Chased By The Past: Part XIII

Chased by the Past

Part XIII: Progress

“Good Afternoon Jaeger,” she said.

“Hey,” I replied, sitting on the bed. She attached some electrodes and ran some basic checks. ECG, simple eye and reflex tests. She also took some bloods and checked my sugar levels. I thought that would be all but she turned to speak to me again afterwards.

“How are you settling in?” she asked.

“Fine,” I replied.

“You making friends?”

“A few,” I said, shifting uncomfortably.

“Good,” she said, her cranial decorations moving in a happy fashion. “I know you said no at the time but if you ever want to know your life expectancy don’t hesitate to ask.”

“I’d rather just live without thinking about that,” I chuckled.

“I understand,” she nodded. “This isn’t just a physical exam but also a psychological evaluation, so can you take a seat?” she motioned to the chair opposite hers. I felt my muscles tense immediately but left the bed and sat as asked.

“Let’s start with your family history,” she suggested.

“I have none,” I shrugged. “Only child, never met my dad, mum died before I could remember,” I explained.

“What about your adoptive family?” she asked. I hesitated, I knew my records were sealed; I fully intended to let the Raven know what Charlie did however a quick look told me a lot of my file was redacted anyway.

“I was adopted by Heppenheim, he’s the one who did this,” I said, gesturing to my body as a whole.

“Is it okay if I ask what you had to do for the him?” she asked.

“For Heppenheim? I mostly just assisted him in the lab with his experiments. After my failed chimerization no one bothered me,” I explained.

“So you were never in the rings or trafficked?” she asked.

“Not really,” I replied.

“Not really?” she repeated with a questioning expression.

“I was thrown in the ring once by a different boss and… yeah,” I trailed off uncomfortably.

“Jaeger, this is a safe space. Everything you tell me will be kept between us,” she told me. “It’s important to talk about the experiences you went through, it’ll help you process,” she explained.

“I process just fine,” I muttered.

“Do you ever experience flashbacks or nightmares?” she asked. I set my jaw into silence and she let out a soft sigh.

“Jaeger, I can’t pass you if you’re not open to talking about these things. We need to know that you’re able to cope with a stressful situation without potentially being triggered. It is completely expected that someone in your position would have complex post traumatic stress disorder.”

“I told you already that I’m fine,” I insisted.

“Jaeger, you need to talk to me,” she pushed.

“About what? That was I indoctrinated into the Syndicate with a horrible test that involved killing to survive? That I had to abandon good people along the way? That I’ve been abandoned by people who I thought I could trust? That I was mind controlled by a fucked up pedo who sexally assaulted me?” At some point while talking my voice had grown louder and I had stood up, my body was shaking. Doc Venus reached into her desk and removed some tissues to hand to me. I didn’t even realise I had started crying.

“Take as much time as you need. I won’t send you back to class like this. However, I will insist you start therapy,” she explained as I furiously wiped my eyes. I didn’t have the energy left to argue with her. I managed to calm down after a minute and excused myself.

“Are you sure you’re okay?” she asked.

“Yes,” I replied. My voice felt thick and heavy and I recognised the familiar disconnect. I hadn’t experienced it much since getting to Ravenhold. In fact I’d been surprisingly present. I was used to feeling a detachment between my mind and body whenever I was doing work for the Syndicate. It was how I dealt with what I did.

“Jaeger, I can’t tell you this will get any easier, but everything you’ve just told me was really good progress. And I’m not obligated to tell the school officials any of what you’ve just told me. It’ll remain between us,” she explained. I nodded, vaguely relieved. I wasn’t sure about her calling what just happened ‘progress’ though.

My duty is to my patients well being, and your wellbeing is very dependent on not going to prison,” she finished.

I left the clinic room and headed back to the house to shower and change. I checked my tablet and saw that we still had an hour left for lunch. Apparently extended so that Doc Venus could see everyone before this afternoon. Sanjay, Mace, Yougen and Jamie would be the last ones Doc Venus would see in that time. I’m guessing mine was the longest appointment because of the psychological evaluation. When I got to the cafeteria Sanjay was already gone, heading for his appointment I guessed. I joined Charlie and Caroline who were holding hands. They were being particularly sickly in their affections of each other today for some reason.

“Are you grabbing anything to eat?” Sage asked, who was also sat at the same table.

“Oh, yeah, I should probably eat,” I replied. I stood up and grabbed some rice with chinese style chicken and vegetables in it. I listened as the others talked around me, not really there, and ate my food. When I was finished I just left without really saying anything. I returned to the house where a few of my other classmates were. I opted to go straight upstairs and when I opened the door I saw Sanjay was home, looking at his school tablet.

“Hey,” Sanjay said, looking up from whatever he was doing.

“Hi,” I replied, sitting on my own bed. “How long until we have to get to the gym?” I asked.

“We should probably head out in ten minutes,” he replied. “How did the appointment go?”

“Fine, usual crap,” I shrugged.

He arched a brow. “Are you sure?”

“Yup,” I replied curtly. I had no intention of repeating back any of what I told Doc Venus to anyone else, let alone him. “How about yours?”

Sanjay just shrugged. “Doc said everything was perfectly normal…” He trailed off.

“That’s good,” I said.

“I dunno, Doc Venus was kind of weird, she left me for a while but then told me the instrument had a little glitch and everything was fine.”

“She is an alien. Maybe it was just a case of different social norms?” I suggested, frowning.

“I guess, it was my first time meeting her and I’m not exactly an expert on Venusian social cues…”

“She knows her stuff,” I shrugged. “I wouldn’t worry about it.”

“Right, say would you mind practicing combat maneuvers with me later? I thought I was better than what I did this morning.”

“Sure. Maybe it was the pressure of the exam? I know you’ve done fine with your suit,” I replied.

“Maybe.” He shrugged. “Still wouldn’t hurt. Although we have the afternoon exam to survive first.”

“Yeah, never a boring day at Ravenhold,” I chuckled.

Sanjay laughed. “That’s true. Well, I better get suited this time, see you in a few?”

“Yeah,” I replied, standing up and heading downstairs. The others who were here already having left for the gym. Outside there was a brisk breeze and I pulled up my hood for the walk back to the gym. From the way students were talking all of the classes were going through exams. I hadn’t even thought to contact Harley and ask how they were doing. I decided not to yet in case they were busy.

The gym had been organised into a jungle gym of apparatus, with the swimming pool integrated into the course. It was pretty obvious the goal was to get through the obstacles as fast as possible. Seemed fairly straightforward but I expected physics hijinks knowing this school so far. Juggernaut waited until everyone arrived before addressing us.

“Good afternoon students and welcome to our monthly obstacle course.” She made a sweeping motion at the course behind herself. “The rules are simple, you must make it all the way across in the least amount of time, you must not cross the hazard stripes to stay on the course, but apart from that anything is fair game to get through.”

Sounded simple enough. Everyone lined up at the start of the course. I slipped immediately into echo. It would allow me to know where the others were so I didn’t collide with them and I would be more accurate identifying obstacle in echo than with my own eyes. I saw the distortion in echo when Juggernaut said go, everyone immediately responding. I purposely held back to avoid someone knocking me back. I made a point of seeing where others went wrong if they fell or slipped so as not to repeat it. There was one moment where myself and Charlie were on the same set of bars but she slipped. I knew I could’ve reached out a hand and helped her, but instead I focused on my own finish line.

I hesitated when we reached the pool. I had no choice but to leave echo. The sound distortion in water made using echo far more difficult. I prepared to dive across the gap into the water when something wrapped around my ankle and yanked me back. I nearly fell onto the ground where the hazard strips were but just about managed to hold on. I glanced up and spotted Charlie sticking her tongue out at me before jumping into the water. I muttered a curse as I tried to pull myself up, but the splashing water had made the landing slippery. I was about to fall down any moment when Sanjay caught up and yanked me back up.

“Thank,” I murmured.

“Teamwork and all, right?” he replied, grinning behind the suit.

I came in fourth in the end, with a finishing time of 22 minutes and 46 seconds. Charlie had nabbed second place, beating me by 31 seconds. Based on her smirk she was going to lord this over me for a long time. Tyler came in first place, being able to fly probably helped a lot. Ahti came last, although they had done really well in the swimming pool. We were sent back to the changing rooms to shower. As I yanked on a fresh set of clothes I could feel growing agitation, my body was restless, fidgety. When we returned to the gym we were told where to go tomorrow morning for the next part of our exam – written tests. I just about bit back a groan. Now I remembered why I had skipped school so much.


