October 10, 2012 by Lyn
Tuesday, October 7, 2003
Kheper was finding a renewed appreciation for academics, and not just because his chemistry professor let him blow things up.
That was, of course, pretty cool. Everything about chemistry was pretty cool. Professor Pelletier had noticed him right away, and she had taken him under her metaphorical wing. (Unlike several of the non-metaphorical wings on other teachers). Up until the mess with the pit trap the second Saturday, she had been letting him stay after class to play with acids and other fun things.
It wasn’t that Cynara had expressly forbidden him to keep up those meetings; it was just that she’d told him to ask permission before going somewhere after class, and he was damned if he was going to ask his girlfriend – kidnapper, whatever – if he could stay after class. Next thing he knew, he’d be getting permission slips from her for field trips.
Kheper had left home to have more freedom, thank you very much. He wasn’t about to turn around and start going mommy-may-I with Cya.
So no more Chem after class, and no more much of anything, until she got bored of having him around all the time and gave him some leeway. She hadn’t shown any sign of getting bored yet, in the three weeks she’d held him prisoner, but she had to give in eventually. She couldn’t stay entertained by keeping him under lock and key forever.
Even without the after-school sessions, there were still reasons to appreciate his classwork. There was homework, a good excuse to ignore everyone and take as long as he wanted to himself (and in his kidnapper’s suite, that was a thing to be treasured), and there were magic classes.
Magic! If he’d known a third of the stuff he knew now three weeks ago, he wouldn’t have needed to agree to Belong to Cya to get out of the pit trap – the trap she had probably dug just for him anyway. Two weeks of Kwxe instruction had been hands-down the best thing to ever happen to Kheper. It made the collar around his neck tolerable. It made everything tolerable, because now he could light stuff on fire with his mind.
After that, Yaku had been a bit of a come-down, but the water was fun, and Professor Mendosa was a good teacher. He stripped down to swim shorts happily after Chem class; Yaku was in the pool, yet another reason to like it.
He didn’t spend much time looking around while changing, but he couldn’t help but notice Llew. The other boy had already changed, but his hands were hovering over a new chain necklace. New: he hadn’t been wearing anything at all around his neck yesterday, and he didn’t seem to know what to do with it today.
“The water won’t hurt it.” Kheper tapped the side of his own leather collar. At least Llew’s looked like a piece of jewelry. There was no mistaking the thing around Kheper’s neck for anything but what it was. A slave collar.
“Oh. Okay.” Llew’s eyes settled on the hated thing. “Are you okay? I mean, I didn’t know what it all meant, before…”
Kheper rolled his shoulders. “I’m fine.” He wanted to laugh. Are you okay was supposed to be his line. “How about you?”
“I think I hear Doctor Mendosa calling.” Llew tilted his head towards the pool. “Let’s go swim, yeah?”
Doctor Mendosa was in the pool, all right, explaining something quietly to Ceinwen. Their classmate had an unfair advantage; her Change had turned her into a swan of some sort, while neither Kheper nor Llew had Changed yet at all. Bird-Change could be cool, Kheper thought, but only if it came with wings.
“All right, class.” The school psychiatrist raised her voice to carry across the water to them. “Today we’re going to be working on the shapes water can take. We may work on integrating your other Words into the water, as well, in a zen translation of the water into a state of mind, soul, and body.”
Body wasn’t going to be anything Kheper did, but mind? Well, soul. Hugr was supposed to be emotions, and he could do that. He didn’t think water would work very well with fire, though it would be awfully cool if it did.
“One of the purposes of this lesson is to find a place of quiet flow within your own mind, and to learn how to pass that quiet on to the others around you.” Their teacher floated in lotus position on the surface of the water. “To learn how to, in the parlance of the seventies, ‘go with the flow.’”
Go with the… Kheper had been focusing on the swirls and eddies in the always-moving pool; at that, his head jerked up. “Oh, hell no.” He glared at their teacher. Was she in on this crap, too?
