Okay, consider this fair warning! This is explicit and anatomically correct. If it's gonna give you bad dreams or warp your moral fiber, DON'T READ IT!

Marvel characters are Marvel characters, and I can't figure how anything I write could ever change that....

Neon Hearts

Part 6--Specters of the Past

Neon Nurse


They hit a stoplight a few blocks before the hotel, and Cassie took advantage of the break in momentum to say, "Parking garage, please." She was distantly surprised at how calm she sounded.

"Very well," Hank replied, equally formal. If he was hiding any qualms, she couldn't tell. He continued to be as proper and attentive as he had been all evening, but the sense of lightheartedness was irretrievably gone for the night, Cassie feared.

Her senses seemed heightened, and she was acutely aware of Hank's most minute motion, aware of his bulk beside her in the elevator, the echo of his shoes on the plush carpet in the halls. 'One step at a time,' she thought, and knew from the way she had to fiercely choke back a hysterical giggle that she was far too much on edge. Should she call this off--or would that ruin their budding friendship irredeemably? She would rather risk almost anything else than that.

Once inside the room, she slung her purse on the desk and absently kicked off her shoes, then slowed to a halt in the middle of the floor, as though she was a windup toy with its mainspring at full expansion. She could see Hank studying her surreptitiously in the mirror. With an effort, she moved forward until she was standing at the foot of the bed, then turned to face Hank. "Here we are."

"Well, yes, we do indeed seem to be here," he temporized. There was something not right, not at all right, going on here. Either that, or he was just bizarrely overreacting to her perfectly understandable upset at the incident at Silver's. The question was, which?

Wordlessly, she held out a hand to him. He tossed his jacket over the chair, and went to her. Her hand was cold--was it THAT cold outside?--but she clung to him immediately when he took her in his arms, running her hands over his back. With one hand, he tilted up her face and kissed her, lingeringly this time, doing his best to say without words how he would cherish her if she would allow it.

She tipped her head into his other hand, and he found the clasp that held up her hair, and released it, tossing it in the general direction of the counter, where it clattered heedlessly away somewhere. Her smooth blonde hair spilled over his hands like strands of silk. He broke the kiss to rub his cheek against it, then nuzzled under its rich fall at the back of her neck, turning her to follow that sweet curve.

Cassie quivered in his arms and pressed back against him with her whole body, arching her neck under his mouth and making the faintest of moans. Her hands were at his sides now, but she still held him as best she could.

Carefully, Hank brushed a wrist over the bodice of her dress, pushing the softly clinging material downwards. He could see her nipples, like little smooth stones underneath the satin cups of her bra, and he let his hand stray there to toy with them a moment, enjoying the contrast of the soft material and the firm flesh beneath. Taking a deep breath, hoping his self-control was up to this challenge after an already challenging night, he took a half-step back and undid the clasp of the bra. Cassie still did not say anything, nor did she move, not even when he began to slowly draw her dress down over her waist and hips and thighs until it was a black puddle on the floor.

He let his hands move in a lingering caress back up her legs, to hook his thumbs under the waistband of her hose and panties. She shifted her weight to one foot, which he took for invitation, and he very carefully, delightedly, helped her step out of the last of her clothing.

Hank would not have minded if she had chosen to similarly assist him, but he decided he could manage it himself for now. As she stood passively waiting for him, he pulled off his garments, then moved to pull her close to him. She turned, at his light hint, and came without hesitation into his arms. But then he realized she was shivering, no, trembling. He stroked his hands down the sides of her arms and she went rigid, shaking so hard she at last had to sit down.

It was almost too much, after the outrage of the attack at the club, almost too much after she had led him to believe she wanted him. But as with every other emotional and mental and physical assault Hank had endured in his life, he controlled himself, and endured this one too, until the agonizing fury flared and died. When he could do so with some semblance of calm, he walked to the window and looked through the curtains at the city below, leaning on his hands, contemplating... nothing.

