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Electra

Mysteries and Gossip (IC)

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It was nighttime before Erin and Alex caught up with each other again, back in their room after evening training and homework sessions. Erin should still have been doing her homework but she was playing with her new toy instead, practicing collapsing and expanding her bat to its full impressive length. That wasn't new, she'd been doing that for a couple of days now, perhaps because it was the only toy she owned, or she just liked fidgets with violent applications. Right now, though, she was distracted by the conversations she'd had earlier.

The Zoe thing was first on her mind, obviously, but she couldn't talk about that. Trying to imagine herself still alive in thirty years was really weird. Up to this point, she'd been planning month to month, maybe into next year if pushed, but not much beyond that. What would she do for all that time? To avoid that, she asked the other question that had nagged just a little lately. "Hey Alex, do you think Mike was acting a little weird this morning?"

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Weird was in the eye of the beholder, of course, as Alex had the shirt she'd worn that day on her lap. After looking up at Erin with an obviously amused expression over the question, she turned her attention back to the shirt and began cutting the bloody cuff off very carefully. "You weren't impressed by his smoothness? I can't imagine why. Yeah, he was acting a little bit like a freak. I need to talk to him about which advice the boys give him that he takes."

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Erin collapsed the bat and shoved it into her pocket. "So what was he trying to do, anyway?" she asked, picking up her own bag of clean laundry and starting to fold it. She gave a curious eye to Alex's mauling of her clothes, but decided to take one mystery at a time. "Have the other guys been telling him he should be more like Mark or something?"

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"He was trying to work his way up to asking you out," Alex said matter-of-factly as she snipped the cuff off with a final close of the scissors and let it fall into her lap. After fishing about in her desk, she pulled out a ziploc bag and used the end of one pencil to scoop the soiled cloth into the baggie. Zipping it closed, she added, "He's currently regrouping in his room and trying to come up with a plan C. This was plan B. Plan A died the other day in the lunchroom."

Alex set about sealing the bag with thick plastic tape over the ziplock opening, before carefully labeling the bag with Zoe's name. "The other guys gave him some sort of 'how to talk to girls' conversation. From what I can tell, mostly filled with a little bit of decent advice and some comically bad advice."

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Erin did a double-take, then laughed. "He was doing what? But why? He and I... there is no way that wouldn't be doomed to awkward and miserable failure. We could probably set a world's record or something. I mean, he's my friend, mostly, now that we patched up that stuff about fighting. But he's your guy. It's practically written in stone. And I'm not exactly dating material." She leaned over finally to watch Alex. "What are you doing?"

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"Making sure that Zoe's DNA isn't contaminated so that I can run a few tests on it with the school lab," Alex confessed, a tad guiltily. Misappropriation of her access to the science labs was probably high up there for worst sins Alex had ever committed but she was set on this course of action. She tucked back her bangs and twisted to give Erin her full attention, "Neither's he. Actually, I think that's why he's intending on asking you. He knows that you won't laugh at him if he acts all weird. He thinks the two of you have a lot in common. And..."

Alex trailed off, finally showing some discomfort with this conversation as she blushed unable to put the last part into words.

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Erin cocked her head, interested by that reaction. It wasn't very easy to get a rise out of Alex, especially when it came to discussing Mike. "And what?" she asked. She thought about leaving aside the matter of Zoe entirely. Maybe she couldn't actually say anything, but it was nice to know that her skepticism about the likelihood of Zoe being able to keep her secrets was justified. But still, she felt she owed another refugee a little something. "And couldn't the sample be contaminated already? Anybody could've touched your sleeve, you, Mike, any of us." There, that was her good deed for the day.

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"DNA's not so easy to contaminate. It would have to be mixed with another fluid and enough to mingle the two samples. I'm pretty sure I didn't rub my sleeve against anyone else's open wounds," Alex smiled, but didn't carry the lecture any further on science. After all, they would both know that she was just stalling at that point. After a little bit of blushing and stammering, Alex forced herself to take a deep breath and blurt out, "He'd have to really try to hurt you. I mean, even if he was excited. Or whatever. Not that he would. I mean. Mike doesn't believe in pre-marital hugs half the time. But if anything, well, you know."

Alex forced herself to stop babbling. Obviously Mike didn't think Erin was easy or anything like that and she was mangling her point. "He's got good control of his strength now but its always there in the back of his head. You're safe."