Chased By The Past: Part XII

Chased by the Past

Part XII: Restless Night

Harley was still laughing when we reached my room. I shut the door behind them and pushed them into it, quickly stifling their laughs.

“Oohh, you look mad,” they murmured at my annoyed expression. “You gonna punish me?”

“You just never stop, do you?” I asked.

“I thought you liked the sass?” they threw back.

“I do,” I laughed. They grinned and pulled me closer to them. We kissed for a few moments before their phone buzzed in their pocket.

“As kinky as I can be, I think you should answer that rather than using it as a toy,” I said, breaking the making out session. They huffed a breath and picked it up. They began speaking in Romanian so I assumed it was their mother. I sat on my bed and waited. After a few more sentences they ended the call.

“Sorry, I gotta go say goodbye to my mum,” they explained, leaning over to kiss me goodbye. “How about we pick this up another time?” they suggested.

“Sure,” I replied. I showed them to the door and we passed Allen in the downstairs hallway.

“Oh my, you’re a cutie,” Harley purred as they passed each other. Allen’s eyes become saucers and he shot me a panicked look. I was just covering my mouth and trying to stifle a burst of laughter.

“If you ever get bored you hit me up, okay?” Harley finished with a wink. They sent me a wave bye and left the house.

“What the…” Allen trailed off, struggling to find the words. I could see Caroline behind him was also amused.

“That’s just Harley, don’t worry,” I explained. I left Allen alone with his confusion and went back to my room. I slumped back onto my bed, focussing on the ceiling. I didn’t feel like going back downstairs to socialise with the others. I knew Allen and Ahti were going to be watching horror movies this evening. Maybe others with join in. I wasn’t really interested in those type of movies. I wasn’t scared or anything, the suspense was nothing compared to a real stake out. And torture scenarios are boring when you’ve carried out the real deal. I shook my head to clear the thoughts and instead grabbed my tablet. I may as well try to do some homework.

I managed the English and Science okay then an hour later I began mathes and immediately hit a brick wall. I peered out our window and saw the lights were on in Sanjay’s little lab. I wouldn’t disturb while he was busy though. I gritted my teeth and stared at the screen, wrecking my brains for the knowledge I knew was there somewhere. I let out a defeated sigh and decided to go downstairs for a snack. I walked into the kitchen and grabbed an apple. I paused in the living room doorway and saw Allen and Ahti were watching films along with Tyler. I turned to leave and found Sage on the landing, frowning.

“What’s up?” I asked.

“Is it just me or…” they trailed off.

“Allen is a prick, is that the confirmation you were after?” I asked. They laughed and shook their head.

“Don’t worry about it,” they said, shaking their head. “How are you?”

“I’m fine,” I shrugged, taking a bite into my apple and joining them in leaning on the bannister.

“You know if you ever need to talk to someone, I’m right here,” they said. I hesitated, narrowing my eyes for a second. I didn’t know how much I could trust Sage at the end of the day. They had mental manipulation abilities. Maybe now they wanted to genuinely help people, but majority of the time parahumans like them always slipped to darkness.

“Or not,” they said, backing away with palms up. I realised as they turned and left that I’d been glaring and internally cursed. I rubbed my eyes and sighed. Everyone wanted me to feel ‘safe’ here. Everyone just wanted to ‘help’. I didn’t feel like either were possible.

I returned to my room and continued to try and solve the problem. I heard Caroline call for dinner and ignored it. I didn’t feel very hungry right now. I managed to finish one, I think, but the next one was just as hard. I muttered a curse and plopped onto my back on my bed with the tablet lying next to me. My eyes were sore and tired and my brain was too fuzzy for this. What use was this mathes going to be anyway? I’d gotten by fine without it before Ravenhold. I shut my eyes, exhausted.

White walls, red liquid floor. It the was up to my knees but no source was in site. I fisted my hands and walked forward, making the red water splash onto the walls, leaving veined lines tracing back to the water. I kept walking, taking tight corners as they turned up, trying to find my way. I glanced down and realised the water level had risen to my waist. I muttered a curse and started to increase my movement. It was more difficult to keep going now, the water’s resistance was getting stronger and I could feel solid masses in the water brushing against my legs.

That’s not the best way, let me show you

I froze at the sound of his voice and looked around me, but I was still surrounded by white and red. I shook my head and kept walking, the water level was approaching my midsection. I lifted my arms up and watched the liquid drops fall lazily from my palms.

Try this one, it’s more effective

I felt a shudder run through my being as I realised what memory my ears were reliving. I broke into a sprint. I needed out. There was a door here somewhere, an escape. A way to wake up. I just needed to wake up.

Wow, you’re a natural

No, no, no, no, no. I repeated the word like a mantra in my head, covering my ears with both hands as if that will somehow keep his mental words from reaching me. I squeezed my eyes shut and kept running. The water was up to my chest and was it my imagination or was the ceiling lower than before? I ignored the growing fear and kept moving. One more step. Another step. I just needed to get out. That’s all.

What happened, where were you?

I slipped at the sound of Kellen’s words, yelling out as I did. I immediately choked and coughed as metallic tasting liquid filled my mouth. I resurfaced, now swimming, gasping. There was little point pretending anything other than blood was dripping from my face.

What’s happening to me Kellen

My young voice sounded quiet and scared. I gave up walking, sinking under the bloods surface. It was dark and putrid down here, but it was calmer. My body felt numb, emotions distant. It was easier to exist.

I don’t know, but we’ll get through it

When I woke up the light burned my eyes. I could feel tears on my cheeks which I quickly wiped away. I glanced at the clock and saw I’d been asleep for two hours. Not that it helped, I felt more exhausted now than I did before I fell asleep. I looked back at my tablet but wasn’t any closer to figuring out the last question on the homework. Nor did I feel inclined to go back to sleep yet.

It was cool outside with a light breeze blowing. I knocked on Sanjay’s lab door. I knew the code but he tended to be cranky if I just let myself in and took him by surprise. Especially if he was working on something delicate. I heard footsteps and Sanjay opened the door. He took one look at my face.

“Nightmare again?” he asked.

“Something like that,” I replied. He waved for me to come in and I did, tablet in hand. He cocked an eyebrow at it and I sighed.

“I tried, really hard. I even managed to answer some,” I explained.

“Sit down,” he said, an amused smile playing on his lips. I sat next to him and listened as he explained the steps I needed to take to figure out the equation. Sanjay didn’t just ever give me the answers. Homework completed I looked around at his latest project. He was creating some kind of blueprint, not that I understood a lot of the notes or the parts detailed. I watched him work for a bit while I checked my emails. There was a notice that we would need a medical tomorrow. Great, just what I needed, more doctors poking at me. Although Doc Venus was pretty nice, far better than the police medic.

“Is something on your mind?” Sanjay asked while he worked.

“Yeah,” I replied. He sent me an enquiring look but didn’t push. I tried to find the safest words to use, a way to ask without telling him everything.

“If you had to choose between two things you really cared about, what would you do?” I asked. He stopped what he was doing and thought about my words. He scratched the back of his head before resting both on his hips.

“I… don’t know. I guess you would have to decide which one mattered more,” he said.

“You’re meant to have all the answers, Mr smart guy,” I muttered before letting out a laugh so he knew I was joking.

“There are different types of smart. You’re not as dumb as you think you are,” he shrugged in response. I felt my cheeks blush a little and looked away from him. I changed the subject and kept him company for a little more time before going to bed. Hopefully this time I would get some decent sleep.

The next day when we walked into our first class, Parahuman Combat, with the Rook Doc Venus was also present. Allison was on religious leave. I also noticed Mr Martin was observing from the far corners of the room.

“Hello everyone. You’ve been with us for four weeks now and it’s time for us to get an idea of how much you’ve been learning. Today is a basic physical exam. I want to see how well you can carry out the techniques I’ve been teaching you. Mr Martin and myself will observe and we will let you know when it is your turn to go to the Medical Centre for some physical checks to make sure you are fit to carry out the exams over the coming days,” he explained.

“Miss Yeun,” Doc Venus immediately called out. Annabelle followed her and I could tell by the nervousness in Amber’s movements that she wanted to follow. They went out of the classroom and to the clinic I assumed.

“First things first, you will do some basic fitness. You’ve done this enough time in the classroom that I expect you all to manage this fine. Run three laps, then do twenty push up and hold a plank for twenty seconds. Rinse and repeat three times.” Didn’t sound too difficult. Although I could sense some of the other’s apprehension.

