Part 8 – Bad Crowd.

“How on earth did you learn to fight like that anyway?” Francis nursed his wounds and watched Adelaide closely. She shrugged and twirled her bat around in her hands.

“I have an older brother,” she replied, “it’s kind of a must. Want to have another go?”

“No thanks,” Francis exhaled slowly. He glanced over at Lydia, who also shook her head. It had been three hours of long sparring and they were both exhausted. Emma had left a while ago. She’d managed to land a punch on her third try and had promptly vanished to who knew where. Lee had gone soon after, managing to hit Adelaide on something like his seventh go. Francis had begged him to stay but he’d claimed hunger and had headed off. Now it was only Francis and Lydia left.

“Look guys you’re doing great,” Adelaide was pretty beaten up as well, having endured a number of very close shaves, “Come on, just a few more goes should do it. I’m definitely tiring.”

“Because you’ve been fighting repeatedly for the last couple of hours,” Francis murmured, “let’s face it, we’d never actually beat anyone in real life.”

“Sorry Adelaide,” Lydia said in a hushed tone, “I… I wish I was better at this but… I don’t think I’m cut out for this hero thing.”

“Nonsense,” Adelaide dismissed the idea, “you’re really fast Lydia and you’ve got some pretty crazy moves up your sleeve. You don’t even look injured.”

It was true, Lydia looked relatively unbruised from what had been a number of hours of getting, in all truth, fairly firmly beaten up. The green scales of her face remained unblemished. Francis stared at her incredulously.

“Yeah,” he said slowly, “how did you manage that?”

Lydia gazed at them. For a long while she said nothing. If lizards had been able to blush Adelaide was sure she would have done it. Eventually she managed to say something, though only very quietly.

“I regenerate from injury. Scratches and cuts can heal in a few minutes.”

“That’s awesome!” Adelaide’s eyes widened, “So what, if I cut off your arm it would just grow back?”

Lydia flinched slightly and shook her head rapidly.

“Y-yes, it would grow back. But it would take a number of months.”

Francis and Adelaide exchanged a look.

“Riiiight,” Francis pursed his lips, “how exactly did you learn that?”

Lydia seemed nervous. To be fair there had not passed an hour in which Lydia had not seemed nervous. If anything though she seemed to be even more nervous than she had only a few seconds before.

“I used to live in a… rough neighbourhood,” she murmured, “before we moved to this area. There was a lot of… a lot of… a lot of hatred for -uh- super-humans. There was this group of men who used to go around the houses on the road. There were only a few of us but… it wasn’t good. When I was born my parents… they hid me away for as long as they could. But it got to the point when they couldn’t conceal me any longer.”

For a second Lydia stopped. Adelaide realised to her surprise that she was trembling. Francis rose to his feet and went to put a hand on her shoulder. She didn’t move away this time, but merely stood, composing herself. The scales of her face rippled uncomfortably.

“When people learnt that I was… me,” she said slowly, “we started getting threats… bricks through the window… notes under the door. Then one day… well, I don’t remember it clearly. I was young. They came in the night. There was a lot of shouting. My Dad… he was beaten up pretty badly. Then… I… I…”

Another pause. Adelaide was beginning to feel decidedly uncomfortable. Francis was regarding Lydia closely. There was an expression all too familiar on his face, one of anger, quiet and burning.

“Well,” Lydia shrugged, trying to look nonchalant, “my memory of the next part is none too clear. I… I woke up in hospital. One of my arms was… gone and I was… I was… really badly beaten up. Over the course of the next month it all healed. Anyway, that’s how I learned I can regenerate my limbs.”

For a long while nobody spoke. Francis removed his hand from Lydia’s shoulder. His face was filled with grim fury. It was like staring at a small, wild-haired thundercloud. Adelaide almost recoiled. Then she looked at Lydia, who was, surprisingly, smiling.

“That’s awful,” she said slowly, “sorry I wouldn’t have asked if I knew…”

“No,” Lydia shook her head, “thank you. It’s nice to get the story… off my back once in a while. I’m just glad I’m in a nicer place now.”

“Cool, I’m glad too,” Adelaide nodded, “look, I’ve been thinking about it and I reckon that you two are probably just about done for today. You can head home.”

“Right,” Francis nodded, “you want me to walk you home Lydia?”

“No thanks,” Lydia said, “I’m sure I’ll be fine.”

She pulled her hood up over her head and walked away across the park. Adelaide exhaled slowly, her cheeks blowing out. Francis watched Lydia’s departing back, his brow furrowed. Eventually he looked over at Adelaide.

“You know I’m glad we’re doing this,” he said, “I’m sorry if I came across badly when we first met, I just thought you were an idiot playing some sort of stupid joke. But… seems to me like we can use this whole team thing as a way to, I don’t know, stop the people out there who think it’s okay to beat up a kid just because she’s a super-human.”

“That was my intent,” said Adelaide cautiously, “I’m glad you’re on board. Doesn’t seem like anyone else is.”

“Well Lydia’s scared, of course she is,” Francis put his hand to his chin, “Lee is… Lee really. It may not seem like he cares that much but trust me he really does. He’s just not great at showing it. As for Emma, I suppose she really would rather be doing something else. Don’t worry though, I’m sure we can convince her otherwise.”

Suddenly and without warning Francis ran at Adelaide. Her hand shot up, caught his as it curled into a fist. Stepping sideways she twisted his arm around his back. She smiled sweetly.

“Nice try.”

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