Gen 3 Ch 14: An Exciting Opportunity

Note: Pretty short chapter, I know, but I wanted to split it up.


Surprisingly, after calling it quits, Phoenix and Jeanine noticed a marked improvement in their relationship with one another. They didn’t exactly have problems before, but the tension that existed between them for this past semester has disappeared.

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Of course, the sleeping situation was rather uncomfortable and, as there were only a couple of weeks left for them to stay at the house, Phoenix temporarily moved in with Millie in her room. She didn’t mind. If anything, they had more fun rooming together, chatting and helping each other with assignments and schoolwork.

While Phoenix was slightly consternated about the fact that Jeanine started dating Eddie as soon as the two of them broke up, he had to admit – whenever she was with the guy, she looked positively in love. And she didn’t really look that way when they were dating. Loathe as he was to admit it, while the two of them did have great chemistry, it seemed that they truly did mistake their longtime friendship for real romantic feelings.

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Finally, this crazy school year dragged to a close.

Millie, having taken most of the classes she needed back in Hidden Springs, was able to graduate, with all straight A’s, landing herself the valedictorian title and earning herself great acclaim from professors and classmates alike. Even though she was happy with her success, she was most happy to be heading home to her husband and son, for good.

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The rest of the housemates weren’t doing any worse. Phoenix and Trev both pulled their grades up and made the Dean’s List. Phoenix, because he was now set on doing well and Trev, because he knew that, even though he was going to change his major, he still needed a good grade standing to stay at the school.

Back in Hidden Springs, life went on as usual. While David and Irene were now feeling the effects of age, having had both children later in life, they weren’t letting it slow them down in the slightest.

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Even after the long years spent together, they always took the time out to be romantic and do something special for each other.

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And they were extremely happy to have their son back home! Between taking care of Felicity and keeping the house, they both made sure to spend hours talking to Phoenix, asking him about everything, from schoolwork to new friends.

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As they ate Irene’s always amazing pancakes, his parents mentioned the romantic situation that arose back on campus.

“I’m so sorry you and Jeanine broke up,” Irene admitted. “She’s such a lovely girl and Tia and I have been friends for ages. Are you sure it’s all over between you?”

“Yeah, Mom, it is. But honestly, it’s for the best. You just need to see her and Eddie together to understand that – she practically glows when she’s with him,” he explained.screenshot-288

“Oh, I’ve seen him. He was at the Blakely house the other day. Did you know she invited him home with her?” Irene continued. “Tia called me the other day – she was so confused. One day she’s dating you and today she’s introducing the parents to a new person…”

“Yes, of course I know, Mom. I was kind of the person who suggested she invite him to Hidden Springs,” Phoenix chuckled. “To make him consider moving here after college.”

“You? Really?” David nodded, approvingly. “So, you’re really ok with them being together.”

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“I am. I’ll always love Jeanine. But as a friend. And she sees me the same way. Really, guys, you don’t need to worry about me. Anyways, you should have your date tonight. I can use the time to chill out with my baby sis. How has Felicity been doing? No more ear pain?”

“She’s pretty well, although, we’re still having trouble with her not sleeping through the night well,” David admitted. “It seems she’s taken after me with bad nerves.”

“I can calm her down with my tales from around the world,” Phoenix offered. “I know she loves foreign fairy tales.”

“That she does,” Irene chuckled. “Oh, that reminds me! Gerald wanted to talk to you about something. He mentioned a travel opportunity you might like.”

“Really?” Phoenix always did want to see more of the world.

“Yes, he said it’s something to do with your work at the newspaper. He was in a rush when he told me, though. Jeanne and Trev wanted to take him fishing and they were hurrying him out the door,” Irene explained. “But he’ll be here sometime today or tomorrow and talk to you in person.”

“I’ll stay home, then. I haven’t had much time to chat with Uncle Gerald, except for feedback on articles,” Phoenix admitted. “It would be nice to catch up.”

“I know, dear. And once again, we are both so proud of you improving your grades the way you did. It’s impressive.”

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Just as he promised them, Phoenix stayed home, keeping one eye on Felicity and the other on the article he had open on his laptop, about current events in China and how they were both caused and affected older traditions.

This was nice. He didn’t get much time to just sit down and write the way he used to in high school, with university putting a big strain on his time. And now, with some free time, he was catching up on one of his favorite activities.

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He was just about done reading an interesting piece on the country by a popular travel writer when the doorbell rang. Approaching, he could tell it was his uncle.screenshot-296

“Phoenix, my boy! It’s good to see you. My, you’ve gotten taller, haven’t you? Time away will do that to you,” Gerald laughed. “I’m not going to ask how university went, I’ve already heard all and more from Jeanne and Trev. But how are you?”

“I’m good, Uncle Gerald. Better, now that I’m not failing anything,” Phoenix admitted ruefully. “Last semester was quite embarrassing – definitely would not want a repeat.”

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“I can understand, but I’m glad you took the failure in stride and improved. That is the true mark of growth, dear,” Gerald gave him an approving nod. “I’m sure your mother told you about this, but I have an interesting travel opportunity and I thought you might like to join me?”

“She mentioned a bit. I’m all ears.”

“In a couple of weeks from now, there will be a media conference happening in Al Medina, Morocco and I thought, as someone interested in both media and foreign cultures, you would like to go with me? Room and board are paid for by the newspaper and we will have enough time to see some of the local sights while we’re there.”

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“Morocco? For real? That’s amazing! Of course I’d love to go,” Phoenix lit up at the idea. He always had a fondness for Eastern countries and the opportunity to see one of them in person? Well, it was a good opportunity.

