Thunder welcomed them as soon as they reached earth.
The light from the Sen portal disappeared to reveal darkened skies, looming over them and casting shadows on everything under, it threatened to hit the team with a heavy rain any second. Another thunder boomed above their heads and Cloe squeaked. Today had been particularly hard on them, training in another dimension could be exausting. It was exausting. Kiet rubbed his elbow on instinct, he had scraped it earlier this morning. Seconds passed before lighting went off again and with it came Cloe's advice.
—We should get going, I don't want to get trapped under the rain.— She said. Kiet nodded.
Fenzy huffed. —Dude it's just rain, c'mon. We're not gonna melt.— She teased, but still made her way down the hill with them.
Kiet stared at the sky the whole time, careful as to not stumble on a rock. He loved rain, maybe not the thunders, but rain was nice. It made everything smell like grass and dirt and helped his grandma's plants grow. Besides, playing videogames on a rainy afternoon was glorious, all wrapped up in blankets and eating snacks. Thinking of anything better was impossible. He felt someone elbow him softly and found Zak half-smiling at him.
—What are you looking at, bud?— He asked, poking him between ribs with his finger.
Kiet giggled and gestured towards the sky. —I just think playing videogames in this weather would be really nice.— He voiced his thoughts.
Zak hummed. A few drops of rain were starting to fall, spreading down his cheeks and hair. —Well I don't enjoy it, my sister's afraid of thunders and so am i.— He smiled.
Lon walked all the way towards them, one eyebrow raised in incredulity. —Really? Out of everything in the Universe, our Hakuru is afraid of thunders?— A smile creeped out from his teeth.
Zak made the biggest eye roll he could manage. —Oh I bet something dumb scares you too!— He pointed towards him. But before he could answer, lighting flashed above their heads and thunder rolled over with all its force. Zak grasped Kiet by the shoulder with little strength and then, like a warning, rain poured from the sky without mercy, showering them with everything stored inside the clouds. Fenzy laughed as they all ran down the street. Finding cover was a must, rain was really cold and none of them could afford to get sick now, that would mean missing both school and training. Raindrops fell on Kiet's face and hair and clothes and he found himself racing against both Zak and Fenzy, who could never lose a chance to compete.
Cloe ushered them all under the side roof of a closed store, were they stood in silence. All except Cloe herself, who's mutters filled the space, her clothes had gotten all muddy and her hair was dripping, she looked defeated. Lon busied himself in twisting the water out of the girl's hair. Kiet made sure to give her a sympathetic smile and a squeeze in the shoulder for she looked like she could really use those. He surely loved rain, and most of the things that came with it, but that wasn't the same for everyone else. They were cold, and soaked, but they were also together and the air smelled like grass and dirt, so it wasn't that bad after all. A thunder could be heard in the distance.
—It doesn't seem like it's stopping anytime soon.— Kiet pointed, looking up at the dark clouds.
Fenzy crossed her arms over her chest and muttered something he couldn't hear. Zak let out a huff.
—Well we might as well just get comfortable!— He smiled, sitting cross legged on the floor. Kiet stood still for what felt like ages, the sound of rain distracting him easily and the cold breeze ruffling his hair, hitting his cheeks. Some time had passed between words as Zak spoke again. —Hey, Lon,— He called. The latter hummed to the sound of his name. —Bet I can stand under the rain longer than you.—
Lon scoffed, not looking at his former rival. —You're so childish.— Though after a moment, he turned his head at him with a smile. —Bet.— Zak laughed.
Kiet stared expectantly as both of them held their hands for the rain to fall over their palms. Lon grimaced at the temperature and let out a yelp as Zak dragged him under the rain, letting a new coat of water run over them. Cloe, who had been hugging herself in an attempt to warm up, laughed in a lighter mood as she watched both of her teammates run up and down the street.
—It's freezing!— Lon yelled, suddenly coming to a stop in front of the store.
—Well you can always give up!— Zak chimed in, but that only made Lon run behind him again.
At one point, Fenzy joined, laughing and gesturing for Kiet to follow her too. It looked fun, after all that training this felt like a good way to loosen up, he stared at his already muddy shoes and ran a soft hand against the scratch on his elbow. He breathed in before running headfirst into the street. Lon was right, it was freezing. But he still laughed, and spun around and felt the rain drop against his skin. Cloe didn't join them, though she enjoyed holding a hand out and forming tiny puddles in her palm. Today's training didn't feel as hard after a few laughs.
