October 31, 2012 by Lyn
Monday, October 28, 2003
“Fairy tales.” Kendon was talking to Ahouva, or at least speaking in her direction. He hadn’t done that all weekend, so she listened intently. “The Hallowe’en dance is always fairy tales. So I’m thinking Bluebeard and his wife.”
“Bluebeard?” She thought she might remember the story, from her big book of Grimm’s tales. “Wasn’t he the one that killed his wives?”
Kendon leered at her. “Yes. I thought you would look nice as a corpse. And I could do nicely with a big tangled blue beard and a top hat.”
“Didn’t…” She shut her mouth. He wouldn’t want to hear it. She seemed to recall, however, that Bluebeard died at the end of that story. She could be wrong. She was often wrong. And being dressed as a corpse wouldn’t be that bad.
“We’ll go to the Store tonight to get the starts of costuming, and then we’ll trade and barter for the Workings we need.” He patted her low on her back. “Agra’s been itching for a chance at you, you know. I think we can work something out.”
“Agra’s been…” She shut her mouth tightly until she could speak politely. “Yes, of course, Kendon. I’m sure you know what’s best.”
“That’s my good girl. You’ll make a very nice corpse.”
“Thank you.” She felt numb, that was for sure. She thought she’d been doing better. She thought she’d been pleasing him. But if he wanted to lend her to Agravain, she must have done something wrong. She was going to have to try harder. She was going to have to do more. Maybe if he let her go to the Library, there would be a book that would tell her what to do. In a place like this, where everyone spent their time Kept, there had to be a book on learning how to be a good pet, a good possession. Somewhere.
He grabbed her hair, and pulled her to him, kissing her. She made no noise, and very little response – he didn’t like either one – simply let him swab her throat with his tongue. What…
“Aaw, and here we thought you were getting bored with her.”
Oh. Thessaly and Lucian. The winged boy was leering at Ahouva, even as he pulled his own Kept, Lee, close against his chest. “She’s lovely, Kendon. When are you going to share her?”
Share, again. Kendon’s grip in her hair tightened as he pulled her behind him.
“She’s mine, Lucian. I have no intention of sharing her.”
But he’d said… She kept her mouth shut, peering at Lee while their owners bickered about them.
“Aw, we could trade for a day.”
Lee cringed at that. “I’m fine with you two, really.”
“Hush, pet, the grown-ups are talking.”
He fell silent, rolling his eyes at Ahouva. She stifled a giggle and rolled her eyes back at him. They liked to talk big, didn’t they? Even though they were only a year or two older than the Ninth Cohort they were bossing around.
“Let the boy be,” Kendon decided. Boy. Really. She mocked that in her mind to avoid voicing the sigh of relief. Something about Lucian and Thessaly scared her. “I’m not interested in boys, after all, and, like I said, I have no intention of sharing Ahouva.”
“Yet.” Thessaly leaned in, brushing the air near Ahouva’s chest, mock-groping her. “I’m sure you’ll get bored eventually. And when you do, you’ll think of us.” Her smile was proud and, Ahouva thought, a little bit self-mocking. “Everyone does, when they want to play. That’s what we’re here for.”
“I don’t need a go at the ride everyone’s been on.” Kendon shrugged. “Come on, Ahouva, you’re going to be late for class.”
“Sorry, Kendon. I didn’t mean…” She didn’t know what she didn’t mean, but she was sure it was her fault somehow. She was always messing things up.
“You never mean it, and you don’t ever seem to stop screwing up anyway. Maybe I ought to take them up on their offer. Or see if Agra or Thorburn want to trade. Maybe you’d be happier with one of them?”
“No, God, no, Kendon, you know I want to be with you. You know I love you!”
He pinched her arm, hard enough that she knew she’d have another bruise there tomorrow. “How many times do I have to tell you, Ahouva, it’s not ‘God,’ not here. Were descended from gods. We do not pray to some silly deity.”
