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Best Frenemies (IC)

Curious Key

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Early January

After School

Claremont Academy

As it turned out, there were a lot people who liked teleporters at Claremont, and every one of them wanted to go see London, take a quick jaunt home and back before someone could note that they were gone. Kat had been happy to help at first, but time worn thin her patience at playing taxi for everyone who came to ask. She had things to do, people to save, bad guys to punch. She couldn't help with everyone who didn't want to bother with the actual traveling part of travel! There wasn't enough hours in the day.

Normally, using her gifts to help someone go shopping was right out. But promises of free stuff along the way from Darren, one of the richest kids on campus—Maybe the richest!—had bolstered Kat's willingness to play taxi. There had been other reasons to say yes too, of course. Other reasons to try to corner Darren somewhere she could ask a few questions without being obvious. But the free stuff helped.

Kat marched down the steps in front of Claremont along with the rest of the student body, all eager to get out of school and do their own thing. Rather than try to hold her place in the crowd Kat veered off to the side, stood on the green, knuckled a kink out of her back and waited for Darren.

Edited by Freely Seek
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Darren stepped out the front door, alone, and made his way down the steps. He brought up one hand to give his dark hair a perfect flip, then used the other to flick open a pair of sunglasses. They perched there on his face, looking only a little out of place considering the cold of winter. Darren slid his phone out of his pocket and kept walking without paying any obvious attention to where he was headed. There were texts to sends and conversations to continue, and a small handful of followers he'd wanted to reply to since second period.

Then he arrived next to Kat and come to a stop. The phone was locked and hidden again in an instant, and Darren edged his glasses down his nose so he could actually make eye contact with the girl. He gave her a shining smile. "You ready to go, Kat? Not having second thoughts, I hope."

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Kat's smirked in answer to Darren's smile. "It's no big," She crossed her arms and gave an exaggerated shrug. "It's been forever since I've been out shopping." Darren had started hanging around Subito more. A few questions wouldn't be out of place.

"So, where'd you like to go?" She held out her hands. "I can open a way to anywhere on the continent." Further, if she really wanted, but it was easier to aim this way. Kat was fairly sure that she wouldn't know anywhere Darren chose to name, but like this she didn't need to know. She just needed a general idea. "Just say the word and give me a landmark."

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"No big, right." Darren pushed his glasses back up and rubbed his hand along his neck. Originally, he had planned to just bounce around Hanover without having to worry about walking; he hadn't realized Kat was quite so powerful. Even still, he quirked an eyebrow. "Just the continent, huh? No Paris or Shibuya?" He flicked his eyes up towards the sun. "Ooh, time zones, that could, like, make it a waste, I guess."

Darren lifted a hand and waved it towards the west. "How about Fred Segal, then? Broadway, Santa Monica. Don't worry about being too exact, I can get us a cab or fly us the rest of the way if you miss."

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Soft laughter. "No kidding. If jet lag is bad, imagine taking a step to Australia at noon and seeing the sun jump!" Talking to Kris about her home country had gotten Warp curious and she'd gone to check it out. At least it was warmer.

Kat's fingers drummed on her arm. "Broadway, huh?" She frowned. How to keep from being noticed? "I don't really want anyone to see us stepping out . . . Ah!" A sudden smile. "I know. We can find a quieter way to get down once we're there."

Something red glowed behind Kat's eyes and the air ruptured open like a crack in a cliffside, pulsing crimson and black. She stepped through the hungry hole and out the other side, onto the flat roof, Broadway stretching out beneath them over the lip of the roof. "I don't know where Fred Segal is, exactly, but I think it's somewhere around here."

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Darren stared at the portal and reconsidered the idea of jaunting around with a teleporter for the day. He hadn't traveled in anything faster than a jet and certainly nothing that bent the laws of time and space. With a sigh, he stepped through the portal after Kat and found himself stumbling out into a rooftop all the way across the country. Darren spread his arms to keep his balance as everything evened out. "That was...well, that was okay I guess."

He straightened up and looked over the street. If he were a good son, he might have tried to figure out if his parents were in LA to go visit them, but they were hardly the model family. Darren's eyes slid over to Kat. "It's like two blocks from here, we can so walk it. Being quiet isn't really my style though." To illustrate, he pointed a hand towards the lip of the roof and his fingers began to glow white. Crystal erupted in the open air and shaped itself into a little platform complete with square guard rails. Darren stepped over one side and leaned back into a corner, hands still aglow. "I promise it's safe, though I guess you could just teleport to the ground from here, huh?"