“Wonderful! Now, I’m sure Irene wouldn’t want you spending your vacation time away from her, but it’s only for two weeks. And the conference is a really good experience for someone in your field of studies.”

“I agree, Uncle Gerald. And thank you for the invitation.”

“Consider it a reward for that academic 180 of yours,” Gerald chuckled. “Well, take care. Jeanne was planning on a restaurant outing for the whole family. Would you like to come?”

“Thanks, but I promised Mom and Dad and I’ll keep a watch over Felicity. Besides, the writing juices have been flowing well today.”

“Oh! Of course. Well, enjoy your writing and home stay, Phoenix. We’re going to be jet-set soon enough,” he understood.

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After his uncle left, Phoenix finished his article, but his mind was only half-there. Now, thoughts of Morocco and his upcoming trip preoccupied his head.

That night, long after everyone has gone to bed, he was still up, looking up information about the country and the city of Al Medina. It was an ancient city, with many historical spots still present and visible to the naked eye. Despite that, now there were plenty of hotspots and businesses that truly blended with modernity. The culture was still very traditional, which often caused clashes with this wildly changing world and its new ideals.

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Without a doubt, Phoenix knew he wanted to see this place. Finally, his dream of foreign travel was coming true!

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Gen 3 Ch 13: Love Troubles

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Following the events of the party and the nearly campus-wide poisoning, things significantly changed at the household. Just as Jeanine promised both herself and others, she made a conscious attempt to keep up a healthy work-life balance to prevent further hits to her immune system. That included spending more time outside, visiting student establishments and events, as well as participating in them, and spending more time with her friends.

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The rest of them were pretty happy because of the change. Jeanne, constantly busy in the lab, was glad to have her bestie available for chatting and hanging out, while Phoenix was just glad his girlfriend was back to her normal self.

While he still felt terribly guilty over his drunken infidelity, he ultimately decided that he couldn’t jeopardize everything by admitting the truth. Nikki was right – they were so very wasted that night and it wasn’t like there was any emotional significance to their one time hookup.

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No, he wasn’t going to tell. Especially not when things were going so well for them now. They were finally spending time together and in the bedroom? Well, things were very, very good in the bedroom.

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Aside from their newfound happiness, the other change in Phoenix’s life was his approach to college life.

He took the doctor’s advice to heart: no more alcohol and partying for him. Getting poisoned with low-quality booze and thinking he was roofied was enough of a wakeup call for him to change his lifestyle. To the extent of his knowledge, Nikki did the same, although he couldn’t really say – even though they were friends before, after what happened between them, things were awkward and they only really saw each other occasionally, between classes.

And the biggest change of all? This semester, he took his classes seriously. Now, the time he used to spend partying was filled with studying, studying, and more studying.

And it was paying off. He rather enjoyed seeing As and Bs on his homework and test results, as opposed to their previous counterparts.

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“You know, I’m really proud of you,” Millie told him one evening as they were studying together. Or rather, he studied and she is relaxed with an old hobby of drawing. “You’ve done a total 180 with your academic performance in less than a semester. Good job.”

“Thanks, Mils. I felt terrible after I saw my grades last finals week. I mean, Mom and Dad are paying for this school and I was pretty much throwing it all down the drain. And when you think about people who can’t even afford school…”

“I know what you mean. Well, once again, I’m proud.”

Of course, she suspected there was more to his abrupt change in behavior and lifestyle. The brother she grew up with had a tendency to do as he liked no matter the consequences, as his previous high school experience indicated.

Also, she had noticed that sometimes, when Jeanine wasn’t looking, he looked at the girl with such a guilty expression… but things were really good between the two of them, weren’t they?

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As her brother walked inside to grab some food, she called after him.

“Say, you and Jeanine have both been doing really well this semester. But when was the last time you two have had a proper date?”

“What do you mean?” he looked at her baffled. “We’re dating all the time.”

“No, no! I mean, a nice evening just for the two of you. No interruptions from schoolwork, none of us getting in your way…”

“Oh, sis! You don’t interrupt us!” he laughed, waving away her concerns.

“Oh, please. If Quiang showed up here, I’m not even joking, either I’d kick you all out or we’d go to the nearest motel and get busy,” she admitted. She really missed her husband and son, and the nightly phone calls just weren’t enough.

“Alright, TMI! But yeah, I get what you mean. But we’re good. Although, a date night does sound like a cool idea. I’ll ask her when we can have one.”


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Jeanine and Jeanne had plans for visiting an upcoming student art show, but at the very last moment, Jeanne had to cancel.

“Sorry, I know I agreed to go in advance, but I have an experiment at the lab that’s going to be completely wrecked if I don’t get there in the next half hour. Rain check?”

Jeanine chuckled. Jeanne was even more of a workaholic than her and Phoenix was going to be in class all day. She didn’t really feel like going alone, though. “It’s cool. I recall Eddie wanted to see the exhibit, too. Maybe he’d like a buddy?”

“Go for it,” Jeanne smiled, glad that her friend wasn’t going to miss out on her plan all due to bad timing on her part. “Maybe next time, I’ll plan ahead better.”

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When she called Eddie, he turned out to be more than happy to see the art show with her.

Meeting outside The Grotto, where many student art shows were held, they found common ground in the fact that none of their respective friends could come out with them. Again. This wasn’t the first time they end up as event buddies.

The first time was the skateboard show, where the more extreme-minded students showcased their insane board skills. The second time, they ended up at a poetry reading, after which the two decided that maybe, just maybe, these student poets needed to sharpen up their skills just a little more.

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Inside, the exhibit was fairly empty, and it didn’t take a genius to understand why.