“I’m sorry, Kendon, it’s just… I didn’t mean it.” She was babbling, she knew.
“Ahouva, there you are.” Æowyn grabbed her free arm and gave a good tug. “Come on, you know we have to go over those notes before class. And I’m sure Kendon wants you to do well, right? For the challenge?”
Kendon released her arm reluctantly. “Remember, Ahouva. If you can only manage to remember one thing today, remember that you’re descended from gods. Not that you’re a decent example of that, or anything.”
“What a jerk.” Æowyn at least waited until they were in the classroom to spout that. Kendon got really angry when her friends said anything against him; sometimes he wouldn’t let her talk to them for a few days, when he got the angriest.
“He’s just trying to help me, Æo.” She knew her friends didn’t believe it, but it was true anyway. “He just wants me to learn how things really are.”
“How he wants things to be, you mean.” Jovanna slotted herself in on the other side of her. “You have a secret admirer, Who.”
“A secret… who?”
“Then it wouldn’t be a secret. Come on, did you do your part of the project?”
“Why do they want us to work on things as teams, if we’re supposed to be competing as crews?”
“Well, nobody from any of our crews is in this class,” Ahouva pointed out cautiously. “So maybe that’s it?”
“I suppose, but it still seems silly. I mean, if we’re supposed to be getting the best grades possible for our crews – for our Keeper’s crews?”
“Look, we all want our Keepers to be happy with us, right? So there’s some teamwork there?” What if they turned on her? She didn’t think she could stand it, if her friends weren’t talking to her anymore.
“But I want the field trip.” Æowyn shrugged. “Luckily, I like you more than I like field trips. Did you do your part of the assignment?”
“Yes.” She pulled out her notebook. One of the benefits of this challenge – Kendon was a lot more understanding about giving her time to get all her work done, as long as she still made time for him. “I haven’t been able to get to the Library yet, though.”
“I went to the Library.” Lemon sat down in front of her. “I thought you girls might have trouble finding the time, and the boys seem to be leaving me alone, thanks to my little problem.” She ran a hand over her stomach, not yet beginning to swell. “So here.” She doled out the books. “Just remember they’re signed out in my name. I don’t want to get the Librarian annoyed at me.”
“Lemon, you’re the best.” Jovanna took her book with a warm smile. “I wanted to get there, but we had… business.”
“Yeah.” Æowyn rolled her shoulders. “Business, same here.”
Ahouva didn’t know why they pretended. Neither of them were willing to talk about their Keepers, although they were more than willing to talk about hers, and they both wore some sort of collar. “Kendon wanted me to stay home, and he wasn’t in a mood for me to remind him about the challenge.”
“Not doing so well himself, is he?”
“Not compared to…” she pushed her lips closed. “We’re fine.” She didn’t think Kendon would want her friends to know – or worse, her friends’ Keepers to know – that Agravain and Damaris had been getting on his case about his grades for the last week.
“So.” Lemon spread out her notes. “This project. I picked up every interpretation of the Tales I could find.”
“I’ve been making notes about the roles, and what they would look like today.” Jovanna seemed as glad for the subject change as Ahouva was.
“I have a few ideas about setting.” Æowyn flipped to a series of sketches.
It was Ahouva’s turn. “I…”
“It’s all right, Who, you can help us put it all together.”
“Yes,” Lemon agreed. “If you check our spelling, keep an eye on our continuity and making sure we include everything, that’ll make sure we don’t look stupid. We don’t want to find out we’ve missed a paragraph after we get it back,” she finished with feeling.
Kendon really had been angry last night, but that didn’t make her feel like any less of a heel. She was supposed to be carrying her own weight here, and more, because her grades needed to average out with Kendon’s to match the rest of the crew. She was letting everyone down, putting Kendon in such a bad mood that he couldn’t take her to the Library.
She pulled herself together. If she couldn’t manage to do anything right at home, she could do it right here, in classes. She dove into the Canterbury Tales, and tried not to think of her Knight at home at all.