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Kat let the wound in the world mend itself behind Darren as he passed through. People took teleporting in lots of different ways; some were cool with it. Others made a mess all over the floor. Thankfully, Darren seemed to be one of the former. "Hey, it beats flying."

She watched as Darren worked his magic, conjuring diamonds out of midair to serve his purpose. "You're right," Kat said, as she stepped onto Darren's diamond elevator. "I could. What made you pick this place?" Kat peered up at Darren. "Have you been here before?"

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Once Kat was situated, Darren gave her a quick look, then lowered the makeshift elevator. He tried to go slowly, though he was so used to moving around on diamonds that he could hardly tell if it would be comfortable for Kat. When the platform touched down in an alley, Darren swung his legs over the short railing, stood straight, and snapped his fingers - the giant diamond vanished without even a parting pop. Darren headed for the street with his hands stuffed in his coat pockets. He was a bit overdressed for winter in California, but it was manageable.

"Of course. I've been, like, everywhere. Well, everywhere with some class. Lived in New York, LA, there was that summer in France, like, daytrips to Florida. If it's shopping, then, like, Japan is pretty much the best, but I don't know the language too well, so it can get kinda sketch." Darren paused too look at the address numbers and get his bearings, then turned towards the 500 block. "Hard to get out of the country from Claremont, like, getting a jet can be a hassle. I'm sure you've been more places than me, though, you just have to, like, think about it and then there you are, right?"

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Darren needn't worry; Kat had spent enough time perched on rooftops and standing on street lamps that keeping still on a swaying diamond platform was child's play. Kat raised an eyebrow. "After training, you mean?" "Pretty much anywhere, yeah." She crossed her hands behind her back. "But mostly I stick to Freedom."

"It's just so interesting, I heard the freedom league has a 'days since we averted the apocalypse' counter." Kat's smile was almost laughter. "The heroes, too. You know Subito?" Kat did not turn to look at Darren.

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"Really? Freedom has its charms, but it's, like, awfully quaint if you're not a fan of imminent danger. It's more like a bugzapper for super villains than, like, a bastion of culture." Darren laughed in a directionless way, not really at Kat but clearly not strictly with her either. He continued to chuckle to himself until he heard Kat's question. Darren stopped in the middle of the sidewalk and turned to face the other mutant, but she wasn't looking at him. A smirk crept over his features before he resumed his walk down Broadway.

"Do I know Subito? I mean, like, we're in the same classes, so I know of him, sure." He rolled his hands through the air. "But do I know him, like, for real for real? Maybe, do I know him in a biblical way? I guess there is a certain appeal to squat, swarthy Latinos, isn't there?" Darren laughed again, but a little quieter than before. He ran a thumb under his eye. "I could say that I don't know him as well as I'd like to. Why do you ask?"

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Oh . . . Kat's cheeks got all red at the thought of Darren and Subito in the biblical way. She pretended a cough for an excuse to cover her face and began to understand exactly where her assumptions had drawn her wrong. There weren't any helping hands or advise to be found here.

She pretended casualness. "Oh, h-he was just one of the first," a pause, a surreptitious look at anyone nearby. "Heroes I met at Claremont this fall. Seen him a few town around times." Distance Kat, distance. Ugh but she was still blushing!

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"Really?" Darren cast Kat a sideways look and slid his phone into the palm of his hand. He started to thumb through menus and directories absently as he hummed low. "I forgot that you're kind of new to Claremont or whatever. You might not know too many people, right? So the few people you've talked to, like, they would really stick in your mind. Or if he was the first, it could leave an impression or something."

Darren snickered and let out a derisive snort. "Even I can't say something like that with a straight face. I try to avoid diamond puns since it's so passe to banter, but, like, you're so transparent, Kat." He stopped at the corner, turning from Kat long enough to push a crosswalk signal. "Honesty is the best policy, or something like that, so be honest about having a crush on him." A shrug. "Though I'd be pretty embarrassed to have a crush on Subito, too."

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And then he went and straight up called her out. Kat reached up and scratched her back, keeping her expression carefully blank while she tried to guess a good response. She'd been denied an honorable retreat; what now? A straight up confrontation.

Kat raised her hands in concession and smiled like a kid with their hand halfway in the cookie jar who knew they'd already eaten enough. "You caught me. I'm a liar." She shrugged, no big deal. "Don't pretend you don't. Have you seen him at the pool?" She left a moment to imagine it before she whistled her appreciation, long and low.

