Playing Chicken

May 29, 2015:

Finding herself thinking of Agent Thompson more than she expected, Betsy finds an excuse to visit him in the Triskelion.


The gymnasium at the Triskelion, 3rd shift


NPCs: None.


Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

Well into third shift at the Triskelion, the time when the staff changes for the most part and the first group of agents go off duty. It's a time when folks upstairs are settling in, the initial security sweeps are made, and the place is locked down in part as the 'business' day is done. So what is there for one to do at such a time?
Well there's going out. The commisarry. Or there's the gymnasium. For Agent Cadet Thompson going out usually isn't much of an option unless he's working an angle on a file like the Purifiers he's had his nose in. And he's not hungry… so that leaves the gym.
Dressed in those regulation grey sweats, though with a curiously loose and torn collar, Flash Thompson is standing on the heavy mats off to the corner of the room. A tan grappling dummy is sitting on its support and he's holding his hands up, focusing, and then firing a series of quick sharp-knuckled punches at the sides of its neck. He scowls at himself at times, trying different angles, different timing. Not satisfied with the results, at least not yet.

"You're trying too hard," comes an increasingly-familiar voice. Wearing her waist-rolled yoga pants and pink athletic top, Betsy appears from Flash's blind spot, moving silently and ignoring the stares she's getting. Her long purple hair is tied into a neatly coiled braid at the base of her skull, putting her sharp features under the overhead lights.

She walks up to the dummy, looking at Flash with an inscrutable expression, then gestures at the target. "It's not as effective to hit it hard. Overcompressing the target point risks the nerve slipping out from under your impact." She balls her hand up into a phoenix fist and from the hip, snaps her hand into the dummy, visibly distending the fabric around her thumb and knuckle. "You need to strike with 'gentle force'," she explains.

Stepping back from the dummy, Flash's feet cause the mats to crunch under them with each step. He looks over, blue eyes flashing at first with a hint of annoyance at the words. But then he espies the speaker and his smile springs easily to life. "Ms. Braddock,"
A gesture is made towards the dummy as he murmurs, "Yah I was just trying to kinda put it in tune with my normal… thing." Vocabulary fail.
Then she offers her demonstration and he shakes his head, smiling to himself. "Looks like I've got a decently long road ahead of me." Sure Flash is a pretty impressive fighter in his own right. But so much of his ability is tied up in the enhanced attributes, speed, strength. But finesse, like that sort of precision, that escapes him for now.

"It took me about twelve years to be able to perform it on demand," Betsy says calmly, looking at Flash. "But I did have to develop the muscle tone to make an effective striking fist. It was years before I was able to do pushups on my thumbs, let alone strike properly."

"You're good at wrestling, though," she says, after a moment of slightly awkward silence. Betsy seems to be making something of an effort to be sociable today.

"Yeah, Flash-a-mania and all." Alright that's probably a reference that someone as refined as Elizabeth Braddock most likely wouldn't get, and it's only after he says it that Thompson probably realizes it. He tries to signal it's meant to be a joke by giving a half-smile, but he bravely presses on. "So stopping by to use the gym, or you got a meet and greet to attend to?"
As he says this he steps past her, walking over to where he dropped his towel and bottle of water at the edge of the mats. He picks up the bottle, pulls the squeeze top up, then tilts it back and takes a few swallows. The top's closed and he sets it back down. "I figured you'd be doing a lot of X-stuff."

An eyebrow goes up. This time the awkward silence is purposeful, as Betsy stares at Flash until she gets his reference or exposition explodes from his forehead.

"I'm doing a few things," she explains, shifting her weight so she's mostly balanced on her right foot and crossing her forearms over her stomach. "I'm using your computers to analyze Hand activity and see if a pattern is cropping up. I'm also investigating Purifier activity in New York- I want to make sure I know how dangerous they are. And I work out at least twice a day, so while I was here, I thought I'd see if y-I couldn't get some weight training in."

Was that a slip? If it was, her face doesn't show it.

