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Aug 17, 2022 3:29 AM
Zeke and Rebecca graduate
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Zeke does not really WANT to be in a graduation team that Rebecca isn’t, as graduation day approaches, but he isn’t quite capable of rearranging alliances on a whim and there were probably lots of good reasons for partnering up separately, or something.

The school gives him a spell that makes him a quarter of a percent faster, every time he casts it, and takes several days to wear off; he spends a few days casting it hundreds of times, on himself and the rest of his alliance, and he WANTS to cast it on Rebecca but it’d just put her out of sync with the rest of her team, probably. 

All four of his teammates are indies; they politely pretend that he’s in the center of their formation because he’s the tallest, and not for the obvious reason. One of them knows a brief timespear, enough to pause time for a few seconds, and she casts it over and over again until a stray claw rips her entire torso open and her everything spills out and her corpse starts bubbling into - what the fuck - Zeke doesn’t need to know what’s happening with her corpse he just has to keep going. Another one of his teammates works with explosions; that one spends a little too long staring at a hypnotic ripple in the air, and then he miscasts and blows himself up and everything is covered in blood and there’s blood in Zeke’s hair and in his eyes and in his mouth and his clothes are covered in things he doesn’t need to think about and he still needs to keep going. 

His remaining team reaches the graduation gate; he’s back in New York and he’s throwing up and his parents are crying and he’s crying but he’s alive, probably, maybe, and none of the blood on him is even his. The world is distant and bright and everything still has sharp edges from all the stimulants, and he eventually drifts away to a bathroom, and the shower is a lot smaller than he thought it would be and he sits down in it with his clothes still on and he vibrates so much that he’s afraid that he’s going to explode too and he does not WANT to explode. 

And then he dismisses the hundreds of zoomy spells that he’d spent hours and hours stacking, one by one, and takes off his clothes, and gets back in the shower, and empties an entire bottle of shampoo onto his head, and scrubs at everything until he feels very slightly more clean, and puts on a towel, and leaves the bathroom.

He checks his - he resets his forgotten email password, first, and then he checks his email.

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Nothing from Rebecca yet. She'd warned him that she might take a while, not being sure exactly where she'd exduct given her particular circumstances.

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Orion exducts at the last possible second, looking like he's just had some kind of religious experience, and says he saw Rebecca hit the gate.

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Oh thank fucking GOD.

”- and she didn’t, like, look super badly hurt -“

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"I wasn't mostly looking at her? I don't think so though."

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“... okay. Thanks... you. Thank you. Thanks.”

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Rebecca manages to send out an email about an hour after graduation, CC'd to Zeke, Raleigh, Shannon, and about forty other people who agreed to write their email addresses or a care-of address down for her, that she is SAFE and HOME and CLEAN with PIE and HUGS. She includes a selfie of herself in her sister's clothes, a pink tank top and jeans that are a little big on her because the Scholomance isn't good for being curvy; she is still wearing her amethysts from Zeke and her tiara she made in Shop and she is holding a plate with a slice of pie in the hand that doesn't have her phone. The email adds "P.S. tell me you're okay or I drop your if-I'm-dead letter in the mailbox no takebacks!"

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He takes about ten seconds to write a reply.

i’m okay i love you a lot i’m so glad you’re okay. i love you. jasmine and antwon died

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<333333! julio and alaina are okay though?
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yeah they’re fine probably. i hope stuff is going well with your family and stuff. do you know when you wanna come to New York. also i still dunno if i’m a religious person but i told god that i would go to church if you were okay so we should do that

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Awww!

I do wanna come to New York but don't know if my family will want me wandering off any time soon
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if they wanna come too we can super pay for that! i could cover an airbnb and stuff. if not that’s fine too, you can spend as much time in chicago as you want i love you i’m so glad you’re safe

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Love youuuuu! I can probably talk them into a trip to NYC like next week even though Beth is real grouchy that she won't be able to see in the enclave
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okay cool i love you! i’m gonna try to calm down talk to you later

 

His parents hadn’t planned on him sprouting all the way up to  - 6’6, 6’7? - when they’d preemptively bought clothes for his return, but a few things still fit; he changes into them. There’s a vial on the table when he gets back.

”... what’s that?”

”Well, Ezekiel,” says his mother, “you went through something very traumatic, graduating, so you should take a potion for that, and then something for all the nutrients you haven’t been getting and - everything, you know -”

”I don’t really wanna take a trauma potion.”

”... they don’t work as well if you don’t take them right away, Ezekiel.”

”Then I guess they’re not gonna work as well.”

She hesitates.

”I... understand that you’ve been through a lot, and all, and it’s completely up to you, but I’d like to hear your thought process? You’re not going to make anything better by making yourself feel worse.”

“I just don’t want to.”

”... your older brother didn’t want to either, when he came out, and you know how he can be.”

”I’m not gonna be like Damien, mom, I’m just - I tried a trauma potion one time and I didn’t like it. Or something. Did you guys, like, wanna hear about how school was.”

”... yes, of course.”

He spends a few hours rambling at his parents, and then at his eleven year old brother, who runs in after a while and is VERY EXCITED to see him, and he picks away at extremely expensive food, and he emails a few dozen friends, and he curls up in his too-small bed and stares at the ceiling for hours until he falls asleep.

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The next morning Rebecca emails him a link to her new Instagram, which she has populated with several selfies with various family members and a picture of her breakfast (eggs and toast and yogurt with granola and blueberries, captioned "Mom thinks I need to eat more if I'm going to keep up my workout routine!").

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Zeke likes all of her posts and comments under three of them - ‘<3’, ‘you look really good in this one and all the other ones!’, and ‘nom nom nom’.

 

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His comments get heart emojis on them!

Eventually she informs him that her parents have consented to travel to New York as a family, though her parents think it would be weird for Zeke to pay for it and have booked the flight and AirBnB themselves.

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That’s fine. Is there, like, a specific story that they’ve been told that he needs to stick to?

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They know that I went to what my brother's been calling Hardcore Hogwarts (you can say "Scholomance" though). They don't know about mals since I don't want them to get eaten, just that a lot of wizard kids go to it and I went by mistake and couldn't come out till I graduated and that learning magic is dangerous but I'm past that part now. I was trying to give them the impression that it's mostly shop and lab accidents and not having a doctor in there. Also that they aren't supposed to look right at me when I do anything they haven't already seen work like the lullaby. So like maybe don't talk about people who died too much or mention how but you can talk about classes and whatever.
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cool, can do, i’ll infodump about old persian and not about toothless wrigglers or whatever.

when you told them about me were they like ‘give me my gun at once, we must go a-hunting’ or like ‘we will embrace him as our own’ or like ‘hmmmmm’ or what

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strong hmmmmm but I think they'll like you!
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woo!

 

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I told them that you helped me a lot and that I would've been in really big trouble without you and stuff! so that should help with avoiding the gun thing.
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you helped me a lot too because you’re very good! my parents are also pretty ‘hmmmmm’ but they’ll agree that you’re very good once they meet you, i dunno how anyone could not

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Huh, what are they hmmming about?
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i dunno, i just got a ‘hmmmmm’ and a ‘that’s nice sweetie’ kinda vibe of them. they’ll be fine

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