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First Step in Counselling

Posted on Fri May 3rd, 2024 @ 15:40 by William McAvoy & Jessica Leigh

Chapter: Winter's Crest Festival
Location: Avalon Institute: Grounds
Timeline: Friday 11th December
1395 words - 2.8 OF Standard Post Measure

Liana had made out like finding the Institute's groundskeeper would be an entirely simple task. It was not. The Avalon Institute covered a lot of ground, both internally and externally to the buildings themselves. Finding one individual, with only a name to go on, was like hunting for a needle in a haystack. Jessica had almost resorted to a rare use of her mutant ability to cover the ground a little more quickly, but in some ways that felt like a personal misuse.

Thankfully, after a few directions from other faculty, she had pinned him down to a set of gardens on the southern side of the Institute grounds. Despite it being the middle of winter, apparently they needed tending or something. Either that or this was another one of those mutants who preferred their solitude - she locked that question away for future examination. The first thing that was required was an introduction.

"Ahem. Excuse me..." she called out softly. "I'm looking for someone called William? He's the groundskeeper, apparently."

The man in question had been preparing some of the vegetable patches for planting in January as the school needed earlier crops as they broke up in July. It was a system that he had devised with help from research but it was the first year he was putting it into practice which was exciting as he was fully engaged as groundkeeper and caretaker as there was only him again.

“Depends on who is asking?” He wondered. The woman looked young, not young enough to be a student but certainly younger than most of the teaching staff he had met over the years.

"My name is Jessica. I work with Miss Zhao - er, Liana?" She stepped forwards furtively. "We work on the students' mental health, you see, and she suggested I meet with some of the other faculty, and your name came up - but I didn't have a record of you or your history, so..." She stopped quite rapidly when she noticed she was over-explaining things.

William raised an eyebrow at the words that she was using. He knew Liana and vaguely understand what she did but he was confused why the woman would be there before he realised. “You have not asked Liana about me have you?” He asked his accent thick as he put the items down and stepped over the mud towards her.

"N-not exactly..." Jess replied awkwardly. "She was the one who brought your name up, actually."

“And what did she want you to do in regards to me then?” He asked pursing his lips together to avoid smiling at the awkwardness.

Jess touched her glasses, peering over them at him with an appraising look. There was nothing immediately odd about him, except his unusual accent. "Just that I needed to meet everyone on the campus. To gain an understanding of everyone's particular needs. There wasn't a record on you, though. Why would that be?"

“Because I have been here longer than the school has been here.” He explained before seeing her confusion growing by the moment. He set down his tools and shifted his skin to that of the big black armoured knight that was his alternate form.

"I beg your pardon?" Jessica spluttered, her hands almost fumbling her notepad and pen.

He shifted back to his human form and offered a smile. “I did not exist until three years ago Jessica. I was here before Claire founded the school and when she started redeveloping the castle she found me in a crypt where I had been laid to rest until the world needed me I guess.” He was not sure why he had been left in a magic coma but maybe one day it would be revealed.

"Oh...oh my." She flipped open her notebook and began scribbling hasty and copious notes in shorthand. "When you say you didn't exist, you mean what exactly? How long has it actually been?"

William contained a smile as the woman started scribbling and taking notes. "600 years." He said matter of factly. Not many people knew his story and that was how him and Claire wanted to keep it as he was the truly unknown factor in the castle.

"Six...hundred?" Jess dropped her pen. She stooped to pick it up, apologising on the way back up. "Sorry. That's's very unusual. And it explains the slightly unusual accent." She paused. "What happened to you?"

William was a patient man and watched as she composed herself before he indicated the wall. He stepped over and sat on it and waited for her to sit so that they did not lose any more pens. “I was why you might call Lord of this area and there was a battle and the next thing I know I was in the catacombs of this castle and Claire was waking me up.” He still had not found many records from his time to work out what had happened but he was not finished searching yet.

Her eyes continued to bore into the man-out-of-time. There were any number of things running through her mind; the research potential for having someone literally alive during that period. He could help them understand about culture, language, society...Her mouth opened, filled with a hundred questions, before she stopped herself. In his eyes there was calm, and patience. But also, she imagined, probably a sadness, too.

"Did you leave people behind?" she asked softly. "Family and friends?"

“A wife… children… my clan and people.” He said with a shrug. It had been 3 years since he had come to peace with it all in his head. It did not hurt as much any longer knowing that he had been whisked away to safety and he had no idea what had happened to anyone other than it had all moved on without him.

"I'm...very sorry." Jess touched her glasses, a habitual fidget of awkwardness. "That must have been so difficult. And I imagine you miss them dearly."

William nodded. Sometimes he closed his eyes and for a second he could just remember their faces and the way they smiled at him and other times he felt he was forgetting their faces. It was like he had gone to sleep one day and then woke up somewhere else as he did not remember the attack or anything that had happened after it. “I do but I have to move on. What about yourself Jessica?” He offered trying to get to know the woman as she had reached out to him. It paid to return the favour and opportunity to talk.

"Oh!" She was almost startled by the question. "Nothing so strange and mysterious, I'm afraid. I'm just your average grad student here to help out Liana and Claire. No world-saving heroics or time-bending backstory for me." She made a quick note on her pad. "Have you considered scheduling some therapy sessions to talk about your feelings?" she pressed, oblivious to any concept of how forward the suggestion might be.

The man raised an eyebrow at the woman. "Talk about my feelings?" He repeated confused by the concept. "Did Claire want me to?" He asked bluntly. He was doing fine? He was adapting and moving forward, wasn't he?

"No, not...not exactly. Or at least, not formally." Jess touched her chin with the bottom end of her pen. "But studies have shown it can be very beneficial to explore the emotional consequences of loss-"

The man looked angry for a moment before he calmed himself down. It was not this woman fault, she had been set to poke at him. "I am fine. I am working through things in my own way as I will be telling Claire." He said calmly.

"Oh...oh, I'm sorry. I'm...quite new to this. Sometimes I forget not everyone is a case study..." She blushed slightly and corrected herself. "I think I have enough data. But it was very interesting to meet you, William."

"You too." He said back automatically as he moved back to what he had been working on before he had been interrupted. He would need to find a way to discuss this with Claire without his anger becoming apparent. But maybe it was not anger but hurt that Claire had not come to him first before sending someone to study him.


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