Beauty Like A Kaleidoscope

BY : ghirahim
Category: Marvel Verse Comics > Young Avengers
Dragon prints: 110
Disclaimer: I do not own the Young Avengers, Runaways, Cloak & Dagger, Fantastic Four, or the X-Men; I make no money from writing. - Insert witty phrase where appropriate -

Tonight, Reed’s comet will be visible!” The newsanchor chirps cheerfully.

Gert scoops up a spoonful of peanut butter straight from the jar and stuffs it in her mouth. With the spoon in her mouth, she picks up the remote and turns up the volume. As she’s scooping up another spoonful of peanut butter, Old Lace gets up from the floor and gently headbutts Gert’s arm. “Nope. Get your own.”

Old Lace whines then plops her head on Gert’s leg.

The purple-haired woman maintains eye contact with the deinonychus as she scoops up another spoonful of peanut butter and eats it. “That cutesy act isn’t gonna work on me.”

As you may or may not already know, this comet is named after world-renowned scientist and former leader of the Fantastic Four, Reed Richards.”

If anyone told her twelve years ago she’d be having staring contests and arguing with a deinonychus – or any type of dinosaur – her parents time-traveled to get and experimented on so it was telepathically linked to her, she would not have believed them. And why would she? That type of talk would get you a one-way ticket to the nearest psychiatric ward. (And Gert’s spent some time in a psychiatric ward, so she knows what she’s talking about.)

Her parents always had serious “mad scientist” vibes going on, but when she found a fucking dinosaur in the basement the day after her eighteenth birthday they weren’t just vibes anymore.

Old Lace wasn’t even the only time-traveled, experimented on animal she found either. The basement was like a damn menagerie. Animals in cages hooked up to machines watching her watch them.

No fucking wonder they moved from LA to Avalon when Gert turned fifteen. You can’t even get in the city without taking a boat or plane! Think Stepford Wives but with supposedly endangered or extinct animals rather than robot wives (or were they androids?).

Every bloody thing in the basement spooked her the hell out so she was just bumping into things, accidentally freeing the animals. Before the pair of shifty looking howler monkeys could claw her face off, Old Lace burst out of her cage and saved Gert.

You’d think the dinosaur would be the first to want to eat you, not protect you. (But who was she to complain?)

Gert’s parents, Dale and Staciey, came home to Old Lace comforting a hysterically crying Gert surrounded by the unconscious animals Old Lace beat the ever-loving shit out of.

Her parents tried getting Old Lace back in her cage but she nearly bit their fingers off so, needless to say, they didn’t bother trying to separate the two a second time.

Dale explained they time-traveled and specifically picked up Old Lace (Well, Gert hadn’t named her until much later. They were just calling her “the dinosaur”).

However, and this is a big however, neither parent specified why they went time-traveling in the first place. Or why they continued to do so once Old Lace was already with them.

[Fuck it. Plausible deniability. The less Gert knew about the experimentations, the better.]

After that day, the only thing that changed was she had a deinonychus sharing the bed with her rather than any stuffed animals or smaller animals one could probably more comfortably share a bed with.

She finished high school normally, except she realized the farther she was from Old Lace the less bearable her headaches became. And there was no reasonable way she could bring her emotional-support dinosaur to school with her.

After high school came college, which she did a hybrid of online and at the school classes because – again – can’t bring the damn dinosaur in the building with her. Then again, she went to school with aliens so having the pet dinosaur might not have been too out of place. Still, she didn’t want to risk it. If being several centimeters away from Old Lace caused headaches, Gert could only imagine the pain she’d be in if Old Lace got taken away and experimented on by scientists even madder than her parents. (Though finding people who qualified for being “madder” than Dale and Staciey Yorkes would be one hell of a task.)

Gert yawns and stretches. Old Lace harrumphs at the disturbance then licks Gert’s hand. “Still not getting my peanut butter.” Old Lace gets up and gently nudges Gert’s face, “seriously? Alright, alright. I’ll get us some ‘real food.’ Geez, I swear you’re worse than Dale sometimes.” Sighing, she gets up from the couch raising the volume so she can hear from the kitchen.

“—ctor Storm will be in attendance at the Space Center to get a closer look at the comet!”

Her doorbell rings and Old Lace immediately gets in an offensive stance, baring her teeth. Either Old Lace doesn’t like the sound (it’s the “Star Trek phaser noise,” thanks a lot Dale!) or the doorbell in general pisses her off (mainly because neither of them ever expect guests). To avoid the discovery of her telepathically linked pet partner deinonychus, her parents bought her a house. This was all well and good and whatever. However, the problem with her place of residence is her parents bought her a house in a subdivision. A subdivision. And while they claim to be chummy with the HOA, she does have nosy neighbors who keep trying to invite themselves into her place.

Gert telepathically tells Old Lace to relax and head to the bedroom. The dinosaur fucking snorts at her then reluctantly trudges into the bedroom. Maybe her folks should’ve genetically engineered a dinosaur with far less sass?

Gert tiptoes to peer into the peephole. An unfamiliar hot guy is on the other side with... is that an old-school picnic basket? Oh, what the hell! It’s the suburbs!

Gert cautiously opens the door, momentarily forgetting the chain is preventing her from opening the door fully. “Can I help you?”

The hot guy holds out the basket to her. “Hola. I’m Victor. Victor Mancha. I just moved in next door to your right.” He chirps. “I can’t cook but I bought a homemade pie!”

