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I Especially Am Slow

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“Do you think you'll tell them?”

Trini looks up from her plate to see Kim watching her, leaning forward across the table with that weird, eager light in her eyes.

“About being-” A quick glance around the deli to make sure no one is listening (who would be? They are just two teenage girls, as far as most people know). Trini lowers her voice, anyway. “About being a Ranger?”

“Yeah. Why not?”

“Hah!” Trini bisects her remaining piece of cake with maybe a little more force than is strictly necessary. The screech of fork-on-ceramic does draw a few heads their way- Trini can feel their eyes prick pins-and-needles at her neck. She runs her tongue over her teeth, scowls. “Like I said- my folks like normal. They'd lock me up before believing I was a- a superhero.”

“Even if you morphed in front of them?” Kim says, full volume.

Trini winces. “They'd probably just test the tapwater or something.”

Kim snickers. “Seriously?”

“Naw, but- I dunno. Don't wanna give them a reason to move us again, I guess.” She shrugs, pushes a crumb of red-velvet across her plate. “Love to see the looks on their faces, though.”

“Well,” Kim smiles, lowers her voice only now to say, “I wouldn't want you to move, either.”

The silence lingers just long enough to be uncomfortable, for the fingers of a blush to start a crawl up Trini's neck, then Kim grins and reaches across the table to steal the last of Trini's cake off her plate.

Her smile, afterwards, is syrup-red, and she licks the frosting off her lips just a beat to slow to be anything but deliberate.


 

“You do know I've never cut someone else's hair before.”

“You did an alright job on yours,” Trini says, trying to keep her voice level, trying for the cool don't-give-a-fuck drawl that had the others calling her 'crazy girl' well into their friendship (she is terrified that one day they will realize how fragile she is, how scared, that it is mostly an act, that they will decide four Rangers is enough, after all, if it is her they are losing).

But.

But she is not thinking about that right now, because she is mostly shirtless in Kim's untidy bedroom, just a plain, laundry-day bra and goosebumps between her and the open air, and Kim's hand is brand-hot where it is resting on her shoulder, casually, like she doesn't even realize she is doing it.

“Yeah, well.” Kim opens and closes her scissors, experimentally, a metal snip shiver-close to Trini's ear. “I didn't really care what happened to me then, hair or otherwise.”

Trini has heard the story by now, of course- they all have, she's pretty sure, how Kim showed that poor girl's nudes to people she shouldn't have, how she paid and paid for it.

Maybe more than she should have. Maybe not.

Teenage girls can be mean, is all Trini knows, wishes it wasn't usually directed at other girls.

She doesn't say that. Not with Kim's hand on her shoulder, not sitting in her messy room, staring at the sticker-residue in the mirror of her whitewashed vanity.

She says, “Well, fuck it. Maybe I don't care either.” shrugs, and Kim's hand rises and falls with the movement, creeps a little closer to her collarbones.

(of course, she cares more about herself now than she has in a long time, but-)

“Well, you should,” Kim says, that weird easy intensity she has, 0-100 in the space of a sentence.

Trini shrugs, again. “Well, I'm here anyway. All else fails I shave it all off. Always wanted to try a buzz cut anyway.”

“You'd look good with one,” Kim says, her hand hot on Trini's shoulder a beat longer, then she is lifting it to Trini's jaw, tilting her head gently to one side and taking her sewing scissors to the 'new-girl-in-town' haircut that's growing out shaggy from Trini's scalp.

They're silent, for a while, just the metal snick of scissors to fill the small room.

“I don't think they should have done that to you,” Trini says. “Those girls, I mean. Your old friends.”

Kim stops snipping, a moment.

“You did a really shitty thing,” Trini says, already regretting this conversation. “Like- seriously. But they didn't have to go like- full Godfather on you. Metaphoric acts of violence and shit.”

“I dunno,” Kim says, “wouldn't you have?”

“I'd have kicked your ass for sure,” Trini says. “Just- been done with it. Knocked your tooth out, maybe.”

Kim laughs, at that- startled, maybe. “I'd have deserved it.”

“Yeah,” Trini shifts, keeps her eyes fixed down, at the expired eye-shadow palettes and dirty makeup brushes scattered across Kim's tabletop. “You would've.” Kim's thumb scrapes, maybe by accident, across the slope of Trini's skull, tracing a line from her ear backwards, intimate and strange.

There's a beat where maybe Kim's gonna say something- Trini kind of wants to, but she's not sure what. Can just feel it tense and growing and a little warm behind her ribs.

