When the new semester started, Sying made good on his promise to take his ship — newly christened The Wonder — out to space for a few months. It wasn't quite the experience he had thought it would be, since his dad had talked to Peter Quill, and somehow or another, he was pretty sure there was always a Guardian of the Galaxy keeping half an eye on him.
But on the other hand, Groot was surprisingly fun to hang out with. And having spent as much time with Peter Quill as he had, Groot also was surprisingly knowledgeable on music. So when Groot just "happened" to be around at the dance party Sying had gone to a couple months into his wanderings, he decided to cave and hang out with the Guardians for a while instead of trying to do the whole thing on his own.
Not, he insisted to himself, because he was tired of being on his own, but because it was fun.
It was almost the end of March by that time anyway, and three months of just him and his ship and the sights of space had been exciting, yeah. He couldn't deny that it was so neat to get to see Hala — the full beauty of it as it was being rebuilt. And to explore some colonies in the Empire. And to watch a collapsing star… But it somehow wasn't quite the same on his own. And while he had thought he needed some distance from his friends, now, he was missing them horribly.
They emailed him all the time, of course. He didn't miss out on hearing about the latest 'big' news from Earth. Like Ael getting top marks in school or Gerry trying to get some extra coursework in with Tyler so he could study ahead of college. He noticed that Chance didn't post much about what he did with Krissy, though Krissy seemed to be less… sensitive about it. They were still dating, and she didn't seem to mind at all saying as much. But then, she wrote about everyone's romances. Elin was getting flowers and handwritten letters from Nolan now even though she was trying to date someone else, and Charlie had another admirer at school. Even Gerry was starting to get into the dating scene, going out with a few different girls on dates — but nothing really serious.
And it surprised Sying how much he missed seeing the everyday stuff with his friends. But he also didn't want to admit defeat when he had an entire semester of space travel planned out. So… he took as many pictures as he could and made sure to send them to the group.
This time, though, he was just writing to Elin — and sending along a file full of music that Groot had shown him.
So I won't be home in time for your birthday. (Earth isn't even on a lot of the charts in the area.) But I wanted to send this to you anyway. Gotta make sure my aunt gets some good music — and make sure you know I didn't forget!
This'll probably get to you right around your birthday, if I calculated the days right. Sorry if it's a little late, though.
Anyway, the music isn't your ONLY present. I'm bringing home a gorgeous bracelet I found while I was out. The people who made the design don't even exist anymore; the planet is dead. But I got to spend some time with a few archeologists who were excavating the place, some historians from Xandar, that kind of thing. Anyway, the point is, the design is really neat. It's a kind of space flower? But it's supposed to be a warrior's symbol, because apparently that flower was super deadly. Which kind of reminded me of you.
Anyway, I hope you're not going out of your mind back home dealing with all the drama Krissy's been reporting on. The way she tells it, it's a regular soap opera over there, but I'm sure she's overselling it.
I can't wait to come home and see you guys again. Don't tell the rest of the group, but space is way more isolating than I thought it would be. It's exciting in fits and spurts, but a lot of it is just travel. No wonder my dad brings music everywhere he goes; you've got to fill the time with something.
Oh, and you'll be surprised to know that all this music was from Groot. Who is pretty much my favorite Guardian now.
Missing you lots,
Sying read over his email a few times before he nodded to himself, sent it off, and then went back to looking over the charts that he had been examining. He was wary of any place that Rocket suggested was a "good time," but Groot had pointed out a few that he could check out.
Either way, the Guardians were gearing up for some big fight, and apparently, taking Sying into an active warzone "wasn't allowed." So… he had a few days to kill.
And besides, he had actually really enjoyed that expedition from before. He wondered if he could find another dead planet and pick through the ruins. There was something about being surrounded by more questions than could possibly be answered that was just… exciting.
And maybe he'd come back with a few more cool things to bring back to his friends.
"I am Groot."
Sying looked up with a smile when he heard the voice at his doorway and waved Groot inside. "Yeah, I know, I know. Time to get moving so you can save the universe."
"I am Groot," the giant tree-like alien said, and Sying smirked. He hadn't quite figured out how to catch on to Groot's vocabulary, but the tones helped with that. This one was warm and came with a big hand resting on Sying's shoulder.
