From One School to Another

January 15, 2016:

While out on a walk, Scott and Betsy learn that not only do they have a tail, but apparently there's a new mutant in town.

Lower Manhattan - New York City / Betsy's Apartment

The southern end of the island of Manhattan is the seat of Wall Street and
City Hall. Bounded by the Hudson on the west, the East River on the east,
and the harbor to the south, it's a veritable mosaic of smaller, storied
neighborhoods that fill in the patchwork south of 14th street. From the
arts-friendly, boutique-laden, gentrified areas of Greenwich Village, SoHo,
and TriBeCa, to the tenement dwelling, immigrant-filled, working class
districts in the Lower East Side, Bowery, Little Italy, Lower Manhattan is
one of the most diverse places in the city. Just about anything can be found
here, and often is.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions:

Plot:

Mood Music: Don't Stop Me Now - Queen


Fade In…

There is no way that Scott can say a thing about Jean deciding to up and leave the Institute for a few days. After all, he disappeared for weeks with his daughter. But really, it was the most noble of intentions. But he knows there's only a month left before Valentine's Day, and after the utter failure of his attempt at a date with Jean that ended up with them both nearly dead in the sewers of New York.

The caveat here is that one usually asks the best friend of the girlfriend for advice. But that's a bit harder when the best friend of the girlfriend is also an ex-girlfriend. X-dating is rather confusing, it's better not to ask. Hands tucked into his pockets as he walks down the street with Betsy, Scott has that usual frown on his face that he's so well known for. "So she's swearing off ever going out on a date again, which really puts a crimp in the idea of what I wanted to do for her." he admits. "She's talking about just getting some take out calzones and sitting around and just watching movies all day." Yes, Jean may have suggested Netflix and chill for Valentine's day, and it's gotten under Scott's craw. "I want to show her that we can have a personal life.. and you know.. balance professional stuff."

"Mhm."

Betsy is actually paying attention, despite her focus being attracted to the department stores they're walking past. It's a bit chilly out, but the unseasonable warmth has her wearing a double-breasted coat in tan, the collar turned fashionably high and her the heels of her black demiboots clicking with each step. Her hair's entirely up in a tight, even severe bun, giving her a cooly angular appearance.

"You're overthinking it," she tells Scott. "Jean's a homebody. She has been since we were gels. I daresay she's even a shut-in— or an introvert at least."

"Movies and takeout isn't her 'giving up', it's her telling you that she's overwhelmed. I'd take it as high praise she's willing to turn off her laptop for a quiet evening in," she says, glancing back at Scott and lifting a purple eyebrow a few degrees.

Her phone buzzes and she plucks it from her purse, thumb swiping in quick motions, and she smiles at the message and shoots a text back in reply.

Audrey is on assignment. Sort of. Deathstroke's general distrust of authorities not his own may suit the former X-Red member, but the problem is, she doesn't really trust Deathstroke's authority, either. So under vague instructions to tail someone from SHIELD, she decided to 'tail' one Betsy Braddock. She may not be an agent, but she knows agents. It's a slow move. Totally.

The young mutant is under no illusions that the psychic will pick up on her presence - if she hasn't already. That doesn't mean it isn't good practice. Hands in her pockets, she walks about half a block behind her and Scott at the purposeful pace that matches most New Yorkers. Of course, she doesn't look like herself, either. A slight illusion blurs her features, thinning them, and putting an auburn tint on her dark hair.

It's just a case of bad timing. Scott and Betsy are walking down the street at just the wrong moment. Stepping out of a Chinese takeout place is Peter, carrying a bag with his lunch. He turns in the direction the two mutants are coming from and stops dead as soon as he sees them five feet away from him. "Leave me alone!" he shouts at them and they can feel a wall of force keeping them from taking another step forward. "This is your only warning!" he growls.