Then the scissors pick up their even rhythm again, Kim's hands tipping Trini's head this way, then that, gently- always gently.


 

“You know,” Kim says, after a while, “Jason never said that to me. Just gave me some line about- forgiving myself and moving on.”

“Hmm,” Trini says, this involuntary noise from the back of her throat.

“What?”

“Just didn't think you'd badmouth our- uh, brave and glorious leader like that.” (and Trini loves Jason, she does, their boyscout screwup of a team captain, but he can be a bit blue-eyes James-Kirk Capital-H-Hero for her, sometimes).

“What, just cause he's in charge-”

“Naw, I just thought you two were- an item, you know?”

Kim snorts. “Jason?”

Trini shrugs, again. Kim's hand is back on her shoulder, thumb warm at the join of her neck.

“No, he's- cute. Great abs. But I don't really- see him like that.”

Trini looks up, meets Kim's eyes in the mirror. “No?”

Kim smiles, a little intense- knowing, maybe, or maybe Trini's reading into things.

Trini's the first to look away. She's sure Kim can feel her pulse, loud and traitorous where it beats through her throat.


“Looks good,” Kim says, putting the clippers down with a deceive thunk on the vanity.

“Yeah,” Trini says, can't stop her hands from coming up to run through her hair- pixie-short and buzzed at the sides, the stubble prickles sharp against her palms.

It makes her look- older, maybe, or- younger, her eyes bigger, her jaw sharper- different, certainly.

“Do you like it?” Kim says, and her voice wavers, a little, like she's worried, like there is this to be scared of, after all they have done.

Trini meets her eyes in the mirror, anxious wide, her lip caught red between her teeth.

“It's- different,” Trini settles on. Rubs a hand back over the stubble.

“Good-different?”

Trini drops her hands, finally, twists to look Kim in the face for real, no mirror between them. “Yeah,” she says, “I think so.”


WHAT have you done with your hair?” Her mother demands of her, reaching to touch, to grab without permission, and Trini jerks away, all her newly-honed fight instincts kicking in at once.

And her mother says something like I can't even touch my own daughter any more? And it is at least something they have not argued about before, novel for that if nothing else.


Trini wanders down to the spaceship, sometimes, when their house gets too crowded, not too many people but all of them too- loud, to grabby, too- the way her family is.

The ship is old and creaky and smells like rust and oil, and there's a door that squeaks in a way that startles her every damn time she opens it, but it's not her house, so it's an improvement.

“I like having my head shaved too,” Billy tells her, one of these days. He's propped up on a counter in their common area, tinkering with something Trini can't quite parse, a tangle of wires and steel in his careful hands.

“Why's that?” Trini says, offhand, digging in a pocket for her phone to pull up a game of snake (and she still feels rude, for doing it, but Billy gets squirmy if you look him in the eyes too long, in conversation, so it's not, not really).

“It feels nice,” Billy says, running a hand over his scalp like Trini's done so many times in the last week.

“Yeah,” she says. The loading screen opens with a fanfare of royalty-free music, and Trini startles, scrambles to flick on the silent.

“Is that why you like it?” Billy says into his tinkering.

“I dunno. It's- new, I guess.”

“Is that good?"

Trini laughs- the question's such a strange mirror of the one Kim'd asked her in the bedroom (though Kim had been... touchier).

Billy's heel starts to drum an even rhythm against the counter, a muted thump thump thump of rubber-on-steel; background noise to Trini, by now.

“Uh- yeah, I guess,” she says. “New is good.” She thinks, briefly, of the endless new-but-identical small towns she'd lived in. “Sometimes.” Her snake runs into its own tail and dies in a flicker of black-and-white.

“I don't like new stuff," Billy says.

They sit there a moment, in the belly of a buried spaceship, the halls literally alien and by now familiar.

“Well, usually I mean,” he amends, and Trini laughs.

“Yeah," she says. "I know what you mean. This is-” she thinks of Kim, her too-sweet-coffee-and-powder-deodorant smell, her crowded room, the white slash of her smile. “Good different.”

Billy sends a smile her way, holds his hand out for a high five, and it's so rare he seeks out any sort of touch it pulls a smile out of Trini, too.

They slap palms.

Perfect 10.


Trini pads downstairs to get a glass of water, one night, and her mother eyes her over the kitchen island, goes, “Trini, sweetie, you should take it easier at the gym”

Trini stops, mid-pour, and thinks (because she's no new hand at lying to her parents, but she's been doing it so much, now, she sometimes forgets what lies she's told). Gym, gym- was there even a gym in Angel Grove?

