The looming downtown skyscrapers didn't help Lex's pulse slow down to a pace that didn't feel like it was pumping blood for like a dozen people at once. She ran as unsuspiciously as possible (i.e. not at all) with Novarlo and Knives until they'd reached the nearby park. Except it was less of a park and more of a slab of cement with rings of stones containing scattered trees like cages. Lex had never identified with plant life more than in that moment.
The scent of weed infiltrated Lex's lungs as she sat down at a bench. She swiped the hair out of her face, and drowned in the smell. In her sprinting thoughts. In the sound of people who were untouched by the knowledge she now had. Some of them could've been just like her, though. Just like...the girl...the dead g-
Lex started to cry.
Novarlo sat down beside her. He said nothing, just leaned towards her and only wrapped his arms around her shoulders when she leaned towards him in return.
Knives had stopped by the bathroom to wash the blood off of her arm. Why the hell did she squeeze like that? It was literally the worst thing she could have done... She looked at herself in the mirror. Could... She even control when her body did this? What if someone wanted to shake her hand, or hug her? This shit was crazy…
Lex peeled herself from Novarlo after a minute or two, not wanting him to sacrifice his back muscles just for her. All three of them had sacrificed enough that day.
When the salted, liquid sadness stopped streaming down her cheeks, Lex took a deep breath. Exhaled. Took the hair elastic off her wrist and tied her hair into a loose ponytail. Stray wisps of silver towards the front broke free, framing her jaw. She didn't have the energy to feel annoyed by it.
"What do we do?" Lex asked Novarlo, or the heavens, or both.
Novarlo tucked his hands under his thighs and kicked his feet one at a time rhythmically. "My brain is fried," he answered.
Lex sulked in place. She hoisted her backpack off her back, plopped it in her lap, and hugged it religiously.
After getting as much of the horrible reminder that she was technically a murderer now off of her, Knives slowly rejoined the others.
"How are you guys holding up?"
Lex glanced up at Knives, the new, positive force in her life to counterbalance the new, absolutely terrifying shit going on. They'd only known each other for a short time, but shared trauma did great things for Lex's willingness to trust.
Novarlo threw his hands in the air. "Aside from being scarred for life, I'm happy we're X-Men!"
Lex shrunk into herself. She didn't agree, but she didn't let that stop her from pretending. If not for Knives' and Novarlo's sake, then for her own.
"This is scary...but weirdly exciting?" Lex let out in a shaky breath. "Which is kinda crazy, but... anyway. How 'bout you?"
Knives sighed, rubbing the back of her neck.
"I mean, I guess it's cool that we have super powers. But that girl seemed like she went after us... because of that. You don't think..."
Lex threw her head all the way back behind the bench headrest 'til the sky looked like the ground. "Yep, there may be more buttholes out there who wanna, like, turn our skin into blankets or something."
Novarlo leaped to his feet, his smile bursting a layer of Lex's melancholy like a needle through a balloon. With his cape and fangs and...and everything, he was already fit to be a superhero.
"Then we better train," Novarlo proclaimed, eyeing Knives and Lex with an expression that straddled the line between adorable and sexy. It was mostly in the eyes, Lex thought. "But where...?"
Knives crossed her arms... very carefully, and raised an eyebrow.
"Train? After what just..."
Then she realized this situation could probably be avoided in the future if she knew what she was capable of.
"Yeah, good idea."
Lex unfocused her eyes. Everything became a blur, a pocket dimension where nothing could touch her. She wanted to break free, to speak up. She's right. We almost died. We killed a girl. We're outcasts. This...this isn't...fuck…
"Agreed," Lex let out in a trembling woosh of air. She rubbed her eyes, took a deep breath, and stood up, ignoring the ensuing headrush. "We can head to my place. My roommates shooouldn't get back 'til way later. Unless anyone has a better idea?"
"Nah. My roomie will probably think I'm out partying again anyway."
"Yeah, and my dad's probably home," Novarlo said, sulking expressively. "One of them, anyway."