"Trust me, there's nothing I'd rather do most of the time then stay in with her and just hide from the world." the universe knows, if anyone deserves a break, it's Scott Summers. "But she deserves better than that. I may be overthinking it, Bets, but in the end, it's overthinking it that I want to do with her." he says with a sigh as they come to a stop at the destination. A travel office. And he glances aside to Betsy. "I sold one of my bikes." he admits as he reaches up to rub the back of his head.

"Before this whole mess with Rachel started, she told me she wanted to see Paris." he says with quiet conviction. "I want to give her that. Paris. She deserves it, more than anything in the world she deserves it." Letting out a sigh, he shakes his head. "It's all been crazy around here lately, and I just want to take her away from it for a while and pay exclusive attention to her. Do you think you can handle .. well.. everything, for a week?" he starts to ask.

That is until he suddenly feels a wall of force come up in front of him and he neatly collides with it. "What the..?" he asks, confusion filling his features as he stares at what he can only assume is a mutant for the moment. "Who are you?" he asks blandly as he reaches up to the side of his glasses, but doesn't move them yet. He does however, glance towards Betsy thoughtfully. Maybe they can talk him down without using force.

"I can handle it quite easily," Betsy assures Scott. "There's little trick to dosing the water supply with Valium. Quite frankly, some of the children could stand to reduce their hyperactivity a bit."

Sometimes it's scary how well Betsy deadpans. If she is deadpanning.

Then she is stopped short as well, though she doesn't do anything so gauche as to start hammering upon the invisible barrier. Her eyebrows lift, then narrow at the young man shouting at them. It takes less than a second for her defenses to surge into place at the first tickling sensations of telepathic awareness, and the woman swaddles her thoughts in shadow and darkness until they're an impenetrable maze.

"There is no need for hystrionics or to attract a crowd," she says, with a short flicker of her fingers through the air. "Do please settle yourself. If we were stalking you, there are far better spots to do so than a crowded street sidewalk," she says in cool, perfectly rationed tones.

So far, no one's observed the barrier on the sidewalk… and New York being what it is, no one cares about one more man screaming on the street corner.

Audrey's targets have stopped. And someone is yelling at them. Right now, stopping would be more suspicious than not stopping, so she keeps walking. Besides, she knows that feeling all to well. Just the memory is enough to make her glance over her shoulder, checking her own tail. She's unaware of the field of force keeping Betsy and Scott from moving forward, but she gives Peter a curious look. After all, he's standing on the sidewalk and shouting. She can get away with that.

Peter's eyes narrow as they claim innocence. Could it be coincidence that the two were nearly on top of him before he spotted them? As he tells them "Tell Harada I'm never going back.", he reaches out with his mind toward theirs to gauge their reaction to the name. When at least one mind resists his, his expression grows stony. Coincidence is getting strained.

Scott can only imagine what he and Jean would return to from their vacation with Betsy in charge. Most likely enforced uniform policies, tea times, and the Queen's proper English being spoken. Worse, she would have replaced baseball with cricket. And it would be the Braddock Academy - America. Because Betsy really is that driven.

As Betsy speaks, Scott raises his hand slightly from his glasses. "We're all friends here. Unless you stole that meal, but I doubt that. Let's try this again…" and that's when Scott feels the familiar tickle to his brain. It comes from spending so much time from telepaths - while he can't fight it off as well as Betsy can, he doesn't - he invites it. He realizes what it means. The mention of Harada draws a complete blank of confusion. "Harada?" he speaks aloud, as if pronouncing it the first time. "I don't know who that is - but if you're in trouble, we might be able to help a little."

He's equally unaware of their tail as the young mutant just watches Peter, in case there is some form of follow up attack. But in his opened mind, Peter can clearly see the school, the dream, everything that the X-Man represents. Even at the cost of his freedom.

Betsy's no slouch telepathically when it comes to raw brute strength. But she's never been one to rest on the laurels of natural talent, and a decade of training with Xavier and being relentlessly pushed by Jean Grey has given her remarkably deft mental faculties.

