Clean Up in Aisle Three
Sorry about delays but the last few chapters were hard to execute for me and then I had to wait for my betas' opinions to come back because I didn't even want to start the next chapter until each was signed off on. Why write more if you need to go back and redo the previous chapter, you know? After this, though, we should be getting back into more familiar territory and things will speed up.
The first thing Dawn noticed upon waking was the incredible sense of disconnect between herself and the world around her. She could tell she was lying down and that someone had even been nice enough to tuck a pillow under her head, but from the neck down… nothing. Was she on a couch? A bed? A steel table? Hell if she knew. And while she could feel the soft, gentle touch of recirculating air on her face, that sensation too came to an abrupt halt at a spot about two inches south of her jaw. "What the hell hit me?"
"Actually, you were the one doing all the hitting, dear. That's the problem with having powers fueled by your own bioelectricity: makes you vulnerable to passing out as you eat through your reserves." Dawn opened her eyes and blinked a few times, trying to get them to focus. Her mother's face hovered overhead, staring down at her. "Hey there. How are you feeling?"
Dawn brought her hand up to rub at the bridge of her nose, only to freeze as she caught side of her glossy black appendage. "Uh, armored." Twisting her hand back and forth, she watching the room's light play over the shiny material. What the hell was it? She raised her right hand, only to discover it too was encased in black armor. Alright… think… everything but her face felt odd. So maybe she still had exposed skin there? Turning her hand, she rubbed the back against her cheek. It was unlike anything she'd touched before, at least as far as she could remember, hard and slick but radiating heat like her skin would. "Why do I have a sudden case of shiny?"
Leaning back, Janet rubbed the back of her neck sheepishly. "Honestly? No clue. Hank might be able to figure it out, but he's patching the holes from where you blew Astrid through two walls." She had? Dawn smirked at that news. Go her. Skank deserved it. "If I had to guess? Some mutants have a secondary mutation… Emma Frost can turn her skin into diamond. This might be your secondary mutation. If however you got powers from me is anything like an X-gene. Which I'm not sure it is. But it's a good guess, considering the last biology class I took was in high school."
"Huh. Nifty." Dawn pushed herself up onto her elbows and Janet rose from the edge of the bed, allowing Dawn to move into a fully upright position. "Million dollar question, though? How do I make it go away? Think skin, have skin? Because I didn't exactly ask this stuff to pop up."
Biting her lip, Janet shrugged helplessly. "Don't know. I think you're going to have to figure that one out on your own because hey, no armor here. Maybe we can go visit Emma again and see if she can help?" An awkward silence descended upon them, the only noise in the room the slight scuffing of Janet's shoes against the carpet as she paced back and forth. Finally, she stopped and turned to Dawn. "Do you really feel like Astrid is stealing me from you?"
Dawn sighed. Well, questions like that were bound to start popping up, especially after her little performance with the redhead. Shouting her complaints at Astrid at the top of her lungs while beating on her? Hardly subtle. She momentarily debated lying before deciding she had nothing to gain from it. The truth was that she did and if things were allowed to continue as they had been, her unhappiness would just fester until she exploded again. "Kinda. I mean, sure we do stuff together and can talk fashion but when you're around her, you just disappear into these deep conversations about style and technique that I understand about as much as Andrew's obsession with Elton John. And she's been spending a lot of time here lately…"
"Oh, honey… I didn't mean to push you out, Dawn. Honest." Returning to her spot on the edge of the bed, Janet wrapped Dawn in a tight hug, resting her head on her daughter's shoulder. "I just… I feel bad for Astrid. She's not like you and her moms aren't like me. You know your other mother and had an adoptive mother growing up. She grew up in a lab and didn't even know her parents' names until she was freed. And when she went to see them, Jessica ignored her and Felicia… well, as much as I empathize about how odd her situation is, I still want to slap Felicia for how their meeting went down. She may not show it around you guys, but I can tell she just wants an adult to accept her and I figured… well, as long as she was coming over for sewing lessons, I could try and be that person for her. After all, I managed to handle going from no daughter to one fairly well… I figured, how hard could having two be?" Straightening up, she frowned. "Then again, I wasn't counting on them having slept together. How the hell did that happen?"
Twisting on the bed, Dawn thumped one armored thigh against Janet until her mother rose, letting her slide off the bed and get a good look at herself. It was pretty much what she expected, to be honest: glossy black armor plates covering her entire body. Dawn shrugged and ran her fingers through her hair; she liked black. She'd dealt with weirder as a Scooby and she'd deal with this. "Am I going to have to give you The Talk? Because at your age, I would think you'd know all about the birds and the wasps. And wait, I already used that joke once. Damnit. Eh, I'll allow it; it's a good one."
