January 6, 2013 by Lyn
December 31, 2003
Llew tried not to tense. He was in a very comfortable position – leaning against Adelheid, her arm around his shoulders, the train rumbling along slowly. He didn’t want to move, and he didn’t really want to think. Thinking led to this being more likely to change, or end.
His Keeper sighed. “I really like you, Llew. I didn’t expect that.”
“I didn’t expect it either,” he admitted. “Liking you, or you liking me.”
“It could be…” She wiggled her hand to indicate magic, or the Bond, or some combination of the two.
“Yeah, except that’s this funny pull somewhere in the back of my head, and liking you is a funny pull somewhere else.”
“That’s not an emotion, Llew.” She was cheerfully exasperated at him. He grinned back at her.
“Professor VanderLinden says it is. But I didn’t mean that… I mean, that, yeah…”
“We can talk about that back in our room.”
He wondered when it had become their room. He wasn’t sure what that meant for him, or them, or any of it. He was pretty sure she’d just said they might have sex, though, and it was really easy to get derailed, thinking about that.
“Okay. So what are we talking about here on the train?” Derailed. Ha. Well, if the train went off the tracks, they probably wouldn’t have to go back to school right away.
“Liking each other. And…”
“And Anwell.” He said it for her, because she got all funny-faced when she had to say it. “Look, I get it. You’re in love with the guy.” It sucked for him, but it wasn’t like he could change it.
“I want you to be happy.”
“So tell me to be happy.” That was pissy, and he knew it, but, seriously… “Sorry. But, really, Heid… there’s no good answers here.”
She pulled him close to her, in a hug that was, as always, stronger than he expected. “I know. I wish I could… I dunno. Do you think there’s someone else you might like?”
“It’s hard to tell.” He didn’t want to admit that. He wanted to just say no. Of course I like you best. But he knew some of that was the bond, pushing him to be a good Kept. “A lot of girls don’t really talk to me that much anymore, you know? They kind of… look right past me.” His hand went to his neck, and then fell back to his lap. She’d taken the collar off, for the train ride.
“They do that,” she agreed. “When it was Anwell, I kind of liked it. It meant they left him alone. But with you…”
“Yeah. With me, you’re not aiming to get me left alone. Ummm.” He rolled his shoulders. “Don’t take this wrong way, but I know Tess and…” He stopped as she hissed. “Seriously, please don’t take this the wrong way.”
“Is there a right way to take a sentence that starts like that?”
“Well, uh, with a little patience, maybe? Tess and Lucian sometimes lend Lee out…”
“Which is horrid and no better than rape…”
“Well, except when he just gets to hang out and watch bad movies all night. He was telling me about that the other day.”
“…oh. So you think…?” She stared out the window, even as she pulled him closer. “Hunh. I could work something out like that for you, if you wanted.”
He liked the touch. He wasn’t sure what to do about that. But… “To be clear. What I want is you. I just know that I don’t get to have that.”
“Not like I want, at least.” It was his turn to hug her, and for once, she didn’t pull away. “So… sure. We can do this.”
He was going to have to shake Anwell’s hand, if they ever met. The man was damn lucky.
December 31, 2003
“Pour me another glass of wine, please. This isn’t…”
“No, it’s neither from Niki nor Phillipa.” Laurel smirked at Shira. “Nor anyone else; it’s normal wine.”
“It’s extraordinary wine. And I was going to ask if it came from Valentina’s ‘special grapes.’”
“That, neither.” She poured Shira a generous glass of the sweet red wine, and topped of the glass sitting in front of the third chair. “I know a guy in Oregon.”
Wysteria held up a sign. ::You know someone everywhere.::
“Yes, but none as sweet as you.”
“Is this really the time for sweet-talking, Laurel?” Shira frowned over her glasses, but Laurel was not going to be repressed.
“If New Year’s Eve is the time for this dreadfully depressing work, then it’s also the time for flirtation and sweet-talking.” She sipped her own wine, and let the thoughts that popped up slide out of her mouth. “We should find you someone, Shira.”
“I am in no need of ‘someone.’”
“Well, then, you should invite Feu Drake around more often. He could use some socialization. The man is stiffer than a plank.”
“I wouldn’t say his stiffness is a bad thing, not truly. But he and I don’t have a thing, Laurel.”
“Is that what you don’t call it?” You could almost hear the smirk in Wysteria’s soft interjection.
“Ha. Yes, it’s what we don’t call it. He tends to think it’s improper. I point out that impropriety has never stopped anyone in this school. He points out that he is not, as a rule, a follower.” Shira took a generous swing of her wine. “Still. He’s pleasant when he’s pleasant. Much more so than this…” She picked up a pile of dusty paper and dropped them back to the table. “…this awful stuff. How could they…?”
Wysteria had a sign for that one. It had come up enough, lately.