In an eyeblink, her psychic defenses swallow Peter's probative efforts. Where Jean would scour with fire or Emma gird herself in diamond walls, Betsy's mind is a dense, heavy forest— dark, with treacherous terrain and the looming threat of danger behind every black branch or rustling brush. It's not so much an indefensible fortress as it is an exhausting slog through psychic terrain that fights back against every step, every push, every conceptual effort to break into her thoughts. Not impassable, with a tremendous effort and determination… but significantly more resilient than most people's.

~Stop that,~ Betsy psychically projects at Peter, in a tone so primly British it could stop and pick up fish and chips on the way there. ~/Rude/. If you have questions, ask them. Don't go mucking about in my thoughts,~ she chides him, including Scott in the dialogue for his benefit. Her tone isn't so much commanding as it is asserting the propriety of the moment, as if having caught Peter picking his nose in public.

New Yorkers don't stop and stare at people having arguments. They've got more important things to do. They just keep walking. Which is what Audrey does, bustling past Peter, Scott and Betsy with the rest of the sidewalk crowd. Where they keep walking, though, she takes a turn into the threshold of an apartment just far enough away to get some cover. She knows what a silent showdown of that sort means, and quietly checks the weight of the gun under her coat.

The girl is shielded and he doesn't even try to dig deeper but Peter gets more from the guy than just simple non-recognition. Another school? The dream is taken with several grains of salt; the Harbingers believe in their cause too. Betsy's chiding thoughts get a blink and a stare. Though he doesn't visibly relax, the force wall does disappear. Could they be a stalking horse? He looks around but having concentrated on the two X-Men, missed Audrey and now she's out of sight. "Who are you?" Sure, he got it from Scott's mind but that's not really what he's asking.

Scott keeps his hands to the side, in a non-threatening manner. There's no need to go on the attack here. If he saw the former X-Red pass by, he doesn't acknowledge it immediately as there's a larger threat in front of him. "I'm Scott, this is Betsy." he offers with a faint hint of a smile. "We're not here to hurt you, nor do we even know you." he admits honestly as the man shows his hands to be empty.

"If you are in some kind of trouble, we can help." he offers quietly. "I do not know who this Hardara is, but if you want to discuss it, we will gladly discuss it with you in more private setting."

Betsy remains in an elegantly poised posture. Mostly because psychics don't need physical violence to hurt one another, and also because she's Betsy. She'll likely be buried in something designer.

"This isn't the best time for a discussion about personal issues," Betsy agrees. She gestures vaguely behind her. "We're being tailed. Quite unrelated to you," she assures Peter. "I think she's either bored, or a trainee. Possibly both. But she's not doing an enviable job in either case. Still, loose lips, and all," Betsy reminds them with a vague flicker of her fingers.

Peter studies the two but at the assertion that they're being tailed, he takes a few steps to put his back to the building wall and look around again. "No." he agrees. "It's not safe to talk in public." The question is, does he want to hear more from them? And there was an offer of help. "Where?"

Scott nods his head at the mention of the tail and offers a bit of a frown. "Well, let's start by lowering whatever it is you're holding us with, and we can find someplace else to discuss things." he suggests, glancing towards Betsy. He's not sure about taking him back to the school, he'd rather find someplace else to have a talk about things before taking that step. "Are your roommates in town, Betsy?" he asks finally.

Volunteering her apartment? For shame.

« Not behind you any more, » Audrey thinks loudly in Betsy's direction, though the thought is tinged with amusement. « Is it safe to come out without freaking the kid out? » She stays in the shelter of the threshold, holding on to the illusion that blurs her features as well.

Betsy gives Scott a hard look, but relents after a moment. It's not as if they've a wealth of options. She nods once. "Yes, fortunately. They're at a conference in San Francisco."

Though she can't possible see Audrey through two walls, she shifts her gaze her and focuses on the girl down the sidewalk. "It's quite safe," she says, projecting her spoken word as thought. "Stop skulking over there and come join us for tea," she orders her.