If he turns out to be a creep, Old Lace can always eat him. Gert motions for him to step back so she undoes the chain and opens the door so she can lean against it. “I’m... confused. You bought me a homemade pie?”

“I was hoping we could share it? My house is at the edge of the block so you’re my only neighbor. Or my closest neighbor.”

Gert nods, “I see. And you bought me a homemade pie?” She repeats. Victor nods, one might even say enthusiastically. She can hear Old Lace grumbling. Ready to attack if necessary. She knows how to open the doors and break through them if necessary. Plus, being next door won’t even stretch the limits of their bond (because there’s no way in hell her place is put together enough for a hot stranger-neighbor to walk around leisurely and examine). There’s also the possibility of him wandering in on Old Lace, then they’ll have to revisit the “eat the new neighbor” option. And if you eat one neighbor, you’re gonna have to eat them all so no one is left to blab about the disappearances. Gert doesn’t know how many neighbors there are, but she doubts Old Lace can eat them all. At least in one sitting. Gert knows Old Lace already wants to eat their (nosy) neighbor at the edge on the other side of the street that just keeps popping up whenever Gert opens the front door. (To be honest, Gert doesn’t blame Old Lace but she can only allow Old Lace to eat their neighbor if they enter the house without being invited inside. Come to think of it, she’d better close the door before Nosy McNoseyton emerges.)

Gert grabs her spare keys from the wall-mounted key holder, motioning for Old Lace to stay on stand-by. “Victor, was it? Let’s have some pie.” After locking the door behind her, Gert follows Victor to his house. That sounds like the first sentence uttered is a slasher film script. Only, the other way around as she’s the one who is gonna get slashed. Or maybe she should stop letting Old Lace decide what they’re gonna watch? (Gert doesn’t notice the curtains drawing at a certain house.)

Victor’s house is smaller – on the outside anyway – yet just a bit fancier looking than hers – again on the outside. Why the hell didn’t Staciey and Dale put her in the house at the end of the block anyway? Was it not dinosaur proof enough for them?

Victor opens the front door then side steps letting her in. “Thanks.” Gert takes a curious glance around the foyer. There are piles of boxes lined up against the wall. “You sure this safe is place for visitors?”

Victor chuckles, “absolutely! The kitchen’s this way. I found the box with forks.” With a shrug, Gert follows suit. The kitchen, okay, the kitchen is nice. The walls and floor are tiled navy and light grey. The countertops are marbled for fuck’s sake and the cabinets are dark brown.

Victor puts the pie on the countertop then digs into a box on the floor and pops back up with two wrapped up sporks. Gert accepts one of the sporks, “just like that, huh? Just go to town on the pie?”

“I... don’t know where the plates are.” Victor confesses and Gert snickers, “let me warm up the pie. You, uh, never told me your name.”

“And yet I followed you home. Name’s Gert.” Victor nods as he turns around to put the pie in the already set oven.

“Hey Vic, have you found...” The tall, shirtless, pale blond pauses mid-step in the doorway as he just flat out gapes at Gert. “Hi!”

“Hi?”

“I’m Chase.”

“Gert.”

“Chase, surely you could’ve selected a better home.” Gert hears—she couldn’t misplace that voice if she tried. The HOA lady and her damn way too tall, way too thin heels also pauses mid-step upon entering the kitchen and spotting Gert. (Gert sneaks a quick glance down and her heels are somehow thinner and longer. How does she still have ankles?) “Oh. Staciey’s daughter. This is a surprise!” How she side-stepped all those boxes in those heels is one of the great mysteries of the world. She reaches the island and shakes Gert’s hand. “Wonderful to see you again. This is my single son, Chase.” This clearly isn’t the first time he’s been introduced with that particular adjective judging by the hand he slowly runs down his face. “What brings you over?”

“Pie, Mrs. Stein.” Victor replies.

Chase’s HOA mom’s eyebrows furrow, “pie? You barely got your boxes out of the moving van... and you’re eating pie?” With a one-shoulder shrug, Victor nods. “I see. Well, it’s cheat day. I’ll have a slice. What kind is it? Never mind, I’ll find out. And some of that bourbon Victor—” A beat, “my Victor— got you as a housewarming present.” She turns back to Gert, leaning on the island. “How are you?”

Well she can’t tell the HOA lady her presence, along with her half-naked son, is making her uncomfortable can she? Well she could but if she ran home she’d miss pie. And, as it turns out, peanut butter... isn’t very filling. (Wait... was that a pie pun? How low has she sunk?) “Swell.” She internally facepalms so bad she feels Old Lace shaking her head in disbelief. Of all the feasible responses in the ever expanding universe, she chooses swell. Gertrude Yorkes, everyone.

“Are you watching Reed’s comet tonight?” The HOA mom of Chase asks, oblivious to Gert’s inner turmoil

With her voice just flat out betraying her, she simply nods with a forced smile.

“Chase, darling, you’re certain you want this house? You looked at the others your father and I selected, correct?”

“Yeah, mom. I want this one. I’m sure of it.”

“I wonder why you came to a decision so quickly.” She mutters then perks up almost immediately, “Dear—” It takes Gert a second to realize the HOA mom is referring to her, “—you simply must come to the housewarming party next week!”

“Wha—” Gert shakes her head, “I—” Hmm. Decisions like this must be made weighing pros and cons. Con: This woman will most definitely be there, along with tons of other people Gert doesn’t know and doesn’t want to know; not to mention her other neighbors in the subdivision might pop up. Not seeing any pros to counter. But it’s rude to flat out tell someone hell no when they personally invite you somewhere. “I’ll see.”

