Almost half an hour later Tal was back in his room. The crutch Katy had given him for support was actually pretty helpful. He hopped faster through the corridors now and was in less pain. The pills he got prescribed contributed to that as well. Tal sat down at his dining table and nervously spun the phone on top of it. He had already sent Scar a message to reassure them.
>> Sorry, won’t come to class today. Will have dinner with Mr. Hemlock later.
<< You PRICK
>> Mild concussion, bruised ankle. Long story, I’ll make up for it.
<< I don’t care how long the story is, I’m coming over after class.
It was currently half past twelve. The last class would be over at around three. He had some free time for himself where he could take a break and rest just as Katy had asked him to do. But with all these weird memories coming back Tal considered talking to Nik instead. He bit down on his nails. Thinking about facing him made Tal nervous. He’d messed up last time and wasn’t sure how to start a conversation again. The anxiety he felt right now was worse than having to write a first ever text message to someone.
If he was going to text Nik, he’d have to start with an apology but was it acceptable to do that over text? Wouldn’t he look like a coward? Oh god, he wouldn’t have to call him, would he? His fingers drew lazy patterns onto the table and Tal smiled when he realised that Nik had done the same thing yesterday. He wondered if it was possible to miss someone that much when you weren’t even close to each other.
He sighed. Maybe texting Nik wasn’t such a bad idea.
‘I’m going to confess to him.’
Tal shuddered at the memory of his own promise. Sometimes he loathed himself for thinking without… thinking first. He pushed the thoughts away and stopped his phone from spinning off the table. He’d stopped biting his nails but was now agitatedly chewing on his lower lip as his fingers swiftly moved over the screen. He wanted to type the first message but his mind was all over the place. The phone slipped through his fingers and hit the ground. “Come on, Tal. You messed up, now fix it.”
He reached down and flinched when he felt another sharp pain around the gash on his scalp. Tal took a deep breath and ignored it. He wanted to believe that the memories were just another cruel nightmare invoked by what Nik had told him but the way his injuries hurt with each breath made him doubt this theory. He didn’t want it to be true because if it was, it would be seriously scary. If everything he remembered was true, he teleported himself into a cave while the apparently new leader of an evil Order summoned a demonic creature and made plans to kill the Vindex Order and catch him, the descendant. That couldn’t be true. He prayed it wasn’t.
He texted and exhaled nervously. He wasn’t sure whether he was more afraid of a reply or being ignored.
>> Please meet me in my dorm room. I’d like to apologise for my words yesterday.
His reply came faster than expected but that didn’t help Tal’s anxiety.
<< Little word of advice: if you want to apologise to someone YOU come to THEM.
<< I don’t want to hear it, anyways.
>> Nik please, I don’t want to do this over text but I can’t make it to the manor.
<< Fine, then come to the bathroom on the second floor in five minutes.
<< …is what I would say if I was ready to hear your apology, which I’m not, so don’t come. I won’t be there.
Tal heaved a deep sigh. He was partially annoyed at Nik and partially cooing over how smoothly he tried to push Tal away. He eyed his crutch first, then glanced at his watch and quickly got up. Five minutes was barely enough time to reach the main building in his state. “I better hurry then.” He grabbed the crutch and ran.
If Katy saw Tal speeding through the corridors, half running, half hopping, he was sure she’d chase after him and throw things at his head to make him stop immediately. She would beat him to a pulp if that meant he couldn’t run away from getting rest. He shuddered at the thought and hopped a little faster. For the first time he resented the Academy for all the staircases and no elevators.
He arrived at the bathroom with no breath and pushed the door open with the last bit of strength he could gather. “Ouch what- Taliesin?” Of course. Tal had rammed the door right into Nik’s face who had been just about to leave because Tal had arrived a couple minutes late. Now he was standing in front of the door, wiping the blood from his nose and glaring at Tal. “Nik, I’m so sorry.” He dropped the crutch and reached out to cup Nik’s cheeks but the boy drew away and scoffed.
“You say that a lot, do you ever mean it?” “Yes I do,” he replied and braced himself. “I really am sorry. What I said yesterday was wrong and insensitive. I never meant to hurt you and just now, I didn’t- Nik?” He noticed his gaze shifting. Nik wasn’t listening to Tal anymore. He was examining him. His eyes switched from the crutch to the bandage around his head. He moved closer in confusion. “Where did you go last night?" His voice was different than before, it trembled. Tal only needed to take one look at him to know why. Nik’s gaze was full of remorse.
