We went into the busy cafeteria, there was already a huge line to get food and so Kenzie and I waited, sitting next to each other at a table. In the gap between the two of us on the bench, her hand found mine. I took her hand but I tensed before looking around, making sure nobody was watching.
“Are you okay?” She whispered to me.
“Just a little nervous that people might see us. I know, I’m a coward but I’m just terrified of what their reaction will be.”
“Are you scared of how the people at school will react, of your parents, the other guardians?”
“Everyone I guess. I’m scared of how my mom will react the most. Like I think my dad will be cool with it, but her…” a knot formed in my stomach. “I really don’t know.”
“Has she ever expressed homophobic views?”
“Not that I remember, but she’s kind of conservative and before I triggered she and I would often go to this awful church where the reverend was all about hate, he’d talk for long about the people destroying america; which included gay people… and every time we went, I’d start to hate myself a little more, I felt broken for liking girls. My mom never really had like an epiphany and decided to leave. In reality the only reason we stopped going was that after I triggered we weren’t welcome anymore. They didn’t like Nephs much...”
Fundamentalist christians weren’t exactly accepting of divergent people, to them we weren’t human. We were Nephs or nephilims; literal demon spawn there to corrupt the world and seduce them into sin or something. Although my mom had tried to raise me a christian, the influence of my very skeptical and agnostic dad had left me unconvinced to say the least.
“Well just so you know, I’m perfectly okay with hiding our relationship from others and pretend we’re just friend. Although I’ll tell you right, the other guardians will be accepting.”
“Thank you… I’m sorry I’m a coward and that you have to hide because of me...”
“Staying in the closet is not a cowardly act, not everyone has the privilege of living in an environment welcoming of their difference. I’m lucky enough to have extremely supportive parents and friends with both my sexuality, my divergence and my disability. You’re not. It’s as simple as that.
Plus, you’re much braver than you think you are Paige, you stood up for me when it didn’t concern you, you risked your life to join the guardians and last night you went against villains with far more experience than you, all of those things took guts, you wanted to do the right thing even if it wasn’t the safest thing to do.”
“I kind of screwed up all these times.”
“You tried, that’s the most important part, the first step is always the hardest to take. You’ll get better with training and experience, did you think I was good the first time I put on my costume? I got my ass kicked. But I didn’t give up and neither did you.”
“You know, the rogues must be pretty pissed… I kind of want to apologize for pepper spraying Grotesque.”
“They’re here if you really want to, I saw Limb earlier. they wouldn’t be so reckless as to attack us in civilian identity. That would get them thrown into the pit.”
“Didn’t Patricia do exactly that?”
“There’s a difference between throwing eraser bits at me like a gradeschooler or shoving me in the hallways and trying to kill me with fire.”
I looked around and saw Grotesque and Limb sitting in one of the two huge circular windows with yards thick ledges the school had for some reason. It was easy to see which was which; Limb was a lanky latino kid with overgrown limbs and not enough body mass while Grotesque was a white dude who would have made a great linebacker. Patricia was obviously absent as she was currently in our custody.
“You mind if I go talk with them?”
“I’ll go with you.”
“Do you know their name?”
“Grotesque is called Louie, Limb’s name is Vincente.”
We went their way, once we came close enough to be recognized they shifted position, Grotesque putting his lunch down while Limb closed the comic book he was reading.
“Hi.” He said flatly. There was definitely a french-ish accent in his voice but I didn’t know what kind exactly. Pinpointing accents was not my thing.
“Look, I just wanted to apologize about last night. Pepper spraying you was kind of a dick move.”
“You don’t have to apologize. I was beating you up and you know, I’m a criminal.” He answered. There was a few seconds of awkward silence. “So… How are you? I mean I didn’t go easy on you.”
“My belly and back makes me look like an eggplant and I’m sore as all hell. But that’s about it, nothing’s broken and I’ll be fine in a few days. So… Are we cool, there’s no lingering bad feelings?”
“We’re cool, no hard feelings. You were doing your job, I was doing mine.”
“So… How are Royal and Burner doing?” Limb asked.
“Last I checked, Royal was doing well and cooperating, Patricia was the exact opposite; she had to be sedated twice because she tried to attack people or damage her cell. The both of them are awaiting to pass before court. And tell Skedaddle to think twice about doing a retread of last time, we now have teleporter countermeasures in place which she’s welcome to try herself against. But I have to warn you, it won’t be pleasant.” Kenzie said. “Let’s get something to eat.” She then added for my attention.
We got our food from the cafeteria kitchen before going back to our table, sitting down and eating. I was starving, to my bitter shame, I had skipped breakfast.
“What happened with Skedaddle last time?” I asked when we were out of earshot before stuffing my mouth full of pilaf rice.
“We discovered she can teleport to people and not just locations, she went in and busted out half her team.”
“It’s part of being a cape living in a world where we don’t have stock abilities. With everyone having their own quirks and twist to their powers, we can’t plan for everything, so we’re bound to screw up. We assumed that Skedaddle needed to know where she was teleporting to, her ability worked differently. But now we have countermeasures; it has two action; first they cause a stunning blast and then they teleport anyone in a radius back, meaning we get both Skedaddle and the prisoner back into custody.”
“That’s pretty neat.”
“We employ quite a few tinkerer just for that purpose. Most of them are in San Francisco or New York because that’s where the labs are but we get quite a lot of goodies when we need them; containment devices, vehicles, weapons, costumes, medical help.
“Speaking of containment, I really need to get down to studying. Kickback is going to nag me if I keep forgetting designations and procedures…” I took you the DDA handbook from my bag and flipped through it.
“Oh yeah, that was one of the most annoying part of my training too. Dyslexia and book learning aren’t best friend.”
“Yeah, also myopic if you hadn’t noticed.” She said raising her glasses with a chuckle.
“I thought those were just to make you look even cuter, because if that was the intent it’s working.”
“I wish I could kiss you right there, I guess it’ll have to wait for later…” She teased me, with a slightly whiny tone. “I guess I’ll have to settle with helping you study for now.”
We spent the rest of lunch together and she helped me try to memorize the difference between Aces, Blasters, Bombers, Brawlers, Bricks, Chargers, Controllers, Healers, Masters, Movers, Schemers, Shapers, Shifters, Stalkers, Tinkerers and Devicers as well as Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Omega protocols for each.