Joe's Note: If you don't come to my stories to actually be told a story, this is a chapter you might want to skip. It's quite heavy on the exposition, and will covers such topics as Amora's comments to Billy and Cassie, timestream shenanigans, and how 'Rachel' fits into… well, everything. And who she is for that matter, since nobody seems to recognize her despite her appearing in the comics at her mother's side as far back as 1987.
Dedications & Thanks: To Alexander, Nicholas, MJ, Emily, Judedeath, James, Ken, Thyatira, Daniel, William, Koby, Wil, Thomas, Christopher, Pat, Vi9, Chris, Juan, Mitch, and Jess for sponsoring me on , and making it easier for me to spend more of my time writing.
"Kate? Really? You don't recognize your own girlfriend?" There was a long, incredibly awkward pause and then the girl that Alexis recognized only from the handful of pictures in a folder sitting on her nightstand burst out laughing. "Oh God. Oh. My. God. The look on your face right now is so hilarious, I can't even. Wait. Wait. Hang on." Raising her iPhone, Rachel quickly snapped a picture before turning the phone so that Kate could see the screen. "That. That is your face right now."
As Cassie indulged in a giggle at her new teammate's expense, Kate scowled and reached up, batting at the phone that was hovering in front of her face. "I'm so glad that I amuse you, Rachel. Really, I am." Her swats grew rougher as Rachel continued to grin and hold the phone in place, until eventually she conceded defeat and took a step back, crossing her arms over her chest. "Just so we're a hundred and ten percent clear, though… we're not dating, right?"
Rachel Carpenter rolled her eyes as she lowered her iPhone, pushing the sleep button with her thumb before tucking her phone into the pocket of her shorts. "Of course we're not dating, Kate. I have standards." Alexis bit her lip to avoid loosing a laugh that born of incredulity but which probably would have been misinterpreted by Kate. Mostly because… if not for the fact that Kate was half her mental age, and therefore it would have made the redhead feel like a bit of a pedophile? Alexis definitely would have… likely struck out with the brunette, but she at least would have made a pass. Quite possibly with both Amora's blessing and her assistance; the Asgardian had made it quite clear to Alexis that she was willing to include a third person in their relationship if they found someone worthy of their attention. The only real question was whether or not Amora would see Kate as such. Alexis had never bothered to ask. Young and all. "I mean, you're pretty and I'm sure that you're a great girl with lots of positive qualities… but you're still a norm." Reaching out, Rachel patted Kate reassuringly on the arm. "I love norms, some of my best friends are norms. Do I want to date one, though? Not really."
Glancing pointedly down at the hand on her arm, Kate waited for Rachel to remove it before responding. "So you're specist then?"
"I wouldn't say specist so much as… looking for someone who won't do their best overripe tomato impression if I get really excited and forget to watch my strength. I'm already a Class 5; if I completely inherit all of my mom's powers, that's going to double over the next few years. Would you wanna get hugged by a girl who can benchpress a city bus?" Rachel eyed Kate challengingly until the brunette raised her hands in surrender, and then let her eyes sweep over to… "Actually, if I was going to date anyone in the team, it'd probably be you. You're super pretty, you're smart, we can swap stories about growing up as the daughter of an Avenger, you're into electronics which means you're detail-oriented with talented fingers… don't suppose the Pym Particles help out at all in the durability department?"
Blushing a bit darker with each compliment, Cassie's face went bright red at Rachel's last observation. It took her a moment to regain her composure, and then she shook her head rapidly. "No. Um, well, kinda. Depends on whether or not you're into ten foot tall girls or not, I suppose? When I height multiply, I pull in extra mass from Kosmos and it reinforces my body. Keeps me from collapsing inward into a giant dead pile of mess on the sidewalk. Not sure if it'd stand up to Class Anything strength, though. Same might be true when I'm a four foot tall girl, come to think of it. I know my dad got stronger and tougher when he shrank, but I'm not really sure of the specifics. I still have a working email for Janet van Dyne; I could write her and ask if you're really curious?"
Rachel appeared to think about that for a moment before shrugging. "Depends on whether or not it's actually relevant. You? Me? Movie? Dinner? First Friday after you find out?" Biting her lower lip, Cassie nodded shyly and Rachel let out a whoop before reaching out her fist to bump it against Cassie's. "Score. I was worried that I'd have to settle for the robot or something as a romantic interest, and I'm not ready to be that much of an Avenger yet. Speaking of the robot… what's up with him and Mini-Wanda? Even if my mission tonight was a bust, I feel like we might be expanding too fast… and given that you're staring at me blankly, Alexis, I'm guessing that Kate isn't the only person missing some memories?"
