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April 13th, 11:30 AM

 

It was a crisp New Jersey morning, and Adam was dressed for the part. He didn't enjoy the cold much. He could handle it, but he wasn't fond of it at all. He imagined Lulu would be less so. However, he wanted to get out and stretch his legs a bit, especially since they were close to Spring break. He hadn't been able to get out much, recently. 

 

He wore a jacket, jeans and long-sleeved shirt, along with his wig and false eyebrows. Like usual, he covered his entire body. He hated his scars and didn't want to be gawked at. At his height, that was already hard to avoid. 

 

"Shall we explore the mall a bit, first? Our show isn't until 12:30." He asked, smiling

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Lulu enjoyed spending time with Adam; he's was just easier to hang out with than most of the boys she'd known. He didn't just want to talk about cars, hunting and sports; he talked about weird and interesting things, like science and religion. He didn't think she was stupid for not knowing things, and found her enthusiastic curiosity about everything charming. And they both loved games, from simple boardgames to tabletop roleplaying and the odd little games they made up on the spot.

 

Standing in front of the large illuminated map of the mall, she was of course wearing her beloved denim, with a light blue jacket over a pink hoodie. Her jeans were artfully distressed, and her pink Keds had little pictures of Betty and Veronica all over them. "Well ah have two go-tos when it comes to mall excursions: PINK and the Gap." She indicated both stores on the map. "And ah'll never say no to Claire's or Hot Topic, but those ah can give a pass if we're short on time."

 

Then she turned to her steady and looked a bit embarrased. "Ah'm sorry, that's all super-girly stuff. Where do you like to shop?" She turned back go the map. "Look, they got Eddie Bauer, American Eagle...ooh, they got a game store, Adam! We gotta be sure to hit that!" 

Edited by Heritage

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"We've got all day. We can hit a few more stores after the movie." Adam shrugged. Those  stores sounded fine, especially the game store. "More time with you is hardly a bad thing." He felt a lot more comfortable saying things like that than he ever had before. Lulu liked him for him, and that was enough. This wasn't just 'hanging out', it was a date. She was clever, certainly clever enough to keep his interest. Plus, she cared about what he had to say. He worried about talking over her, 'mansplaining' to her and generally being an idiot, but she seemed to like him.

 

He couldn't help it, he was grinning from ear to ear.

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"Well, how 'bout this. We go to the Gap first, 'cause they got boys' and girls', so we can both look 'round, then we go to the showso we got plenty of time to get snacks and good seats. And afterwards maybe we hit the game store and maybe PINK. How's that sound?"

 

Lulu reached over and took Adam's arm in both her hands, her hip bumping up against his thigh as they walked; it felt good being at his side.

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"Sounds like a plan. Most stores don't carry my sizes." He smiled at her as they walked into the mall. "I'd like to get some lunch too. I feel like I'm always hungry lately." He hoped he wasn't growing again. He was already very tall, any taller and it would be impossible to find clothes if he got much bigger. Then again, he could always pick up sewing or something.

 

He took a deep breath and sighed. He was actually pretty happy for once. He wasn't too worried about homework. He was ahead in all his classes, anyway. Best to enjoy the moment.

 

 

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"Oh, well, if you're hungry now, maybe we should grab a bite to eat first? Then we don't have to feel all rushed." Lulu had been planning to hold off on eating to leave room for snacks at the theater, but she forgot to take into account the ravenous hunger of the teenaged male; boys were always hungry. It was like background noise in the back of their heads. Well, that and the other thing. She knew it wasn't their fault; it was biology and chemistry. And it wasn't like girls didn't have their obsessions, too.

 

"Let's head to the food court and see what they have; ah could eat a horse!"

 

Despite this statement, which was really more designed to make Adam comfortable, Lulu didn't load up on too much food. She settled for a cheeseburger, fries and a Cherry Coke, gleefully dipping her fries in a large glob of ketchup on her tray once they found a seat.

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Adam got Chinese. A huge, heaping plate of it. He was a bit self-conscious, but he assumed Lulu understood. He could put away a lot of food, and generally needed to. It wasn't like he was overweight. 

 

"Glad we got something to eat, first. My parents hired a dietitian to keep my nutrient intake up. I can burn through more than three thousand calories without even doing anything. Now that I'm doing intensive training, I eat more than two or three grown men."

 

He winced, slightly. "Sorry, sorry. I'm used to very...frank discussions on my physiology and my psychology. Parents are doctors, so naturally I grew up knowing, well everything. That and they wanted me to know as much about me as I could. I think the term is TMI?"

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The telepath looked thoughtful as she idly waved a fry around. "Mm, ah think ah eat a bit more than a lot of girls mah age; they always say thinkin' and readin' burn calories, so it makes sense that doin' the super-powered versions of those gives you an appetite." She sighed deepy. "Ah do miss Southern cookin' up here, though; biscuits and gravy, real fried chicken and Alabama barbeque. Mm-mm! You'd love it down there!"

