Medical Leave 15-01

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“I swear to Prosser, Chambers,” Avalon’s grumpy voice insisted as the two of us walked down the hallway, “if you ask me one more time if I’m all right, I’m going to be forced to hurt you very, very badly.”

It was about a week after the events of Thanksgiving. Friday morning, to be specific. Breakfast was over, and we were both on our way to our first class of the day: Introduction to Heretical Magic.

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” I held up both hands apologetically while walking backwards so I could face the other girl. “It’s just that, well… you know.” Trailing off weakly, I looked up to see her glaring at me.

“Just what?” She leaned on her crutches (yeah, crutches) and squinted at me pointedly. “Even with these things, I could still kick your ass up and down this corridor. You want me to prove it?” In spite of her actual words, I could tell she was just lashing out at the very idea of feeling weak in any way.

Because as it turned out, things back at Crossroads didn’t completely freeze while I wasn’t there to see them. Apparently, someone had tried to kill Avalon again while we were gone. This time, it had happened while she and Scout were on their way along the beach to feed Choo. Someone had knocked out Scout before hitting Avalon with some kind of… of drug or poison. The drug had completely paralyzed the girl’s limbs. She could move her head, but her arms and legs were helpless. Then that person had dragged her to the last few feet to the ocean and shoved her head under the water.

Thinking about how that must have felt, how terrifying it had to have been, made me feel sick to my stomach. No matter how okay Avalon pretended she was, I knew how much taking care of herself, defending herself, meant to her. The fact that someone had managed to paralyze her limbs so she couldn’t, and then tried to drown her… I thought of how I would feel with my head forced under the water and held there while I remained completely incapable of moving my arms or legs in any way.

With that in mind, was it any big surprise that I had really wanted to hug the other girl all week long?

Anyway, whoever had tried to kill Avalon might have finished the job if the protection spell (the one that I now knew Wyatt had put on her) hadn’t done its job. Professor Kohaku and Gaia had both shown up within seconds of each other. But as soon as they had arrived, the shadowy figure had vanished.

They had pulled the nearly drowned Avalon out of the water and took her to medical. She recovered, of course. But apparently whatever magic poison she’d been hit with was going to take time to completely flush out of her system. Which meant that she’d be walking with crutches for a few more days, since her legs weren’t responsive enough to walk normally. Needless to say, she was even more grumpy than usual over the situation, especially since certain people (like me) kept asking if she was okay.

Now, I shook my head. “No, no. That’s okay. You don’t have to prove it. I get it, you’re still a complete badass. If anything, you’re even tougher now because you’re already holding a couple things you can beat me with.” I gestured to the crutches before reaching out to open the door that led to the classroom.

“Damn straight,” she assured me before making her way past and into the room. I heard the murmur of conversation beyond dip a bit as the people noticed her before gradually picking up again. Still, as I followed her, I saw several other students still staring at my roommate as the two of us made our way across the miniature auditorium-like room to the table where our team was set up. And that, of course, was another source of Avalon’s annoyance. People wouldn’t stop staring at her. I mean, people stared at Avalon all the time. Especially when she was running or working out. Because duh, look at her. But this was different. Now they were either looking at her with pity because she’d almost died, or with suspicion because yet again she had (supposedly) been responsible for bringing a threat to the school.

It was annoying. I was annoyed, so I couldn’t even begin to guess how Avalon felt about the situation. But she mostly ignored people unless they actually confronted her. Zeke Levin’s nose had already been broken once (it healed quickly, of course) from one of the nasty comments that he had made. After that, most of the other students had backed off and limited themselves to staring and obviously talking behind her back. Which was still annoying and stupid, but at least they weren’t pushing her further.

On the way to the table, I noticed Koren looking at us as well. When she saw me glance that way, the other girl held her hand close to her chest to make her motions less obvious before extending her pinkie and thumb out in the pantomime of a phone. Then she formed a circle with her thumb and index finger, with her other fingers raised above it. The ‘okay’ sign. She’d called her mom and things were still okay.

The sign made me let out a breath of relief. Of course, Koren was calling several times a day, but she always let me know when she’d checked in. She was using the phone that I’d gotten from Gaia to check in. I’d let her borrow it over the week since, to be completely fair, Abigail was her mother. She deserved to be able to check on her any time she wanted to. Anything to make her feel better about not being able to be there with her constantly. I had a pretty good idea of how that felt, and it sucked.

