A Baxter Building Beginning

Summary:
September 2, 2014: Reed Richards returns from his morning jog as Susan Storm deals with an insurance salesperson

The Baxter Building

Home of the Fantastic Four.


Characters

NPCs


Mood Music: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s_vdc4nc9-Q


The Fantastic Four headquarters are relatively quiet today. Relatively being the operative word. With several of the team's members out and about on other assignments (or joy rides as the case may be), Sue had been convinced that the lab was the perfect place to pluck away at her dissertation, one cruel word at a time.

And, for a time, it had been. Until the rest of the world started waking up.

She sits at a desk in the corner of the room with her laptop open. Her glasses sit on one side of the workbook, a phone on the other. In many respects, she looks the role of student save for her clothes. While she probably should be wearing her Invisible Woman Uniform, she's dressed in a pencil skirt, button up shirt, and a pair of high heels rests at the base of the stool on which she's perched. Despite the laptop being opened to an all-too-familiar word document, the hands-free phone adjacent to her gets all of the attention, "We want the insurance." The workbench at which she's seated on a stool isn't for random computing, but it's where Sue set up at early o'clock this morning. But since setting up, it's only been one interruption after another.

"Look ma'am, we just can't afford to insure the building. You folks are all moving targets, and we have to protect our investments," a rather polite voice states on the other end.

The word 'ma'am' prompts Sue to pinch the bridge of her nose: "Yes, but we've discussed this. We were going to have a higher than usual rate—"

"Unfortunately there's nothing else I can do for you." There's a pause. "Have you thought about getting identity theft insurance. I'm sure I could make that happen for you, Ms. Storm."

There's a long pause as Sue gets distracted by her laptop screen, eyes scanning the two paragraphs she'd managed before her first interruption of the morning, "Uh… no… I'm good." Her eyebrows draw together, and she reaches out for the end call button. "Thanks for your help," she manages politely before pressing the button and ending the call.

She leans forward on the bench to get closer to the screen and squints at the words.

*

It has been said that Reed Richards is a man of routines. His days usually start the same way. He wakes up early, spends around ten minutes in the shower, dresses in his old worn Reebok sneakers. Somehow he's managed to keep hold of them despite a certain someone's suggestions that they need to be thrown out.

He loves those sneakers. He wore them the day he met her. By now, there may not be an original part left, but if he has to replace the laces, rubber, or other synthetics, he will. They have been with him all these years. Generally not one for sentimentality, in this case, he made an exception.

Joining the sneakers, which are predominantly white with some red and blue accents are a pair of white socks, water resistant blue pants, and a grey t-shirt that has the logo of the Fantastic Four over the left breast. As it was raining outside, he threw on a specially designed hoodie that has the feel of fleece, but water washes off it as if it were rubber.

From there, he takes the elevator. The Fantastic Four occupy the top floors of the Baxter Building, and it would not be good for his knees to repeatedly run up and down that many stairs.

He sets off at a slow pace, building up some speed as he goes. It's a 30 minute walk to Central Park, but he usually makes it there in ten to fifteen. He tries to take a different route each day to vary the visual and audio stimuli he receives during his morning exercises.

Today, he does a circuit around the Pond in the Southeast corner of the park, watching as the rain splashes into the water, and return home to the Baxter Building, passing the Rockefeller Centre on his way.

When he returns, he is a little stinky from his exercises and could use a shower, but he decides to check on the laboratory first, where he finds Susan in the latter stages of her conversation with the Insurance Company. With a cup of tea in one hand, and a coffee in the other, he approaches, "penny for your thoughts?"

*

Prying herself away from the screen is more dizzying than Sue would like to believe, particularly as she probably should've been wearing her glasses to inspect the text. "I'm not sure I have any," she smiles weakly. Her hands reach out to close the laptop, she hasn't made the kind of progress he's been aiming for, and it seems unlikely it's going to happen today. It's only once the machine is closed that she clarifies: "Thoughts, I mean. I think they all evaporated with that last…" she tries to find a neutral word "…discussion."

The palms of her hands are pressed over her eyelids, and she sucks in a quick breath to steady herself. Her hands drop back to the workbench and she shifts on the stool to eye Reed, blue eyes lingering on the footwear longer than they ought. "You shouldn't wear those anymore. We can get you new ones." She blinks owlishly, "I can't get our offices insured, but we -can-," and therefore should, "buy you new shoes."

*

Sensing on her visual difficulty, Reed gives her a look, a look she is familiar with. It's his, why don't we correct your vision with lasers look. Of course he has never had to wear glasses and has never been shy about using technology to improve someone's quality of life. But he lets it go. Maybe she won't let him use those lasers today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon, and her vision will improve for the rest of her life, or until she needs another dose of laser vision correction.

