Take It Off
Take It OffAuthor:
Right, I actually went and checked to be sure this time… Buffy the Vampire Slayer
, Angel: the Series
, and all associated characters belong to Fran and Kaz Kuzui. With a myriad of writers, artists, and editors, actual rights are a nightmare when you go near a comic book universe. Suffice it to say that Marvel Entertainment LLC owns all of the property printed in their comics, along with the television and movie adaptations of said same property. Not mine, don't sue, and so forth and so on.Summary:
Janet decides to get away for a bit after her divorce. When she gets back… heaven help the Ultimates.Joe's Note:
This started out as a one-shot lesbian WIWU because… well shit, do I really need a reason to write lesbians? Then some crazy bastard nominated it for a CoA, which made me want to fix it up a bit but I couldn't until the awards were done. And I lost. Well, the awards are done and I've lost as always, so let's get on with the fun. Oh, and this is obviously Ultimates-based… vaguely after the first volume of Ultimates but after that, things go a bit wacky. I'm sure you'll be able to keep up, though.
'There's a place downtown, where the freaks all come around.
It's a hole in the wall, it's a dirty free for all.
And they turn me on when they take it off,
When they take it off, everybody take it off!There's a place I know if you're looking for a show,
Where they go hardcore and there's glitter on the floor.
And they turn me on when they take it off,
When they take it off, everybody take it off!'
Zero Hour, Take One:
Janet van Dyne knew before she even bothered to open her eyes that the last thing she wanted to do was… open her eyes. It was that strange, inexplicable feeling of foreboding that she'd had before the first day of classes each year, on the day she'd come out to her father as a mutant, on the day she'd done likewise to that bastard Hank, or on the day of her wedding. The feeling that by the end of the day, something in her life would be changed forever, for better or worse.
And usually for worse.
Yeah, she'd take a pass on that if she could.
So she lounged in bed for another twenty minutes, head throbbing from the massive amounts of alcohol she'd consumed the night before. She'd debated before heading out to the club the night before, knowing she'd probably regret it in the morning, but it was her first off-duty weekend since the divorce papers with Hank had been finalized and… well, she'd been desperate to cut loose and let her hair down. So she had. And now she had a hangover to start one of Those Days. Great.
Well, technically the 'let her hair down' part had been entirely metaphorically. After a few too many hair-pulling incidents with her ex-husband, she'd cut it short enough that she didn't really have the hair to put up or let down anymore.
Rolling onto her side, Janet cracked her gritty eyes open and blinked a few times before managing to focus on the hotel alarm clock. She recognized the ugly thing, which was a relief because it meant she'd found her way back to her own hotel room, rather than ending up in someone else's. It was 9:30. AM, not PM, since that little light next to the little PM wasn't lit. And so, assuming she hadn't managed to sleep an entire day away - and headache aside, she didn't think she'd gotten that drunk - she still had a day and a half before she had to report back in to her handlers at the Triskelion.
Why the hell was she up so damn early? 9:30 AM was actually an hour and a half before she normally got up, since she was on-call and working in the monitoring center until 3:00 AM on days when she wasn't actively in the field. And she was pretty sure she'd been out as late or later the night before. Hell, she hadn't even checked into the hotel until 10:00 PM because she'd had to handle some stuff in New York City before driving up to Boston for the night. Then she'd gone out partying for several hours - and clubs - before stumbling back to her room. The stumbling had required some assistance; a person about whom she could remember nothing at the moment. Probably the cabby, though, since she'd gone out on foot and wasn't stupid enough to walk - or fly - home when that intoxicated.
Then her cell phone began to vibrate, the normally noise-reducing mode actually causing a fair bit of racket as it clattered against the glass top of the nightstand and the plastic case of the ugly alarm clock. After thirty seconds or so, it fell silent and Janet waited tensely, but there was neither the beep to indicate a new voice mail nor did the phone start ringing again. Good. It was her weekend off. They could deal with their problems without her.
