Title: Everywhere I GoAuthor:
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. On the other hand? Madison Pym and Aberration, on the other hand, are in fact mine. Please ask before touching them. Kat and Mairi are real people. If you find them interesting enough, you should probably ask me too but don't expect them to say yes to a stranger writing about them.Dedications & Thanks:
To Lexi Kimble
, for letting me wander into her universe and providing the art. To Mairi and Kat, for allowing me to borrow their personalities, cosplay designs, and likenesses for certain scenes. And to Yaya Han, for being a horrible enough person that I could write out a scene I really wanted to do without having to invent a fictional cosplayer for the characters to interact with.Summary:
Five mutants in a crowd of a hundred thousand attendees at a comic book convention. Nobody will notice… right?Joe's Note:
I've been helping Lexi shape the origins of a Marvel universe that largely ignores the standards placed on comics by popular society. People hook up and break up because of their feelings, not because of plot necessity. Sex isn't just for procreation, or to feed one of the aforementioned plot lines. Unconventional relationships and people with unconventional tastes exist as well, and what they choose to do behind closed doors doesn't make them strange or weird or evil. In other words… real life. Just with superpowers and spandex.
"-don't even know where to start. Wait. Yes I do. First of all, Rogue's costumes sometimes feature a secondary color along with the green as a primary, but white isn't one of them. Yellow… black… a lighter green… not white. Secondly, her primary power set is tactile energy absorption. That's why she doesn't show any skin. So she wouldn't be wearing a short-sleeved anything, or a skirt without tights to fill the gap between the hem line and her boots. Fucking fake geek girls, I swear to God. Can't even be bothered to wiki the people they're dressing up as. And what are you smirking at? I don't even know who the hell you're trying to be. Shoulda gone as Gambit, though, if you've got a Rogue-loving girlfriend who hangs all over you. All the paparazzi photos show that they're a couple."
The photographer whirled and swiped his badge over the scanner in front of him, muttering something decidedly unpleasant under his breath as he beckoned for his assistant to follow him through the check-in area. As they disappeared into the milling crowd on the other side of the bottleneck created by the process, Rogue slowly turned and looked at Joshua Foley with wide eyes. "What… what the hell was that?"
Chuckling, Josh unwound his arm from around Rogue's waist long enough to pass through check-in himself, meeting up with her on the other side and steering her toward the glass doors at the front of the Javits Center. The rest of Amazon Squad fell in behind them, or rather the Amazons who were present. Megan had stayed behind in Westchester because her family was visiting for the weekend, while Frostburn was still back at the hotel relaxing. And not having a pass, on account of not kicking in her share of the money on time. "Seemed pretty straightforward to me. While there are real superheroes here this weekend, you're clearly not Rogue. Who's evidently dating Gambit right now."
"Except I'm not, obviously, because…" Trailing off, Rogue looked around nervously before gesturing back and forth between the two of them. Why she felt the need to do so, Josh had no idea; the possessive arm around her waist made it more than clear who she was here with. "I mean yeah, we've been on the same teams since then, but I haven't dated Remy since… when was the Columbia
Josh pulled out his phone, googling the event in question. "…back in 2003. I was six and you were sixteen. Which would put you back in your Brotherhood days, wouldn't it?" Rogue stuck her tongue out in response, a moment of childishness that was becoming more common as she spent more and more of her free time with her squad. "I get what you meant, though. But since it's evidently helping us blend into the crowd better, do we really want to complain that people would be looking for a 'real' you to be with our least favorite Cajun?"
Personally, Josh was more than a little surprised at the overall lack of attention they'd received to this point. While obviously Aberration cut an imposing figure and he stood out for equally obvious reasons, they'd gotten nothing beyond a few longer than average glances. Rogue had received even less attention, or rather Rogue as an individual had. Her spectacular cleavage had earned her looks ranging from hungry to appreciative to jealous, but despite the fact that she - as the photographer had pointed out - had a Wikipedia page that contained a number of clear pictures of her? Evidently nobody had managed to connect the face that went with the spectacular cleavage with the face plastered across the Internet. Or if they had, they'd opted not to say anything. He was more than a little tempted to order Rogue to brush up against one of his squadmates and 'borrow' her telepathy for a few minutes, but if nobody was willing to step forward and voice their suspicions… did it really matter if they had them?
