Title: Confused-Ticky-Box Life
Fandom: Marvel comics, Ultimate Universe
Pairing/Characters: Jessica Drew/Kitty Pryde/Mary-Jane Watson
Disclaimer: Ultimate Spider-Man belongs to Marvel.
Author's Note: Takes a slight detour at the end of the Clone Saga, and doesn't consider Ultimatum.
Word Count: 2,550
"We have got to set up some kind of comm. system or something," MJ complained as she set two noodle dishes on the small kitchen table, going back for her own. Kitty and Jess dug in, though Kitty kept having to toss her hair back to keep plaster dust from falling into her food.
Jessica Drew's fashionable condo in Forestville, New York, had a big kitchen stocked mostly with frozen food and cereal, an island, and a table and four chairs that came with the condo. The condo had been furnished when she bought it, one of the reasons she'd bought it, actually. "Well, I wanted to translate Ikea instruction manuals while setting up a false identity and raiding supervillains' offshore accounts, but then I realized I had to sleep," she'd told Kitty and MJ's shocked expressions the first time they'd seen the place. It was obviously the home of a teenage tinkerer—the home office had been turned into something out of The Matrix, lit by computer screens instead of lamps, and the expensive oak coffee table had been scratched up by tools—but that didn't entirely hide the wealth needed to outright purchase a condo of its quality.
"Comm. system?" Jess asked between mouthfuls.
"Like in Star Trek," MJ said. "So I don't have to find out about your harrowing adventures on the news."
"I think the Ultimates have something like that," Kitty said thoughtfully.
Jess scowled. "I am not gonna go crawling to Nick Fury—!"
"Nobody said you should! Jeez, Jess," Kitty snapped back. "I'm just saying it's possible."
"Sorry," Jess muttered, running a hand through her hair. She'd cut it short—shorter than Peter's, actually, and much more styled.
"How about every time you start to become an obnoxious asshole, I call you Peter?" Kitty suggested brightly.
Jess flushed, ducking her head, and MJ whacked Kitty upside the head.
The conversation after their kiss, as Kitty had witnessed it, had gone something like this:
MJ: Peter …
MJ: I can't.
MJ: I can't do this with you again. You're my friend and I love you, but we've done this too many times.
MJ: Not even if you're not with Kitty. I love you, but I can't be your girlfriend.
Needless to say, Kitty broke up with Peter speedily after that. Her estimation of MJ, however, rose way beyond competition. Which was good, because moving to your boyfriend's school after you broke up? Not the best timing in the universe.
MJ was pretty cool, though, even if she spent too much time around mutantphobic Liz and Peter jerkwad Parker. At least she didn't freak out if Kitty phased through her locker to get a book.
So it wasn't too surprising that she was hanging out at the mall with MJ when her cell rang a few months later. Back when she was with the X-Men, Kitty didn't bother picking up unknown numbers, but now that she'd been detached from the mutant gossip alert system, she figured any X-Man could be calling from a payphone in the Savage Land, and might need her help.
Not that there were pay phones in the Savage Land. Probably.
The voice on the other end, however, was definitely a surprise.
"Hey, this is Jessica Drew—you know me from that thing three months ago?"
"Hold on," Kitty told the phone, frowning. She put her hand over the mouth and asked MJ, "Was there a thing three months ago I should remember?"
"Your glorious arrival at our school?" MJ suggested.
Kitty rolled her eyes. "Anything else?"
"The clones," MJ said, shuddering. Kitty knew the whole experience still gave her nightmares.
"Uh-huh. Know anybody named Jessica Drew?"
The whole story unfolded in bits and pieces—turned out Jessica Drew aka Spider-Woman had gotten a serious head wound "falling out of a tree" at her private school and the Headmistress insisted on a hospital visit. Since Miss Drew didn't have a legal guardian (apparently she was a wealthy emancipated orphan, which surprised Kitty) and the doctors were worried about a concussion, someone had to stay with her for a few days.
"Also," Jessica said, "these guys drew a lot of blood, and I don't think they want it for the Red Cross."
Forestville didn't sport the same percentage of nutjob scientists that New York City's universities attracted, but that didn't mean a lab tech who'd interned at OzCorp before the meltdown wouldn't recognize the properties of Jessica's blood and decide to make a quick buck.
"Come on, you two need showers." Mary Jane cleared the table and shooed the other two toward the bathroom. "And no shenanigans!"