The leggy kunoichi looks back to Scott and Peter, her expression perfectly bland. "The apartment is quite secure, fortunately. Even Kitty would be hard pressed to sneak in. And it's not far. Shall we take a cab?"

"I'm not freaking out." Peter states mildly. He didn't drop a building on them, after all. The question is, does he trust them enough to go with them to a supposedly secure location someone named Kitty can't get into? Hell no. But… "Sure, let's go."

That may have gotten a response that Peter would expect from that other school. However, as Betsy suggests the cab, and he notices Audrey, he gives a shake of his head. "You have this handled, Betsy? Even with.." a glance towards Lux before he returns his attention to the leggy psychic. "I'll go follow up on this Hadara character that you mentioned.." he says towards Peter, "See if there have been any sightings around here for you to be worried about."

Audrey steps out from her hiding place, walking casually over to the others with her hands in her pockets. The illusion stays, though, and with less effort than she's had to exert for it previously. "You were kind of freaking out," she replies to Peter with a smirk. "On a totally reasonable level, though. Psychic, huh?" she asks, looking him over.

It's a bit of finagling and some wary proximity, but everyone piles into an SUV-type cab and makes the relatively short trip to Betsy's downtown apartment. The door, oddly, doesn't have a knob or lever— she puts her palm on a piece of glass, which glows softly. There's a *click* from within and the door swings open on noiseless hinges, admitting them to the interior.

It's not a terribly large apartment unless you count New York standards, in which case, it's positively opulent. It has a reasonably sized window, a living room that isn't a shoebox, and even a kitchen instead of just a kitchenette. The kitchen is full of lab equipment and the lone dining table is covered in the guts of what might have been an engine. The interior is a bizarre tableu— a combination of Japanese aestheticism, Korean art, and bright splashes of Hipsanic furniture. It'd be an affront on the eyes if it didn't all come together so well.

"Shoes," Betsy says, stepping aside and slipping out of her boots. She sets her purse aside and moves into the apartment, loosely clasping her hands at midsection level. "Please have a seat. Don't touch anything. What isn't extremely toxic is possibly explosive. Tea, anyone?" she says, gesturing at the low chabudai table and pillows scattered around it.

"The tea is probably toxic too." Scott deadpans as he follows Betsy into the apartment. This is a place he's been before, but there's no mention of it as he moves to take off his loafers. Once they're set aside, he shrugs off his jacket to hang up before he moves to wait for the women to be seated before he does, studying Peter with a critical eye before he settles down.

Shoes? Betsy's example clues Peter in to what she means and after a moment, he shrugs and kicks his sneakers off, looking around the apartment as he does so. "No, I'm good." He's not going to chance being drugged. He picks a chair that will let him keep everyone else in view regardless of where they sit.

"I lost my bedroom when home decided to redecorate itself," Audrey murmurs ruefully at Betsy's warning, letting the illusion that hid her features fade away as she takes off her shoes. "Extremely toxic and explosive is starting to sound like an improvement on sentient." What, exactly, has the former X-Red member been doing lately? She settles cross-legged on a cushion, making no comment on the change to her appearance. "Tea would be nice, thank you," she says politely.

"No tea for the newcomer or the jackass," Betsy says, eyes flinty at Scott's deadpan. Betsy takes her tea seriously. "It'll just be a moment."

She moves to the kitchen and draws a tea service, preparing hot water on the stove and setting up a positively ancient-looking teapot and three small cups without handles.

"You know our names, and as I've invited you into my apartment, good etiquette would suggest that you might share your name as well," Betsy says, with polite British diffidence that leaves no doubt in the mind as to what the proper thing to do is. "And if you care to share your story, you are among… well, friends might be premature, but sympathetic ears, almost certainly," she says. The water hits a boil in moments— thanks for some clever engineering- and she pours it into the little teapot. The whole affair gets carted over to the table and with a carefully stiff back and oddly precise motions, Betsy kneels down and settles the service in easy reach at the center of the table. She starts packing green tea leaves into a diffuser and settles it inside the teapot, glancing at a clock on the wall as she does.

