Bethany cycled to and from school every day, a route took her past Gotham U, and that was how she started seeing the same crowd of college students every day. It was pure coincidence that caused her to have to stop and puff on her inhaler just as she was passing one particular student one afternoon. Her book bag sprawled on the sidewalk and it was this that caused the older girl to stop.
“Need a hand with that bag?” It was possible the question wouldn't have occurred to her had the bag not been in her way. Still, Bethany jumped on the offer of kindness and they walked on together.
It happened again a week later.
By the end of the month, Bethany was using her as a target – no matter how tired she got, she wouldn't get off her bike until she drew level, then she'd get off and they'd walk and talk.
Her name was Zoe. She had dark hair and hazel eyes. She was pre-law at GU and a Freshman. She didn't play any sports but she was involved in the Gotham branch of the ACLU. She was originally from Star City but had also lived in Central City and Metropolis. She didn't offer much further information about herself but listened to Bethany with an open ear. At first Bethany thought she was stand-offish or that Bethany herself was being annoying and presumptuous, but Zoe was always there and always stopped when she heard her bike approaching, waiting for the High Schooler to catch up.
Bethany decided they must be friends.
Helena was two years younger than Bethany, but their Moms were friends and they'd been friends since pre-school. Any element of cool at being best friends with someone older than her had worn off, and now they simply were friends. Bethany was over enthusiastic sometimes, and there were some things that Helena would never dream of talking to her about, but she was exuberant and sweet and never had a bad word to say about anyone and that's why Helena liked to hang around her.
Sure there were feelings of guilt about what Bethany would think or say if she ever found out about Helena's blossoming hobby. (She couldn't help it! It was so much fun, and the thrill of being caught was intoxicating.), but in many ways her best friend represented what Helena would like to be, were she a better person.
They had their arguments, of course, but Helena decided that's what meant they would be friends forever, the fact that they always became best friends again the day later. That never happened when she fought with her other girlfriends, who when they fell out, they fell out forever. Bethany was reliable, and Helena liked that.
Sophomore year brought a change in schools, as Tom's Dad was transferred to the Gotham branch, so all three of them pulled up their roots and moved to the big city, just in time for the beginning of the school year. He'd moved schools before, and was tired of the whole thing.
Until he saw her.
Tom had read all the books. He'd had the Talk (Dad took it, then Appa took him aside later to tell him again). It had so far been a bit of an anticlimax: the hair came in casually, his voice transitioned relatively smoothly and the whole acne thing had been hyped way out of proportion. He knew he was lucky, but the whole puberty thing wasn't as bad as everyone made it out to be.
Until he saw her.
Before that, in fact – the door opened to admit one last strangler into class and he was hit by it before he even turned to see, before he knew who it was who had come in. He didn't know where it came from, but he felt like he'd been slapped.
She was petite and graceful, and moved from the door to her seat without apparently making a sound until her books hit the desk. Then she sat down and Tom composed all sorts of bad poetry in his head. He even wondered if there was a rhyme for 'fluidity'.
He tried not to stare all through algebra, and in doing so didn't look at her at all. He couldn't figure out how to cope with this.
At the end of the class, though, she almost walked directly into him and he caught sight of the name on her notebook.
Zoe was meeting her science requirement with Chemistry 101. It was OK. It wasn't much to write home about, but at least she could; her Mom had worried there might be explosives but nothing that exciting.
Still, there were other things more interesting than the course content, and after class one day she took it upon herself to satisfy that curiosity.
The object of her address looked up from his bag, surprised. “Hey.” Why are you talking to me? He seemed to want to say, and she wondered whether it was best to play with small talk before just asking what she wanted to know.
She decided not.
“So,” she said instead, “you're not a college student.”
“No,” he said, letting go of a breath as if in relief she didn't ask something else. “I'm in High School. But they said I could audit some college classes for extra credit. Chem's kind of my thing.”
“Yeah, my thing,” he said, smiling a little in pride. “you know, that thing everyone has that they're really good at. The thing above everything else. Don't you have a thing?”
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