 

"Oh, it's fine," said Lulu as she wrinkled her nose and made a dismissive gesture when Adam apologized. "Mah family talked shop in front of me all the time. 'Course they was talkin' about scammin' lil' ol' ladies and such; different priorities and all." She rolled her eyes and shook her head. 

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"My family is more typical, I think that was on purpose. My parents are both doctors, and I think they said I have something called advanced neuroplasticity. It means my brain picks up information like I'm still a baby. That's why you've seen me read advanced text books. It's weird that I had to come to a school for kids with superpowers to feel normal."

 

Adam sighed and looked down at his Chinese. "Thank you. I know, I know, teenage boys are supposed to be insincere, but you've been amazing and I was never taught how to fake things."

 

He smiled shyly and went back to poking at his food with his chopsticks. "I really need to improve my manual dexterity. My hands are not likely to stop growing for a while." He mumbled to himself. 

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Lulu reached over and gripped Adam's hand with her smaller, softer one. "That's what ah love about you, Adam; you're truthful. Ah come from a family of liars, cheats and drunk good-fer-nothins. You grow up 'round that, you start thinkin' everybody else is just the same. Mah daddy always said, 'Everybody lies, Lulu; lyin's what makes the world go 'round.' And ah didn't want to believe 'im, but poison like that seeps into your bones." She smiled and gave his hand a tight squeeze, tears in her dark brown eyes. "Thanks for provin' mah daddy wrong."

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"I suppose." Adam coughed, slightly embarrassed, but happy. "Sincerity can be a relief when deception is the norm." He poked at his food. "People do indeed lie, a lot. That doesn't mean it's the right thing to do. Isn't that part of the point of superheroes? The world isn't perfect, we try to make it better. I suppose that's why I've decided I'm here." 

 

"This is pretty good. I've had better Chinese, but this soothes my craving." 

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Lulu paused for several seconds, looking at Adam; it was a surprisingly vulnerable look coming from her. Finally she spoke, more uncertain than usual.

 

"Adam, do you trust me? Because there's somethin' ah've wanted to try with you for some time, but ah've been afraid to ask." 

 

She leaned forward and lowered her voice.

 

"Ah'd like us...to share our thoughts. From what ah've read, it can help a telepath unlock more of their potential, but it has to be someone you trust completely. And ah...ah trust you."

Edited by Heritage

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Adam put his head down for a moment and took a deep breath.


"Are you going to be upset at the idle thoughts of a teenage boy? I'm different, yes, but not entirely so. I think some of the same things other boys do, including about girls. I'm pretty sure you've picked up on some of it around the school, but I don't want you to think that I'm some chaste paragon. I'm still, well, typical in some areas."

 

He was blushing, and trying to be circumspect, but at this point it was impossible. If he could see how he pictured her sometimes, and even some of their classmates, well, she might not want what she was asking. His parents had told him that such idle thoughts were more or less normal, and as long as he didn't try to act on them it was okay. However, he didn't want to scare Lulu away.

 

"Other than that, it sounds fascinating, frankly. I've never experienced anything like that, and I'm curious what I could pick up from you and how it would feel." He didn't want to admit that he was afraid of what she would think of him, and how different their thoughts of each other might be. 

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Lulu sighed and shook her head at boyfriend's innocence. She reached over and picked up his hand with both hers, raised it to her lips and kissed it, then looked him dead in the eye, a sad smile on her lips. "Adam, ah have been a telepath since ah was ten years old. Ah was raised in a family of liars and cheats in a small town full of, pardon mah French, dumbf###s. And to me, that town was like the greatest reality show of all time, a telepathic soap opera just for me. Ah have been in the heads of so many perverts, rapists and drunks, it would blow your mind. So don't you worry 'bout offendin' my delicate sensibilities none, you hear me?"

 

Still holding his hand in hers, she closed her eyes and took a deep breath, the sounds of the food court becoming muted and distant. Suddenly Lulu's oddly unaccented mental voice filled his head.

 

-Close your eyes, and concentrate on my breathing. Match your breath to mine. As I breathe in, feel the air fill your lungs. And breathe in...and out. And breathe in...and out.-

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Adam followed her instructions to the best of his ability. He had obviously never done this before, either. He was letting her into his mind. He knew that she had glimpsed into minds far worse than his. He knew there was a chance he couldn't trust her, but his curiosity overrode his concerns. Telepathic contact was fascinating, he reasoned. Definitely interesting. 

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The first thing Adam heard was water, the gentle lapping of a lazy river. Then crickets and cicadas and frogs. Then he felt the thick damp heat, and smelled a heady mix of green things, mud and flowers, so many flowers! Sunlight danced behind his eyelids, reflected off the water. Yet he had no body beyond his senses, no weight, no mass.

