Author's Notes: This is part of the Pegasus Flight series, taking place between "That's What Big Brother's Are For" and "Say Goodbye to Porkrinds" when Peggy is about 17. The rest of the series can be found at http://greymalkin.s5.com/fanfiction.html#andrea. This fic is dedicated to MysTeri, who gave me the nudge to finish it. As always, feedback is worshipped and adored at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.
Peggy Summers was in hot water, and she was in it deep.
She let out a long sigh and slid in deeper, burying herself to the nose in the warm, scented bubbles. "This is the life."
It wasn't that she didn't love living in the stately old mansion at the end of Greymalkin Lane, that looked so very distinguished from the outside and was full of utter chaos inside. It was secretly home to the outlaw band of mutants known as the X-Men. Peggy herself was one of them, though she often suspected her position was earned more out of sentiment than talent.
While the other students her age had long since transferred to Massachusetts under the tutelage of Banshee and the White Queen, Peggy stayed with the X-Men in New York. She knew *that* was entirely because of her adoptive father, Scott Summers, who just happened to be Cyclops, field leader of the X-Men.
So she stayed, and enjoyed living in the slightly insane hustle and bustle that came from a dozen strong personalities living under the same roof. Mix in mutant powers and the occasional volatile temper, and you had a recipe for... well, if not always disaster, at least a very *boisterous* household!
As much as she loved it, after years of being confined to only herself for company, at times it became overwhelming. That's when she appreciated days like this, when the Blue team was gone on a mission and the various members of the Gold team were scattered shopping, visiting friends, or... well, she didn't really *want* to inquire too deeply into what some of them did with their free time!
Still, it left her with the entire mansion to herself and the freedom to sit in a tub full of bubbles for as long as she wanted, with no one pounding on the door every five seconds or minor explosions rocking the hallways. She stayed until the water grew cold, then danced down the hall to her room with just a towel wrapped around her.
Peggy had just pulled on her blue flannel pajama pants, oversized t-shirt, and fluffy slippers when her vision swam so suddenly she thought she was about to faint. When it cleared, the familiar walls of her bedroom were gone, replaced by sterile metal walls and a disturbing amount of technological equipment.
Before she could panic, scream, or turn into a horse (several hundred pounds of equine muscle, large wings, and sharp hooves were *much* better for defending oneself than a somewhat slightly-built teen girl's body, no matter how many hand-to-hand lessons Wolverine tried to give her!), she caught sight of a familiar figure.
"Stryfe!" Peggy exclaimed, relaxing her stance as her face broke out into a wide smile. "You should've give me some warning! I nearly kicked your skull in."
The large man shifted slightly, seeming for all the world slightly surprised despite being the one who'd orchestrated this whole thing. "Ah... hello, Peggy. I--what on Earth are you *wearing*?"
Peggy blushed slightly and looked down, fiddling with the hem of the shirt which read, "If you think I'm cute, you should see my brother."
"Nathan gave it to me for Christmas."
He blinked. "...I really shouldn't be surprised."
She gave him a bright smile. "No, not really."
He didn't return the smile, but she didn't really expect him to. On the bright side, he hadn't tried to kill her or even break anything when she mentioned Nathan. Looking on the bright side was a definite requirement when one's brother was a supposedly psychotic supervillain. "So..." she ventured after several silent moments had passed, "did you... need anything?"
He shifted suddenly, as if just remembering she was there, and considered for several moments before offering hesitantly, "I don't suppose you'd like an omelet?"
Peggy's eyes lit up. "I thought you'd *never* ask!"
Peggy pushed aside her plate with a contented sigh. "Ohhhh, that was good."
Stryfe was staring at her with an odd expression. "I... am glad you liked it."
"How could I NOT?" she replied with a grin. "You're an *amazing* cook!" She frowned suddenly. "You know, I hope no one came home while I was here. They'd be wondering where I am..."
"Well, there *might* be a device in your room giving the telepathic and visual impression that you're sleeping..."
She blinked. "Huh?"
"A hologram. I was bored, so I made it out of duct tape and an old VCR." Peggy stared at him for a moment, trying to determine if he was serious, then started giggling. "Okay, now you've been watching too many MacGuyver reruns..."