Janet just rolled her eyes at that. "Hardy har har har. No, seriously, I sorta got from the shouting that it was before she started showing up here… but she started visiting the day after you went with Kate and Cassie for that recruiting mission." Suddenly, Janet's eyes went wide. "Is this story going to involve a foursome or something? Because you know what, I'm liberated enough to discuss my daughter's sex life… in broad strokes, mind you, I don't want details… but if we start getting into kinky group sex, that's where I start freaking out."
"What? No!" Dawn eyed her mother oddly; sometimes Janet's mind made the oddest leaps of 'logic'. "Kate, Cassie, and I went over, Astrid requested a costume from you as her price to join the team, and I figured you'd do it so I said yes. Kate and Cassie left, Astrid and I started discussing costume ideas for her and me, one thing led to another, and clothes ran away. We parted on pleasant enough times; she said she was looking forward to seeing me again. So I asked you, you said yes, I called and told her… and then she went totally cold fish on me. I mean yeah, you saw the two of us… she was friendly and all. But friend-friendly, not 'hey, I spent two hours with your head between my legs' friendly. And by the time I figured out she'd pulled a hit 'n run, you two were already all thick as thieves so I couldn't really do anything."
Open mouth. Close mouth. Open mouth. Pause. Janet stood there for a moment before shaking herself out of her stupor and staring at Dawn incredulously. "Two hours? Seriously? The most I ever got out of Hank was half an hour. Too bad you broke her, or I could try my hand at playing Mrs. Robinson." What did she mean by… oh eww! Dawn screwed up her face in disgust. "Oh stop that. I'm kidding. I don't go that way, for one… and I will deny whatever Carol says about that night the two of us killed a bottle of tequila until I die or someone produces security tapes. And secondly, even if I was a creepy grown woman who dated people her daughter's age, poaching your sloppy seconds would put this into Springer territory."
Dawn let out a little giggle at that. Then her stomach let out a loud grumble of protest and she blushed a bit. "I think I missed dinner. If I make an extra quesadilla, will you eat it?" Janet shook her head rapidly and Dawn scowled. "Coward. I already promised I'd never try to feed you peanut butter, pickles, and anchovies again. Hmm." She glanced down at herself. "Do I need clothes when I'm like this? I'm warm enough to be comfortable, and it's not like I'm naked…"
"Good question. Well, I'm fine with you being just in that stuff, but what if you change back without warning?" Dawn pondered that for a moment before shrugging; whatever happened happened. "Alright. You can go cook; I'm going to go finish up what we were working on before everything went to hell. Just to warn you, though, Astrid limped home right after you blew her through the wall but Cassie's still here."
Oh. Well that was just great. Dawn straightened up a bit and brushed past Janet as she made her way out of her bedroom. This was going to have to happen eventually… might as well just yank like a bandaid and get it over with.
Cassie was halfway through her second very large mug of hot chocolate when Dawn finally emerged, her hair looking a bit rumpled and… her skin shiny and black? The blonde blinked a few times, but the sight before her didn't change. Dawn was still wearing some sort of skin-tight glossy black armor that definitely wasn't the armor she'd worn to Xavier's and, come to think of it, she'd emerged from the bathroom wearing. The blonde banished it to the back of her mind, though. Despite letting Kate and now Astrid play Barbie with her, she really wasn't into fashion too much and so what Dawn wore or didn't wear didn't really matter to her. "So, what the heck was all that about?"
Pausing for a moment, Dawn blinked and then continued on into the kitchen. Cassie readied herself to repeat her question as Dawn opened the fridge and stuck her head inside, but then a question came floating her way that caught her off guard. "Want a quesadilla?"
"Err… sure?" She was getting pretty good at manipulating the fields around objects touching her; she could always shrink it and toss it out later if it was inedible. Cassie watched as Dawn pulled item after item out of the fridge, laying them out along the counter, before kicking the door shut and turning the range on. "So… explanation. Make with it."
Dawn froze for a moment, just a moment, before continuing what seemed like poetry in motion in front of the stove. "Her name was Melissa. She looked… nothing like you, come to think of it. A bit like me, before I got in touch with the Dark Side. Barely five feet tall, ninety pounds soaking wet, brown hair, big brown eyes… adorable in a mundane sort of way. There wasn't anything about her that really stood out, but I thought she was pretty. I suppose being one in a crowd is why they picked her. Pick an average girl; nobody will miss her."
