Chapter 49: Leofric

Wednesday, February 28, 2001

Leofric was in the nurse’s office for the third time that week.

This time, at least, he knew why he was there, which he felt was supposed to be an improvement. He flexed the fingers of his right hand, making sure all the muscles and bones felt lined up right – not that he doubted Dr. Caitrin’s ability to magically heal things, but he could magically heal things too, and he had a feeling the better he knew what things felt like when they were all in the right places, the better he could fix them himself. Then he wouldn’t need to go to the nurse’s office every time he put a hand through a wall. Or a desk. Or someone’s face.

“Can you try to be just a little less violent?” The words floated through his thoughts – nervous, apologetic, burned into him, like a dandere sticking him with a brand while wailing “gomen nasai~” – and he recognized the feeling of something his Keeper had said more than he recognized the voice.

“I shouldn’t punch people,” Leo said aloud, just to hear how it sounded. It got confusing when he left thoughts in his head, especially about his Keeper, and sometimes if he said it aloud he could tell if it was a good thought or a bad one by the way it sounded. But this one didn’t sound… it didn’t sound right. It made sense; if he was trying to be less violent, he shouldn’t punch people. But it still didn’t…

Was he trying to be less violent? “I should be less violent,” he tried, under his breath, but it sounded like a question. That didn’t help at all.

“Don’t be too violent.” A voice murmured gently at him from the walls of the infirmary.

Leo considered the voice. For some reason, the walls talking to him didn’t come as a surprise, which he thought maybe it should have, but there was something familiar about it, in an uncomfortable way. “So you think punching people is okay?”

The walls didn’t answer, which was disappointing and left Leo wondering what too violent would look like. Breaking bones? Stabbing people? Did biting people like Zita did count as too violent?

A knock at the door interrupted the dilemma, and the nurse opened it to show in… Lydia, right. His Keeper.

If he should be less violent, he was doing a lousy job of it, and the thought made guilt gnaw at him unpleasantly. He thought, maybe, that was supposed to mean he was doing something wrong, but that didn’t sound right, the same way as I shouldn’t punch people didn’t sound right.

“Are you all right, Leofric?” Lydia held out a hand to him, looking worried and a little nervous.

He hopped down from the exam table, torn between conflicting urges of take her hand and ignore her hand, his own hovering in the space between them before he shoved both hands into his pockets. “Yeah, I’m fine now. Sorry.” It sounded grudging, and he picked up from his tone the part he was playing this time. Disgruntled rebellious teen. He was getting a lot of practice at that one since he– since… well, he was getting a lot of practice at it.

“It’s okay, I understand.” She didn’t, he was sure. “Do you have something else you want to do now?”

He just shrugged, staring at the floor.

“…All right. Let’s go back to the suite?”

“Yeah, sure, whatever.”

He followed her back to the suite, trailing behind her with his hands still in his pockets, his shoulders hunched just enough to look sulky but not enough to look like he was cringing. (That was another part he had a lot of practice at, although he couldn’t say why or when.)

The door clicked shut behind him and Lydia gestured for him to sit down on the sofa, so he did, dropping down onto it like he was about to be lectured by his mom.

His Keeper sat down nearby, folding her hands on her lap. “Leofric, you know I don’t… I want to give you your space, all right? But you keep getting yourself hurt.”

“So? I’m not getting you hurt.”

“I’m supposed to be keeping you safe! That’s why– I don’t want you to get hurt, Leofric.”

The guilt twisted in his stomach like a knife, and he channeled it into a sullen glare.

Lydia stifled a sigh. “Okay. Let’s try this. You aren’t allowed to hit people, or damage other people’s property, unless it’s in self-defense or I give you permission.”

The word, permission, hit him hard. He couldn’t move, he couldn’t breathe, he couldn’t–

“Leofric! Calm down!”

The panic and guilt smoothed away, and with it went the blue-violet electricity he hadn’t noticed arcing across the room.

He was in the corner. He could breathe; he was shaking; he was calming down. Across the suite was a dark-haired goth girl, huddled next to a thin, sandy-haired young man.

Lydia, he remembered after a moment. The girl was Lydia. His Keeper.

She was afraid, he realized after another moment.

A third moment. Afraid of him.

Leofric tried that on, rolled it around his mind like tasting a new food, and Lydia slowly approached and held out a hand. She wanted him to be less violent. She wanted him to be less violent because she was afraid of him.

He looked at the hand, then up at her face – still afraid. He took her hand, feeling her try not to flinch.

His Keeper was afraid of him. Leofric didn’t like it; he didn’t like the idea, he didn’t like the feeling, he didn’t like any of it.

He didn’t like it, and there wasn’t anything he could do. The certainty of it sank into him as Lydia led him back to the sofa. He couldn’t do anything, he couldn’t ever do anything, he was useless–

worthless–

Barely aware of what he was doing, Leofric bolted from the suite and down the hall.

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