Bree zips through the Centium City streets, feeling relieved and relaxed with her hair streaming behind her. Being out and open about her bionics lets her run wherever and whenever she wants, and as she runs she resolves to take advantage of that fact more often.
The cafe table stands on spindly silver legs, and Tasha already ordered an eclair and a latte for Bree. "Oh my gosh," she exclaims in mock surprise, getting up to hug her stepdaughter. "Is that one of the Elite Force?"
"Tada," Bree grins, sliding into the seat across from Tasha and delving into her chocolate eclair. "So what do you think of the city?"
"It's so exciting," Tasha says, sipping decaffeinated tea. "I'm pretty sure I saw J. Lo a few blocks from here."
"Yeah," Bree muses. "But, you know, that might've just been Kaz with a cyber cloak. That's a habit we're trying to break. Last week he turned into Oprah and tried to give everyone free cars."
"Wow," Tasha says, shaking her head, more amused at the team's antics than annoyed. "So how is everything? Everyone? Working with a new team, in a big city, that's gotta be exciting."
Bree waves her hand like she's swatting a fly. "Yeah, yeah, superheroes, saving the world, blah blah blah," she says, rolling her eyes. "I don't care. I wanna hear about little Naomi! How's my adorable baby sister?"
"So cute," Tasha swears. "Honestly, just… adorable. The cuteness meter is broken. I haven't slept in three months. Such an angel."
"She's up crying all night?" Bree says with a slight smile. "Yeah, I know what that's like. Skylar snores like a trash compactor."
"Oh, honey, that must be so hard for you to deal with. In your soundproof capsule. Knowing that it's not your responsibility to get up and take care of a tiny infant who needs near-constant attention." Bree's smile drops and Tasha laughs. "I'm just teasing, honey. And I bet it's weird for you to have a roommate that's not one of your brothers."
"Yeah, it is kind of weird," Bree says, fidgeting with the napkin beneath her eclair. "But Skylar's like a sister at this point. Well, kind of." She looks up. "Did you and Aunt Janice room together?"
Tasha shakes her head. "No, we always had our own bedrooms," she says. "But we stole each other's clothes all the time."
Bree nods, sipping the foam off the top of her drink. "Did you, uh, did you ever get like… overprotective? Of her?" Tasha looks at her inquisitively and Bree bites her lip before elaborating. "Sometimes when Skylar's talking to creepy guys… okay, mainly Oliver… I just get, like, really annoyed. Like I wanna run across the room and stomp on his foot."
Tasha laughs. "I think it's normal to feel like you want to look out for her," she says. "Skylar's your teammate, and your roommate, and your friend." She laughs again suddenly at a memory. "I used to get so fed up with Janice talking to her boyfriend over the phone that I'd tie knots in the cord so she would have to pay attention to me."
"What's a phone cord?"
"An ancient form of communication," Tasha deadpans, rolling her eyes. "Millennials."
"In my defense, I grew up in a basement," Bree points out. "The first time I saw a bird I had to ask what it was." They laugh, they sip, and they come back to their previous conversation. "So, yeah, I do like getting attention from Skylar," Bree continues. "I like her hugs. I like how she smells. I'm, like, constantly wanting to play with her hair, it's so pretty." She has a far-off, kind of dizzy look in her eyes. "Sometimes she curls up with me on the couch and it's like I never want her to leave. I… I don't know, I thought maybe all that was weird, but that's how you are with Janice, right? That's just how normal sisters are."
Tasha stares at her, her cup of tea sitting on the table forgotten for a moment. "Bree," she says, tucking a lock of hair behind one ear, "let me ask you something. Was any of this… is any of it kind of like how you felt about Owen? Or Ethan?"
Bree looks surprised but not alarmed. "Not really," she says. "Ha, I pretty much wanted them to give me attention and then go away. With Skylar, it's like I want to give her attention. And, yeah, I want her to give me attention too. And I just want to be close with her and share things and… bond. Get along." As she speaks, a faint pink flush lights up her cheeks, but she covers by taking a sip of her latte. "So? Boyfriends and friends are just… different."