Before he could ponder that further, the peanut gallery decided to intrude upon their conversation. "Rachel's self-heating and I think the rest of you could probably survive on Hoth, but I've got cold raindrops falling into my cleavage." Sidling up on Josh's left, Madison Pym shivered as she shot a scowl up at him. "Is there any chance we can finish this conversation inside?"
Taking advantage of their sizable height difference, Josh took a peek down the front of Madison's corset. While she wasn't in Aberration's league - much less Rogue's - she had a damn nice pair in her own right. "They look pretty dry from here. But if you're really worried, I could always cover them up for you…" Madison retaliated by kicking him in the calf, making Josh wince even as his powers instinctively kicked in to repair the minute amount of damage she'd done. "Ouch. See if I'm ever nice to you again. Seriously, though, we're going to be here for three days. You saw the same weather forecast as the rest of us. Why didn't you pick another outfit?"
"Because it's going to be shitty all three days of con?" Madison glanced upward at the grey sky before looking down at her outfit, first at the front before craning her neck so she could peer back over her shoulder. "And because these shorts make my ass look amazing?"
Neither of those were things Josh could debate. The former because he too had caught the weather report that morning before leaving the hotel. The latter because… well, dat ass. The exposed bottom curves of which were starting to look decidedly goose pimply. Maybe it was time to head inside. Before they could reach the front doors of the convention center, though, they were intercepted by a pack of girls led by a statuesque brunette in a red and gold corset and a skirt made of armor plates, accessorized with what appeared to be several pieces of feminized Iron Man armor. Her eyes swept back and forth along the group before fixing on Aberration. "Um, hi. This is a little awkward because… well, I'm not sure if you're supposed to be a casual She-Hulk or a casual Rule 63 Hulk or what. But you look really cool. And pretty. Will you take a picture with me?"
Josh joined the others in looking toward Aberration in surprise. Why would anyone think a girl wearing a simple purple dress was cospl… oh. He sighed before reaching up to pinch the bridge of his nose. Having gold skin gave you a slightly skewed perspective of 'normal', evidently. Because even though he knew intellectually that Aberration's scaly green form wasn't normal, strictly speaking, the constant exposure had turned it into nothing extraordinary from his perspective. For the average flatscan, on the other hand? She probably did look like some kind of amazingly complex makeup job. Who they couldn't identify. Noticing her darkening cheeks, Josh opened his mouth to intercede on her behalf but was cut off as Aberration decided to speak for herself. "I guess you can take a picture, but… this is just me being me. I'm a mutant. I wear this dress all the time. It's not cosplay."
Fear, suspicion, resignation… these were all reactions to mutants that Josh had experienced. Having a girl's eyes widen before squealing loudly was definitely new. "That… is… awesome! I was pretty sure that you and at least two of your friends were, but my friends talked me out of it because… you guys are what, seven percent of the population? Something like that? So theoretically there are going to be seven thousand mutants here this weekend at the con, but what are the odds of us actually meeting one?"
"One in fourteen, give or take." Aberration reached up to rub the back of her head as she eyed the girl disbelievingly. "You're taking this really well. Almost to the point that it's creepy. I'm used to people being scared of me because… well… look at me."
The girl giggled at that as she pried one of Aberration's hands away from her chest long enough to shake it. "Pfft. You should see what some of my friends look like by the ride home after a convention. I'm Kat, by the way. What's your… do you have a superhero name or use your regular name or what? Because I know there's like, Magneto. But then there's also Emma Frost."
"…I'm guessing you're one of the former then. I can't see you being like, Aberration Smith or Aberration Jones or something." As she pulled the taller, greener girl away from the rest of the Xavier's contingent, Kat reached behind her back and pulled a phone out of… somewhere. Spinning around, she pressed her back against Aberration's chest as she stretched the phone out in front of her. A few seconds later, Kat lowered it and turned to face Aberration again. "So, not sure if you've noticed but we've got a bit of a Rule 63 Avengers thing going. Even if you weren't trying to cosplay… you'd make an awesome Hulk for us. Wanna?" Aberration bit her lip nervously at the offer, shifting from foot to foot as Kat and her companions stared at the taller girl expectantly. "Most of us don't know actually each other; we met on the Facebook Group for the con after I posted looking to see if anyone would want to join me and the friend I was coming with. So you won't be the odd one out or anything."