Monday, October 28, 2012, after classes
“I don’t know why they let people like him stay in the school. They’re useless to the general plan, and they just get in the way.”
Kendon was angry about something, or, rather, someone, ranting and raving and too angry for dinner, the way he got sometimes, so he was dragging Ahouva back to the suite, complaining the whole way.
“Kendon,” she tried, “I could go to dinner with Agravain and Damaris and Miryam. I’d be safe.”
“I thought you didn’t like Agravain,” he sneered. “You could stand to lose a few pounds anyway. You’re staying with me.”
“But I didn’t eat lunch, either, and Lady Maureen says that we should always eat well after doing magic.”
“After Working, Ahouva, are you stupid or what? And I told you, you could stand to lose a few pounds. It won’t hurt you to stay with me like a good girl.”
“Yes, Kendon.” Her stomach was growling, but there wasn’t anything she could do about that. There were people around, now that they’d reached the dorms. She didn’t want him yelling at her around people. She didn’t need everyone to know what a mess she was. “I’m sorry. I’ll try to do better.”
“You say that over and over again, and you’re still a stupid little cow.”
“Then give her to me.” The voice cut across Kendon’s complaint. Not Lucian again? She caught a glimpse before she was thrust behind Kendon: a tall, scarecrow-looking man, flanked by a tiny blonde doll of a girl. Jeremiah, and his Kept, Lolly. She shared a class with each of them, but neither had ever spoken to her. She’d thought he, at least, was a nice guy. Not like Lucian and Thessaly.
“I’m not giving her to anyone. She’s mine, Jeremiah.”
“And yet she never makes you happy.” The little blonde cooed it dreamily, like she was talking about a fairy tale. “Perhaps you should try someone more to your liking.”
“Maybe a punching bag or a blow-up doll.” Next to his Kept’s voice, Jeremiah’s sounded like a crow’s, harsh and unyielding. “Give her to me, Kendon. That’s the easy way.”
“I’m not giving her to anyone. Don’t be a moron. She’s mine. I need her.”
He needed her. Ahouva smiled, feeling warm all over.
“Any girl will do. We could trade.”
“I don’t want your broken little nutjob doll.”
“Aww, but I wouldn’t forget what a Working is called. I like calling them. Sometimes they even come.”
Ahouva’s cheeks flushed. So they had heard that. They knew what a useless waste of space she was. Why would they want her?
“I’m not giving her up, Jeremiah, and I’m not trading. Back off and leave us alone.”
“If you won’t take the easy route, Kendon, I challenge you.” He what?
“I don’t have to accept.” He spat that out nearly before Jeremiah was done talking. Oh, good.
“Of course you don’t. There’s nothing saying that you ever have to accept a challenge.”
“If you’re a pussy.” That from somewhere behind Jeremiah. Ahouva looked around; it looked like a crowd was gathering, listening to all of her personal business. She paled, and tried to hide further behind Kendon. “Of course, we all know you are a useless little pussy, Ken-doll. So go ahead and turn down a fair challenge.”
Yes, turn it down. She was his. That was the way things were supposed to be.
“I didn’t say I was turning it down. Ahouva, stop wiggling around. But Jeremiah is challenging me for my biggest possession and he’s not bringing anything at all to the table.”
Biggest? She wasn’t that heavy!
“I didn’t say that, either. If I win, I get Ahouva. If you win, you get Lolly here.”
“If… so you’d risk your own Kept? What for?”
“Stop stalling, pussy!”
“Stop trying to wiggle out of it.”
“Kendon, can we just go home?”
“Departed gods, Ahouva, stop whining!”
“Chal-lenge! Chal-lenge!” Now the hallway started to echo with the chant. “Chal-lenge! Chal-lenge!” Kendon was getting twitchy, his head jerking back and forth, looking at the gathering crowd. “Do it! Do it! DO IT!”
“Damnit! All right, I accept your challenge. Here. Now. We are going to do this, and I’m going to take your stupid little nutjob Keptie.”
