Prompt: generation; monster allies
The doctor scribbled a few notes in the folder before flipping it shut. On the other side of the desk, Agreas squeezed James’s hand with a clawed paw. Agreas’s body barely fit in the squeaky chair. Furry limbs spilled over the edges, but he just gave James a reassuring, doggy grin. James tried to return the smile and grip Agreas’s paw in return, but the tremors were bad that day and he knew he was squeezing too hard.
“Well, your blood work looks good. Cholesterol is down. Hormone levels are normal. How this therapy going?” Dr. Kline asked.
“F-fine,” James bit out.
“What do you think of Dr. Jesse?” Bland smile.
“Competent.” Dr. Kline looked disappointed. He was young and ambitious; he did not understand what a complement it was just to be competent.
“Here’s the problem.” Dr. Kline sat back in his chair, comfortable, at ease. James felt like he would vibrate right off the chair with poorly contained nerves. “You’re not eligible for any of the clinical trials.”
James tried to say something or ask a question, but the anger and frustration just made the stuttering worse until he could do no more than grunt. Agreas made encouraging noises, but James was the only one who could understand. Agreas’s monstrous physiology made it impossible for him to produce all but a few English words and most Americans did not speak Garouxian. James finally just waved the doctor on.
“They’re looking for patients with a more limited exposure–one or two spells. Frankly, they want patients with better control and fewer unknowns.”
Agreas leaned forward, almost out of his seat. He growled out a rapid tirade. James just fixed his eyes on the clock past the doctor’s left shoulder. The doctor looked scared. Most people who had never been in the service did, when confronted with a Garoux.
“Said, how s-supposed to control?” James translated and condensed. “Meds don’t, don’t work.”
“I don’t make these decisions,” Dr. Kline said. He was physically drawn away from them, on the defensive. “The fact is that cases as bad as yours are a tiny fraction of the general military population. You aren’t–” He hesitated. “–profitable enough.”
That set Agreas off on another rant. It left Dr. Kline wide-eyed and looking at the panic button on his phone. James said, “Bullshit,” which was pretty much the gist of what Agreas said, only more polite.
They left the office before Agreas could give Dr. Kline a heart attack. Agreas stopped at the front desk to make their next appointment, but James said, “Call,” and walked away.
Outside, in the sunlight, James still felt like the world was locked away behind glass. Look, but don’t touch. In the open, though, Agreas could finally stretch to his full seven feet and stop curling his powerful arms in like he took up too much space. In soft Garouxian, he asked, “What now?”
“Coffee,” James answered and pointed a shaking finger at a coffee place in the strip mall across the street.
James ignored the whispers around them in the coffee shop. Even when he sloshed hot coffee on his fingers, trying to put the lid on the cup before Agreas did it for him, he knew his war wound wasn’t the reason. The low wolf whistles and muttered comments never happened when he went out alone. Agreas had served alongside James all during the war–three deployments. Agreas had been the one pulling aside slabs of rock and wreckage to find James after the final volleys at Ingmore. Agreas had been the face at his bedside when he woke up and found out the crossfire of exploding spells had left him broken in a way no one knew how to fix. To the next generation back home, though, Agreas was just a monster. They wanted to forget everything that had made the Garoux their allies and, in the process, forget the ugly price of peace that James represented.
On a bench outside the coffee shop, Agreas helped steady his hand so he could drink. “We can find a different doctor,” he said. “This one is a hack. A faux doctor.”
James shrugged. “He’s right.”
“No, he isn’t.”
“Stop being protective. I don’t look good on paper. Too risk–ri–too tough.”
Agreas fiddled with the coffee cup, which looked like a thimble in his big paws. “So we’re just giving up?”
“Tired of taking care?”
Agreas gave him a feather light punch in the arm and grinned. “So, so tired. You’re so hard to please. Why, just this morning, you wanted marmalade instead of butter on your toast. Seriously, there’s no end to your demands.”
Across the street, safely out of reach if you didn’t know how fast Agreas could run when he felt like it, some punk shouted “dog fucker” and laughed. James sighed. “Hate it here.”
Agreas said, “He’s just jealous. Tiny prick.”
In a garbled rush, James said, “I want to ask your tribe.” It came out more like, “Iwinsktry,” but Agreas understood.
“I wasn’t planning on going back. The reservation–it doesn’t feel like home anymore.”
“Not the reservation,” James said. He tried to find the words to explain. He didn’t want to retreat from the world, hide away someplace that would tolerate them better or at least differently. “Magic for magic,” he said at last.
“The Forest in Limbo?” Agreas fell silent. Sometime after their coffee turned to cold sludge, he said, “Okay. Yes. I’ll start asking around. This time of year, it should be around Spain.”
James leaned against Agreas’s warm, furry side. “Thanks.” He curled both hands around Agreas’s paw and squeezed.