Author's Note: The genesis of this story, the latest in my attempt to explain and justify Scott Lang as a part of the Marvel Universe, came from three sources. One is Frank Miller's hugely influential Daredevil run from 1979-1983 (and 1986, recalling Born Again); another is Brian Bendis' Alias series which starred Jessica Jones and, later, Scott Lang; the third is Allen Heinberg's Young Avengers. How these different eras of Marvel history come to bear in this fictionalisation will, I hope, be clear by story's end.
Try to take this one as a companion to my other stories, Also I Love You and Powers, both of which feature Scott prominently. Thematically, I suppose this is the last hurrah in my 'statements about characters I like' project—much the same as I earlier did with The Sentry, Norman Osborn, the Young Avengers, and even Lex Luthor. Structurally, this is in reverse order; it starts with the end of Scott and Peggy's relationship and ends with—well, you'll see. Elsewhere Stan Lee once wrote that he based Avengers Mansion on the Frick Museum—so I did too. Chronologically, the brunt of this takes place precisely around the year 2000 and indeed within the space of a few months. As far as character models go, I based eggy around Jennifer Morrison (of House and lately How I Met Your Mother) and Scott on Timothy Olyphant (of Deadwood and Justified): I've also tried to channel as much Robert Downey Jr as I could into Stark. Clint Barton, I imagined to be a stockier kind of Steve Buscemi. Maybe. A further note on the title: it's French. Means 'kickers' or practitioners of the frightfully awesome martial art Savate. It's a theme as well as a shout-out. If you figure it out by the end of this first chapter, I'll tell you how it all ends. Enjoy…
Coney Island NY
13 August 2004
From: Susan Bortz, HR
To: Tony Stark, CEO
Re: Scott Lang files
Attached you'll find the requested files on Scott Lang. I've compressed as much as I could pull from the files in the Mansion into the breakdown you see below. I've also filed requests for the public record from the Courthouse, but who knows how long that will take. At any rate, facsimiles of the originals are attached; it's my sense that these are what Mr Lang got from the Court in the first place and kept in his closet safe. I've also called Mrs Burdick's attorney, and he was at pains to stress he has zero interest in this case. So much for that. If you need anything else, do let me know.
b. 17 March 1970
-Coral Gables HS 1985-8 (accelerated Post-Secondary)
-MIT, 1988-91: BS+MS, Electrical Engineering & Computer Science
-Boeing Aeronautics, Seattle WA: Consultant, EOT: 1991
-Married Peggy Rae Burdick, 30 January 1991 (Divorce granted 12 October 2000; relevant copies appended)
-Daughter Cassandra born 5 May 1991
-Inmate, Northern State Prison, Newark New Jersey: 1992 (nine months sentence, commuted, good behaviour)
-Stark Industries, Technical Consultant/Electronics Development/'Avenger': 1993-94
-Fantastic Four, Inc: Technical Consultant, 1994-9
-Stark Industries: Cyber-Security Analyst/'Avenger', 1995-2004
d. 2004 (age 33): interred, 890 Fifth Avenue, Manhattan, 10021 (aka 'Avengers Mansion'): see attached files
In The Family Court, County of New York, New York
Domestic Relations Department
Peggy R Lang
Scott EH Lang
A divorce final evidentiary hearing was held before the Court on this 12th day of October 2000.
Plaintiff was present with counsel.
Defendant was present with counsel.
The Guardian Ad Litem was present.
Parties have reached an agreement regarding issues of property division, custody, parenting time, child support/alimony, health insurance, and tax status.
Attorney Murdock recited Agreement for the record. Attorney Humboldt concurred.
Parties were sworn in.
Court recognised the right of trial and inquired both parties' understanding and reasoning and conferred with Depositions (appended) of Defendant, Plaintiff, Guardian Ad Litem, and minor child Cassandra. Plaintiff had filed for divorce in Supreme Court of the state of New York on grounds of irreconcilable differences. Plaintiff later filed supplementary charges with Family Court child pertaining to the minor child Cassandra M Lang: child endangerment, criminal recklessness, and wilful destruction of property. Court denied Plaintiff's assertion of supplementary charges and dismissed charges thereafter. Court decided further that the marriage is irrevocably dissolved per the Agreement and Depositions herewith appended.
Counsel inquired of each party understanding the Agreement as cited: that Agreement is in best interest of both parties and of minor child Cassandra. Agreement is binding forthwith. Further Agreements on child support/alimony, custody, health insurance and tax status are appended and approved.
