This chapter is all sorts of new for you guys: Astrid's first appearance is significantly accelerated, and the relationship between her and Dawn is different and actually explored this time around. And we get a bit of Cassie time too. Enjoy.
"You know, when most girls call and ask if you want to have a 'girls' day out', it involves relaxing and being pampered. Not stalking and harassing another potential Young Avenger." Kate shot her a foul look and Dawn held her hands up in surrender. "Just saying." Hmm. Name: Astrid Jansen. Active Identity: None. Powers: Majority of Spider-Woman I's suite, along with psionic spider legs and organic webbing, indicating possible genetic influence from Spider-Woman III and Spider-Man. Primary genetic donors being Spider-Woman I and Black Cat. "Wow, this girl's got a parental situation almost as strange as mine." Her eyes drifted down to a list of measurements and her eyebrows shot up to her hairline. Were some of these numbers in Imperial units or metric?
Unlike when they'd come to visit her, a mere two members represented the Young Avengers today: Kate and Cassie. Plus herself, Dawn amended, but she didn't really count as a Young Avenger. How Kate had gotten permission from Eli the Control Freak to do the actual recruiting was a mystery, but Dawn thought the move made sense. Trying to deal with seven - eight if Dawn came along - new people would have been just as overwhelming for Astrid as the seven Young Avengers had been when they descended on Cleveland, and it was a lot harder to get sidetracked when there was only one conversation going on at any given time.
Kate looked back down at the paper she'd brought with her, a printout with directions to ensure they didn't get lost. "Yeah, see, I don't care if she's the lovechild of She-Hulk and the Juggernaut. She's one of the most powerful teens in the database and has already gotten the brush-off from the Avengers, meaning she's ripe for the plucking. So let's pluck." The trio continued down the hallway in silence, passing door after identical door. Sixty-seven… sixty-eight… sixty-nine. Stopping, Kate knocked on the door. A young female voice called out to them from inside the apartment. "Who is it?"
Before Kate could answer, Dawn lunged forward and clapped a hand over her mouth. "Flowers."
It took a moment, but the answer Dawn was expecting came back. "Flowers for whom?"
Dawn snickered quietly before clearing her throat. "Plumber, ma'am."
This time, there was no pause before the reply. "I don't need a plumber. You're that clever shark, aren't you?"
The girl behind the door let out a giggle of her own before composing herself, calling back with a mock stern voice. "Candygram my foot! You get out of here before I call the police. You're the shark, and you know it!"
By now Kate and Cassie looking at her like she was a lunatic, but Dawn didn't care. She hadn't had this much fun in a while. Back home in Cleveland, nobody appreciated classic comedy. "Wait. I…I'm only a dolphin, ma'am."
"A dolphin? Well… okay." There was the scraping of metal as the deadbolt unlatched and then the door swung open. Dawn recalled the height of the girl as listed on the fact sheet and adjusted hers upward accordingly, making herself just big enough to overwhelm her target. As soon as she had a clear shot, Dawn bent her knees and pounced, sending them both sprawling onto the floor. "Ack!"
A pair of arms wrapped around her waist and Dawn abruptly found herself on her back as Astrid - or at least Dawn assumed this girl was their target - rolled them so she was on top. A curtain of auburn hair streamed down, cutting Dawn off from the outside world as she stared up into brilliant green eyes. Glancing down, Dawn discovered that the measurements on Astrid's fact sheet had indeed been correct and great googly moogly, they looked even bigger in person than numbers had suggested. Dawn stared down the neck hole of Astrid's bubblegum pink t-shirt for a moment, admiring her assets and the black bra that contained them, before raising her eyes to meet Astrid's again. "Hi. I'm Dawn Summers and your floor is really hard. You wanna either roll us back over or let me up?" Her hands went to Astrid's hips and she found her fingers brushing against bare skin. "And you're very pantsless."
Astrid blushed faintly at that but sat up, allowing Dawn to wiggle out from under her. "Well, I guess they call it hardwood for a reason. And so shoot me for being a little underdressed. I wasn't exactly planning on having visitors today, much less pouncing ones."
"Actually, it's not as obvious as you'd think, because there are hardwoods like balsa that are softer than softwoods like yew and wow, need to engage filter between brain and mouth." Titters of laughter greeted that one and Dawn stuck her tongue out at her companions as she reduced herself back to her normal size. Pointing a finger over Astrid's shoulder, Dawn made the introductions. "But yeah, I'm Dawn. Cassie Lang is the blonde and Kate Bishop is her tall friend. Hopefully you're Astrid Jansen or this is going to be really awkward because we'll be here to talk to someone who's not you."