“You know, I kind of expected more from my fellow students’ art work,” Jeanine admitted with disappointment. The few murals looked pretty uninspired and uninspiring.

“That’s what happens when artists need to preapprove all of their exhibits with the university. I tell you, these officials are the stuffiest bunch,” Eddie chuckled, also disappointed by the lack of quality.

Suddenly, he recalled something that might pique her interest. “Wait, follow me. Maybe we’re still lucky!”

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“Where are we going?” she followed, curious.

“To the rooftop!” he explained. “Just because the university wants all the artwork to be preapproved, doesn’t mean that it’s the only kind that gets made.”

Coming up to the top of the building, they found what they were looking for.

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“Watcher! It’s beautiful!” Jeanine exclaimed, absolutely charmed. And it was. The low walls of the area were covered in graffiti, and every single piece looked better than what they saw downstairs. “Why is it up here and not inside the exhibit?”

Eddie shrugged. “Like I said, the university officials aren’t fans of such expressive pieces.”

“That’s just stupid!” she exclaimed. “So much for encouraging talent. So, what happens when it rains?”

“Well, the artists cover their creations in waterproof sealant, but even then, if it rains continuously and too hard, stuff gets washed away,” he explained.

“But then, all this wonderful work goes, literally, down the drain,” she gasped. “It’s so unfair…”

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“Such is the way of life, I suppose,” he agreed. “But when that happens, the artists just create something new, sometimes worse, sometimes better, but always something. These walls are almost never bare.”

“It’s really so charming,” she agreed. “The art is constantly reborn, despite forces trying to destroy it.”

“And that’s why I love this place so much,” Eddie smiled. “Well, that and the view.”

“It really is beautiful up here,” she agreed, observing everything.

The golden trees, the setting sun, the people walking past that one could observe… it all contributed to giving this place a fairytale-like quality.

As she took in the beauty around them, from the corner of her eye, Jeanine caught Eddie looking at her, instead. Suddenly, she became very aware of the fact that they were up here all alone, in an atmosphere that could only be described as romantic. Trying to diffuse the situation, she tried to change the subject.

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“So, how are your guitar lessons? Any more people wanting to learn the instrument?”

“Oh, yes, plenty,” he replied, distracted. “Although, I think most of them just try to learn because they think it’ll make them seem cool, not because they actually want to learn the instrument. But, hey, I get paid, so I can’t complain. ”

“It’s life…” she bit her lip. No, she wasn’t imagining it. Their interactions did turn awkward in less than a minute.

“Yeah… life. It can be unfair, though. It’s all about chances. Chance events, chance meetings…” he mumbled. “And sometimes, they come too late.”

Catching her eye, he admitted. “You know, I wish I’d met you before you and Phoenix got together.”

“Eddie…” she frowned.

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“I’m sorry.” Before she could foresee what he was about to do next, he kissed her and even though her mind knew it was wrong, she found herself responding. For a heady minute, they remained lip-locked, before she pushed him away.

“No! Ok, stop! We can’t.”

“I’m sorry, I know I shouldn’t have,” he quickly apologized, looking away.

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“No, you shouldn’t have. I have to go, bye. And maybe, we shouldn’t see each other anymore.”

Watching her run downstairs, he slumped against the wall, angry. He just had to kiss her and ruin everything, didn’t he?

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Meanwhile, the moment she found herself downstairs, Jeanine felt the tears coming. She thought they were friends! And he just had to go and do this?

And he knew Phoenix, too, he knew she has a serious boyfriend!

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And now her emotions were in total disarray! What was she going to do when she got home and they asked how her day went?

She broke into a run to make herself forget the fact that the real reason she felt angry weren’t Eddie’s behavior and admission, but that it took all of her willpower to break up the kiss and walk away from him.

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When she arrived back at the house, the others were in the middle of dinner.

“Hey, how was the art exhibit?” Phoenix asked cheerfully, seeing her. “I’m sorry I couldn’t go with you. Next time?”

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“Yeah, next time. It was pretty alright, nothing special, though,” she quickly lied, hoping she wasn’t still blushing.

“Are you alright?” he asked with concern.

“Just a bit tired. I wanted to get home before it got too dark, so I ran.”

“Well, we can have dinner together. I haven’t had mine yet,” he offered.

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As they are ate Millie’s waffles together, he asked if she’d like to see a movie with him later this week. There’s a new romance playing at the cinema and her favorite actress was in it.

“That sounds, great,” she agreed. “Maybe we can bowl a bit before, too?”

“It’s a plan.”


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“Well, that went differently from what I imagined,” Jeanine admitted after their movie. They went bowling before, grabbing a quick dinner at a nearby cafe in time to catch the film. From the advertisement and trailer, the two of them assumed it to be a light-hearted chick flick, but the movie delivered in a much more serious way than either one expected.

“I know, right? He’s on his way to his actual wedding and he meets the woman he is destined to fall for? Talk about poor timing!” Phoenix exclaimed.

“Well, I suppose it’s better than if he’d met her after he said ‘I do’, isn’t it?” Jeanine mused.

“You’re right, it’s just… he’s supposed to get married by the end of the day, there are all those people coming to the wedding, he and his fiancée are so excited for the big day, and then it all just goes kaplunk because fate decided otherwise? I just don’t understand, why he couldn’t have met her before he was engaged. It would’ve been easier for both him and his love, as well as less unfair for the fiancée. Poor girl just happened to fall for the wrong guy.”

“Yeah, but then that wouldn’t make for a very interesting movie, would it?” Jeanine chuckled. “Some people got downright emotional. That lady behind us was weeping when they reunited at the bridge.”

