Tyson Has a Crush

Che braced himself as the elevator reached the sixth floor, wondering what sort of superpowered human he’d meet next.

He wouldn’t have much time to ponder as the doors slid open, revealing a massive hall with several hanging lamps dangling from the ceiling. Che blinked as the smell of food invaded in nostrils. He wasn’t sure what he’d been expecting the cafeteria to look like, but he was still surprised at how normal it appeared. It was a mixture of his own high school lunch hall and a futuristic café, the architecture purposefully meant to be visually appealing yet unassuming. Perhaps even welcoming.

To his left were several rows of large windows allowing the mid-morning sun to shine in, and to his right were long lines of tables and booths with students already sitting and eating. Past the students were the kitchens, where Che could see a few people standing in line to place their orders in the windows. Once he was done absorbing the familiar atmosphere, he felt his shoulders finally relax. Despite everyone here possibly having some sort of extraordinary gift, it reminded him of a regular lunch hour on Earth.

“Do you want me to get your food for you?” Tyson asked as he shouldered his backpack.

Che shook his head. “No, I can get it myself. Thanks, Tyson.”

“Where have you been all day?” Che turned to see Nikki walking up the stairs, her brown eyes wide with concern.

“Oh, I um…fainted,” Che looked up at Tyson, who had turned beet red the moment Nikki had approached them. “But I’m okay now. Tyson, um…got me downstairs.”

Nikki’s eyes darted between the two in confusion before she turned towards Tyson. “Thank you for looking after him. He’s completely hopeless, but he means well.”

Che rolled his eyes. “Yeah, whatever.”

Still, Nikki teasing him was a welcome exchange after the morning he’d had. Tyson made a sound as if something was caught in his throat before nodding.

“Uh…Rowan…you wanna get some food?” he mumbled.

Che stared at him with a confused expression as Nikki rolled her eyes and walked off. Tyson then exhaled, his face returning to its normal color, and Che nodded in understanding. Ah, yes, teenagers and their dumb hormones! He’d have to deal with that too while he was here.

They made their way to stand in line, and Che felt the hairs on his arm stand up as deja vu set in. Yes, this room had to be the same place he’d seen in his dream with Yokan. It couldn’t have been a coincidence. Every single detail, down to the last tile, was exactly the same as he remembered. All that was left was to find a suitable perch that gave him a proper view of the restricted area.

Che got himself a tray while Tyson somehow got two, and they found Nikki sitting by herself at a nearby table. Che started to walk towards her when he heard Tyson make his weird choking sound again.

“Wait!” Tyson grunted.

“What?” Che turned to see Tyson’s face had gone red again, and he looked like he was about to pass out.

“I think…do I look okay right now?” Tyson mumbled. “Like…is there anything on my face or in my teeth?”

Che wanted to tell him to get a grip, but he felt it was best to indulge for the moment. He studied Tyson for a few seconds before confirming that he, in fact, looked the same as he did when Nikki walked up to them mere minutes ago.

“You look fine. Stop being weird,” he said as he turned back around and continued walking.

Tyson let out a sigh of relief behind him before following. Nikki looked up as they approached, noticed Tyson, and quickly dropped her gaze down into her spaghetti. Che sighed. This was not how he wanted to spend his day.

“Oh, there you are! I’ve been looking for you!”

Che turned to see Lorenzo approaching them, his long wavy hair seeming to billow out behind him like a supermodel as he walked. As he glided past a row of tables, Che heard several female students (and possibly a few males) sigh and swoon almost in unison. He shot a glance over his shoulder to see that Tyson had stopped in his tracks, his jaw clenched and his eyes narrowed.

“What’s up?” Che asked as he put his tray down.

Lorenzo, seemingly oblivious to the imaginary daggers being thrown his way, sat down next to Nikki and pulled out a chair for Tyson, who still hadn’t moved. “Tyson! It’s been so long!”

“Don’t talk to me, freak,” Tyson’s voice was cold as he turned his head away.

Che and Nikki both looked at Lorenzo in confusion, but he just shrugged it off. “Aw, Tyson, don’t be that way! You know I don’t like when we fight!”

He batted his eyelashes, causing his nearby admirers to gasp and swoon once more. Che felt the hair on his arms bristle as he looked on. This was an entirely different Lorenzo from the one he met yesterday, the emo kid with a chip on his shoulder. That person certainly wouldn’t be sitting here flirting with Tyson of all people, let alone interacting with other human beings.

Tyson, however, was not amused, his skin almost as bright as the apple on his tray. He opened his mouth, and Che was certain something obscene was about to erupt from it before he closed it shut again. The tall jock took a deep breath, and his color returned to normal.

“Rowan…I’ll see you later,” Tyson mumbled before he quickly walked away.

Che stared after him in confusion as Lorenzo just laughed. “Still so touchy, that one.”