“I said that, didn’t I? I named the time and place, didn’t I?” Come on, let’s go.”
No, no, no, that was no good, no. Ahouva sat down with a thump.
“Name your terms.” Jeremiah seemed far too happy about this.
“No death. No holds barred. First one to yield or leave the pod common area loses. Ahouva, start pushing the couches off to the sides. Hey, loudmouth, help her.”
Loudmouth turned out to be Tigg, a hedgehog-looking boy wearing black pants with too many straps. He didn’t seem to mind helping, though. “It’ll be all right,” he assured her. “Jeremiah’s a really good fighter.”
“I don’t want Jeremiah to win. I want Kendon to win.” Except then he would Own Lolly, too.
“Yeah. That fades pretty quickly, don’t worry.” He patted her shoulder. “One more couch. Want me to call anyone for you? These things get pretty bad.”
“You’d do that?” She smiled at him – cautiously. She didn’t want Kendon to think she was flirting.
He smiled back. Crap, she didn’t want him thinking she was flirting, either. “I was Kept last year. Anyone? Your Spanish friend?”
“Jovanna, yes, please. And Æowyn, if it’s not too much?”
“No problem at all.” He pushed the last couch into place and headed off.
Monday, October 28, 2012, twenty minutes later
“This is ridiculous.” Ahouva, pressed between Jovanna and Æowyn on the lounge couch, shook her head again, staring at the upperclassmen. Her friends had come, Jovanna within moments, Æowyn not far behind, and joined her in her exile off to the side of the room. Kendon and Jeremiah were talking, quietly and intently, in the middle of the space. On the other side of the room side, Jeremiah’s creepy little girlfriend, Lolly, bounced up and down like a kid.
“It seems kind of romantic to me,” Jovanna sighed.
“It has that façade, doesn’t it?” Æowyn shook her head. “You’re right, Who, it’s creepy.”
“Kendon and I are fine,” Ahouva continued, too aggrieved to be sidetracked. “There’s nothing wrong with us, and this creep with his creepy girlfriend has to go and get medieval like I’m some sort of possession…”
“Oh, stop that, Æowyn,” Jovanna snapped. “Technicalities aren’t what matter here. And it’s just as creepy when you start talking like that as it is when the upperclassmen do it.”
“I’m just saying…”
“I know, I know,” Ahouva handwaved unhappily. “But do they have to get all medieval?” Did he have to risk losing her? And if he won, he’d be in an awfully bad mood.
“There was that one time…” Jovanna began hesitantly. “At the dance?”
“Just a misunderstanding,” she insisted firmly. Kendon wasn’t looking, so she rubbed her shoulders, hugging herself. “He had a bit too much to drink, and I was being a bit loud…”
“Well, maybe he’ll win, then,” Æowyn interrupted pragmatically. “He seems very strong, and the other guy seems kind of like a beanpole.”
“But he wants her enough to challenge for her.”
“For some reason…” She’d seen the look in his eyes. She shook her head. “It’s not romance, Jo. It’s… I don’t know, but it scares me.”
“After Kendon, I wouldn’t think a skinny nerd would scare you.”
She glared at Jo. “He’s not scary. He’s just enthusiastic.”
“Hush, you two, they’re starting.” Æowyn leaned forward in her seat as the upperclassmen began formal-sounding proclamations.
“If I lose this challenge, I promise that I will immediately transfer to you my Ownership of the Ninth Cohort Ahouva sh’Ruth,” Kendon declared, the words formal but his body posture suggesting he had no fear of losing. Good. Ahouva didn’t want him to lose. She just wanted to go home and forget this had ever happened.
“If I lose,” Jeremiah picked up, just as certain-seeming, “I promise that I will immediately transfer to you my Ownership of the Eight Cohort Liliandra cy’Linden, called Lolly.”
She glared knives at Kendon’s back, suddenly wishing his failure. What would he do with two Kept? And that weird little doll… why would he want her, anyway? Why was he risking losing what he already had?