“Maybe she could relate to a character? I wonder to which one?” Phoenix smiled, recalling the woman behind them.

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This was easy. The two of them hanging out, talking, discussing things. This past semester did drive quite a nail into their normal routine and come to think of it, they haven’t done things like that since high school. Millie was right to suggest he take Jeanine out on a date.

Despite truly enjoying the film, the entire time inside, Jeanine couldn’t shake the feeling that it wasn’t a coincidence that she was seeing it now. She did come in expecting a comedy, but the plot of the film hit just a little too close to home. The weeping lady behind them wasn’t the only one who found herself relating to a character.

“You want to go home? Or maybe we should stop by the diner to grab a proper dinner?” Phoenix’s question brought her out of her reverie.

“That sounds good. Perhaps we can take something to go and eat in?”

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That night, she woke up from a crazy dream. In it, she was the one driving a car towards a bridge, in a hurry to meet someone waiting for her there. Only, when she got there, it wasn’t Phoenix waiting for her, but another person.

“What am I going to do now?” she thought, biting her nails. “I love Phoenix, don’t I?”

Of course, loving someone and being in love with them wasn’t the same thing. But Phoenix is so caring and he’s been her friend since childhood. It felt so right when they got together before coming to the university…

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Phoenix was also having strange thoughts after the film. The main character’s cheating on his fiancée was understandable, but his guilt felt all too familiar.

“How in the world did I mistake Nikki for Jeanine that night? I get it that I was drunk, but seriously? They don’t even look alike!”

Maybe something in his subconscious wanted him to cheat? He remembered how Rashida’s clinginess was one of the reasons he found Morgan so attractive, to begin with. Even if he and Rashida didn’t go on break, he probably would’ve pursued the later, if he was to be honest with himself. Jeanine wa nothing like either one of them, but she was someone he could picture himself in a long-term relationship with and things were fairly serious between them. And despite loving her, he knew he still had concerns about marriage and big commitment. And there was Nikki, carefree, a party animal, and not too eager on serious dating herself.

He was pretty sure he wouldn’t have done anything with Nikki if he hadn’t been drunk. He wasn’t even interested in the girl that way. But maybe a part of him wanted whatever she represented?

After all, plenty of people get drunk without hooking up with anyone…

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An encounter the next day made him realize that he had to tell the truth. He was just finishing up his essay for one of his classes and polishing up an article for Uncle Gerald’s paper. The coffee shop was busy, but not overly so.

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In walked in the last person he ever wanted to see: Ashley. Lucky him, he hasn’t spotted her except for a rare peripheral glance this whole semester and that’s more than fine with him. Sure, she turned out not to be a date rapist after all, but she was still a royal bitch and every encounter with her ended poorly.

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Unfortunately, she spotted him almost immediately after coming in, breaking into the hugest grin ever and laughing at something, like she was just told a joke.

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Closing his laptop, he decided to just deal with whatever next bullshit was about to happen.

“Well, if it isn’t Mr. I’m So High and Mighty!” Ashley called him out. “Except, I guess, you’re really not, are you?”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” he asked, annoyed. “What do you want from me?”

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“Nothing, truly nothing. I just enjoy knowing I was right about something, that’s all,” she gloated.

A cold feeling came over him. When they confronted Ashley at the medical center…

“Think about it, genius. Two people, still in their party clothes, show up completely wasted and ask whether you’ve put a date rape drug into their drink. You’re too sick to process it, besides, of course you haven’t, why would they ask that? And then, when you feel better, you realize that the only reason they would need to ask that is if the two of them slept together and can’t remember it!” she laughed. “Oh, it’s too perfect, really!”

She looked at him like she has just won the lottery. “So much for you being such a wonderful boyfriend, huh? She still doesn’t know, does she? Since you two are still together.”

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“You’re going to tell her, aren’t you?” Phoenix asked, defeated. He and Nikki pretty much gave themselves away.

“Why would I do that?” Ashley chuckled. “I could’ve told her as soon as I realized what happened. But your darling and I are hardly friends, and she did leave the team in a lurch when she quit. So, whatever. Your soap opera of a relationship is your problem, not mine. Enjoy each other’s company.”

With that, she flounced of, humming something and Phoenix flew out of that coffee shop like he was on fire.

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Ashley was right to gloat! He behaved like a moron. He did cheat and pretend that nothing happened. And Jeanine really deserved to know the truth. Otherwise, the guilt would eat him right up, the way it’s been doing for the whole past semester.

If she forgave him, maybe they’ll be able to move on. If not? Well, he’ll just have to deal with that, then.

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Around the same time, Jeanne came home from her lab practice to what she thought was an empty house, only to hear quiet sobs coming from upstairs. Approaching her best friend’s room, she found Jeanine crumpled on the floor, crying.

“Hey, what’s going on? Did something happen?” she asked, taking in the scene.

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Jeanine shook her head. “Nothing.”

“Right, right, because people regularly cry over nothing,” Jeanne noded. Noticing that the light is on in their bathroom, she quickly walked in, to find the offending object in full view.

“You’re taking a pregnancy test? Is there a reason for it?” she called back into the room.

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“…..maybe? I’ve been feeling nauseated and really uncomfortable for the past couple of weeks,” her friend admitted. With a small voice, she asked her “Can you maybe take a look at the result and tell me? I’m scared to look myself.”

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“I see.” Taking a look at the little stick, Jeanne announced, “One line. Negative. You’re not pregnant.”

Hearing this, Jeanine visibly relaxed, the tension leavings her body. “Ok. Ok.”

“Of cause, sometimes stress makes people exhibit the same symptoms you’ve described,” Jeanne explained. “Do you want to talk about it?”

