Time for an Unexpected Gift: Epilogue (Gift 2)
A Whateley Academy Tale
Time for an Unexpected Gift:
Epilogue (Gift 2)
by Babs Yerunkle and Hart
Oct 12, 2006
What had just happened? If felt like she'd been sucked right out of her clothes. He was obviously an Avatar and a surprised and unwilling Avatar, at that, considering how fast he'd pushed her back out.
She'd never before considered the problems that Avatars had -- given her situation, she tended to give more weight to spirit-rights. Was that even a real movement? If anyone cared about that sort of thing, Whateley would be the place for it.
Clearly, she needed to work a little harder at embedding herself inside the material of her costume. Mongoose had shown her that he couldn't reach her when she was embedded inside a piece of material. Had she let some of her naked spirit out? But then, Mongoose had been an Avatar-3. Tansy had only been an AV-1, probably. This guy might have been stronger than that. And the way he'd pulled her in had been different, too. It had only been an instant, so she didn't have enough time to spot all the differences but, for a moment, it had been like she'd actually been in contact with his mind.
Being honest with herself, that term wasn't intimate enough. Mind-to-mind contact made everything sound so sterile and pristine. This had been like she'd touched his spirit -- his soul. She'd caught a spike of fear from him and a yawning chasm of loneliness. She'd had a glimpse of a car spinning and crumpling, as seen from the inside. And for some reason, there was a kitten.
The jumbled images made no sense. She wondered if he'd gotten images from her? She desperately hoped he hadn't. She had some very big secrets to protect.
She moved back to her locker and realized with alarm that something was very wrong.
Every time she cast herself, she attached her spirit-self to pieces of matter -- her costume, her "locker" box, her schoolbooks. She could always "drop" an item, so that it was no longer in her telekinetic grip, but she couldn't add anything to the mass of herself, not unless she was re-charged into that item. She could pick up a new book with her gloves, but she couldn't *be* the book, have her spirit inside it, and telekinetically control it.
And that's why there was something wrong. After her accidental contact with that strange avatar, she still inhabited her costume, but she'd "dropped" contact with her biology book. Even worse, she'd added contact with many pieces of dirt and grit from the floor where she'd fallen. It was just a few specs of sand, but it shouldn't be possible! Not unless...
At their locker, Jade asked, "Charge?" speaking in their typically abbreviated shorthand.
"Neither," Jinn reluctantly decided. "I just had one of those weird Whateley moments. Bumped into an Avatar, accidentally. He - he sucked me right out of my costume. I don't *think* I was exposed."
She watched her physical self glowing pale yellow in fear. "But-"
"Exactly," Jinn agreed. "I think he *RE*-cast me back out." She explained about the added dirt and grit.
"Who is this guy?" Jade asked, suspiciously. Jinn knew exactly what she was thinking. Hadn't they already dealt with enough, this month?
"And we've got me and Jann-sensei - don't want to bump in the hallway."
"He's in two of our classes," Jinn warned. "English and algebra. Your height, about eleven years old, shy and withdrawn."
"Oh, him. The kid with the bubble?"
The only thing they'd really noticed about the boy was the way everyone avoided contact with him. Even during the between-classes rush, it was like the guy was surrounded by his own personal force-field. Now she was starting to understand why. Did other people have this same reaction to him?
"Might not be an Avatar," Jade mused, sharing Jinn's thought.
"Plan?" Jade asked.
"I'll take the back of class," Jinn decided. "Everything but my clothes locked in the locker. If I suddenly pop, you can collect our stuff after class. I want to see how long I last."
Jade nodded. "Don't do anything I wouldn't do."
They smiled at each other then split for their separate classes.
Instinct clamored for James to keep running, never stop running. He had absorbed a spirit and there was no way that she did not know that he was an Avatar. He looked over his shoulder worriedly to make certain the spirit was not following him to exact revenge.
Class, however, would wait on no concerns or mistakes. He ran through the lessening stream of students as most had already reached their destination. He managed to get into class just before the teacher locked the door as was her habit. No late students to HER classes.
Settled into his nook for Mrs. Reynolds’ pre-lunch Civics class, he was running on autopilot. His mind was miles away or, more accurately, fifteen minutes away. How could he have been that careless? He had wanted to watch her and imagine himself in her place but he knew better.
