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String and Tin Cans


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Mike was lying awake in his bed his mind racing, this mornings talk with Dark Star had turned his well crafted self delusions rather upside down. Between that and Eddie and Chris' insistance that he had some kind of feelings for Alex he it wasn't surprising that his mind was a bit ajumble.

He tried not to toss and turn and bother Mark, not that it was much of a worry. His roomate seemed possesed of the talent to sleep through nearly anything but be able to wake when neded fully refreshed, it was a little madning. However never exactly talented with the psychic end of his powers his current turmoil undoubtebly leaked across his shared bond with Alex.

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Well, Mark might be able to sleep through it, A sleepy but somewhat amused mental voice filtered through his thoughts, I'm awake, however. So what has you thinking so hard?

In her room, Alex rolled over on her side to face the wall and stifled a yawn. She'd gone to bed early but Mike's agitation had not left her able to sleep easily. Even Alex didn't know how many late night conversations they'd had at this point. Thousands at least, sometimes after his nightmares, sometimes after hers. Wanna talk?

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Mike nervously tamped down on the connection for an instant, 'Sorry'

He tried to order his thoughts to make his stream of consciousness less chaotic before loosening up a bit.

'I ran into a guy this morning. Hero, he might start working as a teacher or something.' Mike rolled onto his side just in case he started to let slip his thought verbaly as he occasionally did when they were doing this.

'I dunno why but he came up to talk to me when I was doing some writing out behind the admin building.' Mike still wasn't sure exactly what he felt about the conversation and some of that confusion slipped out of course.

'He explained some stuff about why he does it. The whole hero thing ya know. It was kinda interesting I guess but I'm just can't see how we can be ready for all that ya know?' It was a somewhat rhetorical question of course but he was kind of mentaly trailing off.

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No one springs into 'readiness' fully formed. I mean the only way to get from one point to another is to travel there. However fast or slow, everyone's got to go from no experience to experienced the same way. Alex said with a mix of amusement at the idea of fully fleged super heroes flinging forth and a gentle empathy.

Tell me about this hero you met, Alex prodded, knowing that Mike'd express what was bothering him better if he was allowed to approach the issue some way other than head on.

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Mike was somewhat skeptical in a way. On the one hand she was right it was a progression on the other he had trouble ever imagining Eddie or even Edge and Chris fully grasping the gravity of their actions.

Alex was of course right, Mike grew much more comfortable talking about Dark Star than himself.

'He's called Dark Star, he was like ths wierd mass of black stuff but like person shaped.' The physical description was probably unneccisary for anyone who didn't actively avoid coverage of heroes like mike did given Dark Stars rather public acts of daring do.

'I dunno how long he's been doing th hero thing but he seemed to have a pretty good grasp on it. Certainly better than some bunch of kids.' Mike clearly primarily meant himself though he really considered the other boys to be just as bad.

'I mean he knows how bad it can go. Really seems to understand the risk.' Mike was clearly slipping back into something like his usual self loathing regarding powers or at the least viewing the world through that filter at the least.

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I've heard of Dark Star. So have you. He was evacing people in Riverside during the explosion Alex's memories of Dark Star's heroing filtered through their link faster than words. Rescues in Riverside, conflicts with aliens. All the newscoverage and sound bites were effortlessly transferred from one teen to another. He's a real hero.

She sighed at the self loathing as it flickered up the bond and flipped over on her stomach. Resting her cheek on her arm, she closed her eyes, I know the only thing you're afraid of is yourself but you need to get outside of your own head on it Mike. What if we hadn't been there? What if those demons had shaken off the chains of their controllers and hurt someone. Even killed them. You can paralyze yourself with what ifs. Eventually you have to stop running from the memories of things from years ago.

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Mike managed to surpress and afronted grumble but only just. 'I know I'm over sensitive about it, but I can't just ignore what happened or what might.' if one could be snipish in thoughts Mike would be.

He took a deep breath, 'Sorry, I know you're just trying to help.' He really did wish he could manage to be less prickly about that stuff.

'Huh, Dark Star seems much less imposing in person somehow or maybe he wasn't in hero mode.' Mike was begining to tangentalize but for once pulled back to the issue at hand himself.

'I think he put it well, and kinda captures why I did do something at the game. He said he couldn't just stand by while he could help. I guess at least then I couldn't either.' It was a rather big step for Mike really to admit even that much.

