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Like Riding a Bike (IC)


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Date: Late August, 2015

"Just a minute!" Alex called out from behind her closed bedroom door and where she was eyeing the articles of clothing already discarded across her bed. "Almost ready."

Now, she'd never been one to really debate a clothing choice. Alex, after all, embraced her own aesthetic with a whole hearted cheerfulness but apparently the one thing she didn't own was something fit for crime fighting in muted colors. She wasn't sure which of them had brought up the entire idea of getting 'back on the horse' so to speak of super-hero'ing but as it was a chance to spend time together with her best friend and, also, a chance to fly - passing it up had never even crossed Alex's mind. 

Of course she could wear her old costume. It wasn't like she'd grown much since high school, but Psyche's short skirted ensemble would probably have read very differently on a twenty-something lady. Alex really didn't need to see that appear on a magazine cover. Ever.

"Okay, I think I'm ready."

She stepped out after pulling the turtleneck on over her head and grabbed a light sweater, giving Erin a hesitant look. "Is this okay?"

At least the jeans were dark blue but over that she'd put on a turtleneck that could most charitably be described as 'pumpkin'. The sweater was black, at least, but shot through with a sparkly silver yarn. It would have been perfect for Halloween but since it was August, it was really just Alex. "It's a black sweater!"

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Erin pursed her lips to hide a laugh as she studied Alex's getup. "It sure is," she agreed. "I honestly hadn't expected you to own anything so somber. If you don't think you'll be too hot with all that on, we can head out." She was wearing her regular uniform, of course, form-fitting black and purple with her shining silver bat holstered at her hip. She almost never needed a weapon on these patrols, but it was always good to have along. "You all ready?" 

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"No, I don't think I'll be too hot. I'm usually cold more than anything. It's the poor circulation, I think." Alex said as she held up slender hands for emphasis and wiggled her fingertips. "Besides, if I get hot, I'll just take the sweater off!"

With a cheery jaunt in her steps that set her pony tail bouncing, she fell in along with Erin as they left the penthouse and headed for the sleepy streets of Alex's childhood neighborhood. It didn't phase Alex at all to be trotting alongside a costumed super-hero and they made quite the pair as every third step or so, she'd float forward to keep up with Erin's longer stride and resume walking without missing a beat in her conversation. 

Alex, for her part, was used to multitasking so while she psychically skimmed over their environs, she continued to chat - almost without pausing for breath, "Is there anything in particular you're looking for or are we just keeping an eye out for 'trouble'?" Alex wanted to know although she continued on without really pausing for answer, in typical Alex fashion, "I haven't really fought any sort of crime since graduation. I mean, I've dealt with power containment issues but that's really not the same thing. People aren't trying to, like, rob a bank. Or scare old ladies. They're just, you know, scared."

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"Just looking for trouble, mostly," Erin told her. "Things have been quiet lately, ever since the Communion business, but there's always somebody willing to try something. Some nights I don't find anything, then I just count it as exercise." She leapt up to a nearby rooftop, trusting Alex to pace her, then took a look and a listen around. "And you know how it goes. Some nights stranded motorists, some nights car accidents, domestic disputes... really I guess it's not that different that Mike's daydreams of being a cop." 

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Alex floated after Erin, and remained hovering behind where she landed, going quiet as Erin listened to the night, with her hands in her pockets. Floating there, Alex cast her gaze over the city beyond Erin as if she, too, were listening. She was, in a way. Just not with her eyes and ears. If Erin looked back, she'd see Alex's gaze flicking back and forth rapidly, as if she were in REM sleep. Or perhaps blind. There was a reason that Alex typically closed her eyes when she was casting out her senses. 

"Mrs. Miller's fallen asleep in front of the television smoking again," Alex offered after a good minute of silence, her hazel eyes finally focusing on Erin's shoulders once more rather than casting them out over the city. "There are some teenagers graffitiing outside the school and they may, or may not, be drinking. The couple down the street is fighting again about money. Mostly just yelling but it's hard to say if it's going to stay just yelling." Alex's sigh was soft, a little sad, but she moved on. "I think that Darcy might run away again. Poor kid. She's not handling the divorce well."

Her hands remained in her pockets and Alex's posture remained relaxed in the air, one leg tucked up as she hovered. The aura of her power was more subdued than it had been in Claremont but it still sparkled and shifted around her as she bobbed in the air, her attention once more turned to Erin. 

"But that's just this quarter-mile or so. I can keep looking," Alex offered, her chin tipping to the side. 

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"Nah, you'll take all the fun out of it," Erin told her with a grin, then began running again. She kept her pace to an easy jog, ten miles an hour or so, pausing every now and then to have another look around. "Very glamorous, this superheroic life," she told Alex after a few more minutes. "But it's really good practice for being a security guard. A little bit of crazy action, and a lot of waiting around for stuff to happen. But I'll take this any day over another big invasion or disaster. How you doing?" 

