When I get home, I’m exhausted, and all I had to do was go over the preliminary paperwork. The amount of spaces intentionally left blank (except on Gatling’s forms, of course, so there I had the good fortune of writing the same five pieces of information over and over) makes me wonder why we bother writing anything down at all. I wonder how I’m going to deal with it if I actually have to fill out an incident report for one of them.

Maybe I can make the kids fill out their own. That’s got to be good practice, right?

No, not right, Travis, that is not sound practice at all. I massage my temple. Stop trying to pawn off your work on high schoolers just because there’s too much information missing, damn.

I check the fridge for leftovers, contemplating whether I want to eat this soon before bed. I know it’s not great for your digestion, but I’m still hungry – maybe just a little snack. Maybe something more filling than just a light snack, actually. Sighing, I compromise and heat up some microwave popcorn. As the microwave beeps, I hear the door open behind me.

Oddly enough, I’d assumed Darren was already here, and asleep. Not that reasonable, considering that I know what time it is, and he hasn’t been getting home by now for a while. Longer than I’ve spent at work outside of an emergency, though, and it feels later than it is. Maybe I’m overcompensating already for my schedule shifting later.

“Hey,” I say.

“Mm,” he says, tossing his bag on the couch.

“Did you eat?” I ask, “I can heat you up something, or –”

“I ate,” he says.

“Okay.” I munch on my popcorn. “Did you want to watch a movie, or something?”

He shakes his head and starts walking away.

“Where are you going?” I ask him, even though I know what his answer’s going to be.

“My room, Travis, where the hell do you think I’m going?” He shakes his head harder.

I sigh. “I think we should talk about –”

“No.” He crosses his arms.

“Really?” I say. “Just like that, just, ‘no’, we’re not going to talk about it?”

“The fuck is there to say, Trav?” He waves a hand. “What do you know, anyway? You’re always all helpful and charming and eager-beaver and everyone likes you no matter what.”

I blink twice before my mind catches up with my mouth. “You know, maybe if you’d ask for my advice, I could –”

“You think you know fucking everything, Fox?” Darren clenches a fist. “You’ve never exactly been helpful with office politics, have you? Less, now that you’ve switched sides.”

“That’s going well, by the way,” I say, “and how was your day?”

“I have to run an actual team, ‘Teke’, so sorry that you’re finding it overwhelming creating a schedule for people who aren’t even allowed to engage,” he says, and slams the door.

Which is worse than I expected, given that, as far as I could tell, his day went fine. Or, at least, the new guy didn’t seem to be giving him that much trouble. But not nearly as bad as it could’ve gone. I think we’re making progress. I sigh, finish my popcorn off, shower and drop into bed.

“I’m sorry I yelled at you,” Darren says, leaning against the doorframe.

“It’s fine,” I say.

“Oh, fuck you, Travis, stop going all high road when I’m trying to apologize,” Darren snaps.

“Sorry,” I say, “go on.”

“I’m sorry I was shitty,” he says, and stops.

“Okay,” I tell him, “apology accepted. I take it related topics of conversation are still off the table? So, fine, let’s just forget about it.”

“I have an early morning,” Darren huffs, “briefing, you know. I won’t be here to make you breakfast and shit. So, you know, don’t freak out that I’m missing or anything.”

“You’re barely going to get four hours sleep,” I tell him.

He shrugs. “I don’t make the schedule. But I don’t have time for a heart to heart, either.”

“Alright,” I say. “Goodnight.”

He rolls his eyes at me and wanders back to the second bedroom.

I sleep fitfully, and most of it involves Arsenal shooting everyone I know. It’s actually more upsetting watching him kill the people I don’t like than the ones I do. He’s got that sort of stoic, for-the-greater-good expression on his face the whole time. I hold people still for him.

I wake up before my alarm and take another shower. As I pull on the uniform, I wonder whether there’s really a point to wearing it anymore. Anything official and I’m just going to have to change as soon as I get there. On the other hand, I don’t feel like being repeatedly stalled in traffic wearing floaty swirling bright purple, so there’s that.

Of course, I also wear briefs, because if I am going to have to change, I would prefer to be able to do it in my own underwear.

Darren’s long gone, but there’s half a box of muffins on the table with a sticky note apologizing again. Blueberry and pistachio. Well, at least I’m not going to have to listen to complaints about eating them upside-down. I peel the wrappers off and flip them over, and go to start the coffee. I’d like to make myself espresso, I really would, but I’m still pretty wiped, and drip will have to do.

At least I don’t have to deal with the kids yet. Yesterday should have been preliminaries, which means today they’re going through medical – unless it’s the other way around. The orientation could be today, I guess. I don’t know. It’s not like I joined the program until college, where vetting took a week and was significantly more thorough. And also they adjusted my class schedule, which, guaranteed, they don’t do with the high school kids.

Or possibly middle school, although technically speaking we’re supposed to hold an official position of ‘strongly discouraging’ that. The in-school programs don’t exactly handle combat capable powers that well, though. I had a hard enough time getting anything out of it; I can’t imagine what it would be like for someone trying to hide their primary power. Or for someone with a rare power.

Of course, you take public school programs and you end up with healers graduating barely knowing basic first aid. I am not opposed to middle schoolers signing up, not on principle. I just can’t say that in public. Still, better me actually trying to train them and not judging than someone who’s going to walk on eggshells until they’re definitely out of junior high.

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