He looked up at the tall Guardian and let out a breath of a laugh. "Maybe I'll come back out and spend some time as a Guardian," he said, which had Groot grinning outright. "After I make the team back home."
"I am Groot," was the response, in a tone that sounded just like Sying's mother saying "duh."
Sying got to his feet and gathered up his charts to head over to where the Wonder was docked with the Guardians' ship. "Don't worry. I'm sure you guys'll catch up with me again to resume your babysitting job," he teased before he ducked into his ship.
Only a few moments after Sying's ship separated, the Guardians raced off, and Sying was left behind again — once more on his own.
He let out a sigh and sat down at the controls to his ship, running a hand over the console as the ship hummed comfortingly back to him. "Thanks," he said with a quiet smile before he pulled his charts back up. "Let's find somewhere new."
Yeah, Krissy's totally overselling everything. Nothing notable to report here. She's probably making half of it up. You know how that goes.
Got this just before the birthday, so you're officially the first to wish me anything at all. The music is great. I've added it to my workout playlist, by the way. And miss you right back.
Don't get too lost following your heart.
Love you lots,
Elin hated writing like this, but she was trying to make sure that she answered every single message that Sying sent, particularly because she had suspected that it would be a much lonelier trip than he'd thought it would be.
Of course, she left out little things she knew. Like the fact that it was Logan that had more or less threatened Peter Quill into making sure that the Guardians kept an eye out for Sying. Or that Krissy wasn't exactly exaggerating a lot of the romantic crap that was going on. Or that she was quietly forwarding anything that was going on to Jubilee, who she knew was pacing in spite of getting her own messages from Sying.
And she didn't mention that she was starting up a long series of tests a few days before her birthday in hopes of getting her team tryouts all done before her birthday. But it was about all she had to really keep her mind occupied. Nolan was sweet, but she knew he had no interest in joining the team, and she wanted to make sure that it was something she wanted to do before she started high school and had to make some real choices on where she was going to go. She was convinced that ignoring his advances and friendzoning him was the right move.
The phantom pain from the run-in with Essex was long gone, but the memory was not, and she knew if she was going to do anything with the team, she'd have to get away from Westchester and get her mind in order. And if she made the junior team … at least she'd have that as her 'official' anchor to New York. Otherwise, she would have to listen to the teasing of 'homesick' that she knew would go with her semester in LA.
But Sying didn't need to know any of that. Not as far as she was concerned.
Elin had just finished sending off the email when Krissy teleported into her room, unannounced as usual, with a wide grin on. "Oh, there you are!" she said, as if she didn't know exactly where Elin would be.
"What did I miss now?" Elin asked as she turned to face her.
"Oh, just Charlie getting up the nerve to agree to a date with Alonzo," Krissy said, grinning as he tail swayed behind her. "So my boyfriend has been utterly and completely kidnapped for the day to help his sister."
"Is that why I have to listen to more romance?" Elin shook her head. "Be careful, purple Elf … you have a one-track mind."
"I do not," Krissy said, fluffing herself up. "Sometimes I fight pirates!"
"Only if you get kisses at the end, these days," Elin teased. "But that's fine. To each her own."
Krissy flushed a little at that and shrugged. "Well, I'm not apologizing for kissing him when we're dating." She leaned over Elin with a troublemaking smile. "You should try it more often. I mean, I know Nolan is on the other side of the country, but…"
"Not interested," Elin said flatly. "Every time someone falls for someone around here, they completely lose their minds."
"That's not true!" Krissy defended.
Elin stopped and gave her a pointed look. "Oh please."
"It's not!" Krissy insisted. "You know it's not. In fact, my grades have gone up, especially in self-defense!"
"Alright, don't get your tail in a twist; it doesn't really matter," Elin said with a wave as she got up and started digging through her closet. "Did you need anything else?" Elin asked, waiting to see if Krissy would go before she took the practice uniform out.
"I was actually wondering if I could borrow that blue dress you have?" Krissy admitted.
"Help yourself," Elin said, gesturing to the portion of her closet where the dresses were hanging. "You don't have to ask. You know that."
"Oh, but I do. What if you defy all the odds and decide to go on a date, and I'm wearing the dress you wanted?" Krissy teased even as she moved to pull the dress off the hangar.
"I'm not that hung up on any one dress," Elin pointed out.
"Well, I love this one. It's the perfect blue to go with my fur."