Glancing at Audrey, Scott lifts his eyebrow and may have a momentary glance of amusement pass over his features. "So that's what brought you out into the street to spy on us?" he asks dryly as he gives a slight frown. "We're already down one member, and we only have one lead on it - that this wasn't the first person they attacked. You working with anyone in M-Town?" his tone isn't accusatory, but the woman gets the question regardless as he doesn't exactly extend an offer for her to return to X-Red, but at least he's showing his version of concern.

His attention drifts to Peter as he takes a seat. "What's your story?" he decides to just start right in on the young man. "I don't appreciate being attacked out in the open with no real reasoning. How did you know that Betsy and I were mutants? If you knew that, why were you still driven to attack? What is this Harada you speak of? I already called the Professor on it, and other than it's something that isn't in line with his thinking, he's being rather quiet about it. Not that it is helping with the whole idea of being caught off-guard in the middle of Midtown.

The mention of no tea draws a shrug from Scott, his senses are still on high alert. If had this been an ambush, they may have been splatters in the street, and it has him running re-evaluations in his mind, already trying to figure out how to handle the situation differently should it occur again. Enemy tail to the rear, unknown enemy to the front.. his mind reflexes through a thousand possibilities.

"Peter." He shrugs, studying all three of them. If they are with Harada, they already know more than he does. If they aren't, they need to. "Toyo Harada. You might have heard of him." Except Scott who clearly hasn't. "He's one of the most powerful psiots on the planet and he plans to control the world. He's recruiting and activating psiots and training them." Short and to the point.

"Tangentially," Audrey shrugs to Scott, watching the tea prep and murmuring her thanks to Betsy in Japanese. She's left her coat on despite taking off her shoes and sitting down. Half to cover the gun and the holster she wears, half just in case she needs to run. "Him and anyone else who knows about people with powers," she snorts softly to Peter. "I broke out of a US military program for the same. I've got a friend who was part of a science experiment. What makes this one different?" Notably, she hasn't actually introduced herself yet. In fact, she still seems guarded, almost as much as Peter is. Time on the run doesn't fade easily from memory.

In this instance, Scott might be the most well-balanced person in the room. Betsy's own history resonates painfully well with Audrey's and Peter's alike. Not a lick of it shows on her cool features, however, as she glances at the clock once more and sets about pouring hot tea into the cups. One for Audrey, one for herself.

"Wait… Harada Global?" Betsy says, eyes mirroring a flicker of surprise. She hisses between her teeth. "/That/ Toyo Harada?"

She looks to Scott and Audrey. "Harada Global is a multinational business," she explains, letting the tea warm her long fingers. "Toyo Harada is an industrialist— quite well connected in Japan," she says, searching her excellent memory. "I think once or twice the Hand ran afoul of his employees, but never in a fashion that could be linked to him." She touches her tongue to her upper lip, brow furrowed in deep thought.

"The only thing that stands out in my memory is an unusual interest in human trafficking— specifically, metahumans," she says. "But that was never definitively linked to Harada, in my recollection."

Scott can sympathize with Audrey on so many fronts now, unfortunately. He's been hunted, thrown into a prison - made to his exact powers to negate them, and seen what the great democracy does when you are percieved as a threat to them. He finally settles onto the cushion and his expression sours. "Another megalomaniac with a secret program." he echoes Audrey's feelings before he lets out a breath. "So you escaped, and made it here? Where have you been staying since you got here? How have you made it through?" It's a tough line of questioning, but the former X-Men leader didn't become a leader by playing easy with anyone. "Everyone in here as had a hard life at one point or another." And while he may be the most balanced, it's a delicate thing with him.

