Part VII: The Question
The rest of the day went along smoothly. I didn’t really learn anything new in Parahuman ethics; Ian had already given me the talk on how a true hero behaved; protect the innocent, don’t let anger blind you, don’t lie to your loved one about what you do and thus put them in danger and et cetera.
However the addition of a new student made it interesting. A new student whom I ended up sitting next to as Caroline needed to sit in the front to help with her hearing and the other front seats had been already taken so I had sat sown behind her.
Our new class mate was a German dude by the name of Jaeger. Like Rowan he was a paramorph but he wasn’t as severely mutated; instead having a bat like nose and ears.
Homeroom was last and also went well. A pair of students had joined us; Sage who seemed non-binary, the teacher having referred to them as a Mx. They seemed to be of Nordic descent although I could tell as their hair were obviously bleached.
The other was Allen who was a tall black dude who seemed incredibly twitchy and nervous for some reason. He’d also had some rather horrible words come out of his mouth; Beside me, Caroline had cringed at the mention of the T-slur. Thankfully, Mr. Martin took him outside for a talk.
Before he let us go, Mr. Martin reminded us that We had to pick our languages and fine art elective by the end of the week and that the next morning we had a free period.
“So I’m thinking going for French and Photography. What about you, any idea what you’re going to take for your electives?” Caroline asked me as we walked through the corridor toward the exit.
“I was thinking about going for Spanish, it is my native language after all. But for art, I have to frickin clue. I’m not very artistic. I’m more of a parkour, skateboard and sports trash kind of gal.”
“Going for the easy A?”
“I wish, but actually I don’t remember a whole lot of it. I’ve been with Ian for eight years and he doesn’t really speak much Spanish beyond asking where the bathroom is and Havenport is as white as sour cream so I never really got a chance to practice…”
“Can I ask you something really personal?” She said, stopping for a moment.
“Sure, I guess…”
“Actually, mind if we sit down?”
We sat down by one of the statues that dotted campus; tributes to legendary heroes, many of whom had fallen in the line of duty. The one we’d sat on the base of wasn’t familiar to me; some bird themed heroine from the seventies, way before the first Raven’s time, much less Ian’s.
“What did you want to ask?”
“So, you really don’t have to answer, I’ll totally understand if you don’t want to talk about it… But I’ve been wondering; what happened before Ian adopted you?”
A noose formed in my stomach.
“It’s kind of a long story…” I answered, a lump in my throat making it harder to talk. I didn’t really want to tell what had happened, but it was important she knew. “My birth parents were cops, they met on the job and fell in love. Being a cop is a difficult job, but even after I was born, neither of them let go. I don’t remember a whole lot about them, just fragments here and there but they were amazing parents and even better police officers.
And someone wasn’t happy about that, the cop thing I mean. They couldn’t be bought or made to be no longer a threat so someone decided they had to go.
There’s a group called the Syndicate — when supervillains came to be, old criminal groups became obsolete and were went by the wayside. The syndicate assembled the remnants of old gangs and mafia families into a new greater, more powerful, more united entity. — They had a lot of pull in the system but my parents were untouchable to them and became a thorn in their side.
One night while I was being babysat, they kidnapped me and brought me somewhere to use me as a bait or bargaining chip with my parents…
I don’t really remember much of what happened next, just horrible fragments; I remember my dad’s lifeless body staring at me… Being covered in blood… and other things…”
It’s only when Caroline grabbed them that I noticed that my hands were shaking. I only felt the tears when they fell down on my arms.
“Charlie, I’m so sorry! I shouldn’t have asked.” She said before she wrapped her arms around me.
I couldn’t help but cling onto her with all my strength, crying my soul out until the memory of that awful night started fading away. After a few minutes I let go and moved back a little. My eyes were red, puffy and burned while my nose ran like crazy.
“The next thing I knew, the Raven was taking me out of the building and into the blaring sirens of police and paramedics.” I began again. “When they tried to take me away, I kicked and screamed, somehow I felt safe with him and in the end he decided to take care of me until I calmed down.
It was just supposed to be for a few days top. But it didn’t happen like that, first it was a few days, then a week, then a few weeks. I didn’t have anywhere to go, my parents were the only members of their family in the United States and I’d never met any of my extended family; Ian was the closest thing I had to someone I knew beyond my seventeen years old babysitter so I didn’t want to leave him… And he didn’t want me to; he asked me if I wanted him to be my new dad and I said yes. The rest is history.”
“I’m so sorry you had to go through all of that.”
“It’s alright. I mean alright most of the time; I’ve had a lot of therapy and treatment for my PTSD. Outside the occasional episode, I’m fine.”
“Still, you shouldn’t have had to suffer through all of that.”
She hugged me again but briefly this time. There was a brief moment of silence as we gazed into each other’s eyes; hers were like gorgeous emeralds and I couldn’t help but think how easy it would have been to use her sympathy to steal a kiss from her…
“Thank you for your support, you’re a good friend Caroline.” I said, looking down at the ground. I couldn’t help but feel dirty, even now all I thought about was taking advantage of her.
“Hey, I’m the reason you’re like this. I really shouldn’t have asked.”
“No, it’s alright. I mean it had to get out at some point.”
“Are you sure you’re okay?”
“Yeah, I just need a moment. Say, can I ask you something personal too?”
“Hey, it’s only fair. Is it about me being trans?” She asked looking a little nervous.
“Nah, I don’t care about that and I one hundred percent respect you. Heck, I’m not really supposed to say, but I’ll make an exception for you; Ian is transgender too.”
“That’s so cool!” She said loudly. “I should probably keep it down. But it’s good to know I’m not the only trans hero — well hero wannabe in my case — that’s around.”
“I know a few more, but I really don’t think I have the right to out them.”
“That’s cool. So what did you want to ask me?”
“I was just wondering what happened to your leg.”
“Oh, that?” She said, raising her pants and showing her prosthesis. “Literally nothing, I was born without it. Juggled different prosthesis through my youth and two years ago I got chromed. Same thing for my hearing, my mom just had a really difficult pregnancy and I came out premature. But I’m alright.”
“That’s good to know.”
“Anything else you wanted to know?”
“Not that I can think of…” I said before remembering Ian’s idea. “Wait, actually I was wondering if you wanted to maybe come and hang out at my place this weekend? It’s like a twenty minute walk away. Ian wanted me to invite you to dinner.” I asked.
“That sounds fun, although we should really do it Saturday, Sunday’s my b-day and I figure we could celebrate with everyone.”
“How old will you be?”
“Just fourteen. I know, I’m super frickin young.”
“Hey, you’re only a month younger than me.”
“Really? I thought you were older. I mean you’re like really mature and confident.”
“Nah, I just fake it convincingly.”
“If you say so. Why don’t we go back to the dorm and make some dinner? I’m starving. Ooh wait, since we have new students I just got to make a cake. I’m a kick ass baker, I promise.”
“I believe you. Want help making dinner?”
“That’s so sweet of you to offer.”
“Anything for you.”
She took my hand in hers and together we went back to the dorm.