He felt so deliciously warm and safe, the solidity of the twins pressed against him, arms and legs entwined, fingers tenderly stroking hair while the gentle rise and fall of their chests threatened to lull him back to sleep. His body ached pleasantly, throbbing with every beat of his heart. The ghosts of sensation made it feel as if they were still inside him, filling him… stretching him to his limits and beyond. Mingling with the sharp pull of his many bite wounds, it was a rather heady mix that still left his head spinning hours later.
There was a certain peaceful perfection to this moment and his sleep shrouded mind drank it in, wanting to dive deeper into this sweet oblivion of delicious sensation. Lamentably, reality had a terrible habit of intruding on his life and a small, polished stone on his desk that he’d enspelled as an alarm clock began to vibrate loudly against the wooded surface. The rune for time which had been etched across it shone brilliantly, lighting up the previously comfortably dark room, causing Azul to frown in annoyance. It was four am, time to get up and prepare for a busy day full of brewing, scheming, learning, and possibly more sex.
“I hate that rock.” Floyd grumbled, his lips brushing against the back of Azul’s neck, his breath huffing lightly as he reached out to wrap his arms a little more tightly around his octopus. “Make it stop doing what it’s doing.”
Azul barely registered the words as the gentle embrace caused intense pain to tear through him, wrenching the very air out of his lungs as he struggled not to scream. Darkness warred with the stars dancing in front of his eyes and he felt a horrible cold sweat break out across his skin. Struggling not to pass out, he had no idea what was happening, other than it felt as if his body was trying to tear himself in half.
It was as if he’d somehow ingested that human potion again, only this time he wasn’t gaining the benefit of legs. Instead, he was being slowly pulled apart by uncaring hands, starting at the base of his buttocks and travelling through his guts, up the length of his spine. The pain throbbed in time with his heartbeat, seeming to grow worse with every pulse until he was positive that any moment now, he’d feel his innards falling free around his legs.
“Ugh… why are the sheets so disgusting?” Jade mumbled sleepily, frowning as he shifted uncomfortably, utterly oblivious to the agony of his companion. “They’re all… crusty. Floyd, what did you do?”
“I’d say something funny, but it’s too early… so, just shut up.” The words were barely intelligible and badly muffled by the back of Azul’s neck, but both twins clearly heard the rather soft and pained whimper which escaped from trembling lips clearly enough. Matching heterochromatic eyes snapped open. Instantly awake and sitting up, they stared down at their octopus with open concern.
As for Azul, he’d curled himself up tightly in a ball, making himself as small as he could with minimal movement. His body was trembling as he clutched at the sheets in his hands, tearing the already abused cloth while his breathing was so rapid and shallow as to barely even be perceptible.
Normally ivory pale human flesh had taken on a greyish hue that bore little resemblance to his naturally deep, sleek grey shades. This looked sickly, and the sour smelling sweat which drenched him further added to the image of being at death’s door.
Even the magic around him was jagged, splintering into sharp spikes with every inhalation, flaring with raw agony that left his fingers digging into the already torn sheets. His teeth were clamped down hard on the pillow beneath him in an effort to keep from screaming, but it did little to stop the pained sounds from slipping out.
“AZUL!” Jade practically shrieked, his usual calm composure shattered in an instant as he reached out to his companion, heedless of his own safety.
Noticing the slight shift in the tension of those shivering limbs, Floyd opened his mouth even as he reached out to grab onto his brother, but he could see that he wasn’t going to be anywhere near fast enough.
“Jade wai-” Lashing out viciously, Azul caught the worried eel in head on with a blast of raw magic which sent him hurtling across the room, his unexpected flight broken by the pile of stuffies on the second bed.
Stunned, the eels could only stare in absolute shock, their normally clever minds struggling to grasp what had just happened. Azul might bite and snap at them, but he’d never truly struck to hurt, and this only served to heighten their awareness that something was very, horribly wrong with their companion.
Not even realizing what he’d just done, wide blue eyes stared at them both, shining with pure panic and glassy with pain.
“DON’T YOU FUCKING TOUCH ME!” Azul snarled even as he fell back onto the bed with a pained groan, drawing his knees up tightly against his chest and shuddering violently. “It hurts, it hurts.” He chanted under his breath.
“It’s okay, it’s okay…” Floyd did his best to sound encouraging from where he now found himself crouched on the floor, using the bed itself as a barrier just in case there was another blast of power. Peeking over the edge, he tried to study Azul and figure out what had happened while they’d been asleep, but all he earned himself was a low hiss of warning in return. “Not gonna touch you.” He quickly assured the smaller youth even as he risked a look over his shoulder at his fallen brother. “You alright Jade?”
It was no small relief to see that his brother appeared to be unharmed, the stuffies had proven their loyalty by protecting him from the worst of the impact, though the octopus might have broken a seam or two. Actually, so had Jade judging by the bit of blood on the corner of his mouth. Not that Jade noticed. He just sat there, blinking in utter confusion, trying to figure out how he was now on the opposite side of the room from where he’d started.
Sharing a concerned look with his twin, they both then looked over at Azul’s trembling form, noting the jagged and splintered magical aura, the tense, trembling form, and the rather impressive amount of bruising on his lower body.
A brief flash of guilt shot through Floyd as he wondered if perhaps, they might have gotten a little carried away with mating last night. Not that it was really their fault. Azul hadn’t tried to stop them, quite the opposite in fact, but… he did know that their little octopus was infamous for ignoring his physical limits, and judging by the bites and bruises, Azul’s pride might have struck again.
