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Fish Out Of Water (IC)

Curious Key

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November 17, 2012

10:00 AM

Claremont Academy

The Claremont indoor pool was damn nice, but it couldn't escape the fact that it was an indoor pool. The undercurrent scent of trapped chlorine wafted through the air along with an echoy din of grunts and slashes and indistinct voices. Some were simply swimming in the open area, bobbing up and down, laughing and talking. A good dozen other students were already taking laps, sometimes with breast strokes, front strokes, crawls and fins or hydromancy that Kat wasn't sure how to classify. No matter what, they seemed to know what they were doing there.

Creeping out the locker room in her swimsuit, Kat envied them. She rubbed at both her arms above the elbow and winced at the odd feeling of damp tile beneath bare feet. She felt like an intruder, which was ridiculous, this was open to all students. But the feeling wouldn't go away.

After entirely too much standing and gawking she decided if she was gonna gawk, she might as well pretend business while she did it. Taking slow steps across the pool, Kat bit down on the side of her lip and examined each open swimming lane left as though something she saw might make her prefer one to the other. They all looked the same, but there was a knot of something in her stomach and she wasn't really ready to jump in yet.

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The air nearby was suddenly filled with an echoing thud as the door to the boys' locker room swung open, responded to by a much duller one as it closed. With the damp slaps of bare feet on the wet floor, the muscular and curly-haired form of Subito sauntered into the pool room, humming cheerfully to himself as he checked the pair of bright blue goggles around his neck. The Puerto Rican teen had never swum more in the last eight years than he could at Claremont, and he made sure to visit the damp room at least once a day, enjoying the feeling of rushing through the water, his latent powers letting him stay under the surface as long as he liked, listening to the sounds of laughter, beating hearts and the thrum of energies that surged around him, especially when the hydrokinetics had their turns.

He glanced around the room as he walked with loose strides over to the lanes, waving at a familiar Hawaiian boy bobbing in one of the other pools as he passed, Rick Kahuna regaling some of the other students about an incredible battle between one of Richard Kahuna's forebears and a living volcano. Tossing his towel onto a nearby and unoccupied chair next to the pool, he began a languid series of stretches before he very suddenly noticed Kat. Blinking in surprise he stepped over to her, offering her a powerful hand, smiling warmly as he said "Hola! Sorry, didn't see you there. My names Subito, what's yours?" he asked, pumping her hand vigorously as he glanced at the pool itself, asking casually "Hey, you need more'n one lane? I can stick to the edge of the pool if you need." he said with another, somehow even warmer smile.

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Only the sound of Subito's footsteps warned Kat of him early enough to keep her from jumping when the boy come up to her. When the big, friendly kid held out a hand Kat swallowed her uneasiness and let it sit in her belly while her mouth formed a sly smile. She shook his hand, sending all the strength in it right back as she looked up at him. This kid looked comfortable. "No big, I'm easy to miss." She said, making a dismissive gesture along her body. "Name's Kat."

She was about to answer with snark when she glanced sideways to the hydromancers, realizing it might have been an actual question. "No worries, I only need one." As if to prove it, Kat walked to the edge and made the jump in, feet first. She fell straight to the bottom—deeper than she was tall, her lizard brain whispered, trying to wake an old, genetic terror—before she shot back to the water's surface and grabbed hold of the edge, grinning up at Subito. See? I'm fine.

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Laughing heartily at the girl's neat movement, Subito stepped up to the edge of the lane next to hers and dropped into the water with a tremendous splash, his feet scraping the floor of the pool as he glanced casually about, checking for anything left on the bottom before kicking back up to the surface and treading water with slow, graceful moves of his arms and legs. "Pleased to meet you, Kat! I ain't seen you around the school before, you a new student?" he asked with a wry grin as he pushed his streaming hair out of his face "Or have I just been walkin' past you for a year and never noticed you?" he glanced down the lanes, sliding the goggles up onto his forehead as he did so, wincing as he accidentally caught one strap under his ear. "You've got a strong grip, by the way Kat," he added with an admiring look "That part of your powers? I've met a lot of girls around campus with just crazy strength."

