Chosen One, 110

When You’re Overwhelmed, Even People Trying to Help Can Just Be Adding to the Noise

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“Okay,” said Juno, smiling at Isaac. “That’s all.”

“That’s all?” Isaac asked, surprised. The exam had been shorter than he’d expected. He was pretty sure he hadn’t answered any of the questions right.

“Yes, that’s all. You’re done, get lost.”

Isaac sighed, reaching for his stuff. “Thanks,” he said. He was really disappointed. Dark magic was supposed to be what he was good at. All three of the magic exams were split into written and practical portions, which seemed really fucking unfair to Isaac since it just meant he had three extra exams. Even getting his written portions orally was only helping so much. He’d done his Shadow magic exam yesterday and felt really crappy about it and he was really nervous about the Light magic exam tomorrow. He felt like he should be more comfortable because it was just Yancy, but he also felt like if he screwed up, Yancy was going to be so disappointed.

“I’ll see you next semester,” Juno said.

Isaac nodded, throwing his bag over his shoulder. He sighed. “Juno, I’m sorry. I know you can’t tell me my grade until everyone else gets theirs, but can you please just tell me if I failed? I can’t handle not knowing for two weeks.”

Juno looked really surprised. “Isaac. Why the fuck would I have said see you next semester if you failed? You didn’t do as well as you could have, which I think you know, but you wouldn’t be allowed in the next stage of the class if you’d failed.”

“Oh.” Well, now Isaac felt really fucking stupid. “Okay. Thanks. Sorry.”

“Don’t apologize.” Juno put away the paper she’d been taking notes on during the exam. “You okay?”

“Just stressed out,” Isaac muttered. “Don’t like exams. Really don’t like that all three of these classes have two.”

“Yeah, that never used to be an issue since nobody could take all three.” Juno frowned. “Now that everyone’s going to be expected to, we’re going to need to change the curriculum, I think. Maybe have a joint exam between the three classes, one practical and one written. Don’t know if people would prefer the longer exams if there were less of them.” She shrugged. “Anyway, we’re going to talk about it before we host these classes next time. There’ll be a faculty meeting. It’ll be terrible.”

“Okay.” Isaac thought they could just not have exams, but he didn’t see that going anywhere soon. “Thanks.”

“Hey,” Juno said, making Isaac turn to her again. “We all weight the practical exam more heavily than the written exam. As long as you did okay on your practicals, you’re fine.”

Isaac’s last two exams were healing and mental magic and neither of them had a practical exam. He also had to hand in a paper about sex zombies for Lee the day before the exam, which he’d written a lot of already. It was terrible and no amount of her telling Isaac that it didn’t matter if he spelled things wrong or crossed things out was helping. “Awesome. Well, I like to think I’m pretty okay at this magic thing.”

“You are pretty okay at it, for a chosen one.”

Isaac smiled at that. “Thanks. I’ll see you next semester, Juno.”

“See you.”

Isaac left her study, blinked when he saw Peter standing there. “You came to wait for me.”

Peter shrugged. “I saw how upset you were when you got back from your Shadow exam. I saw how upset you were when you left for this exam. I figured you’d do fine, but I also figured you might like to talk to someone instead of just walking quietly by yourself thinking about how you screwed up. Which you didn’t.”

Isaac looked down, took Peter’s hand. “I did, but thanks.” He’d missed a lot of stuff in that, and now that the exam was over, he was remembering it. How had he forgotten what an umbral matrix was? It was such an easy thing to do.

“You shouldn’t always assume you screwed up. You’re smarter than you think you are.”

“Maybe, but I also know when I just sat there and couldn’t answer half the questions, Peter.”

Peter was quiet for a second. “Sorry.”

“No,” Isaac said, sighing. He shouldn’t be an asshole. He was just cranky and tired. “I’m sorry. It’s not your fault. Tests are just the worst. It’s not fair to take it out on you when you spent so long helping me study. It’s not fair for me to take it out on you anyway.”

Peter nodded. “It’s okay. I shouldn’t tell you how to feel. Tests are easy for me, so it’s not fair for me to decide how easy they should be for everyone else. At least you only have three left?”

“Yeah, the one I’m afraid I’ll fail and the two with teachers I’ll cry if I disappoint,” Isaac muttered. He didn’t bother pointing out that he had both portions of the Light magic exam left. He knew, he really did know that Yancy and Lee wouldn’t be disappointed in him if he did badly. And he wished he could stop himself from thinking that it was because they both expected him to do badly. “Sorry, I’m fine. How are you feeling? Are you okay?”

“I’m fine. Tests are easy for me,” Peter reminded him. “And I only have two left. They’re both tomorrow, which is ass, but at least then they’re done. I can help you study for your healing exam after, if you want. And I’ll let you tell me about mental magic, which I am not going to let you tell me you’re going to fail, remember when you were good enough at it to basically get an apprenticeship before you graduated?”

Isaac sighed. That just made it worse. Lee had such high expectations of him. “I guess. But I’m still going to worry about the exam and also my paper sucks.”

“You want me to help you with it?”

“I feel bad making you help me with…”

Peter hit Isaac’s shin with his cane. “You are not making me do anything, I’m helping you because I feel like it and because I love you, not in that order. Stop acting like it’s not okay to get help.”

“Okay, okay,” Isaac said, wishing that made him feel better. He knew it should, and it didn’t, and that sucked. “Will you help me next semester too?”

“Yes. What are you taking next semester?”

He asked as if he hadn’t asked yesterday. And the day before. He was respecting Isaac’s request not to ask about it all the time by restricting himself to once a day. “Advanced dark magic, animation magic, prophetic literature, illusions…maybe astronomy, I don’t know.”

“You still haven’t decided on your last class?”

Isaac shrugged. He was just limited enough by his schedule that he had a narrow range of options, but it was a wide enough range that he didn’t know what the right choice was. Picking illusion magic had been easy in the end. It had only locked him out of a bunch of history and theology classes he’d never have taken anyway.

“Isaac, I know it stresses you out, but you do have to pick something soon. Can you please let me help you?” Peter sounded upset. He’d picked all his classes two weeks ago, and Isaac knew it stressed him out that other people hadn’t.

“Sure,” Isaac said. He didn’t want Peter to worry and he probably already had ideas. “Just pick something for me that isn’t hard, please?” Jacob was planning to take the astronomy class and Isaac was kind of hoping Jacob’s version of study help would include mostly doing Isaac’s work for him. “With all my other magic lessons I’m already not going to have time to do my homework.”

“I’ll help you get it done,” Peter promised. He looked worried. “You really shouldn’t take Catria’s class.”

“I know, but I’m going to.” Isaac had made half a step of progress in figuring out how Klaus’s mind control worked. If he could also figure out how homunculi worked, then he wouldn’t need to deal with him at all. “It’s the only class next semester I actually care about. Even if I fail it.”

“Okay,” Peter said, sounding resigned now. “I think you’re trying to do too much.”

“Wasn’t my idea.”

“Yeah. Sophia is teaching an introductory class in Chez’n that Duke says is really easy. You wouldn’t have to write an essay or anything in a language class, and Jacob and Spencer both know it so we could get them to teach you a little bit over the break to give you a head start.” Peter looked at Isaac as they walked down the stairs. “But we’ll worry about that later. When we get back to the dorm I want you to take a short nap or fuck someone or something. I’m available. Just something to help you take your mind off it for an hour before we start going over Light magic…”

Isaac nodded along, listening to Peter because he didn’t want to listen to his own thoughts. Peter was right, he would rather have someone to talk to than just his own brain. But now it just felt like both of them were talking to him.

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