A loud chime pierced through his brain as the alarm went off.
The curtains swinged open simultaneously, letting all the sunlight in and hitting him twice as hard. His head hurt, in fact, his whole body hurt. Kiet turned around in bed and covered his head with his soft blankets, they were the only comfort he would get this morning. The same hands that opened the curtains now turned off the alarm and rocked him softly back and forth. His grandma's hands. She insisted in waking him up for school even after he told her time after time there were no need to do that, he already had a cellphone, he could wake up on his own. But still, she rocked him a bit more, her touch was soft and caring, but it was enough to almost make his brain spill out.
—Kiet!— His grandma called. —You're going to be late, wake up!—
He groaned, turned around and leaned on his elbow. He didn't manage to sit up straight. Kiet felt sore and the back of his eyes burned, his grandma noticed this and her expression changed from calm to worried in a second.
—Are you…?— She started, but immediately stopped herself. His grandma put a hand to his forehead, not only was he sweating but he had a fever too. She hummed and cradled the side of his face with her hand. —No, you can't go to school like this.— Her voice was tender.
Kiet very much regretted having walked under the rain, though having laughed with his friends had been nice, he couldn't say the same of his brand new headache. His grandma left the room, promising to be back with something to ease his fever. That left him to sink alone in his bed. Had his friends gotten sick too? He really wished they hadn't. Catching a cold could be a real pain, with the headaches and the fevers and all. He wouldn't wish it not even on The Great Zorn himself. Running a hand over his chest, he noticed how his shirt sticked in place with sweat, this felt so bad. After a few breaths, he managed to incorporate in bed and from then he got up with short steps as he walked to the bathroom. His grandma looked at him with wide eyes as she held the phone to her ear. Kiet guessed his school's principal was on the other end. His legs felt weak, but he wasn't the strongest member on his team for nothing. Stars, he could carry a giant rock with just one hand! Of course he could beat this fever.
He had a long shower, and after poking his head out of the bathroom and asking his grandma for fresh clothes, he felt mostly renewed. His pajamas were soft, comforting and smelled like lavender, a white t-shirt with a funny drawing on front and bright green pajama pants, though he wasn't granted the blessing of a pair of socks. Kiet reflected on the bathroom mirror, he looked pale and sick, like one of the zombies in his newest videogame. After brushing his teeth, and getting rid of the new wave of nausea the taste of toothpaste gave him, he dragged his feet from the bathroom to the couch, where a cup of tea and a soft smile waited for him.
—How are you feeling, Kiet?— His grandma asked.
—Not great, grandma.— He answered, then sat heavily on the couch. She handed him the cup of tea which he accepted with a faint smile.
—Well, would you like to eat something?— He sipped his tea and shook his head, he didn't trust his stomach enough yet, even though he loved his grandma's meals, he knew puking it out on the carpet wasn't worth it. Her eyebrows furrowed with worry. —Just let me know if you need anything, honey.— Kiet sniffed as he finished his tea, the warm steam had made his nose start to run.
—I would like,— He started, curling up in a ball beside his grandma. —to stay here.— She ran a hand over his shoulder softly and giggled. Kiet had always been a very tactile person, though as sick as he was he found her touch to be both calming and unnerving at the same time.
His eyes still burned under the lights and the bright colors on his TV, but hearing his grandma's crime shows through closed eyes was just as interesting, this way he could imagine being the head detective, solving crimes with unwavering determination. But he was already used to dealing with the bad guys as a sendokai warrior, so maybe it was the same? He wasn't exactly unwavering, but he was sure determined was at least on his top three qualities as a defender of the multiverse. His grandma passed a hand through his hair in a soothing motion. There was always something else in her gesture, always soft and tender and loving, that was his grandma for him. He couldn't remember being taken care of at his parents' house, he did remember laying in bed waiting for the fever to sweat itself out by his own. They weren't exactly what you would call caring. So when he got sent to his grandma's house and was met with unvarying love, he felt seen, exposed and insecure. He took advantage of it at first, taking as much as he could, asking for everything she offered and never giving anything back. He leaned in her touch. She still loved him the same after that, and he learned to help her, to give back as much as he asked for, he now knew better. He probably had to thank Tampö for that, his training did teach him something. Kiet felt his conscience waver and slip out of his fingers as he fell asleep under his grandma's caress.