Of course, there was the fact that they’d all felt fine when they’d gone to sleep. In fact, they’d felt more than fine. Floyd had felt like he was swimming in a perfect current, floating and happy while little bubbles tickled down the length of his body, wrapping him in a golden glow while the white-hot flashes of pain from his mating bites added the perfect counterpoint. Their mating had been everything he hadn’t even realized he’d wanted, so how had it turned out so badly?
There was only one possible explanation. Someone had cursed their pretty little octopus, and it didn’t take much thought to figure out who the culprits likely were. Boneworm and Barnacle! It made perfect sense really. Boneworm was obsessed with mating with Azul and could have easily done something to make him pay for daring to mate with anyone else. The disgusting piece of chum!
“I… I think we did something wrong last night Floyd.” Jade murmured, pitching his voice so it wouldn’t carry even as he slid across the room back to their little mating nest. Instincts demanded that he keep low, using the landscape around him for protection. Shifting to give his brother a comforting nuzzle, both eels froze when they heard a low snarl from the bed.
“What do you mean, you did it wrong?” Those blue eyes bore into them ruthlessly, causing the twins to flinch at the sheer level of raw menace in those simple words. Yup… they were dead little fishies. They’d fucked up.
“You said you knew what you were doing from those brochures!” Azul’s voice began to rise, and he began to sit up, but then collapsed back onto the bed with a pained groan as his whole body shuddered. Tearing into his captive pillow, he freed the soft stuffing within, adding to the mess on the bed.
It was impossible not to draw rather uncomfortable parallels between the pillows and their own fragile human bodies. Floyd couldn’t quite resist giving a rather loud swallow.
“First, you two are going to heal me. Then… then I’m going to MURDER YOU!!” It really wasn’t Azul’s most inspiring speech ever, but the twins certainly took him seriously.
“We could use the salve we have…” Floyd blurted out, eager to offer up some form of reparation, already looking around frantically for the jar and its precious contents. “Where is it?”
“I used it to pay Ruggie for setting up the fight at lunch.” If regret had a voice, this was it.
“Well, that was dumb. We need it now!”
“Do you think I don’t know that?” Jade snapped back. “We need to heal him with magic before he kills us.”
Biting back the snide comment that that was exactly what Azul had already promised to do, Floyd grabbed onto his brother’s hand then reached for Azul’s, only to have him snap at them again in warning, his fingers digging even more deeply into the pillow’s soft guts.
Right. Bitey octopus. At least he wasn’t venomous in this form because Floyd was pretty sure that he’d be getting a double dose of it, and he was equally sure that he was going to need all his limbs just to stay alive through the next few minutes.
Rather than push their luck any more than necessary, they instead took hold of his nearest foot, using the physical contact between the three of them to open a link.
Though he stiffened at their touch and hissed again in warning, Azul didn’t pull away. Unfortunately, where there was normally a smooth joining of their magics, creating one flawless aura, the jagged edges of his power sliced at theirs, refusing to mesh and causing unpleasant jolts to stab into them as they were hit with the backlash. While the pain was minor, Floyd knew that trying to force a mesh would only hurt all three of them, and Azul was in enough pain as it was.
Not that Jade was listening to reason at this point. His worry was making him frantic, and he could feel his twin preparing to do something stupid despite damn well knowing better. Gritting his teeth and mentally cursing Boneworm for this dastardly trap, Floyd broke contact with his brother. The sudden loss of the link caused a piercing pain to lance through them, but it was nothing compared to what would have happened if he hadn’t.
Feeling Jade’s look of betrayal more than seeing it, Floyd glanced over at him.
“He’s too strong, and we’re too worked up.” He stated, hating having to explain something so blatantly obvious, but knowing that he couldn’t handle having the most precious people in his life angry with him. “We’ll all end up hurt if we try to force a joining.”
For a moment, it looked like Jade was going to argue with him, but Floyd held his ground and was rewarded with seeing understanding begin to shine in his brother’s face. Not that it really did much to help their situation, in fact, Jade looked even more devastated than before, which set off warning bells in Floyd’s mind. Jade knew something and he wasn’t sharing! Did he know about the curse!?
Grabbing onto his brother and pulling him down so they were closer to the floor and out of Azul’s line of sight, he fixed Jade with a fierce glare.
“What’s going on Jade? What do you know? What’s wrong? Why’s he hurt!? He should be all happy and mushy now. The brochures said so! Was he cursed? He was cursed wasn’t he? I’m gonna tear Boneworm’s guts out through his nose!”
“He’s not cursed!” Jade snapped back, struggling to keep his voice low, but he did reach out and grab onto Floyd’s arm, squeezing tightly enough to hurt. “He’s… a cecaelian.” The weight behind his words implied that this was some sort of monumental news, which only caused Floyd to frown in both concern and growing confusion.
“Well duh, the whole tentacle thing and all. We know he’s a cecaelian, that just means he’s extra bitey during mating and might eat us, but he didn’t so it’s all good!” The grip on his arm grew tighter, causing his muscles to begin to bruise.
“Cecaeliae are related to octopus… and he just mated…” Heterochromatic gazes met and eyes grew wide at the very real danger their friend might be in.
Truth be told, neither of them knew anything really about the mating habits of the Kraken’s children, but they did know about octopus, and the males always died after mating.
Now Floyd was squeezing back just as hard and the two peeked up over the edge of the bed, just in time to see Azul’s eyes roll back in their sockets as he fainted dead away. Whether this was because he’d heard them and connected the dots for himself, or he was possibly entering into the final death throes of his octopus ancestors was anyone’s guess.
“We need the doctor!” Jade burst out as both eels leaped to their feet and immediately grabbed for their pens.
