As he entered the grounds of Tadwin's College of the Arts he let out a small whistle. There was no doubt in his mind that all the years of university were going to pay off.
Some of his friends had mocked him. A college Doc? That hardly seemed worth the degree! If they could see this place they'd take it all back. Another valid point was that as a College Physician You'd have certain perks - like check ups.
Your average Doctor tends to see only people who are sick, weak or injured. A College Doctor has regular check ups on the students too. Not just the sick. The other clear advantage is that he'd be dealing with people not too far away from his own age – not just the elderly or infants who were prone to sickness, injury and weakness.
He rubbed his hands together to take the chill off them. Being a Doctor he really should know better than to stand outside in the winter air, but he'd wanted to take a moment to absorb his surroundings.
At 6ft 3, with dark spiked hair, well kept stubble, tinted glasses and aged only 24, It hadn't taken long for him to attract attention. He placed his hands into the pockets of his long white coat, smiled at a group of passing seniors and headed for the reception entrance.
* * *
Raiki prepared herself for the new Doctor's visit after she'd made sure Zyla had everything she needed for her classes and successfully ushered her out of the cottage in time.
"Ok, he's never seen you before so he will base his opinions on first impressions" She told herself as she smoothed down her hair, "And you want him to think you're well enough to go back to class! You didn't spend all this money on getting here just to end up stuck in your room all day!"
She'd pulled on a pair of skinny jeans with a cowl necked jumper. This outfit had been decided on the fact it was both warm and comfortable while not looking like the typical "pyjamas and a dressing gown" image of a sick person.
* * *
He followed the precise directions left for him by Dr Chapman that lead to his "house patient in 301." He'd smiled to himself because try as he may – he couldn't find any notes on this case. He didn't know whether the "House patient" was male or female or even what illness they had been suffering, but he sure knew how to get there and that it was important.
"300... 301! There it is." He pointed to the cottage, "right where the old man said it'd be. Heh, if I can find his notes on anything I should be set." He edged towards the front door.
* * *
There was a knock on the front door.
"This must be the new Doctor." Raiki mused, taking one last look in the mirror to check she looked healthy before heading into the hall way, "Be right there!" She called.
"Take your time!" He shouted back through the door. After all, if this person had a busted leg or some kind of head trauma he wouldn't really want them to hurry themselves at all. The door rattled as the catches were unlocked from inside.
She opened the door smiling, ready to greet her new Doctor.
He smiled ready to greet his patient. The Door opened.
* * *
Xsal had thought it through perfectly. He know that Zyla had art while he had Media so he figured he'd ditch Media to go visit Raiki. He felt that he had to get a visit in – just the two of them – before she came back to college just so he could have one up on Nikko. Or at least that's what he kept telling himself the reason was.
He starred at the clock on the wall, willing his lesson to end and not really paying attention to the class he was in anyway.
Eight painful minutes remained. He glared at the clock and waited.
* * *
"What on earth are you doing here?" Raiki asked from the kitchen as she made a hot drink for herself and the new Doctor.
"I thought that was obvious?" He shouted back from his seat on the sofa, "Practising medicine!"
"Oh that's very funny." She replied emerging with two cups of tea, handing one to him, "Why here of all places though? And how come you never told me?"
He took a large gulp of his drink and grimaced, "Hot." he explained helpfully.
"5 years of university and you still couldn't figure out that the boiling water would make the tea hot?" Raiki cocked an eyebrow at him.
"It's good to see you." He smiled.
Raiki felt a familiar blush creep to her cheeks so she turned away from him to find her way to her own seat.
"Yeah it's good to see you too," She finally looked at him again, "but you're avoiding my question."
"Ahh, and that was always your job!" He took a further sip and winked at her, "I got placed here. The old guy was up for retirement and they thought a fresh face would help this place out."
"And you didn't think to contact me?"
"Ray, I've been real busy! I thought it'd be a nice surprise!" He explained putting his cup on the table. "Besides, I didn't know you'd be my first troublesome patient!"
