Around one in the morning, there was a knock on my window. I opened the blinds and saw Kenzie, kneeling on the fire escape.
“What are you doing here?” I asked, opening the window.
“I just needed to see you. Not about anything, I just felt like I had to be with you.”
“And you took the fire escape?”
“I didn’t want to risk waking your mom up by ringing down… Can I come in?”
“Of course you can. You’re always welcome here K.”
She squeezed herself through the window and landed on my bed.
“Good thing you let me in, I don’t think I would have survived going down, I can’t even feel my legs anymore.” She said with a nervous chuckle.
I sat by her side and she leaned onto me for a moment, just sort of taking in my presence before she raised her head and kissed me. It wasn’t one of those mind blowing all-the-way kind of kiss, it was subdued and off.
“Are you okay? And I don’t mean leg-wise.” She didn’t answer. “Kenzie, what’s wrong?”
“I’m scared… I saw the date earlier and I couldn’t stop thinking about it… It’s almost been six months… They’ve never waited more than that.”
She didn’t need to specify what she was talking about… Eighteen years ago, Jörmungandr had first appeared and destroyed the San Francisco bay area, only to be joined later by his three siblings; Nidhogg, Gorgon and Echidna. One of them appeared every few months, when they did, people died…
“Twelve days at most, could be tomorrow, could be in a week.”
There was only one thing that could stop a Kaiju; superheroes. And even with the world’s combined forces, victory was pyrrhic at best…
“I don’t want to die… I don’t want to lose another friend… I don’t want to lose you.” Her fists tightened and grabbed onto the fabric of my hoodie.
“We don’t have to participate, you know it’s not mandatory…” Unlike adult guardians, young guardians weren’t obligated to fight. Superhero or not forcibly sending children to their death wasn’t well received.
“I can’t stay away, I can’t let others fight while I cower in fear… What kind of hero would I be if I hide while villains and rogues will risk their lives when I won’t?”
“I don’t think anyone could fault you for it.”
“Can we just talk about something else?” She asked, looking away.
“Alright.” I gave her the biggest hug in the world. “But how about we take care of those poor mistreated legs first?” I offered, taking out the pot of relaxant cream she left behind.
“That sounds amazing right now. Want to do me the honor?”
She took of her brace and then her pants before lying tummy down on the bed, letting me meticulously unwind her spastic muscles. Once that was done, I put the TV mode of my laptop on and put a documentary on south american wildlife for Kenzie’s sake. However the intro wasn’t over that I heard her lightly snore, Kenzie already asleep propped up against my shoulder.
“Rough day, eh?” I whispered to myself before gently moving her to lie on her belly, the way she usually slept. “G’night.” I kissed her cheek and she mumbled something incomprehensible in her sleep. I closed the light and laptop and settled down next to her.
Kenzie slept over five and a half hours, an hour and a half more than usual, and yet she still looked exhausted.
“Morning” She mumbled.
“Why don’t you go take a shower and I’ll make you some breakfast?
“That sounds great.” She said, putting her pants and braces back and she waddled to the bathroom while I got busy making her a vegetable omelette big enough for two. She took longer than I did so I went back to my room to change.
About thirty minutes later, she awkwardly shambled back into my room, holding her legs squeezed together.
“Are you okay?” I asked.
“Yeah… So this is a little awkward but do you have any ‘time of the month’ supplies? And a pair of clean undies I can borrow?”
“Tampons, bottom drawer of my dresser.” I said
“Thanks, you’re a life and pants saver.”
She kneeled down and opened the drawer before rummaging through it while I search the pile of clean clothes on my desk that I’d neglected to store for some boyshorts. I checked the bed rapidly but found no stains.
“Paige…?” When she spoke again, her voice had turned sour with worry.
I sat up on my bed and saw why.
She’d opened the wrong box… The one with my razors and she held the bag in her hands..
“I can explain!” I said, my heart skipping a few beats as I got up. “It not what it--”
I shut up as she hugged me tighter than ever before.
“It’s okay Paige, you don’t have to make excuses or lie.” She whispered in my ear. “I understand.”
I reciprocated the hug, her presence and warmth chasing the early signs of panic away. She broke up the hug and sat next to me on the bed. I still couldn’t help and felt ashamed of my habit. She took my hand and squeezed it in hers.
