Kari hummed happily to herself as she poured her mixed berry batter into prepared muffin tins. The kitchen was calm and silent except for the the low drone of the oven already working on a few loaves of cinnamon bread and the faint sounds of the Hell’s Kitchen coming awake outside. It already smelled wonderful and she knew from habit that the adjacent shop would be filled with the scent throughout the day.
There was a sudden loud thump from above that made her eyebrow quirk in amusement, but she didn’t stop her steady movements - it was followed by muted cursing and more small sounds she recognized as a body running into things. Kari wasn’t disturbed by any of this, after all, she knew it was simply the usual routine of her roommate who had awoken in their apartment upstairs - the other woman was never at her the most coordinated this early in the morning.
It was another ten minutes before a thin young woman stumbled down the stairs, in a shirt so large on her frame it must be stolen from her father, with her navy eyes still half closed, clutching a giant coffee mug. By that time the cinnamon bread and the muffins had traded places in the oven and Kari was working on a double batch of dark chocolate raspberry brownies.
“Bit of hair has escaped my bandana, Vi. Can you get it?” Kari asked distractedly as she measured ingredients. Violet, long used to doing such things for her friend while she worked in the kitchen, one-handed pulled a bobby pin from the pocket of Kari’s jeans and tucked back the red hair into place. All of this was done without releasing her death grip on her coffee mug.
“Good?” Violet croaked, even her usual monotone still rough with sleep.
“Mmhmm!” Kari responded cheerily, knowing it annoyed Vi that she was a morning person. In response, Violet made a groaning sound like a Frankenstein monster and guzzled her coffee. Kari didn’t even pretend not to laugh at her.
The thing was, Violet liked the idea of owning a bakery but she couldn’t actually bake. (None of the Parrs had any real skill in the kitchen.) She was also called away sporadically - sometimes for a week or so at a time. So, she couldn’t even really be the one to deal directly with the upkeep.
That’s where Kari came in. As long as Violet dealt with the supplies, the books, the advertising, and helped mind the till when she was actually there - well, Kari was happy to do the rest.
And even though they were doing relatively well for a small business, money wasn’t an issue for Violet. It wasn’t really for any of her siblings despite what their parents might think. Because what Bob and Helen Parr weren’t aware of was that Violet, Dash, and Jack-Jack had been working for the government, as a sort of specialty team, since they hit adulthood (a bit before for Jack-Jack if they were being honest) and their handler made sure they were always paid for their work.
It started because Rick had been an agent for a very long time and couldn't turn off the eye he had for talent; at this point in his life he simply knew what to look for in a person, know matter who they were to him. So, he had noticed early the way the kids powers grew steadily as they aged. The way they worked together as a team - but a team separate from their parents. How those combined skills grew as well (what was once a sphere Violet would form and float in while Dash ran now could become invisible and hold another person if needed while not losing much speed).
The potential they had - particularly for rescue missions, fast and invisible was obvious to him (Jack-Jack was too young to even consider for such things). But no matter the good they could do, he still thought of them as children (was still something of an Uncle to them) and worried about both their physical and mental health if they were pushed into the field to young. So instead, in the meantime, he trained them - took them out to abandoned or isolated places where someone going invisible or running faster than any transportation known to man wouldn’t be noticed. Their parents just considered it the kids visiting a friend of the family - and since they often went over to Lucius and Honey’s place as well (especially when Zeke, their son, was home from private school or college), it wasn’t considered particularly odd.
Rick drilled them so that they could work under pressure, he trained them in the history and psychology of super villains, mercenaries, and even worse organizations. He would not take credit for their teamwork because that was always there - as were many of their ideas for how to combine their powers, but he made sure it became second nature, that they wouldn’t fall into arguments or ego in the field. He was extremely hesitant when they brought Jack-Jack along to training when he was only ten but the boy wanted to join his siblings and was extremely stubborn (they all were, truly - it was something of a family trait). And he could admit later that it was the right choice.
(What he wouldn’t admit - even if it was terribly obvious - was that he had a soft spot when it came to the Parr children.)
But truly, if Violet and Dash had been good before, they were great when Jack-Jack was added to the team. He was somehow both an explosion of controlled chaos that forced creativity upon them and the glue that held them together. The nature of his power - that he could do anything, but could only hold one power at a time - forced them all to think outside the box. He held off sending them on an actual mission until Violet and Dash were adults and he felt they were thoroughly trained; he firmly told Jack-Jack he would have to wait until he was eighteen as well but didn’t quite believe that anymore than the kids did.
