Girls' Day Out
Suppose Dawn should have said that the Young Avengers had a snowball's chance in hell of acquiring Pym Particles, given that Hank is about to start handing them out to Slayers. Oh well. A little misdirection never hurt anyone.
"What the heck?"
"Why do you look so much like me?"
"Stop copying me!"
Poking her head out of the kitchen, Dawn froze when she spotted the two girls. "Wow. This is… I had a dream like this the other night. Except there was a canopy bed, rose petals, and a lot less clothing…" Cassie raised an eyebrow at that revelation; they would most definitely be discussing it later. Especially since there was now a spare her floating around and all. "So you must be Sophie. Giles had a lot to say about you, all of it good. Hope you like spicy food, because we've got a nice big batch of General Dawn's Chicken for dinner and then…"
A bright burst of light interrupted Dawn, followed by a burst of heat and twin thumps. "Cho de!" Cassie blinked away the spots floating in her vision, only to discover they had gone from a group of three to a party of five. Asian twins, dressed in matching sundresses, stared up at her. They looked at each other, then at her and Sophie, and then back at each other before frowning. "Damn. Someone's trying to steal…"
"…our gig. They don't quite have it down yet. Hair's different, and they need to get on the same page…"
"…when they get dressed in the morning. Still. Not a bad start." The girls hopped to their feet in perfect sync before turning to Dawn and extending a hand each. "Hello. I'm Kathryn…"
"…and I'm Kimberly Phan. You must be our new Watcher, Dawn." Kimberly turned to look over at Cassie and Sophie again, a small frown gracing her lips. "There's only supposed to be one of you, though. At least according to what our old Watcher said. So which one of you is Sophie and which one of you is the… eep!" There was a flash of light and the twins scattered, diving in opposite directions as a body dropped to the floor. "It's raining Slayers!"
Two more flashes heralded the arrival of their final guests, creating a pile of cursing, struggling flesh on the floor. Cassie sighed and reached up to rub her temples. And she'd thought time-travelers and robot crushes were the weirdest her life could get. Nope. Magical appearing girls, doppelgangers, and tiny Asian Weasley twins.
Maybe she'd been better off with Eli and… nah.
Using the chopsticks to lift a piece of chicken to her mouth, Dawn chewed thoroughly before swallowing. "So, who wants to go next?" There was a loud retching noise and she sighed, turning to look down the hall. She almost felt bad for feeding chicken to a girl who turned out to be a Jain… but Mahika was old enough to know what not to eat. Chunks of chicken obviously weren't vegetables, nor were they milk, therefore she shouldn't have put them in her stomach in the first place. If she hadn't, she wouldn't have felt the need to go running to the bathroom to purge when she found out what she'd eaten. Actually, the more she thought about it, the less bad she felt. Mmm. Schadenfreude. "Don't forget to spray when you're done! Stomach acid and chicken is one nasty stench, believe me, I know." The word 'chicken' elicited another retch and Dawn rolled her eyes before returning her attention to the other girls at the table. "Oh, and if any of the rest of you have weird diet quirks I need to know about, this would be the time to tell me."
"In Vietnam, a lot of the food is influenced by Buddhism." Kathryn - or was it Kimberly; Dawn couldn't tell them apart for the life of her - held up a piece of chicken before popping it in her mouth. "We can eat vegetarian food if Mahika insists, so you're not…"
"…making tiny separate meals just for her." The other twin's chopsticks clacked together as she shoveled some rice into her mouth. "Won't say no to meat, though. Especially beef. Or duck."
Pink cowboy hat wobbling precariously as she raced through her dinner like a starving woman, Regan let out a burp before wiping her mouth against her forearm. "Ya'll find me a grill and I'll cook up the best beef you've ever had in your lives." After licking the sauce stain off her arm, she amended that statement. "Needs to be a propane grill, though. My parents weren't really into stuff that, you know, required them to do anything. Plenty happy to pay for anything I wanted to do, but that was it. Live through me and all that. So I learned how to cook from this nice guy across the street when he saw me eyeing his steaks one night." She let out a little snort. "Heh. Good old Mister Hill. Propane and propane accessories."