Her mother saves her the trouble of puzzling it out, comes around the counter and grabs Trini's arm- it'd be too hard if normal people could hurt Trini, any more. “It's good to be healthy, but girls shouldn't bee too muscular.” she says, squeezes, like Trini's an avocado she's testing for ripeness.

Trini flexes, deliberatly, and her mother pulls away, frowning.

“I only want you to fit in, Trini- boys don't like girls who are too...” she fishes, for a moment. “bulky. And with that haircut... well, people might be getting the wrong idea.” She drops her hand down Trini's arm, gentle now, a soothing gesture. “I'm just worried.”

“I don't-” want a boyfriend, Trini thinks, but her mouth's gone stale-bread-dry. Care if people get that impression, she thinks, and-

and she fights monsters, in her free time, but she is still a coward, in some important ways. She looks down at the counter, green linoleum, specks of white like dandruff.

“You need some friends and least,” her mother presses, and Trinny sets her jaw. Says, to the countertop,

“I have friends.”

She can picture her mom's expression without looking up, see her lips whiten where they'll be sucked back against her teeth, like she's eaten something sour.

Trini knows exactly how her mother feels about her friends.


“It was very nice to meet you, ma'am.” Zack says, as he's leaving Trini's place for the first time.

His spine is straighter than Trini has ever seen it, his hand politely outstretched, at strange odds with his peeling, faded leather jacket, his rip-kneed-jeans, the smell of his too-strong bodywash.

Trini's mother shakes Zack's hand with a carefully polite look on her face, like one might give a preschooler's macaroni art.

(Later, she will say, “Well Jason seems nice, and it's... sweet, of you, to spend time with that... Billy, was his name? But the others, I just- don't think they'll be good for you).

Zack, who Trini's mother thinks is some undefinable type of bad for her, waits around after Jason gives the others a ride home.

His hands are jammed in his pockets, one foot scuffing at the ground.

“You weren't kidding about your family,” he says, after a moment.

“No fucking shit.” Trini snaps. Drops onto the front step and tugs some early-summer grass out of the lawn, shreds it deliberately into green confetti.

Zack just laughs, extracts one hand from his pocket to clap her on the shoulder.

“Come on,” he says. “I got a bottle of Costco rum under my bed, we can spend the night at the quarry. Light some shit on fire.”

Trini barks out a laugh- something sharp and a little mirthless, but Zack gets that, she thinks. Is standing there slouching in his leather jacket, one arm politely outstretched.

Trini wipes off the grass shreds sticking to her summer-sweaty palm, lets Zack tug her upright, away from her house and forward into the creeping warmth of the June evening.


They drink too much and end up sprawled against one another, watching their bonfire shoulder-to-overwarm-shoulder.

“I just,” Zack is saying, slurring really, the fifth time he has tried to start this sentence, “I just- it's just I don't think a family should act like that, you know?”

“Yeah,” Trini says, tosses a pinecone into the fire. It is gilded along every edge, for just a moment, before it comes undone.

“Just like- if I was your mom, I wouldn't care if you- cut your hair, or wanted to make out with Kristen Stewart, or whatever.”

Trini snorts, too drunk to be very maudlin about it. “Thanks then, mom.

Zack shoves her, a drunk-clumsy bump of hand and shoulder that wouldn't do much damage even if Trini wasn't superpowered.

“You know-” he says, “You know what I mean, though?”

Trini tosses another pine cone into the fire, watches it hiss and spit as it dies. “Yeah, man.”

My mom wouldn't- would not do that.”

It's a fact. Zack's mom is very cool.

She had laughed, watching them smuggle the rum out of the trailer: “you be a gentleman to Trini, now,” she's said, and somehow it hadn't been judgmental, hadn't been implying anything.

“Yeah, your mom's the coolest.”

“Damn right.” Zack nods, all leather jacket and cool-boy swagger.

They lean into each other and watch the fire.

No, Trini figures, thoughts gone sort of muddled and slippery with heat and $15 rum, no family shouldn't act like that, but maybe-

maybe like this.

Like Zack passing her the plastic bottle, his shoulder warm against hers, maybe like the golden light of the fire, the smell of woodsmoke and the gentle snap of flames.

Maybe, she thinks, tosses another twig to the fire.

Maybe just like this.


“Come on,” Kim says, “Again.” There is blood on her teeth from where Trini'd landed a lucky hit and a strange, manic look in her eyes.

Trini bounces from one foot to the next, waits a beat longer then throws a punch, hard, for Kim's jaw.

