Part V: Late Apology
Even though it couldn’t have been more than twenty minutes it felt like an eternity sitting in that classroom, feeling eyes watch me. It was almost as bad as back at school, where everyone stared at me and Steph, gossiping, gasping and guessing what had happened. I shuddered away the memories and waiting, watching the clock, for the class to end. The moment it did I shot out my seat and into the corridor.
I immediately saw other students all around me, heading in various directions. Some looked normal like me, and others had strange disfigurations, and there was the odd creature that was definitely an alien. I could feel sweat forming on my palms and tried to wipe it away on my trousers. I’d never wanted to go home so badly. I overheard conversation behind me and realised Jaeger and Sage were about to go the administrative building. I need to find it too and didn’t feel particularly safe walking around this place on my own.
“Erm, are you going to the administration building?” I asked before the group left. I saw three pairs of eyes watching me with varying degrees of dislike.
“Sure,” the girl leading the group finally sighed, quickly looking away and walking ahead with Sage. I tried not to feel too disheartened that the only other black person in the class seemed to hate me.
“Both Allison and Sage are non-binary, so refer to them with they, them and their pronouns rather than male or female ones,” Jaeger said to me. I blinked and raised an eyebrow. To which he merely stared at me. Was the dude gay? I looked away.
“Oh-kayyy,” I murmured, drawing out the word relieving some of my nerves. I’d always found talking in any capacity helped, but I somehow didn’t think Jaeger would be up for discussing his favourite comedian with me. Especially since most of mine regularly made jokes at the expense of parahumans.
“What’s worse,” Jaeger replied, “Having to use pronouns different to what you’re used to, or causing them mental distress by not using them?” he asked. I frowned at his words, the concept still new to me.
“They could save distress by not being trans surely?” I murmured.
“It’s not a choice.” I sensed by his tone of voice he was taking personal offence now.
“Yeah, like being gay and shit, right?” I replied, wondering if I’d guess right earlier.
“Yes, exactly like that,” Jaeger replied with a glare. Definitely stumbled onto something then. So the only person who is currently talking to me in any capacity is a gay mutated creature. I wasn’t complaining though.
Even this was better than nothing, I just hoped he didn’t like hit on me or something, though I doubted he would do that based on how much he seemed to dislike me. I fought back a sigh and looked ahead at the other two.
I tried very hard not to think of Allison as boy or girl, but it was difficult when their body form and facial features were so tied in with a feminine appearance for me. Sage had a pretty deep voice but their appearance was so androgynous I wasn’t willing to guess. Although if we were roomed together that would suggest we both had the male equipment, right?
I shook my head. It was properly inappropriate to think about others this way. We got to the building and I was the last one to be photographed. I could tell the others were eager to get back to I volunteered to hang back on my own.
I sat on the provided chairs and leaned forward, trying to work out what I was supposed to do moving forward. I did not feel up to the task of apologising to everyone as a group, the amount of abuse I might get would be terrifying. At the same time I didn’t feel confident approaching some of them individually.
Maybe I could ask Jaeger, or maybe Sage for some guidelines on how to do this? Would they be happy to walk around with me though when I’m doing this? Neither of them have any reason to associate with me. I wouldn’t be surprised if Sage had already asked for a different roommate. I was called to the desk and took my ID card.
“Do you know when my stuff from home will get here?” I asked the woman. She quickly tapped at the computer.
“We spoke to your dad earlier and he’s already sent essentials. He’ll send some more stuff next week,” she replied. A week? Hopefully I could use my allowance to get a cheap phone before then. I was going to go crazy if I didn’t have someone to talk to this in this place.
When I got back to the dorm there was some kind of party underway. I slipped quietly inside, no one seemed to be paying me any attention so I stuck to a seat apart from the others in the background.
I watched the demonstrations of powers with a mix of amazement and mute terror. I didn’t dare show mine, there was too high a chance I would hurt someone. A few moments later I realised someone was standing in front of me. Caroline had what I could only describe as a beautiful ability. I wondered if God had shown me that on purpose, someone with a power he’d previously given to Moses had to be trustworthy, right?