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"What can I say, you're pretty bad at lying. Not every student can surpass the master." Darren closed his eyes for an instant, wistful, and then the expression was gone and he was back to strolling down the street. At last, he came to a wide store front with its wide front windows full of mannequins dressed in all manner of designer labels. He let himself in and held the door long enough for Kat to follow after him. After taking a few seconds to admire a nearby jacket, he looked back at Kat and laughed.

"Like, I'm not going to argue about him being attractive, how totally completely pointless can you get? Even if I lied and said he wasn't, would that convince you otherwise? And I'm sure he looks good in whatever lame boardshorts he's got. I hear that, like, being a superhero is a pretty good work out." He gave her a blink and wagged a finger. "But, like, really, if I crushed on every attractive person I'd met, I'd have died of heartbreak by the time I was eight. It's been a glamorous life, you know. Subito is great, but let's not project too hard here, Katie."

Darren lifted a shirt off a rack and ran the smooth material through his fingers. "I'm going to, like, go out on a limb and assume you haven't told him. Why not?"

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Kat took a moment to look over the store, tilting her head to one side. She had expected something a little . . . well, bigger. "It helps that he's not a complete ass," Kat said, not even trying to excuse Subito. She could only think of the costume he wore out as a hero, and there was no excusing that. "There's lots of people that are attractive until they open their down mouth." Kat shook her head and spread her hands. "Then the magic's gone."

"It'd make things too damn complicated," she spat the word like an insect. Kat picked up a shirt in what she guessed was her size, held it up. It barely went down to her navel. She frowned at it for a moment before she set it down. "He's already got a ninja girlfriend. She'd probably cut me with a magic sword or something."

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"Kat, don't worry, I only get more attractive when I talk. It's like, what should I say, it's like fatal attraction. But I'm sure you'll figure it out." Darren gave her a little smile and went back to the belts he was playing with. He settled on a black leather with dull rivets and looped it around his arm. "Ninja girlfriend, huh? The good news is that, like, I'm pretty sure cutting you with a magic sword is illegal and totally against school rules. Bad news, obviously, is that she's a ninja and boys love ninjas. Like, really, I think I'm falling in love with this mystery girl already."

He moved towards Kat and swiped something from a nearby rack - a red shirt with faded bolts of lightning in a sweep up the front. Darren held it at arm's length, blocked it over Kat's current clothes and judged her with one eye shut in concentration. "There's a few things you should, like, consider here. First is that complicated isn't always bad and second is that complicated isn't always avoidable. I mean, like, don't make things so tangled you can't manage them, but you've gotta be willing to play on hard mode every once in awhile." He turned the hanger over to Kat so she could judge the shirt for herself. "And I'm not, like, recommending you go out and try to seduce a guy already in a relationship, but does he even know you're an option? The worst thing you could do is not give him a fair choice, right?"

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Kat put her hands on her hips and rolled her eyes at Darren. "Oh yeah, sure. Give a girl a katana and everybody wants her. Boys." She said, only half kidding. How was she supposed to measure up to that?

Her mouth made a line as she took hold of the shirt Darren had picked out and measured its shape against her own, considered it for a long moment and nodded to herself. She glanced up at Darren, eyes serious. "If I turn into the villain of some cheesy rom-com, I blame you." A flicker of a smile touched the corner of her mouth.

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"It's not the just the katana, like, it's playing into the whole dangerous woman vibe. Not so dangerous that they might go off and try to kill you, but a little bit." Darren put a hand on a table next to him and leaned back on his arm. He waved away her concern with the other and lolled his shoulder. "That part's maybe a little harder. If you come on too strong, you become the interloper. Too weak, you won't get taken seriously. You may need to either play the long game or accept defeat and get over it, cause, like, the last thing you want to do is start drama."

He pushed himself away from the table and turned in a neat circle. "Something demure and innocent, like, 'you know, Subito, I really wish I could find a good guy like you'." Darren clasped his hands together over his chest and fawned at a nearby mannequin. "The right amount of possibility with the least amount of force."

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"I guess I should flutter my eyelashes too," Kat's smile went sharp. "'Oh Subito, it would make me so happy.'" She said, waving her hand in front of her face like a Victorian lady with the vapors before she shook her head no.