She ducks, neatly, and grabs Trini's wrist, uses the momentum to slam her up against the wall of the pit.

“Nicely done,” Trini manages, the breath knocked halfway out of her, and chalks the stammer in her pulse up to the exercise.

Her mother had said, “I just don't think they'll be good for you,” and Trini's pretty sure she's right about Kim.

Kim who's letting up her hold, falling back to her starting position, pushing sweaty hair out of her eyes.

She is bad for Trini's heart, certainly, in a ratty tanktop and sweatpants, strong arms and a bloody nose.

“Come on, try me again,” she says. They've been sparring all morning.

Trini works her arm, experimentally- sore, by now, but it'll heal. “What is up your ass, anyway?” 

Kim shrugs, hands coming up to the ready position. “Beat me and I'll tell you.”

Trini grins, feels the weird adrenaline-buzz of a fight pull through her tired limbs. “Bring it on, Hart.”

Kim pins her one, two more times after that, always the same way, grabs her by the wrist and twists until Trini is shoved up against the wall, concrete-grit against her cheek, blood in her mouth.

Whoever's defending in a fight always wins, with them- those in-tune instincts that let them morph, make them a deadly team, also mean that Kim knows when Trini's going to attack, how hard to push back without hurting her.

Something about that burns a little in Trini's gut, like she's eaten something rotten, like Zack's Costco booze, about being known by other people right down to her fast-twitch muscles.

“You okay?” Kim says, backing the pressure off her arm.

Trini shakes herself, works her arm in it's abused socket. “Yeah. Another go?”

Kim grins.

(she is beautiful like this, Trini thinks, without quite meaning to, drying blood and a feral light in her eyes, a messy ponytail and workout clothes, and damn this crush, it is only a matter of time before Kim finds her out and then where will she be?)

“You ready?”

Triny tests her balance- backwards on her heels, forwards, then she throws the exact same punch she has in the last three matches.

Kim falls for it, easily, even says “you're going to have to try harder than-” before she realizes it's a feint.

Still off-balance, it's easy enough to flip her onto her back, and Trini's got her forearm against Kim's throat before the next heartbeat.

“Not bad,” Kim says, sounding a little winded herself, and Trini realizes how close they are, her practically draped over Kim's body, the thrum of pulse against her forearm.

She rocks back upright, looks away. “Water break?”

“Yeah,” Kim says, “I think I'm done for the day.”


They had carted a mini fridge into the ship in the week after defeating Rita Repulsa because cold Gatorade is, according to Jason, just as vital to their fitness as first aid and regular exercise.

The contents of the mini fridge, currently, are one bottle of $8 wine, half a pizza, and a truly embarrassing amount of sports drink.

Kim tosses a blue over her shoulder to Trini before fishing out a bottle of her own.

“Thanks,” Trini cracks the cap and takes a long swig, sliding to a seat against a wall. (Her favourite flavor used to be the yellow, but she refuses to be quite so colour-coded, honestly, and fuck what the alien-destiny-coin said).

Kim grins an acknowledgment, presses a cold bottle to her pulse point- a temporary relief against the fingers of summer heat that reach muggily all through Angel Grove, driving out the last hints of spring. She slouches over across from Kim, head tipped back against a row of lockers.

(Kim, on the other hand, had used an Amazon gift card she'd stolen from her ex to special-order the pink lemonade Gatorade by the crate-full, 'cause it wasn't carried locally.

Different strokes, Trini figures).

“So,” she says, stretching the sparring session out of her back with a satisfying pop. “I won. Wanna tell me why you were so hell-bent on handing me my ass today?”

“Hah.” Kim cracks the cap on her drink, takes a swig rather than answer right away. When she finally speaks, her teeth are stained just the slightest bit Gatorade-pink. “The fight last week,” she says. “It's been screwing with me.”

“Oh,” Trinny says, and can't think of the next thing, after that, sweaty and lead-limbed and she was never that good at talking, in the first place. That was shit the superhero movies did not tell you, that coming up with inspiring speeches or witty quips was damn harder than fighting the monsters.

Across from her, Kim slides her bent knees out straight, bare feet and stubbly legs, one of her toenails painted and chipping.

“You remember,” she says, “That sea monster?”

“Of course,” Trini says, because they are superheroes, sure, but she is not yet at the point in her life where she can just forget a serpent clawing itself out of the ocean like Old Testament, yellow lamprey-eyes and bits of old ship in its teeth.

“We beat it, though.” Trini says. “It's dead.”