He leaned against the edge of the pool, sketching out what he wanted to work on that day.

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She thought on that for a moment. "New's probably the best way to put it. I've been here since summer started, but most of the summer students probably didn't see me either." Kat shrugged, dismissing it. She'd slept in a room full of nullifiers to keep her from waking up in another dumpster or accidentally atomizing her mattress. She wasn't exactly eager to let Subito know that she'd spent all her time learning to keep from wetting the metaphorical superbed.

She pushed off the edge and tried to work out how to properly tread. It was like riding a bike; her body remembered what was needed even when her mind did not.

At mention of Kat's grip her smile widened almost to the point of laughter. "You noticed?" She lifted an arm out of the water and flexed. It didn't look half as strong as her hands had felt. "That's might be a piece of it. I think Da' was relieved there was a reason his little princess could carry more than him." She rolled her eyes, but there was affection in her tone.

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'Huh. Maybe she's been having a lot of classes and just not gotten out much.' Subito thought, giving the lean girl an encouraging nod as she adjusted to the water before he donned his goggles, and with a twirl slid onto his back to begin a smooth, powerful backstroke. Something about her manner reminded him of his sister.

"I know what you mean, Kat!" he called back as he was propelled away from her "For a while my own powers let me lift whole cars without even calling all of it. It was handy but a bit annoying for the guys at the auto shop." he commented idly, looking up at the ceiling as his arms dipped and pushed through the pool. Thinking aloud he went on "My parents weren't too concerned about it, they were just happy the gift was useful around the house and at work, and wasn't 'make stuff I touch explode'. My sis-gah!" he had forgotten to pay attention to where he was going and winced as his hand harshly skimmed the rope dividing up the lanes, shaking it under the water and checking it briefly before shrugging and returning to his swim. "Ow. Sorry, anyway my sister Galanta thinks I oughta find a way to shoot lasers from my eyes. Any of your siblings get powers too Kat?" he asked with sudden excitement, sitting up in the water and removing his goggles with a shake of his soaked hair as he reached the other end, resting for a few seconds before getting back to the swim.

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The first lap, Kat tried her hand at a clumsy breaststroke and kept her eyes focused in front of her, afraid to talk back to Subito and let water down her gullet. She didn't feel safe answering him until she reached the other end. A worm of envy wriggled under her skin; he sounded so . . . adjusted.

Kat stared at the boy for a few seconds, his sudden excitement making her toes curl, nervous that her answers would disappoint. "Nah," she said at last. "My little brother's as vanilla human as they come." Whatever she said, they didn't actually talk about her powers much. She tried to steer the heading of the conversation away from family.

"Well, have you?" She asked, grabbing hold of the buoy between lanes and pulling closer, eyebrows drawing together, voice pitching down in severity too theatrical to be real. "Eye beams are so in."

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Subito looked slightly crestfallen, but only for a moment. "Oh, okay. I s'pose it's not exactly logical they would because you do...anyway, eye beams?" he asked aloud, frowning as he visibly thought the question over, watching the ebb of water and at last admitting "...Nah, I can't." Hoisting himself up by his arms and sitting up on the edge he turned to her fully, he pulled off the goggles as he explained "Y'see, my powers when I transform don't have much to do with giving me more powers, just upgrades of existing ones. Like, my hearing and strength are way, uh, stronger than they were before, and I guess flying breaks that, a bit" he commented with a dubious look, his eyes wandering back to Rick in the main pool "but stuff like shooting beams out of my eyes is something my patroness has flat-out said she won't even consider giving me. Ever." he said gravely.

Glancing over at her, the dripping boy realizing belatedly that he had been wandering, he added quickly "Uh, I get my powers from this spirit woman called 'The Blue Dame', she's apparently the spirit of Puerto Rico. She talks to me in my head." he looked away "Er, yeah, it sounds crazy to me too."

