March 14, 2013 by Lyn
“Don’t want to go to school.”
Moore’s signs were sloppy and angry, and his voice felt loud in his throat. His mother answered with calm, smooth signs and carefully formed lip-shapes.
“You need to. Sorry, but this is a non-negotiable.”
“I won’t know anyone there. They won’t…” He trailed off. I’m going to have to teach them how to deal with a deaf kid. All over again. “Want to stay here.”
She’d already pulled the non-negotiable card. He wasn’t going to get her to move. But he needed to make sure she knew exactly how unhappy she was about this. “Don’t want to go to this… Zombie school.”
“Zombie… ha. Ghoul.” Mom rolled her eyes at him. “Cute, Moore. Go pack. I’m going to go pick up that laptop you wanted.”
“What’s Dad say?”
Mom paused with her back half to him. He thought she might not answer. When she turned around, her face was strange and her signs were tight and unhappy. “Dad understands.”
She wasn’t going to explain, either.
Moore still didn’t know what was going on when he got on the plane. He didn’t know what was going on when he got off the plane in the tiny airport, with the short guy who knew pidgin sign and was clearly relieved Moore could handle spoken English.
“What did they tell you about me, anyway?” Was he going into someplace where everyone expected him to be helpless?
The guy – Luke, he’d said – hesitated. His answer was careful, his shoulders pulled tight. “Deaf. Clever. Didn’t need an interpreter.”
Hunh. He nodded. “They forgot ‘likes World of Warcraft and the Yankees.’” He made his words carefully. New people sometimes had trouble understanding him.
The guy smiled, and his shoulders relaxed. “They did. Baseball, hunh? That’s a new one down here.”
“Down?” He gestured, not quite the sign, not certain he’d read that one right.
“You’ll see. Buckle up.” And the guy did the sign for seatbelt. Pretty well, too, for a muggle.
The drive was boring. Moore spent the time entertaining himself with scenarios. It was really a work camp. It was a brainwashing center for a cult. It was a special training camp for secret agents. He was going to learn how to be a ninja.
That was his favorite. “Does ninja training camp come with cool masks?”
“Ninj…” He watched him repeat the words. “Yes.” He turned to smile at Moore. “Very cool ones.”
Now Moore didn’t know if he was being catered to, or played along with. He wasn’t sure which would be better. He fell silent again, imagining how ninja training camp would go.
Sneaking training, of course. And vanishing in plain sight. Cool masks, of course, and then there would be the throwing stars and the swords.
This held a remote chance of actually not sucking.
This place was oddly not-sucky. Moore wasn’t sure he understood it yet: why wasn’t it sucky?
It was a basement school, posh-looking, full of strangers. It should have sucked. Any one of those things should have made it miserable.
People asked him questions about his deafness, of course. A couple people tried shouting. A couple people asked stupid questions. But, for the most part, nobody thought it was that big of a deal. There was even a girl who was studying ASL, and, unlike most people who were “studying ASL,” she actually knew what she was talking about.
Actually, there were a lot of girls in Addergoole. Reasonably, fifty-one-percent-of-the-population, there ought to be a lot of girls. And Addergoole had a lot of pretty people.
Pretty people who, in more than one case, were going out of their way to talk to him. There was always, he’d discovered, new-kid-novelty whenever you started in a new place. And all the new kids seemed to be getting their share of friendly attention, so maybe that was all it was.
All in all, for a hole in the ground, the school was pretty good.
“Hey.” A short guy with black hair and freckles stepped up in front of Moore. Cillian. “Bunch of us are going to have a pizza party at my place tonight.” He signed pizza, party, us, and then something Moore was pretty sure was supposed to be video games. “You in?”
Moore grinned. “Love it. Where?”
This school was absolutely not sucky, and he might even forgive his mother.
This school was a fucking nuthouse, and he was never going to forgive his mother. Ever.