"Yes, mother," Jess tossed back with a grin, and MJ blushed. Sometimes Jess was so like Peter, and then there were times Jess's experiences clearly held higher influence.
MJ did dishes and listened for the shower, hearing it turn on and off several times. One advantage of the condo over a house was no shortage of hot water.
Once the kitchen was spotless, MJ turned and hovered in the hallway between the bedroom and the living room. On the one hand, all her stuff was in the bedroom, on the other … what kind of message would it send if she was in the bedroom when they got out of the shower? This … thing … with Kitty and Jess was new and completely outside of MJ's experience. She studied the living room for a moment and then took a deep breath.
Their thing was new and odd but also good. Way better for her mental health than yo-yoing with Peter had been. For the most part. MJ headed for the bedroom. There were still nights like tonight, when she and Kitty had shown up for a weekend visit and Spider-Woman and Shadowcat had had to infiltrate a local branch of Roxxon labs.
Spider-Woman had called Kitty because she needed her help. Kitty dragged MJ along for the ride because she needed a friend.
Properly meeting Jessica Drew for the first time had been weird. For one thing, Kitty didn't recognize her. MJ did, though.
"Jessica!" she called at the train platform. Surprise, surprise, none of them could drive.
A girl in the distinctive plaid skirt-blazer combo of school uniforms waved back. Kitty had been shocked how much, and how little, Jessica Drew looked like Peter Parker. Most of the facial expressions were Peter's, but the body language spoke of an entirely different environment, and the hair was way butcher than Peter's floppy 'do.
"MJ! It's great to see you. I didn't know Kitty was bringing you. Does Peter . . ?" she asked the last in a low tone. Jessica led them off the platform and down the street.
Kitty snorted, and MJ smiled and shook her head. "Neither of us is dating the inestimable Mr. Parker right now. I think he's dating his costume."
Jessica snorted a laugh that sounded a lot like Peter's when he was surprised. "Yeah, I kinda got that from the news. No worries, though! I have fun and floor space aplenty. Thanks for getting the nurses off my back, Kitty," she said.
"No prob." Kitty waved it off. "I take it since you don't really have a concussion, there's another reason Red and I are in town for the weekend?"
Jessica Drew's eyes went dark. She nodded.
Blood samples, combined with a little time and ingenuity, had given the lab tech enough information to reverse-engineer a drug that granted superstrength for a little while—an addictive, mentally incapacitating drug, but that didn't mean there wouldn't be a market for it. Not in the day and age of the human bioweapon.
Jess held Kitty's head under the sprayer to get the last of the grit out of her hair. Water and shampoo ran clean down her arm. Kitty's hand trembled where it lay on her hip.
"Okay, you're done. Dry off and get to bed, okay?"
Kitty must be tired, Jess thought, since the mutant just nodded and did as she was bid. Jess poured out another handful of shampoo and started in on her own, thankfully shorter, mop. Shrapnel had torn her cowl up just enough to let plaster and other, grosser things that she didn't want to think about, into her hair.
She closed her eyes and breathed in the damp. She loved having Kitty and MJ over—for a variety of reasons—but some time alone to think was nice.
At least now she could think in the shower. For months after her … birth … Jess had barely been able to change clothes. Pieces of him—her—were missing, replaced by other pieces that behaved entirely differently than those she was used to. Not having to worry about random erections was nice, but not an adequate trade-off for having a period. Not to mention serious internal monologue pronoun problems.
Her memories until her birth were of being Peter Parker. She had his skills, his loves, his neuroses. She still looked up whenever someone called "Peter!" MJ had been her best friend for practically ever, and Kitty had been fun to talk to, a strong ally, a friend. But she couldn't take Peter's life from him, even if it felt like her life, too. Sure, she could've gone with the wacky, long-lost fraternal twin shtick, if she'd wanted her Nielson ratings to drop through the basement, but she still wouldn't be Peter Parker. She'd still have had to make up a new history, pretend not to be afraid of Flash or unused to Liz's fearmongering. Not to mention that she was still too Peter to want to put the extra strain on Aunt May. She loved her, and sometimes, responsibility meant leaving everyone and everything you loved.
But she'd gotten some of it back. Peter was being melodramatic and while she totally understood why, and sympathized, she couldn't be too sad because she was reaping the benefits.
Being a girl wasn't too bad. Weird, sometimes, still. Extra underwear. Extra creepy people watching you. New kind of bullies.
