the dance floor. Classier clientele, and they paid just to look at her, not to touch. Well, sort of. She charged extra for touching.

"Beautiful tattoos," a high-roller told her once, voice slurred. "You're a work of art, sweetheart."

"You can taste 'em for fifty bucks," she replied with a coy smile. He did. She closed her eyes and imagined snapping her wings out at him, wondered if the edges would cut into his face.

*


There's an anti-mutant riot in Cairo; the Brotherhood is there within the hour, thanks to Azazel. Why it happens first in Egypt, of all places, Angel will never know.

She's never seen a lynch mob before.

Angel doesn't speak Arabic, but the angry cries are recognizable in any language. And this isn't all street rabble; she sees wealthy men, educated men, some even in Western dress, hurling rocks and curses with all the rest.

"Witch!" one man cries in English when she flies up over the crowd. "Devil! Witch!"

The bulk of the mob focuses on a tight knot of five adult mutants, all with very visible mutations; Angel doesn't think any of them are native Egyptians, wonders what brought them here. Magneto dives right into the melee, hurling cars and bullets left and right, with Azazel and Riptide close at his heels. But there are more scattered throughout the crowd, Emma tells them, some blending in better than others. Mystique nods and slips in among the rioters, searching their brethren out.

Emma grabs Angel's arm. "There's a child--" And then her eyes grow wide and she shifts into diamond, harder than rock and glittering. At first, Angel assumes they must be under attack, but -- "Xavier," Emma says through gritted teeth. "And his people. They're here."

"The child," Angel says impatiently, though something tightens in her throat. Her wings have fully healed now. If Havok thinks he can burn them again, he'll have another thing coming.

"By the mosque doors," Emma tells her, and Angel goes.

The child is no more than eight or nine years old, a slender girl with pale coffee skin and snow-white hair, curled in on herself in the doorway and shaking. When she starts to cry, the sky above them opens in a sudden storm. Angel kneels down beside her in the downpour and rests a tentative hand on the girl's shoulder. "Hey there, sweetheart," she says softly. She doesn't expect the kid to understand her words, but any frightened child responds to a soothing voice. "You okay?"

"They're so angry," the girl sobs, in halting, accented English. She's educated, Angel realizes in surprise, then notices the smooth silk of the girl's torn dress, the fine leather of her mud-spattered shoes. A little rich girl, ripped from her parents in the mob -- or deliberately abandoned here. "Why is everyone so angry?"

Angel wraps her arms around the child and rocks her back and forth, gently, gently. "It's all right," she lies. "Everything's gonna be all right. What's your name, honey?"

"Ororo," the girl whimpers. She slowly calms in the circle of Angel's arms, and as her tears dry up, so does the rain.

*


Angel was nineteen when Rico finally caught up to her.

Her brother was a pimp and a liar and an asshole, but for all that, the one good thing she could say about him was this: he never hit his women. Until the day he found her in Vegas.

She had to call in sick to the club for a week, a week of lost wages, until the swelling on her face went down enough that she could cover it up with makeup. But the acid burn on Rico's face would take much, much longer to heal.

She never saw her brother again.

*


Angel has only ever been what she is. She spits fire. She destroys. But this little girl, she could be the witch they name her, call lightning down upon her enemies, drown whole villages in monsoon floods. Or she could bring rain to thirsty earth, put out fires, create a perfect summer's day.

It all depends on what she grows up to choose.

Angel slowly pulls away, meeting Ororo's dark eyes, so like her own. "Listen," she says. "There's a man coming, a white man in a wheelchair. His name is Charles Xavier. Can you remember that for me?"

"Charles Xavier," the girl repeats dutifully, but she still clings to Angel's arm.

"Clever girl," Angel tells her with a smile. "He's gonna help you, okay? You just have to hide here, very small like a mouse, until he comes. And then you'll be safe. I promise."

(You're beautiful, chica, Rico crooned in her ear. I'll show you a good life, my beautiful sister. You'll see.)

Ororo makes an unhappy little noise. "Will you be here with me?"

"No," Angel says. "No, honey, I got a different way to go. And you don't have to trust him if you don't want to, okay? You can hear him out and decide for yourself, because I can see you're a big girl who knows her own mind. But if you think you like him, okay, just give him a chance."

Maybe one day Ororo will grow up into someone different, and remember the mob and the fire and the screaming, and hate them all. If that's what she chooses, Angel will find her, and the Brotherhood will take her in. And they'll be friends, then.

Angel hopes that day never comes.

She presses a kiss to Ororo's forehead. "Choose well, sweetheart," she whispers, and flies away.

*


The humans have played their hand, Magneto told them, that day on the Cuban beach. Now we get ready to play ours.

No one ever taught Angel how to cheat at cards. She's only ever played the hand she was dealt, to the best of her ability.

On Angel's twentieth birthday, Magneto leads them in a raid against a mutant holding facility in Vietnam. Angel kills three men herself, watches them twist and scream in agony as her acid-fire burns their skin.

She won't have any nightmares about it.


You wanted glory
Well here's your glory
Just look what we've become

(Tom McRae, "How the West Was Won")

Date: 2011-08-31 07:52 pm (UTC)
sentientcitizen: Rose Tyler throws her head back and laughs. (Default)
From: [personal profile] sentientcitizen
Damn, Kaydee. Do people frequently tell you that you're incredible? Because they probably should. That was brilliant.

Date: 2011-09-01 11:19 am (UTC)
lilacsigil: John Byrne art of Destiny and Mystique, caption "Destined" (destiny mystique)
From: [personal profile] lilacsigil
Harsh and wonderful. I especially liked that Angel gave Ororo a choice that she hadn't had - she just played the cards she was given - and her thoughts on Mystique's masks.

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