John moved his arm around in several experimental circles, then smiled. Strange smiled back, basking in its warmth. It’s been winter too long.
“This is great. I feel like I have full range of motion,” John exclaimed.
“Be careful. You must allow your body to heal.”
John stopped moving his arm, then stepped closer to Strange. “Thank you.”
Strange’s cheeks flushed a becoming pink. “It’s your body’s cells that are at work.”
“Well, whatever it is; it’s magic,” John whispered, circling Strange. Strange moved the opposite way, neither man saying a word, each caught up in a dance that neither knew the steps to.
Then Strange stopped, putting an end to the law of inertia. “John, it’s time for your next class. We should go.”
John blinked, surprised that he and Strange were the only ones in the room. “Where did everybody go?”
“They’ve all gone to their next class.”
“But I didn’t see them leave.”
Strange’s voice when he spoke made the hairs on the back of John’s neck stand on end. “That’s because you were otherwise engaged.”
“Yes, I suppose so,” John whispered, resisting the impulse to let his fingers trace Strange’s angular jaw line. “So, are you going to walk me to my next class?”
“And are you then going to carry my books and walk me to my next class after that?”
“No, you will get your books from Wong, the librarian.”
“Wong, huh? Does she wear glasses and say, ‘ssh’, all the time?”
“Wong, is a he and no he does not wear glasses and say, ‘ssh.’ Though he can dispatch your head from your body without getting the blade caught in the clavicle bone.”
“Wow, no making out in the stacks, then?”
“John, it sounds like we’re sort of flirting. Though I’m flattered by the attention. I’m not gay.”
John winked at Strange. “Neither am I. Although I wouldn’t say no if you asked me to prom.”
Strange pursed his lips. “Perhaps, you should call me Doctor or Master Strange while we are in the teaching facility.”
John licked his lips. “Okay, Master Strange it is, well until tonight anyway.” He then laughed. “I’m sorry. It’s just that you’re so easy.”
“Yeah, you know easy to tease.”
Strange sighed, “It still sounds like flirting to me.”
John shrugged, then sobered outside of the door Strange ushered him towards. “I can’t go in there, alone.”
“You can and you will.” Strange then gave him a little push and John found himself alone in a class room full of strangers.
After the initial introductions, John’s nerves settled down and he began to listen to the instructor while he gave a brief overview of the class and the history of Kamar-Taj.
Strange had to clear his mind before his next class. He looked across the courtyard to a rocky crag just above the library. It would be cold, but he would be undisturbed. He trudged through the snow until he reached a plateau. There he sat in meditation pose, alone. Then a cold nose nuzzled his palm and Strange smiled down at the little brown dog that sat before him. Though he walked with a slight limp, he had recovered. They both had. “Remember when I found you?” Strange asked. Wisps of fog swirled from his mouth when he spoke. “You must be cold. Come get in my lap. Your injuries must ache like mine.”
He had found the little dog on the streets when he had first came looking for Kamar-Taj. The little dog had limped in front of him and Strange had knelt in the dirt, then rummaged around in his backpack to find the necessary items to bind the dog’s leg up. He had no way of knowing if the animal had survived until a few days later, when he came hobbling up to the front doors of the sanctuary.
“Do you remember that day old boy?” Strange asked.
The dog barked, wagged its tail, then settled down in his lap.
By the end of the day, John was exhausted. Only two classes and I feel as if I’ve been at it all day. He then made his way to the library to check out the books that his last instructor had recommended. Though the library smelled musty, it felt charged with an energy that made the skin on the back of his neck prickle. His feeling of unease didn’t ease up when Wong appeared.
“I’m the librarian, Wong. How can I help you?”
Though he wanted to come back with a witty retort, he just handed Wong the list of books he needed.
Wong studied the man before him. His face was pale and his slumped shoulders accentuated the uneven gait of his movements. Though he wanted to order him to sit down, Wong could tell from his bearing that the gesture would only anger the proud man that stood before him.
“You must be the new student, Doctor Watson.”
John nodded. “Yes, and please call me John.”
“Go ahead and sit at one of the tables while I find your books.”
John sighed, then sank into the nearest chair. His head drooped down to his chest and his eyes fluttered shut.
“Here are your books, John.”
John’s body jerked and he scowled at Wong. He was about to snap at him when he remembered Strange’s comment about Wong’s ability to remove his head from his shoulders. “Thanks,” he mumbled.
“Sure, if you need anything just ask.”
John looked back at him and smiled. “How long does spirit week last?”
“Well, maybe after that I can get my own room?”
Wong frowned. “Probably, who are you rooming with now?”
“Master Strange, really? Hmm, that is interesting. He’s very particular about his private space. I am surprised. You must be special.”
John took the books from Wong, thanked him again then left.
Strange opened the door before John could knock. “God, you look terrible.”
“Thanks, you look lovely too,” John murmured, then stopped when he noticed the little brown dog lying on their bed. “Since, when did we get a dog?”
Strange never approved of animals being indoors and was just about to shoo the animal away when John protested. “No, let him stay.”
Strange reached up and felt his forehead. “You’re running a temperature again. Here let’s get your things off, they’re ringing wet.”
“Yeah, right, you’re just trying to get me out of my clothes,” John slurred.
Strange ignored the comment, then helped him change into something dry. He then tucked him in beside the dog and went to get a clean basin of water.
John looked up at him, while he bathed his forehead in cool water. Strange didn’t say a word he just kept at his task, until John grabbed his wrist. Strange’s hands shook and together they both stopped the drops of water that ran down John’s arms.
“I’m sorry. I must have pushed you too far. Stay in bed and rest tomorrow.” Strange said, wiping a wet strand of hair from John’s face.
John stilled Strange’s shaking hands with his own, thinking that they felt like moths trying to escape when they fluttered against his palms. “It’s okay. We all need to be pushed beyond our limits.”
Strange nodded, wondering just what limits they were facing, then John released his hands, but instead of releveling in their freedom, they shook harder, until he clasped them behind his back.