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Alex gave a little shrug of her shoulders under the sparkly sweater and floated after Erin, her hands never leaving her pockets as she kept up with Erin's jog. There was, after all, no way she'd manage to keep up with even Erin's easy jog on foot but flying was still fun and Alex had missed it. She flipped over as she trailed along, looking up at the night sky through the light pollution of Freedom City to the stars beyond. 

"I'm fine. You know, all of our old missions always seemed to sort of... just be attracted to us. Probably because of Mark, come to think of it," Alex said, her lips curving up then with obvious fondness for their old friend. "Things with Mark were rarely dull. Sometimes terrifying but rarely dull. I don't think I could do the full-time super hero life. It's hard, you know. Not to get sucked in all the time. I hear them..."

She trailed off verbally as with Erin, she didn't need to explain the constant press of humanity on her brain. Alex well understood the constant need for super hero work but she knew she'd never be able to help everyone all the time. Trying would have driven her round the bend. "...But I miss doing it some of the time."

Alex flipped over once agin, lazily, like a swimmer turning over underwater and caught up to Erin, "I did put together a binder for you to look over. Two actually." At Erin's blink, Alex added brightly. "For the wedding!"

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"Two binders?" Erin's voice was tinged with wonder and dread. "Like... are we talking little mini school-report size binders, or big massive three-ring jobs with tabs and stuff?" She suspected she already knew, given Alex's penchant for organizing, but hope springs eternal. "Um, it's great that you're doing all this, I really appreciate it. But I still haven't really had a chance to sit down with Trevor and talk about a date, you know? It's kind of all theoretical until then." She looked Alex over, cocking her head to accomodate the odd angle. "Um, you didn't bring them with you on patrol, did you?" 

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"Oh, they're the three rings style but I made them more, you know, wedding-y," Alex said cheerfully as she bounced along beside Erin with a little more bob than usual in her floating as her good mood manifested in her flight. It wasn't quite 'turning loops for fun' but it wasn't all that far off either as she warmed to her subject. Considering Alex's penchant for glitter paint well into her final year at Claremont, there was a strong likelihood that they were festively bedecked. 

"And I know. Of course you haven't yet. That's why there are two binders. One for fall and winter, and one for summer and spring!" Alex continued on with good cheer, either missing or more likely, ignoring the trepidation in Erin's tone. "And I've scaled them based on projected numbers from intimate to sizable. It's best to be prepared!"

That, really, could have been Alex's catch-phrase. At Erin's final question, Alex shot her a faint frown, "Of course I didn't bring them!"

She waved her hands around the largely empty streets, "There's no place to lay them out and mark what you like and don't like about the possible plans. And where would put all the post it notes?"

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"No sizable, definitely not sizable," Erin clarified as hastily as she could. She didn't know exactly what Alex would consider sizable, but it scared her nearly as much as considering Mark's idea of sizable. "Small and simple! Like maybe out in the backyard with a trellis and wisteria and folding chairs." Erin didn't even really know what wisteria looked like, just that it went on trellises. It was close enough. "Um, maybe we'll look at the binders later, then. Cause patrol now." She bounded off again, raced up the side of a building, and perched like a gargoyle on the edge of a gutter, hoping for a fight. Nobody seemed to be obliging in this neighborhood. "So how's Mike doing?"

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That, at least derailed Alex's wedding plan discussions. Really, no one derailed Alex's plans for a wedding like Michael Harris. Her sigh echoed out and she tipped her head up towards the sky, almost absently touching Mike's thoughts across the city although she said nothing. 

"Oh, you know. He's moving forward." Alex said after a moment as she bobbed up to sit next to Erin. Unlike Erin's menacing perch, Alex sat next to her, her legs swinging absently and her hands on the cold stone. "Honestly, its been a slow realization of all the problems at every step of the way. So, you know. On some level, he knew it was all coming but he didn't want to believe it. You know Mike. He can be so stubborn."

Alex's tone was exasperated. It really wasn't easy to let Mike keep going down the wrong path but she'd long ago decided not to risk stunting his development. In her own way, Alex could really be just as stubborn. "Plus, he won't move in before we get married because that's important to him. I am trying really hard to respect that but, you know, it's frustrating." 

She paused, "On many, many levels."

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Erin made a sympathetic face. "That's gotta make it tough, yeah.  Are you guys still, like, dating officially and all that, or is this some kind of more nebulous part of The Plan?" Erin had never been entirely clear on the intricacies of Alex's Five-Or-Ten-Year-Plan, which seemed to sometimes involve her and Mike seeing other people, but she suspected it had to have been in a non-dating phase while he was at the Academy, at least. She wondered if Mike was still maintaining his insistence upon avoiding more than moving in together, but it seemed impolite to ask at the moment. She'd save it for a time when she really needed to distract Alex from something. 