Obviously, Abigail was too old to be one of the normal Eden’s Garden students (though Seller had said he was going to work with her on at least basic knowledge of how to protect herself). Fortunately, this apparently wasn’t a completely unheard of situation. There had been older people made Heretics before, both accidentally or purposefully. So they had other plans of what to do in those situations. In this particular case, Seller had taken her on as essentially an apprentice. In addition to teaching her to protect herself, he was going to help her find another job within the Garden itself. Abigail had several choices. There was taking care of the various Alter-animals that they kept around, being a teacher of one of the Bystander-type subjects, taking care of the kids that were too young to be students, and a few other possibilities. Apparently Abigail hadn’t actually decided which one of them she was going to do.

Well, to be completely accurate, Abigail did know what she wanted to do. She wanted to change everything about Heretical society. She wanted to free all the Alters that the Garden was basically keeping as slaves, rewrite their laws, and essentially bitch-slap everyone involved in perpetuating the ‘every Alter is an evil abomination that needed to be massacred’ lie. So yeah, she knew what she wanted to do. But it was taking time to figure out what she would do for the moment.

When Avalon and I reached the spot where most of the rest of our team was (Sean hadn’t arrived yet), we found Shiori there as well. She was perched on the end of the table, talking to her brother. As the two of us approached, the cute little Asian girl glanced up before blushing just a little bit. “Oh, uh, hey, Flick. Hi, Avalon.” Her gaze lingered slightly before she flinched and looked away. I knew she felt guilty about the fact that Scout had been hurt and Avalon almost killed on their way to feed her little friend. Both of the girls had told her repeatedly not to worry about it, that they could’ve been out for any reason and the attack could have happened at any time. But it clearly didn’t stop all of her guilt.

In spite of that, she still smiled a little bit after taking a moment to collect herself. Returning her gaze to me, the other girl asked with that entirely too innocent tone that came whenever she was trying to tell one of her jokes, “Hey, Flick. What kind of coffee do incredibly pregnant cows like to drink?”

Despite groans from the others, I willingly took the bait. “I dunno, what kind of coffee do they like?”

Her frankly adorable smile widened even more then, and Shiori promptly answered, “Decalf.”

Our giggles were drowned out by the chorus of groans from Columbus, Avalon, and Sands. Scout just sat there smiling quietly to herself. Then another voice spoke up. “Hey, what’d I miss this time?” Sean was there, with Vulcan in tow. The boy stood at the other side of the table, already pulling out his chair.

Rather than explain the joke, or even say it again like she usually would have, Shiori just looked at Sean for a moment. Her face flushed a little for an entirely different reason before she pushed herself off the table. “I’ll—uh, I’ll see you guys later,” the girl spoke a little awkwardly before walking away.

I sighed inwardly in spite of myself, noticing the way Sean winced. Yeah, Shiori wasn’t exactly happy with him. Actually, she was kind of pissed. Apparently, he’d unthinkingly mentioned her little secret to his uncle and the man’s boyfriend, the one who had come to help Roxa. Both of them were fine with it, of course. But the fact remained that Sean had spilled her secret without actually asking her first. And as scared as the other girl was about the wrong people finding out about her, she hadn’t taken the news well. Ever since the initial scene where she’d pretty much laid into him about telling people things that weren’t his to tell, Shiori hadn’t really spoken more than a couple words directly to the boy all week.

Sighing, Sean took his seat before looking at his roommate. “Sorry, man. I deserve it. I should’ve asked her if it was okay before I went to see my uncle. I just thought it was okay since, well, you know.”

We did. His uncle was dating a werewolf. Obviously he wasn’t going to start blabbing about Shiori’s half-vampire state. But I also knew why Shiori was upset. Trustworthy or not, it was a big secret. And it was hers. It was her life. She should be the one who had control of it, who got to decide who knew. Sean had told two men that Shiori herself had never met. I didn’t blame her for being upset about it.

But I did hope that the two of them worked it out soon. I really didn’t like it when people I cared about were mad at each other. It made me feel sick inside despite myself. Which I guessed stemmed mostly from a childhood of believing that my mother had willingly and maliciously abandoned Dad and me.

Meanwhile, Columbus just shook his head at Sean. “Hey, it’s between you and her. Don’t worry though, I think she’ll be okay. Just apologize whenever she gives you a chance, and leave her alone until then.”

