Exploring New Options
Well obviously with Astrid establishing herself a good deal earlier in the story, there's a need for different girls that the Young Avengers go to meet. Fear not, True Believers, I'm on it.
Kate had a bad feeling about this.
A like, 'why you shouldn't take the Hulk to Taco Bell' sort of bad feeling about this.
Seriously bad feeling.
'All' the Young Avengers had to do was take down Laura Kinney, also known as X-23, and she would join their team. Which, given the overwhelming odds, didn't seem so hard until one remembered she was Wolverine's daughter. She had claws that could cut through any substance save Captain America's shield, she healed at an insanely accelerated rate, and she had been trained to kill from an early age. Honestly, Kate didn't even really expect anyone on the team to land a blow.
Judging by the little smirk on Laura's lips, she didn't either.
But despite Kate's thoughts on the matter, the others wanted to take their shot at the daughter/sister/lab rat clone person of the legendary Wolverine and so, not wanting to risk mutiny so soon after being voted in to replace Eli as leader of the Young Avengers, Kate was going to let them have at it. But if they thought she was going to help… "You know what, I think I'm going to sit this one out. I know exactly how sharp her claws are and can safely say I'd prefer to keep that knowledge strictly theoretical, rather than experiencing it firsthand."
"So what, you're all for diving into battles against supervillains or armies of aliens, but can't handle sparring with a single teenage mutant?" Eli scoffed and waved his hand up at where Emma Frost was waiting in the control room. "Fine. Go have some champagne and caviar with Headmistress Frost. We'll collect you after we're done welcoming Laura to the team. Some leader you're turning out to be. At this rate, I'll have my team back by the end of the week."
Kate just laughed at that. "Yeah, I'm sure you'll be patting yourself on the back real hard after Laura's done chopping your hands off. Now if you'll excuse me, I think I'll go join Emma. She rocks a totally monochromatic wardrobe; maybe she can help set me up with Hawkeye Purple outfits that don't make me look like a raisin." Leaving her teammates behind to debate how to try and overcome Laura, Kate made her way up to the control room, where Emma was waiting for her. "God, I hope she castrates him with those claws of hers."
Chuckling, Emma's fingers flew over the controls for a few more seconds, shifting the barren metal room below to look like a grassy clearing surrounded by forest. That done, she settled back into a white leather chair and turned it to face Kate, holding out a flute of champagne. "I must admit, I'm a bit conflicted. Eli grates on my nerves as well, but I would love to see Laura out of my school and away from my students. Perhaps we should hope she takes him out, and then one of your other teammates defeats her?"
"I'll drink to that." Perching on the arm of Emma's chair, Kate watched as Tommy took the point for the group's attack, only to have Laura react with amazing speed and thrust her fist out. The speedster went from a blur to a body on the floor, screaming and clutching his calf as blood streamed out of two neat punctures. "Ooh, that's gotta hurt…" Watching her teammates spar with a potential recruit sent Kate's mind wandering to a subject that might be of interest to her companion. "Emma? How would you feel if we approached Charisse to join the Young Avengers?"
Turning to glare over at Kate, Emma's eyes flared blue for a moment and Kate felt the world spin dizzily around her. For a second she thought she was going to puke, and then the feeling was gone and Emma was staring at her quizzically. "I'm sorry, what did you say?"
What had she been… it took Kate a moment to remember what she'd meant to ask the blonde. "Clothing question. Do you think I could wear purple the way you do white, or do I end up looking like a raisin no matter how hard I try?"