"Uh-huh," Tasha says, and while, sure, she's being a little curious, she doesn't sound at all like Tasha Davenport, acclaimed reporter, doing an interview. She sounds like a mom. She sound like Tasha. "Honey, if I make a… kind of a 'maternal observation,' can you promise not to freak out on me?"
"If it's this new top, yeah, I know the cut's kind of low, but it's cute and I'm kind of trying to up my style now that I'm in the city-"
"No, no, it's not that," Tasha says. "I actually really like the shirt! But, um, do you think… that maybe it's possible you don't like boys?"
Bree laughs. "Of course I don't, they're the worst," she says. "I mean, sure, they're cute, but then they open their mouths and they're just one big headache. Plus, all the guys I'm into turn out to be evil or somethin'." She finishes off her eclair and becomes preoccupied with licking the frosting off her fingers. "You know, sometimes I wish I didn't even like boys."
Tasha toys with sugar packets to stall while she tries to figure out what to say. "Well, Bree, if you don't want to like boys… I mean, you don't have to," she says.
Bree blinks. "What do you mean?"
"I mean, like, maybe you act like you like boys because you were brought up thinking that's how all girls have to act," Tasha goes on. "But you don't have to keep acting. If you don't want to."
"What do you mean?"
"Maybe you like girls," Tasha points out, and Bree's face kind of clouds over. "Which, speaking as your stepmom and as your BFF, I'm totally cool with. A lot of my friends at the station are gay."
Bree shakes her head like she's trying to get water out of her ears. "Well, I'm not… I mean I can't be… Tasha, I'm already bionic." She looks up incredulously at Tasha, who doesn't get the problem. "I can't be both! I have enough trouble fitting in as it is, I'm the freak with the chip in my neck, and I mean sure it's better now that people know I'm a hero and stuff and I get to hang out with Skylar but, like, I still don't know what I'm doing social-wise or girl-wise and what am I supposed to do? Just come out, just be like, 'Oh, hey everyone, Bree's a lesbian,' it's like how far away from normal can I get? You know?"
Tasha blinks. "That was all… very, very fast, but I think I got the gist of it," she says, looking at Bree sympathetically. "Honey… and I mean this in the sweetest way possible… even if you were, say, a heterosexual non-bionic young woman… you, ah, you would not be normal."
Bree glares at her. "What are you talking about? I come off as a typical American teenager. I know! I had to practice!"
"You save your toenail clippings," Tasha points out. "You have loogie contests. You collect hideous baby dolls. That ain't normal."
Bree throws up her hands in frustration. "Fine! Whatever! I'll just be a weird, freaky bionic lesbian then, who cares!" She's pretty loud, and a few people around them glance over. "We're rehearsing a play."
Tasha laughs and says in a low voice just to Bree, "Yeah, it's called 'Daughter in Denial.'"
"Stop it," Bree mutters, but she's trying not to smile. "Is it… I mean, I don't know. I just… this is not the conversation I expected to have when we decided to meet for coffee."
"Me neither," Tasha agrees. "But then the way you were talking about Skylar… I just, I don't know, I thought it was obvious."
Bree looks surprised again. "Wait, Skylar? Look, I might be gay… I'm probably gay… but, what, like, me and Skylar? That's not… I mean… We don't… do you think I have a chance?"
Tasha laughs again. "Honey, I think any girl would be lucky to have you."
Bree returns her attention to her latte for a moment. And then- "So you knew about… how I am… before I knew," she says. "Does my dad know?"
"Which one?" Tasha says. "I mean, well, neither of them know. I think Adam figured it out a while ago."
"He's more perceptive than you all give him credit for," she says. "And, again, we could be wrong. Who you are and how you identify, that's completely up to you. I just, like I said, I made an observation."
"Yeah," Bree says, sipping her latte. "Thanks, by the way."
Bree shrugs. "I've been feeling so weird around Skylar," she admits. "I just thought I hated her. And then I thought, 'Well, that would suck, because we're roommates.'"
"See? I'm helping," Tasha says, and squeezes her hand. They chit-chat for a while after that, trading stories about Leo, Adam, and Chase. Bree tells her about Douglas' macaron obsession and Tasha tells her about Donald's paranoid attempts to baby-proof all of Mission Creek.