"You can keep it, if you like. It looks better on you anyhow."
"What? No. I can buy one like it…"
"Or you can just take it," Elin replied. "Really. I think you've worn it more than me anyhow."
"Only because I get out more," Krissy teased. "We're going to go see Pirates of Penzance this weekend."
"Eww, musical. Have fun," Elin said, picking up a little green dress and holding it up as if she was considering it for the day.
"I was thinking about sending some pictures to Sying, but Chance gets weird when I send pictures of us on a date. But I don't want him to get left out, either," Krissy admitted, watching Elin hold up the dress. "I don't like that dress on you, by the way. It makes your eyes look less bright."
"Krissy," Elin said, turning to face her, "I'm right here, and I don't want to see your life through the lens of 'what I did on my date'. Sying definitely doesn't need that, either. He needs your friendship first." She looked at the dress. "And I don't care if my eyes look bright. This is now my favorite dress."
"But you're so pretty!" Krissy insisted. "You really need to let it out more. Not for any boys or anything — you're just gorgeous."
"I don't think so," Elin said. "No one's looking, and I don't really care."
"Well. It is a waste of a whole lot of pretty," Krissy decided in a huff.
"Mom says I don't need to dress up," Elin replied. "And if anyone ever gets interested, it shouldn't be in a done-up package. I happen to like this philosophy."
"I'm not asking you to dress up. Just flaunt what you've got!" Krissy giggled.
"I don't have anything," Elin said, hanging the dress back up before she headed over to the dresser to pull out a pair of jeans and a hoodie instead.
"Oh, you are just so wrong," Krissy said before she teleported over to her friend and gave her a warm hug and a kiss on the cheek. "Thanks for the dress. I'll see you in class."
"Any time," she replied before Krissy teleported out, and Elin waited just a moment before she took the uniform out and changed into it. There were more important things than dating, after all.
As soon as Elin had gotten changed, she headed down to the War Room, where she was set to meet up with Scott to start with. He had told her that he needed to have a chat with her before any evaluations started up — and he wanted to do it there, since whenever it was that she made the team, she'd be spending a lot of free time there prepping.
He grinned when he saw her come in and waved her over. "Nervous?" he asked, and when she gave him the smallest of nods, he smiled more warmly her way. "You'll do great," he promised.
"So, what are we doing here?" she asked as she sat down, not wanting to get a long chat about how she was ready for the tests — she'd already heard that from both Kitty and Storm when she mentioned that she wanted to do it.
"I just wanted to make sure you knew what you were in for," Scott told her. "Most of the time, we space out the tests, but since you can heal, we don't need to do that if you don't want to." He paused. "But if you need the break, mentally, don't hesitate to tell us. There is no rule that says you have to do this in a week flat."
Elin nodded her understanding but didn't say anything. She really wanted to get them over with, so she didn't think she would be taking a break anyway.
"You have to pass each test before you can move on to the next one. Don't worry about it if you don't — you can retake a test as often as you want. You'll start with Storm," Scott told her. "Starting next semester once the European campus is up, anyone who wants to transfer here has to pass one of her tests. This is more or less the advanced version of the entrance exam. After you get past Storm, Kitty will evaluate you on tech and weapons knowledge, and then, you're with me before you get to take a crack at your Dad."
Elin nodded along to everything Scott was saying. Kitty and Storm had both said more or less the same thing already — that the tests were supposed to cover more than just her ability to fight and think on her feet.
"Obviously, you and I will do a run in the Danger Room before you get to your dad's final test," Scott told her, still watching her carefully. "But before we hit the Danger Room, we're going to sit down for a personal evaluation. No fighting, no tech, nothing related to training. This is just about figuring out if you want to join the team — and if you're ready for it." He smirked slightly. "It's one thing to know how to fight and another thing to know how to be a hero, after all. Anyone can hit hard if you teach them to do it; I just want to make sure we're not training future supervillains." He leaned back and smiled her way. "I'm not worried about that with you, obviously, but I do want to make sure you know what you're getting into — and that you don't feel pressured into this just because it's what your friends want, or what your parents do. You can always, always say no, at any time in the evals, or even after we offer you a spot. You know that, right?"
"Well, yeah," she said, shrugging one shoulder. "You've always told us that. You guys have made it pretty clear." She took a breath and let it out after a moment. "But I want to do it. I don't think I want any breaks. It would be like anyone else taking a vacation between tests, right? And that … isn't very true to life."