These entries are the final order of this court,
Thomas R. Coffin, Judge
Certified Copies to:
Plaintiff Peggy R Lang, 149 Willow Street, Brooklyn Heights 11201
Counsel for Ms Lang: Donald Humboldt; Secker, Wisecup & Newman LLC, 200 W 45th Street #330, New York, 10019
Defendant Scott E.H. Lang, 890 Fifth Avenue, New York, 10021
Counsel for Mr Lang: Matthew Murdock; Nelson & Murdock LLC, 347 W 36th Street, New York, 10019
Guardian Ad Litem, Martha Watson, Esquire, 200 Park Avenue, New York, 10017
Scott & Peggy.
The Mansion hung empty, except for Jarvis doddering around downstairs with a feather duster. The rest of the team was off in Wundagore or Latveria or somewhere else Scott couldn't care to think. Really. We'll need Ant-Man's unique brand of genius, Cap had said. Come on Scott get your mind of things. That was Tony. Couldn't they see? Things were different now
Couldn't they see his world had ended?
So he stayed. Pym went in his place.
Scott stood at mirror, mounted on loose slats above the bureau, staring back at himself. The stubble, the frown. The flabbiness of him. Tucked under each arm and in each hand were wads of clothing. Shirts and underpants he was stuffing into the bureau's shallow drawers.
Stark made sure the team members had lodgings appropriate to their tenure on the team. It gave Scott security. Cassie a place to come and be herself on the custody weekends. Stark, it made feel good. Tony needed that sort of thing. Stark was always looking out for people.
Scott stopped in the middle of unpacking his shirts, his pants, his underwear, and looked at the ceiling. Sighed.
Home, he thought. Jiggity-jig.
"Doesn't feel like it," he said to no one, and kept unpacking.
A light knock on the door. Scott didn't turn around to see. Probably Jarvis with another herbal tea.
Then she cleared her throat, and Scott turned to see her.
The doorjamb creaked when she leant against it.
Peggy. In her usual humourless conservative look. Grey trousers that flared out at the bottom, covering impossible stilettos, straightening her posture like a Madame Alexander doll and puffing out her chest. Confident, busty, and in charge, that's her alright. Peggy never did the glass ceiling thing: she was too confident, too bitchy for it. She came crashing through the ceiling handily. Five months after moving to New York she was in charge of the Tri-State March of Dimes. Sad place for her. A good place for a bad person.
Pig blood for a pig, he thought out of nowhere.
But I digress, he thought. Enough with the venom. Paperwork's done. The bitch can't hurt you anymore.
He slammed the last shirt into the drawer and kept his eyes on her.
"What will you do?" she said.
He said nothing. Kept his head low and kept jamming clothes in the drawers.
"Technically, I'm still an employee of Stark Industries. So if Cassie needs braces, we're covered. About a new place, well, you're looking at it." He waved a hand over his shoulder, disinterested.
He glanced at her. "What?"
She cracked a thin smile. A premature are-we-okay affair. The kind you only bring out to soften some blow.
"I didn't want to hurt you," she said.
He stopped unpacking and locked eyes with her. Drew a deep breath.
"Yeah. I bet you didn't."
"So we're doing this, okay—"
"So tell me when you decided that divorcing me and taking my daughter away from me wouldn't hurt me? Was this before or after you decided to start flirting up that pig cop—"
"He's not a pig cop, Scott, maybe you should think about that! And she's not your daughter!"
He gawked at her.
She stared right back. Knew exactly what she said, and what she meant. The realization of property, or the appropriation thereof. Certainly the argument had come up in meetings with Humboldt. Peggy wringing her hands and asking Humboldt if she was stealing Scott's daughter away. Humboldt saying, well, no, not really, and if you play on your weakness then you won't get what you want. Not what you need, or even what Cassie needs, but if you think you're stealing her, well, then, that kind of makes Scott's case for him.
Which was true.
Old Humboldt. Never taking his own position. Poor Peggy Rae Blankenship had never had a venomous bone in her body. Not before meeting Scott. Certainly not until he wound up in prison for a stupid crime. A stupid crime for a stupid man.
"She's our daughter, Scott," Peggy said. "Just so you know."
Scott was holding a stack of shirts. He threw them to the floor.
"Don't you dare condescend to me, Peggy! This is your fault and don't you dare pretend otherwise—"
"How many more weekends was she going to spend here before one of Pym's killer robots ripped her head off?"
Scott was silent after this. A long, deep silence. Not defeated, not deflated. More simmering.