Grinning, Astrid rose gracefully to her feet and then offered Dawn a hand up. If Dawn hadn't known about Astrid's powers beforehand, she would have after being pulled up off the floor as easily as most people lifted a stuffed animal. She made a note to warn the taller girl about that if conversation lasted past Kate's pitch for the Young Avengers. "Well, lucky for you, I'm Astrid. Come on in, because now I'm all curious what you want to talk about."
Having been given an invitation by Astrid, Kate and Cassie entered the apartment in a far more sedate manner than Dawn had, the blonde closing the door behind her. Seeing them looking around with wide eyes, Dawn took a moment to likewise study the living room she had pounced her way into. It was… odd, to say the very least.
Schizophrenic was another word that popped to mind. Dawn knew from her research that the apartment was in a moderately expensive building and the amount of space Astrid had to call her own reflected that. But while parts of the living room matched that image of wealth, like the black leather couch and a television larger than Janet's, Astrid had forgone wallpaper in favor of plastering every flat surface with news clippings and digital picture frames, all of which had something to do with the Black Cat, Spider-Man, and the various Spider-Women. A glossy eight by ten of the Black Cat with 'BITCH' scrawled in red letters over the woman's face was tacked to the wall and peppered with tiny holes. Dartboard, Dawn assumed. Not that she could say anything; she had a Buffy dartboard for when she needed stress relief at the school.
Inspection of the living room done and of too good of parenting to go wandering off to explore without Astrid's consent, Dawn turned her attention back to the owner and nearly swallowed her tongue. Although she'd been pressed up against the girl for a bit during the whole pouncing episode, it hadn't given her the true extent of how sexy Astrid really was. The Black Cat consistently landed herself in the top three in Maxim's Top Ten Hottest Superheroines, and Astrid was essentially a younger, auburn-haired version. Dawn licked her suddenly dry lips, eyes roaming over Astrid's body. It should be illegal to look that good in just an oversized t-shirt, she decided. Yup. Illegal. Maybe she could cuff Astrid and administer some punishment later…
Looking back and forth between Astrid and Cassie, Dawn found herself reconsidering the target of her rebound. Being as different as… chocolate and vanilla was too clichéd… red velvet and angel food, maybe? But the two were so different it was impossible to compare them physically. Apples and oranges. Still, Dawn had gotten exactly nowhere with Cassie - hell, if she was honest with herself, she had no clue how to even get the ball rolling since looks and flirtatious compliments seemed to do something between 'jack' and 'shit' with the younger girl - and with a variety of factors influencing how much longer she might be in the Big Apple, Dawn found herself in a very 'carpe diem' state of mind. And if in the end, Astrid was the easier girl to seize, maybe she should… hmm. Why was Astrid staring at her like that? It wasn't quite an 'I'm going to tear your clothes off' look, but it was a fairly intent stare. Maybe she should say something? "Um… hi?"
"You did something to yourself." Astrid waved her hand up and down Dawn's body. "You're shorter than you were a few minutes ago and seeing as how your shoes are flats and still on your feet, it's not that. But how else would someone lose height like that?" Stepping closer, she circled Dawn slowly before grabbing the shorter girl's chin and tilting Dawn's head up so their eyes met. "You're her. The girl who blew chunks all over Central Park."
Dawn winced. Cause one environmental catastrophe and they never let you forget it. "Technically, I just messed up a small part of the park. Not 'all over'."
Snorting, Astrid released Dawn and turned to look over at the other two girls. "That would make Blondie the other puking girl, right?" Dawn let out a vaguely affirmative noise and Astrid's eyes narrowed. "I don't recognize your fr… oh wait. Puking Girl Number One, Puking Girl Number Two who is also Giant-Girl on the Young Avengers… that'd make her the crazy chick who hasn't realized bows went out of style a couple hundred years ago."
"Charming. Yes, I'm Hawkeye of the Young Avengers, Cassie is Stature, and Dawn is a prospective member who goes by Hornet." Kate pointed from herself to Cassie to Dawn as she made the introductions before getting down to business. "I'm not sure how much TV you watch, but you may have seen us with our own version of Vision? Well, the original Vision made a list of teenagers with superpowers in case the Avengers were ever taken out, so a new team could be called together. Patriot, Wiccan, Hulkling, and Speed are all from that list. Stature and I just sorta fell into things and Vision is… complicated. We've been trying to recruit more members lately because more hands means less work. Hornet was the first girl we looked up but she's not sure she can commit, so we're moving on to you. And that's the long and short of it. Have any questions?"