Oh…kay. Dawn looked over at the quiet African girl who was eating as fast as Regan but with far better table manners. Regan was the Ron Weasley of Slayers, while Naledi reminded Dawn of her own eating habits in the last days before the fall of Sunnydale, tucking away what she could get her hands on before it got swept away by the voracious cloud of Potentials. It took the dark-skinned girl a moment to realize she was being watched before arching a brow. "Me?" She scoffed at the idea. "I went through the worst parts of Africa with the Watcher you lot sent to find me, luv. And even after we got to Somalia, it's hardly gourmet eating. As long as it holds still and doesn't squeak when I poke a fork in it, I'll eat it. And I'm willing to bend both of those rules if need be."
…eww? Trying to get her mind off that mental image, Dawn decided to try a new line of conversation. "So, what's Africa like? I've never had a chance to leave America."
"The part of Johannesburg I grew up in wasn't half bad. Not like other parts of South Africa… did you know girls have a higher chance of getting raped than learning how to read in some areas? The boys call it 'jackrolling'… gangraping girls is like a game to them." Dawn's jaw dropped at Naledi's casual tone, the African girl picking up a pepper between two fingers and eyeing it suspiciously. "Thanks to my Watcher, I got to see those areas. And South Kivu. And Darfur. And Somalia. All thanks to International Council of Watchers." Looking over at Dawn, she let the pepper drop back into her bowl. "The thing is… malnourished, AIDS-infected women evidently don't taste very good to vampires and other demons. I never had to save them… the victims of what's going on there. I had to save the human monsters from the inhuman ones. And I really didn't want to." Taking a sip of water, she placed her fork neatly next to her bowl, empty save for the chilis Dawn had added to the meal for spice. "Here's to hoping there's something worth saving in this new city of mine." Pushing back from the table, Naledi turned and made her way out of the dining room. The apartment door opened and shut a moment later.
Rattled, Dawn looked down at her half-eaten dinner before pushing the bowl away.
The other Slayers and Cassie followed suit.
They were officially late. Not just a little late. Late, with a capital L. Very Late.
Dawn scowled as she stomped down the street, the crowds parting like the Red Sea at the sight of an angry teenage superheroine bearing down on them. It'd taken her forever to banish the images of Naledi's dinnertime conversation and get to sleep, only to be awoken far too early by her alarm clock. And then… "Can't believe it. I pay out the ass to get you lot added to my plans for the day, push everything back an hour just to be safe, and we're still late. Remind me to ask Hank about getting some Hulk-proofed alarm clocks to use on your lazy asses in the future."
There was a snicker from her left and Dawn reached the end of her rope, pinning her girlfriend with a glare. "What are you laughing at? I called to wake you up when I rolled out of bed and all seven of us were able to get up, eat, and get over to your place before you managed to get yourself up." Cassie looked down at her feet and Dawn sighed; she really needed to work on not just lashing out at anything in range when angry. Especially when it came to Cassie, at least if she wanted to be in a relationship for any extent of time. "I'm sorry. Although we do have to work on that. You're in bed by ten most nights… how you can't be up by eight in the morning is beyond me."
"Hey, ease up. Cassie ain't a Slayer like the rest of us, Dawn. Well, you're not one either but you're used to the life. Regular people, though? They generally need more than three or four hours of sleep. And I know this is shocking, but you know when most of them sleep? At night." Regan accompanied her little speech with a wink and a smile in Cassie's direction, the blonde grinning back. Dawn sighed, receiving the message loud and clear: General Summers Junior wouldn't go over any better than the original had. Fine. She'd ease up. The last thing she needed was the lot of them teaming up on her.
Dawn led on in silence until they reached the salon, opening the door and letting the others pass so she could look over the septet of girls she was spending her day out with. It was no surprise that Regan was first in line, seeing as how the mouthy Texan was already starting to establish herself as the alpha Slayer in the household. She snorted; Regan's brace-filled mouth was proof that everything was indeed bigger in Texas. At least her favorite cowboy hat was on the smallish side, because Dawn couldn't imagine a proper ten-gallon hat in that garish shade of pink.