Che, certain it wasn’t quite that simple, sighed before turning to face Lorenzo. “So what brings you to our table?”

Nikki inhaled sharply, as if just noticing Lorenzo’s proximity to her, but didn’t say anything. Lorenzo noticed and winked at her, causing his admirers to freak out once again. Che was certain his eyes would fall out of his head from rolling them so much. What was this now, a teen sitcom?

“Well, as you know,” Lorenzo began twirling his hair, “we have Sparring class later, and we’ll have to pick partners. I was going to ask if you’d be mine.”

He scooted forward abruptly until his face was just inches away from Che. Before Che had a chance to react, Lorenzo had cupped his chin with his hand and lifted it upward.

“And mine alone,” Lorenzo whispered, and a wave of gasps and excited chatter rang throughout the lunch hall.

Che slapped his hand away, clearly unimpressed with the whole “ambiguous sexuality” routine. He’d seen it enough in person and in entertainment, and he certainly didn’t want to be hit on by a teenager.

“You can definitely cut that out,” he said firmly, but then a thought came to him. “Why don’t you partner up with Nikki? She’s pretty strong.”

Nikki ‘s head snapped up at the sound of her name, and she glared at Che with so much venom he was certain he’d need to go back to the infirmary. However, Lorenzo merely shook his head, as if he’d already considered the idea.

“No,” he said plainly. “Something tells me you’re a lot stronger than you look. Besides…once I pass the final exam I’ll need a strong team. You can both join if you want.”

He winked at them again. “What do you say, Rowan?”

Che considered the fact that Nikki definitely wouldn’t want anything to do with him for the rest of the day thanks to his little stunt, so he reluctantly nodded his head.

“Fine,” Che muttered absently as he gazed out of the window behind Nikki, where he spotted the very same building from his earlier dream.

“How glorious!” Lorenzo enveloped Che in his arms, rubbing his face against Che’s. “Oh, we’re going to be the best of partners! I just know it!”

The cheers and sighs resumed as Lorenzo stood up from the table.

“I’ll see you around, Rowan,” he winked one last time before setting off for the opposite side of the cafeteria. Once he was out of earshot, and once he felt like Nikki had cooled down a bit, he leaned forward.

“I need to tell you something important,” Che whispered.

“Yeah, whatever,” Nikki rolled her eyes. “Why did you faint earlier? And what was with you during class? You were acting even weirder than usual.”

“Well, that…” Che scratched the back of his head. “Never mind that. This place reminds me a lot of back home sometimes.”

He watched as Nikki’s eyes softened, a hint of pity glazing over them as she poked at her spaghetti with her fork. Che then wondered what he must look like to her, an adult who was so out of sorts he had to be carried to the infirmary by a sixteen-year-old.

“Listen,” Che shook his head, dismissing the returning thoughts before they could fully form. “Yokan showed up in my dream. He showed me a research facility and told me to meet him there.”

Nikki’s brow furrowed. “How do you know he was showing you something? Couldn’t it have just been a dream?”

Che shook his head. “I was in this room, looking out the same window that’s behind you. He was standing on top of that building.”

Che pointed behind Nikki towards the building Yokan had called Marbot Research Facility. Nikki turned to face the direction of the restricted area, seemingly lost in thought for a moment, before turning to face him.

“Well?” she asked. “When are you going?”

Che started to answer before realizing how she phrased her question. “Wait! You’re not going with me?”

Nikki shook her head. “I’m pretty sure you don’t have a solid plan yet. So, I’m definitely not getting tangled up in whatever trouble you’re about to get yourself into. I need to pass the final exam too, you know!”

Che threw his hands up in frustration. “Fine! But I do have a plan! Lorenzo’s the one who mentioned there was a research facility yesterday during our tour. I thought it was odd a student would know about that.”

Nikki seemed to catch on to his thinking. “So, you think he somehow knows how to get into a top-secret research facility?”

“I know it sounds like a stretch,” Che nodded, “but I have to at least find out what he knows. That’s why I agreed to be his partner in Sparring class or whatever it’s called. Well, that, and I wanted him to go away. Also, doesn’t he seem completely different from yesterday?”

Nikki sighed. “I mean yeah, sure, whatever. I just hope you know what you’re doing. Don’t forget that weirdo is really strong. He tossed us all aside like we were nothing, remember?”

Che nodded.

“Then maybe,” Nikki stood up from the table, “you should actually take these classes seriously.”

A buzzer sounded, and Che watched as the other students began filing out of the cafeteria. He looked down at his tray, noticing he hadn’t touched any of his food yet, and his stomach grumbled. Nikki started off without him, and he hesitated for a moment, once again imagining the recital hall. She was right, of course. He wouldn’t stand a chance against Yokan if he faced that lunatic now. He had no choice.

He’d have to do it all over again.