With the ignorant members of the squad absent, Aberration turned to Josh rather than Rogue for permission. Strangely, though, it wasn't a really cut and dried matter. On one hand, every member of Kat's group was delicious eye candy, and so Josh was tempted to ask if they wanted to join the Amazons for the day instead. Given that they had similar taste in women, he doubted Rogue would object to the presence sexy pin-up versions of Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, and Hawkeye. And… Josh blinked as another figure cut through the crowd, joining up with Kat's pack of Girlvengers. They had a… Miss Captain Marvel? The blonde had taken the motif from Carol Danvers's current jumpsuit and applied it to something closer to the woman's old leotard. Strange. Shaking his head, he refocused on the matter at hand: Aberration's day plans. Because while he would enjoy having all those pretty girls to ogle, he recognized that Aberration really did need the practice socializing with strangers, especially flatscans. Not to mention that a combined group of ten would make navigating a bustling convention a bit unwieldy, especially compared to a group of four or five…
But in the end, Aberration was a big girl. Pun completely intended. He could make these sorts of decisions for her, but Aberration wasn't Rogue and so that really wasn't Josh's place. And so shrugging, he made a gentle shooing motion. "If you want to go with them, you can. We're all going the same place, and you're six foot three and green. I'm sure we'll be able to find you when it's time to leave."
Smiling faintly, Aberration patted at her purse as she took a hesitant step forward. "Okay. And I've got my phone if you guys need me for something." Josh nodded before shooing her more insistently, making Aberration chuckle as Kat led her off to parts unknown, the rest of the Girlvengers forming up around them. "So, she's Kat. I'm Aberration. Who are the rest of you?"
The rest of the introductions were lost to the noisy crowd as the group moved off. Josh watched them go for a few seconds longer before turning to Rogue. "Huh. I did not see that one coming."
"Said the blind porn star." Madison pulled away from Josh's side as she took several quick steps forward before pausing, huffing, and turning around to face him. "What am I, chopped liver? That Kat girl likes mutants. The giant yellow antennae make it hard to ignore that I'm a mutant. She likes cosplayers. I'm a cosplayer. I am a cosplaying mutant. She should be like, down on her knees worshipping me or something. Especially since I'm pretty sure I'm the only Julia Carpenter cosplayer at this entire convention."
Fingertips ghosted along Josh's forearm as the group's last, hitherto silent member took advantage of Madison's absence to steal the open spot at Josh's left, and then Rachel Grey-Frost decided to add her two cents. "You should never expect a girl to get down on her knees before at least the third date, Madison. Unless it's my step-sister. Or Nori. They're both fast. In more ways than the obvious in Nori's case."
Madison rolled her eyes before flipping the redhead off. "Funny, Red. And don't make fun of Mara. Someone's gotta make up for you being slower than my namesake during rush hour. Cuz for all you've watched the rest of us do it, last time I'd checked? You hadn't even kissed a boy yet. Or a girl, for that matter."
"I'm guessing it'll be a girl eventually, what with me being the test tube baby of two lesbians and all. Considering where your mouth was an hour ago, though? I'm pretty sure it won't be you." Rachel chuckled as Madison offered the middle finger of each hand in response to that barb, although Josh wouldn't have been as quick to laugh in her place. Or criticize. After all, Rachel hadn't seemed to mind Madison's 'breakfast of champions' when she was linking minds with the other girl and rubbing herself off in the shower.
He hadn't exactly been complaining about the situation either…
Looping his free arm around Rachel's waist, Josh tuned out the pair's bickering as he coaxed his companions into resuming their forward motion. As they entered the Javits proper, he spotted a familiar green and white sign in this distance and his grip on Rachel's waist tightened. Despite experiencing firsthand the havoc that highly caffeinated beverages could wreak on her control of her powers, Rachel generally found it hard to resist the siren song of the frappuccino. The last thing Josh wanted was to spend his entire day chasing a sugar-high psi around a busy convention center.
