This was the second story I wrote for the Marvel crossing movie exchange, for joanne_c. Her request was a story featuring Scott Summers and Norman Osborn. Thanks to patih and thulemir for reading and making suggestions!
This is set before the first X-Men and before the first Spiderman, assuming that those times mesh up. Scott is a bit younger than in the films, and mutants are a given in the world of Spiderman. It's also set early enough that Erik is still at the school. I don't know if Scott and Jean would have been old enough to teach there at that time, but hey, let's pretend.
Specific request: Scott comes to Norman for some funding help. They discover more in common than they ever expected to, friendship (or more) comes out of it. I'd prefer this set pre-Spiderman movie but that's not essential. I'm completely open to threesome dynamics with Jean as well, or dealing with her in a good way if it goes to slash. (Again, I want this to be about Norman, not the Green Goblin.)
Scott did his best to appear calm and relaxed, and to stop feeling so damned intimidated by the "old money" feel spattered over every inch of this place. He found himself wishing for the tenth time that he'd asked Jean to come with him, but if he'd asked she would have gotten that look in her eye she always got when she found out he was doing something without consulting the Professor. The Professor would have said no, and Scott felt this was their best option to get the money to finish the latest improvements on Cerebro and keep the school running smoothly.
Scott knew there was a need because he'd overheard an argument or two.
"I could just walk into a bank--"
"Everyone loves Robin Hood, Charles, and I think in this instance it would very much be taking from the rich and giving to those who will put the money to far better use."
"Robin Hood gave to the poor. We are hardly that."
"We've all been poorly treated. That's close enough for me."
But the Professor apparently kept Erik from ripping holes into the safes of neighboring banks because work on Cerebro had halted and some programs had been cut. Scott feared that the Professor's standards might cause the school to stop accepting students or close altogether. Which is why he'd asked to speak to Norman Osborn.
It hadn't been easy to get an appointment to see Mr. Osborn. He was a busy man with a scientific mind and business savvy to boot. Oscorp handled government contracts, each worth hundreds of millions of dollars, all thanks to Norman Osborn's brilliance and his ruthless business sense.
Osborn and Oscorp made millions in charitable contributions each year, and Scott was hoping to get the school on that list. But he was already uneasy, first at being summoned to Osborn's home instead of an Oscorp office, and second by how opulent everything was. The comfortable chair Scott was now sitting in, he realized, probably cost as much as his first used car—when it was new. With a tiny burst of adrenalin, it occurred to Scott that even though he'd been led in and urged to sit, he should probably be standing when Osborn came in. He stood and smoothed his hand over the seat.
Norman slipped into his suit jacket and straightened his tie. The description of the young man who'd asked to speak with him some weeks ago had him intrigued. The man had worn sunglasses to speak to his assistant, which would imply lack of manners or a bad attitude. Jack had insisted that despite that obvious gaffe, Summers had displayed all the characteristics of an intelligent, sincere and respectful man. Yet he was obviously not blind, which would have been an acceptable reason to wear the glasses.
The week had been pure shit, for lack of a better word, Norman thought, with human trials on the performance enhancers nowhere in sight and doubts from members of his own team on whether or not they had something truly viable. So he was looking forward to meeting this young man and hearing him out. And then putting him in his place, and teaching him a lesson about respect and industry, if necessary.
"Mr. Summers. I'm sorry to keep you waiting." Norman stood on the balcony at the top of the spiral staircase, and smiled to see that the man wore sunglasses here, in his home. Jesus, even Harry wouldn't do such a thing, and sometimes Harry didn't have the best business sense in the world. Thoughts of Harry and how little ambition he had when compared to himself at that age instantly took much of the fun out of this meeting.
"Mr. Osborn. I haven't been waiting long. Thank you for seeing me."
Norman descended the steps, his smile fading as he went. He pointedly looked at the man each time he reached that side of the spiral, his irritation growing at the sunglasses by the second.
"My pleasure," Norman said, when he reached the bottom. They shook hands, and Summers' handshake was firm, which he liked. He also had a striking face. Lips shaped just right. "But I'm not seeing nearly as much of you as I'd like."
