@myguiltyghost I’ve honestly been enjoying having Karen interact with people like Claire and Ellison so much in this fic. If the pacing allowed for it I’d probably write endless sassy coffee dates for Karen and her friends… hence I was a little concerned about how to add Elektra to the mix. I’d always planned on bringing her in around now but I never realised how incredibly helpful she would be and how she’d intensify the plot and I’m so happy this is working because I really wanted to do right by her.
Mod: The first panel was drawn and submitted to me by Enderstine which I’m sure is a follow-up to this, I would have liked to make the background dark as well but if I wanted a floor so would it be darker which would make Enderstine very hard to see.
“T-the roof is the only place left….please please let him be there….!” Alfred muttered out of breath as he quickly climbed the stairs in twos, he burst the door open, a gust of wind hitting his face, he panted heavily as he looked ahead, seeing a figure slowly turn around when they heard the door open.
The figure didn’t have to say anything because Alfred already knew who they were
Alfred grew frantic and as he walked over to him, his hair… he…Alphonse had given up, you could just see it, the puffy red skin around his eyes, the blank and broken look in his eyes, and his hair…his hair…he dyed it…there was no going back there…”
Alfred grabbed the others shoulders, “Alphonse…!”
He stopped, his hands freezing into place, the auburn was trembling…Alfred bit his lip and brought Alphonse into a tight embrace, he felt the German flinch a bit, but slowly bury his head in the directors shoulder, Alfred kept the embrace tightly.
Before the trimester ended, Enna took her plan to the next step.
Max continued to be suspicious of her nice girl act, which she kept up with even after he foiled her attempt at ruining his grades. She still encouraged him and helped him with his homework, and it was all he could do to keep acting normal in her presence. Something told him that letting her know he was aware of her scheme was the worst possible thing he could do.
Tali, smug as she was, wasn’t very much help at this point. As they drew closer to the end of her first trimester, the classwork pressure finally started to pile on, leaving her too stressed and distracted to focus on what Enna was really up to. Journey, meanwhile, couldn’t figure out anything about Enna’s luck charm beyond the fact that there was in fact a trace of magic in it. He and Max were also falling victim to the extra loads of work, which didn’t help at all.
On top of that, Max’s luck with his job seemed to be getting worse and worse. After a stressful two weeks covering for coworkers who’d been fired or couldn’t make it in, his shifts were suddenly cut, leaving him with a paycheck just barely big enough to take care of his bills.
“The universe is out to get me,” he moaned to Journey one late evening during a study session.
“Stop being overdramatic,” Journey replied without even looking up from his laptop screen.
“I mean it. Everything’s been weird since…” Max trailed off. “And lately things just keep getting worse. I am…so tempted to just run away, sometimes.”
"Running away never solves any problems,” came the response.
Journey didn’t notice the odd look Max gave him. Max didn’t say anything else for a while.
It was an unassuming Friday afternoon when Max realized he’d underestimated Enna. He was called in to a meeting with the dean, something that made him uneasy for two reasons. Firstly and more immediately, because he had to call in to work and get someone else to take his shift. Secondly and more worryingly, because it felt uncomfortably like a similar meeting he’d gone through only eight months earlier.
Stepping into the office, he felt a chill of dread shoot up and down his spine. Mr Stern was there. So was Enna.
“Thank you for coming, Mr Oliver,” said Ms Sparrow.
“No problem,” he lied. “What’s this about?”
The door closed behind Max with the firm thud of solid wood, and a click like the trigger of a gun being pulled.
“Some unusual behavior has been brought to my attention,” said Ms Sparrow. She drew Max’s gaze to the surface of her desk and, as he watched, she placed a single item there: the little black flashdrive he’d given Mr Stern.
“Roughly two weeks ago, as I’ve been told, Mr Stern approached you about assignments you hadn’t been turning in. You gave him this.”
Max nodded. “Yes.” He already didn’t like where this was going.
“Maybe you can explain why nobody apart from Mr Stern is able to look at the contents of this flashdrive.”
Max swallowed. He definitely didn’t like where this was going.
“That kind of enchantment requires a level of magic that we know for a fact you don’t possess,” she added. “In fact, it requires a type of magic that we highly discourage our students from using.”
Unable to think of a defense, with his mind racing up toward the point of panic, Max said the only thing he could think of.
"Enna set me up.” The words spilled out of his mouth, and he instantly regretted them, but now that he’d made the accusation he had to go forward with it. “She’s the teacher assistant. She deleted all my files and kept Mr Stern from seeing them. What else was I supposed to do?”
All eyes turned to Enna, who put on a face of shock and betrayal.
“I would never do something like that! Mr Stern, Ms Sparrow, you know how hard I’ve worked to get here! I wouldn’t do anything to risk losing this job!”
"Relax, Miss Pranke,” said Ms Sparrow. “I believe you, especially considering the additional evidence you’ve provided us.”
Max thought his heart might have skipped a beat in its haste. ‘Additional evidence’ sounded like a very bad thing. His breath stopped coming for a moment when he saw the second item the dean placed on her desk.