When they eventually part ways (Tasha's got an actual play she wants to see with a friend), Bree opts to walk home, letting the sounds and smells of the city settle over her. She thinks over her conversation with Tasha and she thinks about Skylar. She thinks about herself.
Back at the apartment, Bree foregoes crashing on the couch or heading for her room, deciding that her walk ended too soon and she still needs some fresh air. She heads for the balcony and stands by the railing, looking out over Centium City. Below, thousands of people walk and talk and shop, and probably aren't dealing with earth-shattering revelations like she is.
Or maybe they are. Everyone's got problems, everyone's got their own little world they're dealing with.
What would it be like? Just saying it? Just setting aside all the turmoil and anxiety and denial and admitting it?
Bree takes a deep breath, and then another, and then she calls out into the empty air, "I'm gay!"
Unfortunately, she has an audience. Kaz pops his head out of his bedroom window and looks down at her. "For real? Congratulations."
Bree shrieks and zips back toward the wall, just below Kaz's window and just barely out of his sight. "No one was supposed to hear that."
"Is that why you yelled it from the top of a building?"
"Shhh," she hisses, but the battle's already lost. Stupid. She was just trying to get something off her chest, and now everything's ruined. "Just forget about it, okay?" She refuses to even look at him, keeping her gaze out across the expanse of city skyline. "It doesn't matter. Just go away."
"Hey, it's not like I'm judging," he says, managing to sound quiet and comforting even when he's calling down from an open window. "Bree, I'm gay too."
That gets her to look up. "What? Really?"
"I'm from Philadelphia," he reminds her. "Our gay scene is second only to our superhero scene. I was president of Logan High's gay-straight alliance. Oliver was the vice president," he goes on with a characteristically goofy grin. "He was the straight. We were the only two people in the club."
"Wow," she says, her mind galloping to keep up. "Why didn't you say anything?"
Kaz shrugs. "You didn't ask," he says simply. "Just like no one asked about you and your kind of obvious, ah, lesbianic tendencies."
Bree snaps, "What? First Tasha, now you? Did everyone know but me?"
"Oh, Chase doesn't know," Kaz says. "How often do you get to say that? You, me and Tasha know something that Chase doesn't."
"And it's gonna stay that way," she says in a stern voice. "I don't even know if I'm sure about… whatever. How I feel. What I'm into."
Kaz holds up a magazine through the window. "Oh, well, if you want some help figuring it out, I found Chase's nudie magazines," he says. "You would not believe the stuff that's in here-"
"Oh my God, stop talking before you completely ruin my image of my baby brother," she says, glaring up at him like a very pissed off Prince Charming telling off Rapunzel. "Where did you find those? No, never mind, I don't want to know. And… what are you getting out of looking at those pictures if you're gay?"
"I dunno. They're funny," he says. "This chick's wearing an astronaut's helmet. But like. Just an astronaut's helmet. And look, get a load of her meteors."
"Oh, stop it," Bree complains, and Kaz cracks up before stashing the magazine back wherever it came from. "So, I don't know, maybe you know, what do I do now? Do I have to go to Philadelphia? How exactly do you go gay?"
Kaz laughs again. "Well, you have to file all your paperwork and send it in," he says. "And then in six to twelve business days they'll get back to you with your license to lez." Bree rolls her eyes and Kaz gets mildly more serious. "I've still got some links to some good websites for, like, finding yourself. I can text them to you."
"Absolutely," he says from his perch by the window. "Gay air five?"
Begrudgingly, Bree holds up her hand and obliges Kaz.
That night, Bree does something completely out-of-character: she stays up late doing research. Set up on the couch with a laptop and a bag of pretzels, Bree reads through list after list of advice for gay teens, everything from how to come out to your parents to how to dress at your first pride parade. There's an exhaustive wealth of knowledge on the internet, and for once she's actually taking advantage of it instead of just using the information superhighway to look at pictures of cute boys- who, she's realizing now, she didn't even like. They were just imaginary fantasies she could hang onto so she never had to think about what- or who- she really wanted.