"If… we? Couldn't get some weight training in?" Flash looks at her with furrowed brow and she can see that faint haze of confusion in his thoughts, no he doesn't entirely pick up on that subtle slip. But he does step back towards her. "I could help if you like, they've got a really nice set up here."
Thompson picks up his towel and his water, slinging the cloth over his shoulder as he turns back towards her. "You'll have to let me know what you turn up. I know a good chunk of people have a pretty heft mad on for them."
But then there's a brief moment, perhaps a subtle shift in her body language, or just the way she spoke a few moments ago. She's not one to suffer a slip of the tongue so easily. "Is something wrong, Elizabeth?" Alright, first time he uses her first name.

"No. I'm fine. Everything's fine," she says, quickly. A bit too quickly. From her expression, though, Betsy could probably start a second career as a world-class poker player. She blinks once and then does an abrupt heel turn towards the weights, her back ramrod stiff, and goes to one of the squat racks. She picks up a 45 lb weight in each hand and starts pushing them onto the heavy bar, focusing extremely intently on the work at hand. "Ninety on that side, please," she says, tightening the safety lugs on the bar to keep the weights in place.

Now that does actually set his common sense to tingling. Flash waits a moment even as she retreats before he starts to follow after her, footsteps quiet as he wanders across the gym. He steps up towards the weight racks, and then makes to help her with applying the weight. For a time he allows that silence to reign, but eventually… eventually he clears his throat.
"So." Good start, "Not that there would be. But. Anything you'd like to mebbe," He bites the corner of his mouth. "Ya know, talk about?"

Betsy moves into the squat box and unhooks the bar, controlling its drop to the ground and then releasing it from the 'gimme guides' that help people with poor form do cleaner squats. It rolls a few feet towards her and she dusts her hands with some nearby chalk, absorbed in silence.

"I'm still sorting things out," she says, eying the weight bar with a focused expression. "My friends have been very supportive, for which I'm grateful." She stoops and wraps her hands around the bar, dropping her rear towards the ground. With a quick puff of air, she hauls the bar upwards and explodes in motion, pushing it up over her head to full extension. She holds it for a one-thousand count and, stepping back, lets it drop, the weights clattering mutedly against the rubber pads designed for that purpose.

"I had to start boxing my old clothes up. Nothing fits. And my shoes." At /that/, a look of actual physical pain crosses her face.

Agent Thompson stays close enough should she need a spot, but her technique seems clean and she didn't bite off more than she could chew. So while she speaks he listens, giving an occasional small nod of agreement, or quirking an eyebrow to signal some subtle lack of full understanding. Once she's down and clear, he scratches the back of his neck thoughtfully.
"I can only kind of imagine how awkward that must be. Though m'afraid I don't know the tragic pain of shoe loss. I only have… three pairs. No wait, four." At that he smiles a bit, still reading her body language and manner. "Look, Elizabeth." The choice of using her first name most likely mentally means he's speaking to her in a social context. Not Agent. Not work. "I don't want to sound cheesy. But you have… an opportunity here. To reforge yourself in some ways. To set foot on new paths." He lowers his hand. "It's terrible that this was done to you. But you've survived it, and all they succeeded at was turning a great woman into an amazing one. Does that make sense?"

"I know," she sighs heavily, shoulders and chest slumping a bit. Betsy steps up and grabs the bar, drops her hips down and throws it over her head once more. It bounces when it drops, and she puts her hands on her hips, breathing with deep, controlled exhalations.

"I couldn't go back to Japan, obviously. Part of me hates the notion of owning /anything/. So I look at my things and part of me just wants… I don't know. Move to a convent. I never /had/ anything before last month- a few swords, some blankets, and a bunch of black silk ninjitsu outfits."

"But my Louboutin's, Agent Thompson," she says, distress in her voice. Even her face looks drawn. "Prada. Lanvin. And all my /dresses/…" she says. She shakes her head, squats, and pulls one more clean sweep, though with perhaps a bit less motivation than she'd had before.

