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Breed: Eleven


  02:11:00 pm, by Nic Wilson   , 1579 words  
Categories: Breed

Breed: Eleven

?I'm still not sure why I'm here,? Drake said nervously as they passed the smoking field.
?Moral support,? Mikaela offered. ?And because Demi had to work. And maybe to ogle high school girls.?
?Or possibly be exploded by ultimate Frisbee shrapnel.?
?Hey, you knew the risks going in.?
?I didn't. I'm pretty sure you made me think we were getting a pretzel, not strolling leisurely past a Vietnam War reenactment.?
?We just had pizza.?
?I had left-overs.?
?Which you didn't even finish.?
?I'm in college. If I don't have at least a few slices of pizza in my fridge at all times, I freak out the way my Great Depression surviving great grandmother did whenever there was an empty space on the shelf of her walk-in pantry. And a pretzel sounds good. You got me to leave the warmth and comfort of my apartment by hinting we'd get one.?
?We will. This is on the way to the pretzels.?
?You might think that, since you're still new here and maybe don't have a good grasp on the geography. But it's not even kind of true.?
?Hush.? Mikaela said as they approached Lincoln, who was standing on the sidelines and shaking his head. ?Did we miss the Fourth of July?? she asked.
?Some of the running starters got a little... enthusiastic,? turning towards her. ?But I'm glad you're here.?
?You are??
?Mikaela, right??
?Yeah, how did you??
?Tucker mentioned you. As did Rox. And the Dean.?
?The Dean??
?He mentions everybody, at one point or another. He's very hands on with the student body... that came out so much more wrong than I meant it. But it's a smaller group that comes mid-year like this, so students that catch his fancy tend to get a little more attention.?
?That's all kinds of creepy. And it also doesn't tell me why you're glad I'm here.?
?Tuck mentioned you might be coming by, and there's somebody I wanted to meet you. She's a little old, to hand off to Roxy and the other running starters, and I thought, or maybe I hoped, that she'd be a better fit for you. She's an exchange student, from Japan. My exchange student, technically, as I'm her sponsor. But it's... different. I'm older enough than her that, while I'm perhaps a good mentor, there's plenty about the college experience that's as foreign to me as this whole country is to her.?
?So, uh, what would I...?
?I just want you to talk to her, maybe show her around, a little. I know you're new, but that will help, because it's all still fresh in your mind. And of course, I can see you've already got your own support system. I'm Linc, by the way,? he waved at both her and Drake. Then he pulled out his phone and checked his messages. ?As luck would have it, we were going to get coffee in a bit, so she's on her way, now. Speak of the little Oni,? he said. She was just starting up the path that cut through the field, down by the snowed-over tennis courts. ?I don't want to impose, and I know there's, uh, more of a ticking clock than is probably polite, but I'd be happy to buy all of you coffee, for your troubles. Presuming you don't have some place to be.?
?No,? Mikaela said. ?Here was the place we had to be.? She suddenly felt a little guilty, and glanced over at Drake. ?Though, pretzels, may be a part of our agenda.?
?Very cool. Mayumi, how's your day been going?? She gave him a concerned look, and her eyes dashed from Mikaela, to Drake, and back to Linc. ?This is Mikaela. I sort mentioned wanting to introduce you to someone. And this is her friend...?
?Drake,? he said, and gave her a little nod.
Mayumi bit her lip, and forced herself to look up at Linc. ?It's been good,? she said softly.
?I should maybe have mentioned that she's a little introverted,? Lincoln said, with a self-deprecating smile.
?Me too, mostly,? Mikaela said. ?You feel like getting some coffee??
Mayumi looked very tentatively at her. ?Cocoa??
?Cocoa would be fine too,? Mikaela said through a smile.
?Oh, here,? Linc went for his wallet, and handed several bills to Mayumi. ?It's on me.?
?Thanks,? Mayumi said.
?I'll see you later, and give me a call if you need a ride.? Linc said, and walked back to the field.
?So where are we going for coffee?? Drake asked.
?I guess the kiosk over here's close,? Mikaela said. ?Plus they have coffee and cocoa, and aren't afraid to mix them.?
?Sure,? Mayumi said quietly.