“He can’t die on us Jade!” Floyd’s heart was pounding as he stared down at his dear companion… his mate, the octopus he loved. The very idea of a life without that snarky, grouchy, brilliant and ruthless youth was more than he could bear, and he could feel himself swaying as the ground threatened to move from beneath his feet. “We did this… we killed him!”
“He won’t die!” Slapping his pen into Floyd’s hand, Jade paused for a moment and took his brother’s head in his hands, forcing him to meet his gaze once more. “He won’t die.” He repeated, his tone of voice making it clear that he’d tear the damn world apart to keep that from ever happening. “But we need to get him to the doctor fast! Now make a water bubble! We’ll carry him like we did the dopplar!”
The water bubble… yeah… only, they’d never tried this without attempting to drown their captive. Granted, there was a lot to be said for motivation, and the twins were skilled at improvisational magic despite their youth.
Taking a deep breath and giving a quick prayer to the Sea Witch, the Kraken, and anyone else who cared to listen, Floyd grasped onto his pen and aimed the diamond tip at Azul’s too still form. Feeling Jade’s magic sliding over his body was like a balm to his abused nerves, letting him know that he wasn’t alone in this, that he had his twin, and together, they could accomplish anything they set their devious minds to. Only, with the intimacy of Jade’s magic sliding through his, he could also feel exactly how panicked his brother was, and how tenuous his calm veneer was.
“Just focus on the spell.” Jade instructed, not meeting his brother’s eyes, fully aware that Floyd could feel everything. Rather than speak, he simply nodded his head and extended his own magic out, allowing it to surround their beloved companion and gently cushion his body as they lifted him into the air. The water lapped lightly around the edges of his face, keeping his head supported, but still allowing him to breathe unimpeded. At least, Floyd hoped he was still breathing. He didn’t dare check.
All too aware that they could very well be running out of time, the twins grabbed onto Azul’s pen then raced out the door into the darkened hallways beyond, heading towards the infirmary as quickly as possible.
Thankfully, the door to the infirmary wasn’t locked, sparing it from being kicked open by the rather panicked twins. That didn’t stop them from throwing it open hard enough that it banged against the wall loudly, nor from hissing in shock as all the lights in the room instantly turned on, blinding sensitive eyes.
Not even pausing, the twins strode into the room, heading for the door to the patient ward, figuring that the doctor would most likely be in this area for no other reason than to keep an eye on the boys in his care.
“Doctor Sour!” Jade yelled, looking around with wide eyes, not caring if he woke up half the school at this point, leaving Floyd to ensure that neither of them tripped over anything. Through it all, Azul hadn’t so much as moved. He continued to float limply in his bubble despite the yelling and having gone through a magical gateway.
“Doctor Sour, get out here! We have an emergency!” Jade yelled again as he realized that the door to the ward was locked. Rather than waste the time trying to spell it open, his brother, simply lifted his foot, ready to kick it down.
“Do NOT destroy another one of my doors or Founders help you, you’ll be checking into that ward the hard way.” A rather sharp voice caused them both to freeze in place. Jade stood there, leg still in the air, nearly overbalancing himself.
Standing in front of what had been a previously hidden door, the good doctor was rubbing sleep grit out of his eyes and yawning, yet still managed to sound like he meant every word of his threat. They must have just woken him up because he was wearing a loose shirt and shorts, showing far more dark brown skin than any other human Floyd had seen so far outside of the changerooms. His feet were once more stuffed into those fluffy footshells he’d worn in the forest, but Floyd was far too worried to appreciate how soft they looked, or how they hugged his toes like foot stuffies. Alright, he noticed a little.
“I have patients resting in there and will not have them be disturbed by you three causing more damage to this office.” He barely got the words out before Jade was up in his face, eyes wide as the panic he’d been working so hard to push down flared up. Strong hands lashed out, shoving the human into the wall hard enough to shake several items perched on nearby shelves as his brother snapped his teeth shut less than an inch from the doctor’s face.
“Azul’s dying and y-” He didn’t get a chance to say anything else because there was a flash of light and magic, followed by a rather impressive crash as Jade was blasted back from the doctor. For the second time today, he flew across the room, only this time, instead of soft stuffies breaking his fall, he crashed into the waiting room coffee table, shattering it beneath his weight and sending magazines scattering in all directions.
Unable to do anything without risking dropping Azul, Floyd scrambled to hold onto both halves of the spell as the bubble of water and its precious cargo dipped dangerously.
“No one is dying or at the risk of dying at this moment.” Dr. Sour stated, sounding every bit his namesake as he smoothed out the collar of his shirt, checking for damage. “Do you think that we don’t have spells in place to warn us of when a student was about to die?” Pausing for a moment, he glanced down at the ruined table and rather stunned mer laying in the center of the wreckage. “And still, you manage to break things. What is it with you three?”
“You threw me!” Jade snapped, twisting so that his feet were underneath him, looking like he was more than ready to spring into an all-out brawl.
Before he could leap, the doctor finally took note of his panic, as well as the fact that Floyd was still standing there, eyes wide and shaking as he held up the bubble. His dark eyes took in Azul, floating within, not even so much as twitching despite the chaos surrounding him. Rubbing his eyes once more, he gave the whole scene a double take, trying to figure out if he was actually awake, or if this was simply one of his more bizarre dreams.
“You’re naked.” He stated in a rather emotionless voice, earning a rather murderous look from Jade and a loud huff from Floyd who couldn’t quite figure out why that was the first thing everyone kept focusing on.
