Puppy Dog Tails
March 4, 2017
Wanda waited fifteen minutes for Jane to arrive for her scheduled training session, but had no hope that the woman would actually show up. Fifty percent of the time, the scientist sent a message asking to reschedule – which Wanda rarely agreed to do. The other half of the time Jane completely forgot, and Wanda ended up going to her home or office to fetch her. Fetch? Retrieve? Obtain? English was still a strange language.
“Friday,” Wanda called out as she crossed the large training room, “please give me Dr. Foster’s location.”
“Dr. Foster is at her residence, in the observatory.”
“Is she ready for our session?”
There was a pause, then, “Dr. Foster is currently wearing pajamas.”
“Chomu ya ne zdyvovanyy?” Wanda rolled her eyes and left the main building, making her way across the running trail and over the low hill that sheltered the main building’s large windows from direct assault – and also concealed strategically placed paintball turrets to help the trainees learn to take a hit while sprinting. Wanda had been hesitant, when Thor contacted her about working with Jane on control, but Steve had encouraged her. Not that Steve wasn’t always encouraging. And Sam had suggested that Wanda might also offer the other woman some insights into coping. It had been an uncomfortable conversation, but she did recognize that there were very few people who could relate to waking up one day with supernatural abilities. Wanda still wasn’t sure which was worse – choosing power for the wrong reasons, or having it forced upon a person. She and Jane hadn’t discussed it. But they might. One day.
It made Wanda smile, thinking that she now had so many female friends. Before she had been fooled by HYDRA, there had been little opportunity to cultivate strong, healthy relationships. And fewer girls living in the orphanages or on the streets of Sokovia who she would have trusted with her thoughts. It had started with Natasha, who was a wonderful mentor. And then there had been Laura – even if that was over secure video call for most of the time they had known each other. Darcy – who couldn’t be friends with Darcy? Even if she wasn’t responsible for fixing everything, she was fun and irreverent and never, ever afraid. And now Dr. Jane Foster. A brilliant woman who needed Wanda. She also had a private beach.
Wanda crested the hill and immediately noticed three things. Clint and Barnes were to the east, in the creek valley that wound through the property. In the shade of thick trees she could just make out an uneven line of trainees doing pushups. She was so glad Clint had graduated her from basic training. Especially since Barnes had joined the team. He wasn’t actually as strict or demanding as Clint, but he usually looked angry enough to make up for it.
To the southwest, Steve and Colonel Rhodes were circling a new vehicle Stark had designed. She almost changed direction – Steve’s unscheduled visits to the facility usually resulted in something fun. Today she would bet they would try to destroy the hybrid transport-tank. Stress testing, Stark called it.
It was the scene to the north that kept her going. In the middle of the storm water detention cell – Wanda still privately referred to it as the football field, regardless of Vision’s insistence – three small figures were constructing a rather impressive structure. Wanda put a little magic into her speed and in no time was close enough to call out.
“What’s going on?”
“Hey, Wanda!” Maria Stark and Lila waved but continued to stare at the tablet between them. Cooper Barton jogged over, a huge grin on his face.
“Wanda! Can you play for a while? We’re-”
“Not playing, butthead,” Lila interrupted without looking up.
Cooper stuck out his tongue at his sister. “We’re building a catapult!”
“It’s a trebuchet, pay attention dweeb.” Lila finally looked up, frowning.
“For watermelons,” Maria clarified, for which Wanda was grateful. She wasn’t responsible for the kids, but if they had been planning something that looked dangerous to them, she felt obligated to alert a parent. It was much easier and more interesting to be the fun adult. “Actually,” Maria shared a look with Lila, “do you think you could help us? We were going to use a lever to get the counterweight in place, but if you would…” She wiggled her fingers in an approximation of spastic jazz hands. Wanda hoped she didn’t actually make that motion.
The siege engine was pointed toward the trees to the northeast, away from the running trail or any buildings, so Wanda didn’t see the harm. She gathered some energy and surrounded the cart of large rocks the kids had pulled with them. Wanda glanced at the second cart, neatly stacked with perfectly round, perfectly green watermelons.
“Does Chef Carla know you have these fruits?” Wanda liked being the fun adult, but she was not willing to get on the bad side of anyone who made her deserts.
“Oh,” Lila brushed off the concern. “These aren’t from the kitchen. Mom’s assistant grew them. A low-water, low-nutrient strain for harsh environments. Mom said they weren’t ready for human consumption unless the plan was to feed them to the enemy.”