Following close behind, probably in search of protection, came Mahika. A Slayer that wouldn't slay, taking ahimsa to such an extreme that she wouldn't defend herself or her fellow Slayers. Dawn shook her head at the irony. Jains were non-violent as a rule, but most recognized the need for military service and such and there had been Jain Slayers in the past. It was just this particular Jain Slayer who was proving to be such a pain in the ass. The vegetarian thing… eh, Dawn would adapt. She'd gotten Cassie to eat squab; after that, making tasty meals without meat didn't seem like much of a challenge.
Although Dawn decided she would be going through Mahika's bag and hiding all the swastika jewelry before another fight erupted between her and Sophie…
Naledi eyed Dawn as she passed, making the dark-haired girl squirm and look away. The African Slayer had been out well past midnight, if the slamming of doors was to be believed, and the morning news had been filled with stories of muggers and rapists beaten senseless by a mysterious new hero and left for the cops. Not that Dawn could chastise the girl for going outside the usual parameters of Slayer hunting; all of them would be expected to do community policing as part of getting their new powers. Still, the anger in the group's quietest girl worried Dawn and she resolved to keep an eye on Naledi, lest they end up with a situation similar to Faith's first year in Sunnydale.
Two more forms passed through the door, leaning on each other and whispering quietly in Vietnamese, and Dawn scowled. She'd always loved the Weasley Twins in both the books and Harry Potter movies, but having to put up with a pair of twins who actually behaved that way? She was ready to pull her hair out already, and it'd only been twelve hours. They did, however, show an instinctive knowledge of the other's location, moving around each other with the grace of carefully choreographed dancers. That would undoubtedly transfer well into slaying and superheroics, so Dawn decided she'd grin and bear it… for now.
Bringing up the rear and still giving each other odd looks were Cassie and her British doppelganger Sophie. It was odd, Dawn mused, because while she hadn't completely cut herself off after the Astrid debacle, she was trying to keep non-Cassie people at an arm's length… but that didn't seem to apply to Sophie. She felt drawn to the newcomer and not even in a sexual way - which was surprising, given the Slayer's near perfect resemblance to the other blonde in Dawn's life. Not that Sophie wasn't cute: she was Cassie with a bit more on top, a bit less on the bottom, and a North London accent. The latter was the key, though, reminding her of Spike and home. She also had an interest in cooking, although Sophie had confessed she wasn't as… experimental… as Dawn preferred to be. No matter. She'd get the blonde to loosen up, slowly but surely.
As Cassie stepped through the doorway, Dawn put her hand on the small of her girlfriend's back and followed, coming to an abrupt halt when she found her Slayers scattered and an irate looking Kate glaring at her. Crap. Time to deflect blame before Kate can even get a word in. "Sorry we're late. There was some teleport-lag that made getting them up kinda hard. Wasn't counting on having six house guests who could turn alarm clocks into pancakes when they tried to smack the snooze button."
Kate's gaze jumped from one girl to another, eyeing them speculatively. Then again, Dawn didn't blame her. Six random superhuman girls whose powers were unknown and who Kate had never met before… that would make her uncomfortable too. "So who are you all, anyways? Since Dawn's social skills are underdeveloped and she hasn't made introductions yet?"
"Yes, well, sorry for trying to explain the lateness. Next time, I'll just leave you to stew." Dawn took a step forward into the space between the two groups of girls. "But since you're so damn impatient… down my line? Save a horse, ride a cowgirl is Regan Blake, black and tan are Naledi Jackson and Mahika Nurandi respectively, the tiny terrors are Kathryn and Kimberly Phan - don't ask me how to tell them apart because I haven't figured it out yet - and the ponytailed Cassie is Sophie Johnston. The French braided Cassie is actually Cassie; everyone here knows her." Moving across to the other line, Dawn made introductions for her Slayers' sake. "Tall, dark, and snarky is Kate Bishop, the girl who got four girls' worth of visits from the boob fairy is Astrid Jansen…" Dawn came to a halt, staring at a pair of unfamiliar girls. "And I don't know you two."