“We didn’t have time to get dressed, it was an emergency.” Jade snapped impatiently, getting somewhat unsteadily to his feet. “We mated last night, and now Azul is dying! You need to fix him!”
“I already told you that he’s not dying.” The doctor bit back, then took a deep breath before speaking again in a much calmer voice. “I’m going to need you both to stop and just breathe.” He advised them, only to be met with two murderous glares. “I mean it. You’re not going to be any help for him if you’re upset. Azul is a smart kid, and if he see’s you both panicking, he’s going to work himself up again. Now breathe in, then out.”
“We ARE breathing!” Floyd snapped angrily. “And Azul can’t see anything! He’s dying and that means not breathing at all and you gotta help him because he’s our octopus and we can’t lose him!” All he received from his outburst was a cool look from the doctor.
“Deep, slow breaths.” The man repeated with a maddening sort of calm that made Floyd want to bite him. “It’s a mammal thing. Do it, you’ll feel better.”
“We don’t want to feel better!” Jade snarled heatedly. “We want you to help Azul!”
“Then let me put it this way. You will either calm down and breathe, or you’ll leave this office and I’ll deal with Mr. Ashengrotto without your input. Those are your two choices.”
Floyd didn’t want to calm down. He wanted to yell and scream and break things until Azul woke up and yelled at him for being a bother! Azul wasn’t supposed to be this quiet and still unless he was being all sneaky or reading one of his super boring books! This wasn’t right and the stupid human needed to fix it right now or what else was he good for!?
“Fine.” Jade stated, his voice as cold as ice and dripping with challenge, but still, he complied. Seeing that his brother had chosen their path for them, Floyd could only go along with him, and despite wanting to do anything but follow those orders, he took several deep breaths, holding them in until his lungs ached, then breathing out like some stupid whale.
Taking advantage of the few seconds he had while the twins were regathering for another attack, the doctor quickly assessed the rather impressive number of wounds covering their bodies. Both looked like they’d been put through a meat grinder, though Jade was by far the worst. His pale skin was covered in bites and scratches, and Doctor Sour was positive that if he dared to take some measurements, he’d find that most of them perfectly matched the jaws of the smaller youth floating in the water.
It was impossible not to frown as he took note of the physical carnage these boys had indulged in, comparing them to the answers he’d received from specialists regarding the ever-elusive merfolk and their mating practices. He’d spent a good deal of time consulting with them since the trio had crossed his infirmary door and made it clear that they were going to be a problem he’d have to deal with.
What he’d learned was that merfolk were much more prone to physical displays of strength and athleticism than outright acts of violence against each other. They enjoyed bluffing and showing off to rather foolish extremes during their mating season, but almost always stopped short of physical confrontation. While there was always the odd exception to the rule, these three seemed to indulge in it all too readily.
More concerning was the fact that his informants had grown suddenly silent on the matter when he’d asked them what lay in the deeper waters below Atlantica. It wasn’t the usual reticence of merfolk in general, his informants were scared, in fact, terrified might be a better word. They’d very explicitly warned him away from the trio and even had gone so far as to advise expulsion.
Had he been anyone else, their emphatic warnings might have worked, but Dr. Sour’s soul was the shape of Octavinelle, and no follower of the Sea Witch could ever let a secret lay unexplored.
Noticing that the twins seemed to have regained some level of self control, Dr. Sour motioned for them to join him in the examination room. The quarters were closer than he’d prefer to be in with two such physically, and magically impressive specimens, but now that they were back in their more normal state of mind, he was confident that they wouldn’t do anything too stupid.
Following the man into the room, the twins carefully lowered their magical globe onto the bed before dispelling the water, allowing Azul’s weight to settle on the soft surface of the examination bed. Upon hearing a soft groan from the octopus, they both darted forward, hope lighting up their faces as they gently stroked his damp limbs, desperate to convince themselves that he was going to be alright.
While he didn’t regain consciousness, he did seem to be breathing a little more evenly and the slight rise and fall of his chest brought them no end of comfort.
“I’ll say once more that he’s not in any danger of dying.” The doctor didn’t even bother turning around to face them, instead, he was washing his hands and snapping on gloves, giving the twins a moment to gather themselves. “But he’s in a lot of pain, and judging by the cuts and bites on him, you three had one hell of a night.” Only now did he turn and level a rather no nonsense look at the two of them. “Now, I’m going to be generous an assume that these are mating wounds and not from an actual fight?” There was a clear note of warning in his voice, but the eels barely heard it. Their shoulders and muscles along their backs stiffened as they attempted to raise nonexistent spines in a threat display, furious over the implication that they’d done anything to purposefully hurt him.
“We would never fight with Azul!” Jade snarled, his fingers curling, trying to unsheathe his missing claws. Floyd on the other hand simply studied the doctor, then glanced at Azul’s wounds and smiled slyly.
“It’s mostly from him and Jade.” Ignoring the glare his brother shot him, he continued. “They’re always having dominance fights, which is sort of silly because Azul likes losing those, but he’s too proud to admit it and besides, he likes to make Jade work for it just s much as Jade likes winning.” Ha! Take that human! He could feel the doctor’s cheeks heat up as his flesh took on a slight pink tinge to it. There was more than one way to fight after all, and he’d scored a direct hit! “I don’t mind either way because I’m still having fun, and I don’t end up hurting nearly as much.” Yeah, the mammal looked really uncomfortable now, and that made Floyd feel much better about the whole situation.
“So then… it’s safe to deduce that Jade was the one to … mate with him?” The doctor visibly winced at the words, wondering what mistakes he’d made in life to bring him to this awkward moment. Unable to help himself, Floyd burst out laughing. Leaning against the bed, he flashed Azul a warm look, then winked playfully at his brother, who still looked ready to bite.