Furrowing her brow in consternation, Kate stared down at the printout in her hand: the latest email she'd exchanged with Gisela Weiss. Unit A11. She'd gone up and down the floor twice and found A1 through A10 and A12 through A20, but A11 was being incredibly elusive. "Maybe I should knock on someone's door and ask where to find…"
"Apartment A11, ja?" Kate jumped at the voice, spinning around only to freeze in surprise at what she found. Please, please, please, she thought, let this girl be the one she was here to visit. Unlike most of the other files in the failsafe program, Gisela Weiss's hadn't included any images of her. If it had, the rest of the Young Avengers probably would have overridden Vision's interest in Dawn Summers and come to this girl immediately. She was, to be blunt, an Aryan She-Hulk, all blonde hair, blue eyes, muscles, and curves. Kate looked her up and down slowly. Okay, maybe the girl didn't quite match the She-Hulk's published height of six foot seven, but she was definitely over the six-foot mark. Still. Tall, fierce, and absolutely gorgeous. Adding Gisela to the team, Kate realized, would move herself down to the bottom of the totem pole as far as attractiveness went. Where was Cassie when Kate needed… oh, that was mean. True, kinda, but mean. "I am Gisela Weiss-Schäfer. I apologize, I should have warned you my unit is in the basement. Follow me."
Weiss-Schäfer? Her name had changed? Kate shrugged before following. Parents split and remarried all the time, or maybe her parents had divorced and she'd taken both surnames to keep anyone from feeling left out? Who knew and more importantly, who cared? Kate fell in behind her, passing through a door and down a flight of stairs before emerging into a slightly more dingy hallway. They passed several doors that were marked only with numbers, one labeled 'Laundry', and then reached a door that matched the units above, marked A11 in polished brass. "You can fly, right?" Gisela nodded but remained silent as she unlocked the door and ushered her inside, making Kate frown. Not exactly the friendliest of girls. And she and Astrid were hardly BFFs. Cassie had brought more to the team then Kate had realized. "Wouldn't it be easier to have a unit above ground? Higher the better? And why is A11 down here, anyways? Why not just go one through nineteen on the ground floor if that's all they could fit?"
Gisela shook her head, leading Kate into a living room that held a couch with an ugly blanket tossed across the cushions in a lump, a coffee table covered in books and empty beer bottles, and an older television on a flimsy looking stand. "People here know what I am. I go to the roof if I want to fly or walk out the front door and fly away. And I have the biggest unit in the building. Each floor, the layout is identical. The eleventh apartment on every floor is above the lobby on the first floor. So to keep things identical, this became A11. Simple, ja?" Kate nodded; most things tended to make sense once you were actually informed on the matter. "I am thirsty. Beer?"
"Um, no thank you. I'm under twenty-one. So is everyone else on the team, for that matter, just so you know." Kate frowned as something tugged at her memory and then she snapped her fingers. "Hang on, you're only twenty and live on your own. How did you even get beer?"
A groan brought Kate's attention back to the couch, where the lump of blanket stirred before a girl with dark hair and eyes poked her head out. "If I had known someone was coming, I would have napped in the bedroom." She blinked a few times before throwing the blanket off and sitting up so she could stretch. This girl and Gisela were as different and night and day, the newcom… well, newly revealed girl having dark brown hair, same colored eyes, and a short, slim body. Finally, after running herself through a series of stretches, the girl's attention shifted to Kate. "And I buy it for her. Drinking age is sixteen in Germany. After four years, why stop her just because we moved?" Shaking her head, she scowled as she leaned forward to grab one of the books off the coffee table. "Stupid Americans. Piss beer, homophobic government, and they send you to die in wars before they let you do anything fun."
Gisela rolled her eyes before heading off, returning a moment later with a pair of brown beer bottles. "Try not to insult our guest, would you? And it could be worse, Süße. We could live in the south. Heat, hurricanes, and people who marry their own cousins." Giving the unknown brunette one of the bottles, Gisela brought the other up to her mouth and bit down, twisting the bottle a bit before spitting the cap out onto the coffee table. Kate let out a low whistle at that. Impressive. "Oh. My manners. This is Lorelei. She is my… how do you say in English? Life partner?"
