Alternative Students Need Alternative Teaching Styles
Isaac sighed. He was trying to connect with the power of the earth with his own power rather than touching it from the outside, and he wasn’t sure what that meant or how to do it. He periodically thought he was doing it, but then he’d get distracted by some other strand of power and end up thinking on it instead. “This is really hard,” he complained, to distract from the headache creeping up the back of his neck.
“If it was easy,” James said gently, “everyone would do it.”
“No, they wouldn’t,” Isaac disagreed, because an hour of meditation that hadn’t accomplished anything was making him cranky. “You can’t just learn how to do magic like that.” If magic was a choice, Isaac wouldn’t know how to do it. Or maybe he would. He kind of liked it most of the time.
“I suppose, but if it were easy, everyone would be able to fake it.”
Isaac opened his eyes. “Can I fake it?” Maybe doing that would be easier than this.
“No. Your archmage is insistent that you learn witchcraft so you’re going to learn it.” James had such a firm way of speaking. Like everything he said was the final word on a topic. He was like Cameron that way, actually. Isaac wondered if it was a witchy trait or if it was just because they were both really powerful.
“I know, I know.” Isaac sighed. “I just don’t get it, that’s all.”
“You’re improving,” James said. “Let’s take a break.” Ron, ever silent and glowering just slightly, helped him stand without a word.
Isaac wasn’t sure that was a good idea. “I’m worried if I do that I won’t be able to focus at all when we come back.”
“Is that a problem for you? Focusing?” James asked, looking at Isaac curiously. Great. Now he was going to think Isaac was an idiot.
“Sometimes.” Isaac tried to play it off as no big deal as he stood up.
“I have an idea,” James said, turning to Ron. “Come with us to the forest. It’s more relaxing there.”
Isaac glanced over his shoulder at the tower. “Are…you sure that’s okay?” He was kind of surprised that James apparently thought he could just leave the academy.
“I’m saying it’s okay.” Oh, he just didn’t give a shit. That was neat.
“I just shouldn’t leave the academy without…aw, fuck it.” He couldn’t even say it with a straight face. “Like that’s ever stopped me before. I’d like to see the woods.” Among other things he’d like to see.
“Forest.” James was already walking towards the shimmering portal. “Woods are some trees that have animals in them. A forest is a living entity.”
“It…is?” That was news to Isaac.
“Yes,” Ron said, sounding gruff. He always sounded kind of gruff, but it always sounded kind of fake, like he wasn’t used to it. It was kind of cute. But it was also kind of a sign that he didn’t like Isaac much. “Be nice to it.”
“How?” Was he supposed to say please and thank you to the trees?
“Try not to swear, it doesn’t like that,” James suggested.
“No,” Ron said, as Isaac tried to figure out why plants would care what he said. “You don’t like that.”
“It’s really not.” As Ron said that, he disappeared through the portal like it was no big deal. He and James had been going back and forth a good amount, so that was probably why. James followed him, leaving Isaac just kind of standing there for a minute, slightly nervous.
He knew it was kind of a silly thing, but he’d never been in a portal before and what if it didn’t work? Sure, James and Ron went through it all the time, but what if it didn’t work for him? What if only witches could use it? What if…
That was a lot of what ifs, and Isaac felt like he was justified in hesitating. For a few minutes.
But there came a point where it was a bit silly that he was just standing there, so Isaac took a breath and stepped forward, hoping he didn’t die.
Nothing happened, and when he opened his eyes, he was in a forest like nothing had happened.
“There you are. I was worried you’d gotten lost,” James said.
“Just nervous.” Now Isaac just felt dumb. That really hadn’t been a big deal.
“No need to be nervous, it’s just the forest.” James looked around. “Ron, could you go inside and make us something to eat? I think we’ll try again sitting over there.”
“Sure.” Ron kissed James on the cheek before heading off, and Isaac followed James just to the edge of what looked like a bigass garden, where they sat down again.
“How long have you guys been together?” Isaac asked as he sat down. The forest was calming in a way the city wasn’t, James hadn’t been wrong. There were birds singing somewhere. Isaac wasn’t sure he’d heard real birds in ages.