Moore darted through the halls, trying to figure out what was going on. Cillian had only been the first of the freakjobs to accost him this morning. Suddenly, everybody was using everything they could against him – not just him, against all the new kids. Moore just had one more thing to use against him than some of the others.
“Accost” wasn’t really the right word, even if it was one of Professor VanderLinden’s favorites this week. “Jump.” “Attack.” “Sneak up behind and grab.” Those were closer.
Now, it was Drina, whose tactic of choice appeared to be making holes appear in the middle of the floor, and Aegina, who was shooting some sort of arrows at them.
Moore just wanted breakfast. Breakfast, was that too much to ask? “Cut the shit out.” He put as much force into the words as he could, until he could feel his lungs really pushing air out. “Cut. It. Out!”
The out shook the hallway. Drina and Aegina – and two others he hadn’t noticed coming up on him – stumbled backwards.
Moore grinned. Okay, that was neat. “Back Off.” He added the signs, pushing at the air. Drina held up her hands, in what he hoped was surrender.
Okay, this had its possibilities.
“Done?” He made the sign and made an effort to not put too much force in his voice.
Drina nodded urgently. Aegina, on the other hand, was moving slowly up the hall towards him. Moore turned his head towards her and shouted again. “Back. Off.”
She stumbled, tripped, and fell. He glanced back at Drina. “No more.”
“No more. Look.” She’d moved close enough that he could see her lips easily. “There will be more of this, all the way to lunch. Let me come with you, it will help.”
“No tricks?” He didn’t really know Drina; they had two classes together, but she sat behind him.
“No tricks. Scout’s honor.”
“Kay.” He kept her in his sight at they walked. Conversation could wait until they were sitting down.
Drina pushed off three different groups on their way to the Dining Hall. Every time, she turned her back to Moore, and a few moments later, the people went away.
It irritated Moore. She was doing it on purpose, he was sure of it. She was keeping secrets. “No tricks.” He muttered it to himself. “Promised.”
She set her hand on his shoulder. He glanced over, and she mouthed “almost there.”
He was seething by the time they got to the Dining Hall, but he still noticed that Drina’s shoulders relaxed and her hands stopped shaking. She turned to him, took a long breath, and then looked him straight in the eyes. “Ok. Things are… weird.”
“Really weird. Nice power, by the way.”
“Power?” He had an idea what she meant. But better to play dumb.
“The sonic boom… oh, you can’t hear that. Right. You can understand me okay? ‘Cause I can do something else, to make it easier.”
“I can understand okay. Can you understand me?”
“Hrrm.” She turned her face away from him again, and then, in the back of his mind, he felt her speak. It was the strangest thing, like seeing the words written on the inside of his skull.
::Weird.:: He tried to imitate whatever she was doing, thinking the words instead of mouthing them. ::But really clear::
::Good. It’s also a lot harder to eavesdrop on. Okay. So, things are weird.::
::You said that.::
::I did. I’m trying to get around to exactly how they’re weird.::
::Really freaking weird?::
::Ha.:: In front him, she smirked. ::Yes. Really weird. Magic, you got that, right?::
::There’s also, like, magical… promises and stuff.::
::Magical promises.:: He made his best doubtful face at her.
::Seriously. And today, today is the day that everyone and their cousin is going to want to get a magical promise out of you.::
::Because it’s Hell Night.::
::It’s ten in the morning.::
::Figure of speech. Today’s a massive hazing ritual, and it’s topped off by getting people to make promises. Specific promises.::
Even without talking, her face was very expressive. She wasn’t telling him the whole story yet.
::What sort of specific promise?::
He could feel her pain across the telepathy thing she had up, but she answered him through it. ::To Belong to them. To be theirs.:: There was more, not quite words, just feelings. Something like bonds. Something like love. Something like need.
She shrugged at him, her smile apologetic. ::I told them you were Mine. It kept them from jumping you.::
Moore could follow that thought easily enough. ::And now you want it to be true.::
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