Lex nodded curtly. This was...this was happening. They were gonna be, like, superheroes? Or at least superpowered people with enough skills to fight anyone who tried to hurt them. And most importantly, they'd be able to avoid what their first taste of the supernatural world had been like…
Lex clenched her fists. Like a cliché. Or like someone who was very, very tired. She didn't know. All she knew was that no one would get hurt like that girl ever again. No one.
Lex's apartment sat quaintly between two much taller buildings. The traffic-filled street outside was unbearable at night, but at that moment it comforted Lex. It was familiar. Everything else about that day just...wasn't.
She led the way into her orderly, colourful apartment space.
"So how do we, like, start training?" Lex asked Knives and Novarlo.
Knives shrugged, looking around the place.
"You got any fruit? I'm like Edward Scissorhands, so I'll probably be able to make a kickass fruit salad."
"Heck yes!" Lex chirped, gesturing to the fridge beyond the island counter that sectioned the kitchen off from the living room.
"I suck the juice out of oranges but never eat the flesh," Novarlo piped up. "'Cause vampires."
"That's metal as fuck."
She waited for Lex to set up the fruit, flopping somewhat tiredly on the nearest piece of furniture she could find. Somehow even that motion managed to look cool. Maybe she practised it.
"True, but not as metal as being called Knives," Novarlo replied, joining the flop orgy. Of two. And an inanimate object. "Is it a nickname or...?"
Lex raided her own fridge, taking out the product of the combined income of 3 hard-working mothers and her occasional sound engineering work. She set everything up on the island counter, accidentally dropping a banana in the process, but it...floated...back...to her hand.
Lex stared at it before putting it down.
"You think any parents would be cool enough to actually name their kid that? I wish. My real name's Jenny."
She stuck out her tongue and pointed at her mouth to indicate her disgust at having such a normie name.
Novarlo smiled -slash- gasped. "You're named after the...it's the 867-5309 song! Oh my god, oh my god!"
"The fruits are ready," Lex called to Knives.
An orange moved in a zigzag motion on its own accord and nearly fell off the table towards Lex. She grabbed it and placed it back.
Knives stood up, cracking her knuckles.
"Alright, let's see here... So, you can like, move food right?"
Lex nodded, but then stared off to the side. "Well, I think it's just food I like. The pizza from the...the fight. It kinda called to me? Which is hilarious but that's honestly how it felt."
"I feel that. Everyday," Novarlo said, bug-eyed.
"What a weirdly specific power. Ah well, it's gotta be useful when you don't wanna get up to get like an apple or something. Anyway, wanna help me out?"
"Uh, sure," Lex stammered, eyeing the fruit display nervously. "Just...tell me what to do?"
Novarlo approached the table and slowly reached a hand out to one of the oranges. Lex swatted him away. He whimpered.
"Throw em at me one at a time. Then take the bits and put em in a bowl."
Lex sucked in a breath. Holding out a hand, she let the foreign sensation flow through her fingertips. One of the oranges floated towards her hands.
"Orange you glad you have those powers?" Novarlo squeaked.
Lex stuck her tongue at him. She took a few steps back, and telekinetically tossed the fruit in front of Knives.
Knives closed her eyes and took a deep breath, karate chopping once with each hand. This sliced the fruit into four.. Uneven pieces, cuz she couldn't aim with her eyes closed. Also some juice squirted out and got all over her hands.
"...I dunno about you, but that was a lot cooler in my head."
Novarlo snatched one of the pieces. "I mean, yeah, but also you cut a fruit midair with your body sooo still cool."
Lex snatched the orange piece from Novarlo's grip with her mind. She tossed the pieces into the bowl.
"We'll..have to peel those..." Lex trailed off. "Anyway."
Lex lifted an apple, this time with more confidence. She mimicked her last toss, getting a feel for how much energy she put into it.
This time Knives swiped with her fingers, as though they were claws. She found this a bit harder, which made sense cuz she didn't have the full weight of her arm behind it, but she still managed to... Bury her fingers in the apple.
"Okay... This is kinda stuck."
Novarlo reached over to help pry it off. His fingernails grew, fresh keratin amassing into pointed claws.