Kim shrugs. Trini slides her legs straight, so her ankles knock up against Kim's knees across the hallway.

“What, then?” She says, that deep-chest pressure burning in her lungs, like someone's struck a slow-match against her ribs.

There is something she needs to say, Trini thinks, or maybe something Kim is trying to say, and it is building up between them, thick as the muggy summer.

“I just-” Kim shifts, so one of her knees is hooked over Trini's leg. “When it knocked you over, I thought-” she shrugs, again,

Oh, Trini thinks. “Next time you're worried about me,” she says, “Just- you can buy me a drink, instead of kicking my ass.”

And Kim is tilting her head to the side, a little, considering, and Trini's brain catches up with her mouth, realizes what she's said- what it sounds like she's said-

“I mean-” She blurts, throat closing over, but Kim is standing, smiling, offering her hand.

“Come on,” she says. “I'm sick of this place. Walk you home?”

And so maybe it's fine, after all.


She is so relaxed when she gets home, summer heat and exercise endorphins, she nearly forgets what is waiting for her.

Does forget to put on a jacket before she walks in the door, forgets the hand-print bruises blooming like fingerpaint all over her arms, forgets what she must look like.

Her father looks up as she walks in the door and his eyes track from Trini's face to her bruises and back to his newspaper in the time it takes Trini to lever off one shoe.

He says, “Remember to take the garbage out.”

“Yeah,” Trini says, suddenly less relaxed than just tired.

In the kitchen, Trini's mother's eyes track the same pattern- face, bruises, away again.

“Remember to take the garbage out,” she says, she only says,

“I'm doing it.” Trini runs her tongue over the tender, copper places along the inside of her cheek, souvenirs from sparring practice.


That night, her off-hand keeps finding the bruise at her shoulder and prodding, like it's a missing tooth, like she keeps forgetting it'll hurt.

When she eventually falls asleep, she dreams of Andromeda, chained to the rocks, a monster looming at her out of the water.

The bruise goes a very impressive shade of green, before it disappears.


Billy uses Burt's Bees moisturizer. He always smells like engine grease and waxcomb, and he fixes the creaky door in the ship like it is so easy,to take things apart, and to fix them.


Trini finds Jason practicing his Inspirational Leader Voice in the mirror one morning, his arm in a cast after a big fight, saying “we've got this” over and over until the words run into each other like wet ink.


Kim is-

Well.

She's something, Trini is certain, she gave herself a lopsided star tattoo on one wrist and she likes a shitty, gas station beer called “Keystone Blue”. she can shotgun a can of the stuff in about thirty seconds, even though the rest of the team is pretty convinced it's just just old piss run through a filter.

And,

and-

she is the kind of beautiful that people turn to watch. That Trini turns to watch. She has a scar on one knuckle from punching out a boy's tooth (they put it back), and she bites her lip just a little when she is concentrating, and she never remembers to tie her shoes, and she is beautiful.

Whenever she is in the room, Trini's eyes catch on her, over and over, like a bad hangnail.


Zack has three different chess apps downloaded on his shitty old phone, and he runs out of free daily plays on every one of them, every day.

He understands, Trini thinks, the loud stupid fear that drums inside her head, sometimes, that makes her do stupid things just to prove it is not winning.

Is right alongside her, often, jumping cliffs and getting drunk and screaming full-voiced into the face of terror.


Trini loves all of them, fiercely, more than she has loved anyone, she thinks, their tics and habits and shortcomings, and she is fairly sure she will never tell them.

They know, already, probably, except-


She loves Kim like the rest, of course, that action-movie comrades-in-arms thing she's disgusted to find out Fast and Furious did not lie about.

Except, sometimes,

when there is that slow-match feeling in her chest, some unspoken pressure building, when Kim and her hang out alone and there is this thing between them, heavy in the air like the fog that rolls in off the harbour.

Less elegantly,

Mostly Trini is glad just to have them all but sometimes she wants Kim, specifically, to pin her to a wall and take her apart like some broken old appliance, with her hands and tongue and teeth.

She hopes Kim does not know this.


“So,” Kim says, after a fight, stepping out of her Zord and flipping up her visor, a gruesome cut above her eyebrow like she's some conquering Valkyrie, some war hero, “you wanna get drunk?”

An alarm sounds deep in Trini's gut, but she's flush with battle-high, had barely dodged the club of the giant that had staggered furious into their town- had torn its throat open with her mech's claws, like cutting butter.

Monster blood is still steaming in the air, Trini's blood is still sheeting from a rent in her suit, and she says “yes” like it is the easiest thing in the world.