A few weeks later, Reed’s project was complete. Reed, Susan and Crystal had delivered and presented it to NASA’s review panel and it had passed with flying colours. They had arrived back at Baxter building and were celebrating with Ben, Johnny and a few of their close friends with a small cocktail party.
Reed and Susan worked their way towards each other in the crowd and stood at the front of the room. Susan tapped her glass to draw everyone’s attention to them as Reed raised a glass in toast.
“First off, I wanted to thank you all for coming her tonight to celebrate with us. It’s been a stressful few months but we finally finished!” Clapping started around the room and the couple smiled at their guests.
“Secondly” Reed continued, “I wanted to thank our newest member of the research team. Crystal, you are a brilliant scientist and will accomplish great things. To Crystal!” Reed, Susan, and the rest of their company turned to Crystal. She was off in one side of the room standing by herself but looking lovely in an aquamarine short cocktail dress, her hair down and curly for once. She raised her glass in thanks and smiled at Reed and Susan.
When the guests turned back to each other to converse, Crystal’s smile faltered slightly as she saw Johnny Storm making his was to her. ‘He won’t ever give up will he?’ she thought to herself. Ever since Reed gave her the job and she moved in, Johnny had been trying every trick and pickup line in the book on her. She didn’t care if he was the Human Torch; she had seen him in the tabloids and knew he was a huge, reckless, player.
Susan watched her brother go to make a fool out of himself once again. She rolled her eyes at her husband and turned to face one of their good friends Scott Lang.
“How’s your daughter Scott? Still up in elementary school upstate with her mom?”
“Yes she is, I just went to visit her last weekend actually.” Scott Lang replied through tight lips. Susan guessed it didn’t go so well, the divorce between him and his wife wasn’t the cleanest break.
That night Susan couldn’t sleep, too many thoughts were running through her head. She went out to the kitchen to make a cup of tea when she saw the laboratory light on. Confused, she went to investigate. Reed had been sleeping beside her when she left, who could it be? She saw Crystal, in yoga pants and a sweater, curled up in one of the desk chairs reading a book.
Susan smiled, ‘That girl needs to chill on the research’ she thought. Before she could turn back to the kitchen Susan saw something out of the corner of her eye. Crystal seemed to be playing with something in her hand, mindlessly rolling it between her fingers. It looked spherical, and clear. Susan looked beside Crystal and saw she had a glass of water on the table. By the time Susan looked back, Crystal’s hand was holding the book, like it had always been there. Dismissing it as a trick of the eyes from lack of sleep, Susan made her cup of tea and went back to sleep.
Things at the Baxter Building had finally settled down. Crystal had become a normal part of the family, joining them at meals and holding down the fort when the team went on routine patrols. Ben asked her for relationship advice and she and Susan helped pick outfits for his dates. Even though she was Reed’s assistant, Susan sometimes borrowed her for some of her many press conferences. Crystal had a knack for organizing things, which was something Susan desperately needed. Instead of stressfully organizing powerpoint slides or papers and papers of proposals, Crystal had them all neatly done on one memory stick and one binder. Even Johnny had laid off of her. However, that may have been due to the fact that Crystal was seeing someone. The topic had come up one night a few weeks after the celebration party.
Crystal had walked into the living room while Reed, Susan, Ben, and Johnny had been debriefing about a recent patrol. Crystal had been wearing a royal blue knee-length dress, blazer, and silver high heels. Her make was done and her hair was piled on top of her head in elaborate twists and braids.
Susan had gasped when Crystal came into the room, “Oh Crystal! You look gorgeous!”
Crystal smiled, “It’s all because of your amazing hair styling Sue, I’ve never seen it looking more elegant”
“Looking good Crys” Ben agreed, giving her a thumbs up sign.
“Where are you going?” Johnny had asked. He gave the tone of surprise that she ever left the house which Crystal immediately picked up on.
“I’m not the only one who goes on dates you know” She retorted back, referring to Johnny’s numerous number of dates, 90% of which ended back up here in his bedroom.
“YOU? Have a DATE?” He replied hot-headedly.
“As a matter of fact I do” Crystal replied, “I met him at the bookstore and he asked me out.” She looked at her watch, “Actually I’d better leave now, I’m meeting him at that restaurant on 45th and Brooklyn” She had waved goodbye and left Johnny sitting there with his mouth open in shock. It seemed like he thought she was a lab rat who didn’t have a social life.
And so Crystal had started seeing this guy for the last little bit. Reed and Susan at first had been concerned that she would be bringing him back here to hang out but Crystal had firmly squashed their concern.
