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Dramatis Personae

Peter, Spencer, Shane


(Shane --> Spence): He's wrong about the fancy but if you put a lil toothpick in spam he'd think it's gourmet hors d'oeuvres


<XAV> Athletic Center - Xs Grounds

Though fairly new and fully modern on the inside, the exterior of this building has a stately stone exterior that does not jar too much with the Victorian elegance of the mansion proper. Situated near the athletic fields on the grounds, the athletic center host a vast range of indoor sports and fitness endeavors. The most iconic facilities here include an Olympic size swimming pool, a basketball court, and a fully outfitted gymnasium. In addition to these and the boys' and girls' locker rooms, there are an array of smaller facilities upstairs: two studios for dance, martial arts, yoga, or fencing, a multipurpose space that can be configured for various team sports, and a fitness center with free weights and various exercise machines whose upper limits can bet set beyond what would be safe or useful to baseline humans with staff permission.

Peter's upstairs, in the fitness center; dressed in a pair of grey gym-shorts (white strings tightly laced at the front) and a black, red tee-shirt with a stylized gold lightning bolt straight down the center. At this precise moment, he's on his back, sitting inside of a rather complex-looking exercise device -- or maybe it's more just a device for measuring strength? Hard to tell with some of the customized equipment, up here. Either way, he's applying his legs with considerable force, pushing down on a set of reinforced pads with his sock-clad feet -- the metal springs behind the pads producing a series of creaking clicks while a number on the display to his side continues to go up.

After a few moments of this, he seems satisfied; he huffs, rolling to the side and setting his feet down on the floor -- still seated in the device, he turns the pad to examine it, then reaches for his phone, thumbing the numbers into it. Meanwhile, his other hand drops down to idly scritch at his left side. "...mh."

Several texts light up Peter's phone in rapid succession.

(Spence --> Peter): Hey! You still training?
(Spence --> Peter): You're probably still training
(Spence --> Peter): Anyway I'm coming over

Only a few seconds after the very last message shows up, the empty air beside Peter's complex fitness contraption is suddenly --

-- no longer empty. Spencer is wearing a kippah styled after Captain America's shield, a blue t-shirt with graduated cylinder (labeled 1L) filled with a stack of adorable cartoon moles, black corduroys, and red sneakers. Didn't he have an overshirt earlier? He probably *should* have one, but he does not. He *does* have a half-drunk bottle of Code Red Mountain Dew, though. Maybe that accounts for some of his jittery nervous energy. Or maybe that's just the kind of month he's having.

"Hey!" he says, again. "Sorry uh. I thought maybe you wouldn't be checking your texts because of. You know." He tilts his head to examine Peter's workout apparatus. "Leg day. Have you eaten? You should eat. I made a ton of pumpkin kibbeh last night I brought some. Well, not *on* me but you can have some of my Code Red." He offers the (somewhat agitated) bottle.

Peter is, in fact, just in the process of seeing the text notifications -- he's just brought up the first text, reading it -- when suddenly there is a very-present Spence right next to him! Peter does a brief double-take; he jerks back, although there isn't an immediate sense of panic (probably because Spence's sudden presence didn't set off the sharp, stabbing sensation of immediate danger). Instead, Peter gives him a lopsided (albeit semi-distracted) grin, his eyes drifting to the shirt with the pile of adorable moles loaded up in the cylinder... then, back up to Spence, holding out the bottle of Mountain Dew.

"Kibbeh -- that's those... like, fancy corn-dog things, right? Those things are delicious." Peter's understanding of cuisine leaves... something to be desired. "I'm good, though," he adds, holding a hand up as if to ward off the Mountain Dew -- even as he stares at it with just a hint of desire. Caffeine -- my precious. "Not exercise -- I mean. I guess it IS exercise, I just wanted to make sure it still all works and I've been testing to see if I can get stronger anyway, but, uh..."