Sean was nodding while the door to the class opened and Professor Carfried entered. The young teacher was carrying a bag over one shoulder, whistling as he headed for the middle of the little pit area. “Good morning, class!” the man announced once he’d reached the center of the room, next to some kind of huge empty fish tank that had already been sitting there. Holding the bag up, he let his gaze pass over the students quickly to make sure we were all present and accounted for. “Everyone here? No one missing in action or still asleep in their breakfast? Perfect, let’s get started then, because we’ve got a lot to go over today.” He grinned at us. “It’s time to learn a brand new spell!”

With that, Carfried opened up the bag and dumped it out on the nearby table. Several dozen silvery metal collars fell into view, scattering over the surface. Necklaces, I realized after a second.

“All right, one person from each team come up and get necklaces for the rest of your group,” Carfried announced. “Don’t be shy, there’s one for everyone. And yes, boys, you’ll be wearing them too.”

Sands went up for us, and I let my gaze flick over toward another of the tables, where there were only five people instead of six. Paul, Jazz, Doug, Gordon, and Isaac. Roxa’s team. As far as the five of them knew, Roxa had had some kind of family emergency that required her to take a leave of absence from the school. Gaia was trying to make it easier for Roxa to rejoin the school if (no, when, I sternly reminded myself) we managed to get that necklace from Pace so that her werewolf-side would be hidden. Her team wasn’t happy about losing her, but at least it would be safe for Roxa to come back.

As I glanced that way, I saw that one of them, Douglas, was staring at me. He was a skinny little guy that I had never seen without his black baseball cap with the New York Rangers logo. As far as I knew, he was Heretic-born, so I was curious about how he’d become a fan of them. Then again, Scout really liked the Minnesota Twins, so I supposed it wasn’t completely out of the ordinary or anything.

At the moment, the boy was kind of staring at me. I met his gaze, and he opened his mouth like he was going to say something. Then it seemed like he thought better of it and looked away, returning his attention to the rest of his table just as Paul, the tall, charismatic boy from Kentucky, came back to their table with a handful of the necklaces and started to hand them out. Doug took one and ignored me.

“What was that all about?” Columbus asked, drawing my attention back to them. He was looking between me and the other table where Douglas was, his eyebrows raised with obvious curiosity.

I shrugged. “Beats me. I don’t think I’ve said more than three words to Doug all year while we weren’t in class. Maybe he wants to ask me what it’s like being the roommate of the most gorgeous girl in school.”

A sharp pain in my ankle then reminded me that while Avalon didn’t have full use of her legs or feet, she did have a pair of crutches that she could use quite well. She was squinting at me, though I could see a slight pink color to her cheeks. “Knock it off, Chambers,” she muttered before shifting in her seat.

“Yeah.” Columbus grinned. “Besides, it doesn’t have to be her he’s interested in. I mean, you’re the one he’s staring at, and you’re not exactly an ugly hag yoursel–” That was as far as the boy got before I saw Avalon make a jerking motion under the table with her crutch, and his words turned into a yelp.

Thankfully for both my embarrassment and Columbus’s shins, Sands returned with the necklaces then and spread them over the table. I picked one up, trying once more to actually focus on class.

“Everyone have their chokers?” Carfried asked, glancing around the room curiously before nodding in satisfaction. “Excellent. Now, we’re going to turn them into not-chokers.” The man smiled at his own joke before clearing his throat. “Ah, what I mean is, we are going to use magic that will allow you to use the choker to breathe, even if you otherwise wouldn’t be able to. If you’re wearing one of these after they have the appropriate spells on them and you activate it, you will be able to breathe through poison gas, under water, or in any environment where oxygen is unavailable. With your skill and strength levels as far as magic goes, you should all be able to make a necklace that lasts about one hour after activation.”

Around the room, I saw several students glance toward our table. Specifically, toward Avalon. And I heard Zeke mutter sarcastically, “Gee, I wonder what prompted this lesson.”

“Well,” Professor Carfried spoke up clearly and loudly, addressing the boy. “I was going to ask for a volunteer to demonstrate, but it seems like we already have one. Thank you, Mr. Levin. Come on down here.” He gestured with a hand. “Come on, come on. Don’t be shy all of a sudden. And don’t worry, I’m not going to choke you. We’ll start with something much safer: terrible smells.”

With that, Carfried pointed a hand to the nearby empty fish tank that I’d noticed earlier. From his pocket, he withdrew two stones with writing on them. “Smell of rotting eggs,” he announced before dropping the stone in the tank. “And smell of full baby diapers.” Then he dropped the second stone.