Josh gave Rogue's waist a squeeze just so she wouldn't feel left out, slowly scanning the main concourse even as they continued forward to keep from clogging up on of the entrances. An escalator marked '3A' was directly in front of them, leading the way up to the show floor, and he debated steering the girls in its direction. While they technically didn't have to be anywhere in particular for several hours, he had a feeling that they'd get lost perusing the myriad vendors' wares and so getting an early start on that could be a good thing. The walkway off to the right that led to Artist's Alley was a viable first stop for them for similar reasons. Not to mention that the first floor areas were packed full of… he wasn't quite sure, but the program claimed there was a whole bunch of stuff going on down there. But he could also see a sign with an arrow that pointed left toward the Crystal Palace, which was tempting in its own way given that cosplayers tended to congregate there to take advantage of the natural light for photos. Rachel would probably prefer the former. Madison, the latter. Rogue, either. Which left him as the tiebreaking vo- "Excuse me?"
Removing his arms from around his companions' waists, Josh turned and then froze as he found himself faced with a most peculiar sight. While plenty of people liked to cosplay as his professors - although he would never get used to seeing versions of either Headmistress Frost-Grey hanging on a Scott Summers, or anyone getting up close and personal with Professor Howlett for that matter - very few people tended to dress as Professor Lehnsherr. Fewer still chose to use her older Scarlet Witch identity from her time with the Brotherhood of Mutants. And yet here he was, staring at someone who not only had done so, but who had opted to reimagine it with a decidedly steampunk vibe. "Yes?"
"If you're not busy, I was hoping I could get a picture with your friend in the Rogue costume. Since we're both cosplaying as teachers from Xavier's and all. Sorta." The girl paused and looked around before letting out a huff. "Except now things are all awkward because my boyfriend just ran off to God knows where and he has the camera. Damn it, Matt. You had one job…" After shifting from foot to foot uncertainly for several seconds, she reached up and slid her fingers into her cavernous cleavage, pulling out an iPhone in a case as red as her wardrobe. "Um… make that a selfie together?"
Having turned at the sound of her name, Rogue let out a soft snort at that even as her eyes wandered over the girl. "Isn't that a bit of an oxymoron? I mean, is it still technically a 'selfie' when you're taking it with another person?" The cosplayer thought about that for a moment before shrugging in response. "I guess. Got a name, or should I just call you Wanda?"
"Huh. Kay. And I thought my parents had interesting taste in names. So, is it just a strange coincidence?" Her phone grasped tightly in her left hand, Mairi stretched her arm out in front of her and then moved it a bit to one side as she stared at the screen, before looking up and beckoning for Rogue to approach her on the right. "Or did you pick her to cosplay specifically because you have the same name?"
Josh bit his lip to avoid laughing at the look Rogue shot him, even as Rachel and Madison gave in to temptation and giggled behind them. "Something like that, sugar." It took Rogue a few tries to actually wrap her arm around Mairi's waist and settle in against her side, which was understandable. After all, the last time that she'd been out in public and been able to safely touch people was… well, before the Columbia
disaster to throw her own joke back at her. It would probably take her a while to adjust to it, but if she decided she enjoyed it? He might be persuaded to use his powers to neutralize hers again if she was… properly appreciative. After a few minutes filled with soft chatter lost to the general noise of the convention center and more than just 'a' selfie, the pair finally broke apart. "So, are you going to be posting these somewhere or do you just like having pictures of yourself in costume?"
After poking at her phone for a few more seconds, Mairi looked up and nodded. "I do! I have a Facebook Page, and an Instagram account, and I just got a Tumblr, and…" Trailing off, she furrowed her brow before grinning sheepishly. "And I'm guessing that was less an actual question and more of a rhetorical question because I should probably get your info so I can tag you when I do post them, huh?"
"Uh, actually, I was being genuinely curious about what you personally were going to do with them. This is the first convention I've ever been to and so this…" Trailing off for a moment, Rogue gestured from herself to Mairi and back. "Is all new to me. And I have an Instagram-" She blushed faintly at that, probably because of some of the - exceedingly unprofessional - pictures Josh had talked her into posting on it. "-but not the rest of that stuff. I can give that to you if you want, though, so you can tag me?"