Victor takes the pie out of the oven then grabs four more sporks.

HOA mom cuts a slice with her spork and puts it on a napkin. She kisses Chase on the cheek then bids them goodbye.

Chase, still shirtless, cuts into the pie along with them. “We shoulda got some ice cream or whipped cream or something with the pie, man.”

Victor nods in agreement, “true. So, what were you asking me for when you came in?” Chase promptly starts choking and Victor rushes to his side patting him on the back. “We’ll have to introduce you to our other housemates, Gert.”

“Other...? More people live in this house?”

Victor nods, still patting Chase’s back. “Our other rooms are Alex and Topher. Four bedrooms so we each have a room.” Old Lace is snickering because she’s a sadist. Gert nods before shoveling a sporkful of pie into her mouth.

🎨

Gert’s more than surprised to discover she spent more than an hour over at her hot neighbor’s—neighbors’ house. As soon as she closed the door behind her, Old Lace runs out of the room and gently headbutts her on the chin in greeting then almost immediately circles her. Gert gave up a long time ago trying to talk Old Lace out of these inspections every time she returned home.

Once Old Lace deems everything is fine, Gert pats her on the head. “Let’s watch that comet and hope we don’t develop superpowers because of it.” Old Lace grunts, “good point. Any more superpowers.”

They head to the kitchen to open a window. According to the HOA letter people were congregating in the front of their houses to watch the comet. Gert opted to nix that option and watch from the back of her house, also inside, to lessen the chances of anyone spotting the five foot three inch tall deinonychus just trying to watch a damn comet.

Victor invited her to watch the comet with them but she already promised to watch it with Old Lace and she was peopled-out for the day.

After setting everything up in the kitchen, taking off all the sources of light minus the television in the kitchen, Gert checks the time. Still a little bit before the comet is scheduled to arrive (Comet’s abide by schedules? Huh.)

The chipper newsanchor is talking into their earpiece then they excitedly point in the sky.

Gert and Old Lace squeeze together to stare out the window above the sink. Several seconds of realizing this wasn’t gonna happen no matter how close they squished together, they went to the back door to look at the sky.

Gert’s never actively looked at a comet before so she’s not what sure to expect. There’s this bright blue-white flash and a loud popping noise like one of those loud-ass obnoxious fireworks that really don’t do much but make a sudden, heart-attack inducing miniature explosion before flittering out in less than two seconds, costing you over $10.

Gert squints because it looks like the flash is getting closer. Old Lace grabs her by the collar then tosses Gert over her back and sprints out of the kitchen before the light lands in her backyard. Thankfully, whatever the light dropped off wasn’t big enough to damage her kitchen. Though, as they cautiously come back into the kitchen, there’s a sizable dent in front of her brick wall.

Gert slides off Old Lace’s back and opens the door to see a pair of brown legs sticking out of the gravel.

Old Lace snuffs at her. “Would you rather help who or whatever that is then send them on their way or end up on the news because we got a dead body in our backyard?” Old Lace sighs then together they unearth the body and the rest of the person and drag them – dirt and all – into the kitchen. If nothing else, this’ll motivate her to mop the kitchen floor.

It looks like something hit the comet!” The newsanchor states.

Gert looks at the replay of the blue-white flash colliding with an orange bit of light. “How the fuck is anyone supposed to know what happened?” Oh. She wasn’t supposed to voice that bit out loud.

The doorbell rings and Gert jumps. Old Lace growls.

“It’s just the doorbell. Stay here.” Old Lace opens her mouth, “stay. Here.” She points at the unconscious body on the floor then leaves the kitchen. The doorbell rings once more before Gert gets to the door. Looking down, she makes sure there’s no dirt on her. Through the peephole she sees Chase and Victor on the other side. Fortunately, the former is wearing a shirt.

Taking a deep breath, Gert opens the door – mindful of the chain. “Gert, are you okay?!” Victor yells, “it looked like something exploded in your backyard!”

Right. Why wouldn’t neighbors see that? Think Gertrude, think. “Really?” Old Lace would facepalm if her arms were long enough to reach her head.

“Maybe it was the house behind yours then?” Chase says Gert merely shrugs. He stares at her and she stares back, “anyway..., we were just making sure you were okay. I kinda felt the vibration of the explosion.”

“Well, I’m ...alright. Didn’t feel a thing. Thanks for checking in.”

“No problem! Take care.” Victor chirps. He waves enthusiastically and Chase’s wave is more subdued as they walk back to their house. Sighing heavily, Gert locks the door then returns to the kitchen.

Old Lace turns to her.

Gert looks down at the body still unconscious on her kitchen floor. A brunette with most of their curly hair in a baby blue headscarf though a few curls are sticking out here and there, a pair of tattered blue and white striped sweatpant shorts, a red short-sleeved t-shirt, legs for days, and a pair of red gladiator sandals, a star-shaped tattoos on their left wrist, two deep bloody claw like marks on their left cheek, a purplish bruise on their collarbone.

Maybe Gert should stop checking this hot unconscious stranger out and all 911 or something?

Or the Fantastic Four? They’d be better equipped to handle individuals who literally drop out of the sky wouldn’t they?

They were the leading experts on space and all that jazz.

(Do The Fantastic Four take house calls?)

