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World of Darkness: Attrition - [Randy Edison] Study Group Chapter 3 (End of Quarter)

Adrian Moss

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{December 9th, 2011}

They gathered in the old dorm common area and they waited. Every thirty seconds (or so it seemed), Monica called someone at site administration to see if the grades were posted. Abigail had returned to the Study Group a few sessions ago. Seems she caught her line backer boyfriend getting too friendly ... with another guy. It wasn't the homosexuality that bothered her. It was the fact that she had been used as window dressing for his lie. Relationships are founded on truths, but it's the lies that hold them together. Boyfriend lied at the foundation part.

Mikio was a nervous wreck. She had the highest GPA of the lot of us, but she was driven to not just succeed, but to come out on top. Randy was ambivalent about her discomfort, but she had carried the rest of them through to Finals.

Shadow looked at her. "You'll do fine. You always do."

Mikio stared at Shadow, half way between rage and tears.

"Mikio, Chandler and Kong have nothing on you. You skunked them on the practice exam, and that's with Kong cheating," Randy interjected.

Kong was half-Chinese and half the people in his house spoke it. He had barely failed being automatically credited with this class on the entrance exam. Chandler was a different monkey. He was just freaking brilliant. This assholes goal had nothing to do with Mikio. He planned to have the best GPA in UCLA's history. Mikio's competition didn't even register with him.

Randy's comment seemed to mollify her somewhat. Shadow gave him a look and a shrug of the shoulders.

"Man, I think I screwed up," said Laura, who was dealing with the stress by being face down in her laptop. "I totally lost in doing verb tense and my essay was a mess."

"Well," said Randy, "let's go over your answers. We can see what went wrong."

Laura looked up and glared at him. "I already did."

"Let's do it again." Randy pulled out his tablet and began going over the words he had on the test. Laura didn't come on board until the third word, but after that, she was on a roll. When finished, he had Abigail, Laura, and Shadow distracted enough that Mikio's pressure level was allowed to fall as well. Monica was still hopeless. Finally her call came through.

Monica immediately downloaded the image of the message board to the group. Everyone began scrolling down the page, looking for their grades. Monica and Mikio found theirs the fastest. Mikio began jumping up and down in the air.

"I did it!" she screamed, "I did it! I did it!"

Monica's response was a bit different. She fell back into one of the overstuffed chairs and let out a burst of breath. Randy looked over to her.

"How well did you do, M?" he asked.

Hyper-Bunny looked over at him, first confused as if she didn't know him and then with a wicked grin.

"I passed it!" she squealed. She jumped up and did her best Mikio-Just-Aced-the-Exam impersonation. A little late, Randy saw her leaping at him. She landed in his lap and began kissing him - with tongue. With an internal sigh, the Magus went along with it. He could feel Shadow seething at them both.

Then Monica began dancing in his lap, butt wiggling all around and breasts in his face.

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Randy reached up and took Monica's cheeks in both hands. She must have thought he was going to kiss her, because she tried to move her lips in closer. He stopped her.

"Monica, I really like you, but this isn't going anywhere. I'm your friend. Right now, that's all I am. Are we clear?"

Monica looked at him, confused and sad.

"But you like me." She wiggled her butt some more. "I can tell."

"Well, yeah. Any guy would want you that way - me included. Monica, understand something, I don't like you because you are hitting on me. I like you DESPITE the fact that you are hitting on. I'm not going to ruin our friendship for a few minutes of bliss."

"But ... but ... you are so nice to me. Why don't you want to ... ?"

"I'm not eighteen years old, Monica. What I've learned is that sometimes being with someone is better than having someone. I want us to stay friends. Now get up."

He gave Monica a gentle, yet firm push up, using her hips as leverage. She rose up, still confused.

"Okay ... friends. Hey! Want to go out for drinks! After this!"

'Damn, she recovers quickly. Go Hyper-Bunny!' Randy thought.

"Randy, you passed," said Laura quietly. "So did you, Abby. Randy, you got your B, so you're golden. Abby, you squeaked by with a C for the quarter. Exam pulled you up."

Abigail - Abby - took a deep sigh of relief and sat down. Randy gave her a quizzical look. She returned that gaze sheepishly.

"I've never failed a class in my life and ... and I kind of wanted to stick with this group next quarter."

The Death Adept shrugged and nodded. What she lacked in capacity, she more than made up in with drive. She was just like him, just smarter ... and better looking.

Shadow looked up from her own tablet,

"Laura - top ten percent. Looks like you go onto the next torturous class."

Laura smiled back at Shadow,

"Looks like you passed too. You may not have made the top ten, but you beat Randy and Abby. Congrats."