“So we’re weaponizing them,” Maria finished.
Wanda shrugged. “Okay. But if this is not an approved activity, I was never here.”
“Don’t you want to stay and watch?” Cooper looked up at her hopefully while she finished moving the rocks.
“I have a commitment right now, prominchyk. But I’ll stop by again when I’m done.” She wondered if Jane would want to watch. Wanda had heard stories about the lengths the woman would go to for science, she would probably enjoy violent ends to melons. Cooper looked disappointment for a moment, but quickly revived, promising Wanda a turn at the release lever. She wished them all luck and sent a quick message with a gps tag to Barnes as she crossed the one-lane road in front of Jane’s house.
Watermelons may be falling from the sky, keep area clear. Don’t tell Clint.
Wanda could hear shouting from inside the house, so she avoided the observatory and used the front door. Darcy’s voice sounded tinny and far away.
“–to curdle milk! How dare you Jane Foster. How. Dare. You.”
Through the open door of the small home office, Wanda could see one tiny brunette astrophysicist leaning over a table, snarling into a cell phone. The phone was alone – almost quarantined – on the otherwise bare surface. Jane was wearing pajama pants. And also rain boots, a men’s extra jumbo large plaid shirt and a child-sized t-shirt affirming the monetary value of Juan’s Super Burrito. With Sauce.
“You were the one who got us kicked out! It’s your fault I have a record!”
“It wasn’t even a misdemeanor, Jane, and it was dismissed. Everyone has a public drunkenness citation. Everyone.”
“No, Darcy. No, they don’t. And I would have been drunk in a bar instead of in public if you hadn’t gotten us kicked out. So your argument is invalid!”
Wanda raised both eyebrows at an extremely satisfied scientist. Jane finally noticed her in the doorway and waved her in before continuing.
“And Wanda is here for my training now, so this discussion is over. I win. You lose. So sad for you.”
“Wanda!” Darcy’s voice was excited and far too loud for speakerphone. “Tell Jane she’s wrong and I’m right.”
Wanda tried, and failed to determine the best way to excuse herself from taking sides, so she stalled. “What are you arguing about?”
“Arbitrary ceremonial milestones,” Darcy said at the same time Jane insisted,
Wanda blinked. She worked very hard not to get in the habit of reading minds without permission, but she wondered if this was one of those ‘understandable’ moments that Steve was always going on about.
“Darcy thinks that you can decide when to have a birthday party regardless of the date on which the person was actually born.” Jane appeared legitimately irritated by that line of reasoning.
“And Jane thinks that the date on a calendar – which has little to no relevance as to the actual passage of time on our planet, let alone other planets – is more important than the spirit of joy and gratitude in the continued existence of the life of a loved one. Because she’s a stick in the mud and completely unreasonable.”
“Stick in the- Thor broke four pairs of handcuffs! I had to write a check to the County Sheriff’s Office! Do you have any idea what those things cost?”
“O, my dude, do I ever-” Darcy started.
“The Barton children are building a catapult.” Wanda decided the swiftest way to end things and hopefully move on to the scheduled training without the two women ending their friendship was to change topics. It worked. Sort of.
“Already?” Jane straightened and looked over her clothing. She tightened the drawstring on her cowboy-themed pants and pulled her hair into a rubber band from her wrist.
“Oh, good,” Darcy sighed into the phone. “I was worried that he might see and put a stop to things, but I hoped he would be plenty occupied with the R.O.U.S. Vehicle testing. I didn’t want him to see the trebuchet yet. It’s for the party. Goddamn that man being all generous and considerate and offering to drive Maria upstate for the weekend. Stark should be out there playing with his ugly people-tank while Steve is here where I can keep him oblivious to any and all birthday planning.”
“Isn’t his birthday in July?” Wanda asked, still not quite sure what was happening, but enjoying herself immensely.
“That’s what I’m saying! Thank you, Wanda!” Jane huffed. “Goodbye, Darcy. And stop making up reasons to buy cake!” She hung up, as viciously as one could possibly press a digital button, and grabbed Wanda’s arm. “Come on, we don’t want to miss the first launch. They may need help adjusting the trajectory. I want to try hitting the mechanical engineering lab. Jerks took the last of the lemon bars from the cafeteria.”
Wanda was so grateful she had found these people.
*Chomu ya ne zdyvovanyy – Why am I not surprised?
Prominchyk – sunbeam