Gadgets & People
Part VIII: Opening up
I slept in later than usual. Charlie and Caroline had never come back the night before so there was nobody doing breakfast that morning. I got up from the couch and went into the shower to wash off. Someone else came into the shower and settled into one of the stalls. I came out and dried my hair only for Jaeger to come out of the other stall.
“Morning.” I said.
There was a moment of silence between us as we brushed our teeth.
“So, guess you’ve got yourself a not-boy, not-girl, something-friend? I’m not actually sure what the correct term is with them…” I mumbled. “And I don’t want to say something wrong…”
“Non-binary. Harley and me are just a casual thing, we’re not dating,” he explained.
“Oh alright.” I said with a nod.
We walked in the common room together. He eyed up the stairs and I spoke up.
“Eh, wait. ” I took out the flash drives I’d wrangled away from Charlie and handed it to him. “Here.”
“Your student files, Charlie bragged about stealing them so I took them back. But I didn’t look.”
“You didn’t?” He asked, sounding suspicious.
“It felt wrong to.” I paused. “If you don’t want to talk about things, that’s your right and as your friend I have to respect that.”
“Thank you,” he replied, hesitating a moment. “You’re a great friend.”
I was kind of surprised to hear him call me his friend and a great one at that. I didn’t exactly have a baseline to say if we were good friends… I mean I liked hanging with him and he tolerated me well despite my lack of social skills.
“So, you have anything planned for today? My folks are staying until lunch, you could come and hang with us?”
“That sounds like a good idea, I should probably apologise to them too for the way I acted,” he said. “It’s not like I got any family hanging around to keep me busy anyway,” he joked.
“Well, the last time I brought an acquaintance my mom practically adopted him, so you might accidentally get an adoptive mum, I warn you.”
“Heh, well I wouldn’t know the difference,” he said, immediately rubbing the back of his neck. “Sorry, I should probably quit the dark humour now.”
“But it’s part of your charm, isn’t it?”
Jaeger blinked at me for a moment. “Well,” he said, letting out a small laugh. He then murmured something else in German I assumed.
“One of these days, I’ll have to learn German, understand what you’re muttering to yourself.” I teased. “Actually, I might just change my option just now.” I said, reaching for my tablet.
“I’ll enjoy the short learning period to tease your stumbling German,” he shrugged. “And then just invent a new language all of my own.”
“Go ahead, you’ll see I’m a quick learner. Also, note to self; look up linguistic decryption.”
“Don’t use big words on me,” he muttered.
“Aww, I made my best friend grumpy…” I sighed. “I totally owe you some breakfast now, do I?”
“Yup,” he answered quickly.
“Well, we have an hour and a half before meeting with my mum and sisters. What do you want to go get? I mean, I could try to make it but that’d just be toasts and not quite what I had in mind.”
He stared at me a moment before getting his composure back.
“Right, cafeteria is meant to be open because of visiting families. Or there’s a nice cafe at the gym. There’s also a place in Havenport and-” he cut himself off. “I’ll stop giving options now.”
“Havenport sounds good.” I said.
“Right, let me just grab my jacket,” he said, running upstairs.
I smirked at his eagerness. He probably didn’t go out much because of whatever had him confined to ravenhold. I followed him, making sure to knock in case Jaeger wasn’t decent. He told me to come and so I did and grabbed a change of clothes, slipping on new jeans and a green plaid workshirt. Harley was still in Jaeger’s bed, face smushed against the pillow and still sleeping deeply.
“Ready to go?” I asked lowly. I turned my head around and saw him in black jeans and a gray tee with his black coat. “Is a side effect of being a chimera an allergy to clothing colours?”
“Heh, no. I just did a lot of work at night…” he trailed off.
“Guess it adds to the dark and brooding vibe. You know the others are full on the batman jokes, right?”
“I hate batman jokes,” he replied flatly. “The only person who got away with them was Kel-” he cut himself off. “I’m just not a fan,” he finished.
“Right, sorry. I’ll make sure to shut them down if I hear them.”
He nodded. “Let’s go?”
Left the house, took a bus into town and Jaeger got us off at one of the stops. He knew the way so I followed him. After a minute to two of walking we stepped inside a coffee shop called Lava Java. The place had a cozy casual feeling with sofas and mismatched chairs, a large fireplace where a fire was crackling, reclaimed wood and plants everywhere. I ordered a cup of tea and an almond danish while he settled for a coffee and a raspberry turnover. We sat down on one of the couches by the fireplace.
“This is nice.” I said taking a bite of my danish. “Our first time going out together.”
