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Claremont Academy, Room 301

Just after the Krampus Incident

 

"We might have some," Abigail answered Elizabeth as they both stepped clear of the portal in their dorm room.  "We can always go out and get more, if we need to."

 

The young mage dismissed her portal with a flick of her hand and hopped up onto her bed, sitting cross-legged in its center.  Her eyes unfocused for a moment and her Arcana regalia began to unmake itself and reform into a more sensible slipping off of school grounds after a protracted fight while everyone else is stuck cleaning up afterwards outfit.

 

She was also very much trying to not stare at her roommate who was suddenly very distracting and Abigail didn't understand how, or what, or why that was or what it meant.  Instead she just felt her face heating and she kept her eyes down, which in the small room meant she was watching her roommate's legs.

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"It was worth slipping away just to be warm again," Elizabeth declared, sighing happily as the dorm air hit her. Snow-laden slippers and robe got abandoned as soon as she had a place to abandon them; the latter was also slightly wet, which she was trying very hard to imagine was not Krampus spittle. She liked that robe. She'd really hate to have to find a new one.

 

The young trickster stretched, flexing from her feet up on tip-toes to her hands held high overhead, trying to shake off the last of her post-combat jitters. "Do you think they'll be okay? I think they'll be okay," she mused, dropping back down to her heels. She waved a hand, pajama shorts flowing down into comfortable, white linen pants before she sat cross-legged on her bed. "I feel really bad about whoever has to explain all that to the city, though. That's going to have gotten some attention."

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Well, Abby tried to keep her eyes down but she glanced up mid stretch and her breath caught.

 

She made a quiet, frustrated, sound and shook her head slightly like she could toss aside whatever it was that had come over her.  She'd been living here in this dorm with Elizabeth for months, and this wasn't the first time they've dressed in the room with the other present.  Heck, her own squad mate Corinne was significantly more cavalier with her state of (un)dress and she didn't have the same reaction.

 

Abigail blinked, realizing she'd been a bit silent, and set aside her woolgathering.  "I think they'll be OK," she agreed.  "Though I probably should be a little more careful about collateral damage."

 

"You were, are, so amazing." the sorceress added.  "You just... just went!  I'm always afraid about getting involved, I never know who or what could be watching."

 

 

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As if on cue Abby's rambling was interrupted by the appearance of a translucent blue woman floating through the adjoining wall their dormitory room shared with its neighbour. She wore a cowl necked sweater dress and held a wicked looking scythe with a blade that Liz could see was somehow simultaneously pitch black and polished to a mirror sheen as it cut through the air a handspan from her nose.

 

"Abby! Ohmigoodness, there you are!" the spectre gushed, bouncing slightly in the air as her weapon vanished with a flick of her wrist. She grabbed the teen by the shoulders and looked her over with apparent concern. "Are you okay? You didn't get hurt?" She placed the back of one hand against Abby's forehead and frowned. "Did you catch something? You're all red!" Before a response could be given she broke away and sped to the closed window, sticking her head through the solid glass to call down to the ground. "Dan! You can stop scaring the jams out of that boy! I found her!" There was a muffled response from below and she threw up her hands in exasperation. "You're interrogating a literal baby! Becky, make him be nice!" Another brief pause, then, "Oh no, sweetie, I'm sure you're a totally rad tough dude!" She quickly pulled her head back into the room and spun about the face the two girls with an emphatic wince. "Whoops! Boys can be so sensitive! I'm sure he'll be fine, probably."

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Elizabeth had frozen in place, moving only her eyes to watch the ghost float through their room. The actual, literal ghost. A genuine specter. A cheerful grim shade.

 

She realized that at some point she'd started saying those out loud, and tried to recover her dignity with a fair impression of a cough. "Um! Hello! You're actually...you know, we heard rumors, but, you know. Rumors. I almost didn't think, um." Abby was handling this so much better.

 

Abby! Yes, sure, that was a safe topic. "I think she's okay? Maybe it's the cold?" The young teen leaned over to get a different angle on her roommate, three chalk question marks drawing themselves in the empty space over tousled white hair. "I've had my nose go pretty red when I go from out in the cold to a nice warm room, but I've never had my...all of me go red."

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"H-hi sis," Abigail stammered out.

 

She opened her mouth to say more, to lie and say that she was fine, all she could do was give her ghostly foster sibling a pleading look.  But two sets of eyes on her, her inability to sort out her own thoughts and these foreign emotions, and now Liz was leaning over her and Abigail couldn't help but stare now.