"I think using my power makes me hungry," he said, glancing between Lex and the fruit display.
Lex gave him a playfully scolding look and waved her hand. "Go forth, my little fruit bat. Feast to your heart's content. Figuratively. Please don't die."
Knives then went to the sink and began washing all of the mixed fruity juices off of her fingers."Man, today's been weird."
"Gods, yeah," Lex replied, leaning back against the fridge. The cold, reflective metal pressed into her, grounding her while her thoughts tried flying her away to some other dimension. "Like, we've seen tv shows and stuff with things like this so you'd think we'd be prepared, but we're just...not."
Novarlo went to sit on the couch arm closest to him. "I think this is all kinda cool!" he sang.
Lex's heart sank. And then spilled out through her mouth in a torrent.
"Novarlo, we...Knives...no, WE killed someone. AND we almost died," Lex out in an oscillating breath. She held her hands up to inspect them, like she could extract whatever supernatural force was in her with laser vision or something. "I...I don't want that to happen. Ever. Again. I...I just..."
Novarlo shot to his feet and cornered the island counter to reach her. He opened his arms to her. She sank into them.
The weight of the situation sank right back in for Knives. She had a feeling that now that this had happened, there would be no going back to normal. She sighed, turning the water off and attempting to clean her hands off with some nearby paper towels... Only to tear them to shreds on accident.
"To be honest I'm glad you guys still trust me after... What happened. If I didn't have anyone I could talk to about this I'd probably go crazy."
Lex gave Knives a look that channelled every good bone in her body. "Well, yeah, I mean, you didn't ask for someone to try hurting us and forcing us to defend ourselves. And we're kinda in this together forever now, ya know, so...I dunno, we're kinda like honorary sisters now or whatever?"
"We're like…" Novarlo stepped out of the hug, paused, and looked up. "Like a cap stuck to a glue stick."
Lex smiled. "Sure, that works. I think."
Lex eyed the fruit-filled table. "So! Shall we finish this work of art?"
She got in position, ready to play some more Extreme Fruit Ninja. Except there weren't any bombs, so maybe not exactly that... Yeah, doing that in real life would be dangerous anyway. Either way, she was ready for it.
Lex licked her lips, relaxed her body, and willed an apple into the air. It felt easier, somehow? Which was good. Progress was good.
Lex beamed. The day may have sucked, but maybe they were gonna be alright.
Time passed. Or maybe it didn't and it was all an illusion. Either way, Lex's entire essence ached with a weird, phantom soreness. She settled on "supernatural causes" until evidence proved otherwise.
"I'm bored," Novarlo whined, picking at a fruit slice from the majestic, multi-coloured bowl before them all. "Can we go somewhere and do, like, stuff? Not exclusively but possibly including vampire stuff?"
"Um...yeah, why not?" Lex replied. She turned her attention to Knives. "You wanna head out? O-m-g, we could show you my neighbourhood!"
After a second, much longer hand washing session, Knives shrugged.
"Sure. Might be cool."
The nearby park was less of a park and more of a sprawling, self-contained natural haven. Kinda like a pocket dimension, or a save point in a video game where Lex usually came to recharge. Quaint fields, ponds, and bike paths defined the space. Ducks swam by down a miniature stream like the adorable little shits they were.
Lex breathed in. No dank substances, no gasoline, just crisp oxygen and serenity. This was the closest Lex could come to staring at the faces of gods. This was home.
She let go of Novarlo's hand and spun around, gesturing to her personal jungle gym with open arms. "Welcome to my domain," she told Knives, "where fun times are had and public nudity only happens sometimes. Not never, but sometimes."
Knives raised an eyebrow.
"Don't kids hang out here too? It is a park after all. unless that's your thing... Or, you only do it when no one's around. Hm..."
Knives decided not to go further down that rabbit hole and instead cast a look around.
"Wouldn't be a bad spot to set up a concert stage though. Nice and open."
Lex belted out a laugh. She was glad she could still do that and have fun and stuff after everyth-...ugh, Lex vowed to stop thinking about it starting...now. "I didn't mean...well actually, I've always wanted to try being a nudist, so-"
"Eeew, gross!" Novarlo shielded his eyes.
