I didn’t sleep that night, I just laid in bed with Kenzie holding me close. When she fell asleep, I slipped out of the room and went to the kitchen. I wasn’t really hungry, but making something sounded like a soothing activity. I didn’t complicate things; just a ricotta and tomato grilled cheese sandwich.
“G’morning. How are you feeling today Paige?” Jessie asked as she came into the kitchen, wearing an oversized shirt with blended pastel color along with pajama pants. Jessie was an early bird, where I typically went to bed around two in the morning, she went to bed around ten PM.
“Hey Jessie. Not that great, but I’ll live. I’ve calmed down from last night and at least I feel comfortable and safe being here.”
She came closer and I saw that she was holding a hedgehog cupped in her arms and resting against her torso.
“Do they allow pets in here?”
“No, but Lexy’s kind of an exception. KB had me pick a pet to take care of. So I choose the cutest little nugget I could find.” She raised her hands closer to me. Lexy didn’t react much. “Poor little girl’s a little grouchy because she’s quilling again. Are you using the sink? I want to give her a bath.”
“Go ahead. While I’m at it, do you want me to make you a sandwich too? It’s just grilled cheese and tomato”
“That’d be great.”
While I prepared another sandwich, Jessie tied up a bunch of oatmeal in a cheesecloth and ran it under the hot water as she filled the sink with about two inch worth of water. She lowered the little nugget into the water and Lexy began to swim happily.
“Poor little girl. It’s almost over, this is your last quilling, soon, you’ll be a big girl.” She spoke to Lexy in a cutesy voice, leaning over the sink and watching the hedgehog carefully. After a few minutes, she emptied the sink and put her pet on a towel, using a miniature blow drier to dry her up.
I gave her one of the two sandwich I’d made and we went to the couch, sitting down. I let her choose what she wanted to watch and she put on some cartoons. I forced myself to eat the sandwich I’d prepared, it was nice but I just wasn’t in the mood to eat. Jessie on the other hand devoured hers as she let Lexy climb on her, using a hand to potentially catch her.
“Do you want to hold her?” Jessie asked.
“Just cup you hand at your chest.”
I did as she asked and she gently put Lexy in my hands. The hedgehog immediately curled up into a ball.
“I don’t think she likes me.”
“She’s just shy because she doesn’t recognize your smell. Give her a minute or two, curiosity will take over.”
We continued watching cartoons and after maybe three minutes, Lexy uncurled and started hesitantly moving around and sniffing me. She started exploring my hoodie, climbing around with her little paws.
“You see? Hedgies are shy but they’re nice when they get to know you. Want to give her a treat?”
“I can try.”
Jessie got up and went to the kitchen, coming back with a bottle of baby food, the label saying it was applesauce.
“What exactly do hedgehogs eat?”
“In the wild they eat insects but Lexy and other domestic hedgehogs mostly eats kibble supplemented with bits of fruits, meats and veggies as well with some freeze dried insects.”
I fed the little nugget with a tiny spoon and she ate with a lot of appetite. When it was done, Jessie put the food back in the fridge and sat back down.
“Alright, let’s bring her back home. Before she leaves a little gift.” We got up and went into Jessie’s room, the cage she had for Lexy was positively huge, filled with bedding, toys, tunnels and a hut with a bag. She opened the cage and took Lexy, letting her inside. Once her legs hit the ground, she went into the hut and her bag, hiding inside and peeking out with only her head.
We left the room.
“Hey Girls…” Chuan said half awake as he walked into the lounge at the same time as us, he was wearing a tank top and boxers but no binder.
“Any of you want some tea?”
“I do.” Jessie said. “You know how I like it.”
“No thanks.” I said.
He went into the kitchen and came back a few minutes later with a tray holding a pair of cups and cereals for himself.
“Here’s your tea flavored sugar.” Chuan said, giving Jessie her cup.
“Five spoons of sugar and a strong drip of honey is how she takes it.”
“It’s less bitter that way.” Jessie made sure to point out for my benefit.