"All right, I confess. ...I used electrical tape."
"Now that's cheating!"
"It is not," Stryfe replied, affronted.
"MacGuyver always uses duct tape. Are you actually admitting that MacGuyver is better than you?"
"Peggy, MacGuyver is a fictional character!"
"That ISN'T the point."
"...What IS the point?"
"I'm not sure."
Stryfe smiled slightly at the girl. "At least you admit it."
She grinned back and batted her eyes exaggeratedly. "Feed me?"
"I just *fed* you."
She widened her eyes entreatingly. "But I'm still hungry."
Stryfe laughed despite himself. "You're amazing."
Peggy smiled brightly. "Thank you! ...Feed me?"
"Very well. Shrimp?"
Peggy didn't bat an eye at moving from an omelet to shrimp. "Sounds delicious."
"Grilled, boiled, fried, or flambéed?"
Stryfe eyed her and obligingly split it between the last two options. Peggy did, in fact, bat an eye at the discovery that "flambé" in this case meant that Stryfe held the shrimp in the air telekinetically, head up, and set the tail briefly on fire.
"Well, I *was* going to ask if you'd share some of your recipes, but I don't think I could manage that..." She nibbled on the shrimp he set in front of her, then tucked in with gusto. "Yum!"
"Scorched sea-bugs, coming right up," Stryfe replied, biting into one himself while supervising the frying pan.
Peggy giggled and decided not to mention that Scott had referred to shrimp in exactly the same way the last time Gambit had cooked. "This is delicious, as always. Think you *could* share a recipe or two?"
"That one isn't exactly complicated."
"That one, sadly, is beyond me. Although if you have any recipes that require lots of stomping with big hooves, I'm sure I'd do a great job." She smiled brightly and took another bite.
Stryfe considered this. "I suppose you could make wine."
She pouted. "I'm too young."
"To step on grapes?"
"What's the fun of cooking if you can't taste it afterwards? And how are you supposed to know if it came out *right*? So Dad wouldn't let me make wine. He's kind of big on rules," she confided with a wink. "But I suppose I could just do the grape stomping if someone *else* was going to make it."
"I'm trying to think of anything else resembling food that you might have occasion to walk on. Possibly an extremely large batch of bread."
"Hmm..." Peggy looked thoughtful, though that didn't stop her from finishing every bite on her plate. "I can't think of anything. I guess my mutancy's not much use in the kitchen. Oh well. I *did* learn to cook entirely without it."
"And you don't even blow up the kitchen."
Her mouth twisted. "Not once, although I *did* burn the toast once. Did *you* ever blow up the kitchen?"
"...Not by accident."
She raised an eyebrow and grinned. "I'm sure the kitchen deserved it." He brought the pan over and dumped fried shrimp onto her plate. "Something like that."
She dove into the new shrimp with gusto. "Mmmmmmm." She ate in silence for a few moments, then looked up at him, licked her fingers, and commented casually, "Dad thinks I'm crazy."
"Mm." She took another few bites. "For some reason, he doesn't think that someone is trustworthy just because he feeds me. I got a lecture. It was very impressive."
Stryfe tensed slightly, but replied in a natural enough tone of voice, "He's right, you realize. It's not sufficient evidence."
"It's worked for me so far."
A sigh. "You worry me."
"You don't worry me." She shrugged. "Not like *that*, at least. If you'd wanted to hurt me, you would've a long time ago. I suppose you *could* be trying some kind of odd experiment to turn me away from Dad and Nathan, but that seems a little involved and pointless. Besides--" she took another bite and smiled at him "--you're a good cook."
"Which covers a multitude of sins, apparently."
She smiled innocently. "You're also good at chess?"
"And pointless, involved plots."
She shrugged again, but her eyes were a little darker. "I've known people who seem good to the whole world, but are nothing but evil. And I've known people who most of the world would call outlaws, villains, thieves, but they're good. ...And the good ones feed me. You're doomed."
"Does Nathan feed you?"
"Yes. Well..." She giggled. "He *tries*. We have take-out a lot."
Stryfe lit another shrimp. "Ah."
"He's gotten very good at ordering Chinese, though. He says we might as well, because I'm always hungry again in an hour *anyway*."