“Come then, Mr. Levin. We’ll start by letting you poke your head in the tank to take a nice big sniff. See how long you can last. Then we’ll see how very helpful the oxygen spell actually is.”

Zeke looked like he wanted to do absolutely anything else, including possibly punching the teacher. But he did what he was told anyway, despite his disgust. I almost felt a little sorry for him.

Class went on that way, and we all learned to make the magic collars. Personally, I was actually really happy about the lesson. Because it meant that I’d be able to spend more time with my sharks and really get down where they liked to swim.

Still, throughout the class and the rest of the day, one thing stayed on my mind. Tomorrow was Saturday, which meant we would be going to the hospital to see Tangle.

Hopefully, we’d find actual answers there about why she or someone was so obsessed with killing Avalon.

One way or another.

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20 comments

  1. Hey guys! New arc time! I hope you enjoyed that chapter, and where we’ve picked up with seeing a little bit more of the magic class as well as a new spell for our boys and girls to learn. We’ll be seeing the actual trip to the hospital asap (Most likely next time unless something else occurs to me to show first). And don’t worry, Avalon won’t have to use the crutches for too long. But hey, at least she won’t stand out as much in the hospital itself, huh?

    Anyway, if you would like to vote for this story on Top Web Fiction and keep us up there for new readers while we start this arc, you can do so by clicking right here! Thank you all very much.

    And our tags for this chapter are a bit longer than they have been lately. They are (assuming I didn’t miss anyone, which is possible): Avalon Sinclaire, Clearly Douglas Is Just Trying To Start A Staring Contest Tournament And Flick Is His Next Challenger. I’m Sure That’s All It Is., Columbus Porter, Douglas Frey, Felicity Chambers, Flick, Gordon Kuhn, Isaac Acosta, Koren Fellows, Paul Calburn, Professor Carfried, Sands, Scout, Sean Gerardo, Shiori Porter, Sure Eden’s Garden – Put Abigail In Charge Of Educating Your Impressionable Youth. I’m Sure That Won’t Backfire Against Your Propaganda At All., Vulcan, Zeke Leven

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Jeez. Fuck the mole, seriously.

    On a different note, I can’t decide if Doug was checking Flick out or is suspicious of her. Then again, the rest of his team might have been suspicious if the latter was the case. So yeah, I suppose it was a teenage guy checking out a teenage girl. Makes sense.

    I hope Zeke isn’t just a dick, but still no word on where the stick in his ass came from so I have no way to know. Hell, maybe he’s crushing on Flick in a juvenile hair pulling kind of way (I’m not being entirely serious).

    And now there’s a chance of Flick swimming underwater with her sharks! Yay!

    I’m kind of amazed everything seems to have settled down. The Committee must be going insane behind the scenes.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jeez. Fuck the mole, seriously.

      Flick agrees with you.

      On a different note, I can’t decide if Doug was checking Flick out or is suspicious of her. Then again, the rest of his team might have been suspicious if the latter was the case. So yeah, I suppose it was a teenage guy checking out a teenage girl. Makes sense.

      😀

      And now there’s a chance of Flick swimming underwater with her sharks! Yay!

      I’d say it has a pretty high chance of happening soon.

      I’m kind of amazed everything seems to have settled down. The Committee must be going insane behind the scenes.

      No doubt.

      Like

  3. Who wants to bet that some members of Roxa’s team are going to try to find out about her family emergency- only to find out she’s an orphan. Cue investigations and werewolf shenanigans.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. “Anyway, whoever had tried to kill Avalon might have finished the job if the protection spell (the one that I now knew Wyatt had put on her) had done its job. Professor Kohaku and Gaia had both shown up within seconds of each other. But as soon as they had arrived, the shadowy figure had vanished.”
    Me: That was a damn close call. And once again, the security at Crossroads is worse than bad joke.

    “There had been older people made Heretics before, both accidentally or purposefully. So they had other plans of what to do in those situations.”
    Me: Those must have been fun times, lots of trial and error.

    “She wanted to change everything about Heretical society.”
    Me: Baby steps, Abigail. This won’t be a quick task.

    ““And smell of full baby diapers.” Then he dropped the second stone.”
    Me:…Prof. Carfried is a cruel, cruel man.
    Nice update.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. if the protection spell (the one that I now knew Wyatt had put on her) had done its job.

    change had to hadn’t — she’s postulating what might have happened if it hadn’t gone off

    Liked by 1 person

  6. especially since certain people (like me me)

    Double “me” there.

    the cute little Asian girl

    Make a move Flick! Before it’s too late!