“A little over a year now.”
“He obviously loves you.”
“I know.” James smiled, hand resting on the ground. “I want you to relax, okay? Rather than trying hard to focus on something, I’d like you to try just sitting here and being calm for a while. I think it’ll be easier for you to connect with the earth that way.”
Isaac nodded, taking a deep breath. He wasn’t sure how to consciously relax. “It’s not how I’m used to connecting with people, but I’ll give it a shot.”
“How do you usually connect with people?” James asked, the insinuation going over his head again. He was so cute.
“Usually I just have sex with them.” Sometimes being obvious was best.
“Oh.” James looked nonplussed. “Well you could try digging a small hole, but I don’t expect that would really work and it would probably just hurt.”
Isaac laughed, he couldn’t help it. So cute. “Probably. The earth isn’t really a person, so…”
“Exactly. So maybe we’ll keep trying my way,” James suggested.
“I guess. In absence of a person for me to have sex with,” Isaac said, giving James a look-over.
“I think you might be doing the opposite of relaxing.”
“What are you talking about? I’m very relaxed.”
James snorted, glancing at the house. “Okay. I think I’m distracting you. I’m going to go in and check on Ron.”
“Sure,” Isaac said. “I’ll just stay out here and…relax.” It was a bit chilly, but not unbearably so.
“Feel free to look around the garden. Don’t touch the plants, some of them are dangerous.”
And James got up, headed in the house. Isaac watched him go, shaking his head. He liked James, he thought. Maybe.
Isaac sat for a minute, immediately started to get bored, then started to get antsy as a result, so he got up and wandered into the garden, looking at the plants. He’d never seen anything like most of them, which led him to wonder what he’d really learned in that class on the subject. Maybe they kept all the cool plants for the second level of the course.
The plants seemed to move as he walked past them, even though there wasn’t much wind. He liked the one with the cool purple bulb, and the big leaves on that one were neat. Isaac didn’t touch anything, he just looked. It was kind of soothing, just being around plants for a bit. It must be nice to live here.
There was a large mass of vines that took up a large section of the garden near a babbling river. It wasn’t as visibly interesting as the other plants so Isaac wasn’t paying it much mind as he took a look at a tall plant with what looked like shaking bulbs on it.
Then he tripped when he tried to move away, a vine wrapped around his ankle. “What?” he asked, reaching down to untangle it. He must have stepped on it by mistake.
As he got it off, though, Isaac found another vine around his other ankle, and then one on his wrist, and then the vines were moving up his legs and he was pretty much trapped and fuck.
Isaac struggled, trying to get free, but he couldn’t and the vines were moving up, going under his shirt even. He took a breath, reaching out for Dark, when he heard a voice. “Isaac?”
Well, this sucked. “Over here,” he called to Ron, pre-emptively embarrassed because what kind of dumbass got stuck in a plant?
Ron came over a second later, his legs mostly in Isaac’s vision. “We left you alone for two seconds,” he accused.
“I just wanted to see the plants, I didn’t think they’d fucking attack me.” James had told him they were dangerous, but not aggressive.
“He’s just saying hello.” Ron knelt beside him and started to free Isaac’s arm. “Stop that,” he added, and it took Isaac a second to realize he was talking to the plant.
“I didn’t, uh, learn about this in my botany class.” There wasn’t much Isaac could say that didn’t sound stupid, really.
“Stop moving,” Ron said impatiently, trying to undo the vines. “It makes it worse. It’s a chokevine.”
Isaac had never heard of that, but it wasn’t hard to guess what it did. Magic plants for magic people, he figured. “Why do you two have this?”
“To stop people from fucking around in our garden. No,” he said, taking a vine off his own arm. “Don’t even think about it. That’s not funny.” The way he talked to the plant like it was a person was endearing, honestly. Ron sighed. “Sorry about him. He’s just excitable.”
Wow, he was really into plants. “Plants get excitable?”
“Yeah. Surprised me too when I first got here. They’ve got minds of their own.”
“Guess that’s fair.” Isaac had never considered that, but why not? “Sorry. Can’t seem to stop myself from getting in trouble.”
