Charlie Arc II: Mending
Part I: Routine Break
Three weeks later
Things slowed down a little over the next few weeks. Stanko had even gone back on his meds with only one minor incident the result of which now rested in a cage in the science lab.
“Who’s a good little robo-crab?” Yougen said in a cutesy voice, wiggling an AAA battery in front of the bot in the cage. “Do you want the battery? Yes you do.” Out of everyone she seemed to like the thing.
The robot had been made by Stanko during one of his manic phase and promptly forgotten about. As a result it had spent a week raiding the house for batteries, which it apparently ate… Yougen dropped the battery inside only for the robot to jump on it, remove the top and drink the acid inside. Once that was done, the little robot approached her hand and let itself be pet, letting out a musical series of beeps.
“You need a better name than robo-crab.” Yougen said after a pause. She took a moment more to think about it. “How about Zhan? In my home language it means cog. That’s a good name for you, isn’t it?”
“Yougen, we’ll be late for History class if we don’t go soon.” Sanjay called out to her. After hanging out the day before, the two had seemed to have gotten a bit closer.
With Yougen in now following us we went to Dr. Chrononaut’s world history class which passed by in a hurry, freeing us from school for the day. We all made our way to the house where Caroline jumped into the kitchen.
“Well, I better get to making dinner.” She said. “Allen, are you up for helping me?” She turned around to face him. In the past few weeks he’d become her official cooking partner. I was a little relieved she was cooking, the night prior Sanjay had taken over and subjected us to the inhumane torture known as vegetarian cooking, which Caroline had even forced me to eat…
“Yeah sure.” He said.
“Alright, guess I’ll go hangout with Nibbles, see how his cardboard condo is doing.”
She gave forward and gave me a few kisses. Although she still hadn’t figured out her identity completely, she sure as heck liked getting that PDA action on. When we parted ways, I noticed Allen was staring at the floor, desperately trying not to acknowledge us. By some kind of miracle he’d yet to earn himself a beating from offending someone, but he was still a narrow minded jerk.
I went into our room where Nibbles was busy renovating his cardboard box, adding a brand new door to one side by chewing through. After managing to convince him to step out of the bedroom and into the common room, I set him up with some nice arugula before playing a game of bunny bowling with him; with him as the ball knocking over the pins and Ahti watching us like it was the strangest thing they had ever seen.
A few minutes later, there was a massive scream echoing through the house, quickly followed by Jaeger running downstairs and dunking his head in the sink, rinsing his tongue. I couldn’t help but grin and laugh.
“You! You did this” He said spinning around and pointing at me. I didn’t bother to even try to deny it. “This is war!”
“Bring it on batface. I can take you.”
He stormed off, leaving everyone to stare at me.
“What exactly did you do?” Caroline asked.
“I put habanero extract in his jam cookies.”
“Not the ones I made?” She said with a frown.
“I worked really hard on those.” She said a hand on her hips. “And you ruined them.”
“I just spiked a few of those in his room, most are still fine. So it’ll be like playing roulette for him.”
“That’s still really crappy of you to ruin something I put a lot of work into. And now he’s going to get back at you.”
“I didn’t think it’d be that big a deal.” I said and she sighed in answer.
“I swear, if I get caught in one of your stupid pranks, I’m going to kick both of your asses.”
“I’m sure you’ll be fine.”
She gave me a look in return before quietly returning to her pots and pans. Okay, she was pretty mad. Mad enough to make me eat tofu… You sleep in your own bed kind of mad too…
She kind of kept her distance through most of the next day, even working all alone in homeroom. I’d definitely messed up and I knew it… Once classes ended she walked right past me and joined Allen to chat.
“Caroline?” She turned around. ““Are you still mad at me?” I asked.
She stopped and crossed her arms. “A little.”
“I’m sorry… I just wanted to get back at Jaeger for teasing me. I didn’t think about how you were the one who made those cookies. I promise I won’t do it again.” She turned around and looked at me, scrutinizing my expression. “If I’d known it would’ve hurt your feelings, I would’ve never done it.”
“Alright.” She sighed. “But you’re also going to apologize to Sanjay for being grumpy and difficult the other night.”
“Yes Ma’am.” I mumbled to which she rolled her eyes. “Alright, I’ll go talk to him. I still think vegetarian food is yucky, but you’re right, he worked hard on it and I was a brat about it…”
She seemed satisfied, her stance getting a little more relaxed. “Since there’s plenty of time before dinner, how about we get some fresh air and sun before the weather gets colder?” She offered.