Lex put on a hurt look. "You've seen my body!"
Novarlo reared his head and made a face. "Hon-hon, zat iz true."
Lex snickered, and then remembered Knives existed. "Ah-hem. Sorry. Anyway, make yourself at home. The actual, sandy, jungle gym-y part of the park is just over yonder, if you wanna head there. It shouldn't be filled with kids 'cause school is a thing, so like, yeah. Nudity could theoretically happen."
Knives nodded, finding one of those dome shaped jungle gyms that always rested over a bunch of sand.
"This one'll do."
She swiftly climbed up onto it to the point where she could comfortably sit.
Novarlo joined Knives, trying and failing to find a position that didn't press thin, rough metal against his butt.
"My ass is hurting," Novarlo whined. "And not in the hot way."
Lex laughed. She felt a pang of... something in her gut. It was like being hungry, or like the first time she kissed Novarlo. It was a confusing feeling, but Lex was used to that kinda stuff.
Basking in the sunshine and a sense of freedom, Lex pulled herself up onto the monkey bars next to the dome. She hoisted her legs up and hung upside down. "I'm a bat! This is my life now."
Novarlo gave her two thumbs-up.
"Hmm... That looks kinda fun."
Knives hooked her legs around a bar and hung there as well, her hair looking like it had been blow dried in reverse.
"This might be a good way to write new melodies and shit. Lots of blood to the head, ya know?"
They might notice that her legs had the blades on them like she was attacking, but the metal in the jungle gym was not being cut. Guess they found something more metal than Knives was.
Lex watched Knives' display with an indescribable feeling. She eyed around the park, realized the nearest strangers were further away and were busy metabolizing or whatever, and exhaled in relief.
"I sooo wanna make music like you," Lex said, her words coming out before she could process them. She pulled herself into a sitting position on the main bar connecting the rest of the monkey bars. The super monkey bar. "That's, like, partially why I'm taking sound engineering. I don't wanna do drum covers the rest of my life. I wanna make actual, original songs, and I wanna be an artist and stuff. As a hobby, at least."
Knives smiled, still hanging upside down and gaining the vast knowledge of the universe in her head. Or maybe just a lot of blood. Silly gravity.
"That's cool. You do it however you're comfortable. Music is the purest form of expression there is."
"Heck yeah," Lex replied with a matching smile. She leaped off the monkey bars, landing in a crouch before standing up. The uneven sand beneath her sneakers made her feel like she was walking on water or something. She decided that was a good feeling.
"How'd you, like, get into music or music-making or whatever?" Lex asked.
Knives tried to dismount from her position and land on her feet in a cool way. This went about as well as you'd expect, she landed unevenly and stumbled before falling. She then got up and waited for herself to stop being dizzy before replying.
"A looong way back, like four years ago, me and an ex girlfriend were like, really into a lot of punk rock. I played guitar, she played bass, I could sing lead, she was good backup. We roped a friend of mine into being the drummer, and we had a band."
"Huh," Lex sounded, grabbing the bars above her and hanging in the air for a few seconds before muscle pains kicked in. "And how'd you get into music initially? Like, was there any moment as a kid or something where you were like "Oh my god yes, music is what I wanna do with my life?'"
"Also," Novarlo interjected, pointing a finger at Knives, "ex-girlfriend?"
Knives gave a shrug.
"Music's kinda always been a big part of my life. I remember listening to 80s rock in the car with my dad when I was a kid, it was a good time."
She then heard Novarlo question that and looked at him.
"Oh, yeah. It was a girl I dated that I knew in middle school. I was bi-curious at the time and she made me not so curious anymore."
Lex snorted. "Oh my gods, that's honestly beautiful. I realized I was, like, bi or pan or something literally last year. Up until then I was super confused about my sexuality?"
"Meanwhile," Novarlo chirped, securing his place at the top of the dome, "I'm a transboy who thinks girls are super pretty and I don't know if that makes me straight or gay. The world may never know."