'But at the same time its terrifying, I mean look what happened with Erin and that kid, its just such a small margin of error.' Mike obviously still had conflicted feelings over the matter of Erin and his fight when last they spoke that leaked through a bit as he thought back.

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Alex's sigh filtered through his thoughts, and she decided just to push the issue a little bit, We don't even know what exactly happened, Mike, we were five. I've replayed the memory a few times and... she hesitated, reluctant to get his hopes up but Erin was right about her need to protect Mike, I'm not so sure he died.

Usually perfect recall was a blessing but some memories - especially bad ones - it would have been nice to have the protective fog of forgetfullness over.

I'm not saying you should ignore what happened, but don't you think it would mean more - if you want to attone - to learn from it?

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Mikes mind went blank at her specific mention of the incident. He refused to let his hopes get up over what may or may not have happened.

'I don't even know if that matters. He certainly could have thats the important part.' Mike shook off the memories.

'I've tried to learn from it. I've tried to move past it, I've tried every damn thing every shrink at the Institute told me.' Mike's fury at the institute flowed freely down the link before he calmed himself.

'Its just like everyone thinks that because I can do this thing I should, and they all have this idea of how.' Memories of Erins harsh words about his actions at the game drifted along the link.

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No, they think you don't know what to do and are trying to help you by telling you what they know, Alex corrected with what always seemed like an infinate store of patience, It's just like you trying to tell Erin about what could happen from your point of view.

She rolled over, leaving one arm draped across her eyes. Alex sometimes got so tired of being the perpetual voice of calm and reason. It was only human. Still her tone was soothing as she pointed out, If you just decide what you want. I mean, really, decide. Not running, not afraid. If you were like 'guys I'm going to go be a normal cop', no one would say a word. But you don't know and people can tell because they want to help. You have more friends than just me, and all they're doing is trying to help. Not push you around. They're trying to ease your pain, not inflame it, but in the end you're the only one that can decide what you're going to do. And every last one of us will stand by you when you do. 'Till then, tho', you're going to get advice.

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'I suppose you are right about that.' He wasn't exactly sure how to take the similarities between Dark Stars speech and Alexs explanations.

'Some advice better than others,' there was actually an edge of mirth to his thoughts, 'Eddie has some interesting ideas on socilizing I don't think they are really me though.' It wasn't really an attempt at deflecting the issue. Mike knew he had to make a descision he just didn't know what decision to make.

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With the experience born with years of living in Mike's head, Alex knew when to let something go, Maybe you can just try the opposite of whatever he says to do...

Her mental presence sparkled with mirth and another upswelling of unusually cheerful emotions even for Alex. She was at least attempting to tamp them back out of politeness sake but as she'd been for the last few days, her thoughts were tinged with this giddy, happy air to them. She hadn't brought up the date with Mark other than to inform him she was going on it, nor had she volunteered details of the event as Alex felt it might be rude. Try asking James. James almost never sets people off.

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'Not a bad idea actually, he even seems to escape unscathed from flirting with Erin.' Clearly Mike considered such behavior not only near suicidal but mildly rude.

'Of course he's pretty enough to get away with more then me.' Mike didn't really think about his own apearance much but was not so oblivious as to miss the way James got along with the fairer sex.

Mike still wasn't really tired, and it seemed Alex might have more on her mind as well. He of course felt it would be rude and possibly awkward to ask about the date, well that was his explanation for his reluctance at least.

Finally he tentitively inquired, 'How have you been?'

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'Happy. She told him with utter honesty, sharing her joy down their bond. Alex never lied to Mike. She wasn't even sure if she could sometimes with the depth of the bond between them, I'm in my element here with school. I'm pushed, honestly pushed for the first time in my life. Its exhilerating. I haven't felt this free...

She trailed off as sadness colored her tone for a moment before her sunny mood returned slowly, Not since I shut my telepathy down years ago. Its like spending your whole life hobbled and now I can fly, Mike. No more pointless games to see what makes me tick. No more calculated subjects to push me towards ethical choices. Just being able to work at my own pace and not have to hold back. Its wonderful. It's amazing.

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Mike certainly couldn't argue with that. While he was no more pressed here by his schoolwork than he had been in the Institue he relished the escape from what felt like constant mindgames they played.

'Yea it is a nice change of pace I suppose, though I may need to find a new study budy as I don't see any classes in common comming up.' his mood was the familair friendly jokeing they usually shared once more, He was putting in the effort to hold back his normal dourness in the face of her good mood.