It might have been late in September, but the summer warmth had decided to do one last comeback before giving in to fall properly.
“Sure, we could hang out in the Ravenhold park. Do some skateboarding or something?”
“After last time, I am so not jumping on one of these things ever again.”
Out of all the amazing gifts Caroline had, balance was seemingly not one of them. After convincing her to try skateboarding one afternoon all she’d gotten from it was a lot of frustration and some scraped knees.
“You don’t have to, I’ve got roller skates or—”
“I’ll be fine walking.” She said with a smile.
“Alright, whatever works for you.”
We took a quick detour to the house to get our things before going to the park behind the administration. A few people were hanging about; playing frisbee and soccer, one girl was walking her service dog while others were just hanging around on a blanket, talking and eating. I’d always liked the park, it wasn’t quite a real skatepark level great but the different levels from the hilly terrains, mix of paved areas and decorations made for a good place to practice when Ian would drag me over. Caroline found a spot to sit by a fountain and took out her tablet, browsing idly as I skated around.
“What are you looking at?” I asked, coming back toward her.
“Nothing!” She said flattening the screen against her belly.
“Woah, okay… Nevermind then.”
“Wait…” She let out a sigh. “You just startled me. If I show you, do you promise you won’t tell anyone, especially not your dad or the teachers?”
“Yeah, sure.” I cautiously sat next to her. “You’re not going to tell me you’re really a serial killer, are you?”
“Haha. Very funny.”
She showed me the tablet, visibly tensing as I read. It was a database entry on Chat Noir, leader of a goofy group of animal themed supervillains; the Menagerie.
“Chat Noir, eh? I didn’t know you were into furries. Maybe I should put a pair of cat’s ears on too.” I teased her but she didn’t find it funny. “But in all seriousness, why are you interested in him? He’s just a low-tier burglar.”
“Because he’s my dad.”
“He’s your dad?”
“I only learned about it recently. He and my mom had a thing when she was in college, she knew he was a villain but they broke up before he even knew I was born, so I’ve never met him.”
“Ravenhold doesn’t know, nobody but my mom and I do, actually, and I’m kind of scared people would treatment differently if they did. Like they’d think there’s something suspicious about why I came here, but I didn’t even know before I came here. My mom told me while we were waiting for the ferry…” As she talked, her voice became shakier, her body language upset. I wrapped my arms around her and hugged her.
“Hey, relax. You don’t have to get upset.” She tensed a bit. “I get it and I swear I won’t tell anyone.”
“It’s no biggie, but you’re welcome.”
She put a hand on my cheek and pulled us closer, our lips meeting halfway between us. After last night’s mini-argument, I didn’t hold back, going all in. The people watching not mattering.
“So, do you want to go to my house this weekend?” I asked, taking a moment to catch my breath.
“Eh, we’ve been there the last three times, I think it’d be nice to spend one with the rest of the class. And beside, there’s never anything good in the kitchen at your place.”
“My dad orders the best food you can get.”
“Yeah, but it lacks the most important ingredient; homemade-infused love.” She said.
I had to stop myself from rolling my eyes. If there was one thing I didn’t really understand it was her attitude toward food, to me food was just fuel but to her it was like art.
“Not my fault you can’t see the value of a home cooked meal over catering or deliveries. Which reminds me, I need to take the brisket out of the oven soon if Allen hasn’t. Consider yourself lucky he wanted to make barbecue, otherwise it’d be more veggie food tonight.” In retribution for my brattiest, Caroline had continued to subject me to the horrors of veggies even at breakfast, but thankfully Allen had come to my rescue by making some smoked brisket.
We went back to the dorm only for an alert calling us back there to play on our ID. I wasn’t surprised when Mr. Martin showed up a few minutes later, allegedly to inspect the house. After a quick tour he opened the door and a flood of people came in, my dad and Jason included.
“Oh hi dad.” I said with a wave.
“You don’t look very surprised to see what’s going on.”
“Dad, I’ve been coming here since I was six. I know exactly how everything works, including the ‘surprise’ parents visit you organize every year. And yes I made sure to keep it a secret.”
“That’s nice of you.”
“Since we saw each other like four days ago, how about I show you Caroline’s folks?”
“That’d be fun.”
I scouted the crowd, quickly finding Caroline, her giant mom, two elderly people I assumed to be her grandparents and a girl Caroline’s age. That one I hadn’t met or heard of before.