That momentary lapse of reason left him in an awkward situation now. He looked around at the other kids, wondering how long it would take for word
of the incident in the hall to spread. He reflexively looked down as he noticed
two girls in the row in front of him look over their shoulders while whispering to each other.
Turning down the volume on the ocean sounds queued up right now, he closed his eyes to better focus on the quiet whispering between the two brunettes.
“Did you hear, that freaky girl from Poe spazzed out in the hall. Some kid ran into her and she ended up flatter than Jello.”
“Oh yeah… you think it was the little weirdo back there?”
“Dunno. Maybe. They just said some little kid, though. Too bad about her getting back up almost as soon as the kid ran for it.”
James breathed a sigh of relief at the news that his misadventure had not killed the spirit but… that meant that she was still there. It meant that she still knew about him. The images he had gotten from her seemed to make no sense. He had been with her, watching as Jade received a hormone shot in a white office, a short lived image of the video Miss Devlin showed the second day of class… the worst, an image of Bloodwolf pinned helpless to a tree.
That last image and all the confusing colors occupied his attention, drowning out the soothing music and even Mrs. Reynold’s voice. What did it mean? He had heard about the beat up werewolf, of course, EVERYONE had heard about that this last week but did that mean the spirit had done it? Was she some sort of vengeance demon?
He felt himself slipping into a meditative daze as he began to ponder the ramifications of what had happened. He had not harmed her, at least he did not think he harmed her. If anything, she was as much to blame as he was although he doubted she would appreciate that view.
Setting that aside, he began to dissect each of the images in turn. Jade in a medical office of some sort. There had been a recognition of hormones as she covered herself in one of those little gowns. She looked so sweet and yet so vulnerable. The wide eyes and satisfaction as she received the shot shook James at the mirror. She wanted to be a boy as badly as he wanted to be a girl.
James looked up quickly with a blush quite apparent at that thought but nobody seemed to be looking his way. He once more stared down at the laptop screen before him. That second image was as disturbing in its own way. Jinn was a lot older, why would she be in the same level English as Jade? He could not swear but he thought he had seen himself, as well, and he knew she was not in HIS class. Could she have read those thoughts from her sister?
He shifted in his seat as the thought of a telepathic spirit unsettled him. Even if he had wanted to hang onto her, he could not be certain that the spirit would not have been able to contact someone. That would have been even more of a disaster.
He would have to find some way to make amends. If he could not convince the spirit to silence, he… he just had to be able to convince her. His head nodded slowly.His fingers slowed upon the keyboard, their rote repetition of the teacher’s words coming to a close with the sound of the bell and his decision.
Shaking himself from his light trance as the last of the other students left the class, James slid gracefully from his chair and secured his backpack, fussing with it as he slid the laptop back in by virtue of habit, before leaving.
Unnoticed as he departed, Mrs. Reynolds was watching him with a concerned expression on her kindly features. It was always difficult on students forced into Whateley too young and she had seen all too many of those this year. She had another his age after lunch, as well.
They continued meeting each hour at the lockers. Finally, during Chinese class, Jinn suddenly evaporated. In the middle of a word processing drill, Jade sat up in surprise.
She was deeply relieved to be back together. During the last hour, she'd begun to worry that maybe somehow, he'd permanently split them apart or some such thing. Being able to become multiple people was wonderful, just so long as she was able to gather all of her back together again afterward. She still suffered from nightmares about the whole Tansy affair. Some of the others didn't get it. They didn't understand that all of her - Jade, Jinn, Jann-sensei, Jeanie - they were all her. And even if she split up temporarily, she HAD to get back together again afterward. The thought of permanently losing part of herself was just… terrifying.
But her memories as Jinn were wonderfully back where they belonged. Jade pressed a finger to her temple, in the private signal for Jann-sensei to "touch" her and connect up telepathically. Together, then, the two of them reviewed the incident where this super-avatar boy had sucked her in.
She sympathized with the kid. She was always the youngest and smallest in every class. This boy looked like he was in the same boat and he had a really vulnerable look to him. Somehow, he'd charged her up so that she lasted for almost three hours longer than she should have! And on top of that, he might be able to penetrate her anti-avatar defenses.