Stryfe laughed. "I'd say you aren't eating enough rice, but for you, I'm not sure it would make that much difference."
She sighed. "Mutant metabolism. Been eating like this since I was twelve and can't gain an ounce." She grinned wickedly. "Rogue and Jubilee *hate* me."
"Jubilee *has* an energy-based power. She should blow things up more often."
"I'll tell her you said so. ...Or maybe I'll just tell her. Fewer lectures that way. Anyway, the amount of sugar she can down in one sitting is incredible, but she still complains about how much *I* eat. It's not fair."
"Her power is really rather bizarre. As far as I've been able to analyze, it's very much like Havok's, except in bubbles."
"Really? I hadn't thought about it like that."
"I'm not certain of her energy source, though. Finer control, too, much of the time, if not necessarily as much power."
"I think her power source is ChocoSugar Bombs," Peggy said solemnly.
"That wouldn't actually surprise me, although they'd have to be relatively immediate."
Peggy shrugged. "Hank keeps trying to teach me more about the scientific basis of mutant powers, but it makes my head hurt. I think I'm science-impaired."
"Nonsense. You just aren't thinking about it properly."
"Hank's supposed to be one of the best scientists on the planet. If *he* can't make me understand, I think I'm hopeless."
"*That* is most likely the problem," Stryfe replied, gesturing with a flaming shrimp for emphasis.
"That I'm hopeless? I know, I know. You don't have to rub it in."
A loud sigh. "No, that you *think* you're hopeless." He extinguished the shrimp, waved it around a moment to cool it off, then poked it into her mouth when she opened it to protest.
"That was hot!"
"It had just been on fire," Stryfe said slowly. "Of course it was hot."
"Did you have to stick it in my mouth while it was *still* hot?"
"It wasn't *that* hot."
"So I've been telling you for *quite* some time."
"Well... I don't think I'm burned." She took an experimental drink of water.
"You shouldn't be. As I said, it wasn't *that* hot. Probably less so than some of the fried ones." He patted her on the head and turned away from the resulting glare. "As I was saying, if you're determined not to understand something, you probably won't."
"I'm not determined not to understand, I *don't* understand. There's a difference. Not *everyone* is cut out to be a geneticist, you know. Just as well."
"The correct phrasing, unless you have no intention of *ever* understanding it, is that you don't understand *yet*." Stryfe eyed her. "Of course, it sounds rather as if you don't want to."
"I have tried to understand and I *don't*, despite Hank's best efforts to teach me. And of course I do. I hardly want to fail science."
"It was the 'just as well' part I was referring to. Although, granted, a world with no other occupations would be rather impracticable."
She smiled quickly, said "That's what I meant," and turned back to her shrimp.
Stryfe decided they had a sufficient quantity of fried shrimp for now and turned off the stove to join Peggy at the table. "I've heard Hank speak. Perhaps it was the context, but I'm not sure he necessarily realizes when he's talking over his audience's heads."
Peggy grinned. "Well, no, not usually. But he's pretty good at going back and repeating in smaller words if you tell him you didn't understand."
"I've never actually had occasion for that."
"I didn't think you had. Which was why I told you." She grinned and popped another piece of shrimp in her mouth. "Anyway, I'll just keep struggling through science until Hank gives in and deems me hopeless, then happily leave science to people more qualified than I. It's a very workable system, I think."
Stryfe sighed again. "And as long as you proceed with that attitude you *will* be struggling."
"It's working for me so far. I have NO interest in studying genetics, so why should I care? It hasn't seemed to do a lot of good for anyone *I* know."
"It's useful." Stryfe shrugged. "Then again, I tended at best to ignore tutors until *I* decided I had an interest in something, so if you want to remain ignorant I suppose you might as well."
"I'm not trying to remain ignorant," she protested.
"In this area, it seems to be your preference."
She narrowed her eyes at him, but took a few bites of shrimp instead of replying. "So," she said after a moment, "will you share some recipes?"
Stryfe raised an eyebrow. "I thought you didn't like science."
"That's not science; that's cooking."
"Well, you *can* cook without understanding anything, of course, but you can do experiments without understanding anything, too. Of course, if anything goes wrong in either case you may have problems, and the results tend to be a bit unsatisfactory."
