Mystique blinked in surprise at the knock on the door.
Living out in the middle of nowhere the way she and Victor were, there weren't many visitors. Even door-to-door salesmen tended to ignore countryside houses. So who on earth was knocking on the door now?
... Well, at least Victor was asleep right now. It was probably someone with car trouble and a dead phone. She'd let them call a tow-truck and get out. Her husband would know the stranger had been in the house from the smell, but he couldn't do much about it if he wanted to maintain a low profile.
Sighing as another knock came, she donned her ‘normal’ skin and dried her hands.
“Coming!” she yelled at the third knock, a more frantic hammering.
On her way to the door, Mystique took her time to peer out one of the windows. Just in case.
She found herself looking at a pair of kids. A young man pacing back and forth, sneering at the redheaded girl who was now sitting patiently on the doorstep. She couldn't make out much of the girl aside from her hair and dress, but she'd been treated to a full three-sixty of the boy thanks to his pacing.
A young couple, perhaps? Looked like the boy had a bit of an attitude. Definitely a good thing Victor was asleep, he'd tear the punk apart for sure.
And Mystique really liked this house.
Preparing herself for the worst all the same, she opened the door with a cheery smile pasted on her face. “I'm sorry I took so long, I was in the middle of the dishes! How can I help you?” she asked in as sweet a voice she could manage.
The girl stood up, turning around, and Mystique recognized her.
“Mystique?” the Starkling asked with her head tipped to the side.
“I thought you knew, brat!” the boy barked, baring his teeth in a snarl.
“Hush,” the girl waved off, still looking up at Mystique, “Are you, ma'am?”
Slowly, she leaned down to eye-level with the Starkling. As she did so, she let her real eyes show. Quietly, Mystique said, “Nothing good ever comes to children who kick hornet nests.”
The Starkling just smiled, asking, “Would Victor happen to be around, or is he off hassling someone?”
Mystique lunged forward, grabbing the girl by her throat. But just as quickly, she found a set of claws at her own throat. Her gaze traveled along the arm they belonged to and up to the boy.
“Sorry,” he growled, “As much as I'd like to rip her a new one too, if anything happens to the brat it's my ass getting flambé'd.”
“What happened to that beat-up-Johnny attitude you had two days ago?” the Starkling asked playfully, shockingly calm for the situation.
“Pfft. I can take your sitter any day, brat, it's the whole mess of people he'll bring with him. I know my limits.” the boy scoffed.
“... What do you want.” Mystique growled, breaking into the brewing back-and-forth.
“This guy Victor, is he the hell around?” the boy growled back, pressing his claws against her skin just enough to make blood well up.
“And if he isn't?” she replied coolly, letting go of the Starkling and standing up, away from the claws. It was... coincidental, really. A mutant with retractable claws like that looking for Victor. If she wasn't thinking more on what Iron Man's whelp wanted, maybe Mystique would have looked closer at the punk. Searched for any more similarities.
“If he isn't, then Daken and I will go back to the motel and try again tomorrow. We... well, I'm not here to cause trouble. Jury is out on Daken.” the Starkling answered with a shrug.
“What business do you have with Victor?” she challenged.
“He's my uncle.” the punk— Daken— bit out.
Mystique blinked, turning to look at the young mutant. “... Forgive my skepticism, but I wasn't aware that James had any offspring.”
The Starkling piped up, saying, “If you need proof, I can fetch the SHIELD files from the car.”
That was... hm.
“Victor's asleep right now,” Mystique said, stepping aside, “But perhaps you should fetch those files and come in.”
The girl nodded and turned to scamper off down the driveway. The car parked there looked like it had once been a vintage convertible, but was now a soft, feminine lilac color with ‘tears’ allowing bronze steampunk decals to ‘peek through.’ Didn't exactly scream Stark, but neither did the little Starkling.
Mystique watched as the girl leaned over the car-doors, kicking her feet a bit before straightening back up. The Starkling flipped through whatever she had grabbed, then nodded, running back. Mystique eyed the blue manila warily. It looked like it had been taken straight out of a SHIELD filing cabinet.
All the same, she let the two in, directing them to the sitting room. Daken stood with his arms crossed, and the Starkling sat daintily on the couch, offering Mystique the folder. Cautiously, she accepted.
Now that she was holding it, she could see it was cheaper quality than the folders SHIELD used. Nothing like the ones she'd handled in the past. And the color was more saturated. Probably came in a back with the rest of the rainbow.
Silently, Mystique let her gaze drift up. The Starkling was watching her patiently, hands folded in her lap. Daken was peering around as if bored. After a moment's pause, Mystique let her ‘normal’ skin slip away. Daken startled a bit at the change, but then gave a low, appreciative whistle. The Starkling didn't even blink, just commented, “You're very pretty.”