Eyes widening, Mairi stared at Rogue in disbelief. "You're… I figured you were a professional cosplayer or a booth babe or something. I mean, you're really pretty and your costume is amazing and-"
As much fun as it was to stand there and see who could turn redder - Mairi in embarrassment or Rogue at the compliments - Josh could hear Madison muttering under her breath at being overlooked yet again, and doubted it was any more fun for Rachel to stand there watching someone gush over their reacher. And while Mairi was definitely the kind of girl that would catch his eye - and she would be a welcome addition to the fun he was planning for this evening - the mention of a boyfriend present at the convention presented an obstacle he didn't really feel like dealing with. Time to move on, he decided. "Nope. She's just a girl out for a day of fun with her boyfriend and her friends. Speaking of which… would you mind terribly if we got on with that?" Mairi nodded and then opened her mouth, only to have Josh cut her off. "X Southern X Comfort X. No spaces, obviously."
Thankfully, Mairi proved to be more socially adept than some of the people they'd run into so far and recognized the dismissal. "Okay. Nice meeting you!" Curtsying, Mairi spun and hurried off into the crowd, fiddling with her phone as she went. Josh could tell the moment that her cell phone managed to fight its way through all the other traffic in the convention center and pull down Rogue's profile; just as he turned away to lead the girls off, a loud exclamation could be heard over the almost mind-blowing noise of the crowd. "Oh my God!"
"Well, I was hoping she'd find out I was here by finding me on someone else's Instagram some time next week, but since that doesn't seem like it's going to be happening… guess we might as well head up to Booth 1354 so I can see her in person." Sending one last glare in the general direction in which Mairi had departed, Madison turned with a huff and flickered as her body shed a foot or so in height, her wings extending from the expanse of bare back visible above her black corset. Throwing herself forward, Madison buzzed her way across the gap between where they were standing and the upward escalator, returning to her full height as her boots hit the first moving stair.
While he wasn't a telepath, Josh had spent enough time around a few of them to know how to start a conversation with one. And so even as he grabbed Rogue's hand and interlaced their fingers, pulling her in pursuit of Madison, he 'thought loudly'. 'Rachel? Since neither of us grabbed one and you did… Booth 1354?'
Rachel winced and stumbled a step before regaining her equilibrium and shooting him a glare. 'Think loudly for a non-psi, Josh, not like you're trying to contact me from New Jersey. Christ.'
As she walked along next to them, one hand dipped into her messenger bag and emerged with a program guide. Stepping onto the escalator just in front of them, she flipped through the pages before finding a map. 'Kay, those are the 1300s… 1325… oh. 1354. The one that's the size of thirty-five normal booths, give or take a booth. The vanDynesty booth.'
That… was unexpected. Josh shot a look over at Rogue; while she'd met - and even 'adventured' - with their supplier of all things shiny and fashionable in the past, Josh had yet to have that pleasure. She'd seemed nice enough in the emails, but tone was a remarkably hard thing to gauge in a text-based environment and even harder in emails than SMS conversations or Facebook chats. He shot another glance over at Rogue before shrugging. Evidently their first face-to-face was about to occur whether he liked it or not. At least Rogue was wearing one of the dresses he'd had her order from Janet, rather than one of her off the shelf outfits. That would make for a better first impression… right? Although he was a bit curious as to why Madison was so intent on seeing her mother, given how badly they normally got along.
When they reached the top of the escalator, Madison was already on the move but a glowing arrow hovering over her head made her easy enough to follow through the bustling crowd. Josh shot Rachel a grateful smile; given that nobody else was reacting to the flashing pink arrow hovering over Madison, he was reasonably certain of its origin. They followed their teammate forward until they hit a major aisle before turning left and making their way almost two-thirds down the massive hall's length. Their destination was hard to miss: not only was it massive, but it was teeming with customers. It wasn't, however, busy enough to keep one of the workers from noticing who was bearing down on them. "Mom! Look who's here!"
Holding up her hand to forestall any further conversation, Janet van Dyne turned away from the customer she'd been dealing with and opened her mouth to shout back across the booth, only to pause as she caught sight of who had arrived. Flagging down another of her workers, Janet passed the customer off to them before making her way over to where Josh, Rogue, and Rachel were just finally catching up with Madison. One eyebrow slowly slid upward, and then she snorted derisively. "You passed up my offer to earn some extra spending money by working this weekend, bought your own pass instead, and then showed up looking like another bug woman? Really? Are you that desperate to convince me forget your birthday this year or something?" Shaking her head, Janet turned to her left, where the girl who'd called out to her was waiting. "Nezzie, go dig out one of the Rita-themed dresses in your sister's size." As the young blonde hustled off to do her mother's bidding, Janet looked Madison up and down slowly before sighing. "Couldn't you at least dress up as Jess? I like her."