“Both of us mated with him.” He continued to explain. “Duh, why wouldn’t we? Jade just mated with him first. Then I mated with him, and then Jade joined me so that we were both mating at once! We didn’t see that one in the brochures, but we did see it on Dolphin’s magicam! He showed me at the cooking club and that looked like a lot of fun! But then the chef went crazy and started chasing the dead crab around and we couldn’t see the rest of it because of all the knives and stuff.”
Unable to quite keep his eyes from widening, the doctor glanced down at both twins, noting that neither of them was small in any physical department and he both mentally cursed the unconscious youths’ sense of adventure and lack of common sense.
“Both.” The doctor muttered the word, rubbing his hand over his face and taking a deep breath… then another. “No wonder he’s in pain.” Giving his head a slow shake, he muttered something about being the banes of his exitance before lowering his hands and glaring at them both in utter exasperation.
“Did you even read those brochures? You’re supposed to take it slow and learn your limits before you try anything. The idea is to build up to actual intercourse, not just jump right in… and to try something like that… well… that’s just madness.”
“Well, you didn’t say that!” Jade snapped defensively, causing Floyd to chime in as well.
“It’s not like Azul wasn’t having fun too.”
“Course… he did say that it hurt…”
“He also said that he’d tear my throat out if I stopped. Remember that part?”
The doctor looked like he was building up a rather impressive headache while the twins argued, and when he held up his hand for quiet, the two stopped arguing. In the silence, they stared at him expectantly.
“So… he’s an idiot, and the two of you are no better.” Well, that was uncalled for as far as Floyd was concerned and he hissed softly as his eyes widened in outrage.
“What did you call us? You wanna get eaten human? Cause that’s how you get eaten.” Most sensible fish would have quickly swum off to hide in the safety of the coral, but not the doctor. Nope, for all his fancy words and scary lectures, he just stood there, meeting Floyd’s glare without flinching. Normally, he’d have taken this as an open invitation to squeeze some fear into him, but they still needed the doctor to help Azul. Even if he wasn’t dying, he was still really hurt and not waking up, which Floyd didn’t like one bit.
“You’re all idiots.” The doctor repeated. “I provided that material so that you three could learn how to properly mate without hurting each other and you ignored pretty much all of it. You’ve brought this on yourselves, and you’re damn well going to deal with the consequences of your foolishness.”
“What? No, that’s now how this works. You’re a doctor, it says so on your door, so you have to fix him!” How did the human not know his job!? Why were surface adults so stupid!?
“Pardon me, but for a moment.” Jade finally spoke up, his voice quiet and polite, but dripping with menace. “But it sounded as if you were refusing us.” His eyes narrowed dangerously. “It’s your job to heal the students at Night Raven College.”
The doctor had to be sick. Maybe it was brain parasites? Floyd knew of a few that fish could get that made them try to get eaten on purpose, and that seemed to be what this human was doing… and doing it really well, because he wanted nothing more than to take a chunk out of that arrogant mammal.
“Firstly, my job doesn’t start for another two and a half hours, thank you very much. Secondly, my job is to heal students from classroom mishaps, magical maladies, and accidental injuries. Thirdly, I wouldn’t advise threatening members of the staff, you’ve already seen what manhandling one of us gets you.”
Both eels glanced over their shoulders at the door behind them, remembering Jade’s short-lived flight through the table. While Jade did back off, likely getting tired of being tossed around, Floyd still more than wanted to vent his frustration on a more physical level.
“I am not some mindless automaton who will magically heal you three at the drop of a hat every time you get a bruise or cut. I especially will not do so you when you perform some stupid stunt which results in anything other than life threatening injuries. Mr. Ashengrotto will be fine, just very sore for the next day or so. In fact, I think that this will serve as an excellent learning experience on not pushing his physical boundaries. These are new bodies, I would suggest you three treat them with more care and respect because you’ve been in here every single day since school began, and we’re not even through the first week.”
Having said his piece, the doctor then stepped between the twins as if they were nothing. It was a show of bravery few possessed, and Floy was rather tempted to attack, but the man was heading towards Azul, and it would be rather stupid to bite the man for doing what they wanted him to do in the first place. Instead, he satisfied himself with continuing to glare at the man with an unblinking and predatory stare.
Relaxing only marginally when the doctor pulled out his own diamond tipped pen and began to slowly wave it over Azul’s unconscious body, Floyd edged a little closer, trying to make sense out of the series of strange colours which surrounded his companion. The colours were all little lines, like fine seaweed, all woven together in intricate knots. There were a lot of jagged lines and bring hues in amongst the familiar blues, lavenders and greens which made up Azul’s aura, but he frowned when he noticed the jagged network of crimson lines which were etched through it all.
Most of those were around his lower body, but several travelled up his spine and looped around his brain in a rather worrisome manner. In fact, the closer he looked, the more little red threads he could see.
Was the doctor right? Had they done that much damage to their octopus in their ill-conceived attempts at mating? He really hoped that Azul was going to be alright, and he wanted desperately to pull the poor youth into his arms and hug him tightly, but he had a feeling that that might be a bad thing. Azul hadn’t wanted to move when he’d been on the bed, and so far, no one had healed him at all. If he tried to hug him, the best he’d be able to hope for would be a nasty bite… but more likely, he’d end up mushed up against a wall like Jade.
“Well, if anyone was going to pull a dumbass stunt like this, it would be you three.” The doctor announced, putting his pen back into his pocket without performing a single bit of healing which Floyd was pretty sure wasn’t what he was supposed to be doing.