Rick tried to only ever send them in for extractions - whenever there were agents or civilians being held where the government couldn’t get to them without a lot of loss of life or political difficulty. Although he knew they would have to fight sometimes (he had specifically prepared them for it - hundreds of scenarios) he didn’t want that to be their life, didn’t want to ever put them in a position where they would have to use their powers to kill.
Invisible, fast, in and out without a trace - it became their specialty. Sometimes even the person they rescued never even saw them. Their reputation grew without anyone actually knowing who they were. It created a false sense of security that Rick sincerely blames himself for. Because by the time Violet and Dash were sent on what they thought was just another normal mission, it was already too late, it had turned extremely fast into a clusterfuck none of them were even remotely expecting.
His intel had them going to rescue a female political prisoner held captive in a rather small building. What they found instead was that the house was a front for a much larger facility holding many more people - including children - imprisoned, and showing possible signs of various testing. Possibly genetic.
The information relayed in those moments had been startling to him so he can only imagine how the children (although both Violet and Dash were solidly in there 20's by then) felt seeing it. Honestly, because of what came next he’s just glad that Jack-Jack was at least sixteen at that point.
In later debriefing Rick found out that their youngest member had been in constant mental contact the entire mission - probably had for all of their previous times out as well (although they didn’t admit it). And so when Jack-Jack had experienced what his older siblings were seeing he had teleported to join them without another moment's thought.
After that, the mission was not at all as subtle as the others had been previously. They made no attempt to be quiet here - but they did, at least he has to say, stay invisible. And, by the time they were done, Rick had a hole in the ground where the former facility used to be, believed by many to be formed by vengeful ghosts. His trio of ghosts had also helpfully left two flash drives neatly lined up on his desk with files Violet had downloaded from their server before Jack-Jack blew up the place, twenty two former captives (some of which were under ten), fourteen scientist, and ten security guard (all tied up with duct tape that Dash had found in a janitor’s closet).
After that Jack-Jack accompanied every time they went out - everyone was happier for it.
For a long time Loki simply watched him (sometimes in the form of a woman, sometimes as a man, always distinctly the same person to Jack-Jack). And Jack-Jack was well aware of this, and probably would have been more bothered by the whole thing if he hadn’t. But when you have a sister that can become invisible, a brother that travels incredibly fast and has a habit of circling a place multiple times before slowing down, and an “uncle” who has been part of shady organizations for pretty much his entire life - well, the Parr’s were pretty hard to stalk if they were not allowing themselves to be.
By the time Loki actually decided to approach him, his siblings had observed him enough to give their approval. And Uncle Rick had done enough of a background check (from his multitude of sources) and his own preliminary psychological review, to determine that either he was being controlled in some manner during the New York affair or something significant had changed in his life since (which was the same as giving approval for Uncle Rick).
Jack-Jack told Loki all of this calmly over coffee, in his sister’s shop, on their first official meeting (taking some hidden delight in the bafflement his family's ways brought in the trickster - and the way Kari barely tried to hide her snicker in the background).
And that was all before Jack-Jack took him to Edna.
He had been working for Edna since he was barely a teenager. His mother had taken him along after school to go pick up some adjusted super-suits and while they had been talking, he had become distracted looking at some sketches laid out. Absolutely fascinated in the potential just a few lines on a page could have.
Edna had seen him and stopped talking to his mother abruptly, walking right up until she was very close to him - he had dropped what he was looking at when he noticed the attention. But she had only started firing off questions, some that made sense (about fabrics and designers) and some far flung (about animals, the sinking of large vessels, or his powers.)
In the end Edna spun on her heel back towards his mother and imperiously demanded Jack-Jack be her assistant. She agreed - although Helen Parr was Elastigirl, she could not stand up to the petiet force of nature. Jack-Jack had yet to meet anyone who could.
He would learn as he got older, that she had never had an assistant before - that the position that he held was one some people would kill for probably. But Edna had been fascinated by both his powers, and the mind that would be needed to manipulate such powers - the creativity, chaos, and control. She wanted to help him grow and was oddly perfectly situated to do so - and so she would. For Edna, such things were that simple.
Loki would later tell him that he had not understood at first. That when he first encountered this young man with such unlimited potential and chaos inside of him, he could not see why there was seemingly no wish to either rule or destroy. It was baffling how he could seem so content with such a mundane life. He watched out of fascination and jealousy - but mostly because he wanted to understand .
But, as much as he observed, Loki could not truly understand until he met Jack-Jack. Until he saw how tightly intertwined the relationship between the siblings were, until he discovered how many people loved and supported the soft-spoken red-head (and would extend that to any they saw as loyal friends of the Parr’s as well). That his life truly wasn’t very mundane at all.