At that last squat, Flash steps forwards just to make sure she gets it up cleanly and that when she drops it is clear. If she has any trouble with it he waits until the last moment, but she seems like an individual that is aware of their limits.
"Things, Elizabeth. Just things. You can always get more. Heck if you signed up with an agency or something I bet you could get a mess of them for free." But then again what does Flash Thompson know about the fashion world? His idea of nice shoes are a pair of Chuck Taylors.
Then he looks at her for a moment and asks, "You doin' ok, wanna take the next one easy?"

Betsy touches her brow. "Agent Thompson, I don't intend to be indelicate," she says. "But if you saved every dollar you made here at your current pay scale for the next four months, you might just cover the value of my shoe collection." She moves to the bar and hoists it on the rack carefully, then moves off to the side, looking at Flash and gesturing at the bar as if questioning how much weight he'd like on it.

At that Flash sort of widens his eyes and lifts them upwards, not quite a roll, but something that says silently, 'ohhh-kaaay.' But he shakes his head and smirks at her as he walks with her back towards the stack of weights. When she makes that gesture he shakes his head and says simply, "Oh umm, I can't really… work out on this equipment. Have to go to a different… place."
Then, as if to demonstrate rather than to have to explain entirely he takes a grip of the heavy steel frame of the entire weight rack, looks at her with a slightly mischievous smile and then _lifts_ the entire thing just a few inches off the ground so that the weights don't clatter too much and that none of it falls off…
Then he sets it back down with a resonant /clank/. "So yeah."

Betsy looks thoroughly unimpressed, hands resting on her hips loosely. "Suit yourself," she says, flicking a hand through the air. She steps towards the rack once he sets it back down and adds another set of ten pound weights to her side. "I'm trying to build up my body strength, not my empowered talents," she tells Flash, squaring back up to the weight bar. "Fitness is a process, not a competition." She picks up the bar and throws it over her head three times.

"How long have you been able to do that?" she asks, curiousity overcoming her.

"I wasn't tryin' to impress you," Flash seems unaffected by her sharpness. A decent way to not be crushed by Ms. Braddock's cruel barbs is to sort of rob them of their strength with a casual grin. "If I was trying to impress you I'd tell you all about my stamp collection." At that he lifts his eyebrows upwards and nods solemnly as if having imparted a true nugget of wisdom.
But then to amswer her question he leans back against the wall, "A little less than a year now. The suit and all. So not really my doing." It's fairly clear from his surface thoughts that he derives no real ego from it.

"Philately always struck me as a peculiar sort of hobby. I can at least /wear/ my shoes." Betsy moves around the rack and adds on ten more pounds on each side, bringing it up to well over two hundred pounds. Lift, clear, drop, three times.

"Agent Thompson, am I being a bitch to you?" she asks, panting a bit as she backs away from the weights. She flicks a bit of sweat from her brow, a strand of purple hair escaping her barrets, and looks at Thompson with a flat expression. "I'm getting a sense that I've said some things that come across as hurtful."

Jemma Simmons heads to the Quiet Room.

Pepper Potts heads to the Quiet Room.

Now if they were dating this would definitely be a warning sign. A gigantic one in fact that proclaimed loudly, 'MINEFIELD'. Yet they aren't and to be fair when people ask Flash a question he does try to answer it as honestly as possible unless other factors are at play. So Flash stays there where he can support her workout efforts and replies, "Depends, Elizabeth."
He folds his arms over his chest and looks at her steadily. "For my boss, nah. For a family member, nah. For a friend, maybe a little bit." The young blonde man's smile might be considered infectious as he adds, "But I think in the time we've spent together I've gotten a little hint at how to read you I think. So really, don't worry. Besides, I know if you were trying to hurt me you'd be going for my neck." He nods sagely.

"Hm. All right." Betsy picks up the barbell, arms cording with muscle, and sets it on the loading rack so she can remove the weights on it. "I… apologize," she says, after a few contemplative seconds. She looks at Flash with just a bit of uncertainty. "Even before the incident I wasn't much of a people person. I- Kwannon was very quiet and reserved, and Bet- I could be thoughtless at times."

