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Warm Hugs Are Better Than Cold Shoulders

Posted on Sun Jan 22nd, 2023 @ 13:11 by Cameron Johnston & Kaylee Ashton BSc
Edited on on Sun Jan 22nd, 2023 @ 13:29

Chapter: Prologue: Dawn of Avalon
Location: Physics Classroom
2555 words - 5.1 OF Standard Post Measure

"A little birdy told me that there's a heater in here playing silly buggers."

It was difficult to say whether said-birdy had mentioned anything about dragging a very large box into the classroom, though absence of instruction hadn't seemed to stop the burly man from undertaking exactly that task. In what was quite possibly an attempt to be helpful, Cameron bent and tried to pick the offending parcel up off the floor and promptly managed only to produce a sound similar to a constipated duck. He didn't know what a constipated duck sounded like but he had it on good authority, (his nephews considered themselves the highest authority on the matter), that he had perfected it nicely. Leaving the box where it was, he straightened and placed his hands on his hips to stare at it. "Found this outside the door. Might be textbooks?" He wasn't an expert, his subject involved far less writing than most.

With that standing in stead of a proper first impression, Cameron lifted his gaze to meet the room's only other occupant's and grinned, leaning across to extend a hand. "Sorry, Cam Johnson, I teach in the garages just out there." He jabbed his finger towards the window, where the classroom had a decent vantage of his workshops. "And, once in a while, Claire sends me to patch things up. Heater's been on the fritz for a while," he added, gesturing to the unit.

Taking the offered hand, Kaylee gave Cam a smile, “Kaylee Ashton, and it’s good to know someone is managing to keep the lights on around here” she said before looking over to the heater, “thought I will admit I didn’t notice the heater not working. I guess I just like colder temperatures” she said, trying to not give too much away. “And yes I do believe those are the textbooks for my physics class. Sorry i haven’t gotten to them yet, I’ve been trying to set up my room to make it a little more interactive” she said, motioning towards the half built semi-circle of desks that she’d been working on for the past few hours. “It’s not as easy as it looked in my head”

"Classroom layout does make a reasonable case for paying attention during geometry lessons," Cameron agreed, turning to admire her progress. Having been at the Institute for most of its operational life, the mutant had settled into the role of educator at this point but was by no means particularly suited to such a formal instructional setting. A term of trying to get him to stand in for lower form Maths had proven that much. "Looks good so far, what's causing you issues?"

“Well, I want to set up a pendulum in the middle of the room that I can use to demonstrate conservation of momentum and things like that, but it doesn’t really work with the desks” Kaylee explained, motioning with her hand to show the pendulum swinging from the front of the room to the back, “I also considered not having desks, but I’m not sure how that would go down with Claire”

Cameron wrinkled up his nose as he gave that some thought. "Queen C," he adopted one of his many terms of endearment for the head mistress, "has her standards but she's also pretty big on people finding their niche. I think if you ran it by her, with an explanation, she'd be receptive. Keep the surprises to a minimum." Tracking his head back and forth to follow the invisible pathway she'd indicated, Cam then dipped his head to the side in further consideration. "Might also want to make sure you include reassurances that the new addition won't decapitate anyone." He didn't think she was trying to operate the educational equivalent of Big Ben's inner-workings but Cam had learned not to take anything for granted when it came to the ingenuity of the Institute's staff. They were mutants, after all.

Kaylee blinked in surprise. What did he just call Claire? Turning to face him fully, she put her hands on her hips to try and look more imposing, though it would probably only make her look like a brat, “What did you call Claire? Does she know you have nicknames for her?”

It was Cameron's turn to raise his eyebrows. "Pretty sure," he responded confidently. The head mistress, more of a friend now than a boss, had the same penchant for warm hugs that he did and he wasn't exactly a restrained guy. "We've worked together long enough I don't think she'd be surprised." Partially amused, yet somewhat baffled by the uncommon offense caused by his casual affection, Cam opted to tread a little lighter. "No disrespect intended, I didn't realise you knew her."

