Chosen One, 80

The Simplicity of Just Touching People is Very Powerful

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Lee’s hand was cold on Isaac’s forehead as she did a mental assessment on him. Isaac watched what she did, just out of curiosity. It seemed pretty straightforward, actually. He couldn’t feel any effects of the spell, which was probably because Lee was good at it.

Then again, her hands shouldn’t be that cold, so maybe he was feeling an effect.

“There’s nothing wrong with you mentally,” she told Isaac, taking her hand away. “You can leave the infirmary right now if Twila clears it.”

Isaac nodded, glancing at Twila. “Have I ever mentioned you’re my favourite teacher and your class is my favourite?”

“Please,” Twila said, arms crossed. “You’re only saying that because you trust Lee to know you’re lying.”

Abashed, Isaac looked away. Everyone always knew when he was lying. “Okay but you should let me go back to my dorm room anyway.”

“The flirting’s not going to work on me. You can go back tomorrow.”

Now Isaac frowned. “I’m not flirting.”

“Of course you are,” Peter said, leaning on Isaac’s shoulder. “It’s the only way you know how to talk.”

“That’s not true.”

“It’s a bit true,” Jacob agreed. “You do it a lot.”

“Whatever,” Isaac said, pouting in their directions, which even he thought was impressive since they were on either side of him. “What’s wrong with talking to people in a way that makes them feel nice?”

“Nothing,” Jacob said immediately. “It’s one of the things that’s awesome about you. You’re considerate.”

“I cannot believe you fell for that so quickly,” Peter accused, elbowing Jacob gently. “He’s conning you.”

“Isaac doesn’t con people, he’s too nice,” Jacob said defensively, shifting in a way he probably thought was mysterious.

“Okay,” Twila said to them both. “Visiting hours are over and the patient needs to rest. You can come walk him home tomorrow after breakfast.”

Both Peter and Jacob got a little pout on over that, but Isaac, being nice, didn’t call them out on it as they got up. “Love you,” Peter told him, kissing his forehead. “See you tomorrow.”

“Love you too,” Isaac told him. “And you,” he said, when Jacob leaned down to kiss him too.

“I love you. I’m looking forward to having you back. We all are.”

“Tomorrow,” Isaac promised.

They dallied a little, but they left. Lee smiled down at him. “You’re lucky to have people who care about you so much.”

“I know,” Isaac said. “I really am.”

“I’m glad you’re back too. I’m looking forward to having you back in class.”

Great. “I don’t suppose I can just automatically pass the class because of my profound trauma?”

“Doesn’t quite work that way.”

“Okay.” Isaac had figured it was worth a try. “I’m looking forward to it too.”

“I’m glad. You’ll have a few more days to recover, but then I’ll see you.”

Isaac nodded. “Okay.”

Lee smiled at him, leaned in. “Maybe then we can talk about what’s got you so frightened.”

Isaac tried very hard to look at her as impassively as possible, but he was absolutely certain it didn’t work. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Sure you don’t. I’ll see you.”

And Lee left him alone with Twila, who checked Isaac over briefly before nodding to herself. “I’ll retire for the night too. If you need anything, ring the bell.”

“I remember,” Isaac said. There was a small bell at his bedside that he could ring if something happened at night. Nothing had happened at night, except for a lot of boredom because Isaac didn’t sleep this early and there was nobody else here, except Seth.

Isaac looked over to the side. “You know you really don’t have to hide from them. They’re not going to do anything to you.”

“I know,” Seth said, coming into view. “I just feel…weird, I guess. I’ve been watching people by myself for so long that just wandering in and saying hi feels funny.”

That explained why Isaac had barely seen him since he’d woken up. “What have you been doing?”

Seth shrugged, sitting on the bed next to Isaac. He had a little bit of weight to him, enough to move the blanket, but not as much as most people had. “The same stuff as I used to do all the time. Going around watching people do stuff that seems important. Well, not quite the same. I’ve been practicing a lot, to see if I can do all the same stuff as before.”

“Can you?” Isaac would feel bad if he’d taken away all of Seth’s awesome powers.

“Seems like it.” Seth looked down at his hands. “I can still go anywhere I want, including the past. Which was, you know. Pretty much it for what I could do before.”

“But now people can see you.”

“If I’m not careful,” Seth agreed with a nod. “I’m still trapped in the Web. I’m just trapped closer to this side of it. Or at least that’s what Gregory says. Also I can kind of touch things again, which is cool. I feel like if I concentrate I might be able to make my body feel real to other people. I haven’t tried it yet.”

“Why not?” Isaac asked, reaching out and touching him. His hand went through Seth, but there was some resistance.

“I…I guess I’m afraid it won’t work and I’ll be disappointed.” Seth was still looking down. “It seems like a stupid thing to be disappointed about. I can talk to people again. People know I exist again. And I don’t want to end up souring that by feeling bad that I can’t hug you.”

“Hey, I don’t think that’s a silly thing to worry about.” Isaac moved, sitting next to him. “It’s normal to want to touch people. Especially when you haven’t for…ever. I can’t stop hugging and touching Peter and Jacob and pretty much everyone else who’s come to see me, and I was only disembodied for two weeks.”

“I guess so.” Seth snorted. “Peter’s right, you do flirt with everyone, you know.”

“So?” Isaac smiled. “Makes people feel good. And I do mean it.”

“I know you do.” Seth was still for a minute. “I’m going to try it. If it doesn’t work, then it doesn’t work.”

“If it doesn’t work,” Isaac said, “it didn’t work this time. We’ll figure it out.”

“How are you so optimistic?”

“How are you not? You waited a million years for something you weren’t sure was possible and now you can talk to people again.”

“Good point.” Seth shut his eyes. “Okay.”

Isaac waited, watching Seth for a good minute, two, maybe more. And the way his weight pulled on the blankets changed steadily, until it felt…just like the weight of a person. So Isaac reached out and put his hand over Seth’s. It felt real. Real enough. It wasn’t quite as warm as a human hand, but it felt almost like one.

Seth’s eyes snapped open, and he looked down at Isaac touching him. “I…” he choked. “I can feel that.”

“Told you,” Isaac said, and he hugged Seth. Seth hugged back, holding onto Isaac like he was afraid one of them would vanish.

They held each other for a long, long time like that. “Can I stay here with you tonight?” Seth asked quietly.

“Of course you can. You know I hate sleeping alone.” Isaac pulled Seth down so they could cuddle. “You can stay with me tomorrow night in the dorm room too.”

“I think Peter and Jacob are going to want that privilege.”

Isaac shrugged. “There’s a lot of me to go around.”

“They’re your boyfriends, they’re going to want you to themselves.” Seth held Isaac a little tighter. “We’ll see about it another night.”

“Okay.” Isaac closed his eyes, enjoying behind held. “I’m glad you’re here, Seth.”

“Me too. I’ve never been so grateful.”

They held each other the whole night, both of them happy not to be alone.

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