He laughed at the way Summer's mouth dropped just slightly open at his faux pas. "Forgive me. That came out wrong. I mean these." He reached for the sunglasses only to have Summers flinch away as if he'd been about to strike him. He put his hands up, palms out. "Sorry, keep them on." He spun and headed for the bar. "Do you like bourbon, Summers? I've got some 1792, Four Roses, and my personal favorite, Maker's Mark. Or would you prefer a can of beer and a Slim Jim?"
"I'm just assuming that kind of fare might be more suitable to your palate, because you're obviously used to spending your time in places that are a bit more casual. And surely you realize that, like leaving your hat on at the dinner table or walking into a Japanese home with shoes on, coming to ask me for money and wearing sunglasses while you do it is extremely disrespectful." He poured himself two fingers and tilted his head as if truly curious about the answer. The man's exquisitely shaped jaw set, hard enough that Norman caught it from across the room.
"I apologize, Mr. Osborn, but I have to wear them."
Norman squinted. Summers didn't fidget, but stood stock still. That was a sign of character. "Some type of condition?"
"Then I'm the one who should apologize, Mr. Summers. Scott, is it?"
"Yes, Scott. I mean no disrespect by wearing them, but it is necessary. I should have explained before—"
Norman held up a hand. "Explaining that you have a condition that requires the use of dark glasses . . . that would be like making excuses for it, apologizing for it. You shouldn't have to do that, should you?"
"No." Norman smiled. This was making up for a multitude of awful moments during the week. "I assumed that you were wearing them to make a statement or hide your true motives. I'm relieved that it's not disrespect or lack of appreciation for etiquette and protocol. And if I came off as a bit brusque, well, I make no excuses for what I am either. Drink?"
"No, no thank you."
Norman shrugged and held out a hand to indicate that he should sit. He sat in a chair across from Scott.
"Please, call me Norman. What's the condition?" When Scott looked at him for a moment without answering, Norman pointed at his own face. "Your eyes, what condition do you have, if you don't mind me asking? And I wouldn't ask, if it weren't important." He swirled the amber liquid in his glass. "Light sensitivity, something like that?"
Scott hesitated for just a moment. "It's very similar, yes."
"Then allow me to make conditions more favorable for you. I'll draw the shades and lower the lights."
"Sir, that's not necessary."
"Oh, but it is. Scott, I like to look a man in the eyes. It tells me a great deal about his character, and your character is what will prompt me to help you, or refuse. It's no inconvenience at all."
"Sir, I cannot take them off."
"Norman, not sir," he said with a smile. "Is it the appearance of your eyes, you don't want me to see them?"
He watched Scott's jaw clench and unclench, and was pleased with himself for catching him in a lie. He knew that his eyes weren't sensitive to light, at least that wasn't the whole story, and now was absolutely intrigued about why he wouldn't remove his glasses. He saw Scott let out a long breath and square his shoulders.
"I'm a mutant, sir. Norman. The mutation is in my eyes. If I took my glasses off and looked you in the eyes, I'd kill you."
Now this was interesting.
Son of a—this man didn't let up. And Scott knew exactly when he'd been caught. Norman Osborn wasn't just scientifically brilliant and business savvy. He also understood people in a way that was unnerving. The moment Scott saw his face looking over the balcony, he knew this wasn't going to be a simple meeting.
He'd never met a man with so much confidence. No, that wasn't exactly true. He imagined Erik Lensherr and Norman Osborn in a room together. That chess game would be something to watch.
Government projects, industry, science, power. Telling this man about his mutation, the deadliness of it – he didn't have be as suspicious as Erik to realize how horribly bad that could be. But there was something about him, a quickness in his eyes and a sense of propriety. Scott decided that the best course of action to was to be completely honest. And he didn't even know exactly why he felt that way.
"So, I can't see your eyes?"
"Now that's a crying shame." Norman took a long drink. "Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters. You teach there, or do they just send you looking for donations?"
"And why did you choose me, aside from the obvious financial reason?"
Scott swallowed and inhaled deeply, ready with the arguments and points he'd prepared and gone over and over during the last few weeks. "You understand the importance of excellence. Kids at Xavier's have the capacity for that excellence. They go beyond just high achievers and brilliant minds. These kids are the future Norman Osborns, and deserve every opportunity—"
"How much do you want?"
Scott stopped short and then laughed.
"This funny?" Norman smiled along with Scott, at least.
Scott realized how incredibly different he looked when he smiled that way. Younger. "I just didn't expect that question so soon."
