Student Wizard

Cohost writing prompt: @Making-up-Demons — Demon who isn't going to conform to your puerile horny fantasies of what they should be

"Mind if I sit here?"

Alison looks up at Rebecca from her Stats classes, all flyaway blonde and the kind of relentlessly organised that colour-codes everything and never misses a trick.

"Sure," Al croaks, making a token effort to clear space on the coffee shop's little outdoor table. It's a blustery day; nobody else is sitting outside, not even grimly determined smokers.

Rebecca puts down her bag, and her to-go cup of tea. "You don't look good," she observes.

They are not friends. They are not even acquainted enough, really, to say that kind of thing to each other, so Al must look horrific.

That figures. She feels pretty bad. She'd felt pretty bad, in an end-of-tether way, and then she'd done the thing a week ago, and now—

"Maybe you shouldn't sit here," she croaks. "I've — got something?"

Rebecca looks at her steadily, and sits. "Have you?" she says.

"Like you said—"

"You look," Rebecca says, "scared," and Al flinches hard enough to trigger the terrible thing her vision's been doing on and off, ever since she did the thing; like misaligned four-colour printing, everything goes funny around the edges, rimlit with blood-coloured radiance.

She hisses, and presses hands hard to her temples.

"Where?" Rebecca says.


"Where." Rebecca flicks a finger in a rapid up-and-down, indicating Al's entire body. "I'd say show me but you might have done something daft like cut it into the skin of your mons with a razorblade, I don't think you're that stupid but people sometimes are—"

Al pulls her left sleeve up, hands shaking, to show the edge of a design in permanent marker.

"Okay. Good." Rebecca nods briskly. "I'm going to need a look at that. Your place?"

"Sorry," Al says, back in her room, shivering as she peels off her sweater. "Can't tell if I'm hot or cold, just — very one of them—"

"That's how you can tell it's working," Rebecca says. "Whatever you did."

"You don't — it seemed like you knew." Al's teeth chatter. She clutches the balled-up sweater to her chest, tshirt clinging sweatily to her skin, and shoves her arm out clumsily.

"Hey, whoa, careful," Rebecca says sharply, jumping back. I'm not touching. Sight unseen, that's—"

"Sorry." Al shrinks back from the rebuke. "Sorry. I'm — not feeling good. Sorry."

"Yeah, well, that's—" Rebecca circles warily, peers at the design on her arm, the red raw from the crease of her elbow to her wrist where Al confirmed, scared, that the design couldn't be removed, nor faded a jot, not by any kind of soap or solvent she could lay hands on. "—Surprisingly subtle. Compared to what most people do, that's like sending a polite letter requesting a response in five to ten working days."

Al's teeth chatter again. "What d-do I do," she says. "I can't. It's. It's stupid and it's kinda. Gross. It's a gross thing to do. And it won't, it won't solve anything. I tried to take it off but I don't know any way to, like, cancel it if you, if you decide too late that—"

"That it was a bad idea?"

"That you might not be a good enough person not to do it, but you should have t-tried harder." Al makes a half gesture, half shrug. "Can I put this back on."

Rebecca looks at her, eyes narrowed, and says in a patient sort of way, "Look, you do know what that does, yeah?"

"Summons a succubus," Al says miserably. "I'm not — I'm not going to make excuses for it. It's probably worse than you're thinking, anyway. Sort of arcane sex trafficking, isn't it? I didn't know you're a, you're any kind of practitioner, but if you know how to get this off—"

"I'm not," Rebecca says, looking at her in that patient way that prickles something alarmed in the back of Al's head.

"You're not—" and Al moves her head slightly too fast and everything's limned red, and Rebecca — Rebecca is a luminous spark-trailing firestorm, so Al does the only reasonable thing: bolts, locks herself in the bathroom, and hyperventilates in a huddle on the floor. Rebecca who's been in her Stats class all year. Rebecca who's a much better student than Al would ever have been, even if she didn't have to drop out now and run away and — and something, anything other than be The Stupid Pervert Who Summoned The Unsuspecting Bystander Succubus In Her Class Who Was Just Trying To Get Through Statistics.

"Alison," Rebecca says, rattling the bathroom doorhandle.

"Just tell me how to get this off," Al wails.

"Alison," Rebecca says firmly, "you're really not forcing anyone to do anything. It's been a week, and yes, it's noticeable, but it's visibly having a much worse effect on you than anyone else, so Cheryl from the student union asked me to check on you—"

"Oh no," Al sobs; Cheryl, whom she couldn't ever talk to, because you can't say to people, "Oh my god your gazelle horns are beautiful, what kind of, um, why do have—"

"From what I can see, you haven't put much in the way of behavioural binding in it, so it probably counts as complete once you actually summon someone," Rebecca says, crisply, through the door. "It probably counts if we shake hands."

Al opens the door enough to put her trembling hand out through the crack, flinches at the cool touch of Rebecca's skin, then yanks her arm back as soon as possible and tries to slam the door again; Rebecca valiantly wrestles it open far enough to wedge a foot it it, despite Al's best efforts. It's possible that Al's efforts aren't that good, after the week she's had; her arms feel like noodles.

"It's done!" Al weeps, face pressed to the inside of the door. "You can — you don't have to — just leave me alone."

"I promised Cheryl I'd do a wellness check on you," Rebecca says grimly, still trying to lever it open.

"Well you did it."

"We don't actually end those by going 'Yep, shit's fucked, confirmed!' and leaving you to it—"

"I just—" Al scrabbles for leverage to keep the door closed as much as she can, "can't people, and I never will, and I'm so alone, and the idea of someone who I could get to, to, despite me, the idea was there, and that's — sick, it's awful, if that's what I'll do I deserve it all—"

"Do you know why we have a support network on campus?" Rebecca says crossly. "Because about once a year we have to find one of ours trapped in a magic circle and bust them out of some dickhead's dorm before they miss enough classes to fail—"

"That's me! I'm the dickhead!" Al wails.

"You're absolutely not and you're in a mental health crisis," Rebecca snaps. "Open this door, for crying out loud."

Al doesn't, but does cry hard enough for Rebecca to get the upper hand and muscle her way into the bathroom. She briskly demonstrates that the summoning is finished, and not compelling anyone to do anything, by gingerly lifting at least some of the ink off Alison's scraped skin with alcohol-based hand sanitiser, then pauses and says through gritted teeth, "I'm not being a stereotype, I'm being supportive," before extremely awkwardly putting her arms round Al.

"Oh no," Al says, verging on hysteria and desperately trying to tuck her hands somewhere they can't touch — anything.