Taylor was having another bad day. Emma, Sophia and Madison had all felt that things had 'cooled down' enough to start back up after her return to school. A broken pen that landed on her book to pour ink all over her history reading and notes. Then the cranberry juice in the restroom during lunch. And to top it off, Sophia had managed to sneak up behind her in the side stairwell and knock her down the last five steps. And she just laughed and got high-fived by her friends as she lay on the ground in pain while other students just ignored her or stepped around her.
Her wrist hurt and she was limping from her ankle turning badly as she tried to catch herself. The weather in Brockton Bay was decidedly cold and wet, with a cold drizzle coming down from the leaden sky. She was thinking about some of the things she had been learning about her new powers. They were still pretty icky and not exactly her first choice. Most of the bugs around right now were not very active either.
Taylor stopped at an intersection and almost turned onto her normal path home, but decided to turn to pass near a couple of empty fields. She wanted to pick up some more spiders to play with weaving with spider silk. Her slow pace made her almost regret the detour as she kept her hands jammed in her heavy jacket to try and ward off the cold.
"Come on, Amy. You need something to warm you up," a teenager was saying to the girl next to her as they both stepped out of nicer sedan. "Then we can visit that book store you mentioned."
"I suppose some caffeine now might help keep me awake. Vickie, I've just got so much jet lag from barely getting back from Australia," the darker haired Amy replied.
Something about them seemed ever so slightly odd to Taylor. Their clothing was nice, if not overtly expensive. They were both wearing coats with their hair pulled back in a way that wasn't the most flattering. But it was the large glasses that usually made kids their age think 'dork'.
Her distraction cost her as a burly guy in shabby work clothes exited the coffee shop she was in front of and bumped her. Normally, it would have not done anything at all, but her bad ankle twinged on a crack in Brockton Bay' always poorly maintained sidewalks. Down she went again, hitting her knee into a puddle and the hard cement under it.
"Sorry, miss," the man said, but didn't slow down as he had to take off at a jog as he spotted a bus headed around the corner. "Fuck! My bus!"
"Jerk!" Amy called out. "Are you alright?"
"Come on," Vickie said as she flipped up the hood of her jacket.
"This won't take long. I think she's a little banged up. You know, being out in the cold on a turned ankle isn't doing you any favors. Come on, you can warm up for a minute in the Cally Coffee Shack here." The younger girl just started to pull Taylor to her feet and then pulled her into the warm and scented interior of the little java shop.
"Oh, geeze. Fine, if you are going to do a charity case I'm going to get myself some carrot cake," Vickie said with a wrinkled nose.
"That's my choice." Amy set her at a round table in the corner away from the entrance.
"You don't have to do this. I'll be fine," Taylor said, her stubbornness and pride vying for the relief from her pain.
"You'll feel better, I promise. I'm Amy. You know, some coffee or hot cocoa might be just what you need." She shed her coat and set it on the chair next to the other girl.
"Um, I'm Taylor. I have some money for hot chocolate, I guess." Her dad had given it to her yesterday, even with money being a bit tight.
"Don't worry, Taylor." Amy headed up to the cashier to get their drinks. Amy's friend seemed to be engrossed in talking to the young server. Amy actually had to be rude for a moment to get him to ring her up. As she came back, she shook her head. "I think he's the reason we ended up here. My sister seems to have found another boy to wrap around her pinkie."
"Boy crazy, I take it?" Taylor was a bit timid, but this was kind of fun.
"To say the least. It's her way of coping, I guess." Amy set her coffee down and then placed the hot chocolate down and 'accidentally' brushed her hand against Taylor's clammy wrist.
So the jerk of her hand away and hunch of Taylor's shoulder was a surprise.
"Nothing to be sorry about." Amy's eyes were studying her closely. "You aren't being abused at home, are you?" That was more bruises than she had been expecting to find.
"No! My dad wouldn't ever do that. I mean ever. He might have a temper, but he would never strike me in anger." Taylor was starting to breath faster. She needed to take control and not show how thin her veneer of control really was.
"Oh." Amy thought over that. She could just heal her a little bit, but this Taylor looked like she could use a friend. She normally didn't like to use her fame, but it did have its uses. "So, from the bruises, I take it you are being bullied at school?"
Taylors eyes were blinking rapidly. "How- What are you talking about?" Her shoulder had suddenly tensed right back up.
The other girl took off her 'celebrity shades'. "Well, my power told me you have a lot of small bruises to go with your turned ankle. And, well, you flinched."
"You're Panacea?" Taylor blurted out in a quiet panic.
Amy's face showed her discomfort with that. "Guilty. You know, I can fix that right up, but I think you need someone to talk to." She started to pat around in her pocket, then pulled out a business card. "I need to get a couple more of these. This is a helpline for people in trouble. And if you really need someone to talk to, you can email this address." She scribbled an email on the back. It was one that was monitored by a fairly advanced security service.