“I don’t, at least not as well as everyone else around here seems to. I only met her the other day when I arrived and all I’ve heard about her before that came from M…my previous employment” Kaylee explained, trying to be a little more cautious who she told about MI-13. She wasn’t sure how many of the faculty here at the Institute knew about it. “I was just surprised how close knit everyone seems to be here. Being the fresh face, it’s going to take some getting used to.”

As was his wont, Cam opted for an understanding smile and reached out with a hand to pat her upper arm. "It won't take long, those of us who've been around the traps for a while enjoy having new faces around. Keeps us on our toes." And, whilst they were on the subject, had not already been poisoned by a certain propensity amongst his devoted group of fans within the student body to refer to him as Twinkle Toes. "Anything you like doing in particular? Outside pendulums, that is."

Taking a quick breath in as Cam touched her arm, she was surprised he didn’t mention how cold she felt. Maybe it was because he patted her arm rather than actually placing his hand in it that he might not have felt the cold. Taking a moment to think over his question, a smile came to Kaylee’s face as she thought of something, “well, I do enjoy a little fencing now and then. Other than that, I like to read scientific journals. Though now that I think of it, I’ll have to check with ‘Queen C’ how we go about receiving post goes around here” she said, choosing to use Cam’s nickname for Claire as an attempt to be more friendly.

"Sometimes, it just turns up on your doorstep." Cam reached out a foot to tap the box he'd previously been unable to lift. "Otherwise, we've got cubbies in the teacher's lounge that are supposed to be primarily for communication purposes." His contained a Matchbox car, a Tamagotchi that he routinely forgot to feed, and a stash of snacks. As a result, a lot of his mail tended to end up stuffed in and, eventually, slid onto the floor.

Giving a nod, Kaylee gave a sigh, "guess i'll have to cancel my subscription to those magazines. It's too much of a risk. Maybe I can organize a PO box in the closest town, something to think about later." She said as she took another look around her classroom, "what do you think about lining the desks up along opposite walls?"

"Those magazines?" Cameron, easily intrigued, didn't catch the final question at first, too busy grinning through a puzzled frown. In an ironic case of being caught slow on the uptake, he eventually turned to stare vacantly at the wall she was gesturing to and then his mind raced back in the general vicinity of the conversation. "I think the ensuing breach of fire code might create some issues." In a school full of mutants, making sure passage to exits weren't obstructed was kind of a big deal. "You could always set it as a first day challenge for the kids," he suggested. "Set some parameters, establish a few non-negotiables, let them argue their way through a solution."

“Yea that sounds like an interesting idea” Kaylee said, giving it some thought. As she did, Cam’s words clicked in her mind, “wait, what do you mean ‘Those Magazines’? What kind of reading material do you thinking I’m ordering?”

Cameron held up both hands in defense. "Hey, no judgement." It occurred to him a second too late that the Physics teacher's earlier misconception regarding his intent didn't lend itself towards further joking going down all that well, but it was a hard habit to break. "Totally supportive of all extra-curricular pursuits." That hadn't made it better. "Uh, and I should probably look at this heating unit now. Think the thermostat just needs replacing."

“Yes, I think you better. It’s over there” Kaylee said as she motioned towards the heater before turning around and heading over towards her deck. Why was she so offended, it was a simple misunderstanding, she was sure he didn’t mean anything by it. So why did she have this feeling?

“oh I think i’m going to be sick. This man insults you and you just let it go?” came a voice from the back of Kaylee’s mind. This voice was angry, aggressive.

Pausing for a moment as she reached her desk, Kaylee took a few deep breaths in and out while clenching her fists, “stay out of it, I don’t need you” she said, trying to keep it under her breath. As her fists clenched, the air around them began to form small particles of ice that orbited around her hands and wrists.

“Oh come on, don’t you remember what It felt like to let go? Releases all this build up pressure?” the voice said, this time using a sultry and enticing tone of voice.