After a beat he dropped back into the water, adding excitedly "Oh yeah! And I can't drown now either! Check it out!" he said with a cheerful grin, sinking down to the bottom of the pool, opening his mouth and breathing out in a stream of bubbles...and breathing back in. On the bottom, he winced at the taste of the chlorinated water, shooting back up to the surface and coughing heavily, gasping out weakly "*hrach, kak!* Okay, yeah that was a bad idea." he choked, looking deeply embarrassed at Kat, scraping at his tongue to get the taste of the pool water off of it. Resisting the urge to spit, the muscular teen rubbed his face and fiddled his goggles back into position. "You want any help with swimming, Kat?" he asked, smiling cheerfully "That's somethin' I do know how to do!"

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Kat let go of the buoy and experimented with wading with her feet, staring dubiously down for a moment before she felt confidant crossing her arms. "Blue Dame?" He was running off the juice of some blue spirit lady? One corner of her mouth turned down as she looked him over, trying to work out whether he was trying to pull something over on her. "I guess I've heard crazier." Last week she'd heard news of some hero called the BEEKEEPER. The THIRD. Freedom City seemed convinced to make her believe in everything, but she wasn't quite there yet.

When he gasped out of the water after an ill-advised dive, Kat couldn't help but laugh, grabbed hold of the edge and wiped her eyes clean. "Yeah. Great power." She let up a little and her head dipped below the water for a moment. Her hand shot to the edge and she clung tight to the edge of the pool, shaking her head and taking a nervous breath.

Her feet crossed beneath the water and Kat chewed on the side of her lip. "Is it that obvious?" She brushed a bit of hair out from in front of her face. "I was tired of the gym, but I haven't gone swimming since I was nine. I wasn't gonna ask," she gave him a thankful smile, "but if you're offering . . ."

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"Hey!" Subito exclaimed with mock anger when Kat teased him "That power is crazy-useful! It made you laugh, didn't it?" he pointed out with a cheerful grin, drifting over to the buoy carrying the lane-dividing rope.

"And yeah, if you wanted it, I was offerin' to help." he said with a nod, diving under the barrier and bursting up on the other side, facing the other end of the lane. "Let's start with a front crawl, they're pretty easy." he suggested eagerly, taking a deep breath and swiveling his body until his feet pointed at the ledge of the pool, his face held just above the water. Swinging one arm all the way forward he explained "You need to put a lot of power into each stroke, slide your hand under the water and pull back, then switch" he swung over to his left arm, digging into the pool with a quick stroke that took him a few inches away from Kat "to your left. Keep your feet moving up n'down, to keep yourself goin' even when you're between arm strokes." he mimed a rapid paddling with his legs, then dove under water and emerged next to Kat. "You want me to keep an arm under your waist, so you don't have to worry as much about keeping afloat and focus on the arm and leg stuff?" he asked, blushing suddenly as he added "Uh, if that's okay. If not, then nevermind. I'll stick to my lane and yell encouragement at you!" he added with a laugh.

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Kat had seen a few other swimmers try what Subito was calling the front stroke, and he was leaving out an important part. The one where they held their face under the water. Again a little primal, illogical part of her rose up in panic at the thought of it before she tied it down again.

Squirming a little in the water at the thought of Subito holding her up in the water. A cursory look around told her that no one was really paying attention. It wouldn't, she thought, be the worst thing in the world . . . Half a lifetime of theater kept the awkwardness from bubbling to the surface. "Don't worry, you're fine," she reached out a hand and let it rest on his shoulder. If she drew attention to his anxiety, maybe he wouldn't notice hers. "I could use the help."

She breathed in deep before her cheeks had a chance to betray her and filled her lungs with air she held. Kat forced her grip loose and tried to get into the right posture in the water, holding her body straight. That damned knot in her stomach screwed tighter and told her everything would fall to pieces; her body went tense and stiff as it tried to figure out exactly why it was floating in the water with nothing to hold on to. They flat out refused to leave Kat to herself.

