Excerpt: Contemporary Draconic Hoarding Practices
Clayton Cooper collapsed against the door, his messenger bag falling to the floor beside him. Everyone had warned him that grad school would be challenging, but Clayton hadn’t listened. Still, although the assignments were soul crushing and he hadn’t been able to find funding in his third year, it wasn’t his classes or his research that was grinding him down. No, it was working as a Teaching Assistant. More specifically, it was the pupils.
Undergrads would be the death of him.
Taking a deep breath, Clayton picked up his bag, stuffed with essays to be graded, and staggered towards his bedroom. He was determined to collapse into a pile of disillusioned disappointment and sleep until his soul had recovered enough to take another beating.
He’d barely made it two steps before he heard the sound of splashing coming from the kitchen. Knowing he would regret it, Clayton steeled himself and peered into the kitchen.
The dishes were washing themselves. At least Clayton assumed that’s what they were trying to do. Instead, they had turned the kitchen into a war zone. There were large pieces of ceramic littered in and around the sink, and Clayton watched as the dish brush all but attacked the plate that was currently being “cleaned”, adding more pieces to the carnage. The sink itself held only the smallest dregs of soapy water; the rest of it was covering the floor.
Making his way carefully through the mess while doing his best not to slip on the treacherous floor, Clayton arrived at the stove. He reached down and picked up his only remaining pan. It was clean but warped almost beyond recognition. Clayton did the only thing he could under the circumstances.
“GAVIN!” he yelled, the rage that had been on a low simmer all day finally coming to a boil.
Gavin Alyard, Clayton’s roommate, although a stupid, self-centered, thoughtless asshole, at least had a well-developed sense of self-preservation. Gavin hovered just inside the kitchen, as far from Clayton as possible while still technically in the room. The little shit had the gall to look at Clayton as if he had no idea why Clayton was contemplating wringing his neck.
“What did I tell you,” Clayton said in the cold, dispassionate voice that he could only manage when he was absolutely furious, “about doing the dishes with magic?”
“Just because you’re prejudiced…” Gavin began, having the nerve to try and play the injured party.
Under other circumstances, Clayton might have found the accusation funny. For all that he had no magic himself, he came from a family of magicians. Today it just pissed him off even more.
“It’s not prejudice, you moron,” Clayton said, the volume of his voice rising with every word. “Playing victim might work on other people, but I see right through your bullshit and you know it. It’s about the fact that you can’t do a fucking cleaning spell to save your life! Every time you try, you somehow manage to do hundreds of dollars of damage and destroy my stuff in the process! Which is why we agreed after your first attempt at a cleaning spell that you would be doing all the cleaning by hand until you could use magic without wreaking havoc!”
Gavin bristled, but Clayton was beyond done, both with this day and with his roommate. He reached out and grabbed the mop from where it was propped up in a corner and shoved it into Gavin’s arms, hard enough that he staggered back a few steps.
“You clean this up. Clean everything up and replace what you broke, or I will kick you out on your ass so fast it will make your head spin.”
He didn’t wait for Gavin’s response before storming down the hall and slamming the door to his room behind him with a satisfying bang. Anger fading, leaving him empty, Clayton staggered over to his bed before falling onto it face first with a sigh. He was asleep within moments. There was a thud as his bag slipped from his hand onto the floor. He didn’t even stir.
Clayton woke up feeling like death warmed over. Given his state when he’d collapsed into bed, he was willing to call it an improvement. Clayton rolled over and took a look at the clock. 3:20 a.m., the green numbers read. Clayton hadn’t made it home until nearly eleven last night, and that was after pulling an all-nighter the previous day. He should be feeling much shittier after a little over four hours of sleep. Hell, he shouldn’t even be conscious yet.
Clayton stared at the clock. He would give himself until the numbers changed, and then he’d consider getting out of bed. Only no matter how long he waited, the glowing green numbers stayed exactly the same.
Clayton knew exactly who was responsible. That was Gavin Alyard for you. Couldn’t cast a cleaning spell for shit, but he messed around with the flow of time with a casualness that should be worrying.
Even though Gavin could manage the feat with ease, he didn’t do it often. Gavin couldn’t hold the spells in his sleep, and his department had a strict moral code. Anyone who spent more than the time allotted on an assignment, no matter how they went about getting that time, would be penalized.
Clayton took the gesture for what it was meant to be—an apology. Gavin had TA’d his intro alchemy lab section yesterday, which meant he wouldn’t start worrying about his own grading until Saturday. So this particular stoppage of time was entirely for Clayton’s sake. Gavin might be a huge pain in the ass to live with on a number of different levels, but it was moments like this that reminded Clayton why he was worth putting up with in the first place.
Still, Clayton was going to make him grovel for a while.
A quick shower, shave, and change of clothes later, Clayton felt almost human. He grabbed his bag, his laptop, and his favorite grading pens off his desk before wandering out of his room.
The kitchen was spotless. It was almost hard to believe it was the site of the disaster zone Clayton had come home to. There were cookies on a cooling rack, and Clayton could tell by the way the air shimmered around them that they’d be warm no matter when he decided to grab one. Gavin was bringing out the big guns.