Kaylee could feel something clawing at her mind, like an ice cold hand sliding over an arm. She knew this feeling and what it meant for anyone nearby. “Just go away”

For all his outward bluster and happy-go-lucky nature, Cameron wasn't socially inept. He also wasn't socially immature, despite several alternating opinions that might have sought to disagree with that analysis. Whatever the case, his next steps were far gentler, having already opted to move away to address the reason for his visit so that he could give the woman back her solitude. Coming to work here was a big thing for some people, Cam occasionally needed to be reminded that not everyone was as eager and willing as him to be out and proud, as Reagan called it. Being a mutant was challenging; for some people, it was also harrowing.

"I'll be done here soon enough," he called across the classroom, oblivious or at least willing to pretend to be to Kaylee's frustrated inner-monologue. "I'll try to keep the noise down."

Snapping back to the here and now, Kaylee quickly unclenched her fists and turned back around, “it’s alright, make as much noise as you want. It’s not like there’s anyone here for you to disturb” she said, putting on a nervous smile, hoping he hadn’t heard her little rant. “Must be quite a struggle to keep thing running in this old castle” she said, trying to keep the conversation going rather then let an awkward silence fall.

"Keeps me on my toes, saves having to try to find mutant-friendly maintenance companies," Cameron replied as he eased the entire front panel away from the heating unit. As much as he occasionally grumbled about Claire's campaign to wear out the soles of his feet, it was always in good-natured jest. He didn't sleep a lot, or at least not very long at a time. Staying active helped.

Hearing Cam say the big M word actually helped Kaylee relax a little, “so those rumours were right” she said, taking a couple of steps towards him, “so you’re a mutant too? What’s your curse?”

Partway buried in his work, Cam glanced up a moment and managed to remind himself once again that not everyone was as familiar with things around here as he was. "Most of the faculty are, we are teaching mutants, after all, the Institute's not your normal school." He focused, easing loose the faulty part he intended to replace. "And that really depends who you ask. If a grumpy French chef tells you that my superpower is eating enough to feed an entire zoo..." Cam paused to consider this with a conciliatory wince. "Not far far off the mark. Electro-stimulated hyperspeed," he added with a smile. "Gets you shoved off the track and field team really fast, let me tell you."

“Hyper speed? That sounds fascinating. Unfortunately my ‘superpower’ isn’t as useful” Kaylee said, holding out her hand with the palm up. After taking in a breath, she slowly blew it into her palm, forming a layer of ice across it. “It’s not like making things cold can help anyone. Rather I’ve hurt more people then I’ve helped with this curse.”

“Stop Calling it that!” the voice said rather angrily

“And that’s part of the reason I’m here. I’m hoping Claire can help me control this so it won’t harm anyone”

"Control can be tricky." Cameron's tone, whilst still conversational, had softened somewhat. After a moment's pause to consider her demonstration, he opted for the deflection of continuing his task to avoid the potential for her to feel overly scrutinised. Social adaptability wasn't a superpower as such but he had a pretty good read on people's moods if he was paying attention. "Just like running really fast without burning holes in your pants is pretty challenging." He chuckled, switching out tools. "But I wouldn't say cryokinesis has no useful angle. Like we keep telling the kids, it's about the application of the power, not the power itself."

“The power itself….yea” Kaylee said simply as she looked at the ice in her hand. After a moment, she turned away again before quickly wiping away a few tears that had formed, “I’m sorry, I have to go. Thank you” she said before quickly walking towards the door out before pausing for a moment, “See you later?”

A faint frown knitted Cam's eyebrows but cleared quickly. "Absolutely. Just give a shout if you need any more help with anything." It was the best he could offer, since his usual demeanour seemed to be somewhat problematic. Claire had once cautioned him that the energetic puppy routine wasn't for everyone, and Reagan had certainly taken at least a month or two to adjust to it back in the day. They didn't build Rome in a day. His grandfather's words, one of the many clichés that made the man so utterly endearing, were a comforting reminder nonetheless. Just be yourself had been his mother's contribution. Cam smiled as he called after the other mutant.

"Come chat if you ever want a fencing partner." He'd never tried it. How hard could it be?



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Comments (1)

By Claire Cavendish on Tue Jan 24th, 2023 @ 13:20

Cam better not find out Claire is actually in line to be a Duchess xD she would never hear the end of it :P