"Oh, Elias. This is exactly who I am."

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"What the hell do you think you're doing?"

Eli doesn't flinch at the voice, doesn't drop the bag, doesn't try to hide. Instead, he very calmly turns around. His heart is absolutely racing and a cold sweat has burst out along his brow and shoulders, but he tries not to let either show. Instead, he turns and says:

"What I have to."

Zoe is standing in the doorway to the locker room. She's wearing gym shorts and a Evangelion t-shirt so old it's gone from black to grey. She's sweaty and breathing heavily, her hair pulled into a messy braid over her shoulder. She looks pissed, but exhausted, too. Worn and faded like her t-shirt.

"Have to what?" she sneers, vicious and angry. "Go through my bag?"

"Yeah," says Eli. "I'm sorry, Zee, but—"

"Did Morgan put you up to this?" Zoe walks into the room proper. Her strides are heavy and purposeful, and Eli can feel the sick tendrils of magic as they ooze from the rísók and try and lure Zoe forward. "Where is she?" Zoe is saying. "Where's that skanky little bitch hiding?" Her eyes roll in their sockets, white-ringed and feral.

"Zoe," Eli says, trying to keep his voice calm, professional. Like the voice Dad used to use on the phone with panicked clients. "Zoe, listen to me. You're under a spell. Someone's ensorcelled you."

"I saw you!" Zoe snaps, not listening. "With her. Conspiring. Laughing at me."

Eli has the rísók in one hand, a lighter in the other. The lighter's in his pocket and he pulls it out, shows it and the rísók to Zoe.

"I found this in your bag," he says. "I don't know who put it there but it's bad magic, man. It's making you paranoid."

"You went through my bag. My bag!" It's not a question, more like something she's repeating to herself as a reminder. But Zoe's eyes are glassy and unfocused, and Eli gets the impression she isn't quite all at home behind them.

"Zee, listen. I'm going to burn this thing. It's bad magic. I'm going to—"

Except Zoe screams, and lunges the last few feet towards Eli. The idea that Zoe, even a possessed Zoe, would physically attack him is so far out of Eli's expectation that when the fist connects with his jaw, he just drops.

It's an awkward punch, but it's got weight behind it, and fury, and the next thing Eli knows the world is sideways. He hears the clatter as the dropped lighter goes skidding away, has no idea where he dropped the rísók, and is just blinking and trying to sit upright when hot, heavy hands grab him and shake him so hard the back of his skull cracks against the bench.

"I knew it!" Zoe is saying, voice vicious and hurt even as she tries to shake Eli's brain out his nose. "I knew you weren't really my friend! Knew you were just trying to spy on me for that anorexic slut Morgan Lacroix! To humiliate me! You nearly had me, but he warned me, he did. I didn't want to believe him but—"

"Zoe!" Somehow, Eli manages to pull enough brain cells together to bring his hands up. He threads them up between Zoe's arms then pushes them apart, forcing her grip away from his shoulders. God, he doesn't want to hurt her. But he has to destroy the rísók and—

And, this time, Zoe punches him like she means it.

Her fist catches him on the cheek, just below the eye socket. It hurts, and Eli feels the scales erupt across his skin in retaliation. Not a full transformation, but enough to freeze Zoe in place, hand raised for a second blow.

She blinks, once, and for one moment, her eyes lose their drugged sheen. "Eli? What—?"

Eli doesn't waste time explaining. Instead, he lurches up, grabbing Zoe with hands more like claws, and rolls them both over. Zoe is . . . heavy (fat, Eli's inner Zoe-voice supplies), but Eli is strong now and they end up sprawled awkwardly on the tiles, Zoe on her back and blinking up at the ceiling.

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