“It’s just internal bruising… a lot of it.” He continued to note, even as Floyd stared rather pointedly at the now pocketed pen. “Not to mention some backlash. You tried to heal him, didn’t you? And his magic fought back?” Glancing over his shoulder, the doctor finally noted the looks of annoyance the twins were shooting in his direction.
“I’ll take that as a yes.” The man allowed himself a somewhat smug smile. “He’s been healed with magic too often in too short a time. Be glad his magic fought back. If you’d tried to push it, you likely would have done more harm than good.”
That caught the twins’ attention and Jade finally spoke up.
“His magic wouldn’t link with ours… that’s never happened before. Even when we were young and he was always trying to hide from us, his magic would always reach out. It recognized us even when he didn’t.” Reaching out, Jade gently slid his fingers through that seafoam bright hair, his touch so tender and gentle that he doubted Azul would have felt it, even if he had been awake. “We… I panicked… I was going to force him to heal, but Floyd stopped me.” Glancing up, their gazes locked, and Floyd could feel the bottomless depths of his brother’s gratitude.
Unable to think of the words to make things alright, Floyd walked over to his twin and gently rubbed their cheeks together. He drank in the scent of his brother, lightly kissed the still raw flesh on his throat, right next to one of Azul’s bites.
“We look out for each other, yeah?” Pulling back, he smiled at the other eel. “Jade doesn’t get panicked often, so when he does, it’s up to us to help you out, and since Azul couldn’t do that, it was my job.” It really was just that simple in his mind, and the gratitude which warmed his brother’s smile was worth any treasure Azul might hide away.
“Yes, well there’s a reason I only use magic to heal in extreme circumstances.” Doctor Sour stated, drawing their attention back to the matter at hand. “It’s jarring to the system and the body needs to recover on a cellular level from the strain. It will be about a week before you can safely try to heal him without risking more backlash, so you’d better hope that he doesn’t get himself into any truly lethal trouble or there won’t be anything we can do.” Pausing, the man seemed to realize who he was talking to, because not even the eels could keep Azul out of trouble. For all that he claimed that he was a low-key octopus who just wanted to quietly slip in beneath anyone’s notice and make his madols, he certainly loved being involved in everything, and it had only gotten worse since they’d come to the surface.
Having legs had given their octopus a new burst of confidence that he’d never had before, and it was pushing him into all sorts of trouble. While Floyd did love this new, wild and crazy Azul, he hated seeing him in danger. More annoyingly, he knew that Jade would be looking at this and wondering if Azul might have been like this down in Atlantica if the other mer hadn’t treated him so badly. If only they’d met him sooner, if only the stupid surface mer had realized how amazing Azul was. Ugh, too many if onlys. He hated getting all maudlin!
“As I said, for now, Mr. Ashengrotto will be fine, just very, very sore. I’d advise that he drink plenty of water, eat high fiber food for the next few days and learn some cushioning spells if he wants to make it through classes with any level of sanity intact, though at this point, that might already be a lost cause.”
“Your concern for your patients is surprisingly underwhelming.” Jade stated, his voice flat and dangerous as he glared at the human, though his hand continued to carefully stroke Azul’s hair.
The doctor just chuckled in amusement. It was the sort of laugh that was both affectionate, and utterly exasperated all at the same time. Floyd knew that laugh well, Jade did it a lot.
“Please, you three little piranhas have used up more time in the infirmary in your first week than most in a full year. You’ve poached patients from my office under my nose, broke my door and-”
“The plant did it.” Floyd felt the need to butt in, though the doctor didn’t seem to appreciate his clarification. Instead, the man took a deep breath and quietly counted to ten…twice before speaking.
“Look. I like you kids, you’re wild, your ambitious and you’re smart. You three are what Octavinelle needs, but that doesn’t mean that I’m going to let you swim in circles around me. Don’t think that I don’t recognize what you’re doing, taking nibbles like a shoal of curious sharks.”
“We resent the comparison, we’re much more intelligent than any shark.”
“Before 5am, I don’t care how smart or cute you are. What I do care about is the sleep I’m missing out on. Now, Mr. Ashengrotto has a meeting with Professor Crewel regarding that damn potion of yours that he’s insisting on brewing. While he’s braving the dragon’s den, you two should be heading back to your dorm and wrangling your pet first years into some form of order. Your Prefect is getting released today and I’ll warn you now that he’s crankier than a barracuda with a tooth ache. Don’t go looking for trouble, and don’t hire more goons to beat him into paste. Don’t even try to deny it, I know it was you three.”
It had been a long and hectic morning, the twins didn’t even bother attempting to look innocent, it simply took too much effort. Instead, they allowed themselves a shared smirk of victory. Besides, the doctor already knew it was them, so why bother wasting the time and effort in denying it? He was from Octavinelle, he’d understand.
Pulling out his pen once more, the doctor gave it a little wave, and two rather ugly sets of seaweed wrappy things appeared on the chairs in front of them. They were the ugliest shade of green Floyd had ever seen and were as boring looking as they were ugly. If he was going to have to wear the stupid things, the least they could do was look interesting. Instead, all they had was the Night Raven College logo emblazoned on the chest.
“Put these on and head back to your dorm. The rest of Octavinelle will be getting up shortly and I see little need for another naked walk through the hallways. While it might not bother you two, it’s hardly proper behaviour.”
“Ha! He thinks we’re proper.” Floyd laughed, making no move to touch the garments. They looked as uncomfortable as they were ugly and the foot shells that came with them were so… un fun! They were just these limp little white things that had no bounce to them at all. While Floyd might be new to the whole feet thing, he had standards dammit!