“Are you waiting for me to sound a horn? Go,” he commanded. We immediately as a group began our laps. Push ups were easy but the difficult part was the plank. The first set was fine but the second set was more difficult. The third one I’m pretty sure I just about managed it. Most people can’t hold a plank for more than ten seconds at most, not that I was really watching any of the others. I needed to pass these tests and stay in the school or the mission would fail. And worse I’d be back in jail. Annabelle didn’t return but during the first part Amber, Rowan, Allen and Tyler were called. Just as we all finished Tyler returned and Sage was sent off.

“Not bad,” Rook said as his only comment on the first part. “Now get into pairs. You’re not fighting but I want you to show me the techniques I’ve been teaching you. First, throwing and blocking a punch, throwing someone over your shoulder and breaking out of a hold.” Out of habit more than anything I paired up with Sanjay. He went first throwing a punch which I easily blocked and it was the same when it was his turn. Sanjay thankfully wasn’t wearing his armour so throwing him over my shoulder and onto the mat was easy. He’d be a couple pounds heavier with that suit otherwise. When it was his turn to throw me over his shoulder he didn’t quite get the technique right and struggled.

“You need to use your hips when lifting, not your arms,” I reminded him.

“Right,” he said, and tried again, this time managing it. He smiled his thanks and helped me stand. Next up was breaking out a hold which again I managed no problem but Sanjay struggled with. Without his suit and the extra power behind it he was handicapped. He tried three times and managed it though. During this time Charlie, Caroline, Yikaru and Ahti had been called. Next up was me while the others finished up. As I was leaving the Rook told me to grab a shower and head straight to lunch afterwards. The next part would be this afternoon. I felt sweaty when I got to the clinic but imagine Doc Venus expected this.

‘Other’: Part VIII


Part VIII: Presbyterian

I stayed in bed, tossing and turning and waiting for the effects of alcohol to fade. When it was obvious sleep wasn’t going to turn up I gave up. I still felt groggy but told myself it would pass as I grabbed a cold shower. Then made the succinct decision to throw up. I figured it would help speed along the hangover process somewhat.

I got dressed into some jeans and a presentable shirt. A glance at the clock revealed it was now 5AM. I didn’t feel hungry nor did I want to talk to anyone. I pulled on my jacket and decided to go to the chapel. It was Sunday after all. Maybe I’d get some advice from God on how to handle the last 48 hours of my life. The chapel was dead this early so I sat in a pew in the middle of the room and thought, a lot. Time passed and the priest arrived and left me alone, apparently sensing I didn’t want to be disturbed.

Then some more time passed and Caroline turned up, sitting next to me.

“I knew I’d find you here.” she whispered. I didn’t feel talkative so didn’t say anything. “Where are your parents?” I kept the grimace from my face.

“They went back home. They said they had urgent business there,” I answered.

“I’m sorry,” she said.

“Why did you lie to my father about us going to church?” I asked, well aware this was my first time returning since I arrived at Ravenhold.

“Because your parents needed reassurance that you haven’t gone astray or whatever they think is happening. Their world’s just been shaken and I can see they’re struggling to accept it. And beside, I intend to retroactively make it the truth,” she said with a smile. “Come with me to church.” I blinked at her words, looking at her directly for the first time since this conversation started.

“After everything I’ve done, I really don’t think I can…” I replied, my voice sore still from the throwing up.

“And I can?” she asked “I’m dating a girl, I’m trans, I’m a mutant,” she added. None of those reasons were my reasons though. I had broken a few laws last night, and almost had sex outside marriage. And to top it all off I hadn’t even wanted to be  with Juniper but rather-. I cut off the thought. It felt wrong to think that in a holy space.

“But you’re a good person… I’ve sinned so much these last few days…” I answered, choosing not to elaborate.

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9” Caroline quoted.

“You know your bible,” I chuckled.

“Of course I do. God also said to us; Get rid of all bitterness, passion, and anger. No more shouting or insults, no more hateful feelings of any sort. Instead, be kind and tender-hearted to one another, and forgive one another, as God has forgiven you through Christ.

I smiled, let out a defeated sigh and stood up, letting Caroline give me a hand as I did.

“Come on, time to repent for our mistakes,” she said.

“So, Charlie’s not coming?” I asked, looking around. “You two are usually inseparable.”

“No, she’s with her friend Marian today…” she murmured, her usual strength gone.

“Caroline?” I began, sensing something was wrong. “Are you alright?”

“We argued last night…” she explained.

“What about?”

“Her friend.”

“Oh,” I murmured. I hesitated before deciding I should offer some form of comfort. “Can I give you a hug?”

“Of course,” she replied, a small smile on her lips at the gesture. I kept it to a light hug but held it for a few seconds for her sake.

“Thank you,” she said with a snuffle.

“You’re welcome. And thank you for not giving up on me like everyone else did…” I replied.

“It’s the Christian thing to do,” she pointed out, her normal smile beginning to return.

“Guess we’ve had different experiences on that front,” I laughed.

“Faith doesn’t have to be all fire and brimstone, Allen. God teaches us to be kind, to forgive each other for our mistakes and to love one another. In my church, that’s the message we choose to focus on.”

Caroline kept hold of my hand from the chapel to her family who waited in the car. She introduced everyone and I admit I felt a little intimidated, but then I remembered how lovely Caroline was. They were all probably just as nice and understanding.

It took about thirty minutes to reach the church Caroline and her family attended in Saint Andrew. I’d never been to a presbyterian church so I wasn’t sure what to expect. During the trip Caroline’s grandmother had asked a few questions which Caroline thankfully helped me with. The church itself was a small brick building with a white belltower and simplistic stained glass windows. It was nice and idyllic. As we approached the entrance I could see the Reverend was greeting people as they walked inside. He was talking to an older mixed race man before diverting his attention to us.

“Misses Campbell. It’s good to see the both of you again,” he said to Caroline and her mother. His gaze then moved to her grandparents and myself. “I believe we have some new faces.”

“I don’t believe I’ve had the honor of meeting you before,” he said to me after Caroline’s grandparents introduced themselves.

“Hello Reverend, I’m Allen,” I said, ducking my head in respect as my previous pastor expected.

“Welcome to our church Allen, please come on in and make yourself comfortable,” he replied.

I followed Caroline and her family to an empty pew in the middle of the church. I sat next to Caroline and waited nervously. The service followed similar patterns to Baptist ones with some prayers, hymnes, story time and a sermon. However the whole feel of the service and the Reverends words were a stark difference to old pastor Moore’s back home. Here they focussed more on community unity and forgiveness. It was different but nice.

Following the two hour service there was a social mixer with food prepared by the Reverend’s wife and some of the regular elderly attendees. Caroline and I helped ourselves to some food and Caroline turned expectant eyes on me.

“So, how was your first presbyterian service?” she asked.

“I guess I was expecting something different,” I replied honestly, rubbing the back of my head. My hair had grown out a little and was due a shave. “I mean it was, but it was also really similar to what I’m used to. Just more hope and forgiveness instead of fire, and anger and shouting?” Caroline laughed.

“Well, I hope you liked it and I’d love it if you’d come again with me.”

“I’ll think about it, but it is nice to be in a church again,” I admitted, looking around the interior. The sunlight fell across the pews nicely through the stained glass windows.

“Were you afraid god might smite you with a lightning bolt if you dared come for being such a sinner?” she teased.

“With the way my mum talks about parahumans…a little,” I laughed.

“I’m sorry,” she said, giving me a short surprise hug. I smiled at the sweet gesture. “No smiting here, just repentance, forgiveness, and love,” she finished. Although her eyes immediately wandered afterwards.

“Caroline?” I said, frowning.

“Sorry, it’s just I’m thinking about Charlie and I wasn’t really fair, or understanding, or forgiving toward her this morning… I just left with a bitter feeling in my heart rather than try to make it up…” Carolien rambled.

“Oh, If you don’t mind me asking, what exactly happened?” I asked. I wasn’t exactly in any position to be giving relationship advice. My track record was basically assault followed by alcohol influenced bad choices.

“I don’t really know… Charlie has this friend called Marian she never mentioned, that girl who showed up at the dinner. And apparently they’re really close, Charlie swears she’s straight but Jenna says otherwise and I don’t know what to make of it all… I mean, I believe in Charlie, at least I want to… I’m probably just being dumb and silly, am I?”