Norman rose and pulled a checkbook out of his desk drawer. "I have a good feeling about you, Scott. And these kids. The world needs more Norman Osborns."
Scott was sure he wasn't joking, despite his charming smile.
"This Xavier, he knows that you're a mutant?"
"Yes, but he feels strongly that everyone deserves an opportunity, and isn't prejudiced against mutants or anyone else."
"That's wonderful. I believe in equal opportunities, too."
Scott felt a bead of sweat trickle down his spine. How stupid could he have been? Any minute Osborn was going to ask about the school, the kids, and while being honest about his own condition was one thing, talking about the school and other people was entirely another. Scott wondered if he'd sniff out the lie as easily about that as he had his eyes.
Osborn held a check out to Scott that was five times bigger than the amount Scott had worked up the courage to ask for. As he tried to take it, Norman didn't let go.
"So the school is full of mutants?"
Scott licked his lips and paused only a few seconds. "All schools are full of mutants, Mr. Osborn, it's just that most people don't know it. Professor Xavier, as I said, doesn't discriminate against anyone, for any reason." Scott held his breath.
Norman looked down at him for a moment before letting go of the check. "Good answer, Scott. Very good answer. And it's Norman. You look nervous, and I promise you there's no need to be. Put that in your pocket and come with me. I want to show you something." He motioned for Scott to stand and then put his hand on Scott's upper arm as they walked toward a long hallway.
Guilt welled inside Scott as he realized that even though everything seemed to be all right, even fantastic, coming here had been a huge and potentially dangerous mistake for the school. Yet, he still couldn't bring himself to regret it.
He walked with Norman, who kept a hand on his arm, down a long hallway into a room filled with what Scott guessed were incredibly valuable artifacts. Norman pointed to a mask.
"This death mask is hundreds of years old. It's from a Peruvian tribe that followed a gruesome tradition. When a baby was born that was less than perfect—9 or 11 toes, pallid skin, too skinny, obvious malformations—they killed it and shared the flesh in a mourning feast. They believed that by releasing the spirit of the child in this way and consuming the flesh, they were giving it a chance to be reborn into a strong and healthy body."
Scott watched Norman look intently at the mask. "And it's believed that children who didn't have any obvious physical signs but that showed mental deficits as they aged were slaughtered in a similar way. Only the best survived. Enforced Darwinism, centuries before Darwin decided to play with little birds." Norman smiled at him and his hand moved up to the back of Scott's shoulder.
"It's one of the first pieces I acquired when I was wealthy enough to do so. My father had a similar mask in his collection, before he squandered everything and left us penniless."
Scott frowned behind his glasses. This man had been penniless? He'd researched Norman Osborn and had never found that information. "I'm sorry."
"I'm not. It made me who I am today."
"I assumed that you came from a position of wealth and that's what helped you achieve so much."
Norman laughed and clapped Scott's shoulder. "Here's what I know, Scott. If my father had stayed wealthy, I probably wouldn't be where I am today. Because I would have respected him, emulated him . . . and he was a cruel, alcoholic bastard. Instead, he lost everything, and I vowed to never be like him. I made my own wealth, built Oscorp from a little dirt, spit and ambition."
Scott watched him reach out and touch the mask with something like reverence. "And this mask, to me, has always represented the need for that ambition, and the achievement that follows. I was a skinny kid, sickly, had some problems when I was born. Had I been born into this tribe, I'd have never had a chance to make my mark on the world."
Scott noted that he mentioned making his mark, but nothing else he would have missed out on.
"Mutants would have suffered a similar fate, at birth or later when their differences became apparent, don't you think?"
Scott nodded, wondering where the hell he was going with all this. "Some no doubt still do."
Norman nodded. "Yes." The hand moved on Scott's shoulder, so little that Scott wondered if he imagined it. "We're alike in this, Scott, in a way. You have a physical mutation – mine is more a mutation of the will, of the spirit, mutated thanks to too many nights nursing bruises my father gave me, and too many mornings going to school with an empty belly. That kind of treatment changes a person. It forges him into something stronger than he was before."
"I know." Scott didn't offer further explanation. He might not have been beaten by an alcoholic father, but he understood bad treatment. Norman's hand moved to the back of his neck.
"Xavier doesn't know you're here, does he?"