She sighed and looked at the floor.
"So tell me Ray, how is it that you got yourself so sick?" He stood up and walked over to her, lifting her chin he pulled out a torch from his pocket, "But say "Ahhh" first."
Raiki opened her mouth obediently but felt slightly awkward at having him stare down her throat.
"Well you seem human to me." He laughed, winked and flicked the torch off.
She rolled her eyes but said nothing.
"You want my professional diagnosis?" He asked, bending down to her eye level.
"Not really." She pouted. He flicker her forehead, "Ow!"
"Respect your elders." He piped in, "I think you're in love."
She felt her cheeks burn again, pushed his face away from hers and bolted out of her chair.
"Yep, this is definitely all some guys fault. So come on, who is he? I need to make his life hell!"
"Oh what do you know!?" She shrieked, "You've never been able to tell how I feel! I was in love once but you ignored it!" She clenched her fists, "And now I'm terrified to love again! But just when I think I might it all blows up in my face! My room mate ends up with the guy I really don't wanna fall for but despite my best efforts I think I might be... and then to top it all off you show up!!"
"Ahh College." He starred off into nothing.
Raiki's blood boiled, she picked up a cushion and threw it at him, "Oh Just leave me Alo- oh!" without warning her knees gave way and she buckled to the floor.
"Ray!" Her doctor rushed to her side and supported her shoulders, "Boy, you really have gotten yourself sick haven't you?" Raiki remained silent, "Is he worth it?"
She turned her head sharply to him but couldn't read his face, "... oh Miki... I just don't know!" She flung her arms around his neck and sobbed into his shoulder.
He placed a comforting hand on her head and whispered, "Let it all out."
* * *
Xsal took a deep breath, knocked on the door and waited. He dusted off his tux and checked behind him to make sure he hadn't been followed.
The door opened demanding his attention once again. As he turned, expecting to see Raiki, he failed to hide the surprise on his face when the young Doctor opened the door in her place.
"May I help you?" Asked the Doctor with an irksome tone.
Xsal shook his thoughts clear, "I was actually here to see Raiki."
The Doctor glanced over his shoulder, "I'm not sure she's really up for company right now."
There was something in the way this Doctor spoke to him that really ticked Xsal off.
"Well maybe we should ask her that?"
The Doctor smirked, "Why not." Turning over his shoulder again he called, "Hey Ray!"
"Ray?" Xsal thought, "Isn't that a bit overly familiar for a Doctor?"
"There's some guy at the door for you with an attitude problem. Should I tell him to scarper?"
"Attitude problem?" Xsal spat back, "What attitude problem?"
That smirk again, how he wanted to wipe it off his-
"Oh, Hi Xsal." Raiki had emerged behind that smug little- "What brings you here? Zyla is in class... wait a second.. should you be too?"
"They, uh, called a free period the... tutor wasn't feeling well." He lied feebly.
"Oh." Raiki made an attempt to hide the fact that she'd been crying by rubbing her eyes which in fact only made it more obvious, "Well, like I said she's not here so-"
"Actually he said he came to see you." The Doctor interrupted.
Raiki looked to Xsal who seemed to be grinding his teeth at Miki.
"Really?" Flustered at her response she spoke quickly, "Well, um feel free to come in then it makes more sense than hanging out on the doorstep." She Elbowed Miki in the ribs, "Move aside and let him in, Miki. it's not all that warm outside and you're letting all the cold air in!"
"Miki?" Xsal said with a little more shock than he would have liked to have slipped into his voice.
Miki smirked, "Oh-ho? So you've heard of me?"
Xsal took this moment to regain his composure, "Not at all. I just thought that it was rather inappropriate for Raiki to refer to her Doctor by his first name." He mirrored Miki's smirk.
"Ah, well then I don't suppose you approve of me calling her "Ray" either then?"
"Not in the slightest"
Raiki looked back and forth from Miki to Xsal before slapping both of them on the back of their heads.
"Living room, now." She explained before turning towards that room herself, "And close the damn door will you!"