“Kheper?” Doctor Mendosa looked at him, not even bothering to pretend she didn’t know what she was talking about. Yep, she was in on it. The whole school was in on it.
“Look, I am not a ‘let it go’ sort of guy. I am not a ‘go with the flow’ sort of guy. And I am not going to just roll over like a good puppy and take it.”
“And for your Keeper, that works. It is clear that Cynara is a healthy young lady who enjoys personality and some level of dissension in her Kept.”
“What?” Llew’s voice was very quiet, but it cut across the room like a knife. “What did you say?”
“Aah. Come on, children, come closer. Let’s have this conversation where we can be as alone as is possible, shall we? Here we go, focus on the water, move across, and this…. Tempero Yaku limno kathis… this is the easy way to make a seat. Aistrigh will work as well, although you need to pay more attention to the surface and to the un-Working when you are done. Now, none of you are my Students, but you do know that you cannot be forbidden from speaking with your Mentor, even after class, correct?”
None of them nodded. The professor sighed quietly. “You may always speak with your Mentor. Llew, that’s Luke, correct? Ceinwen, Shira Pelletier. And Kheper…?”
“I don’t have one. I know it’s really late, but Luke and I didn’t get along, and I’m not going to go cy’Linden.” He frowned at the water, and muttered the Working she’d just shown them. It worked okay, not great, but good enough. He’d have to get better quickly; Yaku class was almost over.
“And your other interests?”
He ticked them off on his fingers. “Music is Linden. Running is – well, nobody, really, but sports would be Luke. Some of the people in the upper classes do fighting. That’s Luke. I like science, but Professor Pelletier…” He frowned, not wanting to admit it. He’d come this far on the list, though. “She turned me down. So I’m sort of stuck.”
“Have you considered Professor Fridmar? He also teaches combat, and I believe his mindset would behoove you.” The professor smiled at him now. “He teaches the counterpoint to what Professor Drake and Luke teach as Mentors.”
“Hunh.” He knew Fridmar taught languages, but he’d gotten stuck in Romance Languages with Professor Cayenne. “Thanks, Doctor.”
“I aim to please. So, as I was saying, you cannot be kept from speaking to your Mentor, and if you are, let any teacher know – although possibly not your Keepers’ Mentors – and they will work to rectify the situation.”
“You said it again.” Llew looked really angry. Angry, and confused. Kheper frowned at him. Hadn’t he been paying attention?
“They know, you know. Didn’t anyone ask you who had put the collar on you?”
“Professor Pelletier asked me,” Ceinwen offered. “And Professor Fridmar. And Doctor Caitrin.”
“Me too.” It had humiliated him at the time. “Like they want to keep track of who Owns who.” Could he say that? Yes. His few very specific, orders didn’t cover that sentence.
“Among other reasons, yes.” The doctor steepled her fingers. “Try moving your seats up above the water line. We want to know as much as possible what is going on in the school. We also want to know where there are red flags, where we need to pay more attention.”
She turned her attention to Llew. “In that vein; who?”
Llew paled. “I can’t say.” He was lying, Kheper was sure. The way he looked off to the left, and the way his fists clenched, didn’t look like fighting an order. Kheper wasn’t going to call him on it, though. People around here just casually discussed owning other people and passing them around like property. Hearing it talked about was more irritating and more frustrating than the collar.
“Well, I’ll keep an eye out. Now, we’re going to submerge entirely in the water, and work on ways to breathe while we’re under there. Think about the way it flows. Think about the ways you can use it with your other words. Think about transmuting water to and from different substances. Could you transmute water into an emotion? Emotions into water?” She continued, as they sank under water, clearly done discussing slavery.
She knew what she was doing, though; by the time Kheper was dressing after class, he was calmer than he’d been in months. “Hey.” He caught Llew’s attention as the other guy was leaving the locker room. “If you need…”
“No-one can do anything.” Llew shrugged. “It was me or her. Better me.”