“Let’s get something to eat.” Old Lace gives her a questioning look, “what?” Old Lace snuffles, “no, I—” Gert pinches her glabella, “why is eating people your solution to everything?” Old Lace growls lowly. “Ah... okay, fine. That’s true.”

Gert rifles through the cabinets until she hears a pained grunt.

Old Lace gets into a defensive stance, putting herself in front of Gert.

They both look at the body that begins to stir. Brown eyes flutter open surveying as much of their surroundings as they’re able. Lastly, the eye lock with Gert’s... then widen when they take in Old Lace beside Gert. The stranger sits up instantly then holds their head with a wince. “What the fuck—” They glance at Old Lace again, “—happened?”

Old Lace grunts and Gert rolls her eyes carefully approaching the stranger, “not... entirely sure? But I believe you hit a comet?”

Gert offers her hand and the stranger takes it. Gert nearly topples over as the brunette gets up. Whoa. Gert has always known she’s hella short, Old Lace is several inches taller than her, but – did she say whoa? – because her brain doesn’t currently have access to everything it usually needs to ...work. Hot strangers do that to her poor brain sometimes. The hot battered stranger looks around once more now that they are on their feet. “Seriously?” The brunette groans. “That’s a first. Name’s America. Where is ...this?”

“‘This?’ This being my home? If you require specifics it’s Goodyear, Arizona, North... America. Also, I’m Gertrude. Dammit. Gert. Just Gert.”

If her multi-versal knowledge of planets is sound North America is located on Planet Earth. Earth. America internally groans. Naturally, she’d land on an Earth. Why wouldn’t she? If her humanoid knowledge of organic lifeforms is sound the purple-haired being staring back at her is exhibiting serious signs of anxiety. “You’re nervous.” America points out.

“You fell out of the sky.” The purple-haired individual—Gert—retorts.

True. However, you are standing next to a dinosaur.”

Gert and Old Lace share a glance and the latter shrugs. “Fair point. If you were hostile, one of the three of us would be dead.”

America whistles, “the dinosaur is that cutthroat, huh? Impressive.” Old Lace looks proud at the compliment. She walks over to America headbutting the brunette’s left hand.

“Great. You gave her a swelled head. That’s all it takes, Lace? A single compliment gets you friendly?” Old Lace huffs at her.

America laughs petting Old Lace, “‘Lace?’”

“Old Lace. It—” Gert frowns, “the name made sense when I named her but that was almost a decade ago and I don’t really remember what I named her after. Either way, she’s stuck with it.” Old Lace snuffs happily as America continues to pet her. “If you don’t mind my asking... how the hell did you end up on a collision course with a comet?”

America sighs. “My abuelita’s been on my ass about ‘putting down roots.’ She’s old-school like that. Never fails to remind me she had my mama and my mama already had me when they were my age.” America rolls her eyes. “Makes it seem like it’s a curse I ain’t got a wife and a couple of mini-mes walking around.”

“Ugh. I know the feeling I had the worst conversation with my ma the other day about options on what to do with my eggs. She actually called me a ‘spinster’ and pretty much claimed being single at 30 was the worst thing in the world!” Gert sighs. “If I didn’t have Lace, I’m sure she’d imply I needed to buy a glaring of cats for company.”

“Oh. So that’s a multi-versal thing, people associating single women with a need for cat companions?”

“‘Multi-versal?’” Gert repeats.

“Yeah. There’s a whole multiverse out there. I’ve been to all sorts of universes. A reason I haven’t ‘put down roots’ is because I’m cruising through the multiverse doing my thing but that’s not enough for abuelita. I’ve been with a couple of people and whatever but I guess I haven’t found ‘the one.’ I guess I’m a bit old-school too. My mamas were hopeless romantics instilled some heavy shit in me. Gave me impossibly high standards for finding my perfect match.”

Gert nods with a hum, “and you haven’t been to this universe before?”

“Nope. Every universe has its own number and I’ve never came across 13,022.”

“How can you tell what number a universe is?”

America’s eyes and star-shaped tattoos start glowing a soft powder blue, “my powers give me a cheat sheet.” Her eyes stop glowing and she takes a notepad out from her back pocket. “I keep track of every first contact I make with a new universe.” She scribbles stuff down on the notepad. Once she’s finished, she sticks the notepad back in her pocket. “Might as well, check this universe out for a while.”

“I got space if you wanna stick around? Lace is already attached to you.” Old Lace happily nods, as she’s still standing beside America, “but just so you know you’ll have to do some clothes shopping because nothing I own is remotely close to your height.”

“Then let’s go shopping.” America’s eyes and tattoos start glowing again. She stomps on the ground and a star outline materializes under her foot then shatters into a bluish-white portal. Gert hears the popping fireworks noise again only to realize it came from the portal’s creation. Huh. Interesting. America gestures to the portal, “let’s go. You can even bring Old Lace.”

Gert and Old Lace share a glance before Old Lace hops in the portal. “Hey!” Gert calls after her. “Sorry in advance. She rarely gets to go anywhere so she’s gonna get a little... excited.”

“I bet she’s not the only one itching for a change of scenery.” America sticks out her arm and Gert hooks her hand through it before they both jump into the portal.

🎨

“Ever realize your life is boring as hell then you wish for something exciting to happen, and then when something exciting does happen you wish you hadn’t wished for something exciting?”

