Legal Disclaimer: El Goonish Shive and all relevant characteristics are owned and copyrighted by Dan Shive.
Chapter One: A Case of the Mondays
"Welcome back from Spring Break, class! I hope you've all enjoyed your time off, because you won't find much more til' summer!"
He'd said it like it was a joke, really. Like it was supposed to be funny.
Ellen Dunkel wasn't laughing.
"So, let's get right back to it!" the teacher said, like it was the most exciting thing in the world to him. "Now that we've finished our study of reptiles in the fall and crustaceans over the winter, for spring we're moving on to some much closer relatives: Mammals!"
"Oh joy," Ellen murmured to herself, yawning.
"Aww, c'mon Ellen, this is where the really cool stuff starts!" the girl beside her said, and Ellen was astounded to hear that the excitement in her voice rivaled that of the teacher's.
"I don't think I've ever seen anyone this excited about school," Ellen said. "And that includes my second-life self on her first day. I'm telling you, Grace, it's unnatural."
Grace Scuridae tilted her head curiously and gazed back at her. "What's so weird about enjoying biology class?"
"It's boring," Ellen insisted. "Sitting here and listening to some overexcited teacher yammering about a bunch of animals? I'd rather drive a drill bit through my skull."
"Well I'M interested," Grace said matter-of-factly. "I'd just love to get a better understanding of all my animal forms, y'know? I wanna learn everything there is to know about them!"
"Ah. Of course. The scientist angle. I forgot you were Tedd's brain twin."
Grace giggled and Ellen half-smirked before returning to her lazy, half-asleep daze. Just another day at Moperville South, she thought to herself.
It really was just another day. Things had been awfully quiet since Grace's birthday party. Save for Sarah's evil twin incident a couple of weeks ago, nothing terribly exciting had happened; no crazy inter-dimensional goo monsters loosed by Tedd, no raging flame demons or their freakish minions…not even so much as a demonic duck sighting. And on one level Ellen was grateful; it gave her the chance to really ease her way back into school after effectively missing a few weeks due to splitting from Elliot, and to get comfortable with her newfound relationship with Nanase as well. But on another level…
…Well. To put it simply, she was bored. Not with anyone or anything in particular, and not all the time, but she'd gotten so used to all the crazy goings-on among her circle of friends that normal days seemed quite boring by comparison. Sarah's evil clone trouble was kind of a breath of fresh air, and heck, she almost wished something like it would happen again, just to make things interesting.
Then again, it was Monday. She always felt exceptionally bored on Mondays. Especially after a nice, relaxing, and enjoyable holiday like Spring Break. She'd loved it.
Grace, on the other hand, had simply hated Spring Break. She'd been so excited to finally be going to school that when she was told she had to stay home for a week, she thought it was some cruel joke. If there was one thing that Grace loved more than anything (besides Tedd, of course), it was learning. Telling her she had to stop learning for a week was like telling her she couldn't cuddle with Tedd. It was a horrid thought, and it made her absolutely dread the thought of summer vacation. She vowed, therefore, to learn as much as possible before then to make up for it. And what a subject to come back to! Mammals! Finally, she could learn all about all the animals whose DNA swam through her body and those of her brothers. It was already fascinating to her, and they hadn't even begun yet!
One compelling hour of studying the dietary habits of small mammals later, Grace walked out of the classroom, hugging her notebook to her chest happily, while Ellen lagged lethargically behind her.
"I'm gonna just love this unit!" Grace exclaimed as they began the walk to their next class.
"You love everything about school," Ellen pointed out. "Even math. Ugh, math…"
"Yeah, but I bet I'm really gonna love this! It's gonna be so fun to study all the animals I can turn into!"
"…You're a nerd. Cute, but a nerd."
"You know that's not usually meant as a compliment, right?"
"But Tedd says nerds are sexy."
Ellen snickered. "He would say that…" She looked up at Grace. "How is Tedd, by the way? You two still going strong?"
Almost immediately Grace felt a glow warm her cheeks and spread through her whole body as she thought of Tedd. Not for the first time she lamented on just how extraordinarily lucky she'd been to stumble upon him. If she hadn't seen that article about him and his goo project in the paper that one day, who knew where her life would have taken her…?
Not to the wonderful place it was now, that was for sure. She no longer had anything to fear from Damien, she'd helped free her brothers from his influence, and had even regained a family among them and her grandpa; she had a real home, she had so many wonderful friends…and of course, she had Tedd…probably the best thing of all to happen to her. Not once, in her entire life, had anyone ever treated her more kindly than Tedd did. He always knew how to make her feel special. She adored absolutely everything about him, from his goofy glasses to his crazy transformation fetishes, and she couldn't imagine a more perfect way to spend the day than simply cuddled under a blanket with him holding her…
"Earth to Grace? Helloooo? Come in, Grace!"
"H-huh?" she stammered, glancing over at Ellen, who was staring curiously at her. "Oh! S-sorry, heh…got lost in thought for a minute. Um, what were you saying?"
"I was asking how things are with you and Tedd, is all," Ellen repeated.
"Oh!" she giggled quietly, glowing. "They're great as always. Tedd's a real sweetheart…he always does the most thoughtful things for me…and he's so adorable…"
"So I hear," Ellen said. She slowly smirked. "So, uh…have you two…y'know…?"
"Hm? Have we what?"
"Y'know….slept together?" Ellen gestured.
"Of course, we sleep together all the time. You know that."
"No, no, not literally sleep…I mean…" Ellen grumbled. "You need to get a grasp of slang, girl."