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"Thank you." Patting Kat's hand gently when it squeezed his shoulder, Subito watched carefully as the slighter girl got into the swimming position. Once she seemed ready the sturdy boy neatly slid his right arm under her waist, gradually lifting until her body weight rested mostly on the powerful limb. He was about to start moving along with her when he realized that something was wrong.

"Oh! I'm sorry Kat," he said wretchedly as he lifted her a little higher "Sorry, I forgot one important thing: between strokes you turn your head out of the water," he demonstrated by sliding neatly onto his left side, left arm extended as if in mid-stroke as he kept his other arm under her abdomen "and then you're able to breathe. It takes a bit of gettin' used to" he admitted as he righted himself with a splash "but I'm sure you can do it! Give it a try" he added with an encouraging smile "I'll make sure you don't sink."

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The animal screaming in the back of Kat's mind calmed when it felt something keeping it safely afloat, but the girl had nerves for a different reason. With Subito's arm wrapped around her middle, Kat couldn't keep the blush down—well, he couldn't see it. Small mercies?

Kat allowed herself a moment to try to submerge it before she turned her head out of the water. "R-really?" She said, offering him a lopsided grin with only the slightest stutter. "Did you forget the rest of us need to breathe?" Now that he had arm around her, Subito could feel the rock-hard tension in her body, even if her voice didn't betray it as she said; "I'll be fine. Thanks."

You're a hero for god's sake; be brave. Repeating the mantra in her head, Kat dipped her head into the water and blew bubbles out of her nose. You're a hero, she kicked, made the first stroke and turned her head out of the water. One stroke. More to go. Be brave.

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"Sometimes." He admitted. "Usually they aren't in the water when I do, though."

With unending rhythmic kicks and slow, powerful strokes of his left arm, Subito kept precisely at Kat's side, watching the young mutant carefully as he supported her. All along the way he kept up a gentle flow of words "Right, right, arc your arms just like that. Whoa, slow down, sink your legs deeper, there you go..." All through the ungainly, painstaking swim down the lane he made sure that his arm was wrapped securely around her waist, his hand resting lightly on Kat's back. Through the contact between their skin and tautened muscles he could feel the tension in her gut, and made sure to slow down the tempo and rhythm to try and put her just a little at ease. With a splash they reached the other side, and the Puerto Rican boy relinquished his arm with a rueful laugh while he twisted it around for a few seconds, getting rid of the stiffness in the muscles. He thumped her heartily on the back as the teens rested against the lip of the pool, exclaiming "Well done Kat, great job!" he grinned merrily "You barely even needed me! Just practice a few more days, and you'll be better'n me!"

He rested against the buoy he carefully schooled his thoughts. Kat was clearly smart and determined, but there was still the whole 'just met her' thing going on. For all he knew she'd find him as dull and annoying as Janet had back at Joseph Clark High. 'Besides, what about Cerys?' he thought anxiously 'You two not truly a couple, my Herald. Although she seems to enjoy you and your company, there is no garauntee you twain ever will be either. Do not be so quick to assume.' resounded the commanding voice of the Blue Dame. He scowled at apparently nothing.

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Blodeuwedd wasn’t a strong swimmer, she could keep her head above water but that was about it. So she had started doing a few laps of the pool after her daily sparring seasons. She’d even bought herself a proper swimming costume instead of using her costume as was the norm.

It had been pure coincidence; she kept telling herself, that her swimming sessions seemed to coincide with Subito. So she had expected him to be there, she didn’t expect him to have his arms wrapped around an attractive young woman. Whilst she didn’t show it she couldn’t help but feel a tiny pang of jealousy.

“Are you two having fun over there?â€

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Come on, she gritted her teeth, cursing her body's stupidity. You skirt the end of all things every other hour. Water is not scary! Kat got further and further down the lane, and in no time at all her body realized that it was far too much work to swim and be terrified at the same time. It fell into a pattern, and her body understood patterns, reluctantly conceded that yes, it seemed that she'd be able to breathe in time and no, she probably wouldn't sink . . .