Shadow did best to not show her pleasure and relief. Randy suspected that this group was the closest thing she had to a circle of friends. She had also gone so far as to make sure that all but one of her classes was shared someone in the group. He might have got on her about it if he hadn't done the same thing.

Mikio stopped jumping up and down and came over to the center of the lounge. She was still ecstatic.

"Come out on top, did you?" Randy teased. It was uncharacteristic, but he couldn't stop himself this time.

"I beat them! I beat them both. Top of the Class!" Mikio bubbled. She reached down and hugged Randy. A second later she realized what she'd done and lurched back. In the awkward silence that followed an idea hit upon her.

"How about we all go out to get some drinks somewhere?"

"Sigma Phi is having an End of the Year bash tonight," Monica blurted out. "They always start early."

"I'm in," came the chorus of replies. Randy didn't really want to go. He had other things to do, but ... this group had taken on some of the characteristics of his old squad back in the Marines. They had covered his back where he was weak and he'd done favors for them in other matters. He knew he wouldn't have made it through the class without them.

Randy stood up.

"We walking it, or are we all bundling in my car and driving over?"

The question was rather redundant. I was around 55 degrees outside, Sigma was across campus and then three blocks farther on. Randy's car was across the street and had a working heater.

Abby chuckled, "Are we all going to fit?"

"Some people will have to sit on laps, but we should be good."

There were all grabbing their coats and heading out in seconds. They had the elation of victory and wanted to hold on to it for a little longer.

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They were all enjoying their second plastic cup of really bad beer (except Randy who as DD was nursing his first). Monica and Abby were putting themselves out there, talking to guys and some of the girls they knew. Mikio, Shadow, and Laura were hanging close to their Magus. Laura kept eyeing the crowd. She was in a committed relationship, but that didn't mean you couldn't shop. If she and some other girl got drunk enough, maybe something would happen. That wasn't Randy's problem though. Not yet, anyway.

"Hey Seiko," said some guy Randy had never seen before who was approaching Mikio. Mikio had to study him for a second before responding.

"Jackson?" she finally replied. She followed that with a nervous sip of beer.

"Hey, this is my House. Let me show you around and see what we find."

"Um, no thank you? I'm here with friends," she countered. "I didn't know you were Sigma Phi."

To Randy that translated as 'Had I known, I wouldn't be here.' That wasn't good.

Jackson turned his gaze to Randy. This guy wasn't trying to intimidate the Magus, but was assessing him.

"This guy your boyfriend," he started off. "I thought it was that short guy with the glasses. Did you dump him for this guy?"

"Randy?" Mikio said somewhat shocked. "No! He's a good friend. He's in my study group for Chinese I and we are celebrating all passing the class."

Jackson responded by extending his had to Randy. Randy responded in kind. This guy didn't pretend to a show of strength. If anything, his grip was a bit soft. Despite that, Randy could sense this guy was a predator. Not a 'hunts the night' kind of one, but a 'grapple the befuddled co-ed' kind of scumbag.

"So, you and Mikio good friends?" Jackson said jokingly.

"Best of friends," Randy replied. "She's like a little sister to me."

The look on Jackson's face indicated that he had gotten the message. There was no posturing. No threat of violence. Randy had drawn the line and Jackson had wisely decided to stay on his side of it. With a nod to the group, Jackson moved off to hunt elsewhere. Once he was out of earshot, Mikio looked up to Randy,

"Thanks. That was awkward. He's been hitting on me all semester and he gives me the creeps."

"No prob, Mikio. I mean what I said. Where is your boyfriend, anyway?"

"Oh," she said sadly, "He went back to Seattle last night."

Laura looked over and said, "So, what went wrong? Why did you get in a fight?"

When Mikio gave Laura a startled look, Laura added, "I see things like this all the time."

Mikio's shoulders slumped.

"It was stupid really. He wanted me to come up and meet his parents. I don't know."

She was confused and letting all of this 'stuff' out alleviated some of that confusion.

"We fought. In the last few weeks I've discovered we really have different plans. He's a junior, while I'm a freshman. He's going for a Masters in International Business with an eye on joining his parent's import/export firm. He wants me to join him."

"I want to get my Doctorate in Asian Languages and work for either some investment firm, or the State Department. I don't want to be a mother before I'm thirty. We talk about these things, but I always get the feeling that he expects me to change. As we headed into exams, all of this kept coming up. He didn't see how important it was for me to get a 4.0. If I'm to get into the best Master's programs, I need to be the best of the best."

Mikio took another deep breath.