She turned away from Darren and found something on the shelves to explore a little more closely. "Might be better to just let it lie anyway, it's a stupid thing to want." Find someone with lower standards, maybe. At Claremont? Kat smiled at her own private joke and picked up a nice pair of jeans. Everything here was so nice, it wouldn't survive an encounter with anything even moderately dangerous. But still, another part of her weighed in, it all looked very nice.

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"I didn't say all that, like, really, don't try to seduce him. That wouldn't work." Darren paused and considered what he'd said with a hum. "Okay, it might work, but, like, it wouldn't work out. Which I assume is more important." He took a few aimless steps around the store and began to sigh at intervals, getting more dramatic with each one. In a smooth movement, he flipped a hat off a shelf, put it on, pulled it off, and let out another sigh of defeat.

"Don't be so depressing, like, you're totally cutting yourself off here." Darren tossed the hat back into its place, then gave Kat an instructive finger-wagging. "Wanting love isn't stupid. Wanting to be happy isn't stupid. You might be right in that wanting to, like, interfere with an established relationship is kind of stupid, or at least a little mean and definitely ill-advised, but you can't just let it lie. I mean, you have to do something, even if that something is just get over it and move on. That's different from ignoring the problem."

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Kat turned back in Darren's direction, her brows knitting together. "That's what I meant. Leave it. Drop it. Kill it in the crib. However you wanna phrase it, it all just means stop." She made a cutting motion with her hand. "It isn't fair to Cerys." But didn't she just say he'd tell him? Why was she so damn flip-floppy? She bit down on the inside of her lip. I hate this.

"It'd be wrong of me to intrude on them," she said again, adding punctuation through repetition. "I'm not going to be that girl."

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"Then don't intrude. Like I said, I don't mean you throw yourself at him or, like, try to intercede. You don't have to get down on one knew or even, like, tell him that you have a crush on him. If you don't want to make it messy, then don't make it messy. Or is that, I don't know, beyond you?" Darren stalked towards Kat and trailed his hand over the clothes nearby as he walked. He stopped in front of her, but only after he was much too close. "You can only be that girl if you try to seduce him. Ergo," Darren brought his nose down to Kat's, "don't seduce him. Not really."

And then he spun away again, out of her reach with a giggle. "Here's one that should work, even if you said it to both of them. Like, 'you two are so lucky to have each other'. Doesn't that sound like such a compliment? Don't you know that the best way to lie is to tell the truth?" He gave her a grin. "You can either say what you mean without meaning what you say...or you can stop. I have a feeling that neither is going to be easy for you."

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Kat's hairs raised as she backpedaled away from Darren and crossed her arms, scowling. "'It won't be easy,' he says. Duh! I don't wanna do it cause it's easy." She wished this was a problem she could solve by hitting it until it stopped moving. That was something she could deal with. She didn't mind approaching things and people from the side. Sometimes a little artful lie, a word with just the right inflection and a smile, could melt a heart like butter. She could do it.

But she'd be throwing stones at the thing that Cerys and Subito had built together to do it, even if she did it circumspectly, even if Kat did it subtly, even if Cerys never realized who threw them. "It's just the only fair thing."

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"Oooh, you wanted fair. I guess deciding on forfeit is, like, one form of fair, yeah. You could say that. Don't do anything, then." Darren turned and pulled a few pairs of jeans off a display. He unfolded one and checked it against his leg, then folded the whole bundle over one arm. His shopping continued with a quiet whistle of an empty melody, nothing more than noise. He had pushed Kat as far as he could, at least for the moment, and he frankly didn't trust her to make use of his advice in a way that didn't end with Subito mad at him. Darren stuffed his arms with a few more articles of clothing seemingly at random, then shuffled off to a register. He looked over his shoulder. "So, what else do you do, besides go shopping with people you don't know to get dating advice you don't really want?"

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At last, silence. Kat breathed in and arranged her head back in the proper order, brought up her internal list of what sort of clothes she needed. So many jeans, so many skirts, so many shirts, a dress . . . It was a easier thing to think about than Subito. Breathe in, breathe out. Darren became remarkably more bearable once he ran out of things to talk about, and Kat went about her business in relative peace.

Darren's next question did not seem dangerous, so Kat saw no reason to dance away from it. "Junior acting," Kat said without turning around. "I spent a most weekends with the troupe, doing rehearsals for my plays. And some time on campus," another surreptitious look-around. "Learning martial arts a little more fit for actual fighting. What about you?" She peered over her shoulder. "What do you do?"

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