Norman smiled and licked his upper lip. "You took it upon yourself to come and see me . . . because you're ambitious, a natural leader. Hungry. We're two of a kind, you and me."
Scott's breath caught as Norman leaned in. Then someone cleared his throat behind them. "Harry! Scott, this is my son Harry. Harry, this is Scott Summers . . . a new friend of mine." Norman smiled at Scott as he said it, then at Harry. Norman's hand never left the back of his neck.
Giving the check to the Professor hadn't been easy. The Professor made no bones about pointing out just how huge a mistake seeing Osborn could have been and could still be, with Erik only butting in occasionally to try to smooth things over.
The Professor grilled him on the meeting, and Erik had given him an appreciative look much like the one Norman had given him after he'd admitted his mutation, and everyone had seemed satisfied that he hadn't jeopardized the entire future of the school and the world wasn't going to explode. At least not today, or so Erik kept telling the Professor, who was honestly angrier than Scott had ever seen him. He thought it'd be the other way around, given Erik's complete mistrust of anything remotely organized that he wasn't in charge of.
Scott asked him about this when Erik followed him into the hallway.
"But he's not the government, Scott. He's just a government pawn without any real power. As long as he doesn't press you for more information, I don't think we have anything to worry about."
Erik took a deep breath, sighed and shook his head. "What you did was bold and admirable, seeking funding on your own. That's the kind of thing I expect from you. It was also incredibly foolish and impetuous, though I'll never say that in front of Charles. Foolish and you rarely make a pair, Scott. I'm not sure what happened this time, but please take care in dealing with Osborn, and in all your future bold and admirable decisions, hm? I think I've prevented Charles from stuffing you and mounting you above the fireplace. Hard to argue with results, even for him. But another such foolish action and, who knows, he might pry his way into my head and change my mind."
Erik had smiled at him then, but Scott didn't feel like smiling or appreciating his sentiments. He focused on the only part of what Erik said that seemed important at the moment."Norman Osborn is far from a powerless pawn—Oscorp handles government contracts and makes billions in the process. He's hardly being used."
Erik's smile hadn't faltered as he patted Scott's shoulder on his way past. "Ah, you're so young."
Then Scott told Jean.
"Why didn't you at least let me in on your plan?" Her voice was sharp but her arms were around his neck.
"You wouldn't have been happy about it."
"No, but that’s not a good enough reason to keep something from me, Scott."
He smiled. "Maybe I wanted to surprise you. Be spontaneous."
She kissed him. "You did surprise me. And you're already spontaneous enough for me. I could have gone with you."
"I thought about that on the way there. You can come with me tomorrow, 1 p.m."
She tilted her head. "I teach a class."
Scott nodded. "The next time, then, I'll make sure you're free so you can meet him."
"Next time? So the two of you are seeing each other socially now?" she asked with a laugh.
Scott stiffened. "Does that seem so impossible?"
Jean's fingers went into his hair in the way that he loved. "Sweetheart, of course not. I'm just surprised. I wouldn't think that you'd want to spend too much time with a man like that."
Scott smiled a little. "I like him. He thinks we have a lot in common."
"Is he right?"
"I think so."
Jean brushed her lips over his. "Don't fall for him."
And then she gave him that look, the one he'd hoped to avoid by not asking her to come with him to meet Osborn in the first place. "I'm just saying, he's older, a very powerful man who seems to respect you . . . I know where all your soft spots are, Scott Summers."
He smiled, lifting her just off the floor and looking up at her. "And you love me anyway."
Norman looked out the window of the Cadillac and waited impatiently for Scott, eager to see the young man again. Harry's interruption, as irritating as it had been, had proven to be a good thing. It had given him time to contemplate his new friend, and how he'd leaned toward him more and more as Norman had talked about the mask, how he hadn't flinched when Norman had leaned close.
Norman Osborn was no fool. He knew that people would often do things they'd never dream of doing when large sums of money were on the line. But he didn't have that sense with Scott. He sensed a real connection. And having time to ponder that without having even kissed the young man made it an even more special connection, a connection he was going to test today.
Norman tested people—everyone he'd ever come into contact with. Testing and discovering were part of his nature. People passed or failed his tests within a few minutes. And Scott had passed with flying colors, bells and ticker tape parades. He'd passed so well that when Norman, stressed over the human performance enhancers and the damned lack of progress, had considered Scott and mutations and how getting to know the man could potentially benefit the project and Oscorp, he'd pushed those thoughts aside.