“The terms of the challenge,” Kendon began, to be interrupted by the arrival of another group: Thorburn, with his girlfriend Ceinwen and his cronies, Curry and Basalt. Curry had been in the crowd; he must have run off to tell his friends.
“We’re just here to witness,” the big man said easily, when Kendon and Jeremiah looked askance at him.
“What are the terms of the challenge?” Basalt prompted. As the two explained it – starting over from the beginning again – Ahouva studied the newcomers, wondering what they were really up to. She’d seen them on Hell Night, stomping around like monsters, and she’d seen Ceinwen crying in the girls’ room. They were thugs, straight-out. Why were they getting involved? They were just making this go on longer and longer.
“Interesting.” Basalt was grinning in a way she definitely didn’t like. “What if I win? Do I get both girls?”
Kendon and Jeremiah started talking at once, shouting, arguing, until little creepy Lolly decided to interfere. “If he challenges you both…”
“Stop helping,” Jeremiah snapped.
The tiny blonde fell silent, as Basalt, pleased, nodded. “Then I add myself to this challenge, challenging you both for your Kept.”
“And what are you putting up, if you lose?” Kendon snapped, while Ahouva tried to become part of the couch. No, no, not him. Jeremiah would be better… Kendon would be best. Anything would be better than him, though. He was made out of rock. “You can’t enter a challenge without a stake.” No, no, Kendon, please?
“Myself,” the big man grinned.
Silence fell. “Yourself?” Kendon asked. “You’re putting yourself up as stakes?”
“I am. I’m not as pretty as the girls, I admit, but I think it’s a fair deal.”
They were thinking of backing out, Ahouva could tell, both guys shaking their heads. Maybe she could relax. Maybe she wouldn’t end up belonging to a monster; maybe she could stay with her Kendon, and not have to share him with some silly girl. Maybe he’d forget all this nonsense. Sweetly, over the growing silence, they could hear Ceinwen. Asking Thorburn something. Asking him something horrible.
“Didn’t you say it was a major loss of honor to turn down a challenge?”
“I did,” Thorburn agreed, “but I’m sure their pride can take the hit. They’re big boys.”
No, damnit, Ceinwen, why? Did you need someone to be miserable with you? Ahouva glared at the girl she’d thought was her friend. Kendon had a temper. He seemed to flare when people taunted him. It was going to be bad.
“Accepted,” he spat out. Jeremiah echoed him just as quickly.
Ahouva pressed her face against Jovanna’s arm and crossed her fingers, hoping, somehow, Kendon would win. He could do it, couldn’t he? He was so strong… and he wouldn’t have accepted if he didn’t think he stood a good chance. Right?
A heartbeat. Another. “Begin.” Thorburn’s voice echoed through the pod. Ahouva pressed her face
“Oh, my,” Æowyn murmured, and then, a moment later, “Wow. Impressive.”
“Eek,” Jovanna added for commentary, and, loudly, “oh, shit!”
“Can anyone survive that, do you think?” Æowyn pondered out loud.
“Gods, I hope so. I heard murder gets you expelled.” Ahouva cringed, her eyes still closed tightly, wishing her friends would shut up. Were they talking about her Kendon? No, they wouldn’t be that cruel.
“Wow… oh, dear.” Æowyn’s knees curled up to her chest.
“Ahouva…” Kendon called, and she, finally, looked up. Her master, her boyfriend, was pinned to the ground, a spear of some sort through his shoulder, reaching for her. “Ahouva,” he said again. “Hel-” Jeremiah’s boot to his mouth shut him up, but she was already out of her seat.
She couldn’t use magic, he’d forbidden her to use it out of class. She picked up a stick, no, half of a spear, blood on both ends. No. He’d said she couldn’t attack anyone after she’d bitten Agravain. She could flash them, maybe… no. “The clothes I put on you stay on you until I tell you they can come off, except during PE.” She couldn’t even do that. She sat down on the floor, tears flowing. He’d ordered her to help. She wanted to help, didn’t want to see him hurt. What could she do?