“It’s not serious, I don’t see why we can’t just keep going on dates and not just ‘hang out’ at each other’s places. Besides, my room is closer to your equipment than Johnny’s is. “
Reed and Susan had made sure that Johnny’s room had a door to the corridor so his ‘dates’ didn’t have access to the main house. Crystal’s room had been the spare bedroom which was closest to the laboratory than Ben’s or Susan and Reeds’. Content that she had a firm head on her shoulder, Susan and Reed relaxed knowing they didn’t have to worry about her.
And so, instead of trying to flirt with her Johnny had resumed his regular job as the annoyance. His and Crystal’s arguments had become a regular feature in the Baxter building. This particular day they had been arguing about dating and bringing people home.
“Well that’s your personal opinion isn’t it?” Crystal told Johnny. They were in the kitchen, continuing their conversation that started after Johnny made fun of her never bringing her guy back home with her.
“I’m just saying, that’s how you gauge if the date went well or not!” He replied. Johnny’s point was that if you bring the person home, it meant it was a good date.
Crystal rolled her eyes, “If your goal is to pick up them sure! Why not? But for mature people who want a long-term relationship, bringing them home after the first date isn’t a good sign”
“Pfft, bringing someone home helps me decide if I could do a long-term relationship with them”
“You’re a pig Johnny Storm. I bet you’ve never NOT brought a girl home after a date. You’re probably on what? Close to one hundred by now?”
“Actually he’s hasn’t even reached fifty yet” Ben replied from the living room. Both Crystal and Johnny stopped talking and walked towards the voice.
“You’re spying on me Ben? That’s a little sick isn’t it ol’ boulder?” Johnny asked the Thing. Crystal hit Johnny on the arm in response to his rudeness.
“It’s ok Crystal, he knows I can clobber him anytime I want.” Ben replied, “And actually Johnny, Reed, Susan and I all are.” He laughed at Johnny’s look of aghast on his face and slowly got up to walk to the laboratory. Johnny and Crystal followed; Crystal with a gleeful grin on her face.
“Hey! Reed! Susan!” Ben called. They appeared from behind a massive chalkboard on wheels that was in the middle of the room.
“Oh hey guys, what’s up?” Reed asked.
“Mind showing them the counter we have on Johnny?” Ben replied. Reed’s face went red at the request. “Ohhhh you told him about that eh?” Reed asked.
“Johnny, don’t get mad” Johnny’s sister told him softly but sternly, “We were just having some fun with it” She led the group to Reed’s office that served as a security booth. There were many monitors that showed different angles of the Baxter building including the front lobby, corridor in front of their house, the elevator, and stairs. Susan clicked a few buttons and suddenly a live camera of the corridor outside the top floor, facing the elevator and stairs, popped up. There was a counter beside the picture that read 39 with Johnny’s picture on it.
“It was kind of the running joke between the three of us,” Susan started, “We realized Johnny was having a lot of girls over so we were guessing how many. We set this up to actually count it. Every time he brings a girl home, the computer records it.” The group looked to Johnny who had a vein pulsing in his forehead.
“Calm down Johnny” Susan warned her brother.
“I am calm. It’s actually pretty interesting, I thought I had passed fifty by now” Johnny replied grinning cheekily a Crystal. She rolled her eyes in response.
“Actually can this help us solve another burning question I have?” Johnny asked.
Relieved Johnny was taking this so well Reed replied hurriedly, “Probably, what’s your question?”
Johnny smiled slyly at Crystal again, “Can this thing tell us that Crystal has for certain not had anybody over?” Crystal smirked back at him.
“Yeah do it, it will help me back up my case” She told Reed and Susan.
Reed leaned over the computer and started typing away, “Facial recognition…, time stamp…, counter… Ah there we go!” A counter had appeared beside Jonny’s. This one was labeled with Crystal’s picture and had a 0 on it.
“Ha” Crystal told Johnny, “Point, me.”
“Whatever,” he muttered as he clicked the ESCAPE button on the keyboard to take the counter down. He followed Reed, Susan and Bed out of the office and led the way to the kitchen table for dinner. Crystal was about to follow them when she saw that Johnny had left a flame on the keyboard. It was taller than regular flames, Johnny’s were always harder to get rid of and usually needed a cup of water or a fire extinguisher to get rid of them. However, Crystal just smiled to herself and licked her fingers. She extinguished the flame with two of her fingers and made her way to the dinner table.