She reaches for a towel herself and wipes at her face and neck, blotting away perspiration. Spotting the hair out of place, she reaches up and carefully replaces it in the barret, smoothing out her hair without needing a mirror.

Slowly nodding towards her, Flash helps with the stowing of the weights, and accepts her apology with a wave of his hand and a few quiet words, "It's fine, don't worry about it." He watches her with a curious gaze as she gets herself in order, and she can most likely feel the faint mental images bubbling in his thoughts, old experiences… when he was joined with the symbiote… when he was figuring out who he was and where he began… and the creature ended.
It's only a moment the space of one or two heartbeats before he decides to share those thoughts. "I had a hard time when I was joined with my partner… was really confusing. Only thing is I had most of the time to myself in isolation. I imagine it might've been easier in some ways… harder in others. So yeah. Don't worry. If anyone has patience and all for something like that…" He lets those words hang there unfinished.

Betsy is polite enough to at least not go rampaging through Flash's thoughts out of morbid curiousity. Xavier at least beat THAT into her at a young age. She considers his words thoughtfully, then nods. "Thank you, Agent Thompson. That's quite helpful."

She looks out the window at the pre-dawn light creeping over the horizon, the visible parts of the Triskelion limned in brilliant illumination. "The maglev tram is leaving for New York in an hour," she says. "I need to be on it if I'm going to be home for the weekend." She looks at Flash, and something like a smile flickers across her face, a subtle expression that requires familiarity to pick up on. "Thank you for the company- and the advice. I'll try to bear it in mind."

A warm emotion touches those thoughts of his, upon catching sight of that smile. She is a beautiful woman, strong, regal, almost like some aspect of divinity given form. But he shakes his head and subdues those thoughts with a practiced act of will. She can almost feel the mental shift as he forces himself to view her as a friend, a colleague, and not as something desired.
A small chuckle breaks the moment as he looks away from her, rubbing at the back of his neck thoughtfully. "Well best you get on it, being stuck here for the weekend is the worst," And he says this from experience.

Betsy pauses before she turns completely away, looking at Flash again. This time, her expression is as unreadable as a mountain statue. She glances away, back, nods shortly, and then turns on the ball of her foot and strides away purposefully.

* OOC Time: Sun May 31 04:13:43 2015 *

As Psylocke starts to step away a wave of tension seems to fall from him. It's not a visible thing. Any onlooker would see just the young agent turning and lightly pushing one of the weights into place as the woman makes her departure. But with her stepping away, the Agent's thoughts turn inwards after he steals a last glance at the tall woman as she moves off.
His own thoughts roil, memories of the last time he'd allowed himself to be involved with someone. A blonde woman's face rises to the fore, pretty, young, perhaps several years old as the memory is a touch hazed. But then there's a flicker of his leaving, him in uniform, travelling, training… there's a feeling of heat, the roughness of sand on a man's hands. There are great mountains, a desert. A line of soldiers walking… an explosion. Pain, the memory of pain.
It's barely a moment, those thoughts blur into others. A hospital, doctors. His legs. What happened to his legs? And there in that moment is a large feeling of embarrassment, made all the worse when connected with glances of pity. Him in wheel chair, more looks of pity…
There is a steady line of images, a face changing into face after face, people she doesn't recognize but all having that same pitying expression. Only finally ending with her face, and the utter failure it would be for her to see him that way… and pity him.
It is that sentiment that hardens his resolve. But what does he say?

Psylocke pauses just for a half-beat, touching her brow reflexively. The roiling cloud of his self-recrimination is as palpable to the woman as if he'd spoken aloud, and she winces, the flow of pitying faces a sight she's grown accustomed to over the previous weeks herself.

And yet she does not turn. Kwannon had taken gutted Betsy's sense of compassion. Elizabeth had sabotaged her empathy. Betsy Braddock, a gestalt being unlike any /but/ perhaps Flash Thompson, could only see reflected in him the turmoil in herself.

And for the moment, looking across that connection, it's too much for her. Cowed, perhaps by her own inadequacy, Betsy picks up the pace, fleeing the gym and leaving the confusing welter of Flash's emotions behind.

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