“Normally I would discourage snooping in other people’s belongings,” she shot a glance at Enna, who had the decency to at least appear ashamed, “but I’m told the two of you are friends, and the nature of this object is far more concerning.”
She unfolded the black silken square, revealing the golden summoning circle stitched onto it. Some of the threads were stained a darker brown.
“We’ve confirmed that this is your blood on this circle, and that it is recent. You know our policy regarding demons, Mr Oliver. Eight months ago, I believe, we had another discussion on this subject.”
“Yes, we did,” Max admitted. There was nothing else he could say. He was guilty - this time, at least - and everyone in the room knew it.
“Furthermore, there is the nature of this circle. It isn’t in any of our sources, yet it is clearly a circle for the demon known as Alcor. Where did you get it?”
Closing his eyes, Max took a long, shaky breath. They would know if he lied about this. He was screwed no matter what he said or did, so he might as well be honest.
“Alcor gave it to me.”
He wasn’t quite expecting the degree of shock that showed on the dean’s face. Out of the corner of his eye he could see Mr Stern shaking his head ever so slightly, and he could only imagine the satisfaction Enna was feeling.
Finally Ms Sparrow said, “If you have any other magical items on your person, I’m afraid I’ll have to ask you to show them to me.”
Max very nearly swore aloud. The ring was still in his pocket. The ring that was also a gift from Alcor, that contained a brutish weapon, that he himself had activated with his own blood and used to beat down several people. The situation simply could not get any worse.
He slipped a hand into his pocket, and handed the ring to Ms Sparrow.
“Since you’re going to ask anyway, that’s from Alcor too. But I’d feel much more comfortable talking about it without her,” he jerked his head in Enna’s direction, “in the room.”
Ms Sparrow gazed at his face for a moment, then nodded. “Miss Pranke, you’re excused.” Enna left, with a disgruntled huff, and Ms Sparrow said to Max, “Please explain this.”
So Max explained, beginning with a recap of the events of the previous winter. He explained that he had never intended to get involved with demons of any sort; that he was only taking demonology because continued involvement with Alcor was inevitable by no fault of his own; that he knew he was in a messed up situation and there didn’t seem to be much he could do about it.
He related the events of the beginning of the summer, how he and Journey had been kidnapped by a very cult-like group, and how they had only survived because of Max’s ties to Alcor. He explained that the weapon hidden within the ring was only for self-defense in case he found himself in another situation like that one.
Ms Sparrow listened calmly, nodded understandingly, and when Max was finished finally said, “Could you tell me why this particular demon has formed this attachment with you?”
Max bit his lip for a moment. “He told me that I’m…a reincarnation of someone who was important to him.” It sounded ridiculous when he said it like that, but Ms Sparrow considered it with complete seriousness.
At last she straightened up a little in her chair, took a breath, and said, “I’ll admit that your circumstances are unique, at least in my experience, but I’m afraid our policy still stands. With clear evidence that you have been dealing with demons for school-related purposes, and a confession from yourself on top of that, I have no choice but to take action. A first strike results in suspension; since you’ve now received two strikes, and admitted to dodging the first by doing the very thing you would have been suspended for, the punishment is expulsion.”
"What! But…Please! Please, I need this!”
"I’m sorry, Mr Oliver. Rules are rules. Please collect your personal things and return any school property you possess.” She handed the summoning circle and the ring back to Max, and dismissed him.
Enna was waiting outside, just a short distance down the hallway. By the look on her face, Max had no doubt that she knew exactly what had just happened.
“Satisfied?” he said bitterly.
She shrugged. “I really didn’t want to have to do that. But since you so cleverly ruined my plan to get you out of just the one class, I didn’t have much choice.”
Max pushed Enna against the wall, and pinned her there by her shoulders. “What is your problem? It’s just a fucking demonology class! Do you have any idea what you just cost me?”
Enna’s eyes narrowed, but her mouth turned up in a creepy little smile. “I’m trying to keep you from doing anything foolish, Max. Everyone else may have forgotten about that first little incident, but I never did. Of course I knew who that demon was when I banished it from the apartment. I panicked at first. But then I realized you were in trouble, and I knew I was the only person who could help you.” Her expression changed to a pout. “Please don’t hate me for trying to save you.”
”I never needed saving,” Max nearly growled at her. “At least not from Alcor.” But then his blood ran cold as another voice echoed in his mind. An older voice, masculine and sickeningly self-satisfied. “I’ve been asked to save you,” the voice in his memory said. His grip on Enna’s shoulders loosened.
”You. You’re the one who sent them after me…”
Enna’s pout became even more sad, and tears pooled in her eyes. “I don’t know what happened. I spent so much time wondering how you escaped while everyone else there died…A lot of good people died, Max.”
“They tried to kill me.”
"You should have let them save you!”
“That was never going to happen because I never needed saving!”
Enna laughed, a mad laugh that rang in his ears and echoed down the hallway as tears spilled down her face. She pushed his hands away and stumbled a few steps. “I still can’t give up on you. I won’t. I promise. Alcor may have claimed you, but he can’t keep you forever.” The hopeful smile she gave him sent yet another chill running down his spine, before she turned and walked away.