I considered her words for a moment. I’d not hung around after the club so there was a lot of new information to take on board. I could get where Caroline’s paranoia was coming from, but it was a stretch. I really didn’t think for any moment that Charlie would purposely misguide Caroline like this.

“Okay… I don’t really know why Charlie never mentioned Marian but perhaps she would’ve in time as she felt more comfortable with you. Marian might be straight or Jenna might be right and she isn’t. But I don’t think that really matters because Charlie is with you and you seem to make her extremely happy. I don’t think you need to be doubting your relationship… did that help at all?” I finished with an awkward arm flourish. I quickly dropped my arms quickly, feeling self-conscious. Caroline hadn’t noticed the less masculine movement, instead considering my words.

“You, know what, you’re right. I’ve been thinking about this way too hard, Charlie and I love each other, that’s what matters,” she smiled. “Thanks for listening to me vent.”

“Any time, least I can do,” I shrugged.

“Well, thank you. You’re a good friend.” she said, her smile turning into a grin. “Say, I doubt you ever thought you’d give some gay relationship advice in a church, right?”

“Gotta say it’s a new experience,” I laughed. Although I were starting to get used to the idea that nothing in my life was going to as simplistic as I expected growing up.

“We’re Presbyterian, it’s okay here. Heck, Reverend Burke married a gay couple two weeks ago,” she explained.

“Wow, better not mention that part when I tell my mum I found a church. She’d probably need more blood pressure tablets,” I half-joked.

“You’re going to church, they don’t need to know the details beyond that.” she said. “And if they’re not happy, the Reverend could give them a sermon or two about homosexuality in the bible and how it doesn’t apply today to consensual relationships. And unlike your parents he’s got a doctorate in that stuff.”

“I guess I’ll keep it in mind, good thing I’m straight at least. I think being parahuman is bad enough for them to cope with…” I said. I wasn’t lying, right? Everything with Sage had been because they mostly presented feminine. Juniper just wasn’t attractive and there was a lot of alcohol not to mention drugs last night. Anyone can be a good kisser, which Carl obviously was. I thought Caroline expression briefly looked skeptical but I decided not to question it.

“You try being a doubly disabled, trans, possibly gay, girl on top of it.” she said, nudging me. “But as hard as the transition is, I can tell you that it won’t always feel like something massively stressful, I had people harass me when I first manifested, but eventually people just accept it, moved on and it became barely noteworthy.”

“I have no way to imagine that. The closest thing I can use is the difficulty I get as a person of colour. I admit I don’t know a lot about the whole gender gap issues but I do have some awareness I’m better —” I began replying, aware of my own shortcomings in knowledge.

She interrupted me quickly. “Allen, it’s fine I was teasing,” she chuckled. She glanced around us and I noticed people were starting to leave.

“it’s almost time to go. Let’s find my parents.” I nodded in agreement and let Caroline lead the way as always.

“So, I’m going to go home, make things better with Charlie and get my girlfriend back. Then how about we continue your training? You did so well last time, imagine how far you’ll be in a few more sessions?” Caroline said aloud as we searched. I chewed my lower lip for a second. My powers still scared me but nothing would be achieved by hiding away my whole life. I may as well learn how to use them so I can harness it for good.

“Sure,” I nodded, my voice a little shaky. We tracked down Caroline’s family and went into the nearby town for brunch. Thankfully there were no more intrusive questions from her grandmother. Afterwards they left us at the Ravenhold gates. I said my goodbyes to Caroline and wished her luck talking to Charlie.

‘Other’: Part VII


Part VII: Bad Trip

I walked home with my hands shoved deep in my pockets, contemplating the last two days. So much had happened and it was kind of crazy. I already rationalised that I kissed Sage because they present mostly feminine. That helped make the whole thing easier to deal with. Although I didn’t ever want to do something like that again. Next time I wanted to kiss someone or even hug them, I would ask first.

More importantly, no one told my parents what really happened, which I’m grateful for. Maybe in his own way God was looking out for me by sending me good friends like Caroline. My phone vibrated and I saw a text from Zoe.

“Hey, how are you?” I hesitated on the reply button. We’d sporadically been in touch but the conversations had always been brief. Probably in part because so much has happened I’ve sent quick, short replies. Not much of a conversation to go on with that.

“I don’t know,” I replied honestly. She simply responded with a question mark, inviting me to elaborate. I didn’t feel comfortable telling her about Sage so I settled for explaining the way my parents had been acting. Avoiding my gaze and treating me differently; like I was no longer their real son. I’d stopped paying attention to where I was walking as I texted and found myself near the campus wall in an area of foliage. I decided to sit in the grass and wait for her response.

“I can’t imagine what you’re going through now. Do you want me to come visit though so you can talk about this in person?” she offered. Zoe, come to Ravenhold? I’d never really asked her opinions on parahumans or LGBT people but I didn’t want to risk upsetting my new housemates anymore than necessary.

“You can, but I’ll warn you a lot of the people I’m living with are gay…” I said, anxiously wondering what she would say.

“That’s fine. I never really mentioned it but I have a gay cousin so I don’t really care about that stuff. I know it bothered you though. Guessing that’s changed or is changing?”

“You got no idea,” I replied with a smile. She sent a grinning emoji and then said she had to get back to class but would text him later this evening. I checked the time and saw it was 2pm and I was starved. I headed to the canteen which was still open and grabbed some food. I found Tyler and Mace, he was teaching Mace some kind of card game. It looked like a dungeon and dragons type of universe.

“Mind if I join?” I asked

“Are you prepared to learn about Magic the Gathering?” Tyler asked.

“Sure,” I shrugged. I joined them and we talked about the game and played a few rounds. I completely sucked but so did Mace so I didn’t feel too bad about it.

“So, have fun seeing your parents?” Tyler asked.

“Define fun,” I joked.

“What about yesterday?” Mace began. “What was all the drama that happened?” I hesitated, not really wanting to tell them. Whenever I hung out with Tyler and Mace it was just us guys and none of this LGBT stuff mattered so much.

“My powers threatened to overcome me,” I said, deciding to half tell the truth. “If Caroline hadn’t gotten to me when she did a lot of people would’ve been hurt.”

“Oh, damn,” Mace said, eyes widening. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine,” I shrugged. “It’s a little embarrassing though.”

“Don’t be embarrassed. We’re all here to learn how to control our abilities. Mistakes happen,” he shrugged.

“My last mistake really hurt someone…” I trailed off. I hadn’t thought about her in a while now. Come to think of it I never thought to reach out to Harry, although he probably hates my guts. I opted not to pursue the idea and focussed on the next game.

When we returned to the house people were getting ready to go out to an under 18 club. Caroline asked if I wanted to go with them and I decided that yes, I did. I needed some fun to even out the last few days. I tried to ignore the stares of the others, focussing instead on the club itself. I signed some waiver about mental abilities. I was a bit squeamish about the idea but I needed to have a good time.

Once the band started playing I felt the effects immediately. I hadn’t even realised how tense my body was until I started to dance. I found myself dancing who a group of strangers and that was fine. They didn’t know me and I didn’t know them. When I decided to leave the dancefloor for some air one of the girls followed me. I didn’t even know her name but I brought us both drinks – non-alcoholic.

“So, who are you cutie?” she asked. She was short at 5’5, with a blond bob. Fairly attractive by white people standards although I wasn’t feel any particularly strong attraction to her.

“I’m Allen,” I replied.

“Juniper,” she replied, smiling. “I’ve not seen you about, are you from Ravenhold?”

“Yeah, how did you guess?” I asked.

“Us townies know anyone new is probably from there. Havenport is small so everyone knows everyone growing up here,” she explained.

“Makes sense,” I nodded. “Do you go to the local school then?” I asked.

“Yup, boring human. No powers. Never had any in my family so no surprises there. What about you?” she asked.

“I’m the first to develop any.”

“Wow, how’d your parents take that?” she laughed. I shifted uncomfortably and her expression dropped for a moment. Then she grinned at me.

“Wanna dance some more?” she asked. I accepted and we returned to the dancefloor. She wanted to dance closer and I didn’t mind, enjoying the carefree company. Mace turned up and joined us, talking briefly to one of her friends. They played a new song and the powers seemed to kick up a notch. I glanced at Juniper to ask her if she needed a break when she reached up to cup my face. I blinked at her and realised what she was going to do. I let her kiss me and returned it, melding my body against hers as we did. I heard a few whoops and cheers from her friends nearby.