“Do you self harm often?”
“Sometimes… I haven’t done it since the night of the fight with the rogues where I panicked and ran away. You’re not mad, are you?” My eyes were fixed at my feet, I couldn’t face her.
“I’m not. I’m a little worried because I love you, but I understand. You’re not my only friend to self harm.”
“I’ve had a few friends before I met you. I’m also not really supposed to talk about this, but Chuan used to cut when we were in training camp, this was before he transitioned and really untangled his gender identity, cutting used to help him deal with his gender dysphoria.” She looked a bit uncomfortable for a second. “Okay, I really need to get a tampon in before I ruin my jeans.
“Same drawer, just the other box.”
“Thanks.” She got up and gave me a quick kiss before leaving.
I remained there, waiting for her to come back from this rather abrupt and embarrassing interruption. After a few minutes she came back and sat down, taking my hand into hers.
“Sorry about that.”
“It’s okay. You know, this isn’t the first time you’ve talked to me about training camp. What was it like?”
“Yeah, with the circumstances, you were spared having to go through that. It’s what normally happens when people join the young guardians program. You’re taken out of school and your house and go live on a military base for the next few months. There were about twenty of us when we started the twelve week training although we did it in fourteen. Daily exercise, power mastery training, teamwork and et cetera. Mind you, we also had to keep working on school work and learning cape theory and protocols.
Chuan, Stan, Victoria, Dennis, Nicole and I were the those part of the original group who made it all the way through into being a team, the others washed out or were told to pack their things. Travis -- Hedron joined us a little over three weeks in. Jessie on the other hand joined us while we were already established as a team.”
“You mentioned Dennis and Nicole, who were they?”
“The two of them remain kind of a sore spot to be honest. We don’t really like to talk about them… When we formed the Anchorage team, there were two other members on board: Dennis as Ballista who was our strongest hitter and Nicole called herself Tomboy, she was force field based brick. We were a team for several months, and then Nidhogg attacked Sapporo. Young Guardians aren’t obligated to join Kaiju defense, but there’s a strong stigma against standing by, a lot of nasty shit gets thrown at you if you stand by, so we volunteered.
Sapporo was a mess… We were disorganized and a lot of people died that day, including Ballista. We spent the next few weeks off duties and under a lot of psychological supervision to make sure we wouldn’t break, Tomboy… She didn’t handle it well, she snapped and beat up Hedron pretty badly, she threw away her costume and we never saw her again. That was kind of it, shit happened and life went on. Jessie joined the team not long after and things went back to normal…”
I hugged her, it was slightly odd for me to be the one comforting her.
“I just realized you changed the subject. Pretty clever of you.” She said. “Can I see?”
I hesitated before removing my hoodie and showing her my left arm which bore most of the scars i'd accumulated in the past three years. I hadn’t cut in long enough to have any scar that hadn’t healed. To my surprise, she kissed the scars and then kissed my cheek.
“I can’t tell you not to cut, because I know that’s not how it works and that it’s just a symptom of what you really feel, but I want you to know that if you ever need someone to talk, to hold you or just to be there when you need it, it won’t doesn’t matter where I am, what I’m doing or what time it is, I’ll come and find you. Okay?”
I nodded and she kissed my forehead.
“I love you so much, Paige.”
“I love you too. Also, we better eat breakfast before it gets cold.”
We dug into the omelette together, although I noticed Kenzie’s appetite wasn’t there.
“Hey, Paige?” She asked a few minutes later.
“I have something to show you.” She took out her phone and opened a file before showing me the screen; A private round flight to Atqasuk on the 24th, just in time for good friday. “I booked it yesterday. And I briefly brought it up on your birthday but now I’m asking for real. There’s space for you, please come home with me, I want you to meet my family, see where I grew up… Would you like to?”
“I’d be honored to.” I said, taking her in my arms. Her lips found mine and we kissed for a moment. “Although I’ll have to get permission first. Give me five?”
I left the room and found my mom enjoying her morning tea. She gave me the green light so long as my upcoming report card was good and that she could talk with Kenzie’s folks first.
All that was left was getting Kickback to agree...