Betsy's comments draws Scott's attention to him, and now he pulls out his phone since he has something more solid he can search. He turns introspective as he studies the files. "A lot of medical experiments on file." he mutters. "They always seem to be looking for volunteers for medical studies.. rather.. well-compensated studies." he finds himself admitting before he puts the phone down for now. He rises to his feet to head to the fridge and claim a bottle of water he knows Betsy has.

"He's a genius, very very rich, and can make your head explode if he wants to?" Peter suggests to Audrey and shrugs again. What Betsy says gets a nod but he adds "All the psiots I met were volunteers. All the ones he activates are volunteers and they know they could die. He's very persuasive and is careful about who he approaches." Usually. He falls silent at Scott's questions, thinking what to say. "I change hotels every few days."

"Still not the only one," Audrey shrugs back to Peter, taking the cup of tea from Betsy. "Unit always said powerful psychics were rare, though," she adds, glancing back to Betsy and Scott. "Seems like the ranks of the 'can make your head explode' are growing." Peter's last gets a quirked brow. "If you're pulling off hotels, you're doing better than most on the run. No offense to you guys," she glances to the others, "But why'd you come along if you're doing that well?"

Betsy sips her tea and thinks quietly. "Powerful psychics /are/ rare," Betsy assures Audrey. "Most psychics you meet don't have the raw strength or talent to give you a bad dream, let alone a nosebleed. One out of ten thousand psychics can actually comprehend your surface thoughts— the number of them that are truly dangerous is so low as to be in the dozens."

"However, even a minor talent can grow teeth with time and training. Sometimes it never amounts to more than a charismatic influence over weak minds, but in the right hands…" She rolls one shoulder in a shrug.

"Do you have reason to believe you're being actively pursued? New York's thousands of miles away from Japan," she asks Peter.

"Because he's not staying in hotels by purely honest means." Scott just comes out and says it. He can tell by Peter's body language, the way he reacted to them - and he glances to the bag of food. "I doubt you paid for that either; or at least they 'think' you paid for it. Not exactly the way you want to handle things, I'm sure?" he suggests as he grabs the bottle of water and comes to take a seat. "And judging by his response to us, Betsy, I think the answer to that is rather obvious as well."

Peter Stanchek wasn't really planning on answering Audrey except that Scott nails it. "No, I paid for that. I don't like taking things from small businesses. But large, upscale ones can afford it." And it's not like he's taking much. And the rooms are empty anyway. To Betsy, he says "Harada's in Los Angeles."

"The one we had at the unit could do some basic communication with people who'd practiced with him," Audrey nods to Betsy. Which explains why she's at least comfortable with psychics in her head, and more organized than most in her thoughts. "And make people dizzy." She takes a sip of her tea, looking between Peter and Scott. "I'm not sure guilt over not paying for hotel rooms is heavy enough to risk the possibility that you two could be a threat," she says, dubious. "For all he knows, you two could just be true believers in something every bit as crazy as this Harada guy." Super helpful, Audrey.

"Los Angeles complicates things," Betsy concedes. "But it's still quite some distance away. Are you /sure/ you're being pursued, or simply exercising an abundance of caution?" she presses Peter.

Betsy flicks her eyes back to Scott, then to Audrey. "Most talented individuals are true believers in something," Betsy tells Audrey. "Scott and I have our own goals and motivations, ones we hold with vast sincerity. However, your grasping attempt at looking for conspiracy is glossing over how absurdedly cumbersome of an approach this would be. If I intended malfeasance, it'd be more effective to subdue Peter from ambush," she says, her tone reasonable and absolutely confident. There's a cold logic to her words. "It's /possible/ we're harboring some kind of agenda, but this just seems like the most inelegant approach possible."

Shooting Audrey a look, Scott blows out a breath through his nose. "It's insanity with the best intentions, I'm sure." he says with a snort towards her. She went off to do her own thing, and he's not faulting her for that, but he is sticking to the high road in this case. There's no need to argue with the former members in front of Peter and he gives a look to Betsy and raises his hand in a steady motion. Don't rise to the easy bait Audrey's dangling, Bets.

