Here's a chapter that covers a great big OMGWTF mistake of mine in the last version… teenage Cassie just up and moves herself to Cleveland? And nobody, including her overbearing parents, has anything to say about it? Yeah. Not. Also, I receive a few more pokes about The Other while writing this. The story is meant to interface with one other story to create the full cast that goes on to the sequel… would you guys rather see me keep using Purrfection (so Black Cat!Cordelia and whoever her newfound lesbian lover turns out to be) or switch to using The Other (plant girl Cordelia and Spider-Girl!Xander)? Both create redundancy: Purrfection adds another Black Cat when the original and her daughter are already in Cleveland, while The Other adds another spider-powered girl. Review with your thoughts. And this probably isn't an opinion poll; considering I'm not attached to either option at the moment, there's a 99% chance I'll end up using whichever fic gets the most votes.
Leading the redhead back out into the living room, Dawn spun in a slow circle and gestured to their surroundings. "So, what do you think? Queen sized bed, private bath, a television where you always get to pick the channel, a kitchen where food won't disappear, free meals are only an elevator ride away, and a custom-fitted PVC catsuit that gives you superhuman powers." After thinking about who she was talking to, Dawn amended that statement. "More superhuman powers."
Violet Day held up both hands, pantomiming a few sizes and shapes on the wall. "Paintings should fit… can finally get my old neighbor to send me my violin and maybe take that back up again… do you mind if I smoke?" Hand dipping into her pocket, she pulled out a shiny silver Zippo and flicked it open and then shut. "Bad habit, I know, but it's kept me from killing Bonnie so far, so it can't be as bad as everyone claims it is. I'll probably kick it once I move in here, but until I do…"
"Just remember, Faith found out the hard way that Slayer healing doesn't work on hepatitis. You might be the one who finds out it doesn't work on lung cancer. And I guess you can smoke, but if you can go up on the roof instead, that'd be a hundred times better." Vi opened her mouth to protest but Dawn had a rebuttal ready to go, shrinking down enough for her wings to pop out. "All you have to do is open the window and flutter fourteen feet upward. Really, it's not that bad. And you can smoke inside when it rains. I just don't want it permanently stunk up in here because these units are on my dime and I don't want to have to hire a cleaner if you pull a Mahika and I need to put someone else in here."
With a sigh, Vi stuffed her lighter back in her pocket. "Fine. The things I do for the chance to get incredible superhuman powers." Hooking her fingers in the belt loops of her jeans, she looked around curiously. "So, speaking of superhuman powers and the PVC catsuit and all, when and where?"
Dawn pointed upward. "Hank and Janet are both busy, but it shouldn't be too long. Hank's stripping down two of the suits today and Janet's already working on Sophie's new Wasp-Two suit… Sophie got promoted when Mahika left and since Mahika was six inches shorter, Sophie can't just steal the old suit. Then tomorrow that suit goes to Hank so he can install the electronics and you'll meat with Janet to get fitted for yours. Day after that is when Hank will install your gear and so three days from now, you'll be ready to train with the rest of the girls."
"Was kinda hoping you'd say that. Any chance you'll let me redesign things a little?" Dawn raised an eyebrow and Vi started looking nervous. "I mean, not that there's anything wrong with your mom's costume or anything to the point that I don't want to wear it, but…"
Waving her hand dismissively, Dawn turned away and headed for the apartment's small kitchen. Poking into the cabinets and fridge, she frowned. It was fairly empty, which was a plus and a minus: there weren't any vegetables turning into V8 in the fridge or Indian spices that Vi would never use, but the redhead would be on her own for food until she either made it to the store or got Peapod to deliver some groceries to the building. Ehh, she'd likely join the other Slayers in eating upstairs anyways, Dawn realized. Probably wasn't an issue. "Don't worry about it. I mean, we'd like you to keep the black and yellow scheme because it's a team thing, but Janet's had a bunch of costumes with those two colors you could use as a base, or you two can start completely from scratch if you want."
Vi's reply came from closer behind her than Dawn thought she'd left the girl, and she looked back over her shoulder to find the redheaded Slayer perched on the counter. "How involved are you with the patrol planning out there in Cleveland?"
That was a bit of an odd question. She wasn't a Slayer or Watcher. She was Research Girl. "Not at all. Why?"