Grace just looked confusedly back at her, not understanding.
Ellen gave an exaggerated sigh. "I meant, have you guys…y'know, been…intimate?"
Grace got it this time, her face exploding into a blush. "O-oh! You mean…oh…"
Ellen nudged her. "C'mon, Grace, you can tell the girls…"
"…But there's only one of you."
"Never mind that. C'mon, spill. It's not like it's dirty or anything."
Grace fought hard against her blush, but she wasn't succeeding very well. "No, we…we haven't ever gone that far."
"Really? Never?" Ellen echoed.
"Nuh-uh. I guess I…haven't really thought about it."
"Tedd never asked?"
Her blush deepened at that concept. "No! Never!"
Ellen shook her head. "Nothing. Just not what I was expecting."
"…What were you expecting?" Grace said, almost afraid to ask.
Ellen smirked again. "That you've been going at it like rabbits."
Grace now resembled a tomato. "Eww, Ellen!"
Ellen laughed out loud. "I'm just saying! Tedd's kind of a pervert like that, and you guys are certainly smitten with each other--"
"Ew-ew-ew-ew, stoooop!" Grace said, covering her eyes. "I don't wanna think about Tedd that way yet!"
Ellen wiggled her eyebrows. "Yet?"
Ellen clapped a hand over her shoulder, still chuckling. "Alright, alright, you win, I'll shut up…c'mon, we might have time to grab a snack or something before our next class starts…"
Grace had stopped listening, however. Despite her insistence that Ellen stop her interrogation, for some reason the questions stuck in her mind. She'd never really talked with Tedd about sex, except for that one time at her party, and that wasn't really the same thing, she admitted to herself. It wasn't to say the idea never crossed her mind, but it was always a distant thought at best, and as far as she knew Tedd was the same way. They both always seemed perfectly happy with the way things already were. They were happy with tender kisses and warm cuddling and endless hours of just enjoying each other's company. There was no need to complicate things.
…So why was she still thinking about what Ellen had said?
"Hey, watch out!"
"H-huh--Eeep!" Grace squeaked and gasped as she opened her eyes just in time to see herself run head-on into another student and stumble backward, off-balance.
"Whoa!" a male voice rumbled, and a second later, strong hands shot out and caught her before she could fall. "You alright?"
Grace looked up at the voice's owner, and she was surprised to find herself staring up into blonde hair and an incredibly handsome set of facial features offset by an earring through one ear. "…Justin?"
"Might wanna watch where you're going next time," Justin Tolkiberry said with a friendly smile, hoisting her back to her feet. "You didn't twist anything there, did you?"
"N-no, I'm fine," Grace said, feeling oddly embarrassed, and something else she couldn't quite put her finger on. "Sorry about that, I was just…thinking."
"It's fine, really. No harm done," he assured her.
"Hey Justin, seen Nanase around?" Ellen questioned.
"She just slipped into the bathroom," Justin pointed a few feet behind him.
"Mm…is that so…" Ellen said with a bit of a smile. "Now that you mention it I better make a stop myself…" She smiled wider and casually strolled past Justin and into the bathroom herself.
Justin chuckled, turning to Grace. "I think she almost enjoys sneaking around with Nanase," he commented.
Grace simply smiled awkwardly and nodded, her legs strangely frozen for some reason.
"…Grace? You sure you're okay?"
"H-huh? Oh! Fine, really!" Grace insisted quickly.
Justin raised an eyebrow at her, but he didn't have time to question her further before the five-minute bell rang, and his eyes widened. "Dah, I'm gonna be late! I gotta run, see you later Grace!"
He hurried off, leaving a dazed and confused Grace standing rooted to the spot. What…what WAS that…? she asked herself. She was still standing there two minutes later when Ellen returned from the bathroom, the fiery-red-headed figure of Nanase Kitsune trailing casually behind her.
"Hey, Grace, you didn't have to wait for us," Ellen said.
She jumped. "Huh?"
"Girl, that's like the third time in five minutes you've completely spaced out. What's with you this time?"
Grace shook her head sharply, trying to clear it. "It was the weirdest thing…"
"Weirder than anything Tedd cooks up? I doubt it," Nanase chimed in with a smirk.
"…I think for a second there I was…attracted to Justin," Grace murmured, surprising herself.
Nanase raised an eyebrow, giving Grace an odd look, but Ellen just laughed it off. "Well, Justin's an attractive guy. I'd certainly call him cute--…what?" she trailed off as Nanase gave her an evil eye.
"No, I mean…not just like thinking someone is cute," Grace said. "I mean…I actually felt attracted to him."
"Ehh, I'm sure anyone with an interest in men has been attracted to Justin at one point or another. It's like a…magnetic aura around gay guys," Nanase added with a chuckle.
"It still felt weird."
Still Ellen waved it off. "Don't worry about it. It'll pass. Now hurry up, we're gonna be late!"
Grace didn't say anything more, shaking her head again vigorously as she walked onward with Ellen. Great, she thought to herself, now I have two problems…first Ellen's dumb sex questions, now this…
Why had she felt that attraction to Justin of all people? It was definitely an uncomfortable thing to be feeling. No one but Tedd had ever made her feel that way before…why on earth would she suddenly feel it from Justin too…? It didn't make sense. At all.
She shook her head once more and pushed it from her mind, hoping it would pass as Ellen claimed.
Unfortunately for her, Ellen would only be half-right.
Comments and critiques welcomed and appreciated, as always.