“Say, you guys mind answering one tiny question?”
“Sure, I guess.”
“Do you have last names? We’ve known each others for a while but I never heard your last names.”
“It’s Reddington.” Jessie said.
“I usually don’t give mine, I got tired of having to spell it out because Thai names are long and complicated. Listen close; My family name is Panyarachun.” Chuan stressed out every syllable individually.
We spent the next few minutes quietly drinking tea, well, they drank and I watched but eventually, Jessie retreated to her room to change and Chuan came next to me, his cup and bowl empty.
“Do you want to come down and work out with me?”
“Sure, why not?” It would be a nice distraction from everything.
We changed into gym clothes and both went down and into the gym building. Rather than the standard field, he brought me to a room I hadn’t been in, it wasn’t that big and it contained tons of equipment; machines, weights, steps and other training things.
“I like to start with a little cardio.” He went to a bike and started pedalling, which I joined him in doing.
Up close, Chuan was pretty impressive looking, he had a good musculature going on, It wasn’t a huge amount of mass or perfectly shaped musculature of a body builder yet it was clear he wasn’t just fit, he was athletic and much more so than the others, having the body of a swimmer.
“I like working out in the morning. Makes me feel like testosterone is pumping through my body.”
I must have given him an odd reaction unconsciously because he started explaining.
“You know cis girls have testosterone in their body naturally, not as much as cis guys but it’s there.” He stopped pedalling. “Want to see something?” He rolled up his left sleeve and showed me a small scar.
“The best thing in the world.” He said with a grin. “It’s an implant, I’ve had it for about seven months, it slowly releases testosterone and blocks estrogen… It feels amazing, haven’t had a period in three months. I have more energy and it makes me feel better about myself.”
“That’s pretty cool.”
“It might sound petty but I mostly joined the young guardians for their transition program. Not only do they pay for it, but there’s no gatekeeping. If you declare you’re trans, they’ll help you, give you the help you need.”
“Hey, I’m not in a position to judge what is or isn’t a petty reason to become a superhero, after all I’m the one who joined because I had a crush on a girl.”
He got off the bike and got some weights, I followed him and he showed me how to do some basic exercise. All of KB’s training required no real equipment, just the force of gravity and some open space.
“You mind if I ask something? Like I don’t want make you uncomfortable or seem transphobic, I’m just curious…"
"Just shoot your question before you panic in the corner."
"It's just that well, you’re not currently wearing a binder and you often don’t in the lounge, so I've been wondering what’s up with that?”
“For one I can only bind a few hours every day before it starts being dangerous and hurts. For second, I don’t mind having my friends see me like this because I trust you’ll respect me. I’m lucky enough to get little body dysphoria; For the most part I’m okay with having breasts and a vagina. What I do have in spade is social dysphoria; what kills me is when people insist that having those makes me a girl, call me as such and just undermine my gender identity based on bullshit. I’m a boy regardless of whether I’m binding or not, or whether I’m wearing a dress or jeans and a tee.”
"That makes sense. Thanks."
"Don't stress yourself out about asking questions, I know you're coming from a good place and just trying to understand."
We continued for a while until my arms were sore. Lifting weights was a different beast than the training Kickback made me do. I wasn’t sure if he was done or he just wanted to spare my feelings but he stopped almost at the same time as I did and we went back up.
“I should get changed.” he walked to one of the room and put a hand on the handle.
“Wait… I thought that was Volley’s room.”
“Are you and Volley..?”
“Yeah, we’re together, what about it?”
“It’s just unexpected, I mean you’re both so different, he’s always super serious and professional.”
“Stan wants to compartmentalize his life; In private he’s super sweet and kind, but in public he wants to maintain a professional relationship with the guardians and act like the boss and leader he is supposed to be. The two of us have been dating since we came out of bootcamp.”
When he came out, we sat down and spent the time until morning just talking, waiting for the others to get up while Jessie sat at a desk with headphones and working on a computer on what I supposed was school work.