She had to meet him again, but it had to be safe.
There was no way she was going near him in her physical body. But did she dare approach him as Jinn? She felt confident enough to deal with the Tansys of the world. Even if she did get sucked in, she thought she knew enough that she'd be able to force them to let her go. Even if worse came to worst, she could get Fey to tug on her thread (or however the elf-girl saw it) and pull her free.
This super-avatar kid might be something else. She'd seen a glimpse of his soul. What would a prolonged contact do? And she had to find out whether he'd learned any of HER secrets.
Linked to Jann like this, she was learning to think things through more quickly. She split ideas into alternate possibilities, and each of her explored one avenue, joining back together at the end of the thought.
The least risk was to see him as Jinn. It was a "been there, done that" thing. They had some idea of the dangers involved. But, just in case, Jamie would follow along as the unseen spy. She would hover near the ceiling, about ten feet away (close enough to hear most of the conversation, close enough to see what happened, but far enough to be safe). And if anything went wrong, Jamie could instantly blip back. Jade would be waiting, in the center of Poe. If there was bad news, she'd have help close by.
Now she just had to figure out where and when.
He remained feeling uneasy, almost sick to his stomach for the duration of the lunch he spent hiding in Administration and transferring old records onto the backup servers.
Hacking Theory did not turn out to be any better and he finally quietly IM’d Mr. Babage and secured permission to go to the bathroom partway into the second hour.
James quickly got up and left without acknowledging the questioning glance that Greasy sent his way as he skirted widely around him.
Once in the bathroom, he sank into one of the stalls and sat, eyes closed, for a long time before he heard the door open and he quieted his sniffling.
He raised his feet, drawing his knees up against his chest and wrapping his arms around his legs as the person who had entered began to speak to a companion. One seemed a bit older, his voice rougher and more confident.
The older boy nodded and explained in a voice barely louder than a whisper, “Yeah, they are related or something. They are always meeting up in the halls between classes. I think the Alphas might have been trying to hit her somehow but she seemed fine by the time I could see.”
James drew in, keeping still as he realized they might be talking about his earlier encounter. The higher pitched voice confirmed it.
“Really, the ALPHAS? Why would they bother with her?”
“Remember that fight in front of Crystal Hall on the third? That was them, both of them. The older one had on this spooky costume and took out Icer and the little one, get this, /shot/ Tansy Walcutt. Do you know how many people would have wanted to pull that trigger?”
“Oh yeah! It was definitely them then? How cool. You’re right, though, the Alphas were probably behind this. You know they are going to get back at her.”
“Some people are saying they already tried. I mean, come on, you don’t think all those beat up Ultra-Violents last weekend were an accident, do you? Especially Bloodwolf and that writing burnt into him. ‘I attack little girls’? I wonder which of them did that.”
“No clue, he probably tried to attack the little one, though. Any idea how it all started?”
The door creaked open once more, closing on the parting words, “They were all but shouting it. Tansy is an Avatar and took a nibble on the Ghost-girl…”
James began to rock in his hidden observation post, his imagination quite vivid enough to point a dismal picture of how those Poe girls would respond to his own attempt to emulate Tansy.
Jinn dressed as a normal girl. She wore her cosmetic skin, and wore a black halter and miniskirt. It was a bit over the top - the clothes were more appropriate for nightclub wear (if she ever got a chance at that). She was more concerned with the cost. The outfit was drastically cheaper than her school uniform. And while the weather had turned too cool for most girls to wear anything like this, temperature wasn't something she felt. Add to that the fact that it was a very feminine outfit that let her strut a bit, and it made her look very seventeen (as compared to the boy's eleven), and she thought she was ready.
She left everything else behind - the locker, the metal arms, everything. If she needed to bug out, she'd be abandoning everything she took into this meeting.
They'd spotted the boy after class heading out toward the edge of campus, toward the woods. She'd sent Jamie as a grain-of-sand remote spy. Every ten minutes, she popped back, reporting, then got recharged and flew at top speed out to find him again. She didn't get too close, she stayed about two hundred yards back; he was just at the edge of her visual range. The boy was just sitting at the edge of the woods, fiddling with something on the ground.
She finally decided that he liked his private time.