Spence tilts his head the other direction and squints at Peter. "I'm not sure we're thinking of the same thing? I did make some with beef, they're mostly back at the house but I can go get some if you want." He shrugs and takes a long gulp, unlocking his phone one-handed in the middle of this operation and just hanging onto the bottle with his teeth while he swipes out a quick message or three

(Spence --> Shane): Is kibbeh FANCY Peter says it's fancy
(Spence --> Shane): he also says they're like corn dogs so Idk what to think!

The phone goes back into his pocket, the cap goes back into the soda bottle, and Spencer goes back to giving Peter what he probably thinks is a speculative look.

"You're testing the equipment? That's great, but like...aren't you training for the raid?"

(Shane --> Spence): I mean they're basically like corndogs with a different meat and a different grain he's not wrong
(Shane --> Spence): He's wrong about the fancy but if you put a lil toothpick in spam he'd think it's gourmet hors d'oeuvres

"Oh, I mean -- 'it' means my body. I'm testing myself. Making sure, y'know... this all works," Peter explains, briefly flustered as he gestures toward his lower half. "I mean. Uh. My legs. Making sure my legs... work. Along with... everything else." He frowns, then, glancing down at his legs -- then, looking back up to Spence, provides an awkward smile that looks more than a little forced:

"It's actually really tricky to test the... danger sense thing, y'know? Because it doesn't fool easy. And it's hard to... like, explain to someone that I need them to really try and hurt me. Because somehow... my brain can like... tell? When someone's not trying to kill me."

Spencer checks his phone and snorts.

(Spence --> Shane): Ok but that would fool me, too, it's not like I can identify spam on sight/smell

He listens to Peter with an expression of earnest if confused interest. Then looks down at Peter's legs. Looks at the machine. Back at Peter "*Are* your legs working, along with everything else? Are you worried they might *not* be working? Also, would you consider spam with little toothpicks gourmet hors d'oeuvres?"

He takes another swig of heavily caffeinated soda. "I bet you could test it other ways, like it isn't *only* about if someone wants to kill you, right?"

The snort prompts eyebrows to lurch up; Peter's head tilts at Spence's phone, as if trying to scan the contents of the text through its back. Once it becomes clear he's not going to spontaneously develop x-ray telephone vision, though, he gives up -- and refocuses on Spence. "My aunt used to fry slices of spam for breakfast, it's actually not too bad. I don't know, though -- I always thought... aren't the toothpicks what makes the food hors d'oeuvres?" So... the answer is yes, then.

"And, yeah, but like... I have to put myself in danger. I could jump off a building, but unless I know I'm gonna face-plant into the ground, it won't go off. Though -- now that you mention it, I bet the danger room could set it off." He brightens.

Then -- remembering what Spence just asked him -- Peter's features darken, his mouth tightening into a tight, thin line. He looks down, then to the left -- then to the right -- as if confirming the room is empty. Not that that makes much of a difference here. "...about that. The powers, I mean. Uh... can you... keep a secret?" Peter's great at secrets. Spence probably is, too!

"Oh sorry, I was just asking Shane about the corn dogs and all. I don't think I've ever had one?" Spence's face scrunches up in thought. "I've never had spam, either, but I think you're right about the toothpicks. Especially toothpicks with like little colorful flags. But like ok, 'hey Cere,'" he overenunciate 'Cere', at once making it sound more distinct from and more reminiscent of 'Siri' than usual, "'try to kill me when I least expect it' is an awesome horror movie concept."

His blossoming excitement about his new horror film is instantly sidetracked by his excitement about Secret. He bounces up and down just a little, wide gray eyes gone even wider than they have been. "I can totally keep a secret, oh man I have so many secrets you don't even know, like me and --" A flash of sadness passes over his face. "-- I have this tiny island out in the Pacific Ocean where I've buried treasure."

