I lost consciousness not long after Kenzie fell asleep again. Even though she’d slept all day, I woke up before her and snuck out of bed to prepare some breakfast for Chuan and myself before going back to Kenzie’s room, crashing on her desk chair and putting the tv on mute with subtitles.
“Paige?” She said as she woke up.
“I’m here.” I said, sitting by the bedside. “How are you feeling?”
“A little better, thanks to you.” She tried to rise up and I helped her.
Despite having rested most of the previous day and having had more than standard night’s worth of sleep, she didn’t look good; She was pale, covered in cold sweat and I could see the tremors in her hands.
“Do you want your braces?”
“Not today.” She said before taking a pause. “Can you get my chair? It’s in the wardrobe.”
I opened it and quickly found a folded up wheelchair. I took it out and set it by Kenzie’s bed. She painfully dragged herself out of bed and onto the chair. I would have liked to help but she didn’t ask and I knew how important it was for her to be as autonomous as possible.
“You mind if I change?” She asked, her pajamas was stuck to her skin.
“Sure. I’ll go make you some breakfast.”
I gave her a quick kiss before leaving her room, preparing another batch of pancakes. After a few minutes, she came out, rolling herself through the living room and into the kitchen. Seeing her in a wheelchair felt surprisingly normal, there was no awkwardness in how she moved about.
After breakfast, we sat down on the couch, Kenzie practically lying on top of me as we watched tv until it was time to head to school.
Our first class went along swimmingly, Computer lab was always a breeze. But Second period was the exact opposite. Phys ed was the worst class on my schedule, my brawler rating meant that most times I had to go to the library to study or do homeworks. While Kenzie was also there, Ms. Porter the library hag, hated people talking and wouldn’t let us use our electronics during study time, of the whole school staff she was the only one I actively hated; She was old, bitter and hateful.
After a long and torturous period, lunch came about and I grabbed my things as quickly as humanly possible. Kenzie however didn’t share my haste, instead looking quite anemic as she slowly piled her books.
“Are you okay? You look pale.”
“I’ll be in a minute.” She said, opening her bag and taking some pills. She took a pause before speaking again. “Do you want to push me? I’m feeling a little tired.”
“Of course. Anything to help you.”
I went behind her, hung my bag on her wheelchair in a way so it wouldn’t drag on the wheels and leaned down, kissing her cheek. “Love you.” I could see Ms. Porter sneer at us in disgust but she thankfully didn’t say anything. She’d grown up in the sixties and still had those views, at least she wasn’t dumb enough to earn herself a lawsuit. Still, Kenzie didn’t care as she took my head in her hands and gave me one on the lips.
That done, I pushed her toward the elevator and we went down to the ground floor before heading for the cafeteria. As we came in, I saw Jacklyn get up from her usual seat and rush toward me.
“Hey Paige!” She said, waving, before her eyes lowered to Kenzie’s level. “You must be Paige’s girlfriend Mackenzie. I’m Jacklyn.”
“That’s me. You can call me Kenzie.” She answered with a smile before giving me a ‘explain everything’ look.
“She’s a fan, I met her the other day on patrol, she knows everything.” I whispered in her ear. “I only learned she was in our school yesterday at lunch, I thought I’d say hi.”
“Do you want to sit with me?”
“Yeah. Are you okay with that Kenzie?”
“Sure.” She answered.
I brought us to Jacklyn’s usual table. The first by the cafeteria wasn’t very popular, being right next to the microwaves which brought a lot of traffic, it mostly had people sitting there to wait for their food eating up. Kenzie had me bring her to the end of the table and she slid herself onto the end of the bench before collapsing her wheelchair and setting it under the table.
“Bradley’s in line, Imma go join him.” She said, looking around and seeing her boyfriend.
“Can you get my lunch too?” I asked, taking out my lunch money and giving it to Jacklyn, Kenzie asked for it too and did the same with her money. “That’d be really appreciated.”
“Sure!” She seemed happy to help us.
“Thanks, you’re an angel Jacklyn.”
Jacklyn practically gallopped to her boyfriend and I turned my attention to Kenzie.