Scott nodded and then got to his feet to open the door for her. "Alright. If you're sure, then Storm's waiting for you." He paused and squeezed her shoulder. "Good luck. You'll do great."
She got to her feet and very nearly gave him a quick hug — but thought better of it — before she tipped her chin down and headed off to work with Storm. She had no idea what the test was going to be, but it had to be something rough if it was to be the basic entrance exam. That was what Scott had said.
When Elin met up with Storm, the goddess was smiling her way, but once the doors to the Danger Room closed, it was an entirely different story.
"The exercise is one you should be familiar with," Ororo told her. "You'll need to first avoid detection, and if you can manage that for the allotted time, then the scene will change to a growing mob. From there, it will be a 'rescue the mutant' scenario, with the basic safety protocols in place. Are you ready, or do you want a little time to think about it?"
"No. Let's just do it," Elin said with a nod, shifting her weight from one foot to the other and clenching her hands.
"What are you doing?"
Krissy had been looking for Chance all morning to challenge him to a video game race-off, but she had not been expecting to find him in the hangar sitting on one of the ships that Noh and Tony had given them when they were kids. When he saw her teleport into the room, he grinned her way and waved her over.
"Hey, Kris," he said, his grin widening when she climbed up to sit on top of the ship with him. His ship seemed to be bigger than she remembered the ships being — they were made for toddlers, after all — and he had to give her a hand up.
"Seriously, though, what are you doing?" she asked once she was well enough positioned on the ship that she wouldn't slide off.
"Talking to it," Chance said, patting the ship as it hummed underneath both of them.
"Sying said that these ships are organic and that they'll grow if you give them enough attention," Chance explained, still rubbing his hand over the ship before he grinned and reached over to grab Krissy's hand to hold it against the ship so she could feel the hum underneath her fingers.
Her ears perked up, and she grinned up at him delightedly. "Oh, it's just like Sying's ship!"
"That's because it's awake and active," Chance explained. "I don't know — if Sying was here, he could explain it better. There was a whole lot of jargon about psionic circuits that I really didn't understand. But I do know that the ship's almost big enough for Chloe now." He tapped the ship with his free hand but kept the other one on top of hers. "I think it would be pretty cool to be able to have a ship too. And we already know how to fly it, so… no pilot's license needed."
"I thought you were going to get your license this summer, though."
"Oh, I am," Chance promised. "But I'm just saying — could be fun if we could all go to space. Maybe drop in on Sying when he's hanging out with the Guardians."
"Aww, you miss him, don't you?"
"Don't you?" Chance shot back.
Krissy shrugged. "Well, obviously. We've been friends since we were babies. It's weird for him to be so far. Even when we email, it takes a couple days to even get to him."
Chance nodded, still holding her hand. "Plus," he said slowly, "it could be fun to fight some space pirates."
At that, Krissy lost her thoughtful look entirely and grinned outright at Chance. "Oh, for sure," she agreed fervently, her tail swaying behind her.
He grinned even wider and then leaned forward to kiss her, though that quickly turned into a laugh when the ship's humming got a little louder. He laughed as he looked down at the ship they were sitting on. "Okay, so that's a thing."
"Well, you did say there was psychic mumbo jumbo," Krissy pointed out.
"Yeah, but now I feel like there's a third wheel in this conversation."
Krissy giggled before she held onto Chance's hand a little tighter and teleported them to the game room couch, which was where she had been planning to take him in the first place so that they could play some video games. "Better?"
Chance made a show of looking around to make sure that no one else was looking at them. "Oh yeah. Much less like a weird space chaperone," he agreed before he leaned over and kissed her again.
She grinned and returned the kiss for a moment before her tail found the video game controller, and she shoved it into his stomach as soon as the kiss broke. "So. There's a new Donkey Kong game out."
"No pirates," she admitted. "There are evil penguins on sort of pirate ships?"
"Close enough," he teased before he leaned over and kissed her again — because he could.
She flushed purple when the kiss lasted several seconds, which was longer than they had ever kissed before, and for a second, she just stared at him. He was a good kisser, and she really, really liked that she was the one he was kissing.
"So. I'm Player One," she said after she got her breath back, and Chance laughed as they settled down into the couch together to get into the game.