Especially since the vibrating rattle of the call had created a problem of its own for Janet. Beside her on the bed, someone shifted before letting out a soft groan. Then came a voice, a soft Texas drawl that likely would have been utterly charming had it not come from a stranger lying beside her in bed. After all, she was a bit of a sucker for accents. Then she thought about it a bit more: was it the presence of a stranger in her bed that was troubling her or the fact that said stranger with the cute accent was a woman? Either way, there was a stranger in her bed… and it wouldn't be the first time she'd been with a woman… so she really didn't have an answer there.
And even if she did have an answer, that didn't change the fact that there was a Texan in her bed complaining. "Oh God, my head. Kill me now." Then came something that really gave Janet pause: a slightly deeper and colder voice. "And to think, the half-breed assured me that observing human celebratory and mating rituals would be both enlightening and enjoyable. This is neither. Once I reformat my shell to dispense with unnecessary organs and recover my equilibrium, she will die for causing me to suffer this indignity." Well, she was a free woman. Sure, she hadn't planned to get back on the horse so soon - or by way of a threesome - but technically she'd done nothing wrong. Then Janet processed the words themselves and her eyes went wide. Wait, what?
Rolling over onto her back, Janet found herself frozen in place as she stared up at a disturbingly pale woman, her eyes growing - if possible - even wider than before. Having met a few visible mutants both in her work with SHIELD and before, she knew they tended to dislike people who stared at their unusual features but Janet wasn't sure anywhere on this woman was safe to look at. Her eyes were an inhuman, icy blue, as were the streaks in her otherwise muddy brown hair and the patches of skin along her hairline and neck. Even out along her shoulders and collarbone was blue, which Janet only knew because… "Can you please cover up?"
Given the appearance of the women and the two voices she'd heard, Janet was pretty sure she could guess which one belonged to which. Therefore, she was incredibly surprised when the warm and bubbly Texan turned out to be the icy blue visible mutant. "I guess. But after last night, does it really matter?"
"Last night? Does that mean you remember what happened?" Janet pushed herself up onto her elbows, making a concerted effort to keep her chest covered. Even if the other woman had seen them the night before - and most of the world had because of her actions during the Hulk Incident - there was no need to abandon all modesty. Peering around the woman, she frowned. Had their companion fallen off the edge of the bed? And if she had, why wasn't she complaining? And why wasn't Miss Texas offering her a hand up? "And what happened to the other person who was just here with us?"
Gesturing first to herself and then to Janet, the woman offered up a cheerful smile. "Well, as you pointed out, I'm a bit naked here. You're lying in bed with me. We've never met before last night and met while drunk out of our minds. Assuming that we did something - and that I saw you naked - is pretty much an even money bet."
Janet conceded that one. Especially since she too was naked, even if it wasn't visible, and could feel that she'd had a very good night indeed. That left one question unanswered, though. "And the other woman? Is she your girlfriend or your wife, and you two go cruising for strange together and I was the woman of the night? Or did the three of us just happen to meet up last night and fall into the same bed?"
"Other woman?" The blue-tinged mutant looked around before trying another grin on Janet. "I don't see anyone else here." Janet's eyes narrowed and she sighed. "You're not going to buy that one, are you?" That earned her a shake of Janet's head. "Pity." Woah. The Texan and the Ice Queen were the same person? Multiple personalities in a single body? Or something else? "The half-breed has reportedly warned me that exposing myself to the average mortal is inadvisable, since you are not capable of handling knowledge of our existence. At best, you react with fear and violence. At worst…" She shuddered. "If you end up writing a book series about me, I will not tolerate being rendered as a being with sparkling skin or who supernaturally induces nymphomania."
Why did those sound familiar? Janet furrowed her brow for a moment and then it hit her. "Wait a minute. Anita Blake
are based on real vampires? Does that mean you're a vampire too?"
The woman let out a sharp bark of laughter. "The literary diarrhea to which you refer is the result of two beings who came into contact with vampires attempting to sanitize and glamorize encounters they could not repress as a way of staying sane. Neither contains an even halfway accurate portrayal of half-breeds or lycanthropes. Not to mention the assorted 'wereanimals' of Hamilton's novels. A 'wererat' indeed. What a laughable concept."