They who? Picked her how? Cassie hadn't felt so confused since that time she'd gotten a look at Kate's physics homework. Dawn just continued on, though, not pausing or looking back at Cassie. "There were four of them. Just thugs, the kind you guys go through like butter. Not even the vampires or demons I'm used to. Human scum. I was on my way home from picking up a rare text that had gotten stuck at the local UPS depot. Came around the corner and there they were: three of them holding her in place as the last one unzipped his pants. Now there's not a whole lot of ways you can take that, you know?"
"I've had a bit of a soft spot when it comes to men taking advantage of women… there was this whole magical jacket thing back when I was in high school, felt kinda like magical mind rape. So when I saw him, I did exactly what my bosses had told me not to do: I dropped everything and threw myself into the middle." Dawn stopped here, head tilted just far enough to one side that Cassie could see her smirk. "My sister's ex-boyfriend accidentally misplaced a police-grade taser when he dropped by the school one time… wanted to keep me safe when I was out. I hit the fucker right in the ass from twenty-five feet and left him shaking like a coke addict going through withdrawal."
Dawn tossed another tortilla into the frying pan and pushed down, making the contents sizzle as she continued her story. "I'm not a cop, so my drop and reload time is something like four seconds. Laid one of the grabby buddies out on the pavement too and the last two took off running. Suddenly I have this huggy brunette limpet who's babbling about how I saved her and she'll do anything to repay me. Wish I'd noticed the rainbow bracelets before I'd opened my mouth and said 'any chance you can find me a date for Friday night?' Next thing I know, I'm sitting in this little no-name theater trying to decide whether to laugh or blush at Zombie Strippers
Wincing, Dawn opened the cupboard and removed a plate, dumping the quesadilla onto it and using a knife to cut it into slices. "Pretty much what it sounds like. Had Jenna Jameson in it." Dawn turned around to bring the plate over and read the confusion Cassie knew was showing on her face. "Rich and famous porn star? No? Nothing? Eh, whatever. Not important. Anyways, we went out for this strange awkward first date. Then we went on a not so awkward second date. And a really nice third date. Soon enough, I'm worrying about what to buy her for our six month anniversary."
Cassie picked up one of the pieces of quesadilla absently and took a bite. A myriad of flavors hit her tongue and she chewed slowly, trying to figure out what the hell she'd gotten herself into. Salsa and cheese, common enough for a quesadilla, although using mozzarella was a bit odd. Was that… pepperoni? And mushrooms and olives? Some kind of supreme pizza quesadilla? Well, Astrid had warned her that Dawn made weird shit. Wasn't too bad, though. "Okay. You saved a girl, she decided to date you… guessing that was your first lesbian relationship?"
"First relationship period, actually."
"Alright, first relationship. Got it." Cassie took another bite of her quesadilla. Hmm. Was starting to grow on her. She'd have to try making one like it herself some time. "So, no offense, but I didn't really ask for The Life of Dawn. What does any of this have to do with you sleeping with Astrid and then beating her up tonight?"
Rolling her eyes, Dawn took a big bite of her quesadilla and chewed before swallowing. "Right. Remember how I mentioned vampires and demons? They're real. I know it sounds weird, but…"
"Dawn? I spent time with the Avengers growing up. Demonic invasions… Doctor Strange… Scarlet Witch… any of this ringing a bell? Heck, I'm on a team with Billy. Do you really think I'm going to deny the supernatural exists?"
Dawn blinked. "Oh. Right. Okay, well, I work for a school that's connected to the supernatural. I kept Melissa away from it for almost a year but I figured that with our one-year anniversary coming up, I wanted all the secrets out of the way. So I took her for a nice romantic moonlit walk in a graveyard, and staked a fledgling in front of her. She freaked. Called me… well, things you can't repeat on television and dumped me. Believe it or not, she was fine with the supernatural. She was just fucking ripped I'd lied to her about what I did for a living for our entire relationship. I threw myself into my work for almost three months before realizing I was still just as angry at her as the night she'd dumped me. So I figured a good old-fashioned rebound relationship was just what the doctor ordered."
Lacking dating experience and therefore any knowledge of rebounds, Cassie could only nod along. "So when we introduced you to Astrid…"
"Actually, I was hoping it'd be you. I just couldn't figure out how to get into the pants of a probably straight, painfully shy girl. Then you introduced me to Astrid, she put herself out there, and I went for it. Except she broke the rules. Either you keep going or you go away. She just sorta stuck around and pretended nothing happened. So my rebound just added another layer of mental scarring and…" Dawn trailed off, staring at Cassie uncertainly. "What?"
Cassie shook her head slowly in disbelief. What? Dawn wanted to know what? "Um, hello? You just toss out there that you were planning to bed me for fun and expect me to smile, nod, and act like that's cool with me?"