 

Then he felt the undeniable presence of Lulu beside him, could smell the shampoo in her hair, the soap on her skin, a hint of her perfume. The rustle of her denim, and her voice in his ear, just to his left. He had no eyes to open, but her presence was still very real and very comforting.

 

"This is where ah come to relax. When the day's too hard, or ah'm feeling scared. A place where ah feel safe."

 

And then Lulu embraced him, not with her body, but with her self, as though her spirit were a giant glove that gently wrapped around him, immensely powerful yet so soft. Maybe this is what a tiger cub felt like, nuzzled up against its vast and loving mother.

 

"Ah love you so much," she whispered into his ear. "So, so much."

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"I..." Adam stumbled, slightly. "I love you too." He understood, perhaps for the first time, where their gifts diverged. He could withstand bullets, ignore fire, and tear concrete like it was cardboard. Lulu's power was different. Her subtlety, her quietness, her friendliness all belied a strength different from, yet no less profound than his own.

 

He meant what he said, too. Some part of his mind recognized that, perhaps, the two of them were simply two kids in over their heads, but at the moment it felt entirely real. She was a better person than her history had given her a chance to be. He wanted to keep her safe, wanted to protect her, and wanted to understand her.

 

He no longer felt ashamed of what he looked like, not around Lulu. 

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"Ah've always known what you look like, Adam," he felt rather than heard her say. "You worry about it so much, it's like your mind is always shoutin' it from the rooftops. But you've always been beautiful to me."

 

There was a strange shimmering in the void, a vague outline of someone rippling like water; flashes of red hair and fair skin told him it was Lulu, and when he heard the voice in his ear, the form rippled in time with her words.

 

"Yours is the deepest beauty, inside and out. The beauty of goodness and heart." There was a deep sigh, and the image fluttered. "We fit. And it might not be forever; it might just be young hearts doin' what young hearts do. But in this moment, in this life, we have each other." The image flickered like a cloud of butterflies, and somehow Adam knew she was smiling. "And that's pretty f###in' cool..."

 

There was a mild tearing sensation, then the muffled sounds of the mall began to reach them, like swimming back to the surface. And then they were back, disoriented to return to the physical world, the cacophonous food court all around them. "Oof!" Lulu shook her head, then dabbed her eyes with a napkin before looking at her phone. "Oh my Lord." 

 

She turned the phone to face him with a smirk; no time had past. All of the shared experinces of their minds had taken less than a minute.

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As soon as they faded back into the real world, Adam reached for her. He took her up in his arms and lifted her into the air, effortlessly. He had long ago learned to master his strength, so he was as gentle as a lamb no matter how strong he was.

 

"Agreed. It's incredibly damn cool." He hugged her to him and kissed her lips, then her forehead. It took him several moments to remember to put her down. He was delighted to realize that there was no awkwardness between them, nothing to stop him from being honest and sincere with her. No reason to pretend he was any less interested or into her as he was. It was refreshing, and far simpler than his parents had convinced him that romance would be.

 

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Lulu yelped and giggled, and kissed him back; the old people sitting nearby smiled at the usual signs of young love. 

 

There was a movie. They saw it. But mostly they stole glances at each other, sent silly mental messages back and forth, and ate lots of popcorn. Lulu had Red Vines and a cherry Icee, and could care less about the plot. The man with the mustache seemed angry. There was revenge. A car blew up from five different angles. Adam loved her, and she loved Adam.

 

She didn't feel the need to shop anymore.

 

On the bus ride back to Claremont, they sat side by side, fingers entwined, with Lulu's head on his shoulder.

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Adam felt as light as Lulu. He had paid little attention to the movie, but that was fine with him. He had popcorn and some M&Ms. Mostly, though, he was happy. He had a girlfriend! A pretty girlfriend! A really nice, pretty girlfriend. That was a good thing, a very good thing. On the bus, he could barely stop himself from plucking her up and sitting her in his lap. He knew that would have been too much for the people on the bus.

 

As they got off the bus and got ready to walk back to the school, he gently tugged on her arm, then tugged her closer to him. This was it. He knew she wanted it, too, he knew she was hoping for it. 

 

He pulled her close to him, and his lips met hers. They held each other in that embrace for a long time, and not long enough. He was smiling a foolish smile, and felt a kind of happiness he had never felt before.

 

"Didn't want to do it in sight of the school. Wanted to make sure we had some time to ourselves to do it."

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"Works for me!" 

 

It was the best kiss Lulu ever had, because it meant something. Adam had trusted her enough to let her in, and now everything was different. And better. They could be honest with each other, and unafraid, which was so rare for a high school romance. Who knew how long it would last? But while it did, it would be special, and entirely their own.

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