"A Painful Process"
The Avengers had just gotten used to
the 'Luke Rogers' persona when
Loki threw a monkey wrench into it.
"Who the hell is this?" Betty said,
staring at the other woman.
She was tall and slim, with
long seal-brown hair that fell to
her waist in soft waves, and
arresting blue-green eyes.
"I'm Lucy Rogers? I'm here
about the job?" she said.
"What the hell are you doing
on our floor?" Betty said.
"Mr. Stark told me to meet
him here?" Lucy said.
Clint ambled into the room
with a box of Lucky Charms.
"Morning, Betty. Morning, boss."
"Wait, that's Loki?" Betty squawked.
"No, that's Lucy," Clint said.
"Different shape, different name."
"O ... kay," Betty said slowly.
"It would have been nice to know
about this development before
you guys gave me a heart attack."
"Sorry," Clint said. "I knew it was
a possibility, but nobody told me
they were moving forward with it."
"Tony is a dick," Betty muttered.
"Yeah, but we love him anyway,"
Clint said, looking at Lucy.
"Did I do something wrong?"
Lucy asked, shifting in place.
"No, you look great," Clint said.
"People just weren't expecting it.
You changed a lot, didn't you?"
"I used the same templates
that I did for Luke," she said.
"The changes are ... considerable.
I am not used to these parameters."
"Okay, well, you've been female before,
and you've been Luke before," said Clint.
"This is just another step. You'll get
the hang of it soon enough."
"I'm not used to seeing you
so ... insecure," Betty said.
Lucy sighed. "I haven't finished
the face yet. Whenever I try to set up
the confidence front, everything
sort of shifts under me."
"Oh, that," Betty said.
Yeah, it's a bitch." She
frowned. "I didn't know
it could be genetic, though."
"It's not genetic, it's more like
using SillyPutty to pick up
newsprint," Clint explained.
"Loki borrowed from Steve and
Bucky to make Luke, and now Lucy,
but there's also some sort of
cultural imprint outside it."
"That sucks," Betty said.
"What sucks?" Tony said,
walking into the room along with
Natasha. "I don't see any sucking."
"Imposter syndrome sucks,"
Betty said, waving at Lucy.
"New body problems?"
Tony said as he looked
up and down Lucy.
She shrugged. "It is ...
an adjustment," Lucy said.
"Why did you not warn them?"
"I wanted to see how people
would handle you, not knowing
that you're you," Tony said.
"Betty was surprised," Lucy said.
"Clint recognized me at once."
"Yeah, well, we know Clint has
ulterior resources," Tony said.
He turned to Betty. "What do
you think? Can she pass?"
"As what?" Betty said.
"Female," Tony said.
"If not, I can call and hire
a gender coach, but there aren't
any human coaches, or weren't
the last time I checked."
"I have not found
any human coaches
either," JARVIS said.
"Guys, she's not passing,
she is female," Clint said.
"So is Gertrude, but that didn't
stop Walter from still calling her
'George' until I fired his ass, and that
was just embarrassing for everyone,"
Tony said. "So Stark Industries has
a policy of hiring a gender coach for
any employee who needs one."
"Lucy doesn't need a gender coach,
she needs other girls to hang out with
who can help get her feet under her,"
Betty said. "It's not that other people
won't believe she's a woman, it's that
she's having trouble believing in herself."
"This society is a challenge," Lucy said.
"Every time I think I have it figured out,
something new blindsides me instead."
"Learning is always a painful process,"
Natasha said. "Like when you're little, and
your bones are growing, and you ache all over."
"So are you volunteering to take on the job
of girl friend?" Betty asked Natasha.
"I will take Lucy out shopping. She will
need new clothes. I am better at shopping
than socializing," said Natasha. "You will
introduce Lucy to Gertrude and Tiffany, since
they will be working in the same department."
"Wait, what?" Betty said. "Did everyone
know about this project except me?
How could you know that?"
"Publicity is the department
that posted an opening yesterday,
but internal-only, not public,"
Natasha said smugly.
"Why do I even bother
trying to surprise you people?"
Tony muttered, glaring at her.
"I was surprised," Betty said.
"You're lucky it was me and not
one of our more volatile members."
Lucy took a half-step behind Tony.
"Yeah, you'll do fine," he said.
"Come on, we can use one of
the back rooms for the interview."
"Why are you interviewing her?"
Betty wondered. "You already
know what Loki can do."
"I know what Loki can do
in battle, and a few other bits
and bobs from Thor's stories,"
Tony said. "I don't know what Loki
could do with publicity, and I
don't know Lucy at all."
Clint chuckled. "I don't
think you need to worry
about that," he said.
"They don't call him
'Silvertongue' for nothing."
"That's what I'm hoping,"
Tony said. "Come on, Lucy,
let's get this show on the road."
She took a few hesitant steps.
"Okay, no, not like that," Tony said.
"You got to walk it like you own it."
"But you own the Tower and
everything in it, except for
personal quarters," Lucy said.
"All the Avengers have a share in
the common floor," Tony said.
"Steve and Bucky both claim you
as family, so that includes you now."
"Oh," Lucy said softly. "I hadn't
thought of it quite like that."
"Well, now you know," Tony said.
"So put some strut in your stuff.
Nobody believes a publicity agent
who creeps around like a mouse."
"Sorry," said Lucy. "I'm not
used to being ... this."
"I know Asgard is
a lot of things," Tony said.
"Earth may have its problems,
but gender is one place where
we've made a lot of progress."
"You really have no idea,"
Steve said, coming into the room.
"Oh, hi. You must be new here.
I'm Steve, pleased to meet you."
Lucy laughed, high and bright.
"Hello. I'm Lucy Rogers."
It took a moment for
the penny to drop.
Then Steve smiled.
"Are you okay?"
he asked gently.
"I hear that top step
can be a doozy."
had been different in
his day, and Steve had
gotten hassled just for
being a male artist.
"I am fine," Lucy said.
"People have offered to help."
"Good," Steve said. "If you
need a hand fine-tuning
your makeup for that body,
let me know. You'll need
different eye shadow for sure,
and brown liner, not black."
"Natasha has offered to take me
out shopping," Lucy said.
"That's great, but Natasha
is a better canvas than
an artist," Steve said.
"So come with us,"
Natasha said. "We will
visit some of the malls
to look at different things."
"Sure," said Steve. "JARVIS,
clear my afternoon schedule."
"Cleared," said JARVIS.
"Your new schedule is in
your personal calendar."
"That leaves us the morning
for the interview and introductions,"
Tony said. "Chop-chop, everyone!"
Despite his high-handed manner,
the Avengers had been accommodating,
and introducing Lucy was not so much of
a painful process as it could have been.
* * *
Lucy: [suddenly pinning Jang's hands to the chair with knives] Learning is always a painful process. Like when you're little, and your bones are growing, and you ache all over.
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