Sighing, Dawn stared down at her plate as she continued to nibble away on her quesadilla. "Yeah, I kinda realize how bad of an idea that was now. I mean, I was trying to be like a girl I know who earned herself a lovely helping of hep-C from living the 'want take have' lifestyle. Not exactly the best role model. I just figured that my normal Dawn ways of dealing weren't working, so why not?" Letting out a noisy sigh, she traced one black nail along the rim of her plate. "You seem like a really nice girl, too, and now it turns out I might have actually had some luck if I'd had the balls to just ask. Kinda wish I hadn't thrown away any chance I had with you for two hours of sex with Astrid."
Had she? Cassie rested her chin in her palm and stared at Dawn as her mind raced. Okay, Dawn's interest in her had been purely sexual… but she hadn't acted on it. Mostly due to lack of ideas of how to go about it, it seemed, but Cassie still gave her a point for it. The dark-haired girl seemed genuinely remorseful for her actions and interested in her outside the bedroom still. So really, Dawn's only black mark was the actual sex with Astrid and it wasn't like they'd been dating at the time and Dawn had cheated. So…
"You haven't." Dawn looked over curiously and Cassie took a deep breath to calm herself. "Ruined your chances. This Friday. 8:00 PM. Midtown Multiplex. You, me, the new Star Trek movie. If I get stood up, I'll hunt you down and kick you in the ass with a size hundred boot. And just so you know, you're not getting past first base until after our one month anniversary."
Dawn's lips curled up slightly at that. "Look at you, all assertive and stuff. Two weeks of Kate and Astrid tutoring you, and you think you have what it takes to try and tame me?"
In that moment, Cassie almost felt like the Terminator from the original movie; she could practically see the possible responses flashing before her eyes. Yes, no, wait and see… Cassie searched Dawn's eyes, trying to figure out how the dark-haired girl was taking her newfound burst of self-confidence. She didn't seem annoyed or condescending… maybe she was enjoying the change of pace? Then again, Cassie knew nothing of the specifics of Dawn's past relationship; perhaps she was always submissive and this was just a return to normalcy after an aborted attempt at assertiveness with Cassie and then Astrid?
As the seconds dragged on and Dawn continued to stare at her, Cassie realized she had to say something. Anything. Crossing her fingers mentally, she reached across the counter and trailed the digits of the hand not holding a gooey quesadilla across Dawn's jaw. "Guess we'll see on Friday."
"Reason for wanting your name changed?"
"Found my biological mother and I'd rather have her name than my adoptive family's name."
"Not the most common reason but a normal enough request. Judge should sign off on that without too many questions." The harried looking clerk glanced up from her desk, eyes widening as she took in Dawn's glossy black form and wings. After a moment, she shook off her surprise and held out her hand. "Sixty-five dollars, please. We take cash, check, or credit card."
Dawn in turn held her hand out to Janet, who rolled her eyes before providing the requisite amount of money. Passing it on to the clerk, Dawn also surrendered the name change petition and the name change order. Thank God we're in New York City, she mused. She'd gotten online and looked; elsewhere in the state, she would have had to fill out even more forms, including one in triplicate. Ugh.
Scanning over the pages, the clerk nodded absently as she nibbled on the end of her pen. "Well, Miss Summers, this appears to be in order. If you'll take a seat over there, the judge will see you as close to your appointment time as possible."
Taking a seat in a rather uncomfortable wooden chair, Dawn grabbed a copy of People
magazine. Janet settled beside her, going for a well-thumbed copy of Vogue
instead. "You sure you want to do this? I mean, I'm flattered and all but…"
"Janet, do I really strike you as the kind of person who does things she doesn't want to?" Janet's mouth snapped shut and she shook her head. Grinning, Dawn patted her mother on the hand. "Believe me, if I thought this was a bad idea, we wouldn't be here. But Joyce Summers is dead, Hank Summers owes something like eight years of back child support, and my sister… yeah. I don't see why I should keep the name, especially when I have a new family who wants me."
Shrugging, Janet leaned back in her seat and opened her magazine. "You're the boss. Just figured I'd give you one last chance to bail." There was a moment of silence, which was quickly broken as Janet peeked over at Dawn. "So, what did you end up picking for a middle name? Or are you actually going to make me monogram 'DVD' onto your stuff now?"
"You think that didn't pop into my head?" Dawn scoffed and tossed her head, slapping Janet with her hair. "See that? It's black. Not blonde. And for your information, assuming we don't have problems, I'll be Dawn Evelien van Dyne by the end of the day."
"Yes! I bet Hank twenty bucks that you'd pick something weird!"
"…you two desperately need lives."