It was not the first—or the last time—that one of Larabee’s experiments got me in trouble. I knew better. I always did.
Still, Larabee was my only friend. My roommate. My tech and science guy. The keeper of my secret. He alone knew and believed in my ability. He was just trying to help.
It usually hurt when he tried to help.
I knew that, too.
“Am I dead yet?”
“No, but we’re going to have to find some other way of getting you self-defense classes. That teacher hates you and banned me from the place,” Larabee said, looking down at Clayton and shaking his head. “You kind of gave me a scare there. I was starting to think… Well, the good news is that the stabilizer makes you hold form for a long time. Days, even. The bad news? You’re so sick you can’t function. Obviously, it has side effects.”
“No kidding. I feel like I was hit by a bus. Of course, if I had been, I’d probably be dead, so I’m not really sure why people say that. They would be dead, too,” Clay muttered, trying to sit up. He looked at his hands and nearly screamed. “Larabee! I’m still five!”
“Relax. That was a random shift while you were still out cold. That’s how I knew the stabilizer was wearing off. You’re fine now.”
“Oh, sure. What if I had some new mutation, hmm? What if the side effect hadn’t ended? What if I developed tentacles or something?”
Larabee frowned. “Clayton, that’s not possible.”
“What I can do is not possible. It’s lame, but it’s still not possible.”
Larabee shrugged. He couldn’t deny it, though on other days, he did try. He wanted to have a real superhero for a friend, but Clay was not a superhero. He was a not-so-super, not-so-hero type of person. He didn’t do good with his ability despite his best efforts, and that was what he would have liked, if he had to be cursed with a special ability.
“Did we have any kind of good news for a change? Find anything about my parents while I was out or anything?”
Larabee shook his head. “No, but… Well, you finally woke up, and that means that you won’t miss your finals. I was starting to think you would.”
“Finals?” Clayton demanded, shaking his head in disbelief. It couldn’t be. He had a month—well, weeks at least before finals. “Are you kidding me? How long was I out? Oh, hell. I’m going to fail and have to take all the classes again, and then I won’t get financial aid this time, and I already can’t afford my bills or I wouldn’t still be living here, and how am I ever going to make it as even a normal person at this rate? I can’t make it to class, haven’t done my class work, and I shouldn’t have a job, either.”
“Don’t worry. A member of my guild is a… Well, he’s related to a doctor, and they got your absence excused with your boss and your professors. See? The guys are good for something.”
“You forged medical exemptions for me?”
“Not me, exactly, but… yeah. Least I could do, buddy. You’re okay now. That’s the important thing.”
Clayton tried to switch back to his normal form. Nothing happened. He looked at Larabee. The other man frowned. “Larabee, I can’t switch back.”
“You heard me. I can’t switch back.”
“No, you were yourself again. I know you were. I saw it.”
“Larabee, you had better find a way to fix this. This has to be your stupid stabilizer!”
“Or maybe you just like being five years old.”
Clayton reached out and grabbed the other man’s shirt, tightening it around his neck. “No, I don’t. I might be able to use it, but I am not five. I need to be my own age. I have classes and work and a crappy life to get back to. I am not spending my days in bed at five years old—and don’t you dare think about putting me in elementary school again.”
“You would be the smartest kid in kindergarten.”