Summary: Ororo hits the fashion houses and becomes muse to a new stylist. Not everyone she meets is friendly.
Author’s Note: I know I’ve been away from this for a while. Blame my other fandoms, and a couple of craft projects I’ve been working on away from my computer. BrightLady and Tiger, I hope you like this. It’s been fun talking to you guys about it.
Can’t be late, can’t be late…shitshitshit.
Ororo’s legs burned slightly as her feet pounded the pavement in a near-run. She was two minutes ahead of the cross-town transit that picked up on Tenth Street, and her appointment reminder card burned a hole in her pocket. Remy gave her strict orders not to be late, and she was already batting a thousand; everything that could have gone wrong, went wrong as she prepared herself for her go-see. Ororo left the plastic wrapper from a packet of makeup sponges too close to her flat iron and melted it onto the paddle, nearly ruining it. It took her ten minutes to find her missing pump, stumbling over it when she ran back into the bedroom and jarring her ankle in the process. Ororo ended up dumping orange juice all over the kitchen floor when she misjudged how close the pitcher was to the counter as she took out items for breakfast, then ended up skipping it anyway when she burnt her English muffin.
She silently rolled her eyes as the transit pulled up, assaulting her nostrils with the odor of exhaust. Raven and Jean-Paul would say eating’s overrated, anyway. Ororo waited impatiently behind a mother of two who wrestled futilely with a full-sized, canopied stroller that refused to fold, and two teenage boys each saying with great conviction how much the other sucked. Absently she reached for her purse, then rummaged through it for her bus card. When she reached the top step, still searching, the female driver gave her a long-suffering look.
“Would’ve saved everyone some time if you’d dug your card out while you were still waiting for the bus,” she pointed out.
Your momma! “Sorry. I know. I’m sorry.” She finally found it and ran it through the reader, relieved that it still had some fare credit left.
“Take a seat, please.”
“Thank you.” Ororo kept her saccharine smile all the way to the back, where she ended up sandwiched between two old ladies who smelled like peppermints and new perms. After the brisk cold of outside, the bus’ warmth was almost stuffy and oppressive, and Ororo smothered a sneeze.
“I hope you’re not sick, honey,” one of her neighbors mentioned warily. “I wouldn’t wanna catch your germs, ya know what I’m saying?” She looked at Ororo as though she was a walking Petri dish.
“I’m not sick, it’s just…allergies,” Ororo demurred carefully.
“This isn’t allergy season, it’s cold season,” the woman corrected her.
“I’m sure it isn’t a cold.”
“They’re very contagious. You could be contagious.”
“I doubt it. I won’t be on here long,” Ororo said encouragingly, even as her cheeks burned with frustration. She tried to stare into the aisle, pretending that the rubber nonslip texture was fascinating, even mesmerizing. She knew her lie wasn’t very convincing as she mentally ticked off each stop on the route map above the windows.
Shit. Seven more to go, then a transfer. Why couldn’t Remy have just given her cab fare?
She squelched that thought as quickly as it bloomed. Because he’s given you everything else. Quit being ungrateful. Ororo spent the next few minutes listening to the women bicker on about whether or not Walmart or CVS had the better deal on Aspercreme in the weekly circulars.
She was stirred from the monotony by a sudden poke from the one with the mole. “Hey honey, what’s this ya’ve done ta your hair?”
“Oh…er…my hair? You mean…well, I just flat-ironed it this morning.”
“Nah. Not that, kiddo. I mean the color. Why did you color it white like that? You’re a young thing, you don’t want hair that color.”
“I can’t really do anything about it. It’s my own color.”
“So’s this,” the woman claimed, pointing to her brassy red locks. “I paid ten dollars for it, so it’s my own color!” she cackled. Ororo choked back a laugh until the woman beckoned to her to lower the scarf she had loosely wrapped around her hair so as not to get hat hair or cold ears. Ororo obliged her, bending down slightly. She felt her lightly probe her scalp and heard her grunt under her breath.
“Shit. That’s real, all right.” Ororo righted herself and replaced her scarf carefully, hoping her hair wasn’t jacked up now. The woman wasn’t through assessing her, though, and she was feeling chatty.
“Look, M’rinn, at those eyes. Eh? Blue.”
“Get outta here,” her companion mumbled, leaning precariously into Ororo’s personal space. “Get outta the house,” she repeated incredulously, and Ororo found it difficult not to stare at the hair follicles on her upper lip. “They are. Look at that. Aren’t you a looker!” Ororo blushed.
“Thanks,” she murmured.
“You are, kiddo. I won’t lie. You could sell perfume or fur coats or other fancy stuff with a face like that.”
“I don’t know about that,” Ororo admitted, since really, she still didn’t.
Remy and Allison had confidence in her; Jean-Paul’s constant claims that she had “rough edges” wore on her last nerve, to the point where her last nerve itself had “rough edges.” The rejection from Remy’s publisher, Cassandra Nova, was humbling, but Ororo reserved a small flicker of hope. She hadn’t been accepted, but she had been noticed. It was a start.