No, this was personal. And he felt like Scott trusted him, at least as much as he was capable of trusting him. That was important to Norman. It wasn't as if he'd never considered the issue of mutants and what they might mean to his work. He had, many times. If he'd been working independently, where he could work with mutant volunteers toward something remarkable, maybe he'd consider it. But with government involvement, something like that had the potential for massive devastation and human suffering. One only needed to read a history book to see that.
Norman worked on government contracts to improve soldiers and end wars. His work meant shortened conflicts, quicker surrenders and less death and destruction. He worked to save lives and improve the human condition, not destroy it. Maybe one day he could unlock the secrets of these mutations, but not now.
He tried to shake off those thoughts and focus on more pleasant things. If today went as he hoped, then he'd prove himself right about Scott, and maybe this new person in his life would help inspire his work in some way. He was on the verge of such a monumental breakthrough—one that surely Scott with his genetic mutation could appreciate. He pictured the celebration of his success with his colleagues and his enemies all forced to acknowledge his brilliance. With Scott among them, looking at him with admiration and hopefully much, much more.
He hadn't insisted on picking Scott up inside the school, though he'd wanted to. Instead, he and his driver waited outside, respecting Scott's obvious discomfort with the idea of him going inside. Norman hoped that soon enough Scott would welcome him there. When Scott got into the car, Norman put his arm on the back of the seat, his fingertips brushing the back of Scott's neck. He angled his body toward Scott and crossed his legs to get comfortable.
"It's a beautiful day, Scott. Instead of going to some stuffy restaurant, would it be all right if we eat outside? I have a veritable feast in a cooler in the trunk, so I hope you're hungry."
"I am, actually."
"Good, good." Norman made small talk and asked about safe subjects. The kinds of thing Scott taught at the school. What he liked about it there. He talked about Harry a little, and then about the project at Oscorp that was taking up his time, all without explaining exactly what it was.
"I have friends on the board—fair-weather fucking friends," he mumbled, "and they have no idea just how much of my blood and sweat has gone into this project. They know, or think they know—but they don't. It simply doesn't matter as much to all of them put together as it does to me. It's like a baby—no one loves your baby like you do. It's just not possible."
His hand ended up on the back of Scott's neck again. "No one else understands the pressure of being in charge and taking all the responsibility on your shoulders."
Scott nodded. "It can be a game to other people, something that someone else will worry about. When you're in charge, you're that someone else."
"Yes, yes, exactly! You know how it feels, don't you? People count on you—you're the steady presence in their lives. The one who's reliable and dependable. And they never know just how much that costs you." He kneaded Scott's neck. "Well, I know." His fingertips dipped into the short hair. "Ah, we're here."
"I thought we were going to a park. Someplace . . . ."
"Public? No, I want the pleasure of your company all to myself."
Scott's jaw dropped a little when he realized that they were at the edge of the woods, and Norman was leading the way in, carrying a cooler with a blanket draped over the top. Scott hesitated for just a moment, causing Norman to turn and look at him.
"You're a lot younger than me, you know, you could help me carry this."
Norman's smile was disarming, and Scott smiled back but his feet didn't move. He could imagine the Professor's voice, Erik's, even Jean's, all saying Scott? in that warning tone meant for the person who knew better but probably wouldn't listen.
"Scott—you said yourself you have a killer stare. Do you really see me as a threat? Because I don't want you to. There's a fantastic hotel not far my home that has the best grass-fed beef steaks you could ask for, and king crab legs the size of my forearm. Or we could grab a burger. I'm far more interested in the company than the cuisine, so it's your choice."
Scott forced his feet to move. "No, I don't see you as a threat," he said. But he stopped short of explaining more. He ignored the warning voices—they weren't here, were they? They couldn't know just how it felt to be here, with Norman. To feel so strangely appreciated and understood by someone he really didn't know at all. He took the other side of the cooler, and was unsurprised to find a small clearing not too far in where Norman had obviously planned on them having lunch. They spread the blanket and started pulling paper plates, plastic utensils and food out of the cooler, along with a bottle of wine.
Scott whistled. "Should I be impressed by the age of the wine?"