Peter's face splits into a grin at the mention of Siri-trying-to-murder-me as a horror concept; he rises up off the exercise device and stretches his arms over his head, hands balled up into fists. Rocking back and forth, he starts rolling his shoulders, swinging his arms in wide circles, stretching them out with a series of ever-so-slight pops and cracks. All while Spence is bouncing with excitement at the prospect of a secret. "--treasure?" Peter asks, briefly intrigued, though the flash of sadness in Spence's expression stops him from pushing it. A brief, unpleasantly terrifying memory suddenly surfaces in his mind; an ocean depth, dark and rolling, the light so distant that one can no longer tell which way is up or down.

He pushes the memory aside -- his grin fading: "Seriously, though, it's..." Crack. Pop. Finished stretching, Peter lifts one arm up and starts scratching the back of his head in the universal sign for 'I am not good with people and don't know what to do with my hands when talking to them'. "...um, I don't..." Scratch, scratch. He looks down at Spence's feet, his voice strikingly low: "I don't think... I mean -- I know... I don't have the X-Gene."

"It's actually multiple treasures. The 'X's kept washing away, but anyway I have maps now." Spencer's casual tone suggests the practical challenges of burying treasure on a deserted island are just mundane, everyday concerns. Moving on, he's squinting at Peter now. He tilts his head one way, then the other, as if trying see into his friend's DNA. "But. You're a mutant, mutants have the X-gene it's like..." He flips one index finger meaningfully back and forth between them, just in case Peter forgot he was also a mutant. With the X-gene. "You definitely have powers, and I don't think you're a supersoldier?" His eyes go even wider. "Whoa are you though?!"

Scritch. Scritch. That hand keeps on working at the back of Peter's head, his elbow poking out from the side. The side of his mouth twitches up at the mention of multiple treasures; a new (manufactured) memory of Spence diligently burying multiple treasures on some distant island no one even knows exists soon replace the previous one. "I, um, don't know," Peter confesses, and now he's blushing fiercely despite himself. "I definitely don't have it. Someone tested it for me after the suppression field didn't do anything -- like, I think... it's based on suppressing the active expression of the X-Gene, somehow? But if you just, like... if the powers come from tricking your body -- I don't know precisely how it works, but..."

Peter realizes, suddenly, that he's starting to ramble. The hand behind his head drops to his side. Peter shrugs, then frowns: "I mean, like... all of my powers are --" The frown deepens: "They'd make somebody into a really effective soldier."

Spence's eyes narrow further, exaggerated and highly skeptical. "But -- but Joshua?" He's apparently so flabbergasted even the mention of his missing friend does not drag him down. "Ok well he can't yoink everyone, but Matt?! I feel like you're around mutants so much sooner or later someone's gonna notice one way or another and be like 'that's unusual!'" He points at Peter demonstratively with this last exclamation, becoming more animated by the second. "Also wouldn't you notice if someone was doing supersoldier experiments on you? Anyway suppression fields don't suppress physical stuff, and tests can be..." He gasps, eyes snapping wide open. "The tests can totally be wrong. Gae's tests said he doesn't have the X-gene, either, and he's a muta -- oh crap!" He claps both hands to his mouth.

Peter shrugs in response to the mention of Joshua and Matt -- though there's a flicker of concern in his eyes at the mention of the first name. At the mention of physical powers, he starts to say: "Well, not all my powers are..." -- only to be cut off by Spence's gasp and mention of tests being wrong, followed by... Oh. That one sends Peter's eyebrows launching toward the stratosphere once more. "...wait... what?" Then: "Wait, what?"

Peter makes the connection when Spence claps his hands to his mouth. His shock gives way to mild amusement: "Guessing you weren't supposed to let that one out." The amusement flips to something more somber: "Don't worry, I'll pretend like I didn't hear that. But -- um, I know I'm probably not one to talk, but... you gotta be careful with that sort of thing, yeah? Especially these days."

Peter scrunches his face up, thinking: "...though... I mean... if that's the case -- I don't know. There's a lot of possibilities, yeah. Mutant powers are weird."