And he most certainly had not understood that watching Jack-Jack for so long, meeting those that loved him, spending time with him - even with all of his plans he could not have predicted - that fascination and jealousy could morph so seamlessly into interest and love.
Jack-Jack might have warned him (he had fallen a bit earlier - nearly at the beginning really - while pretending not to watch a dark haired woman or man with such green green eyes), but he had always figured that was the type of thing best sorted out for oneself.
Jessica Jones felt there were very few things more funny in the entire world than a drunk Violet Parr. It took a while for her to get there - a surprisingly long while given how thin the girl was - but once she hit that wall - well.
“Your mom is Mr. Fantastic,” Violet said while emphatically poking another random drunk. Then her nose scrunched up, “No, wait, that’s my mom.” She blinked her impossibly large eyes in confusion for a moment. “Fuck, I hate those four,” she concluded in her usual monotone before wandering away from the man and back over to Jessica in the corner of the bar. As Violet flopped into a seat beside her, she smirked, none too nicely, at the people who stared at them until everyone turned away.
“Why are we in this dump?” she asked Violet, with a wave of her bottle around the place.
The other powered woman laughed, “Like where we usually go is soo high class.”
Jessica snorted at that and had to agree. Violet was one of her few friends - they went drinking about once a week, always at real shit dive bars - and tended to have a great time getting wasted and freaking people the fuck out. This one they were currently in, in Hell’s Kitchen, was really just typical.
She had actually met the dark-haired woman because Violet had been having a drinking contest with a man three times her size, and of course, she had stopped to watch. Violet had won to, a cheer from the crowd, and arm raised wobbly triumph - only most of her arms had gone involuntarily invisible by this point.
When she had noticed, she had frowned at her own arms, made a motion like she was shaking them, and when that didn’t work she had shrugged, and gotten another beer. (The rest of the crowd didn’t seem to care - but, then again, this part of town had seen much weirder shit). Jessica had laughed and joined her, they had been friends ever since.
Presently, she caught Violet up on her week and then got to hear about Kari and the bakery (actually called The Bakery because - as Violet said, “I don’t have Jack-Jack’s creativity and fuck, that’s what it is.”). Some weeks she got to hear a few vague details about missions the Parr siblings had gone on and she would respond with talk about the agency.
But this week seemed to be slow for both of them - they still enjoyed just sitting and drinking though, going over stupid shit they’d talked and laughed about a hundred times before. When Jessica glanced up she noticed some man watching them - or more specifically, Violet.
With a frown, she glanced over too and then bit her lip because Violet was tilted on the back legs of her chair, tipping the bottle all the way back to get the last drops of her beer - but the hand holding it had gone invisible. She snorted and Violet’s eyes glanced over without changing position, and very slowly she raised her eyebrow. Tipsy herself, Jessica started laughing uncontrollably.
Once she got back under control, Violet was sitting regularly again and she explained to her about the man. The mischievous smile the curled over her face made Jessica grin again (fuck, this was the best part of her week).
It was slightly surprising how Violet managed to casually slide out of her seat and walk towards the man at the bar without seeming to mean to (and without barely stumbling). Once there, she glanced at the man with the shoulder length blonde hair, wearing a suit, but clearly a regular to Josie’s. The whole time he had been watching her while trying to pretend he wasn’t.
Then Violet smiled widely directly at him and he stopped pretending and looked up, seeming struck in surprise.
Violet then leaned in and whispered something in his ear, the man’s expression shifted from a slightly intrigued confusion to utter bafflement and Jessica felt her own lips twitch in another smile. She almost felt bad for him - at this point in sobriety (as in not at all ) Violet’s brain could come up with some truly random things. She had once forlornly explained to her that global warming had stolen her beer and that was why she was voting for the Green Party.
It hadn’t even been an election year.
But then, as she was watching, Violet slipped the man a piece a paper, turned and winked at her, and then promptly left the bar.
The man watched her leave, then looked down at what was probably a phone number (but then again - drunk Violet - she hesitated to guess), then towards Jessica as if she could explain her friend’s behavior. Jessica gave him an apathetic shrug in response, she was feeling all good - pleasantly buzzed and amused, plus this was pretty normal in her book.
And she knew Violet would be fine getting home - it was one of the things she liked about hanging out with her, she never had to worry about protecting the other woman. Because like the way her invisibility tended to come out more when she got drunk, her shields would automatically snap into place when she was in danger, making mugging (or worse) pretty impossible. If she was too drunk to even walk home Violet would simply call Jack-Jack to come teleport her (as in literally call - yell, at nothing until he appeared. And he would. She had seen it happen multiple times, he had even offered her a lift before. There were some aspects of their family dynamic that Jessica had long since given up understanding.)