Moving towards her, Reed places a hand on hers, lifting it from the workbench. "We'll get through. We always do. And, in the event of another catastrophic failure, I'll just invent a sunscreen pill or something." It all comes so easily to Reed. Whatever he sets his mind to, usually happens. He knows it's egotistical of him to say it, but somehow, he manages to say it in a honest, heartfelt manner. He doesn't care about the Building, the gadgets, or even his laboratory. Not compared to Sue and the rest of the Fantastic Four. It's the people that matter to him. The rest is just window dressing.

But when she directs her attention to the sneakers, he frowns, "But Sue, you know how much they mean to me." Brushing a strand of hair from her face, he says, "I wore them the day I met you."

*

Reed's expression isn't missed and warrants a sharp raise of Sue's eyebrow. And then, without comment about the glasses, she motions towards them, "they're just for reading and fine-work anyways." As if that explains why she's not keen on lasers. "And it's not like I knit," she punctuates the thought with a shrug.

The notion of a sunscreen pill earns creases in Sue's forehead while her eyebrows draw together lightly, but her smile eases. "That doesn't seem like something that should work, Doctor Richards." Her free hand taps lightly against the workbench. "I'm just trying to protect what's here," she soothes. "And they said they would insure anything, but evidently that's not the case." She forces a tight lipped smile.

She shifts on the stool, twisting around to face him, and reaches up her free hand to gently caress his cheek. "But you still have me. You don't need to still have the sneakers." She pauses. "I don't think the two are tied." She sucks on the inside of her cheek, "Although I might need more data."

*

Long ago, Reed learned to pick his battles. Susan is her own woman, and can be stubborn as a mule when she wants to be, but she's a very lovely mule, and Reed considers to himself that it is a good thing that she cannot read his thoughts, or else he may never have begun dating her in the first place.

With the conversation moving back towards the insurance issue, he shrugs, "it's what I believe they call the price of doing business. We attract a lot of risk. Perhaps it's time to have another look at the plans for Four Freedoms Plaza," but then, almost as quickly as he brings it up, he dismisses it, "but that's probably for another time. The Baxter Building is our home." Ah, more sentimentality. She's caught Reed in an odd mood today it seems.

He leans into the caress of his cheek and briefly closes his eyes, and laughs at her joke. He would like to say something, to over analyse, to go into his scientific jargon, but he knows that would spoil the moment. She's trained him well. Instead, he only stares into her eyes.

*

Sue's expression softens at Reed's thoughts about the Baxter building. She's usually the sentimental one, used to having long discussions about how some things in life are symbols. "Reed Richards, just when I think I've figured you out, you surprise me." There's a shyness in her smile as she draws her hand back towards her side, her chin drops to her chest, and her eyes fixate on his shoes again.

In a way, she's proud that he's fought so hard to keep the sneakers. When she lifts her chin to catch Reed's sight again, he can see pride in her gaze. "We could get you new ones and keep these ones around somewhere?" It seems like a reasonable negotiation. And then, as if talking about something altogether different, she adds, "Just because something changes doesn't mean we devalue what's already there." Her cheeks redden a little. "I'm glad your sneakers make you think of me. I just don't know why you have to keep wearing them."

*

Pleased with that description, Reed greets her with a broad smile, "There are many facets to me, and not all of them scientific in origin." He can be the normal guy, who loves his girlfriend, his family, and his friends. Most suspect it, how else would he be with a woman like Susan Storm, but few get to see this side of him.

But, back to those infernal sneakers again. Her plan has merit. It's one she hasn't tried before, but invariably, he calculates that there will be a 96.379% chance that he'll continue to wear the original sneakers, and the new ones will be left in the closest. "All right, I give in," he says that theatrically, and then drops his voice to a whisper, holding eye contact, "I give in. We can get some new ones, as long as you come with me to pick them out."

*

"I know," Sue whispers with that still present, nearly-shy smile. "You are a paradox. And I love you for it." Her smile grows and she clarifies, "Calculating, yet kind. Structured, yet flexible," there's just a hint of mischief in her eyes, "Logical, yet sentimental. We can live here and still move forward with Four Freedoms Plaza. Sometimes I think a little more room wouldn't hurt us." Her eyebrows tick upwards, "Other times, I sort of…" her eyebrows draw together, "love tripping over everyone."

Unbridled delight reflects in her eyes at the whisper. She leans forward to softly brush her lips against his. The notion of looking for new shoes has her hopping off the stool. "I'm famously good at shoeshopping," she announces confidently. "If I could get PhDs in personal shopping, I'd have four by now. At least."

*

Listening to her extol his virtues, Reed shrinks a little, feeling bashful about it. He has an ego, a very well developed ego, but it's because it's well deserved. When he speaks, he is usually speaking as the authority on the subject, and so, ego is to be expected. But when he speaks about himself, or others do, he is humble about it. It's what sets him apart from people like Tony Stark.

Her tender embrace is returned in kind, his lips soft and pliable against her own. "I know, and, seeing as we're going out, why don't we see if we can find some new clothes for you as well? It must have been over a week since you bought something." They can afford it. But it still amazes him that he had to develop transpace for their closet so they could fit it all inside.