Jade gathered all of herselves together again, then charged Jinn into the skimpy outfit. Time to do it!
James trudged out of the electronics class, not even paying attention enough to Scott to worry over the unease he always felt around him. Too many other problems were on his mind today.
As soon as he reached the line of trees, he could feel her approach and he sank down upon the ground. It did not matter that he was only just within the edge and might be seen, not right at this moment. He needed to be with her in more than spirit and she was here, her russet and black paws padding silently upon the leaves as she met him with a comforting mew.
Whiskers hopped into his lap and sprawled across one of his arms, a contented purr arising from her tiny chest as she lapped gently at the back of his hand. The warmth of contact settled his nerves and eventually even brought a nervous smile to his lips.
The two of them stayed like that for quite a long time, the rhythm of the flow between them slowing in urgency as James relaxed and accepted, as always, that it would be alright.
He shook off a sudden frisson of unease, bringing his hand up to rub at the arm the kitten was sprawled over. The sparse, fine blonde down almost felt like it was standing on end.
James blinked as Whiskers gave his hand a bat and then perked her ears. He sighed and let his head hang as she turned and headed deeper into the woods once more. Playtime was over.
The quiet voice came from behind him, breaking the uneasy suspense he had been feeling at something. “I know what you were thinking when you fell into me.”
He turned slowly, hesitantly. She was standing there in the darkness. It was the older sister, unfortunately, the one that had really grown up recently, the one that was no more than some sort of spirit. His curiousity arose for a moment at the skimpy outfit that emphasized her attributes at the expense of making her chilled if she were flesh but the worry over what she might do or say fought against that quite successfully, “Yes.”
Both feared what the other might know or say. The moment stretched longer until Jinn took pity on him. The voice of the young woman once more broke the weighty silence, “We need to talk.”
James nodded slowly and his voice was unsteady as he repeated himself, “Yes.” He moved forward into the scant light of the overhead light from the nearby path, a brief flash of iridescence scattering from forearm and eyes. He drew a breath and then closed his eyes as he began to speak, voice heavy, “I did not mean to do that, especially not after what they are saying. Tansy, the Alphas?”
Jinn did not exactly relax but neither did she move away at his approach. Her voice was reassuring as she answered his semi-apology, “I know. Otherwise, we would not be talking.” The implicit threat hung in the air.
He flinched a bit and sounded skittish, hands held stiffly at his side, “I guess I kind of deserve that. What… did you see? What did you tell her?” He could not ask her if Jinn had told Jade everything, what she had thought as well as what he had thought.
“What did you see?” She seemed unwilling to commit to anything, as much so as he himself was.
He blew out a deep breath and his stomach seemed tied in knots. His emotions might be hidden behind gleaming ultraviolet walls to Jinn’s sight but his face and stance were far simpler instruments to read, “Just… please?” He turned his head away and streaked blond and brown hair was pulled from behind his shoulder to half cover his face.
Jinn knew that she had to talk to him if he would not talk to her. One of them had to start this otherwise neither of them would ever feel comfortable. She finally offered, “I know that you were watching her, that you were… feeling something. And I know that having me merge with you was the last thing you would have wanted.”
He stiffened as the dancing he had somehow hoped would never cease abruptly did so, “Yes… I… no one can know that I am an Avatar. Please, do not tell anyone!” His voice broke with emotion as he turned back, eyes revealed once more as they sought her own, pleading.
There was a faint ‘meow’ and both of them turned to see a small tortoiseshell kitten advancing from the forest. For the briefest of moment, Jinn thought she saw something like an intense banana yellow… echo from the cat and she narrowed her focus. She looked back to find James’ eyes were once more seeking hers out between worried glances to the kitten padding towards him.
He knelt down and the kitten nestled into one of his arms as he brought it to his chest in a protective manner before he whispered. “Please… I will do anything, I just can not…” He fell silent as his chin fell to his chest.
There was something odd about James and the cat. A faint echo was the best way she could find to describe it but there might be some kind of bond between the two of them.
He continued on in a whisper, “I will not tell anyone but if you do, they might take her away. I… I would get old…” James’ voice wavered and Jinn needed no ESP to tell something else was troubling him. His lies were written clearly enough on his face for even a blind girl to see.