She conks out on the couch eventually and Chase and Skylar carry her to her capsule so she can rest better. She cracks her eyes open as they're hauling her up the stairs and suddenly feels her stomach drop. Did they see her laptop? Do they know her newest, biggest secret?
Skylar's so beautiful and perfect and Bree's pretty sure that she feels for her in just the way (or even more intensely than) Oliver does. And if Skylar finds out Bree's gay, rejects her? Bree doesn't even want to think about it.
And Chase? Chase is her little brother. Bree knows he needs her and looks up to her, however much he might pretend otherwise. What would he think if he knew? Would he turn her out? Stop trusting her on missions?
She argues with herself that it's not even that big of a deal. If this is who she is, then everyone who cares about her is still going to care about her. It's fine. No one's going to be upset with her.
It's just, she thinks as she drifts to sleep safe in her capsule, what if they are?
Bree's perched on a barstool in the kitchen reading on her tablet when Oliver strolls in for an orange. As he's peeling it, the sharp citrus scent wafting through the air, Bree glances down at the article she's reading, and the first tip on coming out- tell someone unimportant first.
"Hey Oliver," she says brightly.
He tosses a chunk of orange peel in the trash and looks at her. "Good morning, Bree," he says. "How are you?"
Oliver chokes on the orange slice he just put in his mouth. He coughs, chews, and swallows roughly. "Uh, okay," he says, pasting on a chipper grin. "Good for you. Happy to hear it. I'm-"
"Oh no, you're freaking out."
"I'm not freaking out," he promises, but his eyes look a little too wide. He blinks. "Bree, that's a big deal. I'm your friend. I'm proud of you for, uh, accepting yourself."
Bree taps her leg anxiously. "Are you surprised?"
Oliver gives her a sheepish look. "Am I in trouble if I say no?"
"What do you mean?"
"Well… the boots," Oliver laughs. "Also, your closet is like 85 percent flannel."
Bree rolls her eyes but lets him finish his orange while she refocuses on her tablet. Well. Two down, two to go. It's not so hard.
It's just that, now that Oliver and Kaz know, she's only left with the two people it feels impossible to share this with.
So she stalls. She calls Leo and tells him over the phone.
"That's great, Bree," he tells her, sounding genuine and sweet like always. "In fact, there's a couple of kids at the academy who are learning about the world and coming to terms with, well, stuff. You know. Boy-boy, girl-girl stuff. Maybe you could swing by and be a mentor again for a weekend."
Bree grins. "That'd be great," she says, but she still feels like she's barely got a grasp on who she is and what she's into. Mentoring other kids about their sexuality when she barely understands her own? Maybe not the best idea just yet.
"Yeah, hang on," Leo says, and she can hear Adam yelling something in the background. "Yeah, it's Bree," Leo says, sounding like he's got his mouth a little away from the phone. "Yeah, she just called to say she's a lesbian now. Wait, no, like she was always a lesbian and now she knows. Yeah. Okay." Leo's voice gets clearer and louder again. "Adam says hi."
"Did you just tell him?"
"Oops, sorry, I thought that was okay."
Bree shrugs even though he can't see her. She doesn't mind Adam knowing, really, but now she can't stall in telling Chase anymore. "It's fine," she says. "Just don't say anything to Chase. I'm gonna tell him soon."
"Okay," Leo says. "Hey, wait, does this mean you can introduce me to Wanda Sykes?"
"Leo, not all gay women know each other," Bree laughs. "But Kaz and I have been lowkey stalking a woman we're pretty sure is Ellen who lives here in Centium City, so I'll keep you updated on that front."
She says goodbye and hangs up, ready to face the music. Ready to face her genius, judgy little brother. Bree takes the hyperlift down to Mission Command.
Chase stands at one of the desks, fidgeting with an array of metal spindly instruments. "Oh, hi," he says absently. "What's up?"
"Can I talk to you?"
"I don't know, can you?" he asks slyly, one eyebrow lifted. Bree scowls at him and Chase relents. "Yeah, of course," he says, stepping away from his work and grabbing a water bottle. "What's going on?" They sit down in the stools off to one side, Bree toying restlessly with her hands in her lap.