"Why do you think I picked Julia? Dressing up as someone your own mother's had sex with is… awkward? Nasty? Both?" Madison shuddered before doing her best to change the subject. "Mom, this is… wait, you already known Rogue. And Josh. And Rachel. Well. That was a waste of a perfectly good introduction, wasn't it?"
"A bit. We'll add social graces to that extensive list of things that you need to work on." Janet's eyes slid to Madison's right, where Rachel had sidled up next to her smaller friend. "How have you been, dear? I haven't seen you in months… but neither has the public, so at least I'm not going to have to scold you for cheating on me with another designer. What have you been up to?"
Rachel chuckled softly in reply. "So you're fine with my mom and mother buying almost half of their stuff from other designers, but I'd be cheating on you?"
Before Janet could reply, Venezia Pym returned with a dress in each hand, as well as proof that she had very good ears. "It's a fashion faux pas to be exclusive to any one designer. Unless you're not dressing up that often, like you, and then nobody notices." The black and yellow dress in her right hand was offered to - or rather forced upon - Madison, who rolled her eyes before stomping off in the direction of one of the booth's changing rooms. Then she held out her left arm in Rachel's direction, handing over a noticeably shorter white and silver affair. "If Mom doesn't think that you deserve something on the house after all the stuff your parents have paid for, she can take it out of my allowance. It'll look really pretty on you no matter what, but you might want to lighten your hair a bit. It's White Queen-based, not White Phoenix."
Rachel took the dress and gave Venezia a quick hug, making the younger girl grin widely, before finally offering Janet an answer to her question. "Surprised you haven't heard; it's been all over the news since the first charity dinner that Mother brought them to. I'm no longer the weirdest thing in the family. Everyone's clamoring to know more about my step-sisters, so Mom talked Mother into letting me step back out of the spotlight for a bit. You'll probably meet them soon; Mother's allowing a few flatscan designers to try and fail at dressing quintuplets properly so that she can justify turning them into vanDynesty exclusives like me." Turning to Josh and Rogue, she raised her hand and waved the dress back and forth a bit. "Gonna go change. BRB."
Her departure was quickly followed by Venezia returning to work, leaving Josh - and Rogue - to face Janet alone. Rather than give her time to ask some very good questions, though, Josh decided to start up a conversation of his own. Releasing Rogue's hand, he looped his arm around her waist instead and gave it a possessive squeeze. "We've never actually been able to meet face-to-face for a variety of reasons, but I wanted to thank you. You've done some amazing work for me. For us."
"For her, technically, at least from where I'm sitting. She's the one with the checks that keep clearing." Janet reached out, quite blatantly caressing the exposed tops of Rogue's breasts before sliding her fingers upward to brush against the pendant hanging from the collar Josh had purchased for her. "Hmm. Can't say that I'm a fan."
Frowning, Rogue reached up with her right hand to squeeze at the pendant hanging from her collar. "I like it."
Janet just rolled her eyes in response. "Yes, and this is why I'm the fashionista while you're the hermit-slash-teacher. It's impersonal… uninspired. Marking your territory is all well and good, but it's kinda wasted if nobody can tell that's what you're doing. This doesn't scream 'I belong to my Master' so much as 'I'm an X-Man and like collars'. But… well, I suppose beggars can't be choosers, hmm? It was either him, trying to turn the headmistresses' suite into a ménage à quatre, or trying to steal Rasputin from Pryde. Or Drake, but I don't think even you're desperate enough to go there. Well, I suppose you could have gone for that cute silver-skinned ginger I've seen in a few of Madison's pictures. Mercury, isn't it? Come to think of it, why didn't you pick her? I bet her powers would make her a blast in the sack, and she can't possibly be a worse owner than-"
Bristling both at her words and the ease with which she was touching what was his, Josh reached out and wrapped his fingers around Janet's wrist, squeezing hard. "I don't know who you think you are to-"
Yellow energy wreathed Janet's hand, shocking Josh hard enough to make him release her and stumble back a step. "Quiet, boy, the adults are talking." When Josh narrowed his eyes at her, she let out a low chuckle. "Seriously, do you want to play this game? Because you'll lose. You're very much a child, Mister Foley, who's far too impressed by his ability to collect broken toys from a captive audience. Compare that to me… the queen of a hive sits atop a multi-billion dollar empire spanning a dozen markets. Rich. Powerful. Important. Everything you wish you could be… imagine you are… but aren't." Crossing her arms over chest, Janet smirked as she raised an eyebrow. "And if being your better doesn't give me the right to criticize you? I'm pretty sure what you and Rogue have been doing with my daughter does."