Jaeger choked on his coffee.
“Are you alright?” I asked.
“It’s too hot.” He set it down and focused on his pastry.
“So, have you thought about the our history homework?” I asked. The teacher had asked us to talk with the class about our experience of the Tzari invasion.
“I was stuck in a private school in Brighton at the time, didn’t see anything. You?”
“I was in London, we had to spend the week locked in an emergency shelters beneath the city because of my dad.”
“What did he do?”
“He wouldn’t leave without first securing his work so we missed the evacuation window.” I began, just about every large city had had shelters built in case of nuclear war or large-scale parahumans battles, but they weren’t exactly cozy. “Of course mum was four months pregnant so at the time we were worried crazy about how that affected the baby. I remember there was so much arguing between my mom and dad and how Sana was scared.”
“Damn. I’m sorry.”
“We got out alright in the end.” I said with a shrug. I’d been luckier than many, I hadn’t lost anyone I knew and our house had been spared any serious damage; only broken windows from a sonic boom and a little rain seeping in.
He nodded. “A while back you said it was you at 618they said it was a new police initiative.”
“Yeah, between you and I? That was total PR bullshit.” I said with a chuckle. “They came up with the excuse after the fact, gave the credit to some random officer.”
“Why did you do it? You don’t seem the fame seeking type.”
“My sister was in the crowd, I just happened to have a suit of power armor on hand. Didn’t really plan any of it, or think it through at all. Next thing I knew Captain Thunder’s inviting me here.”
I didn’t ask about his own path the Ravenhold and he didn’t offer. I knew it was best not to try to force answers out of him now. We chatted about silly things for a while until my mum sent me a text telling me where they were. We finished our drinks and went on our way.
We met mum, Sana and Vani at a local playground. The three of them were sitting at a picnic table with McDonald’s breakfast sandwiches in hand along with coffee for the eldest two.
“Everyone, you remember Jaeger?” I said.
Jaeger shyly waved to them. Mum and Sana reintroducing themselves just in case.
“Your nose is funny.” Vani said after staring at him for a second. I flinched at her words but Jaeger didn’t seem to mind the three years old’s lack of discretion.
“That’s because I’m a bat chimera,” Jaeger replied.
“You’re part bat?”
“Yeah, I can echolocate like one too.”
“Does that mean I can be a dinosaur chimera?”
“No.” Mum said immediately, making her pout.
“Jayjay?” She then asked, looking at me.
Jaeger laughed before kneeling down and patiently explaining what echolocation was to her. Vani absorbed the information like her life depended on it.
“I want to play now.” She said. Mum got up. “No with Jayjay and Jaegy!”
Jaeger raised an eyebrow at the nickname.
“She gives everyone a nickname.” I said lowly. “Alright come on, Vani, let’s go do some slides!” I then said louder.
We escorted her to the large playhouse where only two other children were playing around, their parents hanging around to make sure they were safe. We watched her for a moment and thankfully Vani was nice and polite to the others. In public she was typically fine but at home with family friends she could be quite a handful.
“So, not too traumatized by the little asura?” I whispered to Jaeger as Vani ran up and down the slides.
“I’ve dealt with worse than a little kid. Admittedly, the fear of the unknown did make it close,” he replied.
“Well, That’s our little terror Vani for you.” I smirked. “She’s loud, messy and bossy. And I don’t want her to change one bit.”
“You care about her a lot. I’ve never had any siblings so I don’t really know what that’s like.”
“With the way I went through school, I’ve kind of missed out on the whole friends thing, my sisters and mum were the only people I was ever really close with.”
“What about your dad?” he asked.
“We’re complicated.” I sighed. “Sometim— often, I don’t really feel like he’s my dad at all, more like a boss or teacher. He wanted me to follow his footsteps, go into weapon development and I did. But whatever I do I never feel like it’s enough.” I paused and shook my head. “Eh, I probably shouldn’t be unloading like that on you.”
“It’s fine. My adoptive dad was the opposite I guess. He wanted me to do anything but what he did. That didn’t work out,” he shrugged.
I smiled sadly and put an arm on his shoulder in support. He stiffened at the gesture, looking unsure before relaxing.
“Jayjay!” Vani called. “I want to swing.”
“No rest for the wicked, eh?” I said to Jaeger.
“Except bank holidays,” he joked.
I chuckled at his answer. “We better please the little asura, you don’t want to see her angry.”
“Hulk style?” he asked.
“Pretty much, her wrath is mighty and terrible.”
“Well, we better push her on the swing to protect the lives of all Havenport then.”