::If one begins with assuming a basic lack of humanity in one’s target, any number of things become easier.::
“Do you mean what they thought of the Ellehemaei, or what we think of them?”
Laurel picked a study to begin with. “It’s hard to say that, isn’t it? Being here, being part of this project?”
Shira looked up at her. “You’re not normally the one to say that, Laur.”
“I don’t normally talk about it.” She swirled her wine in her glass, and stared at the tiny maelstrom within. “We’re doing it; we signed up for the project, and we agreed to Mentor our Students the best we could, teach them our assigned subject as thoroughly as they will learn it and then some, and grade them fairly and reasonably.” She rattled off the lines of their contract from memory. She’d read it more than a few times in the last nine years. “We’re here for the duration, ladies.”
Shira tilted her head. “That’s an interesting way of looking at it, Laurel. But if not complaining about it – then what? Simply accepting the way things are?”
“Did you accept what happened to Eris? To Callista?”
“Did you? With Delaney? With Ofir?” Shira’s voice was rising.
Laurel stood half out of her chair. “Just because I couldn’t rescue them doesn’t mean I didn’t try to help!”
Shira stood, too. “And you think I didn’t try? Do you think I didn’t want to destroy those smug little bastards? Do you think I don’t want to hit Kendon, Agravain, Thessaly and Lucian?”
“Then why don’t you?”
“Why don’t you?”
“Laur… Shira…” Laurel barely heard Wysteria’s voice, pale and dusty as it was and contrasted against her anger.
“Because they don’t learn if…” She cut off as a large sign, scribbled in purple marker on a piece of cardboard, appeared between them:
They settled down, shuffling papers self-consciously. “I care.” Laurel whispered it. “So much it hurts.”
“Me, too.” Shira peeked up at her through disheveled curls. “Perhaps we should, ah, hurt them instead of ourselves?”
December 31, 2003
“What. Did. You. Tell. Them?”
Inigo had gotten past livid some time ago. Tokko wasn’t telling him things. Tokko wasn’t telling him anything, and Anita had gone into one of her little fits, so there was no getting information out of her until she was better.
“Nothing, Inigo. Nothing at all.” He shook his head. “They asked, who was in charge, and I didn’t tell them. They asked, what’s going on, and I didn’t tell them. They asked, why are we attacking, and I didn’t tell them you were angry…
“I did tell them we wanted girlfriends. We were supposed to get girlfriends.”
Inigo hissed in frustration. “Why is it always girlfriends with you, Tokka? There are bigger problems.”
“Maybe for you.” The big yeti stood up, towering over Inigo. “Maybe big things matter to you. Matter so much you make them angry. Matter so much they hurt Anita and me. Big things for little Inigo… why you down here anyway? You’re no monster.”
Tokka didn’t get angry much. Inigo usually took care of the anger for their whole little crew. They all liked it better that way. Inigo couldn’t hurt Tokka, not without flinging Workings. When the yeti got angry, well…
Inigo kept his voice level. It took effort. He was still angry, and now he was angry and scared all at once. “You know why I’m down here, Tokka.”
“Seems stupid. Down here is for the monsters. You’re just short.”
“Don’t say that!” His control failed him. Of course, he was short, shorter even than Anita, but that was no reason to say it.
“Short short short. Short and stupid. Look at you. Making them angry. Make them too angry, then what?”
“They wouldn’t listen!” He screamed it up at the yeti. “They won’t answer me!” Their world was burning, and nobody would even talk to him.
“Maybe you talk to the wrong people?” Tokka rumbled it down at him. Oh, yeah. The yeti was angry. “Maybe you get us all in trouble. Get us all the wrong sort of attention.”
“Wrong attention? There is no wrong attention. There is attention, which will solve the problems we have.”
“That is what you keep saying.” Tokka’s voice was getting louder, too. “You keep saying ‘need attention. Need attention.’ We have their attention now. What are we going to do with it, Inigo? What are we going to do with these people hunting us? With these people yelling at us? Hurting us? Now that they know we are here? Now what?”
“Now we talk to them.”
Both boys feel silent as Sibyl walked into the room. Shit. Inigo hadn’t meant to get Her attention. He bit his tongue and hoped Tokka had the brains to do the same.
“Now we negotiate with them.”
“With what?” Inigo was horrified to find out that it had been him who’d spoken. She turned all those eyes on him, and he froze.
“With what?” She shrugged. Inigo kept his eyes on her face. “We negotiate with threats and promises. With lies and secrets. They did not want us to leave, Up There. They did not want us to stay here, either. And we left, and we’re here.” She gestured. Inigo kept his gaze on her face. “We have things to negotiate with.”
“No. We wanted to stay quietly here, but you two involved them. We wanted to be peaceful, but you two made this about war. Now you will leave the rest to me.”
She had spoken. Inigo sighed. So it would be.
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