"Alright, I know you play WoW." Dawn snorted; well duhh. Of course she did. What kind of self-respecting Internet addicted nerd didn't in this day and age? Her current toon was a blood elf paladin wandering through Northrend. "Mmmkay, so when you do dungeons, you go and build up a group, right? With a few different classes so you're covering each other's weak spots? Well when we build our teams to go out, each Slayer has her own fighting style and favorite weapon. We have the light, fast girls with daggers…"
"…the ones who aren't as good at hand-to-hand and so we make them live on the archery range…"
"…and those of us who grab a great big weapon, walk on up, and hack the crap out of a demon. The tanks. And a magic user or two if we can find 'em; usually generic casters, but one of our allies is a damn good healer. Me? I'm a tank. And so as much fun as being fast and light and flying and stinging sounds, part of me wants to just…" Vi trailed off, pantomiming holding a weapon and slashing with it. "You know? Get in there, take a hit, then hit back twice as hard."
Dawn bit her lip to avoid from smirking. That did seem to be the standard Slayer way of handling things: hit it. If it was moving and wasn't supposed to, hit it. If it wasn't moving and was supposed to, hit it. Hitting solved everything. "Well, Sophie's new costume is going to look a bit more like mine - and let me tell you how happy my girlfriend isn't about that one - and I think I have something right up your alley. Janet and Hank made me some armor as a sort of superhero training wheels. I don't think they ever caught me on camera in it… I'll show you after dinner. If that's not your bag either, you and Hank and Janet can figure something out."
Nodding, Vi slid off the counter and made her way over to the two oversized duffel bags. "Alright. Send someone down to get me when the food's up? I'm so hungry right now, I could eat a horse." Dawn made a vaguely affirmative noise and headed for the door, only to stop when Vi shot another question her way. "We have WiFi here, right? I'd hate to miss out on the chance to deliver your weekly ass kicking in the Strand of the Ancients."
That made Dawn's eyes narrow. "Wait a minute. You're that draenei death knight that always stalks me in battlegrounds, aren't you?" Vi just whistled innocently, staring at the ceiling. "You know what? No. No you don't get WiFi."
Pacing back and forth across the alley nervously, Dawn went over her mental checklist again and then a third time just to be safe. She had the flowers, the necklace was waiting back at her place, the blanket and the appetizers were on the roof, Sophie would be pulling the main course out of the oven in about ten minutes, the other five Wasp Corps Slayers, Astrid, and her parents were out on patrol to ensure a quiet night… if she'd forgotten anything, it wasn't something she'd remembered to put on her to-do list in the first place. Dawn took a deep breath, smoothing her free hand down over her dress to get out any wrinkles - real or imaginary - before making her way out of the alley. She had a date, after all. An anniversary date.
Making her way down the street, Dawn decided that high heels were a bit like riding a bike, just with more potential for twisted ankles and less chance of going over a pair of handlebars and plowing face first into the ground. Although she hadn't worn them since the fall of Sunnydale, no little black dress was complete without matching high heels and so she'd talked Janet into taking her on a shoe-buying expedition yesterday. Now she was set, plans had been made, and the only thing her night was missing was her girlfriend. Time to fix that. Stepping up to the Burdicks' front door, Dawn rang the doorbell and waited.
When the door opened, Dawn damn near swallowed her tongue. Despite having seen the blonde poured into catsuits, in her underwear numerous times, and a few glimpses of bare flesh during fast changes in and out of costume, the sight of Cassie in a red silk dress, the slightest bit of makeup tastefully applied and her hair pulled up into a bun and shot with color from the red falls she'd left in for the night, was enough to make the normally composed Dawn's brain shut down. "Wow. Cassie. What's… wow. You look great."
"I'm not sure if I should feel flattered or annoyed that you sound so surprised." Dawn stuck her tongue out, only to retract it with a squeak when Cassie made a grab for it. "Don't stick it out unless you intend to use it." That made the black-haired girl raise an eyebrow and Cassie gave her a shy smile, blushing faintly. "Yes, I know what that sounds like. What can I say? As soon as you fork over that anniversary gift… I'm only human. Just because I had you on probation doesn't mean I'm not curious."
Dawn's other eyebrow went up. Was Cassie being serious or not? Should she call Sophie and tell her to toss the dinner to the wolves - err, Slayers - and they'd go straight to her room when they got back? No… better not. There was always the off chance that Cassie was kidding and she'd be screwed in the not fun way if she went ahead and did something like that. "I'll keep that in mind. And feel flattered. That dress is amazing. I'm in awe. I completely renounce spandex. Just wear stuff like that everyday."
Chuckling, Cassie reached out and took Dawn's hand, pulling the older girl inside and closing the door. "Wouldn't giant-sized high heels create a trail of potholes wherever I walked? And besides, it's bad enough trying to keep the boys from seeing anything when we go up and down stairs at school in our uniform. Why would I want to wear anything you can see up when I'm that tall?"