Raiki had ordered her two male guests to sit in the living room while she made a drink. She'd told them to grow up and stop acting like spoiled brats before slamming the kitchen door behind her, leaning on it and placing her hand over her thumping heart.
"This can't be happening..." She dared to whisper, "Both of them... here... in my living room!" She pressed her ear against the door, "And why were they squabbling like children?"
"So, are you the reason why she's sick?" Miki glared across the coffee table at Xsal, arms folded.
"What?" Xsal returned his glare, "She jumped in the lake smart-ass. Didn't you look at the notes Dr. Chapman left?"
"I didn't." Miki replied flatly. "And I didn't need to." He leant forward on his chair, "So tell me, do you date Ray's room mate?"
Xsal flinched. Tough question. "What business of that is yours?" He finally replied.
Miki leant back, "I'll take that as a yes."
"I'll repeat my question then. What's it to you?"
"Just a hunch I guess." Miki smiled. "What's she like?"
"What?!" Xsal raised an eyebrow.
"I mean I'm interested. She'd have to be one hell of a girl for you to pick her over Ray."
Xsal's mouth parted for a second, utterly taken back by the doctor's interrogation, "Wha-" He shook his head, "What the hell are you playing at? Are you planning on asking Raiki out or something?"
Miki smiled, this was going as well as he'd expected. He casually placed his right foot on his left knee and leant on it, "And if I was?"
Xsal gritted his teeth, "I suppose I'd have to tell you I disapprove. And I'm sure the head of departments would too."
Miki chuckled, "Never had you pegged as the taddling type."
Raiki pulled her ear away from the door sharply and turned her attention back to the kettle which was screeching on the hob.
"What was all that about!?" She thought to herself placing both her hands onto her burning cheeks, "Why is Miki being like that? And Xsal's acting so strange... why did he come here?"
She poured the hot water into the waiting cups and squeezed the teabags with little thought on what she was doing.
After what had felt like an eternity Raiki emerged from the kitchen holding a tray with three mugs of hot tea and a plate of cookies on.
"You boys all done?" She asked as casually as she could manage.
"About." Miki shrugged and helped himself to a cup off the tray. "Thanks."
"Glad to hear it." She replied and offered the tray to Xsal who grudgingly took his cup without saying anything.
She placed the tray on the table and took the remaining mug for herself before sitting on the sofa beside Miki. She took a small sip of her tea with her eyes closed and willed herself to calm down. She placed her mug carefully back on the table and took a deep breath.
"Right, I suppose introductions are in order." She looked at Xsal and pointed to Miki, "Xsal, this is Miki – you probably gathered that by now though – he is a close friend of my older brother and I've known him pretty much for as long as I can remember. Although in recent years I haven't really heard from him all that much because he's been studying to be a doctor... which is probably also apparent now."
Miki sat with his arms folded and one foot up on the coffee table, his eyebrows raised with a smile on his face and his eyes fixed on Xsal with a "beat that" feeling behind his stare.
Raiki turned to Miki and pointed at Xsal, "And Miki this is Xsal – get your foot off my coffee table -" She swatted at his leg, "Xsal is... well he's my room mate's boyfriend. He's also the one who found me when I passed out in the rain and carried me all the way back to his house-"
"His house?!" Miki's glare intensified.
"Yes, His place. It was closer. Other than that we don't have any classes together so we-"
"Actually that's not strictly true." Xsal interrupted and leant forwards, his arms resting on his thighs.
"Eh?" Was all Raiki could respond with, "We don't.... do we?" She thought she'd have noticed him...
"Yeah..." he elongated the word, "We do." He scratched the back of his neck uncomfortably, "okay... see I'm not exactly a model student."
"I'm shocked." Said Miki though he clearly was not.
Xsal shot him a glance before continuing, "I came to art school because I enjoy doing things. But studying isn't one of those things. I like being active and out there, y'know? The idea of being cramped up in some dark room reading a book just doesn't do it for me."