She wasn’t upset by Violet leaving abruptly either because they rarely said goodbye to each other, neither of them cared about that sort of thing. It didn’t make sense when they would just see each other next week anyway. And she couldn’t fault her a great exit.
Kari was humming to herself along to the radio, as she finished up sweeping the mostly dark, closed shop. With odd grace she grabbed the dust pan, crouched down, swept the little pile upon it, rose, and dumped the last of the dirt and crumbs into a nearby trash can.
She was washing her hands back in the kitchen, when she heard a knocking on the locked door. Her face broke out in a smile, and still drying her hands she hurried over to it.
Once she threw the door open, a red and black mask that seemed like it was smiling greeted her.
“Wade!” she exclaimed happily, hugging him, careful of the katanas, guns, and knives all over his person.
“Kari!” he returned, probably to be in on the fun of saying people’s names loudly - but also because he was glad to see her too.
She hurried him along inside and locked the door back again. It had been a while since the last time someone had tried to rob the place, but she didn’t want to test fate. Actually, it had been while Wade and her were having a Disney movie marathon (the others refused to watch with them anymore - after the incident ) and debating alternate sexualities for different Princesses. He had been particularly displeased to be interrupted in the middle of his spirited rant about Ariel’s obvious pansexuality (being asexual, herself, she was pulling for ace!Snow White). No one had tried since, despite that being almost a year ago - and this being Hell’s Kitchen.
“Where’s Peter today?” she asked, once they were back in the kitchen.
“He had to go visit, Aunt May,” Wade pouted.
“Then I guess you just have to eat all the day old’s yourself,” she said mock forlornly.
“If I must, good Lady Kari, then I must,” he declared, with a fist over his heart, as if taking an oath.
They both fell into giggles and Wade actually squeed when she gave him the basket of desserts.
She had actually met Wade because of Peter in a way.
He had tracked down the Parr’s to The Bakery - which honestly probably wasn’t terribly hard to do for a mercenary of Deadpool’s caliber. The siblings had pretty much shed the monikers they went by when they were younger and took missions - secretly, of course - in their own names these days.
(Mr. Rick had been upset at the breach in security but he got upset with a lot of little things, Kari thought. Like back when her mind refused to be blanked when she was a teenager. That had made him awfully upset for awhile, until he figured out it was just Kari - and that her mind was probably protected by one of baby Jack-Jack’s various powers.)
Deadpool had been looking for Violet because he wanted to hire the Parr trio for a very specific extraction. When he had told her this in front of her till (with a line waiting behind him), Kari had sighed, given him a brownie, and directed him to go sit in the kitchen while she called Vi.
It was only a matter of minutes before her roommate could gather the others and appear through either teleportation or super-speed. And they all left quickly after a short explanation.
Late that night they came home tired and triumphant with a rather beat up skinny brown haired young man in their midst who Kari was told almost absentmindedly was Peter Parker. Spiderman. And they had just rescued him from a testing facility (Kari was rather more aware than she probably should be of how many people they had bust out of such places).
Then there had been wide eyes and panicked looks from the man in question who was unused to the Parr's casual disregard for secret identities (mostly their own). Kari just sighed, patted him on the head, and made everyone dinner. Wade and Peter got third helpings and open invitations to their place. Jack-Jack also demanded the right to bring their costumes to Edna to figure out something that would work better - he seemed so offended that they agreed to this as well.
Kari was very glad that Wade actually took them up on their offer and would show up either at the bakery during the day or at night sometimes just to hang out. They very quickly struck up a close friendship that was a bit baffling to some people (being that he was a well-known mercenary that always wore a distinctive suit and she was a pale red-headed bakery co-owner that liked to take care of people) but neither of them paid much attention to such things.
They had been watching weird French animated films lately. The latest had been about a cat that led a double life. Wade had told her he called Black Cat the wrong name accidently (/on purpose) for a week after.
As Wade munched on the day-olds, Kari turned out the kitchen lights, checked all the downstairs locks again, and then led the way to the upstairs apartment. As she opened the door he helpfully flipped on the lights with his elbow.
“Are we sticking with French made?” Kari asked heading for the DVDs she had picked up from the library that past weekend.
“‘Tis funny,” Wade responded both with a horrible accent and with food in his mouth. She snorted in amusement.
“Then we have “The Triplets of Belleville” or “The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec”,” Kari held both boxes towards him so he could see the covers.
At the sight of one he made an excited noise, “She’s riding a fucking pterodactyl!”
