Visiting the Burdicks
This is another chapter that benefits from the attention of someone more familiar with the X-Men of Earth-616 than I am. Turns out, that Xavier's is only about an hour and a quarter away from New York City, two hours if traffic is a nightmare. I was picturing something further up state, hence the napping bit. That, plus the changes to Dawn's armor and Cassie's new catsuit mean the chapter has a similar feel but a lot of new content to it.
Her mother had often railed at her for being a slob and, as she dug frantically through the piles of clothes on her floor in search of her costume, Cassie realized there might be some truth to the statement. She was half-tempted to yell out to her parents to ask if they might have seen her costume, but decided that wasn't in her best interests. And come to think of it, where was the helmet Mr. Pym had given her? Oh crap. Had she misplaced that already? It had to be worth a fortune! The doorbell rang and she winced, looking down at herself. She definitely wasn't going down to answer it while wearing a whole lot of nothing. "Can you get that, Mom?"
Her mother shouted something back that the blonde didn't catch but didn't sound complimentary in the least, but Cassie was too busy with her frantic searching to care. Downstairs, she could hear her mother and stepfather's voices rising, followed by two unfamiliar voices, and then silence descended. Crap. Cassie reached for her bathrobe, wrapping it around her body. She'd go make sure everyone was still alive, she told herself, then go back to looking for her costume. Descending the stairs, she wandered out into the living room and straight into a glaring match. "Well, this is cozy."
On one side of the room, her stepfather Blake Burdick was standing behind her mother as the pair glared at the visitors. On the other side, Mr. and Mrs. Pym were standing behind the couch in full costume while Dawn sprawled out on her side down the length of the couch, clad in a matte black skinsuit. Cassie blinked; that was new as of last time she'd seen her fellow size-shifter. It was a bit boring but then again, after that little puking incident of Dawn's? If she was the Wasp, Cassie wouldn't want Dawn wearing her costume either.
The awkward silence stretched on a moment longer before her mother spoke up. "So, you'll have her back by ten tonight, then? You're just going to Xavier's and back?"
Janet nodded. "Emma Frost and I go back a bit because of my designer work. She's willing to turn over the Danger Room for the afternoon so we can get a handle on what kind of skills the Young Avengers have. Hank and I will be evaluating Dawn and Cassie, and a half-dozen other superheroes will trickle in over the course of the day to work with the others."
"So that's your name I assume?" Her mother's attention shifted to the teenager sprawled out on her sofa. "So, how'd you get involved with this foolishness? The Avengers ruin your family too?"
There was a laugh stifled as a cough, before Dawn couldn't hold it in anymore and cracked up laughing. "Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't introduce myself and none of the news stations have actually contacted Janet to see if she knows who I am. Which she does. My name is Dawn van Dyne. I'm Janet's daughter. Just think of me as what Cassie might have been if Scott had been allowed to keep full custody. Or if you actually supported your daughter's lifestyle decisions. I mean seriously, she only wants to be a superheroine. It could be worse. She could be a cheerleader or something."
Cassie barely managed to contain her laughter at the look on her mother's face when Dawn revealed her identity, but it bubbled over at the mental image of her as a cheerleader. That drew attention back to her and Dawn quirked a brow as her eyes roamed Cassie's figure. Blushing, Cassie clutched at her fuzzy pink bathrobe and pulled it tighter around herself. "Hey, Dawn. Mr. and Mrs. Pym. Small problem. Or big problem."
"Or in your case, a regular-sized problem who can become a small problem or a big problem?" Dawn wilted at the odd looks she got for that comment. "What? She's a size-shifter. I thought it was witty."
Shaking her head, Cassie pressed on. "My costume kinda, uh, ran away. As in, I can't find it anywhere. I know it's in my room somewhere, but for the life of me I can't…"
Dawn's laughter cut her off, the dark-haired girl sitting up on the couch and reaching back to take a bag from her mother. "Actually, you left it at the Baxter Building with H.E.R.B.I.E. to be cleaned, remember? Figured you might want it back without swinging by and bothering the Fantastic Four about laundry, so Hank picked it up for you. But…" Reaching into the bag, Dawn pulled Cassie's catsuit partway out before shoving it back in and muttering, coming back out with garment that, while still primarily black like her existing costume, contained far more red. "I know you're attached to your old costume because it looks like your dad's, but he got it from Hank and… well, Hank's not exactly a fashion plate. So Janet and I made you a little something if you feel like a change of pace."
Wow. That was incredibly nice of Dawn, given they barely knew each other. And this was after Hank had already given her a copy of her father's helmet to use while carrying on his legacy. Cassie accepted the costume from Dawn and looked it over critically: mostly black, with red arms and a red ant on the chest. Two of the ant's legs reached up to connect to the catsuit's red arms, two of the legs wrapped around her chest like the ant was giving her a hug, and the final two stretched down so one ran down each leg, ending with a splash of red that covered her toes. While part of her felt like she was betraying her father in some way… it really was a lot more attractive than the costume Kate had given her. "Wow. Thank you. I don't know what to say."