His eyes burned hatred, yes, that was the poetic device he thought to use. And his head hurt. The muscles hurt, frozen in a severe scowl. His teeth ached from the clenching from the past few minutes. His fillings were starting to stress and creak. Spines of pain shot up and down his jaw. He wondered, if he clenched hard enough, would he break his teeth.
When he spoke, finally, it was quiet and sociopathic. "And living with you is safer?"
"Because of Blake?"
Peggy sighed and rolled her eyes. All at once. She half-turned as if to leave but merely leant against the doorjamb.
"This isn't about Blake."
Scott cocked an eye. "Isn't it? I saw the way you looked at him. And all those, uh, breaks you and I took. Where were you going, Peg?"
She started shaking her head. "Don't."
"You're really going to tell me you drove out to Montauk to visit your mom?"
"Let me get this straight," he said. At first he was quiet, but every word took on more anger. "Do you know how many people I keep safe? How many lives this team saves? A New York pig fucking cop is safer for you and your daughter to live with—safer!—than an Avenger! Safer than living in a mansion with Captain America and the god of fucking thunder! Do you know what I do for this city? For this planet? How many times I saved the day? How many black days we stopped—me and the people in this building? Every moment of my life, for the last ten years, has been—for you! For you and for Cassie!"
She sighed and sniffled. Sat on the floor and hugged her legs.
Scott was three feet away, staid at the foot of the bed. Paralysed with rage and towering over her.
She was almost afraid he was going to take a swing at her. Almost.
"How many times do I have to get your attention, Peggy? How many times do I have to leap in front of you waving my hands just so you can acknowledge me?"
He quieted. Kept the intense, terrifying look.
"Peggy. Answer the question. Living with a New York cop is better and safer for our daughter than living with me. True or false."
She sniffled again, and looked up at him. Wiped a wisp of hair from her face.
He took a deep breath and paced to the far side of the room. The bay window stared our over the Mansion's front and the Statuary Garden. He stared at the statue of Pym and clenched his jaw again.
"And the rest of it, then? What about the rest of our life?"
"I loved you," she said. "Once."
He shot around. Eyes wide and savage. "Once?"
"You changed," she said, and shook her head. "Prison. This. Even the Fantastic Four. You threw yourself into that. I can forgive you for letting me slide, because my life doesn't matter." Pause. "Not to you. But you let Cassie down."
His mouth curled open and downward in some savage snarl. "Oh come on—"
She shot to her feet in a flash. Matched his wild, belligerent gaze.
"You know that's exactly what this is about, Scott!"
"You never had a fucking clue! Otherwise you wouldn't have gone after that waste of space and we'd never have this conversation!"
"There is no conversation, Scott!"
She sighed and clenched her jaw.
"There is no conversation," she repeated, this time quieter. "There's just you yelling at me, like a little boy!"
"Oh lighten up! I'm not the one that got bored one afternoon and grabbed my ankles for the closest thing in a uniform!"
She threw a hand up, flippant. "Then what, Scott? What are you so upset about?"
"You think your daughter isn't safe here! You think that a man that punched out Hitler isn't capable of protecting her! Say it!"
"This isn't about Hitler, Scott!"
"Superheroes are an excuse to take my daughter from me?"
"What else are you going to take from me? You want my blood?"
"Go ahead, take it! Climb right on inside!"
"God damn it Scott, when does it stop being okay? When do you get a clue in that fucking head of yours that there are lives here? Why do you always have to be so goddamn right? Answer me!"
He looked away from her. Back to the window. Better to look away. Better to look down at statues that couldn't even talk, let alone talk back.
"Answer me that!"
He said nothing. Outside a breeze wafted through the trees, casting some off their branches, victims of the coming winter. He looked at the Pym statue. The trees and their stripped branches. The grey sky, riddled with high and motionless clouds. He breathed deep again.
She was still rolling. Railing. Quiet and intense. Her eyes never left his.
"If you can guarantee that it's a better life here for her than it is with me and Blake, then say that, Scott. Stop hiding behind your friends—face me for once and admit that you make mistakes, too! Answer the question!"
Scott looked down. And released his clenched fists, like so much of a Don McLean lyric.
He looked out the window, Trees still swaying in the breeze.
Oblivious little markers that life goes on without you, Scottie.
"So visitation is Saturday," he said. Inflected it just enough to denote a question.
"Okay," he said and turned. Cleared his throat in a quiet and polite gesture and looked at her.
"I'll bring Cassie by around noon," she said. "Will that work?"
