"...so there's no way he would win." Esther van Dyke sat back in her chair and folded her arms triumphantly. "Do you have a counterargument, or are you going to concede defeat?"
Kane Kennedy thought for a moment, before shaking his head. "You haven't won yet. There's something you've failed to take into account: his superior speed. He's twice as fast as her."
"But speed means nothing when it comes to strength, and she's got that in abundance," argued Esther.
"But strength means nothing if she can't land a hit," Kane countered. "And he's so fast that that's exactly what would happen if they tried to fight."
"Um, you're forgetting a crucial detail. His stamina is fairly average whereas she's been doing endurance training for the last seven months, so eventually he's going to get too tired to move so fast and then she'll smash him into next week." Esther tilted her head back, a smirk on her face. "See? No matter what absurd theories you propose, I will always shoot them down."
Kane stared at Esther for a while, before turning to the third person sitting at the table, who was sitting with her head down while she ate her sandwich, hoping neither of her friends would drag her into the conversation. "Mavis, what do you think?" he asked.
"Hm?" Mavis Foster glanced up briefly but quickly went back to her sandwich. "What do I think about what?"
"Who would win in a fight: Kirk Kennedy or Priya Singh?"
Mavis rolled her eyes. "Seriously? You're arguing over whether your brother-," She stabbed her finger at Kane, "-or your girlfriend-," She moved her finger to Esther, "-would win if they fought each other?"
"Yeah," Esther replied.
"Yes," Kane said at the same time. "So what do you think?"
"Hey, hang on!" Esther suddenly spluttered. "She's not my girlfriend!"
Mavis covered her mouth with her hand to stop a snicker from escaping. "Oh, so you haven't asked her out yet? I thought I heard you bragging to those trainee kids who all have a crush on her that you had."
Esther pressed her fists to her cheeks, avoiding Kane's slightly smug gaze. "Well, they were all squabbling over who got to ask her out first, so I decided to spare her the agony and tell them that we were already a couple. Then...I might have got carried away."
"Might have?" Kane chuckled.
"Hey, you should have seen the looks on their faces," the brunette said defensively. "It was hilarious. First, they registered that I was a girl and the person I had apparently asked out was a girl, which was probably the best part. Then they slowly realised that if we were truly going out, then it was unlikely that she would have any interest in any of them. Watching a group of pubescent fourteen-year-olds realise that they lost a potential love interest to another girl was absolutely hilarious. So you know me; I couldn't resist rubbing it in." Esther began rubbing the back of her neck sheepishly. "Of course, I've had to keep looking over my shoulder ever since. I mean, if Priya finds out that I said all that stuff, it's going to be extremely humiliating."
"Did you say anything...vulgar?" asked Kane hesitantly.
"Hell no!" Esther glared at him. "Who do you think I am?!"
Kane shrugged. "I had to check. We know how you can be when you get carried away."
"Don't drag ME into this," Mavis muttered.
"It's still going to be humiliating if Priya finds out that I described in detail the way I supposedly asked her out." Esther sighed slowly and glanced at her watch, just as the bell in the cafeteria rang to signal the end of the lunch break. "Back to work, I guess. Remember, we're meeting up in the gym to discuss options for prom later, okay?"
"Can't wait," Kane responded monotonously, getting up to take his tray back to the serving hatch.
Esther watched him go for a moment, before turning to Mavis, who had just finished off her sandwich. "He doesn't sound excited."
"Probably because he's stressed about getting a date," Mavis said. "Just like every teenage boy on this planet. Speaking of which, are you going to ask Priya to prom? Think about it," she added quickly, before Esther could speak. "It might be easier to ask her to prom and then go dating from there, rather than ask her on an actual date straight away."
"I'd love to," sighed Esther. "But what if she's straight? Rejection because they don't like you that way is embarrassing enough, but guessing someone's sexuality wrong is soul-crushingly humiliating. Plus, according to those trainees, I'm actually going out with her already, so…"
"All the more reason to ask her out as quickly as possible," Mavis responded casually. "After all, the longer you leave it, the more likely it is that she'll hear about what you said. And if she hears it from someone other than you, that'll severely impede your chances with her, wouldn't you say?"
"Fuck, you're right…" Esther grimaced, heaving another sigh. "I hate myself sometimes. See you later, Mavis."
Mavis watched her friend leave the canteen, after which Kane finally returned, tray-free. "Why are you still here?" he asked in surprise.
"Waiting for you."
"Oh, sorry. I was chatting to Kirk."
Mavis shrugged and set off towards the exit. Kane fell into step beside her. "I think it's weird that a secret organisation is holding a prom. Don't you? I mean, the majority of the agents here are adults."
"But there are still about a hundred seventeen and eighteen year old agents, and Dad doesn't want us to miss out on such a crucial experience, even though none of us are in high school anymore." Mavis shot her friend a curious look as she pushed the doors open and left the canteen. "Why are you so against this prom? You haven't once expressed any kind of excitement for it."
Kane unconsciously began scratching his wrist, an embarrassed/nervous gesture that Mavis had seen him perform before. "I don't know. I guess I just don't like the fact that everyone's focusing on the date part instead of the actual party itself. We're supposed to go and have fun, not stress about and argue over dates."
"Are you worried that you won't get a date, yourself?" Mavis asked slowly.
Her friend suddenly stiffened and looked away. "I don't want to talk about this anymore."
"Oh. Okay." Mavis glanced down at her watch. "Look, I have a mission in half an hour so I'm gonna head to Prep. Will you be okay to walk back to your office on your own?"
Kane muttered something that Mavis couldn't quite hear, but he did give a nod, which gave her an indication of what his reply must have been. With a last smile and pat on the shoulder, Mavis turned down the next corridor alone.
Her mind was on Kane. Sure, her friend was often introverted and unwilling to share much information about his thoughts and feelings, but this was abnormal. There seemed to be a cold kind of aura around him and in his voice, body, and face. Something was wrong, and Mavis was worried about what it could be. Keeping secrets was second-nature to most people in Mavis's profession, but not keeping secrets from their most trusted friends.
It's okay, she told herself in her head. I'm sure if it was something serious, he'd tell me.
...no, that's really cliche and not at all true.
Neither Mavis nor Esther knew much about their best friend's past, so that in itself proved that Kane kept secrets from them all the time.
Oh come on, you're being stupid now. It's about a fucking prom; how serious can it be? Maybe he's gay and terrified of coming out. Maybe he's just scared of not getting a date. Whatever it is, it's not the end of the world.
She took a deep breath and shook her head and shoulders to relax herself. Her hand automatically flew to her pocket, but when she found the small tub still in there, she relaxed even more. She picked two pills out of the pot and dry-swallowed them, wincing slightly at their disgusting taste. Hopefully they'd take effect by the time she arrived at Prep.
She had the feeling she'd need them.