“I’m asking for Mr. Ashengrotto’s reputation.” The doctor continued. “Also, it hardly looks good that Mr. Sary was removed from his position for his actions the other day if it becomes obvious that you actually prefer acts of exhibitionism. A smart student would then turn it around to say that he’d in fact attempted to stop you, but failed, turning himself into the victim.”
Looking down at the clothing, Floyd whined softly in despair, hating that the stupid human was making sense and knowing that if Azul was awake, he’d be saying the same thing… only, Azul wasn’t awake, and he really didn’t have to listen to the human. A quick glance at Jade showed that his brother was also making no move to put on the clothing, which to Floyd was all the validation he needed to ignore the orders.
“We’re not going anywhere until Azul wakes up.” Jade’s tone of voice made it clear that he wasn’t about to budge on this point. Rather than argue, the doctor instead reached for a small jar and pulled out one of those sharp smelling vials that Rook Hunt had used.
Remembering the nostril searing stink of those horrible fumes, Floyd quickly hopped over the chair and ducked down, hissing softly in warning, more than ready to bite if the doctor came anywhere near him with that stinky thing.
Jade’s reaction was somewhat more subdued, and he simply pinched his nose shut, favouring the vial and its contents with a glare of pure loathing.
“Is that truly necessary?” He asked, his voice sounding rather adorably nasal.
“It’s the most effective method short of hitting him with a defibrillator.” The doctor replied, not bothering to elaborate on what that might be, but Floyd was willing to bet that it was even worse than the vial. Things in doctor’s offices with fancy names always were.
Holding the vial under Azul’s nose had an almost immediate effect, and within less than a second, Floyd could see his nose wrinkling slightly, then his brows furrowing in a frown. The second after that, bright blue eyes flashed open, and Azul shoved himself away from the unpleasant odour before he even fully woken up.
Much like in their dorm room, it took a few moments before he became fully aware of the pain he was in, but once it made itself known, he once again doubled over, curling up in a tight ball of misery. A soft groan, followed by several pitiful whimpers drew Floyd out of his hiding place as he tucked himself up by Azul’s side. He even went so far as to hold out his hand for his octopus to hold, then immediately regretted the decision as those delicate fingers latched onto him with all the strength of his tentacles, threatening to squeeze his bones to powder.
As much as self preservation demanded that he pull away, Floyd held himself still, and knowing that this touch helped Azul ground himself through the pain. Anything that helped his squishy… and squeezy octopus was worth it.
“None of that now.” The doctor stated, pulling out another jar and taking what looked like two small fish eggs from it. “Swallow these, but don’t chew them. They’ll help with the pain for a few hours.” He handed the little eggs over, along with a glass of water. “And do release Mr. Leech’s hand. You’re about to cause him some rather serious damage.”
Neither eel had ever seen their friend move so fast in their lives. Not only was Floyd’s hand released, but those little eggs were swallowed before either of them could fully register the movement. Of course, the sudden rush of blood to Floyd’s fingers did serve as an adequate distraction and he bit his lip to keep from whimpering. It felt like hundreds of little mantis shrimps were attacking his poor hand!
Nope, that was the last time he was touching a hurting Azul. Next time they’d sacrifice a stuffy to his grip. It would be a noble death.
Jade of course offered no help at all towards his brother’s suffering. Instead, he was instantly at Azul’s side, examining him as well as he could without touching him. After that last little demonstration, he was all too aware that their companion would latch onto them like the scared cephalopod that he was.
“I still hurt.” Azul murmured, his voice tight and strained as he did his best to remain as motionless as possible. “Why does it hurt so much?”
“Because you were idiots.” Dr. Sour stated, looking as disapproving as he sounded and earning a matching pair of dark looks from the twins over his lack of sympathy. “Next time listen when I tell you to take it slowly, and for Founder’s sake, don’t have sex with two men at once for your first time. Your rectum is a rather sensitive organ and you’ve just pummeled it into oblivion. Sea Witch’s sake, you’re lucky you didn’t tear yourself up. As it is, I’d advise that you stay away from penetrative sex for the next few days to give your body a chance to recover, and I wouldn’t go and trust any farts you have for the next day or so.” The look Azul shot him was pure murder, but he still didn’t move so much as a single muscle.
“Your bedside manner is atrocious.” Azul snarled softly.
“No worse than your survival instincts.” The doctor shot back without missing a beat. “I believe that I come out ahead on that note.” While Floyd sort of wanted to squeeze the man for talking like that to Azul, the very fact that his octopus was being snarky was a good sign. A bitey Azul was a healthy Azul after all.
“Why does it still hurt?”
“Because those pills were mundane medicine. They’ll kick in slowly and take the edge off the pain, and before you ask, pills are all your getting for the next week at least. Also, if I hear of you begging, borrowing, or stealing any healing potions from anyone, you’ll be sushi. Give your system a break or it will turn on you.
“Now, you have a meeting with Professor Crewel. Try not to annoy the man, especially this early in the morning. He’ll be especially surly before his first coffee. I’ll also be messaging him to let him know that he’s to under no circumstances heal you, so don’t even bother trying.” The sullen glare Azul shot him warned that while he might be temporarily stymied, he was by no means defeated. “Your uniform is on the chair. Please refrain from wandering naked through the hallways in the future.”
Everyone glanced over and saw Azul’s school uniform sitting on the end of the examining bed, all neatly folded and waiting to be put on. His foot shells were even resting on the floor beneath him!
“Hey, why does Azul get his uniform while we have to wear these ugly things?” Floyd demanded, shooting a glare at the ugly garments they’d been provided, still sitting there on the chair, untouched.