"You wouldn't be wrong. Although… I think it's less that we're missing memories and more that you have a different set of memories from the rest of us." Wanting a moment to collect her thoughts, Alexis wandered her way over to take a seat at Kate's desk, and then stared up at Rachel consideringly. The blonde had been on their initial short list of recruits even before tonight's events, for quite obvious reasons: she was the daughter of Julia Carpenter and had inherited all her powers. She was also - according to her own Tumblr - 'hella gay', which Amora had seen as a plus for equally obvious reasons. It wasn't the only reason the Asgardian was interested in Rachel, though; she was another 'discrepancy' like Cassie, which was an explanation Alexis was really looking forward to. When Amora said she only wanted to say certain things once, she meant it. The fact that Rachel hadn't simply snapped into existence at the mansion when the timestream realigned hadn't really surprised Alexis too much, because if she'd been there all along then clearly Xander wouldn't have included her in his deal with Kang. But… the redhead honestly hadn't though too deeply about the mechanics of what she was asking Kang to do for her, she now realized. "We'll explain that and more in a minute, but why don't you start by telling everyone what you remember from… how long have we known each other?"
Frowning, Rachel held up her hand and extended several fingers one after another. "Three… four days now? You were waiting on the front porch of my house in Aurora when I got home from school. My mom was strangely supportive of you trying to recruit me for this; probably trying to live vicariously through her not crippled, still powered daughter and all that. I didn't know Amora was involved until we got back to the Doubletree in Denver, which was probably a good move on your part. I mean, she's pretty cool now but I don't even want to think about how Mom would have reacted to her showing up on our doorstep. We stayed there overnight and Amora took me shopping after chewing you out for not making me pack more. We teleported to your apartment in Manhattan the next day, I unpacked, we did a little more shopping because your guest room didn't have furniture yet, and then I enjoyed some well deserved sleep after wrestling that fucking IKEA bed together. Third day, you sent me out to talk to Emily as some sort of test, and then had all sorts of fun without me at St. Patrick's, Lenox Hill, and… wherever you picked up the two newbies who weren't on the list. And now since it's after midnight, we're on the fourth day of me knowing you." Pausing, Rachel thought for a few seconds before holding up one finger. "Oh. And I had sex with your girlfriend twice. How do you survive that shit? I mean, I'm a lot more durable than you and… yeesh."
Amora let out a giggle at that, making her way over to Alexis and sliding onto the redhead's lap. "Amusing, but you're lying. You should have claimed that you had sex with me just once; that I might have believed. But to allow you to return to my bed, I would have required a commitment from you… and I doubt you would be foolish enough to do so and then flirt with another woman in my presence." To emphasize her point, the blonde reached across Alexis and grabbed one of the metal armrests, squeezing it until it deformed with a squeal of protest.
"…am I a terrible person for thinking that you voiding the warranty on my three thousand dollar, custom calibrated ergonomic desk chair is the worst thing that's happened to me today? Wait. It's after midnight. It really is the worst thing that's happened today; the hostage situation and the kidnapping and the Kang shit were all yesterday. Never mind!" Conscience soothed, Kate wandered over and took a seat on the edge of the bed. "Before I can accidentally derail things any further, though… explanations. Make with them. I'd also like to know what your overall plan here is, because I'm still tentatively excited about the idea of being a superhero but not if it means we have to fight the Avengers again."
As Amora began conjuring more chairs for the rest of the rooms occupants, Alexis opened her mouth to speak but was cut off by a loud cough from… they still didn't have anything beyond 'Asgardian' to use with the brunette, did they? Other than Rachel's 'Mini-Wanda', which was accurate but just as awkward to say. "Actually, before we start with long talks or anything, can Amora put me back to normal? Because I'm actually kinda attracted to one of you which is a very weird feeling for a gay boy. I'm not sure I like it."
Kate perked up a bit at that. "Is it… wait, what's your name?"
"…not feeling it. Can we give you a girl name for now?"
"Can I give myself a girl name?"
"Sara. Not sure why. Kinda feel like a Sara for some reason."
"It's the Anglicized form of Sarra, which means 'princess' or 'noble lady'. Which makes all the girls with that name seem a bit pretentious if you think about it, but…" Trailing off, Kate looked around and then blushed faintly. "What? I have a thing for etymology. Especially with how many of my friends have bizarre, made up names. I like pointing out that my name means 'pure' while theirs ether mean absolutely nothing or something really weird that their parents probably didn't intend."