?I don't think that's on the way to pretzels, though,? Drake said.
?They have pretzels in the cafeteria,? Mayumi said softly.
?They do?? Drake asked.
?You didn't know that?? Mikaela asked. ?You, who build your class schedule around when and where you can get snacks.?
?I didn't go for the meal plan, so I usually just eat at home.?
?Huh,? Mikaela said.
?Did you know they had pretzels in the caf??
?No. But I've only been here a few days. And I don't fancy myself a Cuisinart.?
?A connoisseur??
?That's how I heard it,? Mayumi said with a smile.
?Oh, come on, you've known me less than five minutes, and you've already turned against me??
?You just have that effect on women,? Mikaela said. She paused to open the doors into the Franklin Arts Center. It had a small commons area, with tables, couches, and a little barrista. They walked to the coffee kiosk.
?Just a coffee with cocoa and creamer for me,? Mikaela said.
?Iced mocha,? Drake said.
?Cocoa,? Mayumi said. ?With whipped cream.? Then she handed him the folded bills from Linc.
They waited for their drinks in awkward silence. After a few moments, Drake took out his phone and amused himself with some Puzzle Quest.
?Got your order,? the barrista said, and set three cups down on the counter.
?Thanks,? Drake said, and took his first. He chose a nearby couch, and sat down. Mikaela sat next to him, and Mayumi pulled a chair from a nearby table.
?We can scoot over,? Mikaela said, pushing Drake to the side.
?This is okay,? Mayumi said.
?So,? Mikaela started. ?Baundslow is a long way from Japan. What brought you here??
?Do you mean, do I belong??
?I think you belong just fine,? Mikaela said, ?abilities, or no.?
?Oh,? she said. ?I think I've got some, but...?
?Yeah,? Drake said. ?I know how that goes. Mine started showing up senior year, in cross country. We ran through this forest on the backside of the campus. And I started losing tracts of time. Just a few feet here, or maybe a turn there. Nothing that couldn't be explained by a running fugue or by fatigue. Then one day I was running with Iago, and for once he was keeping up.? He stood up. Mayumi barely noticed, because she was trying to take a sip from her cocoa around the swirl of whipped cream. ?And then, suddenly, he was gone.? She heard a noise, the kind of rush of air that happens when a door is opened out into the cold. She looked for the source, which was where Drake had been standing, only he wasn't there anymore.
The noise came again, accompanied by a rush of cool air, this time from behind her. ?Of course, it wasn't him that disappeared,? Drake said, leaning over her shoulder. The noise came again, then a fourth time, and Drake was standing where he'd been, and dropped down onto the couch.
?How did he take it?? Mayumi asked.
?He's my best friend; still is. Lives in the same apartment up here. Which I guess let's that cat out of the bag. But he was really excited. Because he'd been noticing his own abilities, and that freaked him out. But finding out he wasn't alone, it was a pretty big deal, to him. And I think that's why he accepted it so fast; I was still really confused.?
?I know that feeling,? Mayumi said. ?But that's why I'm glad to be here. To belong.?
?This campus is good for that,? Drake said.
?What kind of stuff do you do for fun?? Mikaela asked.
?Stuff,? she said. ?I've been watching Attack on Titan with Linc in English, to help me brush up.?
?The anime with the big fat naked dudes?? Mikaela asked.
?I've been trying to get her to watch for forever.?
?Days,? she corrected. ?I've only been up here for days. Am I the only one who knows how to tell time up here?? Mayumi gave her a bemused smile. ?So you'd recommend it, then??
She pondered a moment, and took a sip from her cocoa, smudging whipped cream on her nose. ?It's bleak,? she said. ?But it's unique. You should try it, at least.?
?Okay,? Mikaela relented. ?How's tonight work for you two??
?I'm free,? Drake said.
?Um,? Mayumi stalled.
?Sorry,? Mikaela said. ?No pressure. I'll give you my number, and you can call if you want to hang out tonight. Sound good??
Mayumi smiled. ?I'd like that.?
?All right,? Drake said, pushing up off the couch. ?You two can stay here, if you want, but I need a pretzel, now.?
Mayumi and Mikaela stood. ?We're coming, too,? Mayumi said.
?Yeah,? Mikaela said. ?You've been talking about pretzels so damned long, I need on, too.?

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