Richie had never understood why his mother didn't recognize him as Gear. Sure, the green-tinted indestructible plastic obscured his features, but still, his face was very visible, just…green.
She never had, though. Neither had his father, but then, Richie had never expected him to.
But if he'd never expected his father to recognize him, he sure as shit had never expected his first cousin, whom he hadn't seen since he was, like, eight, to recognize him.
When Professor Charles Xavier of the X-Men had contacted him – through the Justice League, and Batman had acted real bitchy about being used as a answering service – about having Gear come fix whatever was wrong with the X-Men's holographic training system that was causing random outbreaks of unscheduled mechanical violence, interspersed with the safety protocols literally blowing up in people's faces… Well, of course Richie had said yes. He hadn't even known that people knew of him outside of Dakota.
He'd had to come to New York as Gear, though, which meant wearing his helmet whenever he was around other people – thought thankfully not the rest of his uniform. So, attired in well-worn jeans and a ratty old T-Shirt, Richie was focusing on the third of what looked to be about seven major and fifteen minor problems with their 'Danger Room' and wasn't exactly expecting to be interrupted. But a kid that looked sort of familiar had popped into the clean room and slammed the door behind him, with the air of someone running from trouble. And now Richie had company.
Company that turned out to be family.
The kid – Josh, he thought he'd heard someone say during his school-wide introduction a week ago – looked at him, panted a few times to catch his breath, looked around the room, whipped his head back around to stare at him, and, eyes going wide, said, "Cousin Richie!"
The higher pitch to the voice did it, triggering a memory of hearing childish shrieks while playing tag in the park with his cousin Joshua Foley, his father's brother's kid. "Cousin Josh?" Richie asked. Josh nodded.
Richie blinked, thought about the fact that he was in the middle of mutant central, and then grimaced. "So, you're a mutant, huh?"
Josh flushed and nodded. "I've…got healing powers."
"Sounds like that could come in handy," Richie said noncommittally.
Josh nodded once more, and even threw in a small smile. But his eyes were still haunted, leading Richie to conclude that, "Your parents know, huh?"
Josh nodded again, eyes on the floor. "They, uh, disowned me a while back," he murmured.
Wincing, Richie said, "Sucks, man."
Josh just snorted, as if to say, 'No shit, Sherlock."
"Yeah, mine'll probably react the same way if and when they ever find out about my 'after school job,'" Richie continued as commiseration. The one thing he and Josh had always had in common above and beyond relatives and eye and hair color had been the ability to bitch about their parents' intolerance of difference.
Josh looked up and blinked boggled eyes at him. "They haven't recognized you on the news?"
Richie eyed his cousin. "Dude, you're kidding, right?"
Making a face, Josh said, "Yeah, I see."
They were quite for a moment, just enjoying the realizing feeling of being with someone who understood their plight. Then, as teenagers do, they got bored.
Richie was the first to broach a new topic of conversation. "So…you hear any good jokes lately?"
Josh snorted, dropping down to sprawl next to Richie on the floor. "Not a joke as such, but you should hear about the latest addition to Magneto's family tree…"
Richie quirked a brow at his cousin. "Oh?"
"Yeah, he's like, in a gay relationship with this shapeshifter who isn't a mutant, he's actually a half-Skrull, half-Kree," Josh said animatedly, the normal sparkle back in his eyes. "And get this: he's royalty."
Richie spared a brief glance around the lab being used for the components of the Danger Room that he had yet to work on, then shoved his screwdriver back in its case. He directed Backpack to watch the doors, and settling in to listen. "Tell me more…"
He recognized good gossip when he heard it.