After thinking about it for a moment, Astrid nodded and raised a hand. "Ah, one. Who the hell does your costumes? They're horrible." She pointed over at Cassie. "Except for the new one you've been wearing for the past few days. The one with the bug on it. That's pretty hot. Can think of a few tweaks you might wanna make, but it's a good start. The rest of you guys are a mess, though. And here I thought you guys knew Janet Pym or something."
Dawn found herself pulled in several directions: pride that her design for Cassie's catsuit was up to Astrid's standards, curiosity about what was wrong with it that the taller girl wanted to change, and disbelief that Astrid had evidently put one and one and one together and come up with four regarding her and Janet. Similar coloration, identical powers, the shared suit during her only public appearance so far… and nothing. She decided to handle that first, to avoid getting into a design discussion that completely derailed the purpose of their visit. Or rather Kate's purpose for their visit. "Actually, we do. Or rather I do. She's my mother, or at least one of them." One of Astrid's perfectly shaped brows quirked upward. "I have three biological and one adoptive." The other brow rose to match. "Yeah. Believe it or not, my story's even weirder than yours. But since that's a story for another day… yeah, Janet and I made Cassie's costume."
"Oh really? Cool. That's going to make my whole blackmail thing work a lot better then." Shifting her gaze to Kate, Astrid jerked a thumb in Dawn's direction. "Her mom makes me a costume and I'm yours. Because I don't have anything to wear even if I wanted to join you today. Just some drawings that I have no idea how to turn into reality. That's why I was hoping you guys knew Janet Pym. One of the few things I got out of Felicia before she accidentally got kicked over the edge of a building was that Janet does her costumes, and since we're pretty similarly built…"
"Wait a minute, wait a minute." Cassie cut Astrid off, entering the conversation for the first time since their arrival. "She accidentally got kicked over the edge of a building? How does that work?"
Twiddling her thumbs, Astrid stared up at the ceiling. "Okay, I might have done it on purpose. Right after shouting 'This… is… Broadway!' at her. But she was really mean to me. Don't worry, though, she had a grappling hook and caught herself. Wish she hadn't. Ugh. I mean, it's not my fault she can't keep track of her ovaries' output. I didn't pick her to be my mother."
Dawn could definitely empathize there. If she could have picked who her parents were… well, Janet was turning out to be pretty damn cool, but she could have done without Slutty the Vampire Layer in her gene pool. The immortal god-king was a bit of a draw, seeing as how they didn't interact much. "Leaving your maternal issues for your next therapy session… so you want my mom to make you a costume? That's what you're asking, right?"
"Kinda sorta not really?" Thank you, Captain Clarity. That was about as clear as mud. Astrid vaulted over the back of her couch, landing with a bounce and grabbing a handful of papers off the coffee table before making her way back around the couch and thrusting them at Dawn. "I want her to teach me how to sew while making me a costume. That way I don't have to keep coming back. And maybe I can even fix your friends up a bit. And once I have at least a first costume, I can join the team. So it'd be in your best interest to help hook me up with her, yeah?"
Flipping through the papers, Dawn shrugged indifferently. "I'm not on the team yet. Not sure I will be, either. Remember, that's why they're here bugging you. So it doesn't really matter to me one way or the other if you join them…" Dawn stopped at a rough sketch of a black PVC corset with white fur along the top and a white spider design wrapping around the breasts and ribs, with matching hot pants and fur-topped knee high boots. On the other hand, maybe she did have an interest in getting Astrid into a costume. "Then again, if the others find out I got in the way of them picking up a teammate, I'll never hear the end of it. You design something for my first costume and I'll talk Janet into making yours." Granted she had the armor, but that was like… her superhero training wheels. She'd probably outgrow it, even if she ultimately turned the Young Avengers down and never went beyond using her powers to help with slaying in Cleveland.
Besides, it really was a no brainer, now that Dawn thought about it. Not only would it make Astrid far more accessible by having her coming and going from the loft regularly, but there would be copious amounts of Astrid nudity for her to peek in on. Hank had rigged most of the household with security cameras and… well, she could probably convince Janet and Hank that her wanting her laptop fully integrated to the house's network was a sign that she was considering staying.