But while she didn't recognize them, Dawn did have a few ideas as to their identities. One was a pint-sized version of the Scarlet Witch, right down to her preference for the color red - in this case, a simple t-shirt and a pair of track pants. The other was a blue-eyed blonde bombshell who could have stepped out of the pages of the Playboys that Dawn routinely… liberated… from Faith and Xander's bedrooms. The Scarlet Witch clone pulled a slim wooden wand out of her pocket and a tendril of lightning crawled over it, Dawn's eyes widening as her suspicions were confirmed. "Just call me Billie…"
"And I'm Teddie." Her tanned skin turned green for a moment before returning to normal. Teddie grinned, pointing over at Kate. "Kate can face down the Avengers, Kang, and an alien invasion, but for some reason facing you and 'a few friends' with only Astrid for backup freaked her out. Billy and I were curious what you girls get up to on these 'girls' day out' things, so we decided to shift and tag along. Especially since you're footing the bill."
Dawn winced at the reminder of her promise, hoping that Janet didn't look too closely at her credit card bills. Not that Dawn was planning to take advantage of her mother; an appropriate amount of money was being transferred into Janet's checking account from an account Dawn had found when she'd torn through the records of the late Warren Mears. But twelve girls, gone wild in a salon? Thank God she had access to hidden Swiss bank accounts. Trying to distract herself from thoughts of how much she was going to be out after this little daytrip, Dawn circled 'Billie' slowly. "You know, Billie, maybe you should do the whole 'Iwanttolooklikeagirl' thing more often. Like, say, every morning when you roll out of bed. Because you look damn good like this."
Fidgeting at the close scrutiny, Billie looked back over one shoulder, then the other, trying to keep Dawn in sight. "You do remember I'm really a guy under here, right?"
"And you're a girl who likes girls?"
"Yes. And you make a hot one."
Billie groaned and rubbed one fingertip up and down her nose in frustration. "…anyone wanna help me out? Teddie, oh wonderful boyfriend of mine? Cassie? Anyone?" The girls all looked at each other before rushing past Billie, following the receptionist into the salon proper. "Lovely."
Snickering, Teddie looped an arm around Billie's shoulders and steered her to follow the others. "It's all your own fault, you know. Normal girls don't get to pick what they look like, but you chose to look like the teenage version of a woman who's been on Maxim's Top Five Hottest Superheroines for six years running." That earned her an odd look from Billie and Teddie shrugged defensively. "What? I did a little research about your family when we started getting serious. Her page on Maxim.com was like, fifth in the Google results. Not really the kind of thing I was looking for, though. Finding dozens of pictures of your boyfriend's mother posing in red lingerie is just… ugh."
"You should see the ones they didn't publish." Two sets of eyes looked back at Dawn and she wiggled her eyebrows. "Did I mention I know my way around a computer? Took Maxim's in-house servers for all they were worth. Mrow. Major hotness." Billie and Teddie looked at each other, shuddered, and hurried after the others. "Ah, there's nothing like the smell of psychological trauma in the morning."
Cassie just shook her head in amusement before tugging Dawn after the others. A cloud of workers had descended on the girls like a plague of locusts, some talking like the Phans and others talking over each other as they tried to sell the girls on services or debated what might suit each girl best. Which reminded Dawn… "Are you still thinking of getting falls done?"
Nodding, Cassie reached up to tug on the end of one braid. "I want to talk to the workers here, though. See what they have, how easy it'd be for me to get them in and out, et cetera. Might just be easier to get streaks dyed in. Or not. Don't know much about this kind of stuff; Blake couldn't afford it on his salary and even if he could, he wouldn't have. Either way, though, I'm thinking bits of black and red. Stick with my costume colors, since those seem to stay the same no many how many times I get redesigned."