 

Her heart was hammering in her chest and instead of the lie she wanted to utter, she whimpered, unable to articulate anything.  But the crown of three flames that blazed above her head said enough.

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"Oh! Oh, Button!" Kimber rushed back to Abigail's side, clipping through a nightstand and the corner of Liz's bed as though they were thin air. The poltergeist pulled her foster sister into a tight hug, one hand pressing Abigail's head under her chin and against her bosom. "I'm so sorry we weren't here sooner! I tried cutting through Duat to get around the barrier but that wasn't working at all and I said we should call Tarva but Dan was being Dan about it and the wendigo really doesn't like Giant Krampus I guess so Becky was on edge and got into an argument with one of the Leaguers and--"

 

She paused abruptly and blinked at Abigail's roommate, not letting the anxious teen go. "Have we actually met? I don't think we've met. Sorry! Hi! I'm Abby's sister, Kimber! Whatever you're doing with the punctuation in the air is adorable, by the way."

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The question marks straightened out into exclamation points as she reached up to wave them away - her hand passed through, but they none-the-less dutifully dissolved into smoke and disappeared. "Thank you!" she said, trying to find her literal and metaphorical balance as she stood back up. "Nobody ever got better at anything without practice, so I try to have some fun with it. I'm Elizabeth - I'm Abby's roommate."

 

She felt like she was supposed to hold out her hand. Do you shake hands with ghosts? Probably not while they're hugging people. "If it helps, I don't think anyone got through until it was over? And she didn't get hurt too badly, though I think she might have caught a the edge of something it did. It could have been worse, right?" She shrugged, gesturing with open hands toward her roommate. "But, um," she added, lifting her hands to point more toward the crown. "Are those supposed to do that? I think if we burn down our dorm right after a monster attacks we'll be in trouble."

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Her sister's hug did the trick and Abigail felt self-feeding spiral of panic abate but she made no move to pull herself away.  It reminded her of when she was little and how Kimber always managed to lift her spirits even as the young mage tried to adjust to living in this world.

 

"One of Krampus' attacks managed to crack my barrier, just rimed up my hand a little, no big deal," Abby said with a shrug, a little hurt was nothing to worry about when she'd suffered far worse at a much younger age.  At her roommate's question she cast her eyes at the mirror they had hanging on the back of their door, and sighed at the three-flame crown that blazed without heat above her head.

 

Still the question was a distraction and she felt a surge of gratitude and that something that caused her to panic in the first place. "Oh, that just marks me as my mother's daughter," she answered with a rueful chuckle.  "Not sure why it's showing though, I'm not furious."

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Kimber made a thoughtful noise and floated back far enough to hold Abby at arm's length and give her a once over. "Psychosomatic soulmarks can manifest with different strong emotions." The ghost tilted her head, lips turning downward in a concerned frown until her eye lit up with a sudden idea. "Oh ho, are you embarrassed? Am I embarrassing you?" Catching Abby's wrists Kimber raised them high into the air and waved them back and forth as though the teenager were flailing in comical distress. "Oooooh nooooo, the mooooost embarrassing!" 

 

There came three rapid knocks on the dorm room door and Kimber called, "Just a second, I'm busy embarrassing Abby!"

 

"Checks out," a voice agreed from outside in the hallway.

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Elizabeth was trying to hold a straight face and was failing spectacularly, tears forming at the corners of her eyes as she made...a face. She tried to hide the lower half of that face behind her hands, and it really didn't help. "Abbyyyy," she said, with all the dignity of air escaping a deflating balloon. "Your sister's amazing. Is your whole family this great? Is this why you're so great?"

 

She threw up her hands, at apparent loss with the situation. "Maybe it's what having a sister is like? I have maybe a billion brothers, but I don't have an awesome sister and my brothers definitely can't go through walls. Your family's great."

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It is hard keeping a serious expression when Kimber was trying to cheer you up and simultaneously throw you off balance, so despite herself Abigail broke down in a fit of laughter.  She felt her cheeks heat a little at Elizabeth's comment and she made the best shrug she could with her hands where they were.

 

"Becky!" the young mage squeaked out between giggles, "Come in, meet Liz!  And save me."

 

 

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The door opened and a tall, muscular brunette with a prominent white streak in her hair stepped inside. Becky had a bright red puffer jacket bundled up under one arm, some of the seams visibly split open; her cream coloured knit sweater had survived in better shape. The other arm hefted a stack of packages wrapped in cheerful snowman themed paper. "Never a dull moment, eh?"

 

Facing Abby with their arms in the air it was difficult for Kimber to miss the slight blush and she looked over her shoulder toward Liz before releasing her foster sister's wrists and floating a little further into the dormitory to make room. "Becky, this is Liz, Abby's roommate."