We continued dancing and kissed a few times although I didn’t let my hands wonder from her hips when we did. Mace signalled me when the others were beginning to leave and I told him to go ahead without me. I didn’t want to spend the evening with the others glaring at me. I stayed with Juniper and her friends – Carl, and Gina – as we left the club.

“Wanna go to my loft and get wasted?” Carl offered. The girls all agreed and I saw no reason why not too. Carl lived in a small two bedroom house, although his housemate was apparently doing a night shift.

“How old are you all?” I asked. I had assumed they were all around my age, which was 16.

“I’m 20,” Carl replied with a smirk. Gina was 18 and Juniper 17.

“Oh, wow…” I trailed off.

“Wait, aren’t you 18 too?” Juniper asked.

“Yeah, yeah,” I quickly lied. I regretted it the moment I did it. They went into the house’s loft and Carl quickly pulled out alcohol and lit a joint. I began questioning my decision to join them but didn’t know how to politely leave the situation.

“Never have I ever!” Gina proposed, her long ginger hair had fallen out of it’s plait at some point while dancing, and fell over her shoulders in graceful waves. Carl had short blond hair with light stubble, he was a little shorter than me.

“Here,” Carl said, pushing a beer into my hand. I hesitated before taking a small sip. It tasted a bit weird but not unpleasant. I joined the others in a circle. Gina readily poured some spirit shots and handed everyone three.

“You know the rules. I said something I’ve not done; if you’ve done it drink up suckers!” Gina exclaimed, making the other two laugh.

“Never have I ever done it with a chick!” Carl jumped in first. I blinked, not realising he was gay. Juniper took a shot but Gina didn’t, smirking. I had technically not done it period so I took a shot, earning some glances.

“…I’m a virgin…” I admitted.

“Awww!” Gina said. “Juniper can change that,” she added with a chuckle, making Juniper blush.

“Or I could,” Carl added, sending him a wink. I blushed immediately at the suggestion.

“Right, my turn!” Juniper said, trying to change the topic through her furious red cheeks. “Never have I ever believed in god.” My eyes widened momentarily and then I took a shot.

“That answers the whole virgin thing then,” Gina murmured. I just laughed at her comment, feeling a wave of happy lightheadedness as the second shot hit me.

They continued playing and I started to lose count of how much alcohol I consumed. Then Carl lit a second joint and this one was passed around. I shrugged when it reached me and tried it. Immediately a wave of calm fell over me. Why was I even worrying about my parents or my housemates? I couldn’t figure out what there was to get stressed about.

I lost track of time as they joked around. Eventually they began truth and dares.

“I dare Allen to make out with Carl,” Gina smirked. I blinked at her and then glanced at Carl. I knew somewhere in the back of my mind I shouldn’t but I couldn’t sum up the energy to care. I shrugged and we both leaned into the middle of the circle, our lips meeting quickly. When we broke apart I stared at him briefly, surprised. I had actually found the whole experience surprisingly nice. Carl’s eyes lit up, his smile suggesting more than kissing.

“You two boys need a minute alone in heaven?” Gina joked. I blinked and broke the connection. What was I doing? I stood up quickly and turned towards the loft stairs.

“Wait, Allen, where-” Juniper followed me into the second floor corridor. I’m impressed we both managed the ladder to be entirely honest. “What’s up?” she asked.

“I’m straight,” I replied, putting force behind my words.

“Okay,” she laughed. “You can be straight and make out with a dude as part of a dare,” she continued, still laughing. She cupped my chin again and I let her kiss me and push me to the wall. She led me into a bedroom and lightly shoved me onto the bed. I watched as she removed her top and bra.

“What are you waiting for,” she murmured, lifting my hands to her breasts. I lifted them to her face and pulled her down to me for more kissing. I pleaded for it to match the same intensity as just moments earlier with Carl but it wouldn’t.

Eventually I gave up with a sigh, collapsing back. Juniper frowned down at me.

“Is everything okay?” she asked. “Am I doing something wrong?”

“No, no. I’m just not…” I trailed off.

“Oh right, you’re new to this. I’m probably being too forward,” she sighed covering her face with her hands. I decided to just nod and go along with her explanation. I checked my phone and saw it was 2AM.

“I should get back to Ravenhold,” I said.

“Okay,” Juniper said. She then grabbed me hand and scrawled a number on my palm. “Call me,” she insisted. I again nodded and pulled on my clothes. Neither Gina or Carl were on the second floor but I could hear movement and muffled laughter above. Juniper showed me to the door, a soft smile on her lips.

“It was nice to meet you,” she said.

“You too,” I said, shifting uncomfortably outside in the street. “I’ll be in touch,” I lied. I wanted to forget this whole episode of my life. I walked along the dark streets. It was too late to get the bus and I didn’t know anyone who could give me a lift so I walked back to the school. By the time my head hit the pillow it was 3:30AM.

Mind Games: Part IX

Mind Games

Part IX: A Musician’s Intuition

I’d never been to a club so wasn’t sure what to expect as we walked inside. I normally avoided crowded places where there was the potential for alcoholic drinks because for some reason alcohol had the effect of making people’s mind more open and their thoughts could literally spill out to me. Luckily no one had spiked anything as far as I sense so far.

Alison was already going straight to the dancefloor, grabbing my hand as they did. I let them lead the way and felt a little self-conscious as I danced. I loved listening to music to zone out and played the piano, but dancing was not my strong suit. I mostly just copied Alison until after a few songs the music faded and the band took the stage. They had a punk emo vibe going and the guy who grabbed the mic to talk to us had long hair and lots of piercings. The silver contrasting against his dark skin in the stark club lighting.

“Good evening everyone! My name is Zayne and this is the Unkindness’ first performance of the year, glad to see the house is packed.” There were cheers when he mentioned the bands name, clearly they were popular locally.

“What’s up with the Unkindness?” Alison asked Charlie.

“Unofficial Ravenhold band, they’re all students,” she explained.

“Are y’all ready to dance?” Zayne asked. The cheers grew louder and they started playing. The music was really good and I could feel the sounds loosening my muscles and anxiety. I could feel a growing restlessness as I started to dance, a desire to move to the electric sound. I placed my hands on Alison’s hip and met their eyes before we started to dance together. Our movements in sync and our bodies getting closer. I could feel their warm breath on my neck as I pulled them into an impromptu hug. All my emotions for them welling up, feeling as it would spill over as we danced and touched. Our lips found each other and it was the most intense make out session I’d ever had.

By the end of the second song my skin had a sheen of sweat but more pressing I needed the bathroom.

“I better hit the bathroom,” I told Alison, leaving the dancefloor “Darn HRT meds…” I muttered as I did.

“Go for it. I’ll get a drink,” Alison offered. I nodded my thanks. I was presenting more femme so if there were only two bathrooms I’d have to go into the ladies. I hoped I wouldn’t get any abuse. I was then pleasantly surprised to see a few separate doors with a half man and half women lady and a silly unicorn with the words ‘Any Gender’. I couldn’t help grinning as I walked in to do my business. It was rare to find inclusive bathrooms and I was very happy to see that was the case here.

I made my way back to the bar after washing my hands and saw Allison and Mace talking. The two had become good friends, although I hadn’t had much chance to talk to him myself. Maybe I should be making an effort to get to know the others.

“Hey, I’m back,” I announced.

“Glad to see you again,” Allison said, a relaxed smile on their lips. “Join us for a drink?”

“I’d love to,” I smiled back. I ordered a cinnamon flavoured mocktail and sat with Alison and Mace.

“So, how are you handling science teamed up with Allen?” Mace asked. Admittedly I hadn’t even paid attention to him. I saw him now talking to Tyler by the dancefloor. My own team were nice enough, although I could sense Jamie’s hesitance to get close with anyone.

“Don’t,” Allison sighed, shaking their head.

“He’s not that bad y’know. I know he’s said problematic things but he does seem to be learning,” Mace shrugged.

“I have seen that Caroline spends a lot of time with him. She must be teaching him,” I admitted.

“Are you really going to give him another chance?” Allison asked, clearly growing frustrated.

“I can’t sleep on your bedroom floor forever,” I pointed out. “How about we go dance?” I suggested, seeing that this conversation was going to go nowhere anytime soon. Alison nodded. Mace quietly excused himself to go dance with others. Unkindness were still playing so I let the music carry us. When they finally finished everyone was suitably tired so we headed to an American style diner. We’d lost Jaeger and Harley and I had a pretty good idea what they had ditched us to do based on how they had been dancing. Allen had gotten lost somewhere too apparently. I hoped he was okay.