Taylor picked up the card like it was a figurine made of fragile, expensive blown glass. "Um, thanks." Oh. She felt so stupid. Panacea must have helped heal people after that Endbringer attack in Australia about a week ago.
A soft touch on her hand as almost all of her pains were washed away. Then Amy took a long sip of her hot coffee, relishing the taste of the expensive, imported beans. "Well, I need to get going. Mom gets a bit upset if we don't get home on time, even if we do call."
"It was... really nice to meet you, Amy." Taylor smiled at that, hating that it felt so hollow and fake. But it also felt more real than any smile she had made in weeks.
Taylor finished patting her hair dry as she stepped into her bedroom and started to change. It was her one feminine vanity and she was not going to lose it either. Of course, today had been a pretty bad day. She had been using that suicide help line (though it wasn't called that). It was surprising how just having someone, even someone paid or a part time volunteer, just listen and try to give encouragement had made a difference.
Sophia and Emma seemed surprised at her backbone. She didn't strike back, but she also not backed all the way down.
Still, school was still big time sucking. Teachers ignored the problem because Emma's father was a big name lawyer and she was a budding model. And then Sophia was the resident track star. Their last friend, Madison, was the too cute girl that looked ever so innocent. Taylor yawned, wishing she had slept better last night, but she had stayed up late last night redoing some homework that the girls had trashed. She would have to try and hand it in early tomorrow.
The teen was out of the house shortly afterwards and hopping a bus to the library in the light drizzle. It turned to sunshine as she was getting off, making everything look just washed.
Taylor had a couple of books on insects and invertebrates to return. Then she stood in line to get a computer for a bit. One homework English assignment was sent to the teacher and then she checked her free email account. Mostly spam, but she actually had a response from Amy.
They had been emailing back and forth for about three weeks. Amy had actually been surprised to find out Taylor liked insects. Though she had to be quite up front that she was not into hurting them or anything. Taylor had found out that Amy was into reading, as she wasn't very athletic. Fantasy, science fiction, romances. More romances than the other, actually.
Well, it shouldn't hurt to slip in a few questions.
Subject: Thanks for answering.
I had to call that help line again yesterday. The lady at Get Help Line said that I should talk to people that can relate and that I can trust. Which isn't a lot of people. Dad tries, but he's working a lot of the time.
So now I'm not stuck in a downward spiral quite as bad, even with the terrible trio at school. And I've been reading up on insects. They are a lot more interesting than you would think. Spider silk looks like it would make a really strong cloth, almost like armor.
I've started to try to run a bit further every day. I thought I was in okay shape before, but I'm a quivering wreck after just two miles
So did you have to go through some training on how to use your powers? Or help in figuring out what you can all do? Is there like a special group in the PRT that helps new capes?
I'm being silly, you probably had your family and they know people.
What are you reading today? I bet its another Harlequin.
It looked okay to her, so she sent it off. And logging off her accounts so she could go check out another book or two. There was a really in depth book on spider she wanted to try and read.
Maybe she should get a soda on the way home. Some caffeine might help perk her up for supper in... half an hour? Her dad was going to be upset again. And start treating her like she was made of glass. She had her new book that she would only read at home and was running for the bus.
Amy had finished her homework already. Just another day at Arcadia High. She turned her writing program off and did a last check of emails on her notebook before bed. Almost nothing except for a request to help a local cape that had gotten scrapped up. If she did not, he would be off duty for a week, but it was not really serious.
But since they asked and it was not critical, she turned it down flat. Maybe if he lived with his pain for a week he wouldn't go and get himself hurt again as quickly.
Her semi-public New Wave email showed a few messages. She smiled at the thank you she got from the little girl she helped with her Leukemia. Patty was going to go back to school on Monday.
A short email from Taylor from the library again. (That had sort of shown that Taylor didn't use a computer at home. Or didn't have one at home.)
That got her eyebrows raised. A little more disjointed than normal. Must have been tired.
Amy started to type in her response, even putting in the name of her current romance novel. Then she stopped as she reread part of Taylor's questions.
Why was Taylor asking about how she learned to use her powers? Or who she talked to about using them? Most people were far more interested what she could use her power for. From saving lives to cosmetic surgery to just removing some pain. Not how she had figured out how to use them after triggering.
It nagged her, so she saved the email without sending it.
The epiphany hit her as she was drifting off to sleep fifteen minutes later. Normal people would not be interested how she learned to use them. They'd be focused on her healing itself.
A cape that had just triggered though would be interested. And her interest in insects, it wasn't how they were neat (in a totally gross way) but that they did neat things. Like spin silk. Or how far they can fly or jump. How fast they were.
Like how you would use them. If you happened to be able to use them. Or control them.