"Oh." Well, she'd never read the Twilight
novels so she didn't really care on that front, but the Anita Blake
series had been an amusing enough way to pass the time on slow nights. Her first thought when she'd realized what was going on was that maybe she could find her own Jean-Claude but if vampires weren't actually like those in the books, that probably wasn't a good idea. Then again, this lady seemed friendly enough for a… erm… "So what are you then? Vampire? Or, erm, lycanthrope?"
One brow arched imperiously, the woman snorted. "I am no common half-breed. I am Illyria, God-King of the Primordium, Shaper of Things." Oh fuck. She'd slept with Thor's arrogant, gender-confused sister. Fury was going to kick her ass. Or… maybe not. Given how mercurial an ally the Norseman was, being the one who recruited their new godly ally could be a massive feather in her cap, finally allowing her to step out of Hank's shadow in the eyes of SHIELD and her fellow Ultimates. "But on the subject of half-breeds, I desire to do violence for Harmony's misdirection on the subject of 'clubbing'. If you would like, you may join me… I do not know your name."
Janet sat up, the sheet slipping for a second before she reached up to pin it to her chest. That done, she extended her free hand. "Janet. Janet van Dyne. And do you have to? I was thinking maybe we could go find some food and I could get to know you. I already know one god, so I'm curious what you're like." Maybe this was it. Her Those Days moment. It wasn't going to be anything bad; quite the opposite. But meeting someone who claimed to be a god was still a huge thing, which probably was why it registered as one of Those Days.
And if meeting a god didn't count, fucking one probably did.
"I do not rely on the same primitive methods of energy absorption that your kind does. However, the idea of speaking with someone who already knows of my kind and is genuinely interested in me is… tolerable. Very well, we will continue our conversation over the meal known as breakfast." Sliding out of bed, Illyria's body shook violently and suddenly her nudity disappeared beneath a black, red, and blue catsuit. Janet blinked. Okay, that was incredibly cool. "Do you not need clothes if we are to leave this location?"
Oh, right. Janet slid towards the edge of the bed, only to hesitate as Illyria's eyes followed her. "Erm, can you look away?" Illyria's mouth opened and Janet cut off the argument she assumed was coming. "Yes, you've seen it, but I'm still not into parading around naked just because." Sighing, Illyria made a complete one hundred and eighty degree turn and stared at the wall. "Thank you."
Janet watched Illyria for a moment to ensure she was actually cooperating before sliding out of bed, dashing over to the closet and pulling out another of the sleeveless, halter neck catsuits she wore under all her clothes in case she had to use her powers. As she wriggled into the black latex garment, she watched Illyria putter around the room, carefully keeping her back to Janet so as not to break her word. Then the bluenette paused, picking up a piece of paper. "What is this?"
"Hang on." Yanking on a pair of jeans and her 'The Sting's the Thing' t-shirt - because wearing a shirt with a cartoon version of herself on it amused her to no end for some bizarre reason - Janet wandered over to see what Illyria found so interesting. When her eyes fell upon the piece of paper, she realized that it was indeed one of Those Days and not for any positive reason.
"On second thought, let's go kill this Harmony woman."
Standing between and a step ahead of his two armored subordinates - at least when it came to the paperwork behind the Ultimates; Hell would freeze over before Tony Stark admitted to being anyone's subordinate - General Nicholas Fury bounced lightly on his toes as he watched a blue portal swirl into existence in the middle of the base's vehicle pool. With his resources, he'd known about Janet's second marriage only seconds after it'd occurred and set his people to work digging up all the information they could find about her new spouse.
That wasn't supposed to happen. They were SHIELD, the world's premiere intelligence agency. He knew how many times a day the president took a shit - or rather, he could if he cared to. The idea of someone's identity being beyond his peoples' ability to discover was… well, preposterous. But as best they could tell, this 'Illyria' that Janet had married had simply popped into existence a year or so ago, without even the telltale markers that would point to a change in identity. She'd simply appeared out of nowhere.