When they reached the other side Kat groped for the end of the pool and hung on for dear life, wiping a hand across her brow and trying to recollect herself. She managed enough awareness to spare Subito a sideways glance and a half-smile. "Don't lie," she said, nevertheless noting his willingness to comfort her. She shook her head and heaved herself out of the water so she could sit on the end, relenting to her want for something hard and solid beneath her.

Kat looked up when she heard a stranger's voice directed at her and saw a girl she didn't recognize. Did Subito know her? Her eyes swiveled from Subito to Blodeu. She raised an eyebrow and nursed a suspicion.

"He was teaching me how to do the front crawl," Kat stood up, but even then Blod had half a foot on her. She wore a friendly smile and shook the water from her hands. "I'm Kat. Nice to meet you."

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She managed enough awareness to spare Subito a sideways glance and a half-smile. "Don't lie,"

"Hey, it's not a lie if it's possible!" Subito protested, not even bothering to hide the grin. Sliding up onto the ledge a few feet from Kat he began eagerly, not quite registering the approaching heartbeat and rhythm of the approaching footsteps until it was too late "Now, do you wanna do the same thing again, or-"

“Are you two having fun over there?â€

"Cerys!" Subito cried, spinning around with stars in his eyes, almost falling over in his haste to swivel with maximum speed, "You bet we-" and finding himself looking up at the Welsh girl in a swimsuit. He blushed openly and hurriedly looked into her eyes, glancing at Kat thankfully when she stated matter-of-factly what had been going on. "She was havin' some trouble, I gave her a hand with relearning how to swim, she's not done it in years, and, uh..." he looked between the two girls and battled the war in his brain over whether to simply introduce them or else let them meet each other before suddenly gesturing with his left hand to Cerys "Cerys! Also known as Blodeuwedd, she's a ninja with a magic sword!" he swung his other hand next to Kat "Kat! I think that's short for 'Katherine'? That right? Anyway, she's a mutant! She's strong." he added cheerfully to Blodeuwedd "I think she's stronger'n I am normally!". After a second he glanced up at her and asked almost shyly "Anyway, you were comin' by to do some laps, Blodeu?"

The muscular boy rubbed the back of his soaked and dripping hair plastered against his head briskly, silently praying this wouldn't get weird, and horrible. He didn't know how it might get horrible but he could imagine all too easily.

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Blodeuwedd put a hand on her hip and spoke in a voice dripping with sarcasm.

“And what would we have me think when I find your arms wrapped around a pretty young woman?â€

She even managed a little smile. She trusted Subito completely, he was probably one of the most honest person she knew with total inability to hide his true feelings. It was probably part of the reason she had been attracted to him, what with living in a world of shadows and secrets.

“I’ve already met Kat I think we’ve trained together and possibly a few classes together.â€

She knew exactly what classes she’d taken with Kat, along with everyone else she took classes with. She also heard rumours about Kat around the campus, another mystery, something she just couldn't resist. But for now she wasn’t interested in delving into Kat’s past.

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"Kat please," Kat huffed, looking away from the ninja with a magic sword and down at Subito, her arms crossed, an eyebrow raised. "No one calls me Katharine anymore. And how'd you know I was a mutant?" She made a face and shook her head, doesn't matter, and turned back to Cerys.

She snorted. Pretty? Kat decided to grin and bear the mockery, for Subito's sake if nothing else. If there was any doubt that those two were an item, it was gone. Her heart sank a little. She breathed one deep and careful breath. "Really?" Kat crossed her arms and tilted her head a little to the side. Studying Cerys a little closer, she edited what she was seeing until it matched a quiet girl who kept her head down a great deal. "That's right," she scratched the back of her head, looking embarrassed. "I didn't recognize you."

The silence rose like a wave, and Kat's instinct was to cut it down fast, before it came crashing down.

"So would you like me to leave you guys alone, or . . . ?"

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'Oh, this is how it might.' For a moment, Subito looked and felt utterly horrified, and then he realized the joke. Barely restraining himself from laughing both in relief and amusement 'Oh good, they've already met!', he began "Well-"

"Kat please," Kat huffed, looking away from the ninja with a magic sword and down at Subito, her arms crossed, an eyebrow raised. "No one calls me Katharine anymore. And how'd you know I was a mutant?"