"I'm a *good* cook. I understand what I'm doing. That's not at the same level as gene splicing, though."
"Well, yes, it *is* a slightly different scale."
Peggy sighed. "Why does it *matter* if I care about science?"
"It's a matter of how things work. But it's one thing not to be interested; it's another to claim you're incapable of understanding it."
Stryfe gave her an irritated look. "Nonsense."
"I think I know me better than you do. I've known me a lot *longer*, at least."
"It's extremely rare for someone of reasonable intellect to be incapable of understanding existing scientific theory, if it's reached the point of being understood well enough by *anybody* to be presented properly. Making advances in theory or practice, now, is another matter."
She grinned at him. "How do you know I'm of reasonable intellect?"
"You beat me at chess--even if I wasn't paying attention--and you're too functional to be an idiot savant."
"Oh sure, you claim *now* you weren't paying attention..."
"And if I were, it would only provide further support for my claim." Stryfe shrugged. "I could offer to assist you with explanations, but it might delay your attempts to convince McCoy you're hopeless."
"Now you're making it sound like I'm doing it on purpose! Not everyone's good at every subject, you know."
"No, but a nodding acquaintance in any given one is usually attainable."
"I *have* a nodding acquaintance. But that's it."
"I suspect our definitions differ."
Peggy tilted her head slightly and smiled mischievously. "We keep having that problem, don't we?"
"Apparently." Stryfe shrugged and nodded at the shrimp. "You still want the recipe?"
He chuckled. "I'm sure this would disturb someone--roll in flour with a little coconut mixed in, fry in peanut oil with bacon grease and melted butter mixed in." A pause. "Spices are a bit variable. Nothing but a little pepper this time."
Peggy repeated the recipe to herself, fixing it in her mind. "Okay, got it. I'll have to try it out next time it's my turn to cook. And why would it disturb anyone? Sounds like a perfectly normal recipe to me."
"I've encountered people who were appalled at the idea of voluntarily bringing anything into contact with leftover bacon drippings."
"Philistines," she pronounced, eating the last piece of shrimp with a flourish. "It's *good*."
"I thought it was a rather odd objection, myself, at least unless they had problems with bacon as well. Or more general ones."
"Hm. Objections to meat in general, or pork specifically, or for that matter fried things in general... And then there are such interesting cases as were-pigs who find the thought of eating pork unappetizing, and a few individuals I've known who couldn't digest meat without considerable difficulty--most of them, however, had no trouble with, say, grass. Unless it was poisonous."
"Digesting grass isn't the hard part; it just doesn't taste particularly good. Very bland, mostly. And... I suppose I could understand the weres not wanting to eat pork. I think I'd have a hard time eating horse, personally."
"Digesting grass may not be difficult for you. More than a little of it tends to be slightly problematic for a lot of people, although to some degree we can get used to it."
"Hmm. I don't know if it's part of my mutation or not. I *have* eaten it in human form, though."
"I imagine if you couldn't handle it in human form you'd have noticed some problem on account of changing back while still digesting."
"I suppose so. Never really thought about it. I don't make a *habit* of eating grass in either form, and it hasn't been all *that* long since I've actually been free to move around in my other form."
"Let me know the results if you ever happen to check."
"So I'm just a science experiment?"
Stryfe snorted. "The matter isn't of interest to you?"
"It's food; of course I'm interested."
"But that doesn't explain why it's interesting to *you*."
"I *told* you I'm nosy. Besides, the details of specific powers usually are interesting."
"...If you want, then."
He looked at her oddly. "Does the question bother you?"
She smiled at him. "Of course not."
A shrug. "You seemed unenthusiastic. Very well, thank you." He offered her another "scorched" shrimp.
"I wasn't unenthusiastic." She took the shrimp happily.
"All right. Shoot." She smiled a little and added, "Not literally."
"Why the flonq were you eating grass in human form?"
"...I was hungry?"
Stryfe stared up at the ceiling, lifted several shrimp into the air into his line of view, and lit them. "I should have known she would say that," he remarked to the snacks.
"Hmph. It's true."
"Of course. Nothing else available?"
