Outside, there’s the sound of battle. Or, more so, of metal and machinery being forced. Then Namor is standing in the window, arrogant, dark clouds framing him, wet from rain.
“Susan…” he says.
“Namor,” she snaps.
“Where is your husband? Here, or off incestuously comparing notes with Doom?”
“Look at you, posing up there like a teenager! Grow up. He’s off with the children! My children! Two of them!”
“What care I that you have made bad choices? That you feel trapped by them? Be untrapped! Even for a while. Let us ride this storm. Be one with it. Let me have known you.”
“Geez, you don’t waste time, do you?”
“Well. you’re right, Namor.”
“I made choices. A husband, kids.”
Sue Richards walks to Reed’s computer. Entering its space, she is scanned silently, instantly, a massive screen projected large in the air, to her exact height, to her exact eye diameters.
“Actually, you’d be perfect for this. Come help,” she says.
Namor watches her, this blond thing of beauty, this light so far from from the ocean’s dark depths, so the opposite of what he is and all he knows. He was always rebellious, even against the obligations of his crown. Even of his own destiny. What care he for logic or rules? What concern to him another man, or another man’s offspring? Namor is a King, no matter the state of his affairs. He was born a King! Want is want. Desire is desire! She likes the thought of him, he knows it. Wants him, he is sure. She is but scared, he thinks. To leap, of me and all I am.
He has swum days to be here, crumpled many underwater bridges, but today Susan is angry, his flattery simply further enraging her.
“Look - Reed’s Cosmic Being files,” the Invisible Girl says. “Most of the information on them came from the Infinity Gauntlet debacle.”
“Adam Warlock, Drax, Thanos?”
“So much power, such boys.”
“Is this what makes you angry?” Namor asks.
But Sue is staring at the folder on Love and Hate. The blond, blue-eyed woman with pert tits. The black, angry monster.
“Only two heroes stood tall in the presence of these beings," she says. "Succeeded above us all that day, getting on the inside while the rest of us wallowed in comedy. "
“Have care, Susan. I was there.”
“Dr Strange and the Silver Surfer.”
Sue Richards looks hard at Namor, Her eyes boring into him.
“Susan…” Namor reaches out.
“Pull your dick in, Prince, or I will insert an expanding force-field into its eye and expand said member until it splinters like octopus legs.”
Namor steps back, shocked, then angry.
“You used to be a Defender,” the Invisible Girl says. “Teams form bonds, believe me, I know. Take me to Strange.”
“I am unaware of how to find-”
“You know. Take me.”
Fair skinned Sue Richards and surly, regal Namor walk down an unlit, filthy alley with a brothel on one side, the service exit of a few cheep Chinese takeaways on the other, dumpsters, garbage, some brick walls, and a small pool hall at its end.
“Isn’t this location a bit beneath him?” Sue says, watching a sleeping homeless man, his hand under his pants.
“Strange has learned,” Namor replies. “His home now shifts with his moods, mostly to wherever shadows lie.”
The heroes take an elevator to the floor above the pool hall, then walk an old stairwell, until, somehow, they find themselves surrounded by Dr Strange’s home.
Strange stands, spheres either side of him, an image of Love in one, Hate in the other.
“How did you know I-“ the Invisible Girl starts.
“They’re not actualities,” he tells her, with a small, greeting smile. “They are manifestations, representations.”
“They're the most racist things I have seen in my life!” she protests. “Like those porn movies with rooms full of big, ugly black men and one pretty blond w-“
“Imperial Rex!” protests Namor.
Sue Richards ignores him.
“But a manifestation must take a shape,” Strange says.
“I won’t have it!” she shouts. Namor, startled, pulls back from her personal space. “Why that shape!?” she points, angry. “Why those shapes? Blond, white, equalling pretty and good, and black ugly and evil?”
“Is that how you see them?” Strange asks, casually.
“It is how we all see them, Stephen. Bar you,” Namor replies.
Strange joins his two opposing pointer fingers above his head, then separates them, so that a circle grows. In it, the image of a teenaged boy appears. Caucasian, middle class, baseball cap on.
“This is Rudy Wickham. Just a name. Just a boy. 14, from Upstate New York. Wants to be a journalist or a builder. Somehow Fate found its way into his imagination.”
“Just like that?”
“Sometimes, just like that, Mrs Richards. A random selection of someone thinking of love and hate.”
“Well, it’s wrong! Someone should tell the boy! Teach him.”
“He is a fan of yours.”
“I knew it! I fucking new it!” the Invisible Girl rages.
“Susan!” protests Namor.
Anger, porn, swearing - this is not the woman he thinks he knows, the Queen he projects on her to be.
“This is no problem,” Strange says, with a brief, warm smile. “An easy thing. I leave you to recreate the images of Love and Hate, Susan Richards…”
The Invisible Girl looks around, startled. The room is now a series of red roses and thorns, falling like vines. Strange is walking out the door, causally ushering Namor out with him.
Sue looks up at the two mighty figures of Love and Hate, wind in her hair, while behind her, Namor holds Strange’s forearm, halting him in the doorway. Both stare at the other hard, as if they’ve known each other the longest time.
As if they don’t need words.
A battle of wills to Namor, of pride. Always of pride. A matter of what’s right, of relevance or otherwise, to Strange.
The mage leaves, Namor approaches the Invisible Girl from behind.
Love melts from childhood fantacies of her in pink dressing gowns, fading into a large bright mass, Hate into a large black mass. The wind picks up as the circles crackle with energy, then start to shape and mould.