"However, Audrey's question has merit. You need help, that much is obvious, or you would have just shut us down and went your own way." Scott offers as he turns his gaze back towards Peter. "We can offer you a place for security and protection while we puzzle this out. You'd be among fellow mutants."

Was he supposed to be feeling guilty? Whatever. "He is a true believer." Peter tells Audrey, jerking his head at Scott. "In someone named the Professor. It's probably crazy too. But the more psiots who know about Harada the better. And there's nothing I want more than to see everything important to him crumble before his eyes before he dies." Why Scott's offering doesn't need explaining; it's that dream he's a true believer in. "And the catch?"

"Never underestimate how crazy, smart, or stupid your opponents are," Audrey replies to Betsy. "Be prepared for any of it, and act accordingly." Another sip of tea, and she glances to Betsy and Scott before she answers Peter. "Rules," she summarizes. "They're good rules, from good people. And they'll be there for you no matter what. They'll accept you for who and what you are, and they'll help you find your place. The catch is, you have to be willing to do the same for yourself and for the other people on the team." A glimpse, perhaps, at why she left X-Red.

Peter Stanchek adds "I don't know if he's found me yet." for Betsy's benefit.

Is this the part where Betsy is supposed to say 'No catch'? Because she doesn't, after Scott's given his offer to Peter.

"Two conditions," she says. "First, you must abide by our rules, which are quite commonsense and boil down to those lessons we learned in firsts at school— don't touch one another, don't steal things, so on. Secondly, respect the privacy of the residents and the school. If you expose the secrets of the Institute, or the Professor, I'll hunt you down and gut you like a carp," she says. It's not a threat— she makes it a statement of fact, sipping more of her tea. "The school survives as a very well-kept secret and affords us a great deal of protection in anonymity. Exposure could literally be the death of us."

"You get drawn into our special brand of crazy." Scott says with bland honesty. "The world hates and fears us already, and despite that, we still want to help and make a difference. That's what we do. We may not agree on it all the time. We have our moments of weakness. Our loves, our fights." A glance towards Betsy at that. "But we rely on each other, because it's all we really have when it's brought down to the most base of intentions, we try to do it the right way, with the minimal amount of harm. And yes.. as Audrey said.." a glance to the former X-Red, "There's an expectation of acceptance. Even for those that we may have once called foe that has had a change of heart." he explains. His attention returns to Peter. "But we will do all we can to assist you." He has no reaction to his mind being probed and called out on his belief in the Professor and the dream. He's proud of it, in fact.

"There are those that are sometimes lost. Those that can't abide, or don't find peace for themselves. And we will not wish you ill should that be the case. We only want to help." he says with utmost sincerity.

As Betsy lays down her own conditions, he gives a small smirk. "You should see what she does to the ones she doesn't like." There might have been a wink involved, or he might have been entirely serious. But he is indeed sincere.

Peter Stanchek listens to what all three of them say, his expression not changing as one speaks up after the other. Assuming the school is what they say, he has no reason to betray its secrets so the threat is ignored. Besides, he's been threatened by the best of them. Literally. "So you're not one of them?" he asks Audrey.

"I was. Sort of." Audrey takes another sip of tea, then sets the cup down gently before settling a more steady gaze on Peter. "I spent the better part of a year and a half or so on the streets after I left the unit. They closed in on me several times. So did these guys, though they were trying to help. X-Red - the public team - finally convinced me to come in. I stayed with them for a few months, got my feet under me."

She takes a breath, choosing her words. "The thing is, X-Red's a public team. They make their name on being public. On marketing mutant talents for practical purposes. Which, don't get me wrong, is great and all. And I signed on originally because I figured if I was public, the unit'd leave me alone. They wouldn't want to draw attention to themselves. Problem with that is, my talents - my training - are in black ops. And black ops doesn't work with a public team that needs a good image."