“You get one more chance. Nothing more,” she said, handing me a plate and pamphlet. “And read this, you might learn something,” she smiled but I sensed it was forced.
“You’re Christian as well,” I said, having noticed her cross. She’d already turned and walked away though. So much for that.
I put the cake on the table near me, not particularly interested in eating right now. I flicked through the pamphlet, realising it was transgender stuff. I put it in my jean pocket and headed upstairs to read it. At least I could actually be alone there for real. I noticed the weird alien was nearby and that no one was nearby. I walked over, studying it openly. It took a moment to notice me watching but when it did, it immediately looked my way.
“Hi,” it said, doing what I think was its equivalent of smiling. It was reptilian in appearance and short, so if it tried anything I had a pretty good shot of getting away.
“What are you?” I asked, frowning. A hand landed on my shoulder, making me jump.
“Allen, how about you go read up Itharii culture for a bit before expecting them to answer all your questions,” Jaeger suggested. How the hell had he snuck up on me like that? Was that an ability of his?
“Erm, right.” I answered. I left quickly, realising I must have been close to putting my foot in my mouth yet again. I walked back into the living room and decided to eat the cake Caroline had given. I had a few mouthfuls and it actually tasted great. I overheard the alien’s loud voice and turned to see it was talking to Jaeger now.
“What’s a chimera?” It asked. Jaeger immediately seemed embarrassed by how loudly it had spoken.
“Don’t worry about it.” He said. He quickly walked away and towards me and there was a frozen moment where he looked up and right into my eyes.
“So, you really are a genefreak?” I asked. I realised the moment the words left my lips that that was not the thing to say. I’d dumbly thought I’d built up some kind of rapport with Jaeger, but maybe some words are never okay no matter how friendly you are with people. He sent me the darkest glare I had seen yet today, and went upstairs. I followed suit when I realised others were watching me again.
I sat on my bed quickly, thankful Sage wasn’t in here. I gave the pamphlet a more thorough read before launching my tablet and doing the modules Mr Martin had set for me. I still had about a thousand questions in my mind, but knew which were and weren’t okay to ask. I would definitely not ask them either.
Sage walked into the room , hovering uncertainly in the doorway before quickly grabbing sleeping clothes and running to the bathroom. I realised I’d been staring. Mostly because I was hoping I could talk to them. I sighed and closed the door, quickly getting dressed myself. I went into the bathroom and brushed my teeth.
As I finished I turned to see Sage walking out of their stall, wearing a plain shirt and PJ trousers. They’d wiped the makeup off their face and something about their appearance now threw me, was it just adjusting to the alternate feminine and masculine presentations? Probably.
“Sorry about before. I was trying to make a joke. I don’t think it quite worked,” I replied, feeling suddenly very awkward with my body. I settled on crossing my arms but found it hard to look them in the eye.
“You mean at the start of class? Or when you were using the T or the G sur?” they asked. Up until now their voice had been soft and light-hearted. Now that we were alone in this tiled room I could hear quiet anger in the slightly harsher tone. Their voice deepened further by their emotion.
“I’d honestly only ever heard the T slur before coming here. I won’t be using that or the G slur anymore and I’m sorry. For what it’s worth, I’d much rather have a healing ability like yours,” I replied. They studied carefully, considering my apology.
“Probation period,” they said. “If you haven’t done or said anything dumb over the next two weeks, I’ll forgive you and there’ll be a clean slate.” Sage said.
“Thank you,” I replied. I opened the door and saw Allison was there. Apparently they had been eavesdropping, I guess they didn’t trust me alone with Sage. Had they heard everything? I hoped so. One less person I have to try to explain myself too. I headed back to the room. Sage may have accepted my apology for now, but I got the feeling they weren’t interested in becoming best friends anytime soon.
Luckily I managed to fall asleep quickly, only waking briefly when Sage walked in a few minutes later to go to sleep. They laid out some medicine and took that before lying down. They zonked out almost instantly. I tried not to stare at them as they slept, but it was weirdly difficult. I shook my head and turned over, going back to sleep easily.