Now Janet was bringing a 'person of interest' back to the base and, given that she hadn't filed for an annulment while in Boston and had been seen in the company of another woman by his agents, Fury didn't need Banner's IQ to figure out who was coming back with her. The only question was… why? And who or what was this Illyria person that Janet had attached herself to?
First the nose of the M1038A1 Janet had borrowed from the motor pool poked through the rippling surface of the portal, followed by a nervous-looking Janet at the wheel. There was nobody sitting beside her in the passenger's seat, making Fury frown momentarily. Then the HMMWV rolled further forward, revealing a woman crouching on the roof, arms spread wide and an expression of intense concentration on her face. As the back bumper cleared the mystical gateway, she pivoted and brought her hands together with a clap, the portal slurping closed at her command. With that done, she executed a perfect back flip that carried her from the roof to the hood of the HMMWV, and then another that dropped her to the pavement. Turning, she looked Fury up and down slowly before dismissing him and walking over to stand beside the driver's side door of the vehicle. Opening it, she offered her hand to Janet. "Your leader awaits you."
"And he's with enough manpower to take down the Hulk. So behave." Illyria's eyes narrowed and Janet amended her statement. "Behave as much as you can." Giving the blue-tinged woman a peck on the lips, Janet took the taller woman's hand and hopped down out of the HMMWV, making her way over to Fury. "Nick. Tony. Rhodey. Entire rest of the team. I know I'm the heart of the Triskelion and all, but I was only gone two days. Isn't this a bit much for a welcome home party?"
Fury snorted, looking from Janet to the approaching Illyria. "Cute, Jan. Who is she? What is she? And why do you think she's interesting? Apart from what she does for you in bed, evidently?"
A few feet to Fury's left, Steve Rogers let out a choked noise at that but Fury ignored him in favor of awaiting Janet's response. "This is Illyria, God-King of the Primordium. And she's interesting because… well, she's a god. You mentioned you've been having problems with Thor - you know, the one Ultimate not here at the moment - and so I brought you a replacement god. See. I am good for more than a 'Mardi Gras special'. And there's also the whole 'she's my wife' factor."
"Really? Congratulations!" Reaching forward, Tony Stark gave Janet a pat on the shoulder. Then he lowered his voice a bit, the result still quite loud due to the amplification of his suit. "Don't suppose you taped the honeymoon?"
Not wanting things to get off-topic and out of hand, Fury tried to regain control of the conversation but it was too late. "Antonio Stark. Also known as 'Iron Man'. Janet told me many things about you in preparation for our return to this place. According to her tales, you are much like a rather annoying half-breed I was once forced to deal with. I believe I shall treat you similarly." Lunging forward, Illyria grabbed the hand sitting on Janet's shoulder and then twisted, lifting all one ton of Tony and his suit up off the ground before throwing him at the HMMWV sitting behind her. The hood crumbled under the impact and the vehicle - complete with its new Iron-Tech hood ornament - began to roll backwards slowly. While he was no coward, Fury was smart enough to know that he wanted no part of any fight with someone who could throw Tony around that easily and jerked himself out of the way, allowing James Rhodes to line up a shot as the War Machine's various weapons whirred and locked into place. "I doubt there is one among you even capable of making me feel one of your blows. Respect my Qwa'ha Xahn and I, and you shall remain unharmed."
