“So, you knew about my power?”
These were the first words spoken since Vince had gotten into Camille’s car several minutes prior. She and Alice had dined and left the restaurant an hour or so before he got off, but when he emerged from the end of his training shift Vince found Camille waiting for him in the parking lot. Alice was nowhere to be seen, and Mary told him she would fill in Mr. Transport when he appeared to take her back. Though Vince felt it was strange, he assumed Camille wanted to talk more about the afternoon’s accident, and climbed in. The ride had gone for five minutes with silence broken only by his occasional fiddling with radio stations, until Camille finally gathered her nerve and asked the question.
“I did,” Vince admitted. His hand dropped from the volume knob where it had been positioned, landing in his lap at an awkward angle.
“How long have you known?”
“I figured it out at the end of last year,” Vince told her. “Once I realized you were someone I helped a long time ago, it became sort of obvious.”
Camille nodded and kept her eyes on the road. Focusing on driving was actually helping her stay centered, rather than letting her usual embarrassment overrun her. “So, you know I’m the girl you…”
“You were my first kiss,” Vince said, a warm smile appearing unbidden on his face. “You were Cami, the absorber those kids were tormenting on a hot summer day. I like your natural hair color better than what you had it dyed, by the way.”
“Thanks. What made you realize who I was?” Camille was taking deep breaths and making sure to keep as calm as possible.
“Something from my hallucination where I was normal. When I tried to talk to you, you got really mad and told me I was an asshole for waiting eleven years to say something to you. Even before that, something about you always seemed familiar in a way I couldn’t place. So, I think a part of me figured it out before the rest of me did. After that it all clicked into place: how you’d beaten Hector and Adam, why Nick gave you an ace, everything fit better if you were a damage absorber instead of healer.”
“I can’t believe you didn’t say anything,” Camille said.
“Neither did you,” Vince replied, hands fidgeting with themselves in his lap. “I can see why you hid your ability, it made you more effective. It’s not too hard to defend against, but only if you know what’s coming. I figured you’d reveal your power when you were ready.”
“This wasn’t exactly the way I’d have chosen to let the secret out,” Camille admitted, cheeks burning at the memory of the afternoon’s events.
“Beating Chad and Roy is the sort of ability reveal most of the class would kill for,” Vince pointed out. “You might have gotten me, too, if not for the whole hair-fire incident. Which, again, I’m sorry for.”
“Hazard of the program,” Camille said, brushing away his worry. Vince would never let the guilt go if she allowed it to linger. “And I doubt I could have brought you down. You knew enough to keep clothing or space between us, plus you have abilities that don’t require touching me to use.”
“True,” Vince agreed. “There are ways to get under clothes, though. Maybe you should look into a weapon or tool.”
“I’ll think about it. So, any questions for me now that you know I’m an old friend?” There were several she was both hopeful and terrified at the prospect of him asking. Unfortunately, his first query was none of them.
“Did things get better for you? In the town, with the other children, I mean.”
“Yes, actually. It took a while, but once I started working toward the HCP they left me alone more. I don’t know if it was because they respected my goal or because they finally realized how dangerous I had become. The end result was the same. Most kept their distance,” Camille told him. She came to a red light and carefully slowed the car to a stop.
“Sounds lonely,” Vince noted.
“Says the guy who grew up with one parent and zero friends,” she countered. “It was what it was. Being different can be difficult, even if it’s different in a way that makes you objectively more capable. I had a few friends, thankfully, good people who didn’t mind my shyness or ability.”
“I’m glad to hear that.”
“I’m glad to be able to say it. Anything else you’re wondering about?”
Vince shook his head. “Why you hid your ability is obvious, and I’m guessing you never mentioned our previous meeting because you didn’t think I remembered.”
“You didn’t, not until last year,” she pointed out. The light turned green and her foot pressed down on the accelerator.
“I remembered the day perfectly, I just didn’t realize you were the girl,” Vince clarified. “Which I’m sorry about.”
“Not your fault. We were kids, and between the dye-job and the nickname that’s a lot to figure out. You were much easier. Even without the silver hair, you just look like a grown-up version of the boy I met. I could have picked you out of a line-up.”
“Glad to know I still look like a kid,” Vince jokingly grumbled. He turned his eyes out the window just as Camille glanced over at him. In his form-fitting costume, under the yellow light of the streetlight they passed, she realized how quickly his face was shedding the trappings of youth. Vince didn’t look like a kid; he barely looked like a teen anymore. From the soft edges of boyhood was being carved the distinct features of a man, and a handsome one at that.
“You don’t look like a kid,” she said. “I just mean you’re distinctive. You stand out, especially to me.” As soon as the last words were out, she dearly wished her power allowed her to reach out and stuff them back into the mouth from whence they’d come. Alas, such was not her gift.
“Well, thank you,” Vince said. “Anyway, now that your power is out in the open, what do you say to a rematch? I think I’d like to see what you can really do.”
“Maybe soon. There’s something I want to take care of first,” Camille told him.
“Not initially, but maybe something I’ll look into. I don’t think even Alice’s stylist can save me if I go much shorter.” She flashed him a grin to show it was meant in good fun, then took a left turn and headed toward the Lander campus.