"Say you'll go put it on?" Dawn looked down at her wrist, mostly for show Cassie realized, given the other girl wasn't wearing a watch. "There's a little wiggle room in the schedule because Janet told me she wasn't a morning person but she actually rolled out of bed without too much fuss today, and we added a bit more because Kate says Tommy is always late - which I can't figure out for the life of me, because hello, speedster - but you're sorta eating up the time we managed to save by shoving Janet out the door on time this morning."
Cassie looked down at herself and blushed. She opened her mouth to say something… anything… to try and save face before turning and abruptly fleeing the room. It had everything to do with actions speaking louder than words, she told herself, and nothing to do with realizing how stupid she looked sitting around five fully dressed people in her ratty, three-year old pink bathrobe.
That was her story and she was sticking to it.
Dawn watched Cassie disappear up the stairs before returning her attention to the extraordinarily grumpy looking pair of adults in front of her. "You know, if your face stays like that for too long, it might get stuck. Saw it happen to a girl I know. Then again, she'd been stung by a demon and had this paralytic venom floating around in her blood so I'm not sure it counts…"
The expression on Peggy Burdick's face got, if possible, even more unpleasant. "Here to Xavier's and back. Have her home on time and if I see her on television with you people out fighting crime, I'm calling a lawyer. I'll let him figure out who has deeper pockets: you two, the Bishops, or the Avengers as a whole. Let me make myself exceedingly clear: I realize she needs to learn how to control her powers, even though I wish she didn't have them. But you ruined our family and I won't let you take anything else away from me. And I'm not talking about a generic plural 'you' here; my ex-husband is dead and it's your fault, Hank Pym. I want you to think about that while you're working with Cassie today. That maybe if you'd taken your little toys back from Scott, Cassie would still have two parents. Who knows, maybe they'd be spending today doing some father-daughter bonding of their own. And she certainly wouldn't have to worry about putting herself through the ceiling whenever she has a mood swing. Think about it."
Hank let out a few swear words and took a step forwards before Janet managed a slight height multiplication, growing until she had an inch or two on him and wrapping her arms around him from behind to halt his progress. "Well, when some people have the power to fix problems with the world, they do it. Peg, your ex-husband was one of those people. Hank and I are those kind of people. It seems like your daughter is one too. Don't hate your Scott and Cassie just because they're better people than you could ever hope to be."
"Okay! This has been fun. Hank, Janet, I think you should go outside and do a thorough check on the van to make sure it's still working." The pair gave her strange looks and Dawn rolled her eyes; adults could be so thick sometimes. "Get out before you get us all thrown out, you doofs. I'll wait for Cassie and we'll meet you outside." The two couples exchanged final glares before Hank reached down to his belt, pulling out a silver orb the size of a walnut and enlarging it back to full size to reveal Cassie's helmet. Taking it, Dawn shoed her mother and step-father - or whatever Hank was; she really needed to clarify that one of these days - out the door before returning to the Burdicks' living room.
Reaching into the near-invisible pocket Janet had given her costume, Dawn pulled out a business card and stared at the curling black script as she pondered the problem she now faced. The Burdicks clearly had no lost love for the 'spandex set' and that had to make for an incredibly hostile living environment for a teenage superheroine. Despite her original, rather ignoble intentions regarding Cassie… knowing what she did now, could she really walk away today without at least trying to do something to spare Cassie two more years of hell?
No, no, and a world of no. At least she'd had Xander, Anya, Willow, Tara, and Spike to moderate Buffy's oppressive grip on her life. If she didn't help, who did Cassie have? The very people whose presence in her life infuriated her parents? Yeah, that was a good idea.
Dawn cleared her throat as she looked back up at the Burdicks, fidgeting for a moment before passing them the business card. Originally she'd packed a few in case she met anyone interesting at Xavier's, but she could spare one for a good cause. "As long as we're waiting for Cassie anyways, I just want to throw something out there. I work for a school that only accepts girls who are uniquely gifted. If you're really that worried about Cassie, what she's been getting into, her powers, et cetera… you could always send her there."
"You mean some sort of school for mutants?" Peggy and Blake exchanged looks at her offer before something occurred to Peggy and she narrowed her eyes at Dawn. "Wait a minute. Is this related to the Avengers? Superhero boot camp or something like that?"
Blinking, Dawn tried her damnedest to figure out how Cassie's mother had gotten from Point A to Point B on that one. "Why would you… oh, my parent. No, this has nothing to do with the Pyms, the Avengers, or being a superhero. Actually, I didn't even know I had powers or that Janet was my mother until your daughter and her friends tracked me down and convinced me to come to New York for some testing." Peggy's jaw dropped. "Yeah, so you can blame Hank for dragging your daughter into this in a roundabout way but I can blame your daughter directly for dragging me into it. But I won't, because that'd be counterproductive. So let's move on."