Well, that would explain where the Schäfer in Weiss-Schäfer had come from. Kate shrugged mentally; they already had Billy and Teddy, and Cassie had been with Dawn when she left the team. A lesbian in a committed relationship didn't bother her any. "Life partner. Same-sex significant other, if you want a mouthful. You can call her your wife for all I care, since that's pretty much what she is. Any powers?" Lorelei shook her head. "Cool. You can still bring her around the warehouse if you want, unless there's a major personality clash. I'd rather not have superbickering, considering I have to pay for repairs."
"Ja. Good idea." Gisela took a long pull from her beer, an expression of intense thought on her face as she stared off into space. "What about the boy? The one who disowned your old teammate for her fight with the Shocker? I sent you my videos; you know I hit hard. Is there going to be a problem?"
Thankfully, not anymore. It was something Kate had worried about during her opening exchanges with Gisela, but thankfully the vote had gone in her favor and now Eli was a non-issue. "Nein." Gisela grinned and Kate held her hand out, accepting the beer from the statuesque blonde. Taking a sip, her eyes bugged out and she barely kept herself from spitting it back out. Now she knew why Lorelei had grumbled about America having piss beer. That shit was strong. Swallowing, Kate shook her head. "No. We voted Patriot out of command after that. He's still on the team, but I'm the leader now."
Gisela took her beer back, grin widening. "Good to hear. When is your next meeting? I wish to meet the others."
That was it? A few minutes of face to face conversation, a question about Eli, and Gisela was ready to join the team? Kate blinked. Was it really that easy? Would things have gone faster with Astrid, and would Dawn and Laura have joined the team, if only they'd approached with a single emissary instead of letting the entire team pile up on her? Something to contemplate later, she decided. "Seven 'o clock tonight. Lemme write down the address. Oh, and do you have a codename?"
"Ja. Princess Pulse."
Kate paused in her writing. Princess… Pulse. Well, it wasn't the best she'd ever heard, but she'd heard worse.
Cough, Strong Guy, cough cough.
"I have assorted sheep parts scattered across my kitchen. This is, without a doubt, the grossest thing I have ever done. And that includes having to load a dishwasher with bloodstained mugs from back when I lived with a vampire."
"A vamp… oh! William the Bloody. I forgot about that. I hope I can meet him one of these days. I did an essay on him for our Research Skills class. I even visited some of the places where he committed his most gruesome kills. Like this one spot, where he supposedly used railroad spikes to nail a demon who betrayed him to the rails and let it get cut in half by a train. Plus he's fucking hot. I wouldn't mind getting run through by his spike, if you know what I mean." Dawn shot the blonde a horrified look and Sophie blushed. "Let's pretend I never said that. I’m changing topics now." Turning her attention back to the kitchen counter, Sophie gestured to the ingredients laid out before her. "And no bitching about the sheep offal. This was your idea, remember?"
Dawn shook her head emphatically, turning to point over at Cassie. "Oh no. I'm not taking the blame for her curious stomach here. She wants haggis. I'm just the middleman here. Middlewoman. Middlechef. Whatever. So how do we do this? Because the less time I need to spend staring at a sheep's heart, the better."
Scowling, Cassie let her body grow a bit so she could extend one lengthened leg across the divide and boot Dawn in the ass. "I told you I was curious about haggis. I figured we could go out to a restaurant somewhere and try some. I never told you to make it for me."
"I don't care whose idea it was because either way, we still have a kitchen full of sheep bits that need to get minced, mixed, shoved in a stomach, and boiled. Now if you two are done bickering?" Dawn held her hands up in surrender and Cassie did her best to look innocent, shrinking back down to normal size and folding her legs up Indian style on the kitchen island. "Right then. I may be Scottish but I grew up in London… this isn't exactly something I've done often. Still, it's a pretty memorable dish, so hopefully we can get through it without too many hiccups."