Ron was glaring at the plant. “Doesn’t matter. Charlie’s an asshole, it’s not your fault.”
Isaac badly wanted to comment on the fact that the plant had a name, but instead he decided to be serious. “Yeah, but you didn’t want me here in the first place, and now you’re having to rescue me from your plants.”
“It’s not that I didn’t want you here,” Ron said evasively. “I just…”
“Don’t like me very much?” Isaac guessed. It was kind of obvious.
“That’s not it.” Ron was quiet a second. “You keep hitting on James and I don’t like that.”
“Oh.” Oops. “Well. Sorry? I can stop.” He could try, anyway.
“Just like that?” Ron sounded skeptical.
“Sure, I don’t want to make you guys uncomfortable,” Isaac said. He couldn’t imagine anything more annoying than forcing affection on someone who didn’t want it. “I just hit on everyone so I figured I’d give it a shot and see what happened.”
“Even after you saw we were together?”
Isaac smiled. What a sheltered guy. “I figured I’d try for a threeway and see how that went.
As he said that, Ron got the last of the plant off of him. “Thank you.” Isaac stood.
“It’s fine. I swear, everyone’s a pervert but me. Don’t you start.” Isaac had a feeling that last bit was directed at the plant again.
He started to ask about the talking to the plants thing, but one step away from Charlie the evil chokevine had Isaac falling again, the plant wrapped around his ankle. The difference this time was that he landed not in the dirt but on top of Ron, which was at least a more comfortable landing.
“For fuck’s sake,” Ron growled, as Isaac tried to move. “Okay, okay. I was lying.”
“About what?” Isaac asked, to distract himself from the plant. He hadn’t pictured coming to the forest as being quite like this.
“Doesn’t matter,” Ron snapped. “Charlie, just let us go, you fuckhead.”
Charlie did not let go, and in fact got tighter around Isaac. “Fuck,” Ron said, squirming even though he was the one who’d said that didn’t help.
“Language,” a voice said, and Isaac craned his neck to see James coming over. “Glad to see you three getting along.” He sounded amused.
“Yeah,” Ron said. “We’re all best friends now. Can you…” he waved in that way that people did when they wanted someone to do magic.
“No.” James did sit down beside them, though. He had sandwiches.
What? “Why not?” Isaac wanted to know. It seemed like this was really not going to teach him much except that plants were awful and witches weren’t very nice and forests weren’t good to visit.
Underneath Isaac, Ron’s chest rose and fell. “Because I’m not supposed to swear.” He sounded resigned, and just slightly sullen.
James patted Ron’s head like a dog. “There you go.”
“You could…let me out?” Isaac didn’t know what kind of weird thing they had going on here, but he wasn’t part of it and he was still stuck in a plant.
“No.” James smiled. “I think we’ll do your lesson like this. I think you’ll feel more comfortable in a less formal setting. This is pretty informal, right?”
Isaac couldn’t help but laugh. “The only way it could be less formal would be if I had my clothes off.” It was kind of nice, actually. He could feel Ron’s heartbeat underneath his.
“Hm, maybe next time.” He was literally hand-feeding Ron his lunch. Their relationship was clearly different from what Isaac had pictured. “The first time I met Ron he was stuck in this plant with his clothes off, you know,” James said conversationally.
“What, really?” Ron looked too embarrassed for that not to be true. “I want to hear that story.”
“Ron will tell it to you after your lesson. Now, I want you to feel the flow of power inside the forest and see if you can make yourself part of that.”
That didn’t really make sense, but…Ron was blushing underneath him, and it felt like he might be getting hard too. Maybe there was hope for these two after all. And that gave Isaac motivation to try. “Sure.”
He lay his head on Ron’s chest since Ron wasn’t protesting, and closed his eyes. It was, Isaac had to admit, easy to relax like this. And he could feel it, the power he was supposed to feel, much more strongly than before. It was easier now. So Isaac focused on that, and tried to do as James had said.
It took a few hours, but Isaac did eventually get it. He’d never had a lesson that was so relaxing, and so restful.