It seemed like the rest of the evening would be drama free, then someone who was apparently an old friend’s of Charlie dropped in. I exchanged a look with Alison as voices were raised around us. Charlie rushed out to follow her friend.

“Are you okay?” I whispered to Caroline who seemed upset. She nodded, focusing on our food. I chose not to push the subject.

Once we were back home I showered and got into PJ’s and went to Allen’s room to check he was okay, but he wasn’t there. I chewed my lower lip and decided to break my own rule. I reached out, trying to get an idea of where he was. I immediately got a contact high and left his mind. Wherever he was, he was definitely having a good time. I opted not to tell Allison anything when I returned to their room.

The next morning I woke up before Allison so I grabbed a shower and dressed in plain jeans and a pale blue top. I grabbed a hoodie and walked downstairs barefoot. I poured myself some orange juice and grabbed a breakfast bar. I didn’t feel particularly hungry so it would do. I knew Caroline would be down at some point later with a cooked breakfast anyway. I didn’t feel like searching out the others so went to the conservatory. With Allison and Tylers help I had set up my keyboard down here. I missed the feel of the piano at my parents house but a keyboard was easier to transport. I could also adjust the volume so as not to disturb the others still sleeping while I played.

I took a moment to reacquaint myself with the keys before playing a well practiced tune. A classic piece of, ‘Light Through the Day’ by Alexander Campbell. It was a uplifting piece and a favourite of mine. I was halfway through it when I noticed movement from the corner of my eye. I glanced at the keyboard panels and noticed a small lizard had settled on top of the speakers, apparently enjoying the music. I smiled at it and kept playing. I assumed it was Ahti’s pet Iravi. I’d never seen Tsun up close but I could see that his back was covered in bright yellow scales which slowly darkened to orange as they went down his belly, like a sunset.

The thought made me switch to playing ‘Sunset At The Varanda’ by Henrik Janson. It was more soft and sombre piece but also one I found relaxing. Tsun tilted his head at it. It was full of intentional quiet moments and everytime I paused on the keys he would tilt his head. I sensed he didn’t understand it was purposeful and was just disgruntled by the lack of sound. I momentarily gleamed his thoughts and realised it wasn’t the sound, but rather the speaker vibration he was enjoying. I also sensed he was hungry.

“Do you want something to eat?” I asked him, finishing my playing. He stood up and crawled towards me, his head tilted up. His little chest rising and falling with his breaths. I held out a hand and he glanced at it, hesitating for a moment before climbing on. I lifted him to my shoulder where he happily settled. I walked into the kitchen, mindful of my movements with an animal balanced on me. I found some of the pre-cooked crispy bacon you put on sandwiches and gave him some. He happily munched away while I cleaned up some leftover dishes.

It wasn’t long before movement erupted in the house. Tsun took his bit of bacon in his mouth and waddled over to me, intimidated by all the people. Ahti came downstairs and spotted him. They said something in Ibariat and Tsun scuttled to them quickly, letting Ahti coddle them like a baby. I noted the word and saw in Tsun mind it was kind of like ‘cuddles’ in English. Strange, I’d never thought about how my ability could help me harness languages. I could learn Ibariat in a matter of hours if I walked into Ahti’s mind and looked around. However, that would be an ethical breach without their permission.

Maybe my power could help the planet if more aliens showed up. We obviously had measures in place, since there were a few alien species on Earth now, but it was a nice thought. I could be useful in some way.

Chased By The Past: Part XI

Chased by the Past

Part XI: Red Faced

The midday sun shone down but I could see looming clouds that hinted at rain later. The plane was long gone and I realised one of us should probably say something.

“So, what now?” I asked.

“After two days of family things, I need to move some, I’m feeling kind of sluggish. I was thinking getting some football practice done. Want to join me?” Sanjay replied. I nodded, murmuring to myself in German.

I’ll happily wrestle on the ground with you…

When we were back at Ravenhold we headed to the gym to grab a ball. We make some trees makeshift goals outside and played. Admittedly I had been watching the team and England had such a huge footie culture it would be difficult to not know the basics of the game. However I certainly wasn’t about to play fair if the opportunity to tackle him to the ground presented itself. Which is why when Sanjay was about to score I yanked at his shirt, making him fall backwards on top of me, the both of us laughing.

“That is so not fair!” he fumed, rolling off me and into a sitting position.

“I didn’t agree to any rules,” I smirked. “You ought to know, I always play rough.”

“Fine,” he said getting up. “The gloves are off, no more rules.” I wiggled my eyebrows at him.

“Bring it geek boy,” I joked. Sanjay just grinned as he got the ball. I paced myself and then made an attempt to get it from him. Instead he thrust his ankle out at the last moment and sent me crashing to the floor. I was stunned he’d managed to get something like that over me but stood up grinning. I loved a challenge. After a while the ball became less important as we simple tried to trip the other over in some shape or form. Eventually we were both lying on the ground, out of breath with laughter and covered in sweat and mud.

“Well, that might not have been proper football, but it was one hell of a workout,” Sanjay sighed.

“I can’t deny that,” I said, still grinning and fighting another wave of giggles.

“You know what? I’m starving.”

“Me too, I could eat a whole cow.” I immediately thought of sauerbraten. Heppenheim would always make it with beef, his was never as good as the one Kellen and I could make, but it was one of the few dishes he would go out of his way to make me. Especially when I was sick when I was younger.

“Does it have to be a cow? I’ll let you know make a killer lentils stew,” Sanjay proposed.

“That does sound pretty good,” I nodded. Slowly remembering old stuff wasn’t as painful. I wondered if spending time with Sanjay had something to do with that? I shook away the thought, I didn’t want to overthink right now, just exist. I let Sanjay help me stand and we headed to the house.

“I better take a shower.” I said the moment we walked indoor, lifting my shirt and fanning myself. I could feel grim and sweat sicking uncomfortably to my skin now that the moment had passed.

“You do that, I’m going to start something to cook and join you,” Sanjay said. I blinked at his word choice, immediately picturing indecent things. I shook them from my mind and turned to the stairs.

“Join me… Right, I’ll be showering,” I murmured. The moment I stepped in the shower I hit cold to get rid of those thoughts. Then I switched the water to it’s normal warm temperature and took my time cleaning myself. I couldn’t help thinking over the days events again as the water poured over me. I had never imagined I’d actually make a friend here, let alone a best friend. I didn’t know how normal friendships worked. Every relationship in my past had involved give and take. I couldn’t help paranoia creeping in; was he using me for something? Did he expect something in return? What were the unspoken rules in these friendship contracts? I just didn’t know. Kellen had been the closest I’d had to a best friend and she had abandoned me; just like Heppenheim. And Ace…I shuddered and finished my shower. I wasn’t going to think about him.

When I got downstairs Sanjay had apparently showered and changed, I hadn’t realised how long I’d be in there. He was looking out the kitchen windows and I couldn’t help observing how the sunlight fell nicely across his skin. I internally groaned at myself for the thought.

“It’s such a nice day, want to eat outside?” he asked, noticing me.

“Sure,” I said. Sanjay put some of his lentil meal in some tubs without asking for help. I at least handed him a bag to put them in. We went into the grounds and found a shaded area near some trees. We claimed some ground and he handed me a tub. It wasn’t until I lifted the lift that I realised how hungry I was.

“That smells amazing,” I said, breathing deeply. I tasted some and had to suppress a literal moan of pleasure. “If everything you make is this good, I’ll have to consider becoming vegetarian,” I joked, quickly eating more.

“Thanks, my mum taught me how to cook. She’s a heart surgeon and a brilliant cook.”

“That your step mum or your bio mum?”

“Step, I never met my biological mother,” He said. I cocked an eyebrow for him to continue. “She died when I was just a baby,” he sighed. “My dad had a little, let’s call it a marital slip up, with one of his childhood friend. She was dying of a chronic illness and shortly before she passed I was born.”

“Oh,” I murmured.

“My family has quite a bit of drama to it.” he sighed. “I mean, it’s probably not that much, and there’s definitely people who had it worse…”

I hesitated, well aware he had just shared something quite personal. Which meant he obviously trusted me. And he hadn’t done anything to not earn my trust back, right? I couldn’t pretend like I didn’t have this strange sense of safety around him, even if I didn’t understand the why.

