“Blaine, can you rein it in a little? I’m trying to get Phil to cool my beer.” Victor’s shout echoed through the nearby trees, startling countless woodland creatures and ruining the peaceful mood that just been settling in on the river’s surface.
With a restrained sigh, Blaine Jefferies pulled in his neutralization field until it was only a few inches around him in any given direction. A tube over, Phil reached into Victor’s floating Styrofoam cooler for a few seconds. When Victor produced a fresh can of beer, it was so cold he had to juggle it from hand to hand until the temperature rose.
“Sorry, still learning how to be exact with that,” Phil apologized. His words were wasted as Victor tore the top off his can and began guzzling down the nearly frozen beverage.
“I think no lasting harm was done,” Gerard commented from Blaine’s others side. “Except, perhaps, to Victor’s throat and stomach. So, overall, nothing of value would be lost.”
“Maybe we should find that healer kid, just in case,” Blaine suggested. The freshman class was still rather large, even so far along in the year, and the shy young man with healing powers hadn’t gone out of his way to make sure anyone remembered his name.
“It might take a while. He's pretty far ahead of us, leading the way with the other non-drinkers.” Joshua Taylor paddled slightly forward, staying near to Phil and Victor’s tubes. “Said it was against his beliefs to spend days in a drunken stupor.”
“Hell, that’s about the only thing I have faith in,” Victor said, finally pulling himself away from the still half-frozen can. Part of his bottom lip stayed stuck, and as he yanked it free a small red smear of blood was visible on the can.
“Victor, for the love of…” Blaine merely shook his head in exasperation as the broad man mustered up his best dopey, you-guys-have-to-love-me, smile. “Did anyone bring bandages?”
“I’ve got a better idea.” Joshua leaned forward, balancing on the edge of his tube like only he and lifelong gymnasts could do with such ease. “Phil, you were wanting to give it a shot.”
“Hang on, that was just theoretical,” Phil protested, quickly throwing up his hand. “I’d like to try it one day. Under teacher supervision.”
“Come on, it’s a small cut on his lip. You studied the books, I walked you through how it works for me, you’re ready. And even if you screw up, what’s the worst you could do?” Joshua said, egging him on.
“Someone want to explain this to me?” A few flecks of blood flew through the air and Victor talked, his slowly seeping wound coating his lips in the red liquid.
Phil lowered his hands slowly and turned so he could look Victor in the eye. “Joshua suggested a while back that I might be able to use my power for healing. I wouldn’t be nearly as good as a real healing Super, but for stuff like this I should be able to help your body along. By all accounts, it should work. That said, I’ve not comfortable trying it on you unless this is something you really want.”
“Hmmm.” Victor picked his beer back up, carefully checking to ensure it was warm enough that flesh wouldn’t stick, then tried to take a sip. He winced and pulled the can away immediately. “Shit, this is going to make drinking a pain in the ass. Yup, go ahead and fix me.”
“You’re sure?” Phil pressed.
“I didn’t come on this trip to sit in the sun sober. Do it to it, this beer isn’t going to drink itself.” Victor set his can back down and closed his eyes so hard that his forehead furrowed.
Moving slowly, Phil raised his hands toward Victor’s face. By this point they’d seen him fight often enough that they all knew Phil didn’t actually need to get that close, but it seemed to help him focus. Some squirreled this fact away as an oddity; others noted it as a weakness. Phil stared at the bleeding wound, concentrating on it to the exclusion of all else. He barely even seemed to be blinking.
At first, it didn’t seem to be working. Then, a drop at a time, the blood stopped swelling. Fresh skin grew in place of the section that had been taken by the frosty beer can, covering the wound until it was impossible to tell where in initial injury had even occurred. With a long breath of relief Phil leaned back into his tube and plucked a beer of his own from the cooler.
“Victor, you should be good.”
The large man’s eyes snapped open and the can immediately went to his mouth, where the sound of hurried guzzles gushed from his healed lips. Finally Victor pulled away the now empty drink and set in his cooler with the other empties.
“Feels great. Can’t even tell I got hurt in the first place,” Victor announced cheerfully.
“Looks like the class star just added another tactic to his bag of tricks.” Joshua patted Phil on the shoulder as he spoke, physical contact making the words seem less sarcastic.
“Hurray, I can heal minor cuts on my opponents. Truly, now I have become unstoppable.” Phil had been hoping to keep the fact that his field of control didn’t include his own body from the others for at least the first year, but his ranking fight with Joshua had smashed that idea as easily as Joshua smashed Phil’s leg. Phil had come out on top in the end only after a long, brutal battle that left both of them drained.
“Healing is no small feat, especially for a Hero with other skills,” Gerard pointed out. “It might not be important now, but I can’t imagine in four years of training there won’t come a time when you’re ability to heal others makes a big difference. I envy such versatility. My power is only destruction.”
“You ‘only destruction’ed your way into the top five men’s ranking,” Blaine replied. “Some of us are struggling to even get into the top ten.”
“Guys, no school talk.” Joshua finally leaned back in his tube, balancing as easily as if he were sitting on the ground. “We’re here to relax and get away from all that stuff. I’m sure there’s lots of time to fight about ranks and classes ahead of us. For now, let’s just drift.”
The somber, reflective silence that came on the heels of Joshua’s words lasted almost a whole three minutes, at which point Victor broke it by asking Phil if he would try and cool down another beer.