"You're supersexual," Lex mused. "You've collected the seven Chaos Sexualities and have transcended above mortal existence."
Novarlo laughed with the brilliance of a rainbow dressed as a vampire. It distracted Lex from the pit in her guts.
"It's cool that you're open about it. Fuck what the world thinks, we're the new normal."
She then searched her thoughts for whatever subject she might bring up after this one died down. She could find none. Dammit brain.
"Hell yes!" Novarlo exclaimed, reviving the flail-off from earlier.
Lex chortled. She abandoned the monkey bars to stand on the sand, bathing in the atmosphere around her. Novarlo's smile, Knives' demeanor, the blue expanse overhead, the coarse grains below her shoes. She loved it all. She was happy. She-
Her head shot up as a boy approached the playground.
The discomfort in her guts cleared up. Only to be replaced by a different kind.
"Yo, Maria!" the boy exclaimed. "And ladies."
Novarlo turned to face the boy with an expression that melded the infernal look of a tortured soul with the death glare of a predatory bird. Or something like that.
The newcomer had tanned white skin and short, blinding blond hair poking out through a backwards baseball cap. He wore a white muscle shirt, sagging pastel blue shorts, and pristine white converse. His eyes were hidden behind opaque black sunglasses. Lex thought he was attractive. In a conventional, plastic fruit kinda way.
"I could sense your, like, auras or some shit from a mile away," the boy spoke, a little too loud even for the sprawling green space.
Knives immediately raised an eyebrow as she saw that guy walk up to them, looking like he walked straight off the set of Jersey Shore, and smelling of about eight different colognes. She had tried not to cringe when she saw him, but she couldn't help crinkling her nose from that smell.
"God, what the fuck?" she exclaimed without even thinking.
"I...what do you mean?" Lex probed, grabbing a monkey bar pole to use as an emotional crutch.
"Also, my name's Novarlo now," Novarlo added, tugging his cape around his body like it was an invisibility cloak.
"Oh, right, yeah, my bad," the boy replied with half-hearted hand gestures. "And what I mean-" he gave Lex his undivided attention, boring a hole through her soul, -"is that thingy people with powers have? It's...it's, like, a magnet. I always knew I was a chick magnet, but this is nuts."
He chuckled, then cleared his throat. "I'm Rodan."
Knives blinked a bit. Shit, not another super powered weirdo... Who the fuck thought to give a douchebag super powers anyway? That just makes it, like... A million times worse."Wait, Novarlo... You know this guy?"
"We're cousins," Rodan told Knives, scratching at his cheek. "Well, I mean, like, adopted cousins."
Novarlo fiddled with the fabric of his cape wordlessly.
"So who has the powers?" Rodan asked them with an eager expression.
"All of us," Lex answered stoically. She felt naked without weaponizable food on hand, especially around him. Rodan. A.k.a. the guy Novarlo ranted about to her every Thanksgiving and Christmas. "What's yours?"
"What's yours?" Rodan shot back breezily. "Wait, no-" he eyed Knives, "-what's yours? It must be cool. 'Cause you look cool."
Upon being addressed, Knives was struck with a dilemma. She could totally keep it a secret in case he was hostile, that way she'd have the element of surprise on her hands. But then the thought crossed her mind that maybe that'd make it look like she was playing hard to get. The last thing she wanted was to look interested in this grease bag.
"Oh, me? I cut things. My body's like, razor sharp. Even a little touch and you could bleed out."
Of course she was exaggerating, well as far as she knew so far. But anything to stop this jerk from pursuing her.
"Shit, that's siiick," Rodan replied, holding a fist to his lips. His whole body moved with the words, like he was a snake and douchebaggery was his charmer.
"What can you do?" Lex shot back.
Rodan looked around. "Um...like…I don't know how to describe it..."
"Physical or mental?" Novarlo prompted. Lex glanced at him like he'd burst into flames.
Rodan scratched at his neck. "Um, mental?" he answered.
"Good, bad, or neutral?" Novarlo continued, gripping the bars with white knuckles.