"I…" Mind already reeling from the conversation's drastic deviation from the script he'd composed in his head, Josh just barely managed to keep himself from blurting out something damning. This wasn't like dealing with Rachel's mothers, he reminded himself, or Alice Worthington's. Not that he'd have anything to fear in the latter case. But… Janet wasn't a telepath. This was nothing more than her fishing for information, he decided, hoping that she'd be able to lead him into saying something incriminating. And now that he knew that? "I have no idea what you're talking about."
"You use a school-owned MacBook and iPhone just like my daughter does, Josh. Tell me… what happens once you log Messages into the same Apple ID on both? Or, say, your school laptop, your phone, and the iMac you have at home? An iMac that has a stupidly simple password 'protecting' it, might I add?" Janet's smirk slowly morphed into a vicious grin as Josh's eyes widened. "I have access to both sides of every conversation she's had since she arrived at Xavier's. I can see every picture and video she sends and receives. I. Know. Everything."
So in other words, he was well and truly fucked in the not-fun way. Because not only had he and Madison arranged their encounters via Messages - and discussed them afterward - but she'd sent him a few topless pictures that way… and one strangely arousing video of her enjoying a banana between classes. On top of that, he knew for a fact - seeing as how he'd taken them - that her phone was home to a decent number of far naughtier pictures and videos, and that the former would have automatically synced to her iMac over iCloud. And yet… this couldn't have been something Janet had discovered yesterday. If what he did with Madison - and sometimes Rogue and Madison together - actually bothered her, it would have come up far sooner. So… "And? Now what?"
Chuckling softly, Janet reached out and patted Josh's cheek condescendingly. "And now you take my daughter and go back to playing your little games, sweetie, while I go back to earning money and expanding my reach. What? I've got four husbands and a girlfriend to help me keep an eye on our dozen children. Did you really expect me of all people to throw stones? I mean, I'd appreciate it if you'd keep it away from her phone because there are certain things that even the most enlightened mothers don't need to see, but if that's a kink of hers? Then what is is, I guess. Oh, and if you ever hurt her? I'll have Hank call in one of his favors with Reed and send you on a one-way trip to the Negative Zone. I may not be Mother of the Year material, but that doesn't mean I don't care. No matter what Madison thinks."
Unable to formulate a proper response, Josh watched as Janet turned and walked away, wondering how something as simple as complimenting the woman's work had spun so wildly out of control. He shot a glance over at Rogue, who seemed just as stunned, but was prevented from asking for her thoughts by the return of a very blonde Rachel and a very grumpy-looking Madison. "I'd complain about her dressing me up as her Mini-Me, but I already know what she'd say. She hasn't been the Wasp in sixteen years now, the name and the look belong to Aunt Rita now, no time for that foolishness, gave it up for a real career, blah blah blah."
"At least you're mostly covered. This is definitely a Mother-inspired dress; I feel like my ass is about to pop out any minute." Blushing faintly, Rachel reached back and tugged at the dress's hem. "If this is something your sister thinks looks pretty on me, I should probably start worrying about her intentions."
"Probably, yeah. I mean, you are pretty much perfect wife material for me." Venezia let out a giggle as she swept back in from behind Rachel, making the redhead jump. "You're a mutant, which is a plus because I don't even want to think about how Mom would react to me 'slumming' with a norm. You're gorgeous. I don't think the world will accept younger clones as legit heirs, which means you're the Paris to your mother's Richard Hilton. And while I'm not a gold-digger strictly speaking, I'm not gonna lie: it'd be a lot easier to be a stay-at-home scientist if I had a rich wife behind me. You know, kinda like my dad and mom. Except without the polyamory." Pausing, Venezia tilted her head to one side and eyed Rachel curiously. "Unless you're into that. In which case… do you think we can get ourselves an Asgardian? And then maybe a witch? I figure if we have representatives of a bunch of different groups in the house, it'll mean that you don't get like… a few mutants ganging up on the one novii or something. Oh! We can call ourselves the Illuminaughty!"