From her perch on the island, Cassie watched in silence as Dawn and Sophie got to work, her doppelganger mincing the sheep tongue, heart, and liver that she'd spent the past two hours cooking in a pot of boiling water while Dawn was stuck mincing a trio of onions, a hunk of something Sophie had called suet waiting to meet Dawn's knife next. As they worked, the two whispered back and forth, giggling occasionally. Cassie scowled. Dawn didn't let anyone work with her in the kitchen. Not even Janet or Hank, and they owned the place. So why was Dawn breaking that rule for Sophie?
Then it hit her, and Cassie felt her blood run cold. What if Dawn liked Sophie? Like, really liked her? After all, the British Slayer was essentially an upgraded version of Cassie herself: already a part of Dawn's other life, possessing her own superpowers that Hank was about to enhance with Pym Particles, and even possessing a common interest in cooking. And did it really count as having a wandering eye if Dawn was looking at a girl who was essentially identical to her, Cassie wondered.
Finishing her mincing duties, Dawn dumped the onions and suet into a mixing bowl and then began adding little bowls of assorted spices. Picking up the final two, she paused before raising each to her nose and sniffing. "Mace and nutmeg? Isn't that overkill?"
"Eh, I have a good memory and that's what mum put in haggis back home." Sophie eyed Dawn and poked her with the tip of her knife. "We could always go Google a recipe if you don't trust the Scot." Dawn held her hands up in surrender and Sophie grabbed her cutting board, scraping the mess of sheep bits into the bowl. "Good. Now we mix, then comes stuffing."
Dawn grimaced before shoving her hands into the mixing bowl. "Oh God. You know, I touch meat all the time but somehow… yeah. Ewwwwwww." Sophie rolled her eyes before joining Dawn, bumping her hip against the dark-haired girl's. That started a whole new round of giggling as the two jockeyed for position in front of the bowl.
Finally, Cassie couldn't take it any more. Unfolding her legs, she dropped to the floor. "Haggis takes what, three hours to cook?" Sophie nodded. "I'm going to go patrol. Dawn, send me a text when it's getting close and I'll head back." The two girls stared at her oddly and Cassie fidgeted under their scrutiny before turning away. "So yeah. I'll be back." Cassie looked down at her feet as she trudged towards the door, only to pause at the sight of her bare lower legs and Keds. She'd gotten so used to wearing her costume so she could go out with the chitin covered Dawn that it'd completely slipped her mind that she was wearing street clothes for once. Changing directions, she headed for Janet's workroom in the back of the apartment. Astrid hadn't been happy enough with any of her designs to turn it loose as Cassie's permanent costume, but some of the 'failed' attempts were still there for her use.
Cassie made it most of the way down the hall before a soft buzzing reached her ears, a pair of arms wrapping around her from behind a moment later. "Hey, slow down, where's the fire?" When Cassie didn't answer after a few seconds, she felt a puff of air against her neck and shoulders, then a second against her face and the tops of her breasts as Dawn appeared in front of her. "Cassie? What's going on? I mean, I know sheep guts are gross and all but if you don't want to watch, even though this was your idea and all, you can hang out in the living room and…"
"How come you let Sophie cook with you?" Dawn blinked owlishly, obviously confused by the sudden question, but Cassie pushed on. "You don't let anyone cook with you. Not even your mom."
Dawn let out a snort of laughter, looking back over her shoulder towards where Janet's workroom was. "Of course I don't let Janet cook with me. She burns water. She managed to screw up ramen, of all things. Sophie actually knows what she's doing, plus I can't exactly toss her out while I'm trying to learn a recipe from…"
Before she could go any further, Cassie cut Dawn off. "If I wanted to cook with you, would you let me?"
That earned her another odd look from Dawn but Cassie held fast, staring the older girl down. "Uh… I guess? Do you want to? You never really seemed interested in…"
"Well no." Cassie shrugged; frozen and canned meals were pretty much the extent of her culinary abilities, as she'd discovered when attempting to replicate Dawn's odd quesadillas for herself. "But would you let me if I wanted to?"
