Chapter 7: Ticking Tocks
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The crowd dissipated, albeit slowly. There were some gawkers, and a few students even helped out repairing the destroyed yard floor. Kat had no idea whether or not they did it because of their indomitable community spirit, or because they feared a school-wide reprimand, and she didn’t really care. After ten minutes, it looked as if the fight had never taken place, with one exception. Violet and April, now sitting down in the middle of the yard, were still holding hands, foreheads pressed together, whispering softly. Kat and Millie sat down in the grass looking at their two friends. 

 

“You know, when they’re not being obnoxious as all hell, they’re actually really cute together,” Millie said, holding Kat’s hand. 

 

“In a puppy-love kind of way,” Kat said with a bit of a smirk. She was trying to focus on banter, but the feeling of Millie gently caressing Kat’s hand with her thumb was proving to be something of a distraction. Butterflies came and went in waves and her brain was clicking on and off like a laptop with a loose battery. Still, she could appreciate the absurdity of the situation a lot more now that she wasn’t worried about her friend’s physical health. A little voice in the back of her head reminded her that Violet had never dated anyone in her life, and that, for all intents and purposes, it was now her emotional health on the line. She told the voice to shut the heck up and enjoy the moment, even if it was just for a little bit.

 

And what a moment it was, now that she thought about it. She was holding hands with a really cute girl, lying in the grass on a warm summer-noon, free to be as gay as the daisies in May, while her best friend was having her first ever kiss a little ways away, probably happier than she’d been in a while. She averted her eyes from the two inexperienced kissers -- what Violet and April lacked in knowledge they made up for in enthusiasm -- and turned to look at Millie, just to appreciate her face in the midday sun.

 

Millie leaned over and kissed Kat gently on the nose. “You’re very cute too, you know that?” she said, flustering Kat all over again, and then smiling happily at the effect she’d had. Kat was putty in her hands, and Millie knew it, pulling her in close until their faces were only inches away from each other. Kat thought she couldn’t blush any harder, but Millie was determined to prove her wrong. Another kiss on the nose. “This way I can feel your heart beat faster,” Millie said. Kat squeaked. 

 

“Kat?”

 

Kat pulled her love-drunk head out of the cloud of butterflies it had been floating in, blinked a few times, and managed to focus on Violet, who was standing a few feet away. Her friend was holding hands with April, Kat noticed, and shifting her weight from one foot to the other. “Yah?” she managed. It was hard to focus. Millie had not turned to face Violet and instead planted a very soft kiss on Kat’s ear. 

 

“You alright there?” Violet asked. Through the many, many, many feelings and sensations she was experiencing, she managed to notice that Violet was trying to seem confident, but she only shuffled her feet like that if she was nervous.

 

“Yeahhh,” Kat sighed, still not entirely present. It was all Millie’s fault. 

 

“That looks pretty gay, Kat,” Violet said without a shred of judgment. 

 

“Pot calling kettle. Come in kettle,” Kat said, looking at the two girls holding hands. “I see you’ve uh… had a fight, Vi. Wanna talk about it?” Millie had finally turned to look her own friend in the eyes. April looked a little guilty, but not nearly enough to hide the fact that she seemed to be mostly giddy. Millie just nodded approvingly, causing April to blush, smile, and nod back.

 

“Uh,” Violet said. “I uh…”

 

“Thought so. Sit down, twerp,” Kat said. Violet and April did as commanded, plopping down on the grass next to Kat and Millie. There was a moment of silence, but between the distant sounds of shouting and talking teenagers and the warm breeze, there was no real need for words for a while. Millie and Kat laid down with their eyes closed, Kat’s head on Millie’s shoulder. 

 

Finally, Millie spoke up. “So you two calling off the bet, then?” Kat felt like Millie wasn’t saying something, but she couldn’t quite put her finger on it. Kat had assumed that Violet and April, now that their rivalry was over, wouldn’t be in a hurry to keep up their challenge, so why did Millie sound like she knew something?

 

“Of course not,” Violet said. Well, that was Kat proven wrong real quick. “It’s just for the rest of the week. And I’m still going to prove to April that I… That I can do this.” She didn’t sound as sure as she had at first. Now that there wasn’t an aspect of aggressive competition, Kat figured, her resolve had probably taken something of a hit. 

 

“Yeah,” April mumbled. “Me too.”

 

“Good luck,” Millie said, and Kat saw her subtle smile. 

 

They stayed in the grass a bit longer, Kat and Millie snuggling while April and Violet simply enjoyed holding hands. It seemed that, after their initial makeout session that had immediately followed a magical duel, they were completely drained, simply enjoying resting against each other. Now that all the fighting was done, not many people gave them a second glance. The school tended to have a very liberal stance on affection between students, especially those eighteen and up, and regular anti-discrimination campaigns meant that the only looks the four of them got were from younger students. Mostly envy from those who didn’t yet realize that being a girl in love with another girl was allowed. 

 

Sadly, all good things had to come to an end and the bell rang, signifying the end of their break. The rest of class that day went by with somewhat strange feelings for Kat, who wanted to spend more time with Millie, while at the same time wanting to make sure her friend was okay. Violet, on her part, had her head in the clouds, which was probably for the best, because the Botanical Gardens were filled with the murmuring of students, passing on the gossip to those who hadn’t heard it yet, and embellishing it for those who had. But Violet didn’t care. Violet was too busy being in lesbians with April.

 

Kat’s attention was pulled away from her friend by the teacher, Ms. Richards, a stern, older woman with a hard face and kind eyes, who pulled her aside.

