"The plot thickens!"
From indoor gardens to outdoor, though without the protective greenhouse glass the back gardens do not last all year round. Still, the gardens out here are well-tended and well-worth spending time in, as well. The paths wending through the beds of flowers and herbs and vegetables spread out through the school's back grounds, tended by students as a credit class. Benches offer seating and a small pond is home to koi and turtles, as well as a few frogs. At the far back edges of the garden, a droning buzzing marks a few stacked white boxes as beehives.
It's not exactly the sunny warm spring day that some might hope for, but the threat of snow in the morning never amounted to anything. Though the sky is overcast and promises rain, the faint chill lingering on the air now feels tenuous by the time classes let out, and has no bite. Even so, few students and fewer teachers have opted to spend linger for long outside.
Matt is parked in his bone wheelchair beside the pond. He is dressed dapperly, as usual for school days: charcoal sport jacket worn open, orchid button-up shirt beneath a gray vest, matching gray slacks, black Oxfords. His extreme pallor throws the flush of his cheeks into stark relief, his hair thin and lackluster, his eyes strange and bright. There's a book open his lap, but he has not turned the page in some time, gazing abstractly at or through it when his eyes aren't sliding shut.
Harmony wanders in from the far-flung herb beds, carrying a basket of gardening tools in the crook of one arm. They wear a poncho intricately but unevenly woven with plant motifs, only the puffy sleeves of their green linen shirt visible, and brown wrap pants smudged with dirt. They smell like sage and rosemary and mulch. "Hey, Matt," they say, waving as they get closer.
Matt doesn't immediately react to the sound of his name, but the wave catches his attention. He looks up and blinks, then breaks into a smile. "Oh! Salut, Harm." His gaze drifts down to Harmony's basket, and his smile widens. "Doing some gardening? 'Tis the season for it...in theory, at the least."
Harm smiles, too. "Just weeding, mostly. Some of the herbs planted in the fall are almost ready for harvest! I heard it's getting cold tonight again." They're frowning now, huddling in their poncho. "So just in case it freezes, I lay some extra mulch down. You...just out here reading?" she asks, sounding kind of doubtful.
"Ah-ha." There's a spark of mirth in Matt's eyes. "The plot thickens! But I don't think it'll freeze--at least not a hard freeze." He closes his book (/The Body Library/ by Jeff Noon) and slips it into the courier bag tucked beside his leg in the chair. "Me, I'm just waiting for my ride. Anyway, overwinter herbs are tough." He looks off toward the herb beds, his already quiet voice growing softer. "They'll survive."
"The plot...?" Harmony asks, blinking. "Ohhh!" They snicker. "Well I hope it's thick enough. I'm not used to gardening in this climate yet." They take another step closer to Matt, head tilting instinctively to catch his quiet words. "Um, désolé, if this is inappropriate for me to ask but, are you alright? You look..." They chew on the inside of their cheek momentarily. "...sicker than you've been."
"I /look/," Matt allows with a thin, brittle smile, "like death on toast. But no, it isn't inappropriate for you to ask, though it's not an easy question to answer, either. I have been rather sick, and probably /look/ sicker now because the medications aren't agreeing with me. Which is sicker in a manner of speaking." All this delivered with a placid expression and a breathy voice. "But do not allow appearances to deceive you; I'm rather tough, too."
Harmony nods, their eyes huge. "I'm glad you're healing, though I wish it didn't mean getting sicker first." They hesitate, glance down at their hands, dirt-smudged and pale in the chill, then back up at Matt, as if getting ready to add something else. But they just smile again, "Well, I hope you feel better soon. See you around!" They skirt past Matt and his wheelchair, heading to the conservatory.
"Merci." Matt dips his head. "I mean to be well enough to leap a bonfire by Beltane. If I'm not, it'll at least be entertaining for onlookers." His grin is bright, almost /too/ bright, the expression edged with febrile sharpness. "Do have a good afternoon, Harm." He resettles himself in the chair and almost immediately nods off again.
As the youth passes near him, an inchoate surge of his power buoys up Harm's own ability, bolstering its range and sensitivity without selection, nuance, or warning. Unfortunately, this gives them a first-hand experience of Matt's simmering fever, unsettlingly paradoxical chills, dull but intense bodyaches, exhaustion, thick nausea, and a raw itching on the inside of his right forearm. Underlying this all, widespread cellular abnormality bewildering in its complexity, a massive systemic infection, and early stage sepsis.
"You too!" Harmony gasps and stumbles, catching themself on the back of a nearby bench and kind of sliding down to the ground. Not graceful, but at least they don't spill their tools everywhere. "What..." They look up at Matt. "Oh no, I think I accidentally..." They frown deeply, then wince, unconsciously scratching their right arm. "I'm sor -- désolé, I thought I could only do this by /touching/ someone."
Matt starts awake at Harmony's gasp, and the effect is gone, as quickly and as roughly as it came. "What's wrong?" He rotates the chair and rolls forward until he is near enough to touch, though he does not reach for the teenager. His frown mirrors hers now. "Do what?" But his confusion is short-lived, his eyes focusing unsteadily on their right arm as he--gingerly--touches the same spot on his own. "Ah. That...might not be entirely your doing, but in my present state I fear it is hard to say and harder to mend. If it happens again, you might want to bring it up with your advisor, so we can help you get it under control."
Harmony relaxes as the barrage of pain, discomfort, and mostly incomprehensible information vanishes. "Yeah, I hope that's not some new. /Gift./ I'm developing." They lick their lips nervously. "And I /really/ hope those medicines you're taking...take." They straighten up, a little uncertainly, leaning on the back of the bench. "Um, blessed be!" When they leave this time their steps are quick, just short of breaking into a run.