“Yield,” Jeremiah croaked, falling over next to Kendon. How had she missed that his intestines were spilling out? How could he still have been standing?
“Yield,” Kendon echoed, flopping like a fish on the floor. “You useless piece of shit, Ahouva, I told you to help.”
“I’m sorry!” she sobbed. “I wanted to, but I didn’t know what to do!”
“Well, you’re someone else’s problem now.” He was coughing up blood. “I release you to Basalt. Ahouva, you Belong to Basalt now. Fuck. Someone call a doctor.”
Her world was reeling. This pitiful asshole on the floor, bleeding all over the carpet, he’d just ripped out what was left of her soul and passed it on to someone else. She felt like she was the one spilling her guts on the floor. She felt as if she was the one dying slowly. She’d failed. She’d failed and he’d given her up. She leaned over and puked, vomiting up what little she’d had to eat for breakfast.
“Woah, woah.” A hand was on her back. “Here, puking in open wounds is probably a little extreme even for Kendon.” Even more gently, the deep voice continued. “You have to say the words, Ahouva; until you do, the promise is still eating at him.”
She looked down at Kendon, her vomit covering his chest. That meant the hand on her back was Basalt, didn’t it? And Kendon had just… “I belong to you now?”
“Yes, yes you do. Come on, let’s get you out of here.” With surprising strength and even more surprising gentleness, he picked her up like a baby. Up close, he smelled faintly of charcoal.
“Why?” she asked, leaning into his arms. What was he going to do with her now?
His shrug moved her like a wave and twisted her already unhappy stomach. “Someone had to. Uh, hold on. I have to take Lolly from Jeremiah and give her back.”
Ahouva clung to Basalt’s arm, not sure what he was doing or why he was doing it. Give Lolly back to Jeremiah? Was he going to give her back, too? She looked over at Kendon, still sprawled on the floor. He’d been really good to her, gentle and patient. It hadn’t been his fault that she was clumsy and stupid, that she made him…
No, that wasn’t right. That’s what he had said, over and over again. “I’m good to you, and you keep fucking up. I’m so patient with you, sweetie, but even I have my limits. I don’t like punishing you, but you leave me no choice.”
But she was bad. She’d been so slow to learn anything, even magic, which she loved, said all the wrong things around his friends, embarrassed him so much he’d started leaving her at home when he hung out with them…
She swallowed a sob. Why would Basalt want her? “Why?” she whispered softly.
He paused in his slow navigation of the bloody lounge and looked down at her. His smile looked gentler than anything she’d expected to see from him. “Why? It had to be done.”
It was almost what he’d said before, and it didn’t explain anything. “But…”
“I’m sorry,” he interrupted, “but shush for just a couple minutes, okay? Then we can talk about it as much as you want.”
She sealed her lips and nodded mutely. Give Lolly back… And Basalt was, still holding her, kneeling by Jeremiah, who looked so very close to dead. He muttered something – a Working, something to do with kaana, that was air, right? – and then spoke softly to the gutted scarecrow. Gutted. The guy holding her had done that, hadn’t he? Kendon might have, but Kendon was in no better shape.
“I don’t know what you were up to,” Basalt was murmuring softly, “but we both know I’m not up to handling Lolly.”
Ahouva looked up at the petite blonde in the ridiculous little-girl outfit, sucking on a lollypop and watching a pool of blood move towards her toes. She shivered, faintly, when the girl looked up at her, ice-blue eyes dispassionate. She had caught looks like that before, when Lolly happened to meet her eyes, as if wondering what she’d look like opened up on a table, dissected. She’d heard stories of what the other girl was like in Biology class, too, what she was like doing dissections. What would she have been like, if Jeremiah had won Ahouva? Was that why he’d challenged Kendon for her?