Mindlessly, he took a step forward and winced. Nik caught his arm since the crutch had landed between them on the ground. He gave him enough support for Tal to stand upright. They were so close that Tal’s cheeks heated up. He could even smell Nik. What was that scent? Roses? Rain? Revenge? He had to turn away to stop romanticising what was merely the smell of shampoo.
“I don’t know. I hit my head and I’m not sure what’s real and what’s just a part of my messed-up dream.” He glanced at the floor. “And your injuries,” Nik asked in a somewhat gentle voice. “I thought I fell out of my bed and I want to believe that because if that’s not what happened then…” Tal shook his head. He didn’t want to think about what that meant. “It doesn’t make any sense.” Nik nodded and leaned closer. “Tell me what you remember.”
He didn’t want to. He really didn’t but how could he resist Nik when he was talking to him in such a sweet voice? He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Hazy memories flooded his mind and this time he let them in. “I… I was in a cave. I passed out after arriving, I think that’s when I bruised my ankle and got the wound on my head. I must have fallen onto the stones.” He flinched. “There was this scream. And two gay men – which is not important I just remembered them kissing but not because I mind or anything I’m just mentioning it because-“ “Taliesin, focus.”
Tal gulped heavily and closed his eyes again. He had to remain calm and sort his memories, bring them into an order that made sense to him. He was leaning more onto Nik. For support on one hand but he did it more for the comfort he got from being close to him. “They talked about their ‘lord’ and how they would destroy the knights. I- Nik, fuck, they mentioned my parents.” His voice cracked when he looked up at Nik and he could see the other raising his brow at his statement. Tal’s voice broke at the end and he hid his face in his palm. “They said their current leader found them and that he will find me, too.”
“That’s bullshit.” Nik sneered. There was unfamiliar anger in his eyes and spiteful violence on his lips. “You hit your head, Taliesin. You made that up.” “Nik,” Tal tried to be reasonable but the glare from Nik already told him that it wasn’t going to work. “What if the Order you talked about still exists? What if they have a new leader and-“ He pushed Tal against the bathroom door and covered his mouth. “You had a stupid nightmare. That’s all. Maybe you did land in a cave, so what? The rest of it is bullshit. A work of fiction from your concussed head.” “What…?” Tal shrunk from the impact of Nik’s harsh words. Why did he so vehemently distrust Tal’s words? Did he not want to acknowledge that the Order might still operate in silence?
“Don’t worry about it, Taliesin. You’re safe.” Ignoring everything Nik had said before Tal nodded. He wouldn’t be able to change his view either way and he had an idea why Nik was acting like that. Even if he started a discussion now, they wouldn’t get anywhere. Not with Nik acting this way. The boy slowly let go of Tal’s lips and leaned back. His fingers were trembling. “Say what you came here to say and then leave, Taliesin.” He was gathering his courage when the bathroom door opened and a boy, probably from a grade below them, entered. He whistled when he saw them and examined first him and then Nik closer.
“You queers are getting braver, aren’t you?” “What did you just say?!” Nik hissed and was about to charge the boy when he realised that Tal was still leaning on him for support. He reached for the crutch on the ground instead and used it to threaten the guy. “See yourself out if you don’t want to end up like him.” Nik snarled in a voice so dark and low that Tal himself got goosebumps. The boy seemed frightened enough to nod hesitantly and then leave without doing what he came for.
Tal would have been relieved if it weren’t for the way Nik had handled the situation. “If you don’t want to end up like him.” He couldn’t describe how much this one sentence had hurt him. Nik implying that he’d beat Taliesin up made his chest ache in ways it had never done before. Nik’s friends already hated Taliesin and thought he was just a weird runaway kid. If the rumour got out that Nik purposely harmed Tal the situation would get even worse. He couldn’t understand why Nik would say something so harsh and wrong. “I’m sorry.” Tal mumbled while trying not to snarl at him in anger. He snatched the crutch from Nik’s hands who seemed confused about his reactions. Idiot.
“I’m sorry that I hurt you yesterday, I’m sorry that you had to deal with me and my lies. Don’t worry, I’ll do you a favour and leave you alone from now on. You won’t ever have to see me again,” his voice shook, “but Nik.” Tal leaned away from him and set the crutch onto the ground. “You can’t pretend that something isn’t true just because it might hurt you.” Nik’s expression shifted immediately and he clenched his fist. “Get out.” He whispered without facing Tal and so he did. Tal left the bathroom and leaned against the wall in the corridor to take a deep breath. How did conversations with Nik always end up like that?