In reply, Jeanine broke down into tears.

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“Hey, now, hey. There’s no need to get so upset,” Jeanne joined her on the floor. “I’m here. Whatever it is, we can figure out.”

“But you’re his cousin!” Jeanine just started crying harder.

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“Did Phoenix do something dumb?” Jeanne frowned.

“That’s just the thing! He didn’t! He’s been great…” she wiped away a tear before explaining, “I just don’t think I can keep on dating him anymore.”

“Ah…” Jeanne smiled knowingly. “Does this have anything to do with Eddie?”

“How did you know?” Jeanine stared at her, shocked.

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“Honey, we practically grew up together. Remember when they use to call us The Jeannies?”

“Yeah… those were the good days,” Jeanine smiled through the tears. “Everything was so much easier.”

“It was. But it still doesn’t have to be so complicated. I knew something happened between the two of you when you were such good friends for a period of time and then stopped seeing each other entirely. First, I thought he did something bad towards you, so I asked Trev to snoop around a bit, but he didn’t find out anything of the sort about him. He did say that whenever he mentioned you, Eddie got kind of weird and quiet, though. And then, I noticed that one time, at the café, when we came in as he was leaving. You both turned red and looked away from one another…”

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Jeanine looked down embarrassed. “Yeah, that must’ve been a dead giveaway.”

“Do you have feelings for him?”

Jeanine quietly nodded. “I’m afraid so. I tried to stop thinking about him, but it’s not working too well.”

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“Then why are you still with Phoenix? You know, the next time you’re in this position, you might end up with a positive test.”

Jeanine sighed, shrugging. “I don’t want to hurt him and mess everything up. And I do care about him.”

This is exactly what Jeanne was afraid of when her bestie and cousin got together. She had a suspicion that their feelings won’t last. Of course, she was expecting Phoenix to move on first, breaking Jeanine’s heart in the process. Of course, it went quite the other way. Still…

“So, you’re just going to stay with him, even though it’s messing you up? Don’t you think you both deserve better?”

Jeanine didn’t know how to respond to this, but she didn’t have to – at that moment, the door opened and Phoenix himself came in.

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“Hey…”

“Phoenix? What are you doing here?” Jeanne gasped in surprise, but he chuckled sadly.

“Well, it is my room. I’ve been home for a few minutes now.” He paused, biting his lip and after a sad glance at Jeanine, asked. “Jeanne, can you give the two of us a moment? We really need to talk.”

“Alright,” Jeanne got up, unconvinced. “I’m right here, in case you two need me. Just next door.”

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As he sat down next to her, Jeanine wondered how much of the conversation he managed to hear.

“So…”

“So…”

“How long have you felt way?” Phoenix finally asked.

“You did hear everything, then?” she sighed. “Oh, Phoenix, I’m so, so sorry. I didn’t mean to.”

“Hey, none of us ever do. That’s life,” he shrugged. “Look, there’s something I need to admit and you won’t be happy when you hear it. Most likely, you’ll be angry.”

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He took a deep breath, letting the words out. “That night, at The Foundry, when I was so wasted, I hooked up with Nikki. She was really drunk too, so she isn’t too blame here. I wasn’t thinking straight and I didn’t mean to, but it happened. I’m sorry.”

“Oh…and you’ve been keeping it from me this whole semester?” Jeanine asked, both shocked and understanding. He did act really strange after that night, come to think of it. A different person would have been suspicious in her shoes, but she didn’t think about it at all.

“Yes. Once again, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to do it. I wouldn’t have done it if I’d been sober,” he affirmed.

“I know. Well, you did stop drinking after that and you’re doing great in your classes now, so that’s nice. Something good came of it,” she ventured. “I’m not angry at you.”

And this was how she knew it was over between them.

After all, she should have been angry at his infidelity, furious even. Instead, she just felt relief.

He knew it too. And it probably should have hurt more, but at the moment, not holding on to that secret was a relief in itself.

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“So this is it for us, isn’t it?” he asked.

Jeanine nodded, adding, “We should probably thank Jeanne for not saying ‘I told you so’ right now.”

“I guess we should. And Jeanine? Can we maybe try to stay friends?” Because I really do care about you,” he asked, caressing her face.

“Oh, Phoenix, you’ve been my friend for so much longer than you’ve been my boyfriend! If you think this is going to make me forget all about our friendship, you are sorely mistaken. And I do love you too, so very much. But probably not the way a girlfriend should,” she added sadly

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“Hey, everything ok in there?” they heard Jeanne call from outside the room.

“We’re good!” Jeanine responded. “We’re not fighting. All is well.”

“But you just broke up,” she peaked in, concerned.

“Yes. But all things considered, it’s probably for the best,” Phoenix admitted.

“Well…” his cousin looked genuinely surprised, but impressed at their mature behavior. “That’s good. You two want to come downstairs now? I’ll make you some coffee and French toast. I think we could all use something nice and sweet.”


That evening, Jeanne joined him on the couch, as he was reviewing for his next test.

“You know, I should be pissed at you about the cheating, but I’m just impressed at how understanding you’ve been with everything,” she admitted. “Are you really ok with all of this?”

“I think so,” he admitted. He wasn’t happy that their relationship ended, but he was glad that they could be honest with one another. And ultimately, he really didn’t want to be with Jeanine if she had feelings for another and only forced herself to be with him – he wanted her to really be happy.

After the last few months, he wasn’t too sure he could be the person to make that happen.

“You’ll meet your special person, Phoenix. I promise you, it’ll happen,” Jeanne smiled.

Neither of them mentioned the fact that Jeanine left the house immediately after finishing her toast and hasn’t returned yet, although Phoenix had a strange realization: the knowledge that she was most likely with Eddie bothered him less than it should have.