Dawn groaned, reaching up to rub her temples. "Oh my God, is this what an aneurysm feels like? Cassie, what's going on?"
Reaching up to tug on one of the red falls she'd had put in on their girls' day out, Cassie stared at Dawn uncertainly for a moment before deciding to go charging in head first. "You like her, don't you? I mean, I can see why you would, she's like me but better. She has better powers, soon she'll have my powers, she cooks like you do, she knows all about the demon-hunting stuff you do…"
"I… buhh… what? Cassie, I don't like Sophie!" Dawn stared at Cassie with wide eyes, taking a moment to rethink that before clarifying the statement. "Well, I mean, I like her as a friend. But I don't like her like her. The fact we have stuff in common just makes her easier to talk to than the others, and I've never really had a best friend type before. Buffy kept me on a leash back in Sunnydale so I couldn't really have a best friend that I hung out with and did normal girl shit with and so…"
For some reason, Cassie didn't think it was that simple. Especially considering Sophie spent even more time at the Pym house than she did, especially since Sophie didn't have to go to school or worry about parents. Besides, wasn't your girlfriend supposed to be your best friend? At least if one wanted a successful and long lasting relationship? So despite Dawn's words, she wasn't entirely reassured… quite the opposite, if Sophie had made such an inroad in such a short period of time. "So now she's your best friend? After three days?"
Dawn took a step forward, bringing her hands up to rest on Cassie's shoulders. The blonde peeked at one, then the other, before sniffing. Okay, good, at least Dawn had washed her hands before giving chase. The last thing she needed was the scent of guts smeared on her. "Cassie, will you stop jumping to conclusions? If I didn't know any better… wait, you're jealous of her, aren't you?"
"Uh, a great big duhh there? Of course I am!" Cassie batted at Dawn's hands but when her girlfriend refused to move, Cassie decided discretion was the better part of valor and she'd let Dawn have her temporary, small victory. Besides, it wasn't like they were done talking or anything. And she could always escape by shrinking away if Dawn refused to let go when the discussion was over. "What part of 'better powers, will have my powers, has stuff in common with you' did you miss?"
"She's like Cassie 2.0 and I'm worried you'll want to upgrade and I don't want you to because you're the best thing to happen in my life since my dad died."
"And I don't want to give that up but I can't really fight if you've already decided you don't want me because that's your choice and…"
Dawn's hands rose, cupping Cassie's face as she cut the blonde off. "Cassie! I don't want Sophie. I want you. Okay? You. I don't care if you can't cook and I can teach you about the stuff I deal with in Cleveland and I don't need you to have all sorts of extra powers because I don't have them either. You're perfect just the way you are and while I made the mistake of losing sight of that once, I'm not stupid enough to do it twice." Leaning in, she kissed Cassie hard before pulling back. "So until you change your mind about it, you're stuck with me. Got it?"
Nodding, Cassie brought one hand up to tangle in Dawn's hair, pulling her girlfriend in for another kiss as she wrapped her free arm around Dawn's waist. As they broke for air, Cassie bit down on Dawn's lower lip, tugging it gently between her teeth before releasing it and diving in for another kiss. For how long their play continued, Cassie couldn't say, but it was after turning Dawn to pin the dark-haired girl between her own body and the wall that Cassie noticed something. Coming up for air, Cassie rested her forehead against Dawn's. "Right. I can handle that. But I have a question for you." Dawn made a vaguely inquisitive noise. "Do you know you're a little bit naked?"
Cassie pulled back, allowing Dawn to look down at her body, and the taller girl's eyes widened at the pale skin that greeted her. "Huh. Well I'll be. Note to self: smoochies solve everything." Grabbing Cassie by the wrists, she began to walk backwards down the hall, tugging the blonde along with her. "We have three hours and I learned a very valuable lesson with Melissa. Lemme grab some clothes and then I think I owe you a story about three parent biology, inhumanity, and the scent of green."