"Hank?" came a hoarse whisper from behind him. "Hank, listen--"

"PLEASE." He spoke louder than he intended to, and modulated his voice on the second try. "Please don't feel you need to explain. I have had this experience before. You aren't the first lady to find she is not quite so...adventuresome...as she imagined, and I doubt you'll be the last." In a moment, he would collect his things, and go back to his home, his lab and his friends, where things at least made sense.

"Hank, PLEASE...." There was true desperation in Cassie's voice and he wearily turned around to her, prepared to listen after all to the protestations of good intentions he so thoroughly despised. "Come here." He obeyed, steeling himself against the sight of tears on her face again. She was reaching out a hand for one of his, and he grudgingly gave it, and even allowed her to place it on her thigh before beginning to recoil. Did she think him completely unfeeling?

Then an anomaly attracted his attention, a fine ridge under the skin of her thigh which had no business there, anatomically. And there was another, an inch down, several more following that. He looked closely and saw them, multiple pale diagonal lines on both thighs. Scars.

Hank knelt so he could look up into Cassie's face. "What are these?" he whispered, almost afraid to find out.

"Hank, I'm so sorry, I should have told you before...." She was close to the edge of breaking down, he realized, and with no thought of his former anger, he rose to sit beside her, placing an arm around her slim back to draw her to him for comfort. That she did snuggle her head into his shoulder went a very long ways towards healing the pain of the preceding moments.

"When you're ready," he told her, stroking her hair. "It's all right."

"It's NOT--I should have told you! I would have, if I had had any idea you thought...would think there was something about YOU...." Now she did start crying in earnest, silent, racking sobs. He pulled her yet closer, leaned his head over hers and murmured soothingly, his own eyes feeling suspiciously hot. At last she got herself under control, and he felt it permissible to leave her for a moment, to bring a damp washcloth from the bathroom.

"Thank you," she said, her voice muffled a little by the cloth. He took his place next to her again, waiting. After a few throat clearings, she said, "Remember how I told you at lunch I had been married once?"

"Yes. You said it didn't work out." He had been glad, at the time, she wasn't the type to want to rehash all her ex's sins to a stranger.

"It didn't work out because he...lost his mind. He's in an institution for the criminally insane. These," she waved a hand at her legs, "are from when he...tried to kill me."

Strangely enough, Hank couldn't think of an appropriate witty remark. "Why?" was all that came out.

"Voices that told him to," she said simply. "They tell me it was a pretty standard version of...whatever the label is. The voices told him I was cheating on him, and plotting to kill HIM, and he had to get me first." She shivered again. "What made it so bad is that...I had no warning. I mean, yeah, we'd had our...problems," she swallowed and he winced in empathy, imagining them, "but I had no idea there was anything seriously wrong. Until I walked in one day, bringing in a sack of groceries--" She had to stop again, and Hank patted her helplessly.

"He knocked me down, screaming things I couldn't make sense of. I was so scared, I just froze. He started tying me up, and I tried to fight then, but--" Hank held out a hand, and she took it like a lifeline, grabbing with both of hers. "I couldn't get away. I couldn't talk to him--he would just scream louder, to drown me out. He turned on some music real loud, even though it was in the middle of the day, and there were no neighbors around to hear anyway."

"The scars?" Hank hated that the question slipped out before he could stop it, but Cassie didn't seem to mind now.

"He was going to torture me to death," she said, as matter of factly as something like that can be said. "Those are the only scars...that show." She brushed her hand over the fur of his forearm, but he didn't think she was seeing him. "I can't have kids, they tell me."

Hank was not sure how much more of this HE could take. "How long ago did this happen?"

"Not quite five years." She shook herself, seemed to regain a shadow of the animation she had displayed in the normal part of the day. "But...I haven't gone out with a man since then. Not until tonight. Haven't wanted to, not even in the slightest. It was like...I forgot all those feelings, or maybe I put them all in my books. That's what some of the people in my group think." She managed to turn her head to look at him. "That's partly why I didn't tell you. Not just that I don't like to talk about it. I...was attracted to you, and it was...like getting your memory back must feel, if you've had amnesia. I really thought I could just...go with it, and never have to...."