Dawn was knocked from her thoughts as a warm, curvy body slammed into hers and Astrid hugged her tight, pressing her ample chest against Dawn's own. The sensation made Dawn grin again the taller girl's neck. Oh yes. This was a very good idea indeed.
Cassie glared at the tramp hugging her Dawn. Not that Dawn appeared to mind too much. Grr. Just because she was too shy to come out and make a move of her own didn't mean other girls were allowed to move in! She was going to stake her claim on Dawn. She just needed a little more time.
Initially, she'd been more than a little freaked out by the information Kate had relayed to her… another girl liked her? Not that she was homophobic or anything - she was totally cool with Billy and Teddy - but it wasn't the kind of lifestyle she'd ever thought about pursuing herself. But then the more she'd thought about it, the less unreasonable it seemed. After all, it wasn't like she was a hit with the boys. Maybe that was a sign.
When Dawn had presented her with a catsuit to replace the one based on her father's, Cassie hadn't been sure what to make of it. After all, it was her father she looked up to… her father was the reason she wanted to be a hero. It made more sense in the wake of her conversation with Kate, though, and it actually made her feel flattered that Dawn wanted her to look as attractive as possible. She'd taken to alternating it with her other costume, wearing it when she was sure Dawn would be joining them for the afternoon. And while she hadn't been quite sure what she was looking for at first, it hadn't been long before she started picking up on the long, hungry stares Dawn sent her way.
Except now Dawn was looking at this busty ho instead of her. Well that wouldn't do. Not at all. Cassie looked over at Kate, but dismissed the ebony-haired girl instantly. Kate was stuck in her cycle of unresolved sexual tension with Eli. What would she know about successfully attracting someone? Maybe some of the girls at school could be more helpful?
Or, if all else failed, she could always fall back on every woman's standby: Cosmo.
An hour later, Cassie and Kate had fled, leaving Astrid and Dawn to their discussion of costumes. The coffee table was covered in crumpled balls of paper, colored pencils, soda cans on coasters, empty cans resting wherever they'd fallen, and two bags of Doritos: Spicy Nacho for Dawn and Cool Ranch for Astrid. "Alright, now, since you have someone who can make armor plating for you… even if their design skills leave a bit to be desired when they make it… what about this?"
The design was a fusion of two of her mothers' looks, and Astrid hadn't even done it intentionally. Dawn ran her finger down the page, outlining the figure Astrid had sketched out over the last twenty minutes. She was clad in a black undersuit with a series of thin plates covering almost every square inch of her body to maximize protection, the plates shaded black for the most part with a streak of yellow up each side. "I like it. Still a bit clunky for day to day, I think. Maybe I'll put it second on my wish list after that mini dress version of Janet's costume…"
"I wouldn't mind seeing you in that." Astrid shuffled through the papers, bringing up the costume in question. It was simple: a knee length black dress whose sleeves melted right into a pair of elbow length gloves, paired with knee high black boots. The gloves, shoulders, and boots were all adorned with angular yellow molding that resembled the series of triangles running down the front of the dress. Dawn had turned bright red at Astrid's off-handed comment regarding the idea's source - Janet's current costume - reminding her of a landing strip telling her where to aim. "But then again, I'm down with anything that shows off your legs. They're gorgeous. Be a shame not to show them off."
Dawn glanced down as a warm hand came to rest on her knee, slowly running up her leg. Apart from 'look normal', she hadn't been given any appearance directives for the day and so she'd shown up for their little recruiting mission in a simple green tank top, a black and green plaid skirt, stockings, and her favorite pair of Keds. And so while she wasn't sure whether or not it was a fortunate set of circumstances, it left little in the way of resistance for Astrid as the taller girl slowly ran her hand up and Dawn's thigh, inching a bit higher each time.
Then Astrid leaned over and kissed her.
It was utterly unlike any first kiss she'd experienced so far, lacking the hesitance and tentative experimentation of two people testing each other out for the first time. It was hard, it was claiming, and as Astrid's tongue slipped between her slightly spread lips, Dawn decided it was perfect. Throwing a leg over Astrid's lap, Dawn straddled her paramour and let her fingers tease through Astrid's long auburn tresses as their kiss continued.
When they finally broke apart for air, Dawn leaned forward to rest her forehead against Astrid's, staring into half-closed green eyes. "Wanna show me your room?"
"Best idea I've heard all day." Wrapping her arms around Dawn's waist, Astrid surged to her feet. Dawn let out a squeal of surprise that was silenced by Astrid's lips and she closed her eyes as she was carried off to parts unknown.