“She’s a little enthusiastic to say the least… You said she knows everything, does she know about who I am cape wise?”
“I might have let it slip accidentally.”
“You know we’re supposed to have secret identities, right?”
“I just said I didn’t have any friends outside of the guardians and that my girlfriend was in my class. She just figured out that Jessie was too young and you’re the only other girl beside Victoria.
Honestly, I’m surprised she didn’t put two and two together without me telling her, like most of the school knows I’m divergent and they’ve seen my ability. I mean I’ve had some sixth grader gawk at me when school started. Apparently someone’s brother had seen me, told his brother and that kid babbled to his class or something. Which was a bit of a dick move.”
Being openly divergent wasn’t always fun; I’d had a classmate scribble ‘neph bitch’ on my locker a few months after I'd triggered and it wasn’t rare to hear about lynch mobs in small towns or the occasional nutbag who thought eating a stemma would give them power.
“Don’t you think it’s a little weird, chumming it up with a fangirl?”
I shrugged. “Jacklyn seems nice.” I paused. “And I guess I feel a little sorry for her, she’s basically exactly where I was when I met you; lonely, feeling unloved and unhappy with her life. And I know how that feel and kind of want to help.”
“I know where the ‘save the depressed cutie by being a pal’ route leads.” She said eyeing me with faked suspicion. “You two aren’t going to make out, right?”
“Now that you mention it, she is cute.” I sighed dramatically. “Such a shame she’s taken and straight.”
“Pff, I’m watching you.” She said, pointing to her eyes and then at me. “You better not put on a horror flick with her.”
“Feeling protective of your secret weapon?”
“Very. Guess I’ll have to use it on you again.”
“That I wouldn’t mind.” I said, leaning in closer, the two of us were only inches away.
“Am I interrupting something?” Jacklyn asked holding a pair of trays stacked with the top doubly packed with hamburgers, fries and chicken soup, with Bradley doing the same.
“Nah, we were just messing around.” I pulled back into a more normal position and Kenzie’s hand brushed mine.
They sat down, handing us our food and as they did, I noticed Bradley’s right arm, he’d worn long sleeved shirts the previous time I’d seen him, but now the black, sleek cybernetic prosthesis peaked out of his tee-shirt. Cybernetics had become common in the previous years thanks to tinkerer technology and were included in virtually all health insurance plans.
Still, I didn’t bring it up, asking for his medical history felt like a rude thing to do, so instead I just stuffed my mouth, devouring my lunch before taking out a meal bar from my bag. I’d been really hungry the past few days.
Once I was done eating I took out my DDA manual and started studying. The library would have been a more comfortable and quieter place to do it, but I didn’t want to see Ms. Porter.
“I’ll be right back.” Kenzie said, going toward the bathroom after a few minutes.
“Is Kenzie normally in a wheelchair?” Jacklyn whispered to my ear as soon as Kenzie was out of earshot.
“No. She disabled, but normally relies on braces to get around.” I said, keeping my eyes on my book.
There was a moment of silence at our table.
“Oh… So, what are you studying?”
“I’m trying to memorize power designations, levels and protocols. It’s part of standard training.”
“What do those do? I’ve never seen designations on the wiki.”
“Designations are all about counter strategies used by law enforcement rather than defining powers, you could get a bunch of different pyrokinetics and it’s possible they don’t share any classifications. On top of that, there’s up to four levels on each class.”
“Higher levels are stronger?”
“Not necessarily, Blasters have ranged attacks, Alpha blasters can be countered by cover while beta blasters require mobility for protection. But an alpha could shoot instant death beams that only affect living beings and are blocked by cover while a beta could shoot some kind of go through cover projectile that only cause minor burns.”
I went over the designations with her, letting her quiz me. As far as I knew it wasn’t classified material so it was okay. Kenzie came back after a few minutes, looking better; eating and her meds had given her a little more color. I gave her a kiss and returned to my studying.
The rest of lunch and school passed reasonably quickly. Although it was a no-training day, I went to the Headquarter and logged an hour and a half of target practice before jogging home. After babysitting the sick guardians and patrol the day prior, I needed some time to myself to laze around and read a book in bed.