"I wish--" he said, and stopped himself, but not in time.


Oh, well, too late for diplomacy. "I wish you had felt you could tell me."

"It's not...it's complicated." Her jaw worked as she sought the words. "When people know, they...treat you funny. Really carefully, like you're different. And they have a look in their eyes, like you're...."

"A freak," he finished for her, and she looked at him in amazement. "Like they suspect you of being privately bizarre, and they would like to see that sideshow, if they could do it safely," he finished, with savage heat.

"Yes!" Stunned surmise glowed in her face. "Is that how you feel?"

"Frequently." Now he managed a twisted, bitter smile. "But I have no choice about telling people I'm a mutant."

"No, that's true." She gingerly stroked his thigh, and his smile became a little softer. "Well, you do understand then. But...I still realize I was wrong, to try to take advantage of you--"

This made him laugh in spite of himself. "My dear, I was absolutely ecstatic that you wanted to...take advantage of me."


"Oh, yes." He wondered how she could doubt it, then remembered she was at least as insecure as he, possibly more so. It explained a very great deal about her, and the events of the day.

"Well...could I still, then?"

"I beg your pardon?" Hank snapped back to reality so fast it almost hurt.

"Never mind--that's silly. I don't know what--" Cassie floundered to a halt. Hank's face was a study in contrasts; confusion and comprehension, worry and hope, fear and desire.... "I guess I thought...there might still be hope. That I could make love to you without turning into a screaming basketcase, I mean." She looked off into the distance. "But this time I WILL warn you. After it first happened, and I was in the hospital, they had to keep me sedated. I just lost it if anyone even tried to touch me. It was a couple of months before I could handle the nurses and the aides--the female ones. Now I don't even flinch if people brush up against me in crowds--much. But I HAVEN'T been intimate with anyone; I've barely been alone in a room with anyone...." Her voice trailed off. "No, it's too much to ask of you, I see that. I'm sorry."

"Why," he asked in a mock-growl, "don't you let ME decide if it's too much to ask of me?"

"O-okay," Cassie stammered, suddenly seeming to realize WHAT she was asking. "Well...is it?"

"No." With a smile, he gathered up the hank of her silken hair, enjoying once again the heft and spill of it in his hand. "And I can promise you quite faithfully that I will stop instantly, any activity, any time you say. But I would feel honored to...be allowed to try to help." Cassie nodded very quickly, as if she feared she would change her mind. "Let's get cozy, then." He rose and turned down the bed, then dimmed the lights. There was a radio beside the bed, and he quickly found the station that unashamedly advertised itself as 'the soundtrack of your life', mostly quiet instrumentals of old pop songs.

When he crawled into the bed, Cassie was laying on her side, head cradled on one arm, waiting for him. Her eyes were very wide in the dim light, and he could now sense the tremors lurking beneath the surface of her calm. But she came willingly to lay herself in the crook of his arm, showing her trust. Immensely moved, he began to stroke her face and hair. "You have such lovely hair," he murmured. His fingers parted it, cradled the back of her head as he moved in to suggest a kiss. She met him halfway, and they spent quite a long time exploring each other in this way. He found her reaction to his lips on her neck had not been a fluke; it was one of her most sensitive areas, and he made every use of that knowledge he could. When they broke apart, they were both panting.

"This is going really well," Cassie whispered, as if talking aloud might jinx it.

Hank grinned enigmatically. He was aroused nearly to the point of frenzy, which was just exactly the way he couldn't afford to be. "I am so very glad to hear it," he told her politely, and thought her giggle MUST be a sign she was relaxing again. With great care, he repositioned himself to be able to mouth her nipples, and with a groan, she fell back and let him.