Raiki drew in a breath. Dark room, reading from a book... Sounds like Theatre Studies...
"So I usually just turn up when there's stuff to do..."
"So then right now you're skipping a class?" Miki piped in. "I'm sure that's frowned upon."
"I am, but when I explain that it's because of my concern for the well being of a fellow student then I'm sure my Media studies tutor will understand."
"That a fact?" Miki began, "I'm not so sure that's-"
"Which class." Raiki interrupted.
Xsal looked at her, shocked to see her stern expression.
"Theatre Studies." He finally replied, "With Mr Pattison. Me and Nik chose it together because we thought we cold have some fun in it. But it turns out that most of it is reading about how someone else thinks we should act on stage. Where's the fun in that?
"But recently, Nik started caring more about turning up to class. Imagine my surprise when I find out that it's because you go there too! So I started tagging along again, only on that first lesson... you weren't there."
Raiki felt a lump in her throat. That's when she'd felt like she needed some air and had fainted in the rain outside... then Xsal found her because...
"I figured you weren't like me. A fact I'm so sure of. You wouldn't skip class, not unless a friend of yours really needed you to be there or something."
Raiki smiled inwardly, that was very true.
"So then I knew something was up. That plus Ami was acting really weird about it. She looked real worried about you. She said you'd gone to the bathroom on your way to class... so that's where I headed."
"You went into the girls bathroom?" Miki interjected.
"No!" Xsal spat back, "I waited for someone else to come along and asked her to check if Raiki was in there!"
"Yeah, oh. Well, she wasn't in there. So I went looking for her... and the rest you know I guess."
Raiki mulled his words over in her head, she watched him take up his mug and hide his face in it while he drank. She'd never known that he'd gone out of his way to look for her. She's always assumed that it was a case of "right place right time" but Xsal's confession had warmed her from the inside and she could feel a smile spreading across her face.
"Well, you're quite the hero then." Miki mused. "I suppose I should be thanking you for being so concerned about your girlfriend's room mate."
And there it was, the sharp verbal slap across the face to remind her that Xsal wasn't her knight in shining armour. He wasn't her fairy tale prince. He wasn't her happy ending. He was Zyla's.
Xsal had felt it too. He watched the colour drain from Raiki's face and felt his own mood darken.
* * *
Zyla walked out of her art class and headed straight over to the media block so she could surprise Xsal. Lyga followed her at a distance, though that wasn't truly his intention. He'd promised to give his brother a lift home that day.
Upon reaching her destination Zyla began using the windows as mirrors and primped herself ready for Xsal's arrival.
Lyga chuckled to himself when he finally caught up to her, "You missed a spot." He said jovially.
Zyla spun round to see Lyga smiling at her. She smiled back and let out a small laugh.
"Hello again! We really must stop meeting like this!"
"Well it's to be expected," he nodded his head in the direction of the Media room, "We're both after the same person most of the time."
"Hehe, yeah I guess we are!" She turned back to the door as the remaining stragglers left the room.
Lyga sighed, "Not this again." He pushed open the door and walked up to the tutor. Zyla waited outside a little shocked by Lyga's direct approach.
She watched from the window as the Tutor shook his head and stretched out both of his arms in a "Who knows" gesture. Lyga smiled understandingly, turned away from the tutor and gave a casual wave as he exited the room.
Zyla starred at him eagerly waiting for an answer.
"He never showed up today." He explained.
Lyga looked at her disappointed face and his heart sank. He reached into his pocket and pulled out the car keys, "Need a ride?"
Sat in the steady stream of traffic that can only follow closing time on campus Lyga looked across to the passenger seat at Zyla. She always showed so much raw emotion on her face, it was one of the reasons he found her so fascinating.
Even so, he wished there was something he could do to make her smile.
"Is he always like this?" She finally spoke, shaking him from his thoughts.
"He's never been too reliable if that's what you mean." Lyga finally replied while flashing his headlights to another car that was waiting to pull out in front of him.
The other driver thanked him and gratefully pulled out of the junction he'd been stuck in for a while.