“Hunh.” He sounded like Cynara’s crew-mates. They might be able to help… but Kheper would have to talk to them for that. He wasn’t sure that was going to happen.
Thursday, October 9, 2003
“I need a Mentor.”
It had taken him two days to talk to Cya about it. Things were fine as long as he didn’t talk, as long as they didn’t talk. They could co-exist well enough, even get along, as long as they didn’t have any reason to talk to each other. Kheper liked being around her, even – just not all the other stuff that came with being hers.
But he was going to have to talk to her about this one. He didn’t see the professor during classes, and the orders she’d given him didn’t give him the leeway to go before class, or before lunch. He’d tried skipping American Literature to go find Fridmar, only to have Luke track him down before he even found the right office. He was down to asking Cya for permission, and since he wouldn’t do that…
She put her book down and looked up at him. “You do. I’m surprised you haven’t gotten one behind my back yet.”
That had not been what he expected. “You expected that?”
“You’ve been amazingly standoffish.” Her smile conflicted with the criticism, making his stomach do a confused flip-flop. He hated when she did that. “I don’t really have any idea what’s going on in your brain unless you’re naked under me, and that doesn’t seem the best time to ask about schoolwork.”
“When I talk, you give me orders.” It sounded sullen. He felt sullen. And she looked amused, which didn’t help matters.
“There aren’t that many orders in my repertoire, Kheper. But when we only talk once a week, I have very little opportunity to give them.”
“You could just write me a list. Or you could just not give me orders.”
“I could. But I can’t gauge your reactions if I just give you a list. And part of the point of being your Keeper is getting to give you orders.”
“Really?” He shook his head. “You’re seriously admitting to giving orders for the fun of it?”
“Well, yes.” She reached across the bed to tousle his hair in the way he hated. “I like being in charge, Kheper. I don’t just Keep people to keep them out of less savory hands.”
Less savory hands made him think about Llew and his uncomfortable non-answers, but her hands on his hair short-circuited everything. “You make it sound like there’s monsters in the halls,” he managed.
“Most of them graduated.” Her answer was far too casual. “But the nature of this place breeds more. Yes. There are worse Keepers than me, Kheper.” Her hands moved down to his shoulders, urging him closer. He didn’t want to give in, but the pressure felt like an order. He scooted nearer to her in tiny movements.
“Professor Mendosa said something like that.” He shrugged at her. “She said that I didn’t need meditation, too, which I could have told her.”
“You could use a little.” He was pretty sure she was teasing. “You fight everything, Kheper.” Well, maybe she wasn’t joking. “It’s exhausting.”
“Then get bored of it already and let me do what I want.”
“When have I ever stopped you from doing what you wanted?”
“Leaving, Sunday after Hell Night. And you make me come back every day after classes.”
“I want to know where you are.”
“You’re not my mother.” His mother was more controlling and more possessive, for one thing.
“No. But I am responsible for you this year.” She shifted her hands from his back to the sides of his collar. “Kheper. You can keep fighting the whole damn year, and I still won’t release you any sooner. Or you can relax, and we can find a way to enjoy this.”
The way she pulled on his collar sent strange shivers up and down his spine. He didn’t want to like it, but it kept reminding him of the way she did that during sex, pulling him up to her for fierce kisses so unlike her normal controlled manner. “I don’t give in.”
Her lips were warm against his ear. “You don’t need to, Kheper. You’ve already lost. You’re only fighting yourself, now. You’re already mine.”
He twitched, and tried to pull away. “I’m only yours if I acknowledge it.”
“Too late.” She pulled him closer. “You were mine in the pit on Hell Night. Everything since then has just been flailing against the inevitable.”
“Rub it in, why don’t you?”
“I want you to accept it. I want you to be able to enjoy yourself.”