"Ah. Well, that's what it would have taken for *me*, pretty much, but I do not turn into an equine." He extinguished the shrimp and brought them down to approximately eye-level over the table. "Of course, I wouldn't feed shrimp to an equine that didn't turn human, either."
"I'm not sure if I'd like to try eating shrimp in horse form anyway. But in this form..." She grinned and popped one into her mouth.
"Careful, they're still hot."
She gasped and waved her hand in front of her mouth. "I--noticed!"
Stryfe shook his head, realized her glass was empty, and popped a piece of ice from the freezer into her mouth.
"Fank oo," she managed around the ice.
"You're welcome." He sounded just amused enough to remind her he was a villain.
"It's your fault for cooking so well; you make me forget it's hot."
"Oath. Peggy, even a small shrimp only cools off so fast."
She gave him a charming smile. "I forgot?"
He shook his head. "About that attention span."
"Were we talking about my attention span?"
"You know, it's hard to taste anything if you scald your mouth."
She managed a very contrite "sorry" before snaring the next piece of shrimp.
Stryfe snorted and began several more shrimp. Peggy nibbled on the rest of the shrimp contentedly, curling her legs up under her in the chair and looking for all the world like a cat. "You're so good to me."
"You're mildly insane," Stryfe returned, which was not exactly the usual response. "I am, however, going to feed you until you are full. Just to ascertain that it can be done."
"Ooooooh." Peggy rubbed her hands together gleefully, then popped another piece of shrimp in her mouth. "Do you think we have enough time?"
"I'm beginning to wonder."
"Well, because fun as you are, if I stay here *too* long, Dad might start to get worried. And he'd eventually come after me, we'd have to explain things, and it would be really hard for me to visit again."
Which meant she *wanted* to visit again. Although that might just be the food. "You're only after the food, aren't you?"
"That's part of it. But I like you."
"Strange girl," Stryfe replied mildly.
"So people often tell me."
"Hmm." He shrugged and lit some more shrimp.
"I don't take any offense, if you were wondering."
"I wasn't, as it happens."
"Oh well. Just thought I'd let you know."
"You're sitting quite calmly in a supervillain's kitchen eating shrimp too soon after he sets them on fire. I don't think you have room to take offense at being pronounced strange."
"I'm sitting quite calmly in my big brother's kitchen, trying to eat his cooking too fast because it's *really* good."
"I suppose that's another perspective on it."
She smiled serenely and replied, "It's the right one. I wouldn't be sitting here calmly if you were just another supervillain."
"I'm surprised that doesn't make it worse."
"Why would it?"
Stryfe shook his head and fed her another shrimp. "Never mind."
"I can't never mind. It's stuck in my skull."
Stryfe patted her head and put another shrimp in her mouth.
"If I say that Nathan does that a lot, will it make you stop?"
"...I do not order my life around what Nathan does or does not do."
"Darn." She nibbled the shrimp thoughtfully. "If I ask you nicely, will you stop?"
She smiled sweetly enough to send him into a diabetic coma and asked, "Will you please stop patting me on the head, big brother?"
Stryfe returned the smile rather mischievously. "Maybe."
Peggy sighed. "I guess that's the best I can hope for for now."
Stryfe fed her shrimp for a while longer, rapidly. She finally coughed and waved him away. "If I say I'm full, will you stop shoving them down my throat?" She looked at her watch and added regretfully, "I should probably be heading home soon, anyway."
"I didn't intend to choke you." He sighed. "Very well."
"You didn't." She coughed. "Barely." Peggy looked regretfully around the kitchen, then hopped up and hugged Stryfe tightly. "Thanks for the visit."
Stryfe froze for a second, briefly paralyzed by the process of thwarting his reflexive reaction to being unexpectedly grabbed, then hesitated a second longer before putting an arm rather uncertainly around her. "I'm... glad you enjoyed it."
Peggy grinned and hugged him a moment longer, then let go and beamed up at him. "You know, you never *did* say what you pulled me here for."
"I... thought you might like an omelet."
She covered her mouth with her hand to try to confine the giggles, but they spilled over regardless. "I have the *best* family," she said happily. "Kidnap me again sometime, okay?"
"Great. See you then."
She grinned at him until her surroundings changed from a supervillain's kitchen to her own room back in the mansion.