"You're so kind." Zyla mused, staring at nothing in particular outside her window.
Lyga felt his cheeks burn, "I just know what it's like to be stuck in the middle of traffic hoping someone cuts you a break that's all."
Zyla laughed slightly, "That's not it." She turned to him, "Well, I guess that's part of it... but I meant other stuff too. You're just really kind in general."
Lyga shifted uncomfortably in the drivers seat, "Well... I try to treat others how I'd like to be treated by them I suppose."
Zyla cocked her head, "Then I suppose you want to be treated really well by me?"
Lyga tensed, "Pardon?"
Zyla felt herself blush, "No! That's not what I..." She turned back to her window and fiddled with the hem of her dress, "What I mean is... you're always right there... and you're always so nice to me."
Lyga said nothing.
"Every time I'm feeling low or let down... I turn around and see you there... ready to pick up the pieces."
Still he said nothing.
"I suppose I see why Raiki thinks so highly of you." She finally let herself look at him again, "You really are a brilliant friend."
And there it was. The bullet to the chest he had seen coming. A brilliant friend was like a double edged sword. For as long as he'd known she was attending the same college he had only wanted her to acknowledge him. When she had, he didn't think he could ever be happier.
Then, Xsal targeted her for reasons that were still unclear to him. This had been a blessing in disguise as it meant that he'd got to spend a lot more time with her and build up a friendship. But that's when things had gotten complicated.
Once the friendship had gotten started he realised that he couldn't settle for that any more. He wanted to be the one that made her smile whenever she needed it most. He wanted to pick her up when she was down, hold her when she cried... he wanted to mean more to her than just a friend.
A part of him hated that. He wanted to be the reliable unconditional friend – just like he was for Raiki – but he just couldn't do it with Zyla. No matter how hard he tried there would always be an ulterior motive and that made him disgusted with himself.
Realising he hadn't responded to her for a while he turned his head and smiled.
"I try my best" he finally said.
* * *
"Well I'll be honest with you, Ray. I don't think you should go back full time." Miki said after a lengthy deliberation.
"Oh come on! I'm just going to fall further behind, besides I feel much better than I did!"
"Yeah, like I'm going to believe anything you say after your little episode earlier" He gestured with a pen to the spot where Raiki had collapsed earlier.
"Episode?" Xsal cocked an eyebrow.
"... I was just a little worn out from yelling at you that's all!" Raiki directed her response at Miki ignoring Xsal's interruption.
"There was another episode?" Xsal tried again, this time grabbing her arm to force her attention on him.
"I just got a little worked up that's all." She tried to dismiss it, "Which made me little light headed."
Miki raised his eyebrows at Xsal, "See what I mean?"
Xsal signed, "Raiki as much as it pains me to say this, listen to your Doctor. You shouldn't be collapsing every time you get "a little worked up" about something."
Raiki looked back at Xsal pleadingly, "But, I want to go back to class! I'm going out of my mind locked up in here all day! You have no idea what it's like to sit totally alone just watching the clock!" She stared at the floor, "I know it sounds pathetic, but I'd even started to look forward to Theatre Studies days just so I'd have Nikko coming to see me..."
Xsal flinched and let go of her arm. He considered this for a moment.
"Zyla has you to keep her occupied when she gets back, and you guys don't want a sickly, pathetic person bringing you down so I shut myself in my room... furthering my isolation I guess."
Xsal sighed, "Quit putting yourself down all the time."
"I second that." Miki nodded.
"Well at least we agree on something." Xsal smiled a practised smile at the Doctor.
"Two things actually, she should really listen to me." He smirked.
Xsal's smile faded. He looked back at Raiki who still looked like she was trying to stare a hole into the floor.
"Isn't there a way of compromising?" He finally spoke.
"How do you mean?" Miki leant forward and chewed the lid of his pen.
"Well.. you're a doctor... you should know she's less likely to get any better if she's miserable all the time, right?" Xsal explained.
Raiki risked a glance at him, where was he going with this? And why did he care?