“And we have a vote for Adele Blanc-Sec,” she said with a surprisingly good french accent, while she tossed the other DVD onto the coffee table. “Zeke recommended this one.”
“I’m getting snacks!” Kari heard from the general direction of the home kitchen, making her grin, as she made her way over to the entertainment center.
By the time everything was set up, Wade was back with his arms full of drinks and homemade dips, with the chips balanced on his head. And Kari just knew this would be an awesome evening.
For a few moments he only half-noticed the comforting warmth when Zeke sat his chin on his shoulder from behind, so he could read what Dash was writing. Because when he was in the zone like this his brain and his fingers worked so fast normal laptops simply could not keep up. Zeke had actually managed to get him one specially made that worked perfectly, their first Christmas as a couple. He was weirdly cagey about who he got it from though. But, then again, both Kari and his boyfriend knew a surprising number of not quite legal persons, given their mundane jobs.
It also perpetuated a part of Dash’s brain, that just seem to exist to sigh dreamily over the other boy - and had since he had been a pre-teen. He was honestly surprised at how little his sister had made fun of him for it growing up. He must have been super obvious, given how little subtly he is capable of now. But then, when they were younger, the opportunities to see Zeke were always few and far between.
Because, Honey and Lucius Best’s son was quite literally a genius. And he might have a super power because of his parents - the ability to change his density - but they saw his mind as something far greater and were not about to let it go to waste. So, for as long as Dash could remember, the other boy was going through accelerated learning programs. Until, before anyone could quite believe it, Zeke had his graduate degree and was a professor of geology.
Ironically, it wasn’t until then, when the other man had become stationary, that Dash felt solid enough to approach him about something more than friendship. Now, it seems weird to think of life without him, without having home to run back to. And Zeke is home to him.
“Dashiel,” he heard sing-songed in his ear, breaking him out of his distraction - Dash’s full name usually did.
“Hm,” he responded to let Zeke know he had heard even though he was still typing. There was action, there was romance, there were epic fights with death and rebirth, and so much banter.
“You’ve been using their actual names again,” was all he said amusement clear in his tone, before standing up straight again. Dash started cursing to himself, as Zeke walked off to the kitchen to make lunch.
They had an agreement with food that suited them: Zeke would do the cooking at home and Dash would go get it whenever they ordered out. This worked out well since Dash couldn’t cook (and Zeke didn’t mind it) and it meant they could order from pretty much anywhere in the world and, with his speed, it would still be hot.
About half an hour later, he heard Zeke call that lunch was ready. And so Dash saved his work, stood from his chair, and stretched.
“Done with Spideypool for the morning,” Zeke asked teasingly. And Dash, not for the first time cursed his pale complexion - and the fact that he had dubbed their friends with that moniker while he was drunk one time. It still amused him though that so many people bought his “fictional” books about superheroes.
“Just for this morning,” he returned as casually as he could while blushing, glad that there was the distraction of some really awesome omelets Zeke had made, already set out. And for a while they ate at the counter in comfortable silence.
“Hey,” Dash broke it after a few minutes when something occurred to him. “How come no one has been talking about that thing that happened with the sun.”
Zeke looked at him blankly a bit of egg on his fork, halfway to his mouth.
“You know,” he said, waving his arm for emphasis too fast to actually be seen clearly, “when it changed colors.”
His partner slowly lowered his fork still staring at him.
“Dash,” he asked slowly, “when exactly did this happen. And where were you?”
Dash hesitated then, whens and wheres tended to get tricky with him - time zones and boundaries between countries were very malleable to him.
Recognizing the look on his face, Zeke adjusted his questions in response, “What were you doing when the sun changed colors, what else did you notice around you?”
These things Dash could answer easily. “I was testing my speed like Uncle Rick asked me to do the other week - I think I broke my record actually,” he mentioned offhandedly. “I looked down to check but that stopwatch had died, remember,” Zeke nodded and seemed to be concentrating fully on the story.
“And then I looked up and the sky was this really vibrant shade of blue - and the sun seemed way too red. I went to try to find Vi, Jack-Jack, Kari, or you but none of you were where you should be,” he said trying not to show how scared and alone that had made him feel.
Zeke must have seen something anyway because he reached out and held his hand. Dash took a deep breath and smiled tremulously before continuing. “And so, I just ran again. Fast, I was - well, kinda panicking then. But when I stopped again, I was back home.”
They were both quiet for a few beats.
Then Zeke said calmly, “Honestly, I think you managed to cross over into another dimension.”
“Huh,” Dash considered this. “Yeah, that makes sense.”
Then they finished their omelets.