"You can be if you want." Norman laughed. "It's a perfectly aged German pinot noir, a favorite of mine. I hope you'll be more impressed by the taste."
"I'm not much of a drinker. It's not really safe."
Norman shook his head, still smiling. "I don't understand."
"I'd be like a drunk with a loaded weapon—built in."
"Oh, oh. I see." He pulled a bottle of water out for Scott. "But hopefully just one glass, a taste?"
They ate for a while in silence, as if both men were too hungry to make conversation. Scott watched Norman and occasionally they smiled at each other. Finally, he said, "I didn't peg you as the paper plate type, Norman." He smiled and said, only half-joking, "Are you slumming it for my benefit?"
"Slumming," Norman said in a scolding tone. "Harry and I used to do this, when he was younger and I had a little more time. It's familiar, comfortable."
"So you think of me in the same way you think of Harry?" Scott licked a dab of potato salad from his knuckle.
"Not at all. I packed milk and peanut butter for Harry. Today, I'm wearing a silk shirt, and serving these little pastry things . . . you know, I don't even know what's in them? Boursin, or some kind of cheese with meat . . . of some type. I'm wining and dining you, here. Pinot noir and potato salad, for God's sake," he said with a laugh that Scott was getting used to. A laugh that was contagious.
"Wooing me, are you?"
"Yes, just like you want me to."
Say it, he told himself. Agree. Why was it so hard? "You're good at figuring out what people want?" he said instead.
"Typically. You know what I'm even better at?"
Scott shook his head.
"Getting what I want."
Scott anticipated Norman coming across the blanket at him, shoving the food to the side and throwing himself on Scott, and he wanted that. But Norman reached into the cooler and produced a small plastic-wrap covered plate, adding one more dish to the many that separated them. Norman's expression hinted that he knew he'd already gotten what he wanted, and he was confident enough to wait. He peeled the plastic-wrap back and licked his lips. "Peach pie." And he moved on as if they'd been talking about the weather.
Scott continued eating when Norman did. He was bewildered but also enjoying himself more than he had in a long time.
"Bring your girlfriend next time?"
Scott had talked about Jean, but had never actually mentioned that she was his girlfriend. There hadn't been a time that felt right, he told himself, knowing it wasn't true.
"How did you know?"
"Oh, come on. You're loyal, dependable and absolutely gorgeous. I'd be surprised if you didn't have several people swooning after you everywhere you go. And I may not be able to see your eyes, but your whole body changes when you talk about her. It's obvious you love her."
Scott swallowed what seemed stuck in his throat, and took a drink of wine to wash it down. "Does that bother you?"
"That you love someone and she loves you? No. I'm a realistic man, Scott. Fairy tales and galloping off into the sunset is mostly bullshit designed to sell books and movie tickets. In the real world, I think people have an amazing capacity for love and affection that doesn't necessarily have to be limited to one person."
Scott still felt awkward about it even though he knew that deep down, Jean's beliefs tended to fall in line with Norman's, at least in part. But he promised to bring her, and at Norman's urging told him more about her, and talking about Jean always made Scott feel good. When they'd finished and Scott had imbibed on the promise of "just one" by finishing his entire glass of wine, the whole fucking afternoon crashed and burned.
"I'll double what I gave you if you show me what your eyes can do."
Scott let the dish he'd been about to pack neatly into the cooler drop with a thud. He picked up the wine, corked it, and chucked it in, too. Not really caring if it broke. Hoping it would.
"Thanks for the meal."
"I'll triple it, Scott. We're in the woods—no one will see."
"Fuck!" The Professor was right and I won't even be able to hide it from him. "Is that why you brought me out here?"
Norman could feel it, almost like a charge in the air, what was between them, and it was so good. He almost wished he hadn't planned to ask Scott about his eyes, because they'd have already been naked on the blanket, his mind far away from any thoughts besides the young, firm body beneath his and that perfect jaw-line that got sharper when Scott felt intimidated or condescended to.
When Scott exploded after Norman's proposition, Norman knew that he'd judged him right. He felt it in his heart and his groin and his gut.
"No, I brought you out here because I like you. I enjoy your company. This would be a bonus that I'd pay you handsomely for."