Eyes growing wider and wider with each sentence that emerged from the blonde's mouth, Rachel eventually shook her head and held her hands up in surrender. "Okay, woah, stop. Kinda flattered, a little creeped out… because isn't dating supposed to come before marriage proposals? Oh, and talking? I think that ramble literally doubles the number of words you've said to me in the entire time we've known each other. Which has mostly consisted of you standing in the corner staring at me while my mother tells your mom what to have me wear."
Venezia bit her lip as she considered that before nodding in agreement. "Okay, that's valid criticism. In that case… wanna get some coffee when Mom lets me take a break? And then maybe dinner later tonight?"
The former had the potential to leave Rachel in a very annoying state for several hours, while the latter would interfere with both their plans for the evening and possibly some of their plans for at the con, depending on when 'later' was. Accordingly, neither option really appealed to Josh. Especially since their encounter with Janet had left him itching to 'mark his territory', as she'd put it, and Rachel would be an instrumental part of that unless he wanted to retreat all the way back to their hotel. Thankfully, she managed to pick up on that thought at a minimum, shooting him a little grin even as her cheeks flushed faintly. "Still flattered… but already spoken for. You'll be here all weekend, though, right?" Venezia nodded, and Rachel spared Josh a glance before proposing an alternative. "Sunday, then? Coffee, I'll loan my brain to the packing effort, and then dinner? As long as you think you can have me back to my group before they ship out, that is."
"I can do that!" Venezia smiled before shifting her shoulders, drawing attention to the black fins protruding from them. "Who knows, maybe I can tag along with you guys and check out Westchester for myself. I'm homeschooled, so it's not like I have to worry about missing classes on Monday. And I've got my flight suit in a bag back at the hotel, which means I am my own ride home."
Before she could continue, something cast a shadow across their group, causing Josh to look up… and up… to find a massive blonde staring down at them. And with Aberration for a squadmate - and women like Emerald and Garnet present in the superhuman community - it took some doing to be 'massive' in his estimation. But this girl had to be a good nine feet tall, if not taller. Reaching down, the girl grabbed him by the hand and actually managed to yank him up into the air with each pump as she shook his hand. "Cassie Lang, Loss Prevention Specialist. Also Keeper of the Cell Phones, since Nez can't manage to stay off of Tumblr while at work." She reached down to ruffle Venezia's hair before looking over at Madison. "Speaking of cell phones, though… Nez. Hug Madi so she can't escape and gimme a pretty smile. Mom wants a picture of the two of you for the company Instagram."
Madison opened her mouth, only to let out a grunt as Venezia pounced on her from behind. Huffing, she shot a glance back over her shoulder before rolling her eyes and returning her attention to Cassie. "Do you have to call her that? She's not your mother."
"She's been more of a mother to me than Peggy, and she's my half-sisters' mother. Oh, and even more importantly? She doesn't mind that I call her Mom. Now smile…" Holding up her red and gold StarkPhone, Cassie waited for Madison to comply… and waited… and then finally shrugged and took a picture of the diminutive girl making a particularly unflattering face even as Venezia smiled brightly behind her. "Okay. I'm going to post this and then get back to work. Venezia, there are customers every-"
Josh missed the rest - although he was vaguely aware of Madison launching into a new round of family feuding with Cassie - as he took a firm grip on Rogue's right ass cheek and steered her away from the vanDynesty booth. At this point, they could keep Madison for all he cared. It was her fault that they'd ended up there, which had led to his encounter with Janet and ensuing terrible mood. Besides, while he was normally a 'more the merrier' type when it came to their antics… where he was taking Rogue, a smaller party would actually be better. 'Men's room or women's?' 'Women's. After all, if we sneak into the men's room, I need to mask both me and Rogue. Women's room, I only need to slip you in. Besides, I just gave myself a total makeover. I need to scrub every last molecule of makeup off my face and apply something more flattering. The last thing I need is a picture of me like this ending up on the Internet and giving Mother a heart attack.'