Fury frowned; he definitely didn't like being threatened by anyone… but he wasn't entirely certain that she wasn't capable of backing that threat. If she had the power to casually toss Tony around - and probably at least some degree of superhuman speed, given how quickly she'd been on him - in addition to teleportation… that more than likely eliminated Rhodey, Steve, Natasha, and Clint from being useful. Janet wasn't about to turn on her new wife. Hank was an even more questionable ally than Thor, who Fury didn't even want to turn to in case the two supposed gods decided to team up with each other. Pietro and Wanda Lehnsherr, perhaps? Wanda was practically a goddess in her own right with her powers, but was 'practically' good enough if this was in fact a god she'd be going up against? If it wasn't, he stood to lose at least her and possibly other members of the team. And so, loathe as he was to do it, Fury stepped forward and raised his hands. "All right, everyone here needs to simmer the fuck down. Rhodey, guns in. Grab Tony and haul him back to the launch bay." There was a moment's hesitation before the grey armored figure nodded, stomping past the two women as he went to retrieve his friend. "Now… my name is General Nicholas Fury, Director of SHIELD. Do you think we can have the rest of this conversation without anyone else getting assaulted?"
"If your peons are capable of behaving appropriately, I will see no reason to discipline them for you." Without even looking, Fury reached to his right and found the arm of the woman who had stepped into War Machine's spot beside him, pushing it skyward so her gun was no longer pointed at Illyria. And if he knew Natasha Romanova, she was glaring at him for that one, but Fury didn't really care. Like Wanda, she was worth too much to SHIELD to be sidelined - or put permanently out of commission - because Janet's new wife got under her skin. "Now, according to Janet, you were consulting with her on a biochemical method of removing her former spouse's powers before discharging him from your employ. Please locate Mister Pym and then we shall retire to your office for… further discussion…"
Fury nodded, albeit uneasily. Why did he have a feeling that discussion was the last thing actually on her mind?
"…and so that's the whole story." Leg bouncing nervously as she sat on Illyria's lap, Janet looked down at her new wife's impassive face for a moment before returning her gaze to Nick. "Veni, vidi, got drunker than a skunksi. Woke up married, went out to breakfast, got to know her, watched her kill her former advisor - who was a vampire, by the way, so there won't be any calls from the BPD in our future - and decided that applying to be Harmony's replacement and keeping the marriage didn't sound half bad. I mean, she's obviously okay with my powers, she's a veritable genius with knowledge in a lot of fields but doesn't feel the need to crush me because I'm better at genetics or molecular biology than she is, she actually wants help with her rough edges, she's a demon in the sack… no pun intended. Definitely a step up from Hank. Hell, she's a whole staircase up from Hank." Running her hand through her hair, Janet eyed her boss. "Seriously, Nick, is this actually going to be a problem or are you just giving us a hard time because Illyria dented one of your HMMWVs?"
Steepling his fingers under his chin, Fury put his legs up on his desk and leaned back as he stared at the pair of women. "I'm not sure, honestly. You're a government operative for a quasi-military operation, meaning you might fall under Section 654." Janet stared at him blankly. "Don't Ask, Don't Tell. If you're considered a soldier, it applies and 'the presence in the armed forces of persons who demonstrate a propensity or intent to engage in homosexual acts would create an unacceptable risk to the high standards of morale, good order and discipline, and unit cohesion that are the essence of military capability'."
Illyria's arms tightened a bit around Janet's waist, making the mutant squeak a bit at the pressure being applied to her not-quite-godly body. Grimacing, Illyria loosened her grip. "My apologies, Janet. Sometimes, I forget the frailty of humans." Turning her attention to Nick, she raised one fine brow in a very mechanical fashion that Janet had to bite her lip to avoid laughing at. They were definitely going to have to work on more fluid and human facial expressions down the road. Preferably before her next trip through the talk show circuit, since they'd all inevitably want to know about her new wife and she didn't want to be stuck fielding the questions on her own. "As to whether or not our union would pose a problem… according to the information that the Council provided me when I contacted them yesterday, the European Union will soon be establishing a counterpart program based in Belgium. If you insist upon causing difficulties for us, you are no longer 'the only game in town' and I doubt they would turn us away."
Holding up his hands defensively, Fury dropped his feet to the floor, adopting a more serious demeanor. "Whoa, let's not be hasty here. I'm just saying that our legal division will need to look into it. After all, I'm pretty damn sure that nobody here was stupid enough to decide Thor was legally part of the United States military. We can file Janet and yourself under the same employee code. We could call you a 'Consultant for Superhuman Activities' or something like that."