Norman thought Scott was going to kick the cooler. But he set that gorgeous jaw and said, "Whores are paid to do tricks, Mr. Osborn." And then he grabbed the cooler—my God, he's still going to carry it for me, Norman realized-- and stomped away.
Norman caught up to him and put a hand on his shoulder, absolutely thrilled at the integrity and character he'd found here. Rare commodities in today's world. Probably in any world. "Good answer, Scott." Oh, you passed. "I'm sorry, please put it down. I was hoping you'd refuse . . . now I know you came out here with me for the right reasons, too."
Scott stopped, and Norman, even though he couldn't see the man's eyes, knew Scott was sizing him up.
"And beyond that, Scott, I know that you really are the leader I imagined you to be when we first met. If you'd have demonstrated your mutation on my whim, like whipping out a toy to impress me . . . well, I had to know. I'm sorry."
Scott dropped the cooler and stepped toe to toe with Norman, which was more than Norman needed at the moment to sink his fingers into Scott's hair and pull him into a kiss. Each knew what the other wanted so there was no discussion, they simply ended up on the blanket, skin against skin, just as Norman had been fantasizing about all morning. Their groping started out urgent but soon slowed, and that pleased Norman as much as being here with him at all. He sank into Scott and got to sample that perfect jaw and neck.
"Close your eyes," he breathed.
"No!" But it was too late. The glasses were tossed out of Scott's reach. Scott struggled a little, as if to throw Norman off to get them, but it only lasted a few seconds before pleasure clearly outweighed everything else. Now Norman could see his whole face, and it was as handsome as he'd imagined. He kissed the apple of Scott's cheeks, his brow, his closed eyelids, this drawing a whimper from Scott. He knew when Scott was close, his eyes closed tight against it, no doubt in fear of opening and destroying something, everything, in a moment of sheer bliss.
"I can feel your strength, how you hide more than your eyes behind those glasses," Norman said, driving into him, "I know power . . . and you have no idea how potent you are." Scott's neck arched, eyes closed so tightly as he shouted, and the danger of it, the thrill of it, pushed Norman over the edge.
After a few minutes, Norman rolled to the side and grabbed the sunglasses, but he only put them next to Scott's hand. He traced the parts of Scott's face that were normally hidden, smoothing his brows with a fingertip, touching his cheek. He gently brushed the pad of his thumb over the now relaxed eyelids before wiping at the moisture glinting in the outer corner of Scott's eye. "Tell me what color they are."
"Blue," Scott answered, and reached for him again.
They'd been a tangle of limbs when the driver arrived, wondering if everything was all right because he'd heard shouts. Any other time, Scott would have, should have, been horrified. But he found he didn't really care. He also should have been furious with Norman for risking what he had, but he couldn't bring himself to be.
Hard to argue with results, Erik had said.
Scott buttoned up his shirt. "Do you ever feel like a pawn, Norman, like you're being used by the government?"
"What interesting pillow talk. You just keep surprising me." As Norman tied his tie, he inhaled sharply. "They like to think I am, make no mistake. If it served their purposes, they'd try to sacrifice me and anyone else whom they felt was in the way. Is that the answer you were expecting?"
He reached over to help Norman with his tie, not missing the try to. "It's not really an answer, at least not a complete one. They think you're a pawn, but you don't?"
"Not while I own the chessboard." He combed his fingers through Scott's hair and then brushed his thumb over Scott's cheek, just below his glasses. "I have a question for you now. Will you ever show me?"
Scott pressed his cheek against Norman's hand and then leaned in to kiss him. "I don't know." He sighed, grabbed one side of the cooler, and waited for Norman to grab the other side before they started walking to the car. "Is that the answer you were expecting?"
Norman beamed and Scott thought it took ten years off him, easily. "Yes, and the one I was hoping for, for many reasons. Not the least of which is that a man with a little mystery inside him is so incredibly sexy."
Scott laughed. Fancy pastries with ingredients he couldn't name, paper plates and a $300 bottle of wine, ancient Peruvian death masks, rock-solid confidence but a tender spot in the middle that needed to find out if Scott had joined him only in the hopes of a big pay-off. And now he was telling Scott that mystery was sexy. Scott made sure his head moved enough to show that he looked Norman up and down. "So I see."
As they dropped the cooler into the trunk, Norman grabbed Scott's shirt and pulled him close. "Good answer, Scott, very good answer."