Jinn looked over her shoulder for a moment and turned back with a shrug, “Look, relax. I know you didn’t mean for anything to happen but it did. Now, you’re in my sister’s morning classes, right? Miss Devlin’s English and Mrs. Bel’s Algebra?”
The boy nodded, still a bit rattled and replied after clearing his throat, “Yes, that is me. I… I am James.”
The older girl nodded, “I do not think I have seen you before but she tells me everything. We both tell each other everything. My name’s Jinn.”
James flinched a bit at the reminder of his own concern, fingers stilling upon the kitten, “…oh. Do you have to, though?”
“Yes, I have to. She knows my secrets, all of them. I could not keep something like this, that could affect us so much, from her.”
He winced but conceded the point, if only to himself. James continued with a brief sigh, “I suppose. But she will not tell anyone else, will she. Or you? I promise I will stay away from you or whatever.”
Jinn eyed him a bit at that, “You do not have to do that, it was an accident. Just…”
James shrugged, looking down again as he finished her answer, “…don’t stumble into you again? I… I did see some things, though.”
Her voice seemed a bit guarded as she asked, “What did you see?”
James looked up and took a step toward Jinn and his free hand raised in a halting motion. Hazel eyes gleamed with crystalline light as he lowered his hand to his side once more. As he spoke, his voice was shivering, “You look like her. She is so beautiful. Why would she... ahh… want that? Why would she want this?”
Jinn thought she saw something in those eyes amidst the confusion apparent in his manner as he gestured to himself. She could not be certain of what it was, his emotions were cut off from her. Maybe Jade might see something more. But, for now, it seemed her secret was safe. “You saw Jade having a hormone shot, then? Anything else?”
He shook his head and cocked it to one side as curiousity crept into his voice, “We were not in contact that long… is there something else you are concerned I might have seen?”
She grimaced and shook her head quickly, “Don’t try to fish for more info. You already know more than you should. If you tell anyone about that, Jade...” She trailed off, shrugging. The consequences of such stories remained unsaid but neither of them doubted or failed to understand them.
James smiled a bit sheepishly as he shrugged again, “Sorry, could not help wondering. Just that and…. A couple of other things, nothing major.” The uneasiness in his voice and the somewhat frightened flick of his eyes betrayed his deception once more, however.
Jinn shook her head and stated firmly, nodding to Whiskers, “No, tell me. Look, I saw something… something about a truck? And I saw her, or at least a kitten. I know you are scared but we have to trust each other now.”
He looked down at the kitten nestled contentedly in the crook of his arm and raised his glance to meet hers. At least, he would have met hers if his eyes had not shuttered close, long lashes twitching as he whispered, “You know about the shot. I saw…. I saw what you did to the UltraViolents. When you pinned BloodWolf to the tree?”
She shook her head, wincing. That was obviously not an image to encourage trust, “There were reasons for that, you know. Is that all?”
He shook his head, “Just one more thing. Something about Miss Devlin’s class but… you saw me. And I know you are not in my class. How?”
Jinn smiled, “Do not worry about it. Jade and I have a way to share our thoughts.”
James nodded slowly, shrugging, “That was it, though, I swear.” He still seemed skittish over the whole thing, especially the sharing of memories.
She thought for a second and then said, “Okay, we both know a few secrets but nothing too damaging. Relax, James, I do not really blame you, I am just upset because of what happened with Tansy.”
He puzzled over ‘damaging’ a bit but shrugged it off, “Thanks. I really am sorry…”
Jinn cut him off, “I know but stop apologizing. We have gotten that over with, alright?”
James bobbed his head and smiled tentatively, “Okay. Thank you. But.. I think I need to get back to my dorm… err, cottage now.” He knelt gracefully, legs together, releasing the kitten and smiling as she jumped from his arm to bounce off the knees planted into the forest soil with a cheery chirp. She obviously had no qualms over the situation.
The spirit looked down at the kneeling boy and smiled once more, “Alright. But remember that you could really hurt m… my sister if you talk about some of that. Do not do that.”
It was difficult to determine if the last was a plea or an instruction but James nodded anyway, “I will not.” He waited there for awhile, glance twitching to the retreating red and black blotched form weaving into the trees as Jinn turned and left.