Accept it. The collar pressed against his neck, urging him against her. Her lips were hot on his neck, and her hands implacable on his throat. He wasn’t going to get away. He wasn’t going to escape, no matter how much he fought it.
And she was so hot and so nice in bed.
“I’m going to go talk to Professor Fridmar after magic class tomorrow.” It was his last gasp of rebellion. “I’ll be back before dinner.” A very un-rebellious gasp, wasn’t it?
The next gasp had nothing to do with rebellion at all. His Keeper’s mink Change had given her very sharp teeth. “Good boy.”
There are worse ways to go. Kheper fumbled with her shirt, reaching for bare skin under too many layers of clothing. Pressing Cya to him, he surrendered.
Friday, October 10, 2003
“Mendosa, mmm? That… that is interesting. But who are we to argue, mm? Yes, I will take you as my Student, if you will have me as your Mentor.”
“That would be cool.” Kheper smiled cautiously at the big bear of a Professor. “I keep expecting the Director to knock on my door or something. Err, Cynara’s door.”
“She will allow students the fullness of time to discover their wishes. But only so full.” He pulled from his desk an unmarked bottle and two small glasses, and poured two fingers-deep into each. The liquid was clear and viscous, and smelled of alcohol. “To new associations, da?”
Kheper picked up his glass. He was smiling. When had that happened? “To new associations, sir.”
“Very good. You come visit me twice each week, on days that work with your schedule and your Keeper’s.”
Kheper frowned. “I thought…”
“…that I could get around your Keeper? I could, yes. But what is the point, when being Kept is a lesson, too?”
“Being Kept is a lesson?”
“We do not allow it for our health, here.”
“Hunh,” Kheper frowned. “I knew that the teachers knew about it, but I didn’t know it was something they condoned.” Perhaps he should have. Nobody had frowned or complained at the idea of him wearing a collar, although a couple teachers had looked worried, when they thought he wasn’t looking.
“There are things which happen here which we do not know about, things which we did not plan, of course. This is a powder keg full of explosive young people, and they tend to explode, thus, in unpredictable manners. But the laws of the school, yes. The way those laws mirror the Law, yes. Those things are done so that you can learn. So that you may grow stronger.”
Kheper nodded, although he wasn’t sure he agreed or even really understood. “So being somebody’s slave is an education?”
“It teaches you what not to say in the future, no? Or, if you like it, it teaches you that.” The burly, bear-like professor grinned; Kheper couldn’t help but smile back a little bit. “Go. Ask who holds your collar when we should meet, and then we will see how it fits my schedule. And that, too, is something you should be learning.”
“Yes, sir.” Kheper wanted to ask more questions. He wanted to argue. But he had a feeling the Professor was done talking to him for the time being, so he did as he was told without argument, for once, and went.
There was more than an hour before dinner. He paused in the hall, contemplating that. He’d said he’d be back before dinner, but she hadn’t given him any more specific orders. She hadn’t told him anything at all, as a matter of fact, about his time.
He could do whatever he wanted.
It was like the rare occasions when his mother was away on a trip and left him in the far-less-regimented care of his father or, even better, they both left and he spent the time with his “uncle,” an unrelated friend of his dad’s. He could go wherever he wanted, do whatever he wanted.
Within limits, of course. he was still locked in an underground dungeon, and he still hadn’t found an exit to the outdoors. What he wouldn’t give for half an hour, even, in the sun!
He headed for the Store, instead. The Arcade was boring – he’d beaten all the games back home, months before he came here, and he didn’t really like pool – and the hot tubs were far too likely to be occupied by one of Cya’s crew. Last thing he wanted was Howard dragging him back to the room, grumbling at Cya that “her stupid boy had interrupted his date by bein’ where he wasn’t supposed to,” or something.
The big bull did not like him, no matter what he did. Then again, he really hadn’t tried that hard. It was clear Howard wanted to sleep with Cya, and, if that was the only perk Kheper was going to get out of this collared thing, he damn well wasn’t going to share it with anyone.