Jeanine wasn’t sure what she hoped to accomplish when she set out of the house. She just knew that she needed some air, and when it started raining, a reasonable person should have headed home. Instead, she kept on walking further into the campus.

Her heart skipped a beat when she saw Eddie out on the quad, already drenched, looking lost as he tried to rescue some notebook from the water.

“Eddie!” she called out to him. “Wait!”

Running towards him, before he can ignore her like she had previously asked him to, she yelled, “Are you insane? Out here, so under-dressed in this downpour?”

“So are you,” he responded, pointing to her light shirt and jeans. “I thought we were supposed to ignore each other?”

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“We broke up. Just now,” she admitted. “I care about Phoenix very deeply, but I’m not in love with him.”

“Oh? Why?”

“Because of you. Because I’m in love with you,” she started crying again. “Although, it’s probably too late. I understand if you’ve moved on.”

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“You are? You’re really in love with me?” a smile broke out on his face. “You know, I should probably say I’m sorry you broke up. But that would be a lie.”

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Pulling her into another heady kiss, he steals her breath away. Breaking apart, he wipes her tears away.

“If you think I move on this quickly, you are in for a surprise. There’s no way I’m letting you slip away again.”

“For real?” she smiled.

“Oh yes! Will you be my girlfriend?”

“Absolutely.”

Gen 3 Ch 12: After a Party

I know my last update for this story was over a year ago, but what can I say? I’m bad at being steady at something and writing is one of those things. With that said…

Note: TW: Roofie and TW: Poisoning


Head still pounding, after drinking three more coconut waters, Phoenix headed out in the direction of the nightclub. He needed to figure out what happened the night before. And more importantly – who he cheated on Jeanine with. Because that was what he did, no matter how much he hated to admit it.

On the way there, he tried desperately to recall what happened in more detail. He was dancing with the rest of the students, beginning to get tired. He headed in the direction of the bar and Nikki, nearby, asked if he could grab her something to drink while he was there. He said yes, after which he heard the commotion between Jeanine and Ashley.

He remembered approaching Ashley and yelling at her. And her disgusting behavior – yeah, he remembered that too well, ugh.

Ok, next, what did he do next? He remembered grabbing one of the drinks Trev ordered, and he knew he drank it. After that, his memory was mostly hazy. His best guess was that he had a few more drinks after the first one.

His head was beginning to pound more, overloaded with his attempts to pull up a clear timeline of the previous night.

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Yikes. This was the first time he has ever felt this hungover. If that was normal for people, Phoenix thought he understood why many chose not to drink at all. Luckily, he wasn’t prone to hangovers.

The throbbing in his temples reminded him otherwise.

“Ahh…” he tried to make it go away, unsuccessfully. How much did he drink? He could empty the drink supply at almost any party with minimal help and not feel like this and he always remembered what he did while under the influence. So what happened this time?

He needed to get something to help this headache. The grocery store carried some seltzer water, so that became his immediate destination.

Barely coherent, he made his way through the few aisles to the one with his desired item, grabbing several bottles and trudging towards the exit. The lady at the checkout gave him a knowing look when he barely managed to slide his card through the reader, all the while muttering “another one, eh? Must’ve been quite a rager last night…” He opted not to respond and instead consumed the seltzer water as soon as he was checked out.

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He needed a place to crash. Yeah… that bench outside the market was nice and comfy… and occupied.

“Hey, watch it!” a familiar but grumpy and groggy voice complained when he almost sat on her.

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“Nikki? Hey, what’s up?” She was still in her dress from the party and it looked like she spent the night sleeping here? “Why are you sleeping on a bench? Did you stay here all night?”

“Quiet, please…” she grimaced, rubbing her own head. From the looks of it, Nikki was feeling pretty similar to him. He could sympathize.

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“Seltzer water?” he offered her one of his and she drank like her life depended on it.

“Damn,” the girl muttered, “it feels like there’s a train running on broken rails inside of my head.”

“Same,” he leaned back. “So, how come you’re here? You don’t live here.”

“No. I think told the cabbie to stop here,” she glanced around. “I don’t remember why, though… oh, that’s why.” She noticed an open candy pack she was partially sitting on. “I guess it was after we dropped you off.”

“You dropped me off?!” he almost yelled, making them both wince.

“Yeah, we left the club together, I remember that much…” she frowned. “Not much more than that, though. Wait, why don’t I remember things? I always remember things.”

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“Join the club,” he muttered. “I don’t even remember who I fucked last night…”

He felt her stare on him. “What?”

“You don’t remember? You honestly don’t remember?” she was shocked, to say the least.

“What do you mean?” he frowned, not understanding.

“You really don’t remember me talking to you? And you flirting with me like the house was on fire? Phoenix, please tell me you remember being in the bathroom with me. Because I know I drank a lot last night, but I remember that part,” she was still looking at him, expecting something.

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“Wait…”

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Nikki, it was Nikki! He hooked up with Nikki, now he knew. Hazily, the events of the previous night began to materialize in his head. Yeah, he remembered what he and Nikki did in the bathroom. If he wasn’t so hungover, he would’ve been embarrassed. He still felt terrible about cheating on Jeanine, but at least…

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“I’m so glad it was you and not Ashley.”

“Umm, ok? I guess? How can you not remember anything, though? When did you manage to drink that much?” she asked.

“I don’t know,” he admitted. “I know I had those drinks at the bar.”

“The ones Trev ordered, right? They were pretty delicious,” she smiled.

“You tried some?”