Miki nodded, willing him to go on.
"Well from the sounds of things, she's pretty miserable here. I mean she's made it pretty obvious that she wants to go back to class, and if Nikko is the highlight of her week – who could blame her!" He shrugged a little.
Raiki couldn't help but chuckle slightly. Xsal cast a glance at her, smiled and winked.
"My point is, isn't there some sort of way that she could go back to class, providing someone was to look out for her in each of her lessons?" He scratched his head, "I mean, she takes art with her room mate and my brother, and there's me and Nik who could look after her in Theatre studies if she needs it?"
Raiki starred at him, was she imagining it or were his cheeks taking on a hint of colour?
Miki considered this, "You do raise an interesting point there blondie."
"I'm sure there is some truth in what you said about her getting better if she feels happier... perhaps if we could speak to this Nikko, your brother and her room mate -"
"Speak to us about what?" Came Zyla's voice from the hall way, "Xsal? What're you doing here?"
Miki turned round to face Zyla and Lyga in the door way.
"Oh!" Zyla blushed and covered her face, "Why hello Hot Doctor!!"
Miki laughed, "Hiya Big Boobs!"
"Miki!!!" Raiki elbowed Miki in the ribs, "That is not in any way appropriate!!"
"Oof!" He cradled his stomach, "Okay okay! Geez! I was just playing along! You always were way too feisty for your own good!"
Xsal gritted his teeth as Zyla made her way across the room and attached herself onto his arm.
"I waited for you outside you're Media room." She explained cuddling up to him and resting her head on his shoulder, "I didn't think for a second you'd be here instead."
Xsal said nothing.
Miki looked at him and cocked an eyebrow before turning his attention back to his brother.
"I presume you're the brother he mentioned earlier?" He finally directed the question at Lyga.
"Sadly yes." Lyga smiled and extended a hand, "I'm Lyga Adams, the ego's twin brother and you are?"
"Doctor Miki Hope. But if you're a friend of Ray's then it's just Miki." He took Lyga's hand and shook it firmly, "It's nice to meet someone as civilized as yourself amongst this lot."
Lyga smiled, "Forgive me, but Ray is?"
"It's what he calls Raiki." Xsal answered flatly.
"Ah..." Lyga nodded though was still slightly confused.
"Anything else you wanna fill him in on?" Miki turned over his shoulder at Xsal? "Like the fact I'm her brothers friend and I've known her for years? No? I'll introduce myself then."
Lyga chuckled finally putting all the pieces together, "I see you any my brother hit if off to a great start then?"
"Like a dream." Miki smiled and gestured for them to sit. "However, he did have a good proposition so while we're all here I think we should go over it one more time."
Miki explained to them both about Raiki's wish to return to college and how Xsal had devised a "baby sitting regime" which could make all of this possible. However he'd need to get it approved by those higher up, and there may be an additional condition that he wasn't willing to disclose right at this moment.
Everyone agreed this seemed like the best solution and it was left up to Xsal to contact Nikko about it which he ensured them he would do the second he had a moment... thought that might not have been strictly true.
With that concluded Miki rose from his seat.
"Well, it's late, I better get back to campus or they'll think I've quit on my first day. It was nice meeting you all. Ray, will you see me out?"
"Bye Doctor Miki!" Zyla exclaimed waiving from her seat.
"Later Double D!"
"Miki!" Raiki shot up after him into the hall closing the door behind her. "What's with you?!"
He chuckled, "I'm just having some fun, you know me Ray!"
She sighed, "I do."
He was silent for a moment before he spoke softly once again "I think he likes you y'know."
Raiki shook her head, "What? Who?"
Miki smiled, "You know who. He was worried about you, and he's not happy with her at all."
Raiki avoided his eyes, "Well as long as their together it's not my business."
He took hold of her chin and forced her to face him, "You've really grown kiddo." He smiled before placing a soft kiss on her cheek, "I can see why he likes you."
With that he left, closing the door behind him. Leaving Raiki holding her cheek utterly confused.