The Store it was. He could come up with something he liked, there, waste a bit of time. Maybe even buy something for Cya. She might like that. She might hate it and tell him he was spending her money, buying her stuff, but that was a risk he was willing to take. Cya angry was almost as fun as Cya in the bed, up to a point. She squeaked either way, and the squeaking was adorable and really in no way intimidating.
“The doors go all the way down.”
The voice stopped him in his tracks. He’d been alone in the hall, as far as he could tell. Nobody in front of him – he turned around. Nope, nobody behind him either.
Somebody was playing another stupid prank on him. Glowering, Kheper turned back to the Store. He was going to buy a tub of marshmallow Fluff, and he was going to eat the whole thing before he got back to the suite. And then he was going to buy tomatoes and eat them all without sharing. Then maybe some beef. He wondered if the store sold venison? He could eat that…
“The stairs go to the bottom. They go all the way down.”
“I don’t give a damn, all right? Of course they go to the bottom, how else would we get to the Store?” He stomped into the Store, avoiding the counter. He hadn’t thought of how he’d buy all this stuff without getting caught, if he happened to run into any of Cynara’s crew or friends. Maybe he’d be lucky and Zita wouldn’t be grocery shopping. The blonde girl who worked the counters was pretty, and she was nice, in a totally different way than Cya was either pretty or nice. If he didn’t get snagged by one of Boom, he could talk to her for a while.
Much to his pleasure and luck, none of the crew had anything they were buying. Very good luck, as the blonde informed him when he checked out. “You just missed Zita, and she said she might be back later. Something about cooking dinner.” She squinted at him. “You should help out with stuff like that, don’t leave it all on her shoulders.”
“I’m not suicidal,” he informed her. “Setting foot in Zita’s kitchen is not only unwise, I’ve been expressly forbidden to do so other than to go to and from the ‘fridge. I pick up the living room, though.” He would have objected to the chores more, except that Cya kept her bedroom spotlessly clean without his help. He could handle running the vacuum a bit, and even, shudder, cleaning the bathroom. Especially if he didn’t get ordered into it.
The pretty blonde was laughing, her smile wide and not at all sharp. He really ought to get her name. Maybe her phone number. He hadn’t been told not to use the phone. He’d even thought about calling his parents, asking what the hell they’d been thinking, but he had a sick feeling they’d known what they were sending him into.
Knowing his mother, she probably thought it was a good experience for him. Discipline, that sort of thing.
“You’re adorable.” She passed him his packages and patted the top of his head. “Look me up if your leash gets long enough, kay?”
“That’s the most backhanded compliment and proposition I’ve ever gotten.” He was frank about it because he didn’t have any idea what else you said to something like that. “Sure?” “No way in hell?” Neither really seemed appropriate, given the situation.
“I’m sure you’ll get far more backhanded of both in your time here. But maybe I can say I was your first?”
“Only if you’ll tell me your name?”
“Aah,” she smiled brightly, “that would be telling. But do come back when you figure it out.”
Kheper grinned at her. This school really did have a few advantages. “Oh, believe me, I will.” She couldn’t have missed the collar around his neck. He was not allowed to hide it in any way or take it off, except for PE. She had to know that he was somebody else’s possession. And it hadn’t bothered her one bit. Yeah, he was going to have to figure out her name.
He was in a brilliantly good mood as he left the Store, having forgotten all about the weird voices. Somebody liked him. In his old school, that hadn’t been a problem. Here, he was suddenly new blood again, after years of being top dog. It was nice to still have someone express interest.
“You’re not looking. None of you are. If you used your eyes, you’d see.”
“Fuck it. I’m a little busy just trying to get through the year, you know?” He answered offhandedly, not wanting to go looking around again. “It’s not like I don’t have enough problems.”