He nodded and said, "Yeah. Yeah."
She was buttoning her jacket and stepping out. Scott followed her and laid a ginger hand on the door, stayed in the threshold.
She paused at the top of the stairs and looked back. Slowly.
He merely waved with his free hand. When she had gone, he ran it through his hair. Shut the door quietly. An alarm box above the door, no bigger than a Zippo, let out a pleasant monotone. StarkTech protecting the room of a beloved Avenger. One of Earth's Mightiest.
Yeah, he thought, and sat on the edge of the bed. Earth's Mightiest.
He fell back on the duvet, the expansive sinking type that required every feather from a dozen geese.
After a while, the tears came.
Scott, Clint & Tony.
Lunch with Stark today. Clint joined in, too.
Jarvis set out a nice spread. Ham sandwiches in little triangles, with ginger ale. I almost wrote down white wine, but remembered. He was decidedly on the wagon again.
Still powerful. Still in command. Commanded every room he walked into. Every eye, every up-thrust bosom, every baby there was to be kissed. If he'd wanted to he could've bought the Presidency. As it stood he left it alone. Said it would've been a pay cut. Which is true, or so Scott liked to think.
For Scott, and for the rest of them too, he was still just Tony. Scott owed him a lot, which is not what this is about. If anything, Scott thought, he's less Iron Man. I hate to say it but I like to think he's my friend. That's not too presumptive. Him and Reed.
The last two I've got left.
And of course the rest of the tri-state area, which on a good day—or any other day really—houses about 300 completely overpowered super-people just waiting for an ass to kick. 300 super people on his Christmas card list, as he was on theirs.
Dear Scott, thinking of you—along with a round-robin holoprojection from Sue, Reed, Johnny, Ben and Franklin (with a cute little '4½' in his own handwriting, no less!)
Happy Christmas, Scott—from Union Jack and the rest of the Downing Crew.
Happy Holidays, Scott—this one from Pym. Good and politically correct.
The divorce condolences stopped coming after a few weeks. It's a busy life, after all. So many killer robots and conquerors in metal suits to keep at bay. So many alimony checks to write.
Stark leant back in his seat and flattened his tie against his chest. A flat grey suit, with thin little pinstripes. Bought on the fly by some assistant he hurried down to Macy's or Brooks Brothers with his check book and a single instruction: 'nothing ugly'. That was Stark. Sitting there in his flat grey suit and his broad yellow tie, all of it close in on him, tailored exquisitely as they say. Filling him out.
And Scott in his reliable blue blazer, bought when HW ran the White House, and a frumpy striped shirt. Yes, that's the word. Downright frumpy.
Clint sat between them, in track pants and a thin t-shirt that read Dartmouth on it. He nursed an ice cold Pabst the whole time.
"So you lost this one," Stark said.
"Thanks for that."
"Sorry." More reasonable, he said, "Did she have anything to say for herself?"
Scott shook his head. "She was concerned about Cassie."
"I met your daughter," Stark said. "Scrappy. Probably good in a fight."
"She's seven," Scott said.
"Give it a few years," Clint said. "She'll turn into a copy of her dear old dad all right. You just wait."
Scott looked to one side. At the swimming pool on the backside of the Mansion, Wanda and Jan lounged, sunbathing, in turn watching Clint. He had his back to them: no temptation, and no interest. Until next week anyway, when he decides to start messing with Jan again.
"No," Scott said. "Cassie loves the weekends, but I don't want her to be one of us."
Clint rolled his eyes. "Oh come on, Scott, that's a little too poetic. The girl loves you. Loves coming here. At the risk of a golden family moment, I say we indulge her."
Stark looked at Clint judiciously, then back at Scott. "And custody?"
"Shared, for the moment. It could change."
Stark said, "I know Coffin," and he tinged it with just enough venom to make Scott believe it.
"Dinner party. Incredible Hulk. It was a big thing."
"What kind of thing?"
"Respect the thing, okay?"
Clint shrugged and finished his Pabst in one swig.
"Anyway," Scott said.
"When she does come to visit," Stark said, "I'll have Jarvis make up a room for her."
Scott smiled. Thin and fond. "Yeah." A moment later: "Thank you, Tony."
He stood and patted Scott's shoulder. On his way toward the pool, naturally.
"Eat something, will you, we're paying for this stuff."
And he strolled away, clapping his hands in Jan's general direction.
Scott glanced at Jan, across the yard—now lying on her back, her stomach pale and unflattering. "I thought she was still with Hank."