“Because you’re heading back to your dorm while he’s going to be brewing with the school’s bitchiest professor who will delight in giving me a migraine by forcing me to sit through a two-hour lecture on proper apparel for school activities, which this lamentably classes as.” The doctor paused for breath, his heavy brow lowering in warning. “I already have a headache and the sun isn’t even up yet. There isn’t anything in this world worth making it a Divus level headache.”
“Fine fine.” Azul grumbled sulkily, in no mood to argue, especially when he hurt this much. “If you would be so kind as to give me a few minutes with my companions? Then we’ll be out of your hair.”
“I have no hair.” The doctor stated. “I’m also sick of seeing the three of you in this office, so please take it to heart when I tell you that I don’t want to see you again unless it’s for an actual emergency that was not brought on by your own damn selves.”
“On our defense, it’s hardly something we seek out.” Jade murmured, daring to reach out a hand to help Azul off the table. While the smaller youth did take it, he made no attempt to move beyond that small gesture.
“In your defense, that’s bullshit because every other student… with the exception of Mr. Rosehearts and Mr. Bucchi have managed to avoid multiple visits here, and I will point out that they both hang out with you three. Have you perhaps given thought to the theory that you’re cursed in some way?”
“Oh oh! Azul is cursed!” Floyd held up his hand and waved it around. “Everywhere he goes, he’s attacked by cute fluffy creatures attempting to murder him because the Fairy Bog Mother hates cute squishy frogs!” Everyone in the room turned to stare at Floyd who grinned back happily.
“Yeaaaah. I have no idea what you’re talking about. Nor do I want to.” The doctor stated, giving his head another shake while Azul levelled a chilling glare at his errant eel.
“We are hardly cursed.” Azul huffed loudly in annoyance before looking back at his uniform, trying to figure out how to get dressed without moving. “We’re simply not satisfied with sitting back and allowing opportunities to pass us by.”
His utterly indignant tone earned himself a chuckle from the doctor, as well as another of those fond, yet exasperated looks.
“Yeah yeah. Look, I’m going to go back to my quarters where I will then curl up in my nice soft bed and pretend that this was nothing more than a rather irritating dream, because I’m NOT writing the medical report on this. Next time, go slow, and try not to tear each other apart. Blood is NOT sexy.” With that, he closed the door, leaving the three of them alone in the office.
“Says him.” Jade muttered under his breath. “Stupid human.”
“Wait… we still have bites all over us.” Floyd called out. “Aren’t you supposed to fix those!? Yeah… he’s not listening. He’s a mean doctor and we’re going to die of sepsis because of him.”
The other two ignored him in favour of looking at each other. Well, Azul looked at Jade, while Jade practically cringed beneath the weight of his gaze.
“We… hurt you.” He stated the obvious, yet sounded so absolutely miserable about it that Azul’s glare softened minutely. While he didn’t look happy, he did look less likely to tear more strips off them, which was good, because Floyd had decided that sexy biting was way more fun than angry biting… at least from Azul. “We didn’t mean to.”
“Yeah… you’re still gonna want to mate with us… right?” Floyd asked, carefully easing his way closer to the octopus, ready to jump back at the first hint of violence. “Cause… we had fun… right?”
“You brought me here?” Ignoring their statements, Azul instead took a moment to look around the examination room in mild confusion and concern, not relaxing in the slightest when both eels nodded their heads.
“We thought Azul was dying… cause he’s an octopus and mated… and it hadn’t occurred to us before hand that that might happen.” Floyd edged a little closer, concern pouring off him as he carefully took Azul’s other hand in his, giving it a gentle squeeze. “You were really hurt and if you wanna punch me you can…”
“I’m not going to punch you.” Shaking his head, Azul offered them a somewhat wan smile before taking a deep and rather bracing breath. “Why would I blame you for doing something we all wanted? Besides… I distinctly remember enjoying myself quite a bit, at least after the first bit. Like we always say, nothing worthwhile is without cost… and that was very, very worthwhile.”
Despite his words, Floyd was still more than a tad suspicious, and he leaned a little closer.
“So… Azul isn’t mad at us and gonna bite us the instant we drop our guard?” He pressed. “Cause I know that Azul is a spiteful octopus and holds grudges… and I don’t wanna be turned into a flatworm.”
“I have never threatened to turn you into a flatworm.”
“Noooo…. But you thought about it.” This time the smile was a little wider and had a little more of that familiar fierce personality behind it as Azul chuckled softly, then winced as the slight movement pulled at his many bruises.
“Only a time or ten.” He admitted, giving their hands another light squeeze. “But I won’t turn you into worms of any sort if you help me figure out how to get dressed. I rather doubt that Professor Crewel is going to be at all understanding as to my reason for being late… which I will be if I dawdle here much longer.”
“Forget Crewel. You’re injured. You should go back to bed.” Jade stated as he picked up Azul’s socks from the neat pile and began to carefully slide them onto his feet, treating the appendages as if they were spun crystal.
“The Professor is helping me brew our human potions. I can hardly spurn the man.” The words were spoken through gritted teeth and the hand holding onto Floyd tightened like a vice. “Besides, it’s extra credit.”
“Greedy octopus.” The words were full of affection as Jade gently caressed those delicate feet. Watching the two of them, Floyd found himself smiling in relief. While he was still clearly in pain, their octopus was back. More importantly, he wasn’t about to drop dead. Even more importantly than that, he wasn’t mad at them, which really was the important thing when one got down to it, because no matter what Azul might say, he’d make a terrible flatworm.