"I...it's like...I can make people kinda stop what they're doing and...like, here, I'll show you," Rodan answered.
Lex lifted a hand as a stop sign. "Um, I don't-"
Novarlo dislodged from the bars and fell through the dome.
Knives watched, shocked at what she just witnessed. She turned back to look at him, clenching a fist and taking a step closer.
"What the hell did you do to him?"
She was glaring daggers at him. Not literally, as awesome as that would be though.
Rodan extended his hands and backed away. "I didn't mean...fuck, dude, I'm sorry," he told her.
Lex dashed over to the dome and shimmied her way inside, hitting her funny bone in the process because the universe apparently hated her.
She knelt down. A bloody tooth rested next to Novarlo, while a red trickle spilled out from his mouth and lined his chin.
Lex rolled him over. "Gods, are you okay?"
Novarlo moaned incoherently. He tilted his head, spat out blood, and grinned painfully at Lex with a molten gap in his smile.
Lex lifted Novarlo to his feet. She left the dome first and turned to help him, but he already got himself out.
"Shit, uh...lemme make it up to you," Rodan spoke, rifling around in his pants pockets. His hand resurfaced with a fistful of chocolate bars. Some broke free and littered the ground.
Knives looked more than a little mad now. She attempted to grab him by the front collar of his shirt, but her fingers ended up ripping right through the clothes.
"You think a bit of candy is gonna make it all better? Look at what just happened!"
"I said I was sorry, shit!" Rodan exclaimed, putting a bit more distance between himself and the others. He curled his fingers and held them tight to his sides.
"Where'd you even...?" Lex began, eyeing the chocolate bars with a...with a look. Words just...weren't working right now for her.
"Corner store," he answered breezily, still suffocating under the tension and Knives' glare. "And...look, I'll just go. See you around or whatever."
Lex nodded. She gave Novarlo her undivided attention, gently cupping his jaw with her hand.
Knives took a few deep breaths, having thoroughly had enough of today at this point.
"Good. Get outta here, asshole."
Rodan took one last look at the three of them, spun around, and jogged away awkwardly.
Lex rubbed the blood off Novarlo's face with her sleeves. She grimaced.
"Everything went black for, like, a second," Novarlo managed to speak through the cacophony of bullshit happening inside his mouth. "And next thing I knew, my guardian angel brought me back from the dead."
"Yep, that's what happened," Lex giggled. "Ugh, you look and sound...bad. I could try kissing it better but even the power of love has its limits."
Novarlo let out a weak laugh, showing off his formerly pearly but now rustic whites. The…
The gap was missing.
"Um…your...it's back...?" Lex stammered.
Novarlo stuck a finger in his mouth, knocking into the new tooth and wincing. "Sweeeet."
Knives kept up her deep breathing, wanting to erase that guy from her memory as soon as possible. She heard the little exchange that happened and checked on the pair.
"What's going on?"
Novarlo flashed Knives a smile. "I'm the tooth fairy or something," he told her.
Lex snorted and hugged him. She might've crushed his bones if it were still possible.
Finally parting, Lex noted the chocolate bars still littering the ground. She approached them, held out her hand, and willed them into orbit around her.
"Sweet victory," Lex cackled. "Let's leave before the real tooth fairy comes and kills us for having these.
Knives smiled. It was good to know that Novarlo was alright after all.
"Sure thing. Where are we headed?"
Lex stared off into the horizon, sunlight glinting in her eyes majestically. It kinda hurt.
She squinted, made a melodic humming sound, and faced the others. "Literally anywhere that isn't here," Lex replied.
"Can we head back to your place so I can fix myself up?" Novarlo asked. He spat again and wiped at his mouth. It was both gross and intensely attractive.
"Sure," Lex answered. "Knives, you down?"
Knives stretched and yawned.
"I'm tired as fuck. If I can sleep anywhere I'll be cool with it."
Though she hoped she could sleep what with the accidental murder and such.
Lex made her way back to Novarlo. He held out his hand and pursed his lips, puffing his cheeks in the process like a squirrel.
Lex linked their arms, and together they were off.