"Point." Looking around, Dawn frowned. "Not that we're on a schedule or anything… well, apart from getting you home by curfew and all… but are you almost ready to go? I know your parents aren't really keen on me and mine, so…"
As her red lips contorted into a very un-Cassie-like smirk, the blonde shook her head. "Oh no. Blake and Mom weren't too happy to hear that I'm already on my one-month anniversary and they've never even met my 'boyfriend'. And no, I didn't lie, I just sorta… used gender-neutral terms and they assumed. They're insisting on meeting you tonight and taking pictures to boot." Reaching out, she bent one of Dawn's arms so the dark-haired girl's hand rested on her hip and then looped her arm through it. "Mom's waiting for us in the kitchen. Blake's fallen into his ass groove again watching the Yankees game."
Eyes wide, Dawn allowed herself to be dragged deeper into the house. Oh crap. This had 'bad idea' written all over it in day glo rainbow letters. Well, out of the two of them, she was the lucky one. She actually had an offensive ability without her costume and could mentally call up that layer of chitinous armor for protection… usually. With her costumes for protection, it was a skill she had yet to reliably master, but then again this was just a barely adequate donut muncher and his homemaker wife. What was the worst that could happen?
"…Mom? You said you wanted to meet my boyfriend?" Cassie's arm slipped out of Dawn's, wrapping around the taller teen's waist as she snuggled in against Dawn's side. "Well, here she is. You remember Dawn, right?"
Peggy Burdick's eyes went wide as the color drained from her face. Jaw working rapidly, she stuttered for a moment before managing coherency. "But you're a girl."
Before Dawn could help it, the inevitable smartass statement slipped out. "And you're a quick one."
Scowling, Peggy looked back over her shoulder and shouted loud enough to make Dawn wince. "Blake! Get your ass in here! Cassie's… date… is here."
"Damnit, woman, I can hear you just fine. I only bought those wireless headphones so I can block out your nattering when you try to bug me during games." Ambling into the kitchen, Blake Burdick's brow furrowed in confusion. "Dawn, right? The Pyms' girl?" Dawn nodded. "So what, are you two going out together on a double date with your boyfriends or something?"
Rising from her seat, Peggy grabbed Blake's hand and guided him over to stand in front of Dawn before reaching up to put one hand on either side of his head, forcing him to meet her gaze. Yikes. Dawn scrunched up her nose in disgust; someone needed a visit from the Orbitz ditz. Corned beef, pastrami, and a healthy dose of alcohol. Now that was a smell she needed blown into her face. Not. "This… is Cassie's date, Blake."
Blake's jaw dropped. "You can't be serious." The pair nodded and he wrenched himself out of his wife's grasp, backing away as his face flushed as red as the highlights on Cassie's costume. "What the hell? See, this is why you should have gotten full custody, Peggy. Those damn Avengers… no respect for law or convention or normalcy… they're the ones to blame for this."
"Wait a minute. You're blaming Cassie's once-a-month visit to the Avengers' Mansion for the fact that her and I are dating now? Seriously? You're not pulling my leg? Ha ha, Dawn, we were just messing with you?" Blake nodded and Dawn burst into hysterical laughter. "Oh my God, are you fucking serious? The Avengers turned your stepdaughter gay? That's… I mean… can you even name one gay Avenger? Much less two who hooked up while on the team? No? You know why? That's because there weren't any. So no, Burdick, Cassie didn't catch 'the gay' from my mother and her friends. She is… well, actually, we've never really discussed that. Are you a lesbian or bi, Cassie?"
Cassie shrugged. "Kissed Iron Lad before he went back to the future. Didn't really feel the need to follow up on it. Not sure what me rejecting Vision counts as, because that was more 'eww, robot' than 'eww, boy'. Let's just go with lesbian for now. I can always buy a new constrictive societal box down the road."
Starting to reach the darker shades of red that bordered the purple part of the human skin tone spectrum, Blake jabbed a finger at them. "You want a box? Here's an idea for a box. I'm gonna go grab one while you go upstairs and find all your Teen Titans shit, then you're going to put it in my box, hand it to Dawn, and tell her it was nice knowing her. You've been pushing it for a while now, but no more. This is where I draw the line. No backing down because Peggy wants me to play nice or you try that 'you're not my father so you can't tell me what to do' shit. Because you're right, Cassie, I'm not your father. You know who I am? I'm the guy who owns this house and if you want a fucking roof over your head, you're going to follow my rules. And I'm adding two new ones to the list: no being a superhero and no being a lesbian."
"And if I don't?" Cassie suddenly surged upward, her dress creaking alarmingly as she put on a foot in height so she could look her stepfather in the eye. "What if I decide to keep being a hero, huh, Blake? What if I decide to keep seeing Dawn? Whatcha gonna do then?"