"Sounds like a plan." Dawn looked down at her hands, and then past them to her black armored feet. "Hmm. Looks like a mani and pedi aren't in the cards, at least for today." Rapping her knuckles against the chitin armor that protected her forearm, she chuckled. "Wonder if they have any Turtle Wax?"
"So was there a purpose for this get together, or did you just wanna traumatize Billie and spread our secret identities around some more?"
"Little bit of a lot of things. And don't worry, your identities are safe. Janet says the lady Avengers come here all the time to unwind… or they did, before the team broke up." Dawn pointed across the way to where a pair of stylists were holding up both synthetic hair and wool falls for Cassie's inspection. "She wanted to see you guys again without chancing running into Eli, so I figured a girls' day out at a salon was a safe bet. Oh, and I wanted to rub your nose in your whole lack of Pym girls. Not you personally, the Young Avengers as a whole. It turns out that Hank had some interesting plans… and you guys let Eli chase Cassie and I off just in time to miss out."
Kate gave Dawn an odd look and Dawn nodded towards the far end of the room, where the six Slayers were grouped and chattering with each other. Following Dawn's gaze, there was a momentary pause and then Kate's eyes widened as she caught on. "Which one of them? And what are you going to call her?"
Did she dare? Was she that mean? Dawn snorted. Of course she was. "All six of them. We're still working out designations but I think Janet and Hank are planning to give them all copies of Janet's current costume and call them Wasp-One through Wasp-Six. The Wasp Corps, collectively." And the Young Avengers' second-in-command would be blowing her top in three… two… one…
"What?!" Conversation stopped for a minute and Kate reddened before flipping off the lot of them. Snorts and giggles burst forth and in twos and threes, the girls returned to chatting, shooting curious looks Kate's way every so often. "Eli pisses off Cassie and we not only lose her, but lose any chance with you and miss out on the chance to have six more girls with your powers too? I'm going to kill that boy."
Dawn opened her mouth but instead of words, a soft moan emerged. Her eyes rolled back into her head and she found herself pressing back against the stylist's roaming digits as the woman massaged the hair dye into her scalp, doing her damnedest to ensure that every last micrometer of root was covered. The dye tingled and smelled funny, but those fingers were magical. After a minute, the woman moved on down to start searching out spots Dawn had missed with her home dye job and the dark-haired girl's brain came back online. "Just a thought… might want to hold actual elections for team leader. Before you go recruiting again… you are recruiting, I assume?"
A nod made Kate wince as her hair pulled taut in her stylist's grip. "Damnit. Day out… fun in theory, not great for serious conversation. But yeah, we're recruiting. Remember the girl at Xavier's that sniffed you?"
"You mean the one who accused me of being not human and 'smelling green'?" And how the hell had nobody asked her about that? Dawn shook her head back and forth slightly, not wanting to risk a painful tug like Kate had experienced. Teddy was part green alien from a species that occasionally invaded, at least if she remembered Cassie's stories correctly. The Young Avengers had fought against them at one point, even. But no. Nothing. Not even Cassie had thought to raise the subject with her. Well, Cassie's loss was her gain. Like she wanted to explain her strange, metaphysical, energy-into-matter, three mom origin. "Kinda hard to forget."
"Yeah, it turns out she's Wolverine's sister-slash-daughter." Dawn's jaw dropped and Kate chuckled. "Yeah, I know. Vision got into the Avengers' computers to get the whole story for us. It's not some Oedipus thing where he knocked up his own mother or something. She's a lab rat created with his DNA and some female doctor's, but officially they claim to be brother and sister rather than father and daughter because their healing factors mean that in a few years, they'll look too close in age to be anything but siblings. She's got his healing factor, claws, and is supposed to be just as deadly."
Giggling hysterically, Dawn gave Kate an incredulous look. "You want to put Wolverine with boobs on your team? On a team with the kid who flipped shit over a giant-sized game of hacky sack?"
"…huh. Yeah. I'll sit down with Vision tonight. We might need to rethink this."