Clint waved at her; she doesn't wave back. "Well that's the kicker, isn't it? You know what it's like around here."
Scott took a drink. "Do I?"
"Sure." Clint smiled and leant back in his chair. "You're—you know what you are, Scott? You're like Charlie Watts, okay? The drummer for the Stones? Still married to his first wife, still happy and pretty low-key. Guy didn't even enjoy the bunnies at the Mansion—he just played pool with Hefner! Even I enjoyed the bunnies at the Mansion!"
"Uh. You know, I hate to be selfish, but what does this have to do with me?"
"Fine," he said, "but you get my point. You had a life, a kid!"
"A criminal record?"
He waved his hand and said, "Join the club. Remember when we fired Hank from the team?"
"I'm pretty sure I wasn't around then," Scott said.
"Really? Huh." Then Clint pulled himself back on track. "I was trying to make a point about our, ahem, genetic cross-pollination."
"Yeah," Clint said and smiled, self-satisfied. "You like it?"
"Anyway! This is my point about Hank and Jan. They're an old married couple, okay? Tony, everyone knows how many girls he digs up. The Human Torch, Namor, me, even Jan. These are all good examples of horrible role models."
"Well that's grim," Scott said.
"That's what I'm talking about!" he said and threw his hands up. "I hate to say it but that judge's got a point. This is a hell of a life, okay? We live in a big-ass mansion in the middle of the greatest city in the world. We beat up killer robots and time-travelling idiots and guys with jewelry in their gloves. We sleep and eat and fight together..."
"And," he said and then he paused. "It's just awesome. Okay? There. Guilty."
Scott leant back and looked judiciously at his ginger ale. "Don't feel bad, Clint. I understand what you're saying. It is a pretty cool life."
"But I liked my old life. I liked that. There. Guilty."
Clint changed in this moment. The gallant smile went away and his eyes glazed over. He was still listening but since it was Clint it looked like an act. It wasn't.
"Well," Clint said. "You still get to love her. Now it's just for a court-ordered period of time."
Scott looked up at the sky. Through the tangle of oak trees. Even in the middle of Manhattan—so little sound. So little interference. The Mansion is in the middle of everything, and in the middle of nowhere.
Deep, deep for a guy like me to think that, but still.
The birds sang hypnotic in the trees and a breeze kicked up every now and then.
Noon of a summer day. Perfect weather for going Avengering.
Scott finished off the ginger ale.
"Yeah," he said.
A shadow came across him and Clint.
"Sir, you have a call on the primary line."
Clint's face contorted. "We have a hotline?"
Scott said, "Did he say who he was, Jarvis?"
"Mr Murdock, sir, who was at pains to stress—"
Scott frowned and stood and stormed toward the Mansion. All in the same motion. "Thanks, Jarvis."
Clint, yelling across the yard: "What does he want?"
"Oh, I know what he wants."
"Scott, are you there?"
Murdock's voice, halfway across town. Hiding behind his oak desk and his rich suit, asking Scott if he's alright.
"Okay. The Guardian Ad Litem's submitted her report. The final custody hearing will take place Friday morning. Eleven-thirty. Okay?"
"Will this change the shared custody order from before?"
Another moment. Scott takes the time to sit on the floor and run a hand through his hair. It occurred to him that his head hurt and he wondered if whatever congested vessel was causing the pain would just explode and take him with it.
"I don't know, Scott."
"Come on," Scott said. "Anything? Something that might, uh, help me sleep?"
"Scott, you know these things aren't—"
"Yeah," Scott said. "Figured. Uh. I'll see you Friday. Or do you want me to come by tomorrow for a brief, or what?"
"Stop in the office Friday morning. We'll have breakfast and sort it all out. Then we'll head over together."
"See you then," Murdock said. Click.
Scott clicked the disconnect button and throw the receiver across the room.
Another long sigh. Both hands through his hair. He was still on the floor and leaning against the wall. More precisely, the billiard green paint above deep oak wainscoting in the front foyer.
He looked to one side. The side leading to the front foyer and the entrance.
Clint, there loitering by the corner and the Warhol quarter print of Iron Man.
"I'm sorry," he said. And waits. "Um. Care to…talk about it?"
"No," Scott said, and gaped at the ceiling. Swirled drywall and faux-gold plaster, interspersed with crystal chandeliers heading down toward the west parlour. "I want to beat something up."
Clint cracked a smile. A less timid one than before.
"Should I get the Goliath suit or hang with this?" he asked and gestured to his Hawkeye mask.