I can’t do this! Susan Richards thinks. Stephen Strange! How can you give me
The bright orb takes the shape of Captain America, the black, the Hulk, then Wolverine. She is mad at herself, her lack of imagination. There is a world to think of, not just her bubbled part of it. The shades shift more, her children appear as light, Doom as dark. Then Reed standing opposite Namor.
Damn you, Strange! she thinks, tears in her eyes.
“Can you feel it?” Namor asks, his hand on her shoulder.
Red petals fill the air.
“Of course I can!”she shouts over the wind.
These things, these entities Love and Hate, are pure, unbridled emotion. And here is The Sub Mariner , in the midst of their raw, unfiltered airs, in the eye of their storm. Namor, the beast, the swordfish.The hammerhead! The bad boy all good, blond, blue-eyed girls shouldn’t have. Something arrogant, proud and beautiful. Something dangerous, that stinks like rotting seaweed and salt, yet thunders, under its rough, shark skin, with rolling, barely contained power. With fire!
A man that doesn’t think, or talk, just does.
He is the opposite of the life she was born into. Around him she can see what she is. The person who married so young and feels so frustrated and bound and ordinary sometimes. Around him, everything about her is less predictable, less safe, as if ‘safe’ is a dirty word.
Because he is abandon.
A reeking man of unbridled, reckless passions.
Someone of whom Doris Day would never approve.
The entities bend and shift. Sue Richards is lost. Isn’t there often hate in love? Or love in hate? she thinks.
She tries to imagine them merged into Ying and Yang, but they buckle and scream and resist. The wind picks up again, as if it is an entity, feeding on her moods. It wails out all other sound.
In this mad storm of re-creation, of swirling Love and Hate, this collision of hurt and need, Namor turns her face to him. They kiss.
They make love.
Sue Richards props herself up, watching Namor sleep. He was every bit as good as she thought he would be. The release of sex with him was also every bit as good as she thought it would be. Something dirty and right. She hates herself for it.
Reed is good at tricks, the best at caring. But Namor, his strength…
The Invisible Girl turns, looking up at Love and Hate.
“Take him away…” she says, a steel in her eyes.
“…mwhu?” Namor stirs.
“Stephen Strange!” Sue Richards shouts. “Take him away!”
“Susan…” Namor reaches out.
He is thrown through the air, startled, as if struck by an invisible force field. Standing, he is hit by more unseen blows, once, twice, three times, knocking him about.
He pounds on the force field, full of want and anger, calling to his muse on its other side.
“STRANGE!” the Invisible Girl demands.
Dr Strange’s eyes appear, large, behind Namor. The Eye of Agmotto above them, forming a Pyramid of Id.
“Of course. As you wish,” a voice says.
“STRANGE, DON’T YOU DARE!” Namor rages, pounding at the invisible barrier as he fades from view. “STRANGE!! WE WILL BE ALLIES NO MORE IF…”
And he is gone. The winds die.
Love and hate aren’t that simple. Even life and death aren’t, Sue thinks.
Day and night, also, both have love and hate. Animals aren’t that simple. She has seen affectionate dogs that love their owners and hate other animals, cats full of spite, even dolphins show compassion and bile.
She walks up to Love and Hate. They have been joined since she made love, something she could not do on her own. But they are melted together violently. Hate is much bigger, black, and looks just like her. Like what, right now, she feels of herself. The white is Namor, twisted, in pain because of the black. He never pretended to be anything other than what he is. Not once.
But the white is laced with black veins. And there is something, she thinks, in her love for her children, that is true, that might kill her stain. Provide, she hopes, some form of redemption, some white in her sullied veins. Yet the bodies remain locked in twisted pain.
What if they stay like this? she thinks. Oh! Oh, no! What if while fighting interstellar monsters and the Inbetweener and Galactus and other cosmic beings, Reed looks for Love and Hate only to come across her and Namor naked, fused of flesh and bone, 60 feet tall? What if everybody sees?
Sue Richards straightens, deciding she’s done with tears. They have never helped, not once. She stares hard, regarding her fate.
Her black has seeped further into Namor, his white further into her black, so that she can’t tell which is which.
Isn’t hating defeat a good thing? she wonders. Isn’t some love controlling and bad?
Then the Namor becomes Reed, then her kids. Love. Then Hate, too, shifts, becoming a gun, a club, then something else…
“Take me out of here,” she says.
Sue Richards sits brooding on a couch in the Baxter Building, staring at the photo of Doris Day. Her husband comes through the door, sleeping kids wrapped in one of his elastic arms.
“Don’t get up,” he says, as his lips stretch down to kiss her.
His first, nerdiest, longest-lasting, most affectionate trick. Oh, she loves him!
She wants to hug him, kiss him properly, but order before affection, he puts the kids to bed.
“Have you been baking seafood?” his voice asks from upstairs.
“Burnt it. Threw it out,” she replies.
He jokes over the intercom, like she knew he would, about how it’s just as well she’s such a great mother because she’s a lousy cook.
Susan Richards acknowledges her husband's humour with an affectionate, faraway “Hmff”. Eyes fixed on Doris, she wonders what went on behind the blond hair and blue eyes of the singer/movie star? What happenings her private life kept, what secrets and turmoil?
She decides to not share her guilt with Reed, that sometimes strength is in keeping a secret, and in that a partner's happiness and love.
Meanwhile, somewhere within a never-ending, petal and thorn filled portal, within a room with no walls, in a house that roams, Love melts into the shape of a rabbit, Hate becomes a fox, then a cat, then a shark.
Sometimes white, sometimes black, forever shifting and back...