What she could not have know, Cassie thought, was that it could BE like this. Maybe it was the added boost of emotional turmoil. But she had thought she was making most of that stuff in her books UP! The anticipation of a touch, and how every nerve end seemed to spark again and again, and how desire began to burn more insistently than hunger ever could...as a matter of fact, it seemed as though she had been shooting fairly shy of the mark!

Now Hank at last had decided she was ready for him to touch her between the legs, and she opened to him without letting herself hesitate, ready for the final test. She braced herself against panic that did not come, although she still felt as tense as a greyhound in the starting gate.

Emboldened at her failure to burst into hysteria, Hank propped himself up on one elbow, smiling down at her. "I am going to leave it to you to let me know...when to proceed further," he said, continuing to do things to her he had been led to believe were quite pleasant. "And please feel free to...satisfy any curiosity you may have about me."

"Oh," Cassie said, shyly, but took up the oblique invitation. She reached out to his groin and found him hard, and quite ready, but not especially unusual as far as touch could tell her. Perhaps he was built a little on the large side, but not impossibly so. His penis was as smooth skinned as any man's, like the palms of his hands. She couldn't tell in the dim light if it was blue, but she supposed so.

Hank bit back a groan at Cassie's touch, or at least, he thought he had. She glanced at him for some reason, and he smiled reassuringly. Her explorations made him bite his tongue and try to recall to mind complex chemical formulations as a distraction.

"Let's try, Hank," she whispered at last, recalling him from his heroic efforts at self-control.

He did his best to move into position slowly. She was moist, physically ready for him, but they both knew this could be too much for her to handle this first time. Before he went any further, Hank stopped to kiss her, then said, "If you want me to stop, you only have to say so. It's fine." The words sounded inadequate somehow. "I promise you I won't hurt you. I'll never hurt you, Cassie."

"I know," she whispered. "I trust you."

Shaking a little himself, Hank moved into proper alignment and began, very carefully and slowly, to press his way into Cassie's body. It was a long, drawn-out process, because he could not help freezing every time she made an unusual sound. By the time he was all the way in, he had a ringing in his ears from the tension, and was almost afraid to move, for fear the slightest additional stimulation would make him climax instantly. "All right so far?" he managed to ask.

She smiled in wonder. "Yes. Yes, I think so. It doesn't hurt, anyway, and...I'm not scared. Not of you, anyway--just a little of me."

Bearing this in mind, Hank began to move, fractionally at first, for both their sakes. He knew he could not hold out very long past this point, and he was soon proved right. The orgasm caught him off guard, and he almost pulled a calf muscle fighting to not finish with the usual series of spasming thrusts. Even such an awkward and unusual climax was heavenly, though, and he kissed Cassie with true thankfulness when he was done, before proffering his apologies for his unseemly haste.

"Hank, you have nothing to apologize for!" Cassie answered him, amazed he would think so. "You have been so patient and kind...." Words failed her, and she threw her arms around his torso, hugging him to her.

"Cassie," he whispered into her hair, savoring her fervent affection, "Cassie." It was all he could think of to say, at the moment. Soon, she was again snuggled against his shoulder, sleeping the sleep of emotional exhaustion. He was drowsing off too, trying to picture what surprises the next day might bring forth, trying not to think of her catching a plane and leaving him. But since the future was impenetrable to him, he gave it up in exchange for sleep himself, holding Cassie close.

"Half the failures of this world arise from pulling in one's horse as he is leaping." - Augustus Hare


More chapters of this story can be found at: http://web2.spydernet.com/lori/iclinks.htm OR from the author, Susan Crites (carosue@centurytel.net) IF you can't access the Web. Many thanks to Lori for our new home!

There is also a mailing list for people who want to get new chapters ASAP. Be warned--you sometimes get odd extra mailings as well, when the spirit moves me....

Disclaimer: Since I am a) inserting a new character and b) not privy to any of Marvel's editorial decisions, this story is forced to be an alternate universe. It is similar to the 'real' one when it works out, plotwise, okay? And I DO make mistakes sometimes, I know. Such is life.

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