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angrydurf

Cool Air [IC]

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It had been a hard practice session, not Archers usual mind games for which Mike was gratefull but they had really pushed him to the limit of his abilities this time. He'd been able to keep up but barely and it had been exhausting. The more physical workout had given him some time to think however and he had made some realizations. He was not ever really going to be one of the hip kids like Mark or Chris or Eddie, and really trying to emulate them obviously wasn't cutting it. So back to basics and he'd see where things went.

Which was why instead of heading directly to the gym for a cooldown and then the showers he was waiting in the hall to the doom room while they reset. He knew Erin was next and usually was at least a little ahead of schedual so it seemed as good a time as any to talk to her. So he waited towel around his neck to ask out Young Freedoms prickliest member this time without the borrowed pretense.

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He wasn't waiting long before the elevator at the end of the long hallway chimed and opened to let Erin out. Her practice uniform was already on, bat clipped to her belt, but she also had a Spanish phrasebook in her hand and was mouthing phrases as she walked. She approached with her usual speed and purpose, the sort that suggested she might run you over and not mean anything by it, because she was busy.

Absorbed in her homework, Erin was halfway down the hall before she even noticed Mike standing there and slowed her pace to give herself a few seconds before they met up. She'd sort of been wondering about this since the conversation she'd had with Alex about him, and sort of wondering if he'd decided to give up. Now that he was standing right there, and apparently waiting, she wasn't quite sure what to do about it. "Hey Mike," she finally said as she drew closer.

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"Hey Erin." He replied with his customary half smile. "You got a minute?" He clearly knew she did but figured it was polite to ask just in case. When she didn't immediately say no he stood up straight and got right to the point Mike was confident once he decided upon a course of action though getting to that point was somewhat difficult for him at times, "So I was wondering if you might like to go out sometime? Maybe Friday or Saturday?" He had agonized over how exactly to go about this but in the end decided that despite allt he other boys suggestions of lines and various duplicities the direct approach really woudl work best, Erin was a direct kinda girl, it was part of what Mike liked about her, and really noe of that stuff was very Him anyway so might as well get things started honestly.

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Erin cocked her head and studied him for a minute, unsmiling. He might have thought she was sizing him up for a fight, but it was obvious by now that Erin didn't waste time on that sort of thing in an actual fight. In her head, she was busy sorting through options. She was still far from sure this was a good idea, on a lot of levels. No matter what she'd said to Alex about Mark, the idea of putting herself forward as anyone's practice date wasn't exactly appealing. Especially if her qualifications for that were low stakes and an exceptionally sturdy anatomy, something she wasn't even going to think about right now. On the other hand, at least he hadn't done anything embarrassing or asked her in front of everybody else, which had been very real possibilities, given who he was taking his advice from. "Where do you want to go?" she asked finally.

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Mike thought for a moment, to be honest he hadn't expected her to say yes so hadn't put too much thought into it. After a his thoughtfull pause however he spoke up, "Well we could do the dinner and movie ting I guess but I'm not sure that really either of our speeds, I mean if you'd rather that'd be fine too I think your fun to hang out with. But I was thinking something quieter maybe a picnic?"

There was a nice little spot up in the hills in Wharton State Forest he knew of that would be nice for a relaxing afternoon away from all the noise and busyness of the city.

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Erin repressed a grimace at that suggestion, eating food out of a bag somewhere far from where people were wasn't exactly her cup of tea anymore. "Do you want to play baseball?" she suggested. "I checked the computer in the Doom Room, there's a simulation for it. It's got an optional brawl, if we get bored. We could book it for Friday night and see what it's like." It sounded entertaining, at least, and more friendly than datey, which worked just fine for her.

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Mike cracked a rare smile, "Sure that sounds like fun." He responded. Maybe not standard date material but they weren't anything like standard teens if thats what she was comfortable with he was fine with it. Besides it did sound rather fun.

He nodded and jerking his head towards the Doom Room said, "I should probably let you get going but I'll see you friday then." He said with a smile and turned towards the showers before adding, "Oh and Archers in a bit of an odd mood today so don't let him get to you." He called back with a shrug.

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"Thanks," she replied, hefting her bag on her shoulder and turning towards the other locker room. "But he's always in a weird mood. I think he's psychotic. See you on Friday." Grateful that the first hurdle was taken care of anyway, she hurried into the locker room before either of them had a chance to screw up and make fools of themselves. It could've gone a lot worse, and anyway, she was good at baseball and fighting. It couldn't be that bad.

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Mike happily finished out his workout and hit the showers before heading back to his room. It had gone better than he had thought it might and considered telling the other guys about it, if for no other reason than to get them to lay off about the alex thing, but really didn't want to ess up the good mood with them trying to analyze why it wasn't a normal date. they were his friends and all but sometimes it seemed to Mike they were involved with girls for all the wrong reasons and he'd rather not get into it with them again on that.