“One more for the road,” she smiled and immediately frowned. “Wait. If you only had those cocktails and can’t remember anything afterwards and we…” she clasped a hand over her mouth. “Phoenix, did anyone really watch those after your friends ordered them?”

“I’m not sure. I know Trev went to DJ, and then Jeanine and Jeanne were in that yelling match with Ashley, and I was mostly on the dance floor.”

“So, no one was watching them,” she nodded. “Well, at least we hooked up with each other and we know for sure we used protection. You do realize we drank something we shouldn’t have, right?”

Slowly, he nodded. It made sense. While he and Nikki hung out a lot, there was never even a slight flirtation between them, even when they were super intoxicated. And for them to have an encounter in a club’s bathroom – it was not like them at all.

“Wait, so I came on to you?” he asked.

“Bro!” she chuckled. “You went all out with it. I recall approaching you to ask if I could hitch a ride with you to the beach over the break, since I’ve heard your friends talking about it earlier. But you had other ideas. Sorry,” she sobered up. “I, um, should’ve realized something was wrong for you to be propositioning me, but I was pretty intoxicated myself, by that time. I usually don’t hook up with people who have girlfriends.”

“I should be the one sorry,” he shrugged.

“You were drugged, man,” she shook her head. “I was too, by whatever was in that cocktail. Because I remember what happened before I had it, but afterwards, everything is foggy. I wonder who messed with them.”

“Could’ve been anyone,” Phoenix supposed. “There were those guys playing darts, the bartender herself, that chick who wasn’t happy with her fries, Ashley, even that DJ who could’ve been angry at Trev…”

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“Wait, which Ashley are you talking about?” she asked. “I know at least three just in my department.”

“Ashley Corono, the royal bitch,” Phoenix explained. “She’s been making Jeanine’s life hell for the past semester and I guess, things have finally boiled over. They had some a yelling match, then I yelled at her some more. She’s a creep, I tell you.”

“Yes, she is Phoenix,” Nikki was now looking at him with alarm in her eyes. “Are you telling me Ashley has some sort of a rivalry with your girlfriend?”

He nodded.

“Did she ever make a move on you?” she asked.

“Uh, yeah, why? She’s weird. But how did you know?”

“Phoenix…” Nikki sighed deeply. “Ok, it must’ve been her. She must’ve drugged those drinks. I don’t even have a shred of doubt. I’m guessing, you were her target.”

“Why are you so certain about this?” He had little love for Ashley, but to think that she would purposely drug someone?

“You’re not the only person she’s done this with,” Nikki explained. “I have a friend in the art department. His ex-girlfriend was on the athletics student council and if I remember correctly, she and Ashley weren’t getting along. And then, one day, this guy just wakes up in Ashley’s bed. She’s acting like they spent a great night together, so he just goes with it. I mean, this guy, he had a girlfriend, but he’s one of those guys who usually don’t have much luck with girls and he was all like ‘hey, I scored with a hottie!’ Except, as time passes he really can’t remember any of it. Eventually, he figured out what happened, but you know how guys are, you guys usually don’t talk about these things. But he did talk to someone who knew someone else that a similar thing happened to – I don’t know many details, but it seems like Ms. Corono has a thing for boys who are with the girls she hates.”

“So, you’re telling me, this girl has a pattern of drugging and sleeping with the men on this campus and no one does anything?” Phoenix was incredulous. “How come?”

“Like I said, men are less likely to report this kind of thing. Many don’t even realize something wrong happened, at least not until a lot of time passes. And if they do report it, what’s the school going to do?” she shrugged with annoyance. “You know, her dad is one of this university’s biggest donors, right?”

“Really?” This was news to Phoenix.

“Yeah. So, really, I have a feeling this school is more than happy to look the other way on Ashley’s indiscretions,” Nikki finished.

“That’s messed up. And really, not even legal,” his drug-induced hangover was coming to an end, leaving him feeling highly annoyed. “I wish there was some sort of evidence we could find against her that was so solid they couldn’t ignore it any more. Wait! Come on!”

“Where to?”

“The student health center. They can test us for whatever’s in our bloodstream,” he explained.

She seemed hesitant, but after understanding his line of logic, she agreed to come along.


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Entering the student health center, they were met with the sight of more than a dozen students slumped in their chairs or on the floor, looking like death warmed over. A couple of guys were slowly breathing in and out while staring at the floor. A group of girls were altogether half-passed out.

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“We got two more!” Phoenix heard a nurse yell out to someone further in the building.

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“What’s going on here?” Nikki asked in confusion. “Wait, is that Ashley over there? Oh shit, she looks even worse than the rest of them.”

Before they could approach her, the nurse intercepted them.

“Headache? Nausea? Can barely remember the previous night? Aching all over?”

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“Yes, how did you know?” Nikki asked.

The nurse sighs deeply. “Look around. All of them came in with the same symptoms. Were you drinking at The Foundry?”

Silently they nod.

“Well, take a seat, someone will be right with you in a bit. But in case you’re curious, whatever you had at that fine establishment contained fake alcohol. And now you’re all experiencing the aftereffects.”

“Wait, so we weren’t roofied?” Phoenix asked, incredulously.

“Maybe? For all I know, they added that into whatever you’ve been drinking, too. We can test you for that, sure. But it is far more likely you’re just really poisoned right now. These cheap alcohol-makers aren’t too discerning about what they’ve been mixing into their crap.”

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As she left to get the doctor, the two of them approached Ashley, trying to get to the bottom of everything.

“Hey! Ashley,” Phoenix called. “Did you do something to our drinks?”

Barely raising her head, the blonde squinted at him. “Are you for real? Are you saying I’m responsible for mass-poisoning everyone here? And then myself as well, for good measure? Fuck off!”