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I bet you're in some classes with Mark. She said helpfully, keeping the bubbly emotions to an impressive trickle. Deciding that Mike wasn't going to bring it up, after a moment, Alex thought she should. Better to know now if he was going to be moody or wierd. The date went really nicely. We're going out to the movies on Friday.

It was a tenative tendril of a thought.

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Mike wasn't really sure how to respond. He was glad that Alex was happy, and really despite their very different personalities liked Mark. Even pushing aside the confusion on the matter Eddie and Chris insisted on inserting he was still uncertain about how to feel.

He tried with limited success to hold back his thoughts as he replied, 'thats good.' there was a vaguely uncomfortable pause, 'Marks a good guy.'

Which was true at least it wasn't like Eddie or Chris he wasn't sure if he'd have to listen to the standard teen conquest stories from Mark but he knew he would had it been one of them.

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He's sweet... Alex hesitated only a moment more before old habits took over and she was sharing her thoughts with him on it all. Not so much the Mark angle but Erin's words on her life which was sort of confusing as Mike had obviously missed large swatches of that conversation, Erin just says I should try and live in the moment, you know? I mean, I always am planning for ten years down the road which is good for, like, big things like careers but not so much for enjoying our childhood. I'm trying not to get so tied up in making the absolute right choice and in just chosing to act to the best of my abilities. You know?

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In some ways Mike was glad to have the usual candor return to thier conversation. On the other hand he was completely confused by what Alex was saying. Befor he was really able to stop himself theat confusion manifested over the link as a sort of 'BWaaaaa?!?' thought pattern before he reighned himself in once more.

'Uhmm ten years seems like a long time to plan things out before a date.' Maybe Chris and Eddie were right and these choices were more permanent than he thought.

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Her laughter bubbled through his thoughts cheerfully, No, I mean. Most teenagers don't worry about whether or not the person they're dating is compatible for longer term things like kids and careers and all of that. I do. It's just my advanced brain making me act like I'm thirty instead of sixteen. I've always tried to enjoy my childhood but there are things I just don't think of, you know? Its okay for us just to go out and have fun. I've always worried about tomorrow. I'm trying to a little less, now. Does that make sense?

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The thought of Mark with kids or a career was somewhat unthinkable to Mike. The seat of his pants, it'll all work out attitude did not seem condusive to stability even if he was usually right and it did.

'I guess that makes sense then, I dunno I don't think we can all be Mark and just count on it working out though.' Mike was particularly concerned about that trait of Marks as some day luck might not be enough and he really didn't seem to have anything else to fall back on.

'I mean I get not growing up too quickly but we also have to at some point you know.' Maybe it was the weighty decisions on his shoulders but that time seemed alot closer to him than it ever had before.

'Then again trying to plan out ten years is a little excesive perhaps.' It was his easy joking manner once more having shoved aside the brief incursion of serious thoughts.

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Yes, well, I don't really see myself going that far with it. I mean, can you? Laughter bubbled through her thoughts. Alex was nothing not a notorious planner. Sides, the best of plans will only get you so far. Sometimes you have to just go with your gut instinct. In the end you have to be able to trust yourself, you know?[/color=#008080]

Her thoughts meandered and trailed off, sleepy from the long day and deeply content for the moment. She sent the emotions along to him out of habit in an attempt to soothe his anxieties.

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'Yea I suppose so.' Mike replied.

Mike was coming around, he saw the potential of the heroism thing, he might even be able to do it. More and more however he was pondering if he really could not do it. If Alex and Mark and everyone else were out there could he sit back and do nothing? If there was some monster human or otherwise rampaging throught the streets could he really stand on the sidelines?

In the end however it was uncomfortably deep thoughts for Mike so he moved on to more stable emotional ground.

'Is Erin still mad at me?' his thoughts were tentitive and worried, 'I don't even really know how it went so pear shaped so quickly.'

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Mostly I think her feelings were hurt. Erin has a really hard time seeing things from any perspective but her own. She seemed to get the impression that you were saying she wanted to hurt that kid, deep down. That you thought she was that kinda person. The response filtered through his thoughts, careful not to reveal Erin's past through their fluid connection.

She's calmed down a bit though.

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'Can't say I haven't had that problem too.'

Which was true though he liked to think he didn't go quite so far off the deep end over it. Then again his side of the conversation had been rather heated as well.

'I just wish I knew a better way to explain it to her. She's got good control of her strength, she doesn't need that kind of training. She's not going to get it until she breaks out of the mindset she's in.'

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