I’ll be blunt– class the next morning sucked. After Predator left that morning, I’d only managed to catch a few hours worth of sleep, then I had an entire day’s worth of classes. I had expected to be a little tired from hanging out in the para bar the night before, but I hadn’t expected to be kept up into the small hours of the morning.
When I got back home, I pretty much collapsed into bed. I’m not sure how long I slept, but I woke up to knocking on my door.
“Hey, Aiyana, I made food.”
My brother’s voice, casual but tinged with concern. I groaned but rolled out of bed. Franz would leave me alone if I asked, but the more I blew him off, the more worried he’d get.
“I’ll be down in a second,” I called, pulling my shirt over my head and throwing it onto my bed. “I’m gonna grab a shower.”
He said something that got muffled by the door as I walked into our shared bathroom, and I locked the door that led to his room before turning on the shower.
Our apartment layout was weird, to say the least. The whole thing had been built by some lottery winner however long ago, who’d had each individual apartment designed according to the people who were going to live there. He’d housed friends, former coworkers, family members- whoever was down on their luck in his life got their own apartment, with only token rent.
When he’d died, his son hadn’t been half so generous, and started demanding rent more on par with what this part of the city charged. A lot of them moved out at that point, and he opened the building up to people outside his dad’s original tenants. The rent was a little higher than the other places in the area, but the building was sturdy even with the weird layout, and the neighborhood was safe.
To get back to what I was saying in the first place, our three-bedroom also had three bathrooms: one shared one between my room and Franz’s, the private one just off of the office, and the main bathroom. It also had the kitchen slightly elevated from the dining room, and the living room was crammed in off to the side like an afterthought; it was practically part of the hallway that led from the front door to the bedrooms and kitchen. I had no idea who had lived here before we did, but they’d made some really, really strange requests of the architect.
Not long after my brother knocked, I wandered out into the dining room, barefoot and patting my hair dry with a towel. Franz puttered around in the kitchen, washing dishes and wiping down the counters. I’d feel bad about not helping him clean up, but the plain fact was that despite everything he made being delicious, Franz somehow managed to utterly wreck the kitchen every time he cooked.
“What’d you make?” I asked, draping the towel around my shoulders so my hair wouldn’t drip onto the floor. It smelled like breakfast, but I’d learned long ago that another quirk of the building was that I could always smell whatever our downstairs neighbor had been cooking.
Franz grinned crookedly. “Tested out a tamale recipe I got from Kara.”
I rolled my eyes, taking a seat at the kitchen table. Franz and our down-hall neighbor had been flirting around some kind of relationship for years, with no results beyond her occasionally being here at all hours and him sending them leftovers when he knew it was something she’d like.
He brought down two plates, then plopped down next to me, digging in immediately. I followed his lead, moaning the second the food hit my tongue.
“God, this is good,” I managed around a mouthful of tamale. It was spicy without being gut-burning, and the chicken fell apart in my mouth.
We made it through the meal in comfortable silence, and I collected Franz’s plate along with my own. He leaned on the counter as I started to scrub at our plates, and I could feel a ‘brotherly talk’ coming.
“So, what’s her name?”
I fumbled the plate, very nearly letting it slip out of my soapy hands and onto the other one. “What?”
“Well,” Franz drew out the word, and I could hear the smirk in his voice. “The shoes were too small to be a guy, and there was definitely someone in there with you last night.”
I dropped my head. “Franz,” I groaned, “please tell me you couldn’t-“
“That girl was into some weird role-playing, little sis,” Franz went on, barely containing laughter, “I mean, who wants to be called ‘predator’ in bed?”
Dropping all pretense of doing the dishes, I reached for the kitchen rag, wiping my hands dry. “It’s… complicated.”
He frowned, crossing his arms over his broad chest. “I figured, since I still don’t know her name. You don’t usually just fall into bed with someone without introducing me to them, lady or not.”
I grimaced, leaning back against the sink and crossing my arms over my chest. Neither of us had to say that if it’d been a guy I’d brought home last night, I’d have introduced him to our parents way before he’d gotten my clothes off.
“I’ve had one-night stands.” I protested, a weak attempt to throw Franz off the trail.
Franz snorted. “As far as I know, it was just the one, and you felt like shit afterward.”
I looked away, studying the many pots and pans hanging above the center counter of the kitchen. He had me dead to rights and we both knew it. I could care less what other people got up to, but sex outside of a relationship wasn’t really my thing. I’d make out with anything with two legs while drunk and single, but my pants stayed on and so did theirs.
“So, what kind of complicated?” He pressed.
What I’d meant to say was, “I don’t want to talk about it, and I don’t think she’ll be coming around again”, which was true, even if it wasn’t the whole truth. I knew Franz would drop it if I asked, and since Predator didn’t really seem like the relationship type, I was pretty sure they wouldn’t meet.
What I ended up saying was:
“I can teleport.”
I looked back at my brother just in time to see his skeptical look. “If you didn’t want to talk about it, Ai, you could have just said that.”
I shook my head slowly, then started walking toward the bathroom. “C’mon,” I told him, “you’re not gonna believe this shit.”
He did, eventually, believe me. It took a few times of me teleporting to the other side of the bathroom stall, but he took it in stride after he realized he wasn’t dreaming and I wasn’t screwing with him somehow.
“So, you met this girl through some parahuman website because she was stalking you, went off with her alone after some fire guy you’d never met vouched for her, and then brought her home,” Franz said slowly, after I’d told him everything. I winced. Put like that, it sounded a lot worse than it was. “And you still don’t know her real name, how she found you, or anything about her other than she’s a PI with a creeper Name.”
I didn’t answer. I wanted to protest, to say that it wasn’t really like that, but the more I thought about it, the more it was exactly like that.
“That’s… uncomfortably accurate,” I agreed at last, cradling my head in my hands. Franz wrapped an arm around my shoulders, and I leaned into him.
Eventually, he changed the subject to his work, and I teased him about the massive crush one of his clients had on him. Predator and the parahuman stuff still lurked underneath the surface, but it could wait until another day.