"You know how I met up with Tasha?"
"Well," Bree goes on, "she and I had some deep conversations and she kind of… noticed something about me. And now I've been noticing it too."
"Oh," Chase says slowly, a look of understanding dawning on his face. "Bree, listen, if you're really that self-conscious about your eyebrows, I know who Mr. Davenport goes to for waxing."
Bree glares at him. "What's wrong with my eyebrows?"
Chase blanches. "Uh, nothing," he says, his voice too high. "What did you want to tell me? What did Tasha notice?"
"Well, you know how some people gay?"
Chase laughs a little. "Yes, I'm familiar with the concept."
"Well, it's just… I think I might be one of those people."
"Uh-huh." He doesn't look particularly confused or upset. He just stares at her for a long moment the way he might look at an equation. "Are you happy?"
"Are you happy?" he says again.
She shrugs. "I'm kind of just anxious right now," she admits.
"Come here," Chase says suddenly, and he wraps her into a tight hug. It's not necessarily uncharacteristic, but it is rare. "You don't have anything to be anxious about, Bree. You're beautiful, you're smart… not as smart as me, but that's obvious… and I'm glad you can be honest with yourself."
"Thanks, Chase," she mumbles, hugging him back. "You're a good brother."
"You're a good lesbian," he jokes, and she punches him lightly on the shoulder. "Seriously, Bree, I'm happy if you're happy. And thank you for telling me. That must've been hard."
"Yeah, well, probably not as hard as telling you that I may have accidentally spilled orange juice on your tablet."
"What?" Chase tears toward the hyperlift and vanishes, leaving Bree alone in Mission Command with her thoughts and her fears. Now she just has Skylar to tell.
She waits until right before bedtime the following night, when Skylar's brushing her hair (a hundred strokes, like a princess) and Bree's stripping all the makeup off of her face. "Hey," she says, trying to sound nonchalant even though her hands are shaking. "Can I tell you something? It's kind of a big deal."
Skylar looks over at her. "Have you been wearing my shoes?"
"What? No," Bree says. "I don't even fit in those things. You have fourteen toes."
Skylar shrugs. "You say that like it's a bad thing." She goes back to brushing her hair. "What is it? What do you want to tell me?"
"Well," Bree says, and then chickens out for a second. But she gets her courage back before Skylar's done with the brush. "I, um, I like girls. In the gay way."
Whatever she was expecting from Skylar's reaction, this isn't it. Skylar tosses the brush aside and practically squeals with glee, running across the room to hug her. "Yes! This is so exciting. Oh, Bree, I'm so happy for you."
Bree stares. "You… are?"
"Of course," Skylar says, hugging Bree so tightly that her feet leave the floor. "On my planet, everyone likes every gender. But people on Earth are so weird about it. Actually, when I first met Kaz and Oliver I completely thought they were a couple. Kaz thought that was hilarious. Oliver did not."
"Wait, so you're not mad?"
"Mad?" she says, appalled. "I'm thrilled."
It's like a stone has been lifted from Bree's chest. "I thought you'd feel weird, since we're sharing a room and all…" And I'm infatuated with you.
"I don't feel weird about you," she says. "I'm an alien, remember? And I like girls too. I like everyone. Except postal service employees." She shudders. "I'm glad you told me, Bree."
"Yeah…" Bree trails off, looking at Skylar's beaming face. It's like everything in her life just clicked into place. It's not a confession of undying affection, but given the fact that Bree expected Skylar to throw her out, she couldn't be happier. "Thanks for… thanks for just being you."
"I'm always me," she grins. "Goodnight, Bree. Sleep tight. Don't let the capsule bugs bite." She laughs at her own joke.
Bree switches the light off and climbs into her capsule, letting the door slide shut as Skylar begins her nightly deafening snoring. For once, it sounds more comforting than annoying.
Even though everything changes, everything also stays the same. Bree sighs and lets her eyes slide shut. She can be who she is, and everything will be okay, and that's a fact. Outside their bedroom window, the lights of Centium City twinkle on into the darkness.