“I don’t have any memories of my biological parents,” I said quietly. I chewed my lower lip for a moment. I couldn’t go into detail but I could tell him vague details.. “I was adopted.”

“Happily adopted or…” he trailed off, leaving me to fill in the blanks. I moved my food around, watching the grains move while I mulled over what to say next.

“It’s complicated…” I sighed. “But I was accepted. I don’t know if that would’ve been the case with my biological parents…” I hesitated. I’d had no issues telling Sage or Alison because they were both transgender as well. I very rarely disclosed to cisgender people just because my experiences of doing so were usually negative.

“I’m a transguy.” I watched Sanjay’s expression, looking for the signs of disgust and horror I’d seen in the past but all I saw was initial shock.

“Okay, eh, I’m not sure what to answer to that without saying something really stupid and possibly offensive…” he said, letting out a little nervous chuckle. “But it’s really cool with me.” My eyes widened at his words before a grin broke out on my face without warning.

“I don’t expect you to be an expert don’t worry,” I quickly said, not wanting to scare him off with my complications.

“Well, I definitely should pick up a book or something on the subject so I’m on the safe side of not being a dummy. But, thank you telling me, I know it’s not something that’s easy to share.” I opened my mouth to reply when my phone beeped. I checked it and saw it was a text from Harley. They were awake and wanted to hang out. Admittedly, I wanted to stay here but I was also worried I’d overstay my welcome.

“Oh it’s Harley, they’re finally awake so I probably should go and see them. If that’s alright?” I asked.

“Of course it is, you go do that, I’ve got some work to catch up on,” he said. I stood up, brushing grass from my jeans. Sanjay followed suit, although he stood a little awkwardly watching me.

“Wait,” he said. When I turned I noticed he’d also starting to reach a hand towards me.

“Are you okay for a short hug?” he asked.

“Oh, erm, sure.” I still wasn’t used to this hugging thing but it was nice.

“Alright, you can go now. Thanks for sharing. Oh and if you and Harley need the room, just send me a text?” he said.

“Yeah, yeah,” I replied, knowing I was smiling again. It was just something I couldn’t help doing around him. I met Harley at the gym just as they were finishing up.

“You got enough energy for another arena?” I joked, knowing from looking at them that they definitely weren’t.

“Too tired,” they huffed. Then their expression suddenly brightened. “I have enough energy for other things though.” Then they grabbed my hand and I followed them into the gym showers. As it was midday the gym was surprisingly quiet.

“What are you-” then he led us both into a private shower stall and I understood. We striped and left our clothes hanging on the wall.

“I didn’t realise you needed a helping hand getting washed,” I murmured as we kissed and enjoyed one another under the warm stream of water. They just giggled in response.

Well, at least no ones roommate had to sleep elsewhere this time. When we were both flushing furiously we actually probably helped each other wash and then dried and got dressed. Luckily the shower stalls have a separating wall between the general changing room area so we didn’t catch any stares when we left. Harley also wearing a skirt today which probably helped. Unfortunately we were still in a world where someone with a deep voice wearing a skirt was viewed as ‘wrong’.

“So, I see you eventually left my bed then?” I teased.

“Yeah, saw you and your friend getting sweaty outside as well,” they replied. “Made me remember I should keep on form myself. However you two seemed to be having a lot of fun and I didn’t want to disturb you.” Their eyebrows did that knowing wiggle thing at the word ‘fun’.

“Oh no, it’s not like that,” I explained quickly.

“Not like that yet,” they laughed.

“No. That’s not happening,” I said, my jaw clenching. Harley blinked at me, surprised by my sudden change of demeanour.

“Right, sorry. Can I ask why?”

“You just misread the situation. We’re just friends,” I shrugged. I could tell they wanted to push the issue but opted not to.

“Is there food at your place for lunch?” they asked.

“Sanjay made some really nice food, there should be leftovers if you want to heat some up and eat it?” I said.

“Sounds wonderful!” they beamed. Sanjay had already disappeared to hs lab but Ahti was around. Harley immediately took to them which wasn’t surprising. Ahti was so innocent it was hard not to like them, even after the whole ‘chimera’ thing.

“Allen’s going to show me more scary films later if you want to join,” Ahti said. “I could use more hug friends since I think Allen finds my hugging weird for some reason.” I got looked at for barking out a laugh.

“It’s nothing,” I said.

“You do that a lot when people talk about Allen,” Ahti observed.

“I guess I just find the guy funny,” I shrugged.

“Oh, Allen thinks you hate him,” Ahti replied, taking my words at face value.

“Well, if he’s spending time with you and Caroline then I guess he’s getting better,” I sighed. I had kind of been avoiding thinking about him for obvious reasons. Maybe I ought to give the guy a second chance.

“Ohh, this is really spicy,” Harley commented as they ate at the countertop.

“Do you want me to try making a milder version?” Sanjay offered.

“Oh no, it’s fine. I like hot things,” they smirked, sending me a wink. It took a second for Sanjay to compute what just happened.

“Don’t hot things burn you?” Ahti asked from the couch.

“I guess that depends on if the sensation play is consensual.” I blushed upon that comment.

“How about we go eat elsewhere,” I suggested. I was not going to answer the myriad of questions Ahti was no doubt going to ask. Harley’s smirk grew larger at the site of my embarrassment.

“But I’m having fun getting to know your housemates. I like getting close and personal to everyone I meet,” they said. Sanjay blushed at that comment and shot me a wide-eyed glance.

“Playtime’s over,” I muttered, rubbing my forehead.

“I don’t want it to be daddy,” they threw back. I choked on spit.

“Why-” Ahti began.

“It’s not important,” I interrupted Ahti. Then sent Harley a pleading look. They giggled before finally suggesting we hung out upstairs. As I headed upstairs I heard Ahti start asking Sanjay questions. I mentally wished him good luck.

Chased By The Past: Part X

Chased by the Past

Part X: Sanjays Family

I woke up later than usual, my body shaking from yet another nightmare. I glanced over at Harley but they were still fast asleep. I carefully extracted myself from their arms and the bedcovers. I headed to the bathroom for a much needed shower. Events of the night before occupied my mind as the hot water fell across my skin. I heard the bathroom door opening so I quickly finished and got dressed. When I walked out of my stall I was surprised to find Sanjay standing there.

“Morning,” Sanjay said.

“Hey,” I replied. Silence fell between us as we both brushed our teeth.

“So,” Sanjay began “guess you’ve got yourself a not-boy, not-girl, something friend? I’m not actually sure what the correct term is with them.”

“And I don’t want to say something wrong,” he finished, sending me an unsure look.

“Non-binary. Harley and me are just a casual thing, we’re not dating,” I explained.

“Oh alright,” Sanjay replied with a nod. After brushing our teeth we headed downstairs to the common room. I glanced up the stairs, wondering if Harley was awake.

“Eh, wait,” Sanjay said, reaching into his pocket and pulling out flash drive. I frowned as he handed it to me. “Here.”

“What’s this?” I asked.

“Your student files, Charlie bragged about stealing them so I took them back. But I didn’t look.” I blinked at him, student files? It had never even occurred to me that those might be a risk.

“You didn’t?” It was difficult to believe but I saw no signs of deception in Sanjay’s expression.

“It felt wrong to,” he replied. “If you don’t want to talk about things, that’s your right and as your friend I have to respect that.” I studied his face more but his tone remained genuine.

“Thank you,” I said. He sent me a small smile in response. “You’re a great friend.” And that’s all he could ever be. I watched as surprise crossed his face.

“So, you have anything planned for today? My folks are staying until lunch, you could come and hang with us?” He suggested. I chewed my lip nervously, well aware that the last time I had seen his family I hadn’t been the most polite person. I scolded my internal thoughts, there was little point beating myself up over that. It’s not like I could ever explain my reasons why anyway.

“That sounds like a good idea, I should probably apologise to them too for the way I acted. It’s not like I got any family hanging around to keep me company anyway,” I joked, ignoring the twinge of hurt the words triggered.

“Well, the last time I brought an acquaintance my mum practically adopted him, so you might accidentally get an adoptive mum, I warn you.”

“Heh, well I wouldn’t know the difference,” I said. I immediately regretted the joke, rubbing the back of my neck awkwardly. “Sorry, I should probably quit the dark humour now.”

“But it’s part of your charm, isn’t it?” Sanjay threw back, smirking. I stared at him, the comment taking me by surprise.