Alexis let out a soft chuckle as she shook her head in amusement, drawing Kate's attention. "You're a strange girl, Kate. Pretty, talented, lots of potential… but strange. Oh, and you have a thing for onomatology, if you want to get picky. And Katherine meaning 'pure' only came about during Christian times; your name is actually related to either the goddess Hecate or an old Greek word meaning 'each of the two'."
Both of Kate's immaculately maintained eyebrows rose at that. "I stand corrected. I'm not going to admit that anyone because it's really weird and undermines my argument completely, but… good to know? Anyway, our now-named Sara. Are you attracted to me? Please tell me that it's me. Because I am feeling really left out over here."
"Um…" Rubbing the back of her neck, Sara grinned sheepishly before pointing in Cassie's direction. "Not exactly."
"Oh my God! Is she like… walking supernip or something?" Kate threw her hands up in disgust before flopping back onto the bed. "Rachel's taking her out on a date, I caught Alexis staring at her ass when we were wandering the Avengers Mansion, Amora keeps giving her these looks…"
"While I have flirted with Cassie, yes, my interest in her extends far beyond that." Amora waited a few seconds as Kate propped herself up on her elbows and raised an eyebrow curiously before turning her gaze to where Cassie was sitting in Rachel's lap and blushing faintly. "Cassie, darling, tell me… how old are you right now?"
"How many years ago did your father become Ant-Man?"
"How old were you when your father became Ant-Man?"
"Si… eigh…" Cassie frowned and furrowed her brow in confusion. "I want to say six, but I know the answer is eight. No, the answer is six. But I was six at the time and I'm fourteen now, so that means the answer has to be eight. That's basic math." Suddenly, Cassie sucked in a breath as she threw her head back, hands shooting up to press at her temples as a thin trail of blood began trickling its way downward from her right nostril. "Oww! Shit! What… what's going on? I don't understand!"
Thrusting one hand out, Rachel used a glowing pink tendril of energy to lasso a box of tissues that was sitting on the desk near Alexis and pull them across the room to where she was sitting. Even as she pulled a tissue free and began dabbing at Cassie's nose, the taller blonde eyed Amora speculatively. "Let me guess, you can use a few questions to make me bleed out of my nose too?"
Amora nodded grimly even as Alexis's mind raced, trying to put together what was being hinted at. Discrepancies. Cassie having problems with the timeline of her life. Had… had she caused this by making a deal with Kang? No. Couldn't be. Amora had referred to the pair of blondes as such from the beginning. Unless it was a causality loop: they were discrepancies and Amora knew it because Alexis was in fact supposed to make that deal with Kang and… no, that made no sense either. Or did it? Amora's powers were wide-ranging, after all. But could her magic control time itself? Before her mind could continue down that train of thought, though, Amora thoroughly derailed it. "It could be worse. You're merely not quite what - or rather who - you should be. Poor Sara has got it much worse than you do."
All eyes turned to Sara, who let out a nervous chuckle as she looked down at herself and then back up at Amora. "…why do I get the feeling you're not talking about the fact that I'm the wrong gender right now?"
"You wouldn't be wrong. Cassie, as I believe you are aware, your father's death occurred during a series of events caused by Wanda's slipping grasp on sanity?" Amora waited for the young blonde to nod hesitantly before continuing. "After that, Wanda used her powers to rewrite all of reality, creating a version that was almost idyllic for superhumans in hopes that they would stop harassing her and simply… enjoy their good fortune. Fortunately for me, while her power is great, she could only create a pale shadow of the true Asgard, allowing me to realize something was wrong almost immediately and return to Earth and Xan… Alexis's side in short order. Cassie, while I never fought your father directly, I was aware of both him and you. When I felt the stain of Wanda's powers on you and saw that you were visibly older, the answer seemed obvious: for some unknown reason you were older in her revision of reality and she simply… forgot to put you back where she found you when she was done. Which is understandable; she's quite insane."
Even as Cassie stared at Amora - and a bit at Alexis by proximity - Rachel let out a low whistle and then snapped her fingers. "And since I feel like Cassie does, then the same probably applies to me, doesn't it?" Amora nodded and Rachel thought for a minute before jerking her thumb in Sara's direction. "Her too?"
Amora hesitated for the first time in Alexis's memory, nibbling delicately on her lower lip before shaking her head. "Sara… feels like the magical constructs that Wanda created to populate an Asgard that had never fallen to Ragnarök. Which means that if you consider the world as it stood before her changes to be 'reality'? I'm reasonably certain that Sara shouldn't exist at all."