When he woke up, the sound of knocking on the door crushed his skull with a new headache.
His grandma's weight disappeared from the couch and Kiet had to force himself to look at the door, squinting at the sudden light entering his vision camp. She opened the door and found four kids standing on her entrance. Kiet's friends. Cloe exchanged a few words with his grandma as she welcomed them all in, his headache thundered against his skull when he tried to smile at them. Zak leaned on the back of his couch as he gave a squeeze to Kiet shoulder.
—How you feeling, dude?— He asked, using his always cheerful tone of voice.
—Oh, I've been better.— Kiet answered, barely smiling at him.
—We didn't see you at school today and thought you might have gotten sick from yesterday.— Cloe appeared from behind Zak, always as tall and kind as ever.
Fenzy snorted. —Only you got sick though so... sucks to be you I guess.— Cloe nudged her a bit and she snorted again.
That's a relief, Kiet thought. Being sick was the worst thing in the world.
—I brought you my notes from today's classes, you can copy them when you feel better.— Cloe continued, handing him her neatly organized notebooks. When he reached out for them, she took a moment to take his hand in both of hers and smile warmly. —Tell me if you need help with anything.—
Behind all of them, Lon stood awkwardly without pronouncing a single word. That is, before Kiet landed his eyes on him and smiled. Lon waved a little and shot his eyes straight to the floor. Lon had never been to his house, or any of his friend's houses for that matter.
—Lon,— He called. His teammate's eyes went straight to him. —I'm sorry this is the first time you see my house, playing videogames would've been much more interesting.— He chuckled softly and Lon have him a wide eyed look.
—Uh, it's okay! I just hope you get well soon.— He scratched the back of his neck. —There's always time for everything else.— And then he resumed his staring contest with the floor.
—Dude, what are you so nervous for?— Fenzy teased, earning a second nudge from Cloe.
—I'm not nervous!— He defended himself, his posture stiff. Zak chuckled and opened his mouth to speak when their bracelets lit in unison. Kiet drew in breath sharply.
—Should I…?— He started, not knowing how to continue. Zak turned to face him.
—Nah dude, stay here. You really need a break. We'll tell Danima you're sick, she'll understand.— He smiled and ruffled Kiet's hair carefully. —Aight rascals, let's skidaddle.—
Cloe reached out for his shoulder and gave it a squeeze. —Get well soon, Kiet.—
Fenzy made her way to the door. —Get better you muscledhead!— She exclaimed, giving him a peace sign.
Lon waved at him again and smiled softly, Kiet returned the wave as they all said goodbye to his grandma. When the door closed again, he noticed his headache had eased a bit.
—They're really nice.— His grandma pointed out. Kiet beamed as he smiled at her.
—They are, right?— He said, curling up again, arms wrapped around himself. The nausea had disappeared completely and his stomach had finally settled, so he couldn't reject his grandma's lunch offering.
Soon he found himself sitting in front of a soup bowl, spooning its warm content and humming at the taste. He could feel the discomfort lingering in his bones, keeping him from sitting up straight on the couch. He grimaced at the sensation. Was he asking for too much now? He had done nothing but sit on the couch all day and sleep. He spooned the last bit of soup and furrowed his brow. His grandma came around and took the empty bowl a moment later, Kiet reached out for her hand, not touching her, but puting a stop to her motion.
—Grandma,— He started, squinting under the lights. —I'm sorry I haven't helped you today.— Much to his surprise, his grandma giggled in response and cradled his face with her free hand.
—Kiet, it's nice that you want to help me, but right now it's important that you get some rest.— He stared at her, behind her glasses her eyes looked at him lovingly. —Now, you can help me all you want when you feel better.— She gave a tap to his cheek and started to turn around, but suddenly stopped and faced him again, this time pressing a soft kiss to his forehead, then she headed straight for the kitchen. Kiet watched her go all the way, he sure was grateful he had his grandma.
The tiniest of smiles made its way to his face, he was starting to feel better.