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Erin stopped folding for a minute to think about that, an odd expression on her face. "Huh. Yeah, well, that's not gonna happen, but I guess I can see the reasoning. Ouch." She shook out another t-shirt and started to fold it, looking at Alex. "Don't you worry about that? If you're gonna marry him and have kids someday, isn't that something you're going to have to think about? Even if he doesn't know what to do with it, I'm pretty sure he even beats me for just raw being strong."

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"Mike would never hurt me," Alex said with an unshakeable confidence as Alex believed that with a bone deep certainty. "Even if Mike just hand 'normal' strength for his size, he's already six four. I'm five foot three and slender. With or without super strength, he could hurt me. Its just, the consequences are more dire if he does. I don't worry about it, really. He worries enough for everyone."

Alex began looking over the shirt to see if she could salvage it now that one sleeve was about a third shorter. "If he can ever manage to ask in something less freakish a manner, are you going to go out with him?"

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"I dunno, I don't think so," Erin said dubiously. "I don't want to hurt his feelings or anything, but if he's just doing it because the guys are telling him to and because I'd be a safe target, I don't think that's much of a problem." She shrugged, dumping her socks onto the bed and starting to sort them. "What would be the point? At least with you and Mark, you know he really likes you, and you guys have a good time. I can't even visualize going out anywhere with Mike. We'd just stare at each other or start sparring or something."

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"Oh, no, I didn't mean to imply that was just the reason behind it at all!" Alex said quickly, raising her hands. She always over explained these things, "He's trying to ask you out because he likes you. I was just trying to explain the baggage that's making him act all bizzarre about girls. Mike thinks you have a lot in common and he thinks you're a fun person to hang out with. There are other super strong and super tough girls at the school. He's trying to dredge up the courage to ask you out though."

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Erin gave Alex a skeptical look as she tied her socks together. "There are a lot of girls around here," she agreed, "and a lot of them are substantially less screwed up than I am. He and I just got finished fighting over a few of our many issues. Why isn't he asking some normal girl out? Why isn't he asking you, for that matter? You'd be good practice, you could tell him exactly what he's doing right or wrong every step of the way." She paused for a second with a sock in each had. "What was Plan A, anyway? I think I totally missed it."

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"It was the other day in the lunch room. You just ran through and grabbed an apple because you were late for training." Alex volunteered. "He offered to walk with you there and you said you had it. It wasn't a good plan. None of them have been, but they've grown progressively more elaborate."

Alex set about trimming the other sleeve to match as she'd decided she could just turn it into one of those three quarter sleeve shirts and maybe put some trim on the cuffs. "He could, but that would be like playing with barbie dolls. Scripting every step isn't so much fun. He thinks you understand him better than any of them would. Or could."

She shrugged and wrinkled her nose up as she thought, "Mike has trouble getting close to people. I mean, you've noticed that I'm sure. But he knows that you have quirks too. He empathizes, in a way. You're fun and athletic and you push through and try, especially when you're struggling. There's a lot to like and a lot to admire, really. Mike's actually a lot deeper than people give him credit for. He likes and admires you so of course you're who he's decided to try for first."

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Somewhat uncomfortable with that assessment, Erin concentrated on unraveling a stray thread from one of her socks for a minute. "I still don't know what we would do," she finally said. "I haven't got money to pay for anything, and I hardly leave campus. I don't even know what there is to do. And dinner and a movie is great for people like you and Mark, but I dunno. I can't even see it in my head, the picture won't come together. It's too weird." She was more uncertain now than totally disinterested, at least.

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"Mike'll pay. He'd feel it was his responsibility to anyhow. He's old fashioned like that." Alex said with a little flap of her hands. "It doesn't matter, really, what you do. I mean, its kinda like what you told me about having fun with Mark. It doesn't matter if its something a typical. Plus, if you decide you're done halfway through, Mike won't get offended or anything. He may seem like uber-grim but he's a lot of fun. He's gone to see like every Disney move with me ever made and he's not into those at all. But he goes along and has fun cuz I'm having fun. I mean, worse case scenario, is its just a little weird but you get to go out and have fun with a friend."

