Disclaimer: This is a work of fan fiction using characters, locations and concepts belonging to Marvel Entertainment. No claim of ownership is made or implied by me in using their property. No part of this work is intended for material gain of any kind. It is intended for the sole purpose of creative exercise and the entertainment of others.

This story is a birthday fic for Sue Penkivech. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I had writing it!

Taking it to the Next Level

The overturned freight train had been a simple, but time consuming problem to amend. The injuries had been minor, and once the basic rescue work had been finished, all that remained was the manual labor. Righting the cars and placing them back on the tracks was a refreshing change from the usual villain of the week slugfest that Colossus had to contend with far too often.

It was a cleansing experience, feet planted firmly in the earth, rippling muscles rhythmically lifting enormous objects one at a time with far more grace and speed than any industrial crane could ever hope to achieve. His aid had saved the conductor and railworkers days of toil. Working alongside them, he fell into an easy rapport with these men, and their words of genuine appreciation for his efforts had been all the reward he'd needed, and even that was more than he would presume to ask for.

Peter raked his fingers through his damp hair, shifting the raven curls away from his brow, where they seemed insistent on clinging whenever he took more than two steps. He hadn't actually needed the shower. Never having to worry about sweat was one of the advantages of turning into a man of solid metal, after all. A good, hard day's work didn't feel complete without washing up afterwards, however. Some things one just never grew out of, no matter how much time spent living as a hero.

The hour was late, and Peter stepped through the halls quietly so as not to disturb anyone who might be sleeping. While his steel form did tend to make him sound like a tank with heavy plates stuck to the treads, he was more than capable of stepping softly while flesh and blood. He was looking forward to getting to his room and unwinding with the gentle tones of his favorite music and then drifting off to sleep. He'd have plenty of time to catch up with the others over breakfast in the morning.

A soft voice caught his attention as he passed one of the doors. "Can't we take a break? We've been at it for hours, now."

Peter paused. Had that come from Kitty's room?

"Just once more, Bobby. Please?" That was definitely her voice. Peter took a few steps backwards, one eyebrow lifting as he regarded the door.

"God, you're insatiable," the other voice, Bobby's, complained. "My fingers are killing me."

Peter's other eyebrow shot up to join the first and he couldn't resist creeping closer to the door.

"That's because you don't know what to do with them. I swear, you're all over the place. You've seriously got to work on your technique if we're going to keep doing this."

"Yeah, right," Bobby's voice scoffed. "You're the one who started this whole sordid affair because you heard I've got the most experience, as I recall."

"Well, that and because I got tired of doing in alone," Kitty admitted. Peter's eyes bulged with shock and he nearly had to bite his lip to keep from gasping. "Although I'm still waiting for you to impress me."

"Is that a challenge?"

"Just try to last longer than you did last time."

"Not my fault, Kitty. You caught me by surprise with that one move."

"A likely story."

Peter took a steadying breath. "Stay calm," he told himself in a barely audible voice. "It's probably not what it sounds like."

"Whatever. Okay, we'll go once more, but this time I get to be on top," Bobby's voice demanded. "I like the angle better."

On reflex, Peter's hand flew to the doorknob, and he held it there, trembling as he fought the urge to turn it.

"It hasn't done much to improve your performance from what I've seen, but if it'll make you feel better, that's fine," Kitty responded playfully.

There was a brief pause and Peter thought he could hear some slight shifting behind the door.

"Are you sure you wouldn't rather do this in the Day Room?" Bobby's voice finally said.

"Where anyone could walk in on us?" Kitty scoffed. "You may not care about getting caught, but I'd rather not let people know I'm still into this sort of thing. It's embarrassing."

"You just don't want them to know how much you like cheating," Bobby teased.

The door was unlocked. Peter had the door open before he'd even registered that fact, and he stepped inside just in time to hear Kitty saying, "It's not cheating if the programmers put it in the code. It's secret. Big diff-" She paused as she turned wide eyes on Peter's rugged form as he entered her bedroom.

"Peter!" she said, face paling slightly. "This isn't what it looks like!"

Her boyfriend looked around and said, "It looks like you're playing Halo 3 with Bobby. On the X-Box you keep hidden behind all your electronics and computer equipment."

Indeed, the whole scene was there; The soft glow of the television with the split screen on pause. A controller for each of them. Snacks piled on the table next to the bed they were sitting on.

Kitty's eyes flicked back to the game, and Bobby, then back to Peter. "You knew?" she asked, sounding embarrassed.

Letting out an amused, and slightly relived chuckle, Peter said, "Of course. I know how protective you are of your image as the serious and mature Goddess of Computing, but I also remember how much you love video games."

Even under the low light in the room, Peter could see Kitty's cheeks redden. "Yeah, well, it's okay for a fourteen year old, but I'm in my twenties now."

"Hey," Bobby said in mock offense. "Still here, you know."

Kitty looked back at him, a wry smile playing across her lips. "Sorry, Bobby. Guess this means we'll have to call it a night after all."

Bobby's expression was somewhere between relieved and crestfallen, but before he could say anything, Peter spoke up. "Perhaps not," he said, still sounding amused as he shut the door behind him. "I was actually thinking it might be fun to join you."

"I don't mind if Bobby doesn't," Kitty said, her smile widening.

"Course not," her companion replied with an evil grin. "You're good, Kitty, but I'll bet you can't take on both of us."

"Guess we'll just have to find out, then."