She slumps on the student hospital’s couch again, which makes Nikki shake her head.

“I don’t think she did it, Phoenix? But then, what about Bob? He said she…”

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Before Nikki can finish, Ashley raises her head again. “Are you talking about Bob Parker? Yeah, FYI, that loser’s ‘nice guy’ act managed to let him weasel into the pants of multiple women on this campus alone, without that idiot girlfriend of his noticing anything. And when she finally caught him in my bed, he lied his teeth off to make himself look all nice and innocent. Of course, believe whatever you want. But if you think I need to roofie a guy to get him into bed with me, then you really aren’t worth my time. Now please move away from me. I’m ill enough already. Stupid bitch got me a second time, can you believe it?”

“Wait, who?” Phoenix asked.

“That bartender who served us last night,” Ashley sighed. “I didn’t realize it was her back then, but I know it was her. She used to work at a bar in the downtown area and a couple of friends and I got pretty ill after visiting them some time ago. Last I’ve heard, the bar got closed down because of a similar thing.” She waved at the other students. “Cheap fake alcohol. Now please, go away.”

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Speechless, they were ushered into the doctor’s office after Ashley finished her speech, where they were further warned to stay away from alcohol for the time being, given the appropriate medication, and advised to drink lots of liquids until their symptoms passed.

Leaving the hospital, they were quiet. Both he and Nikki still felt awful after the events of last night, as did most of their fellow club-goers, but these two also had another thing on their mind.

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“So…” Nikki finally muttered. “She didn’t roofie us.”

“No.” Which meant that he had much less of an excuse for his cheating.

“We were still affected, though,” she reminded him. “Damn, alcohol poisoning? That’s even worse.”

“Yeah, maybe.” He wasn’t that convinced. What was he supposed to say to Jeanine?


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Meanwhile, Jeanine stopped by a coffee shop after her trip to the store. Even though she thought a good night of sleep would make her feel better, she still felt terrible. She had colds before as a child, but this was one of the worst.

At least, the shop had some ginger tea, which always seemed to help.

A text ring caught her attention. It was a message from Eddie.

“Hey, what’s up? Is everything alright?”

She smiled. It was almost like this guy had a psychic ability. She typed out her reply.

“Yeah, I’m fine, just a little sick. I had to go home early last night because of that.”

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New message. “I wondered if something was wrong. Please take care of yourself. I’ll stop by in a while and bring some chicken soup, if that’s ok with you.”

This made her smile grow even bigger. “Mmm, chicken soup. Haven’t had one in a while. Mom always cooked it for us when we got sick.”

New message. “That settles it. I’m bringing it over. See you!”

Still smiling, Jeanine left the shop and headed home in a much better mood.

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Just as he promised, in a few hours, Eddie really showed up with a bowl of freshly cooked soup.

“Hey, I had to wait for my roommates to finish using the kitchen. I hope I got it right. My soup-making skills are a bit rusty.”

“Are you kidding? It’s delicious! You should go into culinary arts,” she complimented as she practically inhaled the wonderful hot broth.

“Thank you, the compliment is fondly accepted. So, how has your day been? Mine was kind of weird,” Eddie mentioned. “A bunch of my classmates were walking around holding on to their heads and clutching their stomachs.”

“I saw a few, too,” she nodded. A couple of girls came into the coffee shop while she was there, ordered a coffee, and couldn’t even finish it because they were feeling ill. If she remembered right, she also saw them at The Foundry, dancing on the floor. She wondered if they overpartied.

“Yeah, wild,” Eddie agreed. “I’m glad I didn’t drink anything.”

“Yeah, me too. A hangover and a cold seem like a bad mix.”

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“Hey, are you two having chicken soup? It smells yummy,” Millicent joined them, coming back from the lab. “Can I have some?”

Eddie waved for her to join them. “Please, do.”

“Thanks. Have you guys seen Phoenix? He looked awful this morning. I hope he wasn’t one of the victims.”

“Victims?” Jeanine looked at her, shocked.

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“Yeah, turns out a bunch of people got alcohol poisoning last night at The Foundry. Cheap alcohol. It’s scary. Did you know they put all sorts of unsafe chemicals into that stuff? Quiang’s department worked on a case about it recently.”

“That would explain a lot,” Eddie mused.

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“Evening,” Phoenix finally stumbled into the house looking.

“Phoenix! How are you?” Jeanine immediately asked.

“Sick. There’s been an-”

“Outbreak, we know. Oh no, they got you?” Jeanine frowned.

“Yeah, me, Nikki, Ashley, a bunch of others,” he was glad so many people were concerned about the outbreak because he could look as upset as he wanted without giving away the real reason. “It’s cool, the doctor told us what to do.”

“Have some soup, please,” Eddie invited him. “It’ll make you feel better.”

“Well, it is a source of hydration,” Phoenix nodded. “Thank you.”

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While he and Millie ate, Jeanine and Eddie caught the last part of a news report about the recent events on campus and in the city.

“Wow, it’s a good time to be staying sober,” she realized. “And I should probably thank this cold – I wouldn’t have left early otherwise!”

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“And perhaps it can ease you into taking things easy. You really left the soccer team?” Eddie asked. “I bet Ashley and the others aren’t gonna have it easy now. Especially since she and several others are now sick too.”

Jeanine smiled. “Not really my problem anymore, is it? She made her bed.”

He laughed at that. “Indeed! Well, if you need any help filling your time with things not-related to sport, let me know. There are a lot of things happening on campus that aren’t too well advertised.”

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“That would be cool, yeah!” she agreed. “I’d like to check out more things here.”

“Deal.”