That was an unexpected question, and after an obvious few seconds of thought the stocky boy realized he didn't really have a good answer for it, offering a sheepish "Oh! Sorry Kath-Kat, call me 'Bito, didn't know that's what your powers came from, I just...uh...a friend of mine, another student, a tall blond guy named Serge Explinker, he's a mutant and he's not too bad in the strength thing. Sorry, shouldn't have assumed like that." he admitted shamefacedly, his broad shoulders looming slightly above his head. At her awkward question about how to proceed Subito said quickly "Nonono, stick around! We'll both help you recapture the glory of swimming!" he suggested, looking sunnily up at Cerys with an imploring smile and dancing eyes "I've seen ya around here a lot of times, Blodeu, I bet you could teach both of us a few things!"

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She dived into the water and swum over to the pair.

“Don’t worry about it Kat, I tend to fade into the background at the best of times. And you don’t have to leave on my account, don’t worry I’m just here to have a quick swim nothing more.â€

As she talked she treaded water, showing some confidence in the water.

“I’m not sure if I can offer you any help, I’m not the most brilliant of swimmer. And from looking at you swim you rely more on your strength than I do.â€

She turned to Kat to explain

“I’m one of the few here with no powers. But I’ll help if I can.â€

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It might have been easier if they'd just told her to bugger off and let them smooch in peace. She shifted her feet on the concrete, her smile meandering from neutral to uneasy. Had Kat misread Cerys? No, her expression might have been neutral but Subito had acted like a thief caught with a hand in someone's pocket when Cerys had caught him helping Kat in the water. That meant something.

"Thanks," though they'd both let her stay, Kat was looking at Cerys as she said it. This time Kat lowered herself back into the water slowly, and let her arms lay back in the drain after her chest fell below the surface to support her. "It's gotta be hard going to school with us . . . " 'Freaks' was on the tip of her tongue until her synapses voted it off the island, " . . . weirdos."

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Scooting neatly back into the pool and making room as Cerys swam up to him and Kat, Subito rolled his hazel eyes and with a sharp chop sent a splash of water into her hair, laughing "C'mon, Blodeu, you're a great teacher! I never knew I was movin' my legs all wrong until you showed me!"

He looked over at Kat "Besides, it's not simply a thing of strength, you just need t'get used to swimming again. It'll be easy!" he smiled encouragingly at the slighter girl, though he was a little surprised at the slightly bitter note of her comment.

Floating onto his back and folding his powerful arms under his head he shrugged "We're all here to learn how to fight evil in the world Kat, you gotta get used to all the different kinds of people you might end up fighting beside. I don't remember hearing anyone making many smart remarks about Mali!" he added with a slightly more earnest look.

He glanced over at Cerys, careful not to stare "So, you wanna give Kat here any pointers? I'll go in the next lane over if you want." he offered good-naturedly, guessing that the two girls might want to hammer things out on their own.

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With a matter of fact manner Blodeuwedd explained to Kat exactly how normal she was, whilst she talked she kept her tone neutral. There was no bitterness or remorse in her voice.

“I’m not sure you could describe me as normal. My family are monster hunters. They weren’t cruel or unkind, it’s not like they made me fight monsters with a spoon or punish me if I couldn’t tell a Fomorian from a Afanc.†She raised a eyebrow to Subito “But ever since I was young enough to train I’ve been training to fight monsters and spirits.â€

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Kat had no idea what a Fomorian or an Afanc were herself, so it wasn't hard to keep her face neutral as Cerys talked. She tilted her head to the side and let go of the edge, treading water in a way she hoped looked calm. "Yeah, I don't think I'd call that normal." It occurred to Kat too late that that might have sounded . . . inconsiderate.

"Well, they taught you about monster hunting," Kat said in faux-seriousness, the shadow of a grin twisting the corners of her lips up. "But what did they say about swimming?"

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