A hand grabbed him by the back of the neck and slammed him into the wall. Pain blossomed, and Kheper saw stars. His nose… his goddamned nose was broken. Years of roughhousing, and some invisible voice in the back halls had managed to do what nobody else had.
He was bleeding, leaking all over the place. He shoved his handkerchief – thank you, Mom – into his nostrils as far as he could bear, and staggered for the stairs. He wasn’t going to be able to fix this with Working, not with no ability at all to use tlack-whatever. But the Doctor could, right? She had set Dirk’s arm after PE last week without so much as a cast, she could probably put his nose back to rights.
He was having trouble focusing, having trouble seeing at all, but he knew where the stairs were. The stairs go all the way down. Well, right now, he wanted the stairs to go up. He staggered forwards, and found only downward stairs.
“Well, that’s stupid,” he muttered. “The third floor is the lowest level. Where the hell is the doctor’s?” Two floors up, by the Dining Hall and the gym, and it might as well be a mile. He would really like to sit down. He would really like anything but standing here, stumbling down stairs that shouldn’t be there, tripping over something, oh, shit, something soft.
He fell, and hit his nose again on the way down, and for a few minutes, he was pretty sure he passed out. At least, he saw nothing but a bright light, a very bright light, and felt, for a moment, nothing at all. After the explosions of pain in his face, nothing at all was a blessing he wasn’t going to argue with.
“Sleep.” It wasn’t the same voice as before. Still, Kheper was not in the mood to be obedient if he didn’t have to. He struggled to sit up.
“Not tired, sorry. If you could…”
The voice murmured something that sounded a lot like a Working, a stupid tlack-whatever working, and Kheper slept.
Some time later
“Come on, Cya, he’s fine. Look, there he is, sleepin’ like a baby. Got bored and sat down like a little kid.”
Howard’s booming voice was not the loveliest thing to wake up to. It was far from the nicest thing to hear when Kheper didn’t even remember falling asleep. There’d been pain, he remembered, and way too much blood… there was no pain now. What about…”
“Howard, he’s covered in blood. People aren’t just sleeping like babies when they’re covered in blood. Leo notwithstanding.”
“Cya, that’s not covered. That’s a few…” A hand on his shoulder rolled Kheper onto his back. “Shit. Here, I’ll carry him.”
Kheper didn’t want to wake up. He was enjoying being asleep, where nothing hurt. But he really didn’t want Howard carrying him anywhere. “I’m fine,” he muttered, and pulled himself into a sitting position. “The girl downstairs fixed it.”
“The girl what… Howard, I think he has a concussion. You don’t mind…?”
“Don’t mind at all for you, sweet minkie. Here, hold still.” The last was grunted in Kheper’s direction, with considerable less tenderness. “What happened to you anyway?”
“Somebody hit me from behind. Something about not paying attention, I think. I really wasn’t listening.”
Cya barked out a laugh that didn’t sound amused at all. “You should… not an order, but you should learn to listen a little bit more.”
“Yes, ma’am.” The pain was starting to come back, and he didn’t really want to argue while the bull was holding him in the air, so he settled for a bit of dry sarcasm. “I’ll get right on that.”
It was kind of worrying that Howard didn’t even yell at him. “Cya… do you see that?”
“See what… oh.”
Kheper opened his eyes. They were off in some sort of side hallway, the doors here plain, unlike the first floor, and the walls straight, unlike the second floor. On the wall, scrawled in brown, was a phrase half in English, half in Latin. “What about suboles sine futuri?”
A huge handprint sat under the words.
“Is that… Is that my blood?” Kheper thought he was going to be sick. “Oh, shit.” He swallowed, trying hard not to gag.
“Easy there.” Cya’s hand was cool on his forehead. “We’re going to get you to the doctor’s. And then we’re going to find Luke, and ask him what the hell is going on.”
Addergoole: Year Nine updates every Wednesday evening EST.
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