"I think we are going to break up. I don't think he'll understand. God, I hate this."

She took another sip of her nasty beer.

Shadow looked over to Mikio.

"Men are dense that way. They don't know when to jump, so we have to push them."

Shadow then looked accusing at Randy. He stared back. It wasn't like he was begging her to stay with him. Laura responded first.

"Men are so clueless. The one's you despise hang around all the time. The one's you want don't seem to care if you hang around at all."

Mikio gave Randy and Shadow a sly look. If Randy had any doubt that everyone knew about the peculiarities of their relationship, Laura cleared that up.

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The six friends were making their way down the street to Randy's car. Abby, Laura, and Monica were weaving. Mikio led Laura along, while Shadow kept an arm around Monica, and Randy had an arm around a very drunk Abby. It didn't take a brain surgeon to figure out that Shadow had picked up Monica to keep her away from Randy. For that matter, they had to pry her away from some equally drunk and very hands-on sophomore at the party. Laura was only mildly sauced and was behaving nice to Mikio. Abby was harmlessly flirting with Randy ... and every guy they passed along the way to the car. Randy had been through worse after-party parades.

"How come you never hit on me?" said Abby.

Randy stared at her. How could she not know. His look registered with Abby and she giggled.

"Not you, Silly. I was ... (burp) ... asking Laura."

Everyone but Laura chuckled. Laura seemed lost in thought for the moment.

"You never seemed interested," she finally replied. "You're pretty, but you like guys. I like girls who like girls. It's not so hard, really."

"I don't know," interjected Randy. "I like lesbians. There a real challenge."

Laura laughed loudly. "You're and idiot ... and you're lying. As far as I can tell, you've never hit on any of us."

She turned her gaze to Shadow.

"You went after him, GF. It's only your fault that you didn't get what you expected."

Shadow blanched. How could she tell Laura about what had really happened? How could she tell any of them what she had gotten. Did they want to know that about Randy? What would they do? Why didn't she just blurt it out?

She knew why. It was fear. She was afraid what everyone would think. She was afraid of what Randy would do to her. She was afraid of never seeing him again, and that desire scared her most of all. Shadow kept her thoughts to herself.

Mikio kept the conversation going without missing a beat, allowing Shadow's embarrassment to pass unnoticed.

"Who's staying in the dorms over break?" she asked.

It turned out that Monica and Mikio were both LA locals. They would all be going home for Christmas, but could be around if anyone needed them. Abby was off to Chattanooga and her extended family's holiday get-together. Laura could have gone home to her family in Salt Lake City, but she claimed irreconcilable differences as her reason to stay. Shadow had to go home to Westfield, Ohio. Randy claimed no home except his dorm room and would be staying as well.

Shadow gave Randy a look when they were all piling into the car. In such a short period of time he had become a crucial aspect of her life. Whether she wanted to kill him, screw him, or just spend time with her didn't matter. Him not being in her life for even a short period of time was going to be agony. She just knew it. Leaving him in town with Monica waiting for her to leave made things worse. Would he do to Monica what he had done to her? She didn't know anymore. He had never been overly cruel since that first day. He confused the hell out of her.

As Randy started the car, he turned to Shadow and said,

"Stop by my place tomorrow. I have a present for you, but it's not something you can quite take to Ohio with you."

That got him some giggles and snickers.

"It's not like that. Geesh. It is something I have to show her."

More giggles.

"Fine. You all have sex on the brain."

"Not me," giggled Laura. "I'm swearing off sex!"

Abby gasped and turned to Laura.

"Does your girlfriend know about this?"

Laura looked at her with a mixture of amusement and sorrow.

"She's about to. I caught her in bed with one of my study-buddies from another group. She doesn't know that I know, so when I go in and kick her out ... I'm sure she'll get the shock of her life."

There was a moment of silence in the car as they rolled down road. Randy felt there was only one thing to say.

"Want us to back you up? If anything, you can crash with me tonight after you deliver the news."

In the rearview mirror, Randy could see Laura giving him a teary stare. On the one-side, she has always been quiet and private. On the other, she was about to be lonely and alone for the holidays. The only person she cared about had betrayed her. It wasn't like Randy was a threat to her. I really shouldn't be a matter of Shadow minding. She didn't want to be their when her roommate/lover packed and left.

"Sure. I could use the help packing up some of my stuff. I can move back when she's gone."

"We'll drop off Abby and Monica then circle back to your place," Randy said.

Monica pouted. Abby was too sleepy to care. Everyone else pledged to help Laura. A plan was formed between stops to drop off their drunker companions and then they headed to Laura's dorm. No one thought this would be much fun.

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