 

"Why did you say it like that?" a gruff, masculine voice asked. Daniel didn't even come up to Becky's shoulder unless you counted the top of his wild mane of black hair but the outdoorsman was nearly as broad as he was tall. Evidently the winter chill hadn't bothered him with just a t-shirt under his leather jacket; his weathered skin suggested he'd be at home in far more extreme conditions than that.

 

"Don't worry about it," Becky was quick to respond, raising an eyebrow in Kimber's direction before giving the teenager a broad grin of very slightly pointed teeth. "It's nice to meet you, Liz. Love your hair."

 

"Ohmigoodness, they were roommates," Kimber whispered under her breath.

 

"Stop."

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Elizabeth glanced back and forth between the two newcomers with obvious delight, turning to greet them - but with indecision, turning from one to the other as if she didn't know quite what order was appropriate. "Hi! You're - ah, you're - ah. Hmm!"

 

She stepped out of herself, one Liz becoming two as they each stepped up to shake a hand.

 

"Hi!" said Liz, reaching out to shake Becky's hand before realizing too late that there was no free hand with which the towering woman could respond. Her shift to holding up both hands was almost graceful. "Liz. Do you want a hand with any of that? I've got spares!"

 

The other Liz had more luck, holding out a hand in greeting and notably trying to not notice her double's faux pas. "Hi! Also Liz. How are you not an icicle? Abby, how is he not an icicle?"

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"Dad's too surly for the cold to bother him," the young mage teased her foster father, flashing him a warm smile, while slipping off her bed to take the parcels and jacket from Becky's hands.  She decided she'd wait a moment to let Liz get her greetings in before wrapping the two new arrivals in the fierce hug she wanted to.

 

"Yeah, Kimber and Becky are the best," she said turning to her roommate and going back an earlier point in the conversation.  "You're great too!" she added with enthusiasm.  She turned to her foster family and made a sort of swooshing gesture with her hands.  "You all should have seen Liz!  She just.. leapt into action when Krampus arrived.  She was so fierce and cool!"

 

And in her robe, the young mage thought.  Won't mention that part.

 

"Oh," Abby added, "I promised her cocoa."

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Daniel made a sort of indistinct grumbling in response to the teasing while tracing a circle in the air with a brusque flick of his wrist. As he did so a ring of white-blue fire sprang into being parallel to the dormitory floor, not so dissimilar from the crown that had sprung up around Abby's head earlier. Rummaging around inside his coat he withdrew a stack of weathered and dented tin cups which certainly shouldn't have fit in his pockets. Glancing up at the second Liz for a moment he released the cups to float weightlessly and slowly spinning over the circle of flame and pulled out a sixth after a bit of searching. "The one on the bottom has chocolate, cookie and other junk," he told Abby, gesturing to the stack of presents with his chin. Daniel didn't have much of a taste for sweets or processed foods in general but had always taken careful note of his foster daughters' favourites and seemed convinced they wouldn't be able to get them while away from home.

 

That done he accepted Liz's hand. "Good for you. That old goat is no joke. Glad Abby's rooming with someone with some guts." Daniel's hand was unbelievably weathered, scars over scars and callouses over callouses. Still, his handshake was warm and gentle, careful not to squeeze the teen's hand too tightly.

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The second Elizabeth cocked her head, returning the shake as best as she was able with so much smaller a hand. "That is a very polite way of saying I get into trouble," she said, grinning. "I promise to at least try to be responsible with my trouble, though."

 

She faded away, dissolving into nothing from the head down - her crossed fingers were just visible behind her back before they, too, vanished.

 

The first Elizabeth made a snorting noise from where she was trying to help with the presents, paying a fair bit more attention to the magic circle than the boxes of apparently-tasty mysteries. "Wish I'd thought of that. Guts enough to stay on a roof and throw magic, at least! I'm leaning to fight up close, but I don't think a Krampus would have been very impressed if I'd poked its toes with a stick."

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"I think standing on the roof and hurling magic is a very sensible way to fight," Abigail said, smiling at Liz.  "Besides, so much of the student body choose to sit out that fight.  So.. you are very impressive Elizabeth."

 

Her tone got a bit soft at the end of the sentence, but the young sorceress didn't notice.

 

Now that her foster father's arms were free she wrapped him up in a tight hug and held it for several heartbeats before stepping back and giving him a warm smile.  Then, with a laugh, she hurled herself at Becky and wrapped her up in a hug that was no less fierce or spine cracking.

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