Spence has gone from covering his mouth to covering his entire face. "Yes please please please don't tell anyone. I think he wants time to sort it out on his own before he deals with it like -- socially?" He drags his hands downward before dropping them away again. "But yeah, mutations are weird and hard sometimes! I'm glad yours are working ok, and it's good that suppression doesn't work on you." He frowns suddenly, casting around for the Code Red that had vanished from his hand when he blurted out Gaétan's secret. "Oh man." At first this seems like a commentary on having chucked his soda into another dimension."He's gonna kill me."

"Yeah, I went through something like that," Peter admits, almost wistfully. "It got really complicated 'cuz if I told people I was a mutant, and they asked about my powers, and I just told them -- like, eventually someone would put two and two together and realize who I was. So, eventually, I just made up a mutation to tell people about -- static cling." He wiggles his fingers.

"Who's gonna -- what, can he tell? Is that his power? He can tell if people tell his secrets? Not gonna lie, that's actually kind of a bad-ass power. His name could be 'Tattletale'." Peter is teasing, though he's watching Spence with just a hint of concern.

"Um..." Spence chews on his lower lip, his fingers fluttering at the soft hem of his t-shirt. "No, I'm gonna tell him I spilled. He deserves to know, right? Like even if neither of us tells anyone else, it's kinda doubled the chance someone might, I dunno, overhear it from our brains?" He scrunches his eyes shut, his fingers fluttering faster, his skinny shoulders curling inward as if he's finally noticed it's a bit chilly for running around in short sleeves. "Look I don't want to talk about it ok, like aren't you pretending you didn't hear that?"

"Oh. Huh. Yeah no that's -- that's the responsible thing to do. And right, yeah." Peter's hand lifts to the side of his head; he presses two fingers to his temple, then makes a low bwoooooop noise. Eyelids flutter! "Memory neuralized."

The hand drops back to his lap: "...how are you -- um, how are you holding up? I know this is all... well, it's always a lot, but I know that it's gotten even... more of a lot, recently."

Spence nods jerkily and twitches a nervous but unforced smile when Peter mimes zapping the memory from his head. "It's a lot," he says, squeezing his eyes tightly shut, "a lot a lot." He starts rocking gently and his arms wrap around himself, thumbs tapping each fingertip in rapid turn. "S-sorry. It's a lot a lot um..." His words dissolve into a low unsteady groan.

Peter watches Spence, eyes widening. When he starts to rock, Peter slips out of the exercise machine and down to the floor. He's down on one knee, the other protruding up -- both his hands draped across it, looking up at Spence. "Yeah," he says, his voice hushed. "It's -- it's okay. I mean, it's not, this is all so f--uh... messed up. But... it's okay to be messed up. By all of this." He resists every instinct inside of him screaming out to yoink Spence into a hug; instead, he just hovers within hugging range. Those hands are twitching with the desire to, though. Twitch. Twitch. "It's okay to not be okay."

It's only when Peter kneels that Spence remembers he does not need to remain standing. He sinks to sit on the floor, arms wrapped around his knees to hold them close to his chest, his rocking easier and more rhythmic now, fingers still fluttering. The groaning evens out, varying in timbre only with his motion now. Very gradually, the noise fades, though he does not cease rocking. He's not quiet for long, and when he does speak again the words come out fast, without much of Spence's usually exaggerated inflection. "Sorry sorry I'm sorry you'll bring him back right please you have to bring them back."

Peter's wide-eyed twitchiness remains as Spence sinks down to the floor and hugs his knees -- his own breathing is fast and fluttery, his heartbeat following suit. But when the groaning gives way to those fast, uninflected words, something else comes over Peter; a sort of quiet stillness. Like a choppy, rough ocean suddenly swept into motionless calm. His eyes are no longer wide-eyed; the twitchiness vanishes. He breathes slow; in... then out.

"We'll bring them back." Peter's voice is muted; just above a whisper. "Whatever it takes."