"We wouldn't require you to serve on the teams," Betsy assures Peter. "That's a wholly voluntary option for people who are looking for a way to serve the community. You are very welcome to stay at the Institute, which is quite secure. There is no expense, though you'd be expected to assist with some day to day chores— cleaning, kitchens, minding some of the children periodically. It's a bit tedious but nothing you would find offensive, I assure you."

"And if you have a background in education, we could always use a substitute teacher." Scott adds as he gives Peter a brief smile, and then turns his attention for a moment to Audrey. "There's no grudge held against Audrey, as she said, sometimes.. it's just not a good fit. And if she needed our help, she knows it will be there." he says as he lets out a breath. "X-Red is the public arm, yes, but there are other support operations as well." he doesn't touch on their own black ops, it's not on his mind or on the table at the moment. "And we're not going to force you to sign a contract or drink the Kool-Aid. If you want to come with us, we can show you the school, and you can take some time to make up your mind.. if not." he considers and then shakes his head. "You are free to step out the door and not look back, if that is your decision. But I believe you can do a lot more with your gifts than convince hotel managers to let you stay in their empty rooms."

"So why aren't you with them then?" Peter continues to Audrey, nodding toward the other two. He'd heard of X-Red of course. Hard not to. "Instead of Red?" His gaze flicks to Betsy and Scott and he shakes his head. "I don't know anything about teaching. Or taking care of kids. I've been on the run for years except for the time I was with Harada." Falling silent, he thinks about the offer then answers "I wouldn't mind seeing it." Not a yes, not a no.

"Little bit of distrust, little bit of self-loathing," Audrey answers honestly, lifting one shoulder. "I trained with the unit for six years before I realized who and what they were and made a break for it. So while X-Red wasn't the right fit, I don't entirely trust the secrecy around the school, either. The unit was like a school, too." She reaches for her tea again, quiet. "Also, these are good people. They feel bad about it if they have to kill someone."

Betsy remains pointedly silent at Audrey's comment, though she nods agreement with Scott. "The choice is yours, Peter," Betsy tells the mutant, finishing her tea and setting it aside. "We won't intimidate you into visiting or joining. But you will be welcomed there— and you'd find like-minded individuals. If nothing else, the Professor will certainly have some unique insight into your talents. His greatest gift seems to be in drawing the best out of the rest of us."

Well, at least there's plenty of landscaping that can be done around the Institute. Scott gives a small snort at Audrey's comment, but he doesn't attempt to counteract it. Peter wants to ask his questions, he's going to allow it. Taking a long draw from his water, he nearly drains the bottle before he closes it off and glances towards Betsy for a moment. He gives a nod of agreement and approval to her statement, but he's not going to influence Peter at this point; it's the young man's decision to make.

Peter Stanchek didn't particularly feel bad about killing the ones who've hunted him so maybe he won't fit any better than Audrey. But it's worth checking out. Maybe it'll work out better than the Harbingers. "Yeah, sure. I'd like to see it. Maybe meet this Professor."

"It's a nice place," Audrey offers regarding the school, taking another sip of tea. Maybe the grass has even grown back from the last time Scott lasered a hole in the lawn.

"It seems we have an accord, then. Here's the address," Betsy says, reaching for a pad and pen and jotting it down. She slides it towards Peter. Westchester— a bit of a haul for a cab. "Busses run there periodically, though enough of us transit to New York regularly that we can give you a ride if needed. I drive to and from the city a few times a week."

"We'll look forward to seeing you there, Peter."

Since it seems a decision has been reached, Scott finishes off his water and rises to his feet. "I live on campus, and head up the history department, and Betsy is filling in as the director for the school while Jean is away." he says finally. "You will need to speak with her too, but when you're ready, just come up and ring the doorbell, I'll have someone show you around." With that, he offers his hand to Peter. "I look forward to seeing you. Audrey, a pleasure for your unique take, as always.. and Betsy." Quietly, he adds a sincere ~Thank you.~.

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