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Jan 19, 2021 7:45 PM
thistle and dermot brave the trials
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When Thistle wakes, near to the end of her first semester of magic college, learning why she has always 'felt' another side brushing up against her mind, she wants to throw up. 

Trying hard not to wake her roommate, she gets into the bathroom, but only manages a few false heaves. It's not until she has a few moments to decompress, that the feeling is recognisable as deep, painful homesickness. 

So she splashes water on her face, throws a coat over her PJ's, slides into her shower flip-slops, and grabs her hearing aid. She tucks it into place as she leaves her room heading for the payphones. Perhaps Quentin had a point when he said Brakebills' was 'somewhat ableist.'

She dials her home number, praying her favourite person would pick up. 

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"Hawke residence, Beth speaking," is the answer, and Thistle lets out a broken sob into the phone. She's already crying. Fuck. "Hello?" Beth repeats.

"Bethy, it's me," Thistle replies, and hears the gasp of joy from her sister. 

"Thist? Hi! Hey, holy shit, it's so good to hear from you!" Beth sounds so happy, and Thistle's heart breaks. She sobs into the reciever again, trying to cover the sound. "Thistle? Are you okay? Talk to me." 

"I miss you. Fuck, I miss you so much, Bethy. And Mum. And Bodahn, and the goddamn dog," Thistle says, trying not to cry any harder. 

"Thist," Beth says, and her voice sounds so sad that Thistle has to sit down. "I miss you too. I keep sleeping in your room. You should be here, you-" Beth cuts herself off, but she knows what Beth was going to say. That she should be at home. Beth is a hedge. Their father was a hedge. It was her mother that insisted Brakebills was the better option. 

"If I did come home...if I..." Thistle starts, but can't finish. She was in, wasn't she? What her father and her sister couldn't do was be here. Shouldn't she be here for them? 

"Thist. I love you. I miss you so much all the time, but you're in! You're going to learn so much! You..." Beth trails off, and Thistle can hear where Beth was going with it. She has heard the same speech from her mother, so desperate for legitimacy. 

"Yeah, Beth. I know. I...I'm sticking it out. For you. And dad," Thistle says, her heart already feeling too heavy to carry. 

"Are you happy?" Beth asks. 

Thistle is silent. She was silent until she got a hearing aid, so she guesses that it's no different to Beth anyway. 

"Because...if you aren't...Thistle, you should come home." Beth's words are so against their mother's that Thistle reels. "You know as well as I do that magic doesn't have to come from that stupid place, and I want you here. I want my big sister here! I miss you, and the dog is miserable, aren't you?" Thistle laughs when she hears a mournful little howl from Ariel. "What do you want, Thist? Do you want to be there?" 

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"I..." Thistle leans against the phonebooth. "I don't know. I didn't even want hearing aids," she admits. 

"I know. I saw how much you hated it when mum wouldn't give up on the idea," Beth says. She sighs. "Look. I love you, and so does she, but I want you to do what you want."

"Can I let you know when I figure that out?" Thistle whispers. 

"Of course, Thist. And I love you, and will support you, no matter what." 

"Thanks, Bethy." Thistle goes to hang up. 

"Carver would want you to be happy too. More than anything. And he was a selfish git," Beth says, and Thistle lets out a choked laugh. 

"I hear you. I love you." 

"Love you too, fluffy sister." 

Thistle hangs up, rests her head on the wall, and then heads back to her room to get ready for class. 

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Classes proceed. Most of her professors do not make any particular effort to accommodate her. They speak quickly, often while facing the board.

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Some of them are condescending, dismissive, and downright nasty when trying to make a point at a student's expense.

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One of her professors does make an effort to speak slowly, enunciate clearly, and face the students whenever he speaks-

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-but most do not, and none speak to her about any further accommodations.

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She can weather this. She can. She’s been through this her whole life, long before she had her hearing aids.

Even knowing that, her heart still aches every time she has to tap Quentin’s shoulder, so that she can read his notes. 