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"We're still together, still engaged. I mean, I've only actually seen him intermittently as he's been busy with his whole normalcy thing and I have AEON," Alex offered, with a small shrug of her shoulders that almost sent her slipping off of the roof. After righting herself on her perch, Alex tucked her hands back in her pockets, her legs absently swinging. "We're never really apart - not really. But it isn't the same."

She gestured towards her head, indicating the constant mental link but she looked a little sad at the same time. After living practically in each other's pockets, Mike's absence was something she felt keenly, even if he was never more than a mental touch away, "I mean, it's good. It's healthy, I suppose, since one has to has one's own adult identity and all of that but..."

Alex sighed and admitted, scuffing one sneaker against the side of the roof, "I don't like it though. I just want to, you know, see him. I don't like actually being alone. It's weird and I don't enjoy it at all. But, what can you do? I mean, I want to be supportive and all that in things that matter. I hope he's going to be okay with moving forward, but I don't actually know if he will. He could go off for a jaunt around space next and it'll be another five years. Or ten."

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Erin reached out tentatively and squeezed Alex's hand, uncomfortable as always with casual touch, but wanting to offer comfort. "That really sucks," she offered succintly. "Alex... why are you letting him do this to you? I know you guys love each other, but it's not right that he's doing this and you're letting him. If you're in a relationship and you could be together, shouldn't you, you know, be together? I know you want him to spread his wings and find his way and all that, but can't he do a lot of that with you? Or at least without leaving you just hanging around and lonely? It just seems, I dunno. It seems so one-sided that he should get to make all the decisions on when you guys are ready for this or that or the other thing." 

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"Well, I'm the one who's not seeing him, really. Mike would pick me up for date nights but I knew that would kind of make it all fall apart faster," She added with a small smile as she squeezed Erin's hand back, her touch light but appreciative. "I mean. I may have encouraged this. A bit. Just a bit."

Alex paused and then added, a little guilty, "I also may not have let him know that I was unhappy or lonely. I just don't want to 'stunt his development'!"

Because manipulating the people you loved so that you DIDN'T manipulate them totally made sense! Or, close enough. Alex began to twist her hands together in the same nervous habit she'd had since they were sixteen year old roommates. "I mean, sure, he could! But then, what if later on he had regrets. I don't want Mike to have regrets because I nudged him along the path I think is right. I mean, I AM right, but self direction is so important. So, if he's going down the wrong path, he should learn that on his own, right?"

This sounded an awful lot like the same sort of logic that had led to Alex not ever mentioning her feelings for fear of undue influence. Sometimes having a super-brain left you working back around to get in your own way. She frowned at Erin, the expression thoughtful, "You don't think its manipulating Mike?"

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Erin shrugged. "Was I manipulating Trevor when I moved in with him because we were both pretty young and I might have kept him from meeting somebody else he would've liked better?" she asked rhetorically. "Maybe in a way, but you can't be in a relationship without manipulating each other. Um." She paused for a second, screwing up her face as she realized the double entendre there. "What I mean is, if you're nudging him in a direction you think is good for both of you, that's not a bad thing, that's what people do when they're together. You've got your own lives, yeah, but you've also got your life together, so you've got, like, an obligation to help guide things along there. It's not unethical unless you're using tricks or coercion or force, and I know you wouldn't do that." 

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Alex giggled at the unintentional joke, her laughter brief but bemused before she sobered and gave Erin's words due consideration. She caught her lower lip between her teeth, worrying at it slowly. 

"No, of course I wouldn't," Alex agreed, "And, of course that wasn't manipulation, I mean, not like that. But you come at it from an equal point of view, as equals. I just don't want to accidentally force Mike to go along with me because that would be wrong and..."

She trailed off then, squinting slightly, her nose scrunching up. "... and I'm totally depriving him of the chance to make those choices, aren't I? I mean, it's not like Mike doesn't get all stubborn when he has strong feelings. I'd have convinced him to stay over for a night a looooong time ago if he wasn't fully able to make his own calls on things."

Alex tipped her head to the side to take Erin in, her smile turning teasing, "When did you get so smart?"

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"We're all grown up now, didn't you notice?" Erin replied easily, the concern on her face smoothing into humor. "Well, I mean, some of us didn't really grow up, so maybe it was kind of hard to see," she teased. "But you know Mike always goes his own way, no matter what anybody else thinks is going to be good for him. You've gotta give him enough information to make his choices, and that means letting him know how it makes you feel when he does this ridiculous stuff. You guys are so good together, when you're actually together-together and not in this weird together-not-together space." Erin paused a moment, considered whether she'd been coherent there, then nodded agreement with herself. "It's better than having him not know how you feel, then eventually having him figure it out later and be beating himself up because he was hurting you and never knew. Because you know that's what he'd do." 