Alex slowly raises his head from his laptop to stare at the blond looking out the window, “...the fuck?” He glances back down at his best friend, Billy, on the laptop screen tilting his head to the left, “was that Chase? Is he okay?”

“Yes, and I’m about to find out. Stein? What the hell, man? Are you having an existential crisis?”

The blond turns to Alex, “I don’t know what that means.”

“Well, what the hell is wrong then?’

Chase sighs, “I’m just.... thinking about the planet. We’ve had three meteor showers in a row this week and there was that weird deflected comet. All this can’t be good for the planet, right?’ Alex looks back down at his laptop at Billy who mouths logging out. Alex glares at him then looks back at the blond.

“Since when do you give a shit about the planet? I saw you burn recyclables—”

“When I was eight and it was a science experiment.”

“What about the recyclable bin a few days ago?”

“Those were biodegradable!”

Look. Something more than ‘the planet’ is bothering you. You don’t gotta say if you don’t want but I’m here if you do. Now speaking for the planet, if I had to wager a guess I’d say the planet knows what’s best for itself.”

“I disagree.” Billy interrupts, “the planet allowed humans to be on it and they fucked it up beyond repair so maybe the planet doesn’t know what’s best for itself...?” Alex runs a hand down his face.

“My old man.” Alex turns to Chase again, “I spoke to mom yesterday she said he said he was thinking about getting me involved in the company.” The blond runs a hand through his hair, “I hate my old man but I can’t deny his genius. The tech he’s created is life-changing. He flew all the way to New York to assist Professor Fury with the creation of the LMD’s.”

“Dude...” Alex mutters, “those shits were creepy with a capital C, I wouldn’t wanna admit taking credit for helping make those.” On the laptop, Billy nods in agreement.

“Either way, as my old man’s only child – legitimate or otherwise – Stein Inc. is gonna be mine when he croaks.” Chase sighs, “what I’m having an... issue with is, I’ve worked on projects with dad before and every alteration or idea I’ve had he dismisses then passes off as his idea never giving me any credit.”

Damn, that’s fucked up.” Billy hums, “and here I thought T’s old man was an asshole.”

Alex sucks in a breath, “ooh oh boy. I agree Mar-Vell is a 100% certified asshole™ but – I gotta say? – even he isn’t on the same caliber as Chase’s old man. If there was an Asshole of the Month Club™, Victor Stein would be founder and president.” Billy whistles.

“Who is Mar-Veil?"

“No, dude. Mar-Vell. V-E-L-L. He’s Billy’s boyfriend’s asshole father. ‘A Kree Ambassador.’” Alex waves his hands around the air, “likes to let everyone know how amazing the kree are.” Chase hums, “like the kree didn’t try and fail to take over Earth on two separate occasions before getting the stuffing beat out of them by the X-Men, both times.” Alex pauses, “hey, you know what you could do to get your old man? Sell the company when he dies. That’ll piss his ghost off.”

“Yeah but... I wanna do something he’ll feel while he’s still alive.” Chase frowns, “though I wouldn’t be surprised if he invited a way to live on forever somehow. Not like his body... but his brain or something.” He grumbles.

“Decline his offer to work together.” Billy suggests. “Tell him you got something you’re working on.”

“That’ll never work. Mom is like here all the time and she knows I’m not doing anything.” He runs over to the laptop. “Do you have anything that needs working on?”

Me? I’m good actually. But I hear the station T works has their computers down. You could check that out.”

🎨

Theo sneezes then rubs his nose, “I believe in earth custom that particular action means someone is speaking well of you.” He glances at Heather who looks down at the next glass case. The man behind the counter began sweating profusely once Heather began examining every piece of jewelry one by one without asking to see anything close up. “These engagement ‘bands’ are quite... plain, are they not?”

“Yeah but I know my sister, she’s not gonna want something flashy.”

Heather purses her lips, “true, however my beloved is far too good for ordinary.” She pauses then stands up straight, startling the employee. “May I see that ring? The black with the rainbow herringbone pattern?” Nodding, the man quickly complies holding out the aforementioned band. “Thank you.” She holds the band toward Theo.

This? It’s nice, sure, just doesn’t seem Phyla’s type.” The half-smirk on Heather’s face is... unsettling.

“My beloved is not who I had in mind when I saw this band.” She puts it in Theo’s hand and he examines it closely. “Of course it’ll need some adjustments to fit you.” When Theo throws the band in surprise, Heather easily catches it. (The employee behind the counter faints but neither of them notice.) “Or would you prefer more of a charcoal than black?”

Theo spends about ten seconds flusteredly sputtering before he can reform words. “N-Need! Ring. I. No.”

Heather full-on smirks at him now, “curious that the subject of marriage hasn’t come up.”

“Why would it—we’ve only known each other for two months!”

If possible, her smirk widens. “And yet... you moved into his apartment within just one week of knowing and sleeping with your love.”

“It was two weeks—” He pauses with a frown, “not that it’s much better in comparison.” He shakes his head. “A-A-And the L-L word? No. No.”

“So you do not call him your ‘lover?’ I distinctly remember hearing Phyla say—”

“Of course you two talk about my relationship.” He interrupts sarcastically. “Why wouldn’t you? What did Phyla tell you?”

“Everything worth noting. Plus, you know— ” She gives a one-shoulder shrug, pointing at herself. “Telepath.” Theo massages his temples. “Why so defensive, Theo-Vell? I’m on your side. I knew Phyla-Vell was the one the moment I laid eyes upon her.”