 

“Have I… done anything wrong?” Kat asked, not understanding. She’d been a model student, and her grades had been excellent. Usually, a teacher wanting to talk to someone was bad news for the student in question. 

 

“Not at all, dear,” Ms. Richards was quick to reassure her. “I’m only worried about your classmate.”

 

“You mean Violet,” Kat said. On the outside, she kept a straight face. Inside, she rolled her eyes and groaned, because she had to somewhere. She could barely dare to dread what shenanigans Violet had gotten up to again.

 

“Y-es,” Ms. Richards said, uncertainly. “Ms. Rose hasn’t always been a great student. And I know you’ve helped her with her homework projects.” Before Kat could object, the teacher raised a hand. “Don’t bother denying it, dear. But don’t worry, I can recognize enough of her own handiwork in the… creations she brings to class for her to pass. No, I’m just worried… these past few days… her magical applications and ability have dropped off significantly, but she seems to be doing better everywhere else.” She paused. “They’ve been keeping up those transformation spells for a long time.” 

 

“I don’t…” Kat began, and then trailed off, confused.

 

The teacher paused again and took a deep breath. “I get that she’s happier lately. I’m glad to see she’s in a better place and that it’s improving her grades, but what she’s doing can be dangerous. Her reserves are going to run out soon.” Kat nodded. She had seen the improvement in Violet’s mood lately, too. It had made sense; she’d never had a girlfriend before and it had obviously done wonders for her, improving not only her mood but her self-esteem, too. Ms. Richards took another tactful pause. “Look… she’s doing better, but if she keeps this up she might hurt herself. I’d rather she talk to a teacher about this. If she wants to officially change her name, she can always talk to the school counselor. Ms. Lopez is a friend of mine; she might be able to help your friend find the resources she needs, so she doesn’t have to rely on transformation charms anymore.”

 

“I… okay, thank you,” Kat said, a little overwhelmed. She had no idea the school supported contests like the one between Violet and April. It seemed irresponsible. “I think I know what you mean. I don’t think it’ll be a problem for much longer, but I’ll keep it in mind,” she said. The contest would be over soon, and their reserves would have time to fill back up after that. “She’ll be okay,” Kat added with a reassuring smile.

 

“Well… I’ll take your word for it, then.” She took one last deep breath and was about to head back to do a round of the gardens, to see how the other students were doing, when she turned halfway around to face Kat again. “By the way, if you want to submit a thesis idea, you can already. Your grades are… well, I think you know.” The teacher smiled proudly. “I’m happy to have a student like you here, so make sure you challenge yourself.”

 

With that, she left Kat to shuffle off back to her plot of soil next to Violet’s quietly. She had a lot to think about. She was worried for Violet, but her friend was quietly and happily humming to herself as she was working. There was also the thesis to consider. Starting on it a year early wasn’t something she should have worried about, but she’d signed up anyway after getting her Botany grades in, and accepting that it was something she was both good at and passionate about. 

 

The rest of the week went by in relative quiet. The four of them, Violet, April, Millie and Kat, had lunch together on most days. Now that the barriers had been demolished, aggressively and with lots of kisses, they all got along well. Violet and April were still figuring a lot of things out. Kat and Millie had both recommended to their respective wards to take things slowly. They were both new to relationships, and they were both a little prone to miscommunications, but with Kat and Millie there as a buffer to help them talk about their feelings in a healthier way than what they were used to, things seemed to be going well. Before, Violet probably would have never listened to Kat on this stuff, but she had no idea how to do anything as a girl. 

 

Not that she would have to for much longer, anymore. Friday was rapidly approaching, at which point their bet would run out of time, and it’d be a draw, and they’d end their mutual curses. Both Violet and April seemed to be anxious whenever Millie or Kat brought it up, clinging to a veneer of bravado every time. Kat was a little miffed that they were still so hung up on the bet, but she respected her friend’s decision to keep up with it. Still, there was a limit to stubbornness and they were about to crash directly into it. 

 

They decided that they’d be meeting up after school on Friday, so that it would have been exactly four weeks. That seemed fair, April and Violet agreed, both slightly shakily. In class, Kat caught Violet staring at the clock intensely, and she nudged her friend. 

 

“Either you win or it’ll be a draw, Vi. You can hold on a little longer. And then you won’t have to worry about it anymore, alright?” 

 

“Haha, yeah,” Violet said with no conviction whatsoever. Kat took a deep breath and rubbed her friend’s back. 

 

“You’ll be fine, Vi,” Kat said, and couldn’t help but feel like she was lying to her friend.

Big ol' cup of anxiet-tea coming right up. 

Nobody likes the shilling, but I'm shilling myself. It buys me food and stuff! So if you like my stories, please consider subscribing to my Patreon. I want to do this for a long time, and I can only do that with your support. I also have a twitter (here).

Oh! I want to start making some recommendations, because us writers gotta look out for each other. 

  • You should check out First Song, by Sophine. It's really cool and well written, and if you've read Penumbral and enjoyed it then you should definitely have a look, because it does a lot of the same things but better! 
  • Streamer by Lotussan was updated and you should absolutely read it. One of my favourite stories by one of my favourite authors on here <3 
  • Take A Wish by Quintillianus is very good trans feels. It takes a little bit to get going, but it's really powerful and I whole-heartedly recommend it.

I also want to point people at the discord server of the ever-prolific QuietValerie (right here) where you can find her wonderful stories, like Ryn of Avonside, Falling Over and The Trouble With horns, as well as other authors' works, and talk about them with fellow fans, and even the authors themselves! I heartily recommend joining it and reading their works! 

Thanks again for reading, and I'll see you all in the next one. 

Heck <3

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