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"I'm not very good at having fun," Erin said dubiously, stacking her folded clothes and rising to put them in her dresser. "Not in normal ways, like regular people do. I tried to hang out with Erin and her friends, my old friends, a couple of times before I came here. It was always a disaster. She's really good at all that stuff, but I just forgot all of it, or never learned it, or something. Anyway, maybe after three times, he's not even interested anymore. Or figures he'd have better luck with someone else." She sounded hopeful about the prospect.

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"Doubtful. He'll keep trying until he manages to get an answer. This is Mike." Alex said pragmatically as she pinned up the sleeves so that she could drag the shirt to home ec to stitch it together. "It's not like Mike's the poster boy for normal, either. We lived in a government think tank for the last ten years with mandatory curfew and were never allowed out of sight of a guardian or parent. So, I really wouldn't stress. If you don't want to go, just say 'no' but I really think you should if he asks. Seriously. He's like the safest person on the planet to go out with."

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That didn't exactly seem like a ringing endorsement to Erin, but she knew the sort of guy Alex was looking for, and figured she meant it as a compliment to Mike. For her own part, she was hardly concerned about her physical safety, and her emotional well-being was probably shot beyond a teenage boy's ability to make any worse, so that wasn't much of a consideration. "I'll think about it, if he actually asks," she said finally, stuffing her socks and underpants into the top drawer and closing it hard enough to make her picture frame rattle. Turning back to Alex, she asked, "So are you actually going to break into the lab to test that?"

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"Yup." Alex said firmly. The guilt in her tone was definately overridden by determination, "Although I need to get some samples from the rest of the team to use as a baseline since I also want to test her for terminus energies. I know she's not my twin but that she's related to me. The terminus event happened at one very fixed point in time. If she's not my sister, how could she have her powers from the same event? She'd have to have been in utero the same time as me and Mike. There's just too many questions. Too many holes."

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"Yeah, that is kind of weird," Erin agreed evasively. "But maybe she's afraid to tell the truth for some reason. I figure the headmaster will be keeping an eye on her, to make sure she's not up to anything shady." Erin knew for a fact that she was a terrible liar, but it wasn't so bad just to stretch the truth, or to avoid it entirely. "It'll probably all come out eventually."

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Alex gave Erin a startled look and sat the shirt down the desk. After fixing her roommate with one of those all-to-considering glances, Alex lifted one shoulder in a slight shrug, "It's not that I think that she's up to anything bad, per say. Or even that I don't trust her. Actually, I do trust her quite a bit. Perhaps more than I should, but if I am related to her, I want to know how. She's all alone now and she's some kind of family. I'm not just going to leave her to take care of herself. Of course, I'm going to take care of her. But I can't help her if I don't know what she's hiding. Or why."

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"Maybe she's still trying to decide what to say," Erin offered. "It's been, what, twelve hours since she landed, give or take? I can't tell you exactly what's going on in here mind," for a lot of reasons, "but I know it's not easy to get used to people who are family, but not your family the way you used to know them. Maybe when she's more comfortable, she'll be ready to spill it." Erin wasn't entirely sure why she was going out of her way on Zoe's behalf, but maybe it was just because she knew what it was like to be alone in a strange place and desperate for a little time to catch your breath without people picking at you. It wasn't hurting anything, she figured.

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"Yes, well, if I was going to use the information to do anything but help her, I'd probably agree. The fact of the matter is she's not a fabulous liar, and her story doesn't really hold water. If she's got a good reason to keep her secret, frankly, she's going to need help doing it. Especially as she's now connected to both me and Mike via psychic link." Alex said with a matter of fact shrug and began putting away all of the various things on her desk. She never slept well if she'd left things not put back where they belonged, "She's not the only one who's now got weirdness to deal with over having family show up. She thinks quickly on her feet but I doubt she's ever planned ahead a day in her life. Unless you're Mark, you can't just hope for everything to fall out the way you want it. Someone has to look out for, I think and if we're going to look out for her, then its important to know what we're up against. She has time to tell me what's bothering her. I need to collect a few more samples to test, anyways. I'm not sneaking off to the lab tonight or anything."

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"Maybe she'll get help, but it's not help you can give her," Erin suggested cryptically. "Nevermind. All I'm saying is that she did beat the crap out of Nerd Boy, and Summers is letting her into the school. It's a couple of points in her favor. If she asks you for help, that's one thing, but maybe it's better to just let it go for the moment. You'll still have the sample when you want it."

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