“She tackled you to the ground because you were playing flag football.”

“Love at first sight.” Heather sighs out lovingly. Theo just stares at her. “Evidently, we aren’t going to find Phyla’s perfect ring in this location.” She holds up the band to eye level. “Nevertheless, you should keep an open mind.” She turns to the counter then furrows her eyebrows, then leans over the counter. “Huh. Interesting.”

Theo also leans over the counter to see the man sprawled out on the floor behind it. “Interesting indeed.”

🎨

“Gertrude! We haven’t heard from you in a week so we decided to stop by and sur—” The deinonychus growls at them then puts her head back on the lap of a brunette sprawled out on the couch, “—prise you?” Dale squeaks out.

“Guess we’re not the only ones who had surprise on our minds.” Staciey mutters. “Hello, beautiful woman eating peanut butter on our daughter’s couch. Might I inquire as to who you are and why you are on our daughter’s couch? With her... guard deinonychus extremely comfortable with you?”

“I’m America. Your daughter and Old Lace dug me out of the backyard after a comet veered into me a couple days ago.”

Gert’s parents blink at her, “hardly the strangest thing that’s ever happened to this family.” Dale remarks.

“True, but it’s at least gotta be in the top five.” Staciey says and Dale nods in agreement. “Where is Gertrude?”

America opens her mouth to reply, but Old Lace growls at Gert’s parents again. “Guess she doesn’t want you to know.”

Dale gasps. “You speak deinonychus?”

“I don’t need to speak Old Lace to know that she don’t like you.”

“Well, ‘Old Lace’ wouldn’t even be here without us so like us or not, she at least has to have some sort of appreciation for us.” Old Lace growls lowly, baring her teeth.

“An ‘appreciation’ doesn’t mean she has to like you.”

“No... I don’t suppose it does not.” Gert’s parents warily walk behind the couch all the while eyeing Old Lace who watches their movements until they disappear from view.

America pets Old Lace’s head, “just how bad are her parents?” Old Lace’s reply is a low growl. “I’m gonna interpret that as bad.” She drops a spoonful of peanut butter into Old Lace’s waiting mouth.

Dale and Staciey stop in front of Gert’s bedroom door making sure the brunette or the deinonychus can’t hear them, “have you ever seen her cozy up to anyone other than Gertrude?” Dale whispers.

“We’ve never put her around other people before.” Staciey whispers back, “and the only ones she has been around—” Staciey gestures between them, “—she’s been hostile toward. You think it’s because we don’t... call her by her name?”

“If we named her, we’d have to name all the experiments and let me tell you something – that is very time consuming.” Taking a deep breath, Dale knocks on the door. “Gertrude, it’s your loving parents!” They open the door without waiting for a reply.

Oh.” Frowning, they look around the empty room. Once they exit the bedroom, they look around the rest of the house for their daughter. “What else could Gertrude be keeping from us?”

“It’s not like we don’t have our own secrets.” Dale mutters, looking over his shoulder at the couch where the deinonchys—Old Lace—is watching them with her head still on America’s lap.

Gertrude cannot get here fast enough. Staciey texted her daughter and has yet to receive a reply. The searched the entirety of the house and hasn’t seen hide or purple hair of their daughter. Just what the hell happened in a week that would allow Gertrude – who was vastly overprotective of her psychically connected deinonychus – to leave “Old Lace” with a (beautiful) stranger? And just how strange was this stranger to have “Old Lace’ cuddle with her?

Perhaps they can gather a DNA sample from the brunette?

In the spare bedroom, there was a pull-out couch bed and an abundance of clothing too tall for Gertrude to fit hanging in the closet. Oh. Maybe Staciey can sneak back in the room to grab a strand of hair or a skin flake or something?

She casually rounds the corner then hauls ass down the hall to the spare bedroom. She makes sure to keep the door open, they genetically engineered “Old Lace” to have advanced hearing to alert her to threats to Gertrude. And as far as that damn dinosaur is concerned, Staciey and Dale Yorkes are genuine threats to Gertrude Yorkes. The brunette nearly cries in joy as she lifts a curly strand of dark brown hair from a leather jacket. Leather... in Arizona? Maybe Gertrude didn’t familiarize her new friend(?) with their weather.

She tucks the hair in her sample baggie – because what scientist leaves the house without a couple? – then exits the room. “What are you doing?” Dale hisses.

“DNA sample.” Staciey hisses back. “Aren’t you curious as to what the hell is going on here? And Gertrude would never tell us outright.”

“True...”

“Why the long face? We’ve done far worse to protect our only daughter. Now come on, if Gertrude isn’t here there’s no reason to stay.” Dale sighs as she walks past him.

🎨

In a world filled with sorcerers, costumed superheroes, X-Men, and cosmic scientists, no one batted an eye when three bioluminescent rainbow colored humanoids stumbled out of a burning spaceship onto Hollywood Boulevard. Maybe them crashing in Hollywood during the early-nineties when everyone was busy doing alien-centric films was the reason there was no fanfare or maybe it was the destination itself?

Olivia remembers seeing it on the news thinking it was a hoax. Then she saw up-and-coming actors the “Dean” family, taking on the surnames of the human family that housed them. You’d think with them their rainbow-colored bodies having the colors ever-shifting would typecast them to alien only roles but they weren’t. It was all very bizarre. The Dean family’s appearances were never explained in any media they were in nor were they critiqued in film reviews.