"That would be… agreeable." Illyria's grip loosened further, her hands moving to rest on Janet's hips. "I would imagine you have further questions about my capabilities, if nothing else? As a leader, you are responsible for knowing the capabilities of your assets so you can best use them in battle."
Fury nodded, leaning forward to rest on his elbows as he stared at Illyria. "So? What've you got, Bluebell?"
She didn't even need to look from Nick to her wife's face to know that Illyria would be sneering at the nickname; Janet had tried and failed to get Illyria to take to the idea of pet names. "As you have already seen, my strength is far superior to any mortal's. I am also more durable. I can understand the song of the green and compose it. Space and time bend to my whims. And…"
"You wanted to see me, General?" Janet went still at the new voice; she was all too familiar with it. It had dominated her life for over a decade and she'd just finally broken free of it. And while she'd heard Illyria request his presence, she hadn't counted on him making his way up here quite so soon. "Janet? What's going on? And who's your… friend?"
Illyria stiffened beneath her before using a hand at the small of her back to gently guide Janet forward and off her lap. Rising to her feet, she slipped past Janet and then stalked towards Hank; the brief glimpse Janet had gotten of the look on the god-king's face was enough to make the hairs on the back of her neck stand up. "I have one additional power, General. I was looking forward to demonstrating it for you." Hand flashing out faster than Janet's eyes could follow, Illyria wrapped her fingers around Hank's throat and hoisted him off the ground. Her free hand slapped against his chest and he began to scream, a wind with no discernable origin blowing Illyria's hair out behind her head like a comet's tail as the dark brown base began lightening to a color closer to Hank's own locks.
After nearly thirty seconds, his eyes rolled back into his head and Illyria dropped him to the floor. She stayed with her back to Janet for a long minute before shuddering, her hair reverting back to the shade of brown that Janet knew was her natural color from when she'd seen Illyria slip completely into her 'Winifred Burkle' human disguise. Returning to the general's desk, she took her seat again and pulled Janet back onto her lap. "At one point, a human attacked me using a piece of technology he did not fully understand. It weakened me, but at the same time strengthened me. My body seeks to regain the energy stolen from it, and has manifested the ability to drain energy from others in an attempt to do so. I can take solely their life force if I so wish it, move from spark to spark within their feeble minds and take their very thoughts for my own use… or take superhuman powers away from the undeserving. Several weeks ago, a mutant attacked me and I consumed his powers as punishment. His strength now serves me. While the mutant survived the removal of his powers, I had a… 'bone to pick' with Hank Pym. Obviously, the same can not be said about him."
"Mmm. I'm not sure I could have figured that out on my own, Illyria." Rising from his desk, Fury walked over to prod Hank's corpse with his boot. "Well, at least this way I don't have to arrange for him to 'have an accident'." Janet's jaw dropped; she'd heard plenty of rumors floating around about her ex-husband's future - or lack thereof - with SHIELD after their domestic dispute and subsequent divorce, but she hadn't thought her employers were thinking of murdering the man outright.
As she watched Nick check Hank for a pulse, she tried to summon up… something. Outrage at Illyria for killing a man? No, she knew Illyria lacked morals. Hell, she'd watched Illyria torture a vampire before making Janet dispatch the blonde as her first task as Qwa'ha Xahn. Sadness at Hank's passing? No, after their time together, she wouldn't have pissed on him if he was on fire. And he wasn't bleeding on any carpet, much less hers, so there was no irritation or indignation to be had.
Pretty much like what Hank was. A nothing.
Returning to his desk, Nick stared at Illyria for a long moment before smiling. "So, Illyria… what exactly did you take from the late Mister Pym there?"
"His life force and memories. His so-called powers were a perversion of the harmony within Janet and I had no desire to contaminate my shell with it."
"Hmm. Do you think you could take his memories, then, and do what he did… better?"
"In that case… how does the name 'Giant-Woman' sound?"
"…do you enjoy having a spleen?"
"So that'd be a no to Giant-Woman?"