Blake just pointed down the hall towards the front door. "You can take that box, take your shit, and get the hell out. A box is leaving this house tonight, girl. What's in it and who's carrying it is up to you." Turning away, he stomped back off towards the living room. "You've got till I find a box to make up your mind. Gotta be one around here somewhere I won't miss. Prolly miss the damn box more than I'll miss you…"
Wow. What an incredibly mature specimen of adulthood Cassie's stepfather was. Looking over at Peggy, Dawn waited for the woman to stick up for her daughter but evidently paper meant more to the woman than flesh and blood. Turning away, Peggy kept her head down as she turned on the water, picking up a plate and scrubbing furiously at it. "God… I tried so hard to keep this family together. Why couldn't you just have tried a little harder, Cassie? Was that too much to ask of you? Get along with your new father?"
"That man is not my father! And do you want to talk about keeping families together? You really want to go there, Mom? How about the shit you pulled with Dad? You tried real hard to keep that family together, didn't you? Divorcing him while he was in jail for trying to steal so he could keep a roof over our head? And if it wasn't for him becoming a superhero, I wouldn't even be alive right now. Do you remember little things like that when you bitch about him being Ant-Man, or does Dr. Erica completely slip your mind?" Peggy remained silent, scrubbing at the now spotless plate, and Cassie shot a glare in the direction of the living room before her gaze returned to her mother. "You're not even going to try and talk Blake down, are you?" The scratching of the sponge against the plate was deafening in the otherwise silent room. "Fine. I'll go pack the bag I use for trips. I'd say to tell Blake it was nice knowing him but… yeah, it wasn't. C'mon, Dawn."
As Cassie turned and stalked off down the hall, shedding height as she went, Dawn moved to follow but was brought to a stop by Peggy's voice. "You did this. Send her away for her own good my ass. I saw the way you were looking at her, even if I wanted to deny it at first. You've been after my daughter since day one and when you couldn't get us to give her away, you took her away. You destroyed my family, Dawn van Dyne, and I'll never forgive you for it."
Dawn couldn't help but chuckle at that. "Sure you will. After all, can you picture being stuck with me as your daughter-in-law some day? Trust me, things will be simpler for all of us this way. Oh, and we're no stranger to dealing with parents of special children who don't react well. I'll have some papers drawn up and sent over; I might give her a sidekick stipend so she can get emancipated, or I might talk Janet into being her guardian. Not sure yet. We'll figure it out. When they get here, though, I recommend signing them. We use Wolfram & Hart to represent our interests and…" Peggy shuddered and Dawn grinned. Someone recognized the name. "I'd say it was nice seeing you two again, but it wasn't. Hope this is the last time we run into you."
Walking back out into the entryway, Dawn turned and ascended the stairs. Finding Cassie's room wasn't hard; all she had to do was follow the cursing until she found the pig sty. Much to her surprise, while Cassie's hair was still done up nicely, she'd traded the dress for the Stature costume she'd been wearing when they first met. "Cassie?" The blonde looked up and Dawn waved her hand at Cassie's body. "Not that I mind a shapely butt in spandex…"
"Hmm? Oh, the change. Yeah, I'm tired of hiding. I mean, there are plenty of heroes with public identities. You're public. So I'm going public. I'm going to walk out of this hellhole with my head held high. A hundred feet high." Stuffing one more handful of clothes into the bag on her bed, she turned around and jumped, landing on the bag and compressing the contents. Zipping it up, she grabbed it, her purse, and her laptop bag. "I'm ready to go." She twisted, showing Dawn the three bags. "Can you take these for a few? I could always grow and then stuff them in my belt pouches, but then if I forget them…"
Yeah, that would be a mess. There was just one flaw with Cassie's plan, and Dawn pointed it out regretfully. "But if I'm carrying your bags, I can't grow and step on Blake's car on the way out."
Cassie nibbled her lower lip uncertainly. "True. How about if I step on it for you? Would that work?"
Staring out the window, Zelda DuBois watched as the giant foot rose into the air before coming down hard on her neighbor's car, turning the already wrecked vehicle into a metal pancake. "Hmm. Now that's something you don't see every day."
"What isss?" Scales rubbed against her bare skin as Boris, her current King Cobra, worked his way up her body to wrap around her shoulders, head butting against her cheek affectionately. After a few seconds of that, he turned to look out the window and went still. While the embedded electronic device that translated his hisses into English produced nothing but emotionless, flat tones, Zelda was fairly certain he was as surprised as she was. "What the deuccce?"
Zelda chuckled. She really did need to stop watching those abominable cartoons with her pets. They were picking up the worst habits. "That would be a superhero - Stature or Ant-Girl or whatever she's going by these days, if I'm not mistaken - stomping our neighbor's car flat."
Head bobbing a few times, Boris turned to look at the redhead. "Perhapsss you should call Progressssssive tomorrow morning and sssee if they offer some sssort of sssuperhuman inssssurance?"
Yes, she really needed to think about restricting Boris's television time.