The “alien movie market” dwindled after the Kree invaded... and were, as Chase would say, “curb-stomped” by the X-Men. On two separate occasions. Within the same year.

Oddly enough, during the kree’s first invasion the gibborim paid a visit to Olivia Stein. While she doesn’t know why they selected her out of the millions in Los Angeles, she humbly accepts her position as the mouthpiece to the gibborim. The translator. The focal point and key part in their big plans. Or something...

Olivia taps her perfectly manicured fingers against the table. “I call this Homeowners Association meeting to begin.” The blonde begins. Her husband, Victor, is beside her and ten other people are seated in the chairs in front of them. “First, we deal with old business. Dale? Staciey? How goes your attempts at genetically engineering more animals?”

The couple share a weary glance. Since leaving Gert’s house yesterday, they had to do a little backtracking to make sure all the animals they engineered possessed an unquestioning loyalty toward them first. The deinonychus was their first attempt to go right – she had unquestioning loyalty... just not toward them. But hey, she was loyal to someone with their joint DNA so... it was a step in the right direction. Unfortunately since then, even before realizing their experiment hated their guts, they weren’t able to succeed with successfully engineering the animals without killing them. “It’s... going!” Dale replies with as much false cheer as he can muster without making his faking obvious.

Victor rolls his eyes, “that’s hardly good enough.”

You’re more than welcome to take over if we’re not working fast enough for you.” The grey-haired man narrows his eyes.

Olivia taps the table with her nails. “Settle down.” She sighs, “just... keep at it and tell us when you’ve made any significant, news-worthy progress.” Dale gives her a thumbs-up. “Onto new business. As you are all no doubt aware, it is... annual offering time. According to a few of my real-estate compatriots, there has been a 15% decrease in homelessness compared to last year.” She makes a face.

“That can’t be just because of us.” Robert Minoru interrupts, “we do one ‘offering’ per year—”

“Yes but with President van Dyne’s push to end homelessness we no longer have as many prospects to choose from. Even one homeless person makes a huge percentile drop now.”

“What about patients?” George Hayes interrupts, “I know a few surgeons, we can fake some records. Let them think they’re dying?” He looks around the room and gets varying degrees of horror on their expressions. “Oh please, like killing the homeless isn’t a heartless crime? Or when we had to use homeless children? Children that were around the ages of our children!? Having to look my twelve-year-old daughter in the face after sacrificing a homeless thirteen-year-old?! I couldn’t sleep for weeks!”

“What we do isn’t pretty nor is it for the faint-hearted, but we’re the only ones the Gibborim entrusted to undertake this task.” Olivia states.

“What about some hospice patients?” Staciey suggests, “I mean, as long as they’re alive... right? That’s what Gibborim need. Live sacrifices. They never specified just how alive. Or healthy. I think it’s something we can work with. They are already dying, if anything we’re – well... it’s just poor taste to finish the rest of that phrase.”

“All in favor of having our favorite darling Hollywood couple pay a visit to some dear fans?” Everyone raises a hand, “then I shall prepare a trip to Northwestern Hospice Center.” Olivia says.

“Just how much longer do they expect us to do this for? It’s been over thirty years!” Victor yells, “where is this ‘paradise world’ are children are supposed to flourish in? By the time this damn ‘paradise’ is ready it’ll be our fucking great-grandchildren we have to be protecting! My dumbass son isn’t gonna flourish on his own! Thirty-one years of age and no inventions to speak of. ‘They’ say he’s a prodigy but where? I don’t see it! Do you have any idea how many inventions I’ve had when I was half that age?”

Olivia pats her husband on the arm. “Darling, it’s okay—”

Victor scoffs, “is it though?”

“If we’re done...” Catherine Wilder gets up, “some of us have patients who’ve booked appointments.”

“Oh crap!” George gets up as well, “what time is it?”

“Alright, alright. Meeting adjourned. We’ll meet up Friday at the hospice center to get our next sacrifice so make sure your schedules are completely clear. Especially you, Catherine.”

The brunette folds her arms over her chest. “Friday is my busiest day, Olivia, we’d better get a sacrifice.”

“We will. Trust in the Gibborim, as we always have.”

“Why do you always get to be the Gibborim mouthpiece?” Tina Minoru asks, “thirty years we’ve been listening to you claim to know what they’re saying.”

“It was through me that we were all brought together.”

“Are you sleeping with them?” Robert asks.

“What? No!” She scoffs, “don’t be absurd. I was selected to be their voice. Don’t blame me for their choice.” The others murmur their disagreement. “Look, Tina, if you want to try deciphering their language, I’d gladly give you the grimoire.”

“‘Try?’ You don’t think I can decipher ancient alien text? I’m the only one here who studied linguists in college and I know dark magic. ‘Try’ my ass. Give me the damn grimoire!”

“I’ll bring it with me on Friday.” Tina raises an eyebrow, “now is there anything else?” Everyone warily eyes one another. “Let us commence with our closing creed.”

The twelve of them bow their heads. “We plead our lives to the Gibborim.” They chant, “so that our offspring will be welcomed in paradise.”

They lift their heads, “now, meeting adjourned.” Olivia announces.

🎨

Nico is in the process of carefully applying the kohl to her left eye when her phone vibrates, falling off the bathroom counter onto her foot. “Dammit!” She hisses, and to add insult to injury she ends up poking herself in the eye. “Oww, fuck.”