“…so let’s make this quick,” Basalt was saying. “As per the terms of the challenge…”
“Lolly, you Belong to Basalt,” Jeremiah croaked.
Lolly nodded, still smiling. “Okay. I’m all yours, Basalt,” she chirped. Ahouva wondered if either of the guys saw the tears leaking down the girl’s face.
“Yes, you are. And now, as per the terms of our agreement, Liliandra cy’Linden, you Belong to Jeremiah the Prophet.”
For the first time since meeting her, Ahouva saw the other girl look startled. “I what? I… you what?” She looked down at Jeremiah with a faintly accusing glare. “That wasn’t…” She shook her head. “I Belong to you, Jeremiah, the Prophet.”
“Yes, yes you do, doll,” he grunted out. “Now go get me Dr. Caitrin, please.”
While she scampered off, Basalt stood, still cradling Ahouva. “Now that that’s done, we can talk.”
She wasn’t certain if he meant that she could talk, so Ahouva nodded, her lips still pressed together. Of everything Kendon had done when he was mad at her, she’d hated being shushed the most. It meant she couldn’t even argue in her own defense.
“I’m going to take you to my room,” he continued. “We’ll get your stuff from Kendon’s room after the doctor is done with him, and then we can work out everything else.”
Everything else? He sounded surprisingly reasonable for a thug, but he was still in public. The worst wouldn’t happen until the doors were closed and the Administration could pretend nothing was going on. Ahouva nodded again, wishing he’d get on with it.
“It’s going to be okay,” he reassured her, as he carried her down the hall like a doll. “He can’t hurt you anymore.”
She stared at him incredulously. Was that was this was all about? Did he think he was rescuing her? Had she seriously just been white-knight-and-the-dragoned by a cy’Fridmar monster?
That expression actually got him to stop, and, worse, it got him frowning. “All right, we’re almost there,” he said, almost to himself, and started walking again. Maybe ten steps later, he shifted her weight in his arms, opened the door, and let them in.
His room, Ahouva decided, was very man-cave. Dimly-lit, dark colors, not all that messy but that seemed, in part, to be because there wasn’t that much stuff. The bed and a desk chair were the only places to sit; he put her down on the bed and pulled up a chair.
“Okay. One, I rescind the order to shush, and I apologize for that, but I wanted to deal with Jeremiah while he was still half-knocked out with pain. He’s too smart to deal with normally.”
“It’s okay,” she demurred. Was the blanket on his bed… fur?
“So,” he continued, not really acknowledging her answer, “I don’t know why he was challenging for you. Do you?”
“No?” She shook her head. “I never even talked to him – or to his Kept. I only have one class with him,” she added hurriedly, “and I always sit next to… sat next to Kendon.” Now what was she going to do?
“I don’t think he was going for ‘romantic’ motives,” Basalt assured her. “But I wonder what he was up to.”
“What about you?” she asked. “Did I really look like I needed rescuing? I tried to smile and put a good face on in public, I really did!”
“Hey,” he interjected, surprise and worry clear on his face. “Hey, Ahouva, nobody’s yelling at you. You didn’t do anything wrong. You managed to keep a stiff upper lip so well, it took a long time to notice anything was wrong.”
“Wrong? I mean, Kendon and I had our rough spots, but I was learning how to do better… I didn’t need rescuing,” she blurted, and then slapped her hands over her mouth. He could just give her back, too, right? Kendon couldn’t be too mad at her.
Basalt shook his head, looking at her. “I could really use an empath about now,” he muttered. “Listen, Ahouva. He was abusing you, and the bond – being Kept – was making you accept it. And it looks like maybe some stubbornness on your part, too,” he added in a mutter. Ahouva cringed and didn’t try to contradict him. “But you’re not with him anymore. You’re with me,” he added firmly.
“So…” She tried not to think about Ceinwen crying in the girls’ room. “What do you want me for?”
“Well…” He scooted his chair closer, until his knees were touching hers. “I was hoping you’d be my girlfriend.”
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