Dawn paused for a moment to collect her thoughts; the Burdicks knew a bit about the superhuman community by way of Scott and now Cassie, but not enough that Dawn thought they could handle the same speech that the parents of Slayers were given. So… time for a little truth bending. "Going back to your first question, it's not specifically a school for mutants. We find that a bit too limiting and, quite frankly, speciest. It doesn't matter if their powers come from the X-gene, some sort of chemical waste, exposure to radiation, or in your daughter's case, Pym Particles. If they have special abilities and need a nice, safe, calm place to come and learn to control them while continuing their education, then we're there to help. The first stage is an on-campus program that covers sixth grade all the way up to a high school diploma. If they still need to stay with us, or even just want to, they can move on to a bachelor's program at Cleveland State University or one of the other area universities." Granted the program hadn't been in operation long enough for more than a handful of girls to graduate to the CSU stage, but the theory was sound. Think. What else would influence them? "Oh, and we have agreements with two local boys-only private high schools and a girls-only school to hold mass dances, so while the campus is mostly single-sex, she'll be able to socialize normally."
As Peggy digested that information, Blake entered the conversation for the first time. "And if she tries to sneak out using her powers to go back to being… Ant-Girl or Titan or Stature or whatever name she's using this week? What then?"
"No offense, but what do you think she's going to be able to do in Cleveland of all places? I don't think there were any superhumans outside of mutants too poor to make it to Xavier's before we moved in." Dawn passed off the business card she was holding to Peggy and reached up to tap her chest, indicating the spot where Blake's own police badge rested. "In the future, we may work with the Cleveland Police Department to put some of our girls to work because the city has a terrible human crime rate, but that won't be for a while, if ever, and the girls would be working as deputized agents rather than vigilantes."
Blake looked vaguely impressed with that and Dawn gave herself a mental pat on the back, but Peggy was frowning as she stared at the card in her hand. "Why does this say Dawn Summers?" That suspicious tone was back. "Summers… isn't someone named Summers the headmaster of Xavier's?"
Blinking, Dawn wondered how… ah, right, the school was completely public these days. Website and everything. "I'm not related to Scott Summers, if that's what you're wondering. And like I said earlier, I just found out Janet's my mother. Summers was the name of my adoptive family and I haven't reprinted my business cards yet." That, and she wasn't sure if she actually wanted to take a new name, but that was none of Peggy's business. There was a crash from upstairs, followed by a series of muffled swears, and Dawn rolled her eyes. "It's a catsuit, Cassie, not rocket science. Hurry up!"
Peggy's lips quirked up a bit at that and Dawn relaxed a little, hoping the worst of the visit was over. "So, how did you get involved with the…" She paused, referencing the business card. "Anya Jenkins School for Exceptional Young Women, anyways? And what exactly does the 'Head of Research and Translation' do?"
"You heard about Sunnydale, California up and falling into a hole two years ago, right? Well, there was nothing natural about what happened. There was a huge battle in town and it resulted in energy being released, creating a huge number of new superhuman girls. For whatever reason, I wasn't affected… maybe because I had powers, even if I didn't know it? But when we created the school, we ran into two problems: language barriers and superhuman physiology. My job is to try and have a traveler's fluency in as many languages as possible to tide us over until we can find a translator for a new student, and to be a walking encyclopedia of papers written about mutants and other superhumans so we can treat girls who get sick or injured." Dawn was amazed - and a little disturbed - at how easily this particular web of lies was being spun and resolved to write it down later; she'd pass on copies to some of the school's other administrators for use when standard recruiting just wouldn't do.
With the grace of a wounded buffalo, Cassie came lumbering down the stairs, fingers working deftly to twist her blonde locks into a French braid before using a red hair tie to secure it. Dawn raised an eyebrow; she'd done a little research after meeting the Young Avengers, combing the local papers and an archive of video clips Hank's computer had gleaned automatically, and Cassie was usually either the ponytail or pigtails type. Reaching up self-consciously, Cassie patted at her head. "French braid pigtails. They'll fit under the helmet and not look like crap when I take it back off. I hope. Oh hey, you found my helmet! Where was it?"
Dawn snorted and tossed the gleaming silver helmet to Cassie. "In Hank's pocket. Your costume wasn't the only thing you left behind at the Baxter Building. Speaking of… how do you like the new one?"
"It's, uh, different." Cassie took an experimental step forward and then bounced on her toes. "Feet are different. Cushier. Considering my old one didn't come with shoes either, you would think Kate's designer would be smart enough to add some padding. Although speaking of padding…" Shooting her parents a nervous look, Cassie bounded over and leaned in, lowering her voice. "What the hell did you do to the top half of this thing?"
Glancing down at Cassie's chest, accentuated by the underwire that had been added for to accentuate the blonde's natural gifts, Dawn did her best to look innocent. "I have no idea what you're talking about." Hmm. Considering all she'd had to go on was Hank's scans created by the Pym Particles' size manipulation fields, Janet did very good work. Outside, a horn honked loudly and Dawn took advantage of the distraction that had been conveniently handed to her. "You can bug me about it in the van, though. Let's get out there before Hank and Janet leave us behind."
Cassie let out a squeak at that, rushing towards the door. Dawn nodded to Peggy and Blake, watching the former tuck Dawn's business card away, before following Cassie. Oh yeah. Janet did very, very good work.
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