Her roommate, Viv, phases her head through the wall, despite the bathroom door being opened. “You are injured.” She fully phases into the room and directs Nico to the toilet. “I will apply the makeup remover.” After Nico’s last roommate moved in with his boyfriend, she put up a roommate wanted ad online and Vivian Victoria Steele checked all the boxes. Viv confessed to having a lot to learn about being a humanoid without a primary function after her “creator” got rid of her claiming she no longer had a purpose and wasn’t of any further use to them.

Nico doesn’t know who that asshole is but she dislikes them on principle.

Viv picks up Nico’s phone and hands it to her before taking out one of the makeup remover strips and gently wiping Nico’s left eye. “Thanks, Vi—Wait a minute?” Viv stops then Nico turns her phone toward her roommate, “I know I only have one eye I can see out of but this says ‘hanchō,’ right?”

“That is correct. ‘Hanchō’ is the sender.” Viv pauses, “that is what you refer to your mother as in your contacts, yes? I recall you informing me your mother does not... text.”

“She doesn’t.”

Viv stares at the screen, “I believe I have an understanding as to why. An error in the recipient has been made. This text is addressed to ‘Robert.’”

“Robert’s my old man’s name. We practically have the same phone number minus the last number which is one digit apart. Even a perfectionist like my mother could make a minor mistake like that.” Nico turns the phone back to her as Viv finishes wiping the makeup from Nico’s eyes.

“As you are regaining the full sight in your left eye, would you like me to read the text to you?”

“Oh. Okay. Thanks.”

“Scanning...” Nico looks up at the words flashing through Viv’s eyes. “Oh dear. This is quite disturbing.” Nico looks down at the phone in her hands, “there are two texts. The first is directions to a hospice in Los Angeles. There are ten additional numbers in the group text, alongside what is supposed to be your father’s. The gist of the second text tells your father not to forget bringing ‘the staff,’ in case ‘the sacrifice’ puts up a fight. Plus, it states your mother does not trust ‘that bitch’ not to sanctimoniously throw them under the bus.”

“I know Tina doesn’t trust a lot of people not to throw her under the bus so that ‘bitch’ part will have us here wondering from sun up to sun down for days but sacrifices and hospices? My mother hates hospitals, with like intensity. What the fuck are my parents doing?”

“That is an interesting inquiry. I may be able to answer your questions by identifying the owners of the phone numbers.”

“You—” Nico shakes her head, “no. You don’t have to do that. I’ll just screenshot them and look ‘em up.”

“I believe going the physical route would be more helpful, in case your mother somehow catches wind of her error.”

Tina doesn’t have the same phone brand as Nico and Robert so there’s no way for her to instantly know the texts were read. But if Tina is looking for a reply, she’ll check and notice she sent the texts to the wrong phone number. Nico’s best bet is plausible deniability because if she comments or says this isn’t Robert, Tina will ask questions. And when her mother asks questions, Nico can barely get a word in edgewise. Not to mention if they’re talking sacrifices, Nico does not want to be on the menu for that shit. “Good idea.” Viv floats out of the bathroom then returns with a pen and a stickynote. “Thanks.”

“Anytime.” Nico writes down the unfamiliar phone numbers one by one. “To assist you with the search, my database of global area codes has informed me these are all Los Angeles, California area codes.”

“LA?” Nico hums, “a good chunk of Tina’s clientele are in LA. Something tells me this isn’t a work-based group text though. Unless she’s planning on killing a patient and these people are her alibi? Tina is the type to cover all her bases.”

“If that were the case, why include so many people? I understand having all the bases covered. However, the cover story is bound to get mixed up with so many people involved because, as they say, ‘too many cooks spoil the broth.’”

“That’s... a good point. Unless they’re all involved in different ways?”

“True. Are either of your parents the 'carry out detailed murder plot' types?”

“My mother’s meticulousness is well-known and slightly feared. I truly believe if she wanted—or needed—to pull off a murder, she’d do it alone and wouldn’t get caught.”

“Impressive. Would it be odd to express an interest in meeting your mother?”

“A little. Why? You need someone murdered?”

“No. Not that I’m aware of.”

🎨

“...What are you doing?”

Chase jumps turning toward Topher raising an eyebrow at him. “Looking out the window.”

“...Looking out the window that only has a view of our neighbor’s window?” Topher picks up his glass of blood from the counter and walks away with a hum.

Chase returns his attention to the window. He was eating his breakfast when he saw the shadow of something walk past. And although he’s only seen his new neighbor Gert thrice in the week-and-a-half since they’ve moved in, that clearly was not Gert’s shadow. Not with a head that large. She could’ve had a big-headed alien friend over. Chase had no room to judge friends; he was living with a vampire, an android, and Alex Wilder.

But... for her to have someone over someone would have to enter the house and Chase hadn’t seen anyone enter or exit. Not that he was watching her house daily or anything! For all he knows, they could’ve entered the house through a portal. Or they could be living there, moved in before his arrival. However, according to his mother that was usually in everyone’s business, Gert lived alone.

The shadow moves past the window again and Chase tries to discern its shape.

“What are you doing?” Chase jumps then turns to Alex eyeing him suspiciously.

“Looking out the window.”

“You’re looking out the window?” Alex repeats, “that window.” He raises an eyebrow, “the window with no function other than to spy on our neighbor?”

“I will admit the window is poorly placed but I am not using it to spy on our neighbor.”

“Of course not. Why would you spy on the neighbor you clearly have the hots for? What do I know?”



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