She'd done a lot of reading on the internet while she built a new life for herself out of the fortunes of supervillains, and while philosophy and gender studies weren't her usual academic focuses, they'd been interesting. In the ongoing argument about whether or how much body defined identity, she fell somewhere in the middle. She fell in the middle in a lot of ways, actually. Her body defined her because without it, she couldn't be a superhero. Its power gave her responsibility. At the same time, it definitely didn't define her, because she still didn't like to look at herself in mirrors, and only the fact that her school was all-girls had kept the number of embarrassing bathroom incidents down.
Her body worked, better than worked, and after all the reading she'd done she was grateful for that. Especially considering the "unnaturally aged and genderswapped clone of a superhero" thing.
Jess resisted the urge to bang her head against the wall. She ducked under the water and let it pound the shampoo out of her scalp.
The internet was a terrifying and wonderful thing, and there had been a lot of scary websites out there about gender identity and sexuality and surgery and furries. There'd been a few suggestions for solving her pronoun problem, too, but she felt stupid just reading them, let alone saying them. She had no clue what her gender identity was—boy in a girl's body getting used to being a girl? If there was a box for "confused" she'd tick that—and that meant labeling her sexuality was hard, because all the stupid words depended on stupid gender binaries that applied only in the most skewed fashion. She was attracted to women, she knew that much. But was she a lesbian? Straight? Maybe-sexual?
Now that her comforting "I'm a boy in a boy's body" identity had been taken away (it felt like that even if she was less than a year old and had always had this body, it felt like Otto-bowlcut-Octavius had stolen Peter/her life from her), she discovered all the nasty underpinnings. Criminals called her "cunt" and "bitch," threatened to "put her in her place," and sometimes copped a feel through the suit. Some days she felt like a girl only because the weight of society insisted that's what she was. Some days she wanted to scream at the people who called her names that she wasn't, she wasn't, she was a boy! She felt ashamed later, because that so wasn't the point, but she felt it nonetheless.
Thank God for her school. Thank God for MJ and Kitty, who'd given her her name.
"Gah!" MJ yelped when they ghosted through the bedroom ceiling, costumes intact and smug smiles on their faces.
Lab Tech was not going to be featured on this week's Sixty Minutes, because Spider-Woman had ruined every last vial of his supplies while Shadowcat had wiped the database and stolen back the blood.
The three had then spent the night in pajamas, talking and eating popcorn, because who was Jessica Drew not to watch two hot girls in PJs? Not to mention Peter had never been the strong and silent type.
When she'd told them, hesitantly, about her massive, massive issues, MJ had decided that she needed a new name.
"Not a completely new name," she protested when Kitty and Jessica had turned on her. "Just—you're not Peter any more, and black-hats-I-mean-ops people gave you Jessica Drew, and you don't know about the boy/girl thing, so—"
"Gender ambiguous nickname?" Kitty suggested.
"Like what?" Jessica, angry and scared, had challenged.
"I dunno. Jessie?" MJ suggested. Then she giggled, and Jessica had boggled at her. "It's just—Jessie—it always reminds me of Romancing the Stone." At Kitty and Jessica's blank looks, she'd sighed, and said, "It's a chick flick. The main character's a romance writer, and all her heroes are named 'Jesse.'"
Jessica made a face.
Kitty laughed. "Maybe not Jessie. Jess?" she suggested.
MJ brightened, and Jessica's face smoothed.
"It was the name of a guy in Gilmore Girls," Kitty said.
"Ah." MJ looked at Jessica.
"Jess," she said, trying it out. It sounded right. It sounded like just the name for her confused-ticky-box life. "Yeah. Jess."
Kitty was mostly asleep when Jess finally came into the bedroom. MJ was sitting up, reading her English homework, with Kitty curled up next to her hip. MJ, who showered in the morning, smelled like herself, and Kitty rubbed her nose against MJ's hip.
"Why aren't you this tired?" MJ asked as Jess climbed into the bed on Kitty's other side.
"Different superpowers," Jess explained. Kitty wriggled back into Jess, and the other girl gagged and brushed her wet hair up onto the pillow.
MJ laughed at them, put her book on the nightstand, and turned out the light. Kitty reached out with a sleepy hand and MJ cuddled up under her arm, making a toasty Shadowcat sandwich. Kitty giggled. Definitely tired.
Tired, comfortable and safe. Jess reached past Kitty to put her hand on MJ's arm, and MJ threw a leg over all three of them. Kitty drifted off to sleep pleased with the world.