“Flattery won't get you anywhere.” Mystique warned.
“I beg to differ, but it was simply an honest observation. Normal people would have to use body-paint, implants, and prosthetics to achieve what you look like naturally. And it's beautiful.” the Starkling replied.
She didn't answer, instead turning her attention to the folder in her hands as she sat down. Flipping it open, she was greeted by a threat-assessment on one Daken Akihiro. A Japanese-American mutant, the page stated, with retractable claws in his knuckles and wrist, hyper regeneration, heightened senses, and pheromone control.
Well... that was something.
Eyes narrowed, Mystique continued to read.
A few of the pages, she found, were transcriptions of an interview with Wolverine. About Daken. Where the man claimed the boy as his own. The page directly after the interview was DNA test results.
Positive paternal donor.
“... Well,” Mystique said, “What do you get out of this, Lady Stark?”
“Felicity, please. And this was part of an agreement I had with Daken. I required a favor, and promised to help introduce him to his uncle if he agreed.” the girl answered.
“... What kind of favor?” Mystique frowned.
“As a bodyguard, mostly. I'm notably not the most combat-adept, and needed something of an insurance policy when I went to form a partnership with New York's Kingpin, in case things went south.”
“And some mutant extremist. I said, didn't I?” Daken grunted.
Mutant extremist...? They couldn't mean...
“Magneto?” Mystique questioned.
The girl bobbed her head, humming.
“Whatever you want from him, chances of getting it are slim. I'd advise looking elsewhere.” she informed the Starkling.
“Part of the reason why I planned to take Daken. I know it isn't safe. It's an occupational hazard.” the girl smiled back.
Before anything else could be said, the punk snapped to attention, baring his teeth with a growl. Almost instantly, he was tackled and thrown to the wall, leaving something of a dent in the paneling.
“Morning, Victor.” Mystique greeted as her husband loomed over Daken.
The boy— somewhat predictably, in her opinion— leapt up, yowling and swiping at Victor's throat. Victor blocked him easily, grabbing his wrist and spinning him around. A loud crack sounded, and Daken snarled, thrashing and squirming.
“Who the hell are they?” Victor snarled, pinning the boy against the wall.
“Iron Man's daughter and your nephew.” Mystique replied calmly as the Starkling watched with her head tipped to the side.
“... Jimmy's got a kid?” her husband asked, nose crinkled.
“Lady Stark here brought us proof. SHIELD files with James talking about the kid, and DNA results showing positive.” she nodded, holding up the folder.
Victor looked at Daken, who was hissing what sounded like curses as he managed to get free. The boy tried to swat at Victor again, but was batted aside. “... Since when?”
“About twenty-four years ago now.” the Starkling answered easily.
“... Well fuck.” Victor said, looking Daken up and down as the boy did similar, still bristling. “... Why's he here?”
“Because much like how you didn't know he existed, Daken didn't know you existed.” the Starkling hummed.
“She agreed to introduce us as a family if he did some work for her.” Mystique elaborated drily.
Victor didn't answer, slowly tipping his head in the way he did when curious about something. After a moment of silence, he swatted the boy. Instead of going flying, Daken managed to grab on, snarling angrily as he dug his claws in.
“Kinda weak, ain'tcha?” Victor grunted.
“Fuck you!” the boy spat.
“Not as sharp as Jimmy, either.” Victor chuckled, slamming Daken against the wall and making the dent bigger.
“Not inside, please.” Mystique sighed, giving her head a small shake. Her husband grinned, dragging the snarling, screaming kid towards the back door. “... I think he likes him.”
“He looked like he was enjoying himself, yes.” the Starkling chuckled, turning back to her. “And your opinion?”
“On what?” she frowned, glaring.
“Hm. Why don't you tell me, Mystique?” the girl smiled.
It was a fake smile. The kind of smile Mystique was all too used to giving. The kind you gave to maintain appearances.
“Show me your real face.” she ordered, ready to snap the girl's neck if need be.
The smile dropped. Became cold, steely. Dark.
“... What are you trying to do? A kid like you isn't the kind to hang out with Daken and crime lords. You have your daddy and his friends.” Mystique growled.
“Simple,” the Starkling replied, crossing her legs, “I'm aiming to be the big bad.”
She narrowed her eyes.
“You can ask Daken. He knows. He finds my goals hilarious.” the girl said, giving her head a jerk in the direction Victor and Daken had gone. “But I have no real need to pester you or your husband. I am making alliances, partnerships. All with the intent to further myself in the underworld. Daken is helping me with that. But you and your husband have settled down. I see no need to drag the two of you into things. I am here to reunite a friend with his family.”
Mystique glared. “I don't trust you.” she informed the brat sharply.
That just earned another dark and grim smile. The girl leaned forward, and said one, simple word. Almost like a challenge. A dare.