***

When the appointed time rolled around Mike grabbed his glove out of his closet and headed down to Erin and Alex's room. He probably didn't even need the glove really but he wasn't likely to get alot more reason to use it so he might as well, He had ditched his uniform for a tighter t-shirt and jeans, he was worried he had hit another growth spurt he had thought these were looser last time, and topped it off with the cap they had gotten before the ill fated ball game they went ont he school trip too.

Mike knocked smartly on the door at the appointed time, sure they could have met at the Doom Room but even if the eavenings activity wasn't standard date fare they could start it out like one right?

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Erin met him at the door, fast enough that she'd probably been waiting just on the other side. She'd dressed for the occasion too, sort of, in a Ocean Heights t-shirt and blue jeans, with her hair in a ponytail and laced through the back of a baseball cap. He could tell that the cap was borrowed from Alex, because it was pink and studded with green plastic jewels. She gave him a quick, slightly uncertain smile as she opened the door. "Hey. You ready?"

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Mike let loose another of his rare smiles when she answered the door. "Deffinately," he replied and offered his arm, "This was a good idea. Should be fun." He said as they started down the hall and out to the nearest entrance to the underground parts of the school.

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Erin hesitated for a moment before taking his arm, a little awkwardly. It felt weird. She guessed it was okay, at least it felt a little better after her brain was finished calculating ways to throw him. "It's been a long time since I played baseball," she admitted as they walked. "Not since eighth grade, but I figure it's not like you forget. We'll both be on the same team, and playing against some people with powers, some without. Near as I could tell from the docs, anyway."

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Mike noticed the hesitation but was glad when she took his arm. He wasn't expecting things to go one hundred percent smoothly but he certainly wasn't one to get bent out of shape over Erins ecentricities, he had enough of his own after all.

He nodded as the crossed the gardens, pretty quickly since niether of them had to slow for less speedy friends, "Yea I've never actually played. By the time I was old enough to understand the rules I was too strong to risk it, so you'll be in good company at least. I used to watch all the games with my dad and we did try some batting practice once at my grandparents farm, so hopefully I won't embarrass myself too much." He said with out reservation, it was nice talking to Erin about this kind of stuff as she never really gave him the 'what planet did you grow up on?' look that thier other friends did when he talked about his past.

When they reached the elevator by the admin building he quickly typed in his coed and bent down to place his eyes against the scanner, when the door slid open he gestured for Erin to enter and followed her in.

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"I haven't played since I got really strong," Erin replied as they rode down the elevator. "I might just end up breaking all the bats and sliding into the outfield. But nobody else is going to be watching, and I won't tell if you don't," she joked. On a Friday evening, the hallway to the Doom Room was even darker and emptier than usual, but they were both used to the forbidding atmosphere down here by now. Erin stopped at the door and let it scan her eye, then keyed in the program she'd found. "And you know, if it doesn't work right or it turns out boring, no big deal, right? It's just an experiment." She wasn't sure whether she was talking about the experiment or the "date" thing, but it seemed to apply.

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"That makes it a learning experiance right." Mike said with a feigned sarcastic shrug, "So they can't complain out missuse of the Doom Room, Right?" Not that he really cared overmuch, it hadn't been forbidden and really they deserved some kind of chance to cut loose.

Mike nodded saying, "Well I figure it can still be fun even if I'm bad at it right? So we'll just see how it goes and then we'll know for next time."

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"Nobody ever told us not to," Erin pointed out. "If we play through the brawl in the fourth inning, we can even say it was fight training. Course, it's kiddie pool level stuff compared to what Archer throws at us, but still." She walked into the the room, where the simulation was already taking shape. This wasn't a professional stadium like the one they'd fought at a few months ago, it was much closer to the high school field she'd played on a lifetime ago. Base paths were traced in dirt on a grassy field, and a high back fence separated the field from the spectators. The warm air smelled like barbecued hot dogs and newly-cut grass. A few dozen spectators were seated on the bleachers, with more milling around or still approaching.

Out on the field, two teams were warming up, one in yellow and one in blue. As Erin and Mike walked in, both their t-shirts turned blue as well. "Guess we know where we belong," she said, heading over for the cluster of blue team players.

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Mike just nodded and jogged over to the blue team as well. A quick check showed thier team was up to bat first and Mike took his plac next to Erin in the batting line-up. "You wan hit first or should I?" He asked, not sure if goign first would be showing off or embarassing himself first he settled on asking if Erin had a preferance. "I think the fielding will be more interesting though but it'll be neat to see how far we can hit it, well if I can hit it." He added with a shrug.