“Well,” I laughed. “If only I could show you more than charm…” I murmured in German.

“One of these days, I’ll have to learn German, understand what you’re muttering to yourself. Actually,” Sanjay continued, picking up his tablet, “I might just change my option just now.”

“I’ll enjoy the short learning period to tease your stumbling German,” I shrugged, “and then just invent a new language all of my own.”

“Go ahead, you will see I’m a quick learner. Also, note to self; lookup linguistic decryption.” I blinked at him.

“Don’t use big words on me,” I muttered.

“Aww, I made my best friend grumpy…” he sighed. I hoped my expression didn’t betray how conflicted him calling me ‘best friend’ made me feel. “I totally owe you some breakfast now, do I?” He asked.

“Yup,” I answered, trying to deflect from my own confused thoughts.

“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 toast and not quite what I had in mind.” I stared at him for a moment. Did he just…ask me out…on a date? No, of course not. Why am I acting so silly today?

“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 –” I cut myself off. I can’t believe I’m actually stumbling around like a love sick idiot right now. “I’ll stop giving options now.”

“Havenport sounds good.” Sanjay said.

“Rights, let me just grab my jacket,” I said, turning and running upstairs, anything to give me momentary space from Sanjay so I could collect my thoughts. I threw Harley’s sleeping form a cursory glance as I swapped my PJ’s for a pair of black jeans. I was pulling on a fresh grey T-shirt when Sanjay knocked on the door. I quickly shoved one arm into my black jacket, and struggled to put my other arm through it as I called to let him know he could enter.

“Ready to go?” Sanjay asked, keeping his voice low so as not to disturb Harley. He suppressed a laugh seeing my outfit. “Is a side-effect of being a chimera an allergy to clothing colours?”

“Heh, no. I just did a lot of work at night…” I let the sentence hanging, there was no way I could tell Sanjay anything about the work I used to do.

“Guess it adds to the dark and brooding vibe. You know the others are full on the Batman jokes, right?” Sanjay said.

“I hate Batman jokes,” I replied, just about stopping myself from glaring. “The only person who got away with them was Kel –” I stopped, realising I almost said too much in a rush. “I’m just not a fan,” I finished.

“Right, sorry. I’ll make sure to shut them down if I hear them.” I nodded my thanks.

“Let’s go?”

“Right,” he repeated.

I followed Sanjay out the house and to the bus stop nearby. The only place I knew that was worth checking out in Havenport was the same place Harley had taken me to, Lava Java. The interior was the same as last time, the fireplace lit up and roaring quietly. We approached the counter and I ordered a black coffee, I would definitely need caffeine to confront his family, and a raspberry turnover. Sanjay ordered some tea and an almond danish. We grabbed one of the couches by the fireplace, and knees brushing as we sat down.

“This is nice,” Sanjay said as he bit into his danish and I took a sip of my coffee. “Our first time going out together.” I almost coughed back up my coffee, his phrasing throwing me.

“Are you alright?” He asked.

“It’s too hot,” I lied, focusing on my turnover and hoping he didn’t notice my cheeks were flushed.

“So, have you thought about our history homework?” Sanjay asked. I suppressed an internal groan.

“I was stuck in a private school in Brighton at the time, didn’t see anything. You?” It wasn’t technically a lie. I had never seen the Tzari invasion, apart from the news reports we saw on the TV from Russia; and what I did see I can never tell him.

“I was in London, we had to spend the week locked in an emergency shelter 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,” he began. My knowledge of what happened in the capital during that period wasn’t the best, but being stuck in the shelters must have been claustrophobic at worst.

“Of course Mum was four months pregnant at the time we were worried crazy about how that affected the baby. I remember there was so much arguing between my mum and dad and how Sana was scared.”

“Damn. I’m sorry,” I murmured.

“We go out alright in the end,” he shrugged.

“And that’s all that matters,” I nodded, struggling to imagine what my life here at Ravenhold would have been like without him. I ate some more of my raspberry turnover – an amazing find I definitely needed to come back here for more often – before changing the subject.

“A while back you said it was you at 618, they said it was a new police initiative,” I said.

“Yeah, between you and I? That was total PR bullshit.” Sanjay said, his laugh soft and warm. I blinked away the random thought and focussed on what he was saying. “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.” It wasn’t lost on me that he seemed to embody the type of hero I used to consider idiotic. Funny how differently I viewed him now that I knew him a bit more.

“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,” he explained. I nodded, it made me feel a bit better to know it was something vaguely selfish that started him on his journey. Although he still striked me as being mostly selfless, something I still couldn’t wrap my head around or fully believe. I sensed he wanted to ask me similar questions about how I got to Ravenhold but he didn’t. Instead we talked about the classes, teachers and the others. Sanjay shook his head when I recounted Charlie’s reaction to my latest stunt.

“She’s going to make you pay big time you know,” he murmured. His phone buzzed with a message from his mum telling us they were in the park. I followed Sanjay as we approached a playground. I recognized his family from the other day and immediately felt embarrassed by my behaviour then. Hopefully they didn’t hold it against me.

“Everyone, you remember Jaeger?” Sanjay asked after saying hi and hugging his family. Immediately I wanted to squirm and hide. I settled for an awkward wave. Sanjay mother and sisters reintroduced themselves and I was relieved that I had at least remembered their names. Sanjay’s youngest sister, Vani, stared at me the way any curious child did.

“Your nose is funny.” Vani said. I sensed immediately that Sanjay was worried but I just fought back a chuckle.

“That’s because I’m a bat chimera,” I replied.

“You’re part bat?” she asked, eyes widening slightly.

“Yeah, I can echolocate like one too,” I said. I admit I was hoping she’d be impressed but I guess a three year old was unlikely to know what echolocation was.

“Does that mean I can be a dinosaur chimera?” she asked, looking at Sanjay and then her mother with a big grin.

“No.” her Mum said immediately, making her pout.

“Jayjay?” She then asked, looking at Sanjay. I blinked at the nickname. Sanjay didn’t even look embarrassed and for some reason that alone made him seemed all the more genuine. I wasn’t sure why this was continually surprising me.

“Yes?” he replied.

“What’s Ecolocat?” she asked, mispronouncing the word. I laugh and knelt down to talk to her. I explained to her that I could dull my other senses and ‘see’ the world with sound. She listened intently as I finished describing it. Once I finished talking she then looked over to her mum.

“I want to play now.” She said. I guess when they say kids have short attention spans they weren’t kidding. Sanjay’s mum started to stand but Vani quickly added “No with Jayjay and Jaegy!” I cocked an eyebrow at my new nickname and saw Sanjay was fighting back a laugh.

“She gives everyone a nickname.” he whispered, looking only a little apologetic. Not that I minded at all. “Alright come on, Vani, let’s go do some slides!” Sanjay said louder. I let Sanjay lead the way, which meant letting Vani lead the way. She was quite the demanding little madame but it was fun nonetheless.

“So, not too traumatized by the little asura?” Sanjay whispered as we watched Vani play.

“I’ve dealt with worse than a little kid. Admittedly, the fear of the unknown did make it close,” I joked.

“Well, That’s our little terror Vani for you.” he 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?” I asked.

“We’re complicated.” he 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.” he paused and shook his 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,” I shrugged. The memory of that night when I overheard him arguing with a Syndicate boss briefly ran in my mind. Then Sanjay put an arm over my shoulder for support, pulling me back to the present. I recovered from the surprising gesture and leaned into him.

“Jayjay!” Vani called. “I want to swing.”

“No rest for the wicked, eh?” he said.

“Except bank holidays,” I joked, making him laugh.

“We better please the little asura, you don’t want to see her angry.”

“Hulk style?” I 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.”

Once Vani had worn herself out I went with Sanjay and his family to the airport to see them off. Part of vaguely wished I could return to the UK. The tiny flat in Portsmouth hadn’t been much but it was home. I watched as Sanjay and his family exchanged their goodbyes, his mother was really sweet and supportive. I was surprised when she then turned her focus to me.

“Jaeger, take care of yourself and maybe of Sanjay too, for me?” she asked, suddenly pulling me into a hug. My body stiffened from the action and before my mind could process what had happened she had let go. She gave my shoulders a final squeeze before stepping away. At least I knew where Sanjay got his touchy-feely-ness from. We watched them taking off and I could sense Sanjay was understandably a little upset. The whole hugging thing didn’t come to me naturally so I stood there with him until he looked ready for the next thing.