Ororo listened with half an ear as the women threw bits of their conversation at her or over her as they rode past each stop; her other ear was reserved for the dings of the signal pulls. Her stomach growled despite the knots of tension she woke up with and hadn’t shaken off. She struggled with a polite and attentive smile, brief nods and “mm-hmm’s” and “yups” at the correct intervals. Finally her stop loomed three blocks up.
“Ooh,” she yelped hurriedly, twisting her body around as carefully as she could without accidentally elbowing either of her neighbors as she reached for the window cord, “that’s it, that’s me.” She jerked it three times before she realized it didn’t work. Ororo jerked herself to her feet, awkward since she wore a pair of pumps, and she lurched slightly as she made her way across the aisle to the opposite window. “Excuse me, I just…sorry,” she stammered as she nudged her way around the man by the window trying to read his book. He glared at her over the edge of the Sue Grafton cover but then peered appreciatively down her cleavage, making her long to smack him.
She managed to jerk the cord one block shy of her stop, subjecting her to another disgusted look from the driver. Ororo held tight to the edge of the seat rail as the bus skidded to a stop. “Bye,” Ororo offered her two seat mates.
“Good luck, hon,” M’rinn called out.
“Knock ‘em dead,” said Irene, giving her a little wave. Ororo darted off the bus and crossed the street in the thick of a large crowd at the corner. At a newsstand on the other side, she hastily purchased a pack of spearmint TicTacs and popped two into her mouth. It did nothing for her hunger, but it was comforting to have something to suck on. Fate finally smiled on Ororo, bringing the connecting bus three minutes later. She was already holding her fare card in her gloved hand and managed a seat third row from the front. The remainder of her trip was relatively smooth; Ororo managed to get off right before a huge group of tourists filled it to capacity at her stop.
The cold, fresh air did nothing to soothe her nerves as she approached the tiny building that resembled a factory. Its brownstone face was intact but not decorative; the sign out front was even slightly nondescript, a plain black, slanted signature on a white ground.
Piotr Rasputin Designs
“Not very creative,” Ororo mused aloud as she approached the door. She found it locked, but noticed a small buzzer. She leaned on the button and stamped her cold feet to help their circulation. Her stomach was full of butterflies as she waited for an answer. Her heartbeat sped up as heavy, thudding footsteps echoed off of what sounded like a hardwood floor inside. The bolts were drawn back and the door jerked open to reveal the flushed face of a strikingly tall young man. Ororo actually found herself staring up, craning her neck slightly to meet his eyes, which was rare.
They were kind, sapphire blue and graced with fine laugh lines and enviably thick black lashes. He gave her a flustered look. “Ororo?”
“Yes. That’s me,” she stammered, tentatively grasping the door handle but jumping back as he yanked it open.
“C’mon. I’m sorry, but I’m running late. It would have helped if you’d shown up a little early for the fitting…”
“Fitting?” She frowned. “I didn’t know I was having one today.”
“You weren’t told?” Piotr sounded slightly exasperated. He escorted her down a long hallway decorated in framed, old movie posters. She didn’t have time to appreciate the old titles or the architecture of the building, which was definitely a factory, judging by some of the exposed pipes and duct work. Myriad scents tickled her nose, including ink, a strange polyurethane odor and various fabrics.
“How tall are you?” he asked her brusquely.
“Almost six feet,” she explained. He looked impatient.
“What’s your exact height?”
“Five eleven and a half.” He made a thoughtful sound in his throat, then looked her up and down.
“You wear clothes well.”
“EMMA!” he barked as they reached a large room with wall-to-floor windows. Rows of tables were laddered up and down the room, stacked with patterns and rolls of fabrics. Ororo gawked at how many different bolts there were in so many different colors and finishes. She almost reached out to stroke a roll of thick, soft-looking fabric that resembled suede. “Don’t touch anything,” her host piped up. She dropped her hand and backed off. “Emma? Get over here, please.”
“What’s your malfunction? What do you need, what do you need?” insisted an imperious blonde in a white sweater and snug knit pants. To Ororo’s mind, she actually looked like a woman who was used to being on the other end of the groveling.
“Why didn’t you call her and let her know this was a fitting?”
“I was told this was a go-see,” Ororo said absently. Emma fixed cool, slate blue eyes on her and hmph’ed under her breath.
“Because we had a change of plan,” she reminded him with more than a hint of I-told-you-so satisfaction in her voice. “Cal’s out of town. Just took off for Morocco without so much as a so long.”
“Shit…” Piotr, or the man Ororo presumed was Piotr, raked his long, thick fingers through his black waves and kneaded his neck, closing his eyes. “Let me think…”
“I’d never get in the way of genius,” Emma quipped.
“Okay. I can do this. You,” he pointed to Ororo, “that way. Emma, show her the changing room.”
“I didn’t see a changing room on the way back here,” Ororo argued.
“We’re low-rent here, darling,” Emma informed her with a smile that didn’t reach her eyes. “We use it for storage.” She turned back to Piotr. “Which outfit?”
“The black,” he told her impatiently. “No. Fuck that. The white.”
“Good choice,” Emma agreed, nodding to Ororo. “Grab that hanger. Come along.” Ororo reached for the one white outfit on a disorganized rack of clothes and followed Emma, who hadn’t slowed down, from the room. Ororo wondered if she’d fallen down the rabbit hole, and where the Mad Hatter was with his pot of tea.