“Really?” FiendPuncher asks, picking up a carrot stick, “no one’s going for the fruits and veggies?” and she dips it into a little carton of dressing. I wonder if liking carrots is one of her powers.

I look at the apple slices, thinking that’s a little more surprising, especially since there are caramel and chocolate dips sitting right there for the taking. I never could stand snack vegetables, so when there are other options to be had, I’m not surprised the kids don’t like them, but I was kind of under the impression kids loved dipping apples in frosting or whatever. Chips and cookies are pretty much normal fare, but they’re not exactly good for you.

I mean, not that frosted apples are good for you, but still.

I wonder if maybe I should get some sandwiches or something in here instead.

“Yeah, sorry we’re not all anorexic, Pom-poms,” Gatling sneers, and then looks her up and down, “not that it’s not working out for you.”

I’m so caught up between being horrified that he’s advocating eating disorders and horrified that he’s looking that way at someone who might not even be thirteen that I completely miss out on my opportunity to bitch him out for the derisive nickname.

FiendPuncher just widens her eyes and lets out a giggle. “But I’m not anorexic?”

“Good,” I manage to say, “and you’re right that fruits and veggies are healthier for you and we should all try to eat more of them and if you have any problems with eating disorders of any kind or anything else you can talk to Dr. Jerry and he’ll be happy to talk to you.”

FiendPuncher raises an eyebrow at me, then cocks her head and giggles again. “Oh, good!”

“Dr. Jerry is an asshole who makes issues out of anything he can think of,” Jailbait informs us. “He thinks I have self-esteem problems even though I’m the hottest bitch you’ll ever see.”

I politely refrain from saying anything about any part of that sentiment, although she gets snorts from the rest of the team, including FiendPuncher, who  notices I heard and gives me that smile all little kids do when they’ve been caught stealing cookies, even though she might be a little old for it. (But maybe not. Seriously, Gatling, seriously?) Caffeine is the only one who doesn’t, but he seems like he’s off in his own little world again; I can tell he heard what she said, but he isn’t agreeing or disagreeing, just considering it.

I think maybe I ought to tell Dr. Jerry to be less heavy-handed with Jailbait, and a little more heavy-handed with Caffeine, because the only reason I can think of that he’s acting that way is that he hasn’t actually mentioned his problems yet.

Also, if he talks to Dr. Jerry about it, he definitely won’t talk to me.

Just because I have no idea how to deal with sped-up perception problems and things like that or whatever kind of normal people problems he has, not because I have anything against Caffeine, I’m sure I could give him advice if he needed me to, he just doesn’t need me to, because that’s why we have Doc Jerry. I’m going to advise these kids on picking a college, and that’s it.

And also extranormal stuff, obviously, but hopefully only the how and not the why of it all.

“So are you, like, really shitty at karate, or what?” Gatling asks, ripping open another bag of chips and shoving a couple in his mouth.

I blink at him. “I had different close combat training.”

Gatling snorts. “So you don’t even know karate.”

I shrug.

“Typical.” Gatling shakes his head. “I don’t know how they expect us to learn when we’re smarter than the teacher, but I guess they don’t hand out these jobs on talent.”

I kind of want to yell at him for being a disrespectful little shit, but I’m mostly happy he didn’t ask who I blew to get my job; it looks like Ultraviolet did some good, after all.

“Really?” FiendPuncher says, all wide-eyed innocence, “he doesn’t seem that stupid.”

I catch the way she’s looking at Gatling, though, and I almost cackle, because, wow, kiddo, that was ice cold.

“He’s too stupid to want a piece of this,” Jailbait says, jutting out her chest. Then, winking at me, “or smart enough to fake it.”

I instinctively take a step back, but she’s already ignoring me again, apparently enticed to the apple slices by either my or FiendPuncher’s PSA. I feel like Hunch needs to set up a sexual harassment talk for the kids, honestly, because ‘just kids’ always grow up into ‘just adults’ which doesn’t have nearly the same ring to it.

“Hey, gaytard,” Enigma Machine says to Caffeine, and now I definitely think they need one.

I miss the rest of the conversation, but it doesn’t look like it’s led to a fight, which seems to be the only thing I can hope for with this crowd. Those three are chasing each other around (Caffeine only using human-normal speeds), and the girls are talking over the carrot sticks FiendPuncher has now convinced Jailbait to eat some of, and Gatling just keeps glaring at me.

“What?” I ask, staring down at the brat, really happy I’ve still got almost a foot on him.

“Nothing,” he says, curling his lip at me.

“Look, you know what, you want to take classes in Gates, I will file a special fucking request to get you traveled there every afternoon,” I tell him, “but if you’re in my class, show some respect.”

“Whatever,” he says. “Like I’m going to take classes in your gay city.”

But he stops glaring at me.

Caffeine appears behind me in a way I’m sure he thinks is mysterious and shocking, and might be if I didn’t feel the rush of air when he stopped.

“Hey,” he says, gruff tone probably calculated for maximum effect.

I peel the wrapper off my own cookie, because I can’t be setting an example for every fucking thing, “you really shouldn’t sneak up behind people who are trained to react quickly, Caffeine.”

“Whatever, I’m quicker,” he says, with a shrug.

“Which does fuck-all for you if someone manages to slap a cuff on you or stick you with a tranquilizer before you’ve noticed they’re going to,” I explain.

He rolls his eyes, but he also rubs the back of his neck like he’s thinking about it. “Are you supposed to swear at us that much?”

“I’m not swearing very much,” I say, thinking that he can’t seriously be all that surprised by it and if he is that’s hilarious, and also thinking of the drill sergeants that end up training a third of agents.

“I wanted to ask a favor?” he says.

I nod at him.

“So if I spend too long, you know, sped up,” he says, and waits for my nod, “I kinda get hungry.”

I nod again. “I was thinking of getting them to send up sandwiches or some more substantial kind of food, anyway. How much do you need?”

“I don’t know, not more than normal,” he tells me, “it’s not like I actually need to eat more to function, or anything, I just get hungry.”

“Huh,” I say, wondering if he’s talked to any of the medical staff about that, and if there’s anything I should know to accommodate him, and whether they’re allowed to tell me if there is.

He shrugs at me and runs off, and I pull out my phone to amend the order for snacks, considering whether it’s worth it to take the elevator up to my office just to avoid spending a few extra minutes dealing with buttons that aren’t intended for an interface this small.

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