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Erin picked up the clipboard that had the batting order on it, which currently wasn't filled out. It was a fairly intuitive matter, with each player having a number from 1-9 on the back of their jersey, with her 8 and Mike 9. "You can go first," she told him, putting his number at the top of the list, "and lead us off. We'll know if we need to tweak the simulation then." She studied the field, watching their teammates. There was one obvious speedster and another who had arms the size of tree trunks, but the rest seemed normal. "I'll put Number 3 in second, and then 6, because he's obviously fast enough to steal. I'll take cleanup, just to see if I can do it." Grinning a little, she filled out the rest of the order, then hung it back up. "Okay, you're up. Good luck."

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Mike did a couple quick stretchs and hefted the bat experementally, they seemed regulation so as he stepped to the plate he tried take that into account as he took his practice swings he focused more on speed and precision than raw power. The first ball shot across the plate too fast for the big youth. With a shrug and a quick glance to Erin he said, "Next one." and focused on speed.

The ball flew at him like in slow motion and he made solid contact fireing the ball straight across the field, The speedster in the outfield managed to grab the ball and throw home as he rounded third though it had all occured in the blink of an eye. Mike waited there as the next batter bunted himself onto first the catcher stopped Mike from being able to charge home however.

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It turned out that the speedster Erin had set to bat third didn't have much of an arm, but made up for it by being fast. He sent a ball dribbling down the middle of the field, bouncing across the ground and practically into the shortstop's hands, but he and Mike were both fast enough to take advantage of it. Erin was waiting for Mike when he reached home, bat already in hand. "Nice job," she told him, raising her hand to slap him five. The hapless second batter had had no chance, but that was only one out.

Erin took her turn at bat, taking a few practice swings before stepping up to the plate. It was weird to be standing there again after all this time, but kind of cool, too. Maybe it wasn't regular baseball, but it was still baseball. The pitcher wound up and put one right over the plate at her. She swung, hitting it with a crack that resonated all the way up her arms. It was the sort of hit that should've broken a bat, but weapons in the simulator didn't always follow the same rules as in real life. The ball soared up, up and away, besting the speedster's flying leap and heading out over the scoreboard. She was so busy watching it that she forgot to run until her speedster teammate nearly ran her over coming home. Laughing, she sped around the bases. "I guess we're pretty good at this after all."

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Mike returned the high five with a smile, this was going well. He laughed slightly as she watched the ball fly out of the park and was waiting in the dugout for her return, "Good one, looks like the equipment can stand up to full power." He said more excited than she'd seen him just about anytime before.

They sat and watched as thier team grew the lead by two runs before thier third out led them to the field. Mike grabbed his glove as he headed for hte outfield, "Fly balls," he said with a smile as he jogged into possition. He called in a suggestion that Erin try her hand at pitching as he took up his position. Erin could deffinately bring the 'Heat' as the sportscasters said on ESPN.

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Erin nodded, stepping up to the pitcher's mound as Mike took to the outfield. Her first pitch, a very fast fastball down the center, smacked into the catcher's mitt and sent him flying back into the umpire. There was a bit of shuffling, and their teammate with the exceedingly beefy arms put on the equipment instead. That worked substantially better. Erin struck out the first batter with no problem. but the second hitter up to bat had something extra going on. It was hard to tell exactly what, but the glowing aura was a good clue.

Since she only knew one pitch anyway, Erin gave her the fastball too, high and right down the center. The glowing aura suddenly spread down the bat, which smacked straight into the ball, sending it high and far. "Get it, get it!" Erin yelled to Mike, shading her eyes with her arm to watch the ball go.

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Mike shot into the air before the words were even out of her mouth. What he lacked in precision he made up for in speed and moments later Mike came to rest on the ground ball in hand. He tossed the ball lightly to Erin with a smile, "Nice of you to give all of us a chance." He said, it was without malice he was fairly certain she could strike out every one of the batters if she tried.

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Erin fielded the ball, giving him a crooked grin. "I was a first baseman," she pointed out. "I never learned to pitch. Last time my coach wasn't letting his daughter do all the pitching, we were still throwing the ball underhanded. Good catch." The next runner managed to get on base, catching the tip of the ball on the bat and sending it just shy of the foul line, but she struck the next batter out without much difficulty, putting the blue team back up to bat.

In the top of the second, both she and Mike had some time before they were up again. Erin kept one eye on the field as the next batter went up, but tried to make conversation as well. "At the school you went to, did they ever let you do any sports?"

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Mike shook his head, "No. Not really, for a little while when we were around eight or so they tried to disguise some of hte power testing as sports but Alex figured it out and asked about it in front of all of us." He shrugged, "after that they pretty much gave up on any pretense."

He glanced over at Erin and paused for a moment he didn't usually talk much about the time they spent at the institute but Erin already knew all the stuff that he didn't like to explin and it was nice in a way to talk to someone who hadn't been through it about what it was like.

"It wasn't really a school anyway." He explained, "I mean we had tutors and were kept up to date on curriculum basics, even advanced stuff if you got to it. But it was all interspersed with therapy and powers testing."

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