*

"School clothes," she states lightly. "Or… something," she shrugs. Sue presses a hand lightly against Reed's chest, the delight extending as she slips into the high heels that had been resting beneath her stool. "I'm not getting any work done today anyways," she states earnestly as she twists back towards the workbench.

She grasps her glasses and sets them on top of her laptop. "If you run in the new shoes," she says towards the laptop, "we'll talk more about the laser thing. I… people can go blind." It's matter of fact.

*

While he sees nothing wrong with the clothes she has, Reed accepts that Sue likes new clothes, and he appreciates the way she looks in them. But then again, he's currently wearing sneakers that are more than a decade old, and his usual attire consists of a Fantastic Four uniform and a lab coat, so he may not be the best person to ask.

"It'll come to you," he says about her work, knowing that she will succeed in good time. He has faith in her. As they seem ready to go, he says, matter of factly, "I should probably shower before we go. We can't have Mister Fantastic stinking up the stores along fifth avenue, now can we?"

*

"Yes. Go shower." Despite herself, Sue can't help but have her head turn at the notion of pretty things. "Hopefully shopping doesn't turn into a circus~" she almost sings as she shifts along the workbench, unplugging the laptop to put it away. Everything in its place. Carefully she winds the cord as she hmms, and she leaves the laptop out of the workbench, taking a few small steps away from the bench in turn.

There's a pause as she kicks off the heels she'd just put on. She reaches down and plucks the heels from the floor. "I feel like we should test whether you can outrace me in those shoes." There's a pause. "For science." There's another pause. "Of course, I'd probably need a shower too…"

*

He turns, beginning to head towards their apartment and the shower, but then she begins to talk some more, so his movement is halted, and he returns his attention to Sue. "One would think that after all these years, we wouldn't be newsworthy when walking along a public street in regular clothes." Johnny seems to love the spotlight, but Reed, sometimes he misses being a regular guy. But then he thinks to himself, 'have I ever been a regular guy?' He thinks not, and he'd be right.

Not sure what she's playing at, he gives her a curious look. Sometimes she can be so immature, but then again, she is considerably younger than him, and it makes him feel young. "Well, if it is to be for science…" he trails off and begins running after her, probably spooking her into a run of her own. He'd do anything for science.

*

Reed's movement has Sue breaking into a sprint, but she's at an incredible disadvantage in both her bare feet and a pencil skirt that is basically designed to inhibit movement. So her sprint isn't what it normally would be.

She hikes up the skirt as best she can as she moves, but it doesn't enable ease of movement. In fact, it makes things -more- awkward, not less. She treads a bit faster with determination as she rounds the hallway towards the shower. Her heart thumps heavily in her chest as she attempts to catch her breath from behind her boyfriend.

*

There are disadvantages and there are advantages. Sue has some from each column. The pencil skirt works as a disadvantage from a physical standpoint. Her gait is severely debilitated by the pencil skirt, but when she hikes it up, she shows off more of her legs. And while Reed is familiar with his girlfriend's legs, they provide a visual stimulus that impairs Reed's reasoning. He looks and takes his eyes off where he is going.

He follows after her, his heart rate pumping, adrenaline surging through his body and he could have surpassed her, he could have used his powers to do so even faster, but then she's just use her powers and stop him cold. Laughing as he reaches her, he wraps his arms around her, not a normal wrap, but like a blanket, stretching them around, and looks into her eyes, "I guess you won. What would you like as your prize?"

*

Breathlessly, Sue's lips tug into a large grin. She wraps her arms around him in turn, issuing him a small pull towards the shower. "Well," her breath rakes against her throat as she takes a small sliding step backwards to the shower, "we do need to get cleaned up. Both of us." Her cheeks hue a touch pinker as she bats her eyelashes lightly and then stifles a sheepish giggle at her own efforts.

Her eyes widen a little as she slides backwards another step, "Nothing said we had to be quick about showering…" she shrugs as she relaxes further in the embrace.

*

The contemporary shower and cleanliness have little in common. Reed has data on the subject. The sonic shower he designed is far more thorough and quicker, and yet, even in the Baxter Building, nobody uses it. Instead, they always use the soap and water version.

He lets her tug him towards the shower, putting up all the resistance of a paper bag. "Are you certain about that, Susan? I can't imagine you would have worked up much of a sweat from such a limited exertion. You may have to do more to make it worth the water ration, especially given your insistence on using this rather than my sonic shower."

He begins to tug at his shirt collar, feeling it cling to him from his earlier work out, and being so close to Sue. "I have it on good authority that the others won't be back for hours…"

*

"The sonic shower isn't as fun~" Susan virtually sings as she continues on her quest towards the shower. "And, Reed Richards," she uses his whole name for emphasis, "I've told you, showers aren't just to get clean." Her eyebrows arch upwards expectantly.

She presses her lips to his jaw line. "Then we should make the most of all of that time." She steps away from him, away from his space and towards the shower. She pivots on a single foot and tugs her skirt downwards before disappearing into the bathroom. The sound of the shower interrupts echoes through the room.


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