    With that, Carfried pointed a hand a hand to the nearby

    >
    Double “a hand” there.

    I’m sure the sharks will be happy momma gets to spend more time under the water with them. Have any of them brought her a dead dolphin yet? That’s how you know your pets really love you, when they bring you food.

    Another good update, maybe we’ll be getting some answers soon instead of more questions.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Whoops, thanks for catching those double words. Not sure how THAT happened.

      Have any of them brought her a dead dolphin yet? That’s how you know your pets really love you, when they bring you food.

      lol, I’m sure Flick’ll be thrilled when that happens.

      Like

      1. Well, it’s not like they can bring her dead birds like cats do. Well, maybe a dead seagull, or perhaps an albatross.

        It’s just more likely they’d bring her a dolphin, or some other sea creature larger than a fish, like a turtle, or a baby whale. Or even another shark not part of the shiver.

        I hope Flick likes sushi!

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Though usually, it’s the dolphins that come out on top against sharks, at least when the dolphins are in their pods, as the adult dolphins can surround the shark and keep ramming their gills until the shark can no longer breathe. And we wouldn’t want Flick to be sad because one of her squaloid friends got himself killed trying to get her a present.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Wow- another attempt to kill Avalon, this one with an especially sadistic twist- although this one too was stopped before it was too late, have to think that with as ineffective as Crossroad’s security has been lately, the traitor/mole who’s been working with Pace & company either is someone fairly senior, or is in the security department.

    Though we’ve also got at least one more dick to deal with among the student population- Zeke, though the way Carfried dealt with him was kind of amusing. Also wondering what Doug’s deal is.

    And Sean’s in the doghouse right now, as Shiori didn’t appreciate him blabbing about her ancestry to his family without clearing it with her first one bit- understandable enough, given the potential consequences if the wrong person hears about it, with every person who knows another potential point of exposure, especially if they can’t keep their mouths shut.

    Interesting as to how Abigail’s going to be taken care of- there’s an apprenticeship system to help teach Heretics who come into their abilities later in life the basics, which Seller’s going to take on, and after that, they’ll see if they can’t find her doing something at the Garden, such as helping care for their special animals, teaching one of their Bystander Studies courses, or helping out with their daycare. Somehow, I think the folks at the Garden are going to get a lot more than they bargained for if they give her a job (can you imagine what sort of interesting ideas might get taught that the hard-liners wouldn’t like that much in Professor Fellows’ Bystander History or Bystander Law course?)

    And Gaia’s covering for Roxa by letting it be known that she had some sort of family emergency that warranted her taking an extended leave of absence, so, at least in theory, she’d have a plausible reason to come back after being gone for so long in case someone does retrieve that choker from Pace or some other widget that’d allow her to hide her werewolf nature. Though wonder how many people who don’t know what really happened are going to believe the cover story, because, frex, her teammates might know she doesn’t really have a family and could start asking awkward questions.

    Oh, and why am I not surprised that one of Flick’s first reactions to the magic necklaces that’ll allow them to breathe in places without oxygen, such as being underwater, which they’re going to make, is that it’ll allow her to go hang with her shark buddies in their preferred environment.

    Hey, Flick. What kind of coffee do incredibly pregnant cows like to drink?”

    Despite groans from the others, I willingly took the bait. “I dunno, what kind of coffee do they like?”

    Her frankly adorable smile widened even more then, and Shiori promptly answered, “Decalf.”

    *groans* Though if Shiori’s going back to cracking bad jokes & puns, at least something returning to being somewhat normalish.

    Sure Eden’s Garden – Put Abigail In Charge Of Educating Your Impressionable Youth. I’m Sure That Won’t Backfire Against Your Propaganda At All.

    Um, sure. Though, out of curiosity, just what does Seller think about the reformist factions like what Gaia leads opposed to hardliners like Ruthers, and the ‘all Strangers are bad’ dogma….

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Shiori.

    Just because you are cute does not mean you are allowed to pun.

    We have spoken about this many, many times. BAD SHIORI. BAD.

    Meanwhile, Flick continues to be the Harem Protagonist. Obviously that’s why Douglas is looking at her. Though I don’t think Avalon would appreciate the extra competition, injured as he is.

    On the plus side–because someone trying to kill Avalon again is *definitely* a good thing, right?–Flick has an injured roommate. This obviously means it’s time for her to play nurse!

    Like

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