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"I gained a quarter of an inch since I was sixteen," Alex pointed out, her tone sounding utterly serious but the smile made it clear that she was well aware she was the short-fry of their graduating class, "It's not my fault that I peaked early. I eat the same things Mike did - though not in the same massive quantities. Those boys could seriously put away a ton of food. We'll have to plan for that for your wedding. Wouldn't do to run out thanks to meta-human metabolisms."

Alex swung her legs absently, one sneakered foot behind the other. The laces of her sneakers were sparkly enough that they should have matched her sweater but some how failed to. "That's absolutely what Mike would do. Though, he's gotten better. He's grown up... even if I don't treat him that way a lot of the time. Even if the whole academy thing didn't work out in the long run, it really was good for him."

She bumped her shoulder into Erin's own rock solid muscles, teasing, "He's even stopped writing poetry and really, that's a gift to everyone."

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"Oh, I don't know," Erin deadpanned. "I was pretty dour back then, and sometimes hearing about his poetry was the only thing that could make me laugh. I think he was really doing a service to humanity. But I suspect it's probably better for his mental health that he isn't writing like that anymore." She relaxed somewhat from her ready crouch, sitting back on her heels as easily on the thin ledge as she would've on solid ground. "Mike and I were both pretty messed up in different ways back then, for all we were both strong and hard to damage. I'm glad he's getting better from most of it. It feels good to get better." 

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"You've both come a long way. It does feel good to get better," Alex agreed with a small smile. Though she might have been duking it out with Edge for most 'well adjusted' from their graduating class, Alex had a ring-side seat for the struggles that they'd had to go through. She was proud and it showed on her fine-boned features. 

"How are you doing with the whole wedding thing?" Alex asked then since the conversation had segued back in that direction, "I mean, not with all the planning and all of that. That's easy. But I remember that you used to think you couldn't do anything like normal. Is it exciting to be here? Scary? Both?"

Alex scootched one leg up towards her chest, wrapping her arms around it to hug her knee towards her chest as she gave Erin her full attention. "It can seem like a big step though I think you and Trevor are really good for each other."

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"Pretty terrifying," Erin admitted, with an ease she wouldn't have had with anybody else. "You knew me when, you know how I was back then. Part of me was just ready to die doing something heroic because I didn't see any kind of future for myself. The idea of loving anybody ever again was so scary, because I know I can lose them anytime, and I didn't think I could ever go through that again. And now here I am, just throwing myself into the deep end, getting married, maybe-probably having kids someday, if all my future adult children are to be believed. Just opening that door wide and practically begging for all that pain again." She moved her shoulders in a half-shrug. "But at the same time, I guess I know the damage is already done. I don't know how I'd live without Trevor, so getting married to him doesn't really change that much except the way we file our taxes. What do you think about Keeley Erin Hunter-White?" 

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"I know. Even though you can intellectually know that its going to hurt the same regardless of whether or not there are papers, its the difference between walking down the road eyes open and just letting things unfold. It's huge but I'm proud of you." Alex said as she rested her chin on her denim clad knee, arms casually looped around the leg. "Besides, you have a lot more tools to keep Trevor safe and he has tools to keep you safe. You're stronger together than apart. You've totally got this."

Alex turned to smile at Erin then, "I like it. It's a little bit of a mouthful but not in a bad way. Is Trevor hyphenating his name too? Trevor Hunter-White? Or is he just keeping it 'Hunter'?"

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"I dunno," Erin admitted. "I'm not sure what he'd want to do, and with his grandpa this year, I'm not sure it's a good time to ask. But I'm okay if he just wants to keep Hunter, I just don't want to give up my name completely, you know? I already have to use Keeley instead of Erin on my official forms, it's like if I become Keeley Hunter, it's not really me at all. Too weird." She shook her head. "And Erin White-Hunter sounds like I'm going to go hunt elephants in darkest Borneo or something, not exactly the vibe I'm going for." She smirked briefly. "What about you, how are you gonna do the name thing when the time comes?" 

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"Mike's changing his name," Alex replied with a small smile. "It's a bit easier if I don't have to change my name - there's a lot in my name that would be kind of a hassle to change around. So Mike's taking the Albright name as he doesn't mind being the one to change his. I mean, his mom has always been on that new age-y bent - she's really into doing detoxes and cleanses right now. I got her a juicer last Christmas. So, she's all for it and his dad's come around."

"So it'll be Michael and Alexandra Albright," Alex offered cheerfully before she laughed, "Other than the whole endangered species thing, being some sort of pulp era big game hunter sounds kind of exotic for an alter-ego. It's straight out of an old serial." Alex teased before she smiled, "I think Keeley Erin Hunter-White is good name. It suites you."

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