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At their next study session on the Sea, Quentin hovers instead of joining her on the picnic blanket immediately. He's carrying a book in the crook of his arm, vibrating with nervous energy. Finally, he says:

"I found a spell. It's not for lip-reading, which would be way more useful than half the stuff I had to read to find this one. It's for looking at my notes during class- it could be generally useful for like, surveillance. This has worrying implications about privacy rights given that the, uh, uninitiated, don't know about magic and can't defend themselves from us, but I'm choosing not to think about it."

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Thistle feels like she hasn’t cracked a smile all day, but this makes her lips curve up, just enough. She pulls a piece of paper out of her notebook, and scribbles a ‘Thank you’. She passes it to Quentin, once he’s sitting on the blanket. 

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"How are things going in class? You seem a little lost."

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Thistle dips her head for a moment, her hands threading into her hair. She then pulls the paper back to her, and scribbles for a few moments.

Was told that I should be looking at ways to hear that don’t involve ‘muggle inventions’. Told them that ASL was a thing and that went down like a house on fire. 

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I can help you research options. There must be other deaf magicians.

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But why does everything have to be a magic solution? Why can’t they just be slightly more accommodating? It’s so-

Thistle doesn’t even know what to say here, so she just draws a Scribbly black cloud. 

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He doesn't seem to know what to write about that. It takes him a bit longer to get something out.

I don't think Half the professors act like they're colonial governors. No kings, except back home where they're too far away to do anything. Brakebills doesn't have to follow the ADA. I don't think you should go up against something if you can't win. We can find a magic solution that translates English into ASL.

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It’s not the solution Thistle wants. Not even close. But she’s frightened and frustrated that the solution seems to be just Leave.

we can table that for another time. Can we go off your revision notes? Mine are pretty sparse. 

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Revision ensues.

Quentin eventually gets distracted from whatever they're meant to be studying by launching an extended digression about phosphoromancy and its applications in...

"-in the middle of the city! Protective wards are one thing, but the time effect- the unseasonable weather, it's amazing. It's amazing there aren't any scientists in New York who've noticed something messing with their models."

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"-are there? Do you think they've been-"

He swallows, nervously.

Anyway. Where were we?

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Thistle wraps an arm around Quentin’s shoulders and squeezes.

 “I like how excited you are about this. It’s nice.” Her voice is raspier than ever. 

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"It's just-"

He pauses, and remembers to write.

Magic is real. I've been waiting for this my whole life.

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Thistle already knew it was real. She cannot relate. She wishes she felt anything like his enthusiasm. 

Because of your love of card tricks?

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It goes back further than that. I guess I always felt like this world wasn't good enough, by itself. The first time I read a fantasy book, it was like...sunlight streaming into a dusty room in an abandoned house. Everything else got better. I kept re-reading the same books, wanting things to be like that out here. Now they are. All of us get to be part of that.

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Not all of them. Not everyone. Some people have their perception of magic restricted and held back, to the point it hurts. But Quentin has escaped that, and Thistle would never change his view.

I’ll bet that light was warmer than anything you ever felt. 

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The moment I walked onto campus was the happiest of my life.

And so they study, and eventually, go their separate ways.

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Meanwhile, Dermot Quinn hates magic school. It's cool that he can do enough magic to get in, whatever, that's fine. He's not good enough to pass any of his classes, and the only sport they have is one that uses magic, so he's SOL. Most of the time he just misses his family, except that's stupidly complicated nowadays too. He doesn't even really miss his dad, he thinks, except then he remembers the business trip he dragged Dermot on. He doesn't miss his mom, he lies to himself, but it doesn't hold up when he reminisces about her casserole while he's picking at dinner. He misses Skylar, that one is easy enough to admit- and easy enough to do something about. It's not like he has to worry about keeping the whole shebang a secret from his brother sister. So, when he's bored on Friday night and he doesn't want to go to the special cell-phone-enabled-magical-hotspot-or-whatever on campus to exchange incredibly slowed down texts with her, Dermot goes home.

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Skye probably already figured out he was coming by the time he turned the last street corner, but he'll still knock on the apartment door. Their mom raised him to be polite or at least, raised Skylar that way, and Dermot is picking up the skillset now that it counts.

"Hey, sis, guess who? I didn't text because it's like a prison in there."

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