May 15, 2013 by Lyn
Thursday, April 29, 2004
“Ahouva, if you’d be willing and your Keeper doesn’t mind, I’d like it if you’d spend some time with Kairos and her Students.”
Professor Pelletier had on her stern expression, the one she almost never pulled out for her own Students. Ahouva had a feeling it wasn’t quite aimed in her direction. “Why, Professor?” She almost asked why me?
The professor heard it anyway. “I’m asking all of my Students. Both Kairos and the basement students are going to take some time to adjust to life up here, and I would like those I trust to give them a bit of a hand with that adjustment.”
Those I trust was an interesting phrase. Ahouva nodded, though. Her Mentor was asking her a favor. She could do this. Well, probably.
“What kind of schedule were you thinking? Only I’ll have to ask Basalt, of course. I don’t think he’ll say no or anything. But I want to ask anyway.” She shrugged in on herself. She had been with Basalt for so much longer than Kendon had Owned her, but sometimes she still woke up terrified and unsure where she was.
“Of course.” Professor Pelletier’s answer seemed, once again, to take in both what Ahouva had said and what she hadn’t. It was more than a little unnerving. “I understand, dear. I was thinking perhaps two days a week after your magic classes?”
“I could do that. With some other cy’Pelletier?”
“I was thinking Howard and Adannaya with you, if that will work out?”
Howard and Addy. Ahouva nodded. “That seems like it would work. It’s not, say, Jeremiah…”
“Jeremiah means well.”
“Meaning well doesn’t always mean that much, Professor.” She felt heat rushing to her cheeks. “I mean…”
“I understand. Jeremiah is a little terrifying, and the fact that he’s Keeping Liliandra – Lolly – makes everything a little bit more frightening. But Howard doesn’t frighten you?”
“Howard isn’t scary.” Ahouva smiled, thinking about the bullish man. “He’s a lech, sure, but since I’ve been Kept for the whole year, he’s always been hands-off.”
“Howard is, despite his proclivities – or maybe because of them – very respectful.” The professor nodded. “I’m glad you get along with him. And Adannaya?”
“I don’t really know anything at all about her, but she seems nice enough. I mean, in cy’ree meetings and things, she’s seemed friendly. Shy, sort of?” Ahouva frowned. “Is this a quiz?”
“There is always a quiz.” The professor looked amused. “I am curious how my Students get along, yes. Adannaya had a difficult first year, and Howard, being in the crew he is in…”
“There was that fight,” Ahouva allowed. “But they did that for fun.” She wrinkled her nose. “I don’t really get that, but Basalt seemed thrilled to end up in Doctor Caitrin’s.”
“Some people enjoy that sort of physical conflict. Not you?”
“Oh, no.” She found herself curling up a bit. “I mean, I enjoy a good argument as much as the next person – “
“Maybe a bit more.”
Professor Pelletier made her smile, in a way she really liked. She shared one of those smiles with her Mentor, now, one of those we are women together sort of smiles.
“There’s this bumper sticker…” She offered it cautiously, not certain if the Professor had even ever had a car. “Well-Behaved Women Rarely Make History?”
The professor’s smile was both amused and, Ahouva thought, a bit sad. “True, more or less. Laurel has that on her car, and she is much better-behaved than I am, all things considered.”
“Oh.” She wasn’t sure what she felt about that. “Professor Valerian?”
“She’s always been more able to play the role than I have. But that is, perhaps, a story for another day.” The professor put both hands on the table. “Today, what I would like is to talk about the ‘new’ students.”
“What do you want to talk about, in specific?” Ahouva knew a cue when she was given one. “They – they’re hard to pigeonhole. I’d like to say ‘they seem nice,’ or something, but only some of them do.”
“Caiside, for instance?”
Ahouva felt a flush rising to her cheeks. “Caiside, for instance,” she agreed. “Please don’t tell Basalt I said that.”
“Basalt may be thinking the same thing.”
“Oh, he doesn’t like boys…!”
“I wouldn’t be so certain of that. He spent his time Belonging to cy’Linden, and that does strange things to most people.”
“Like Thorburn.” Ahouva frowned. Ceinwen never said much, but she knew enough to read between those lines.
Professor Pelletier frowned back at her. “Yes. Like Thorburn, although in different ways, I believe, than your Keeper was changed.”
“Thorburn got hurt.” She did not approve of someone hurting their Kept, even if it was hard to imagine someone as big and strong as Thorburn getting hurt. Ahouva remembered what the bond could do. She wasn’t sure big-and-strong would make that much difference. “Did Basalt?”
“Neither of them are my Students, but I believe Thorburn was less, ah, flexible going into the situation than Basalt, and that may have meant that, as he didn’t bend, he ended up cracking.” The professor’s frown deepened. “It’s harder to tell with the boys, sometimes. They keep everything so carefully folded inside.” Her frown turned into a piercing look at Ahouva. “Then again, sometimes the girls do the same thing.”
“I just wanted to be a good Kept!” She frowned right back at her Mentor. “I was doing everything I could to make Kendon happy, because that’s what a good Kept did. I mean, I was right, too, wasn’t I?”
“Mmm.” The professor did not quite wince. “Mmm, in a certain manner of speaking, but that manner of speaking requires that the Keeper be, as it were, a good Keeper, too. Either a bad Kept or a bad Keeper can turn a relationship abusive.”
“A bad Kept can?”
“In any number of ways, but the primary of which being if the Keeper does not tell the Kept not to do something, there are only so many pressures to encourage the Kept not to do such.”
Ahouva thought that one over. “So if the Keeper does not tell the Kept ‘don’t hit me…’“
“Then there is the guilt of the bond, of course, pressing on ‘hurting your Keeper,’ but there is no solid impediment.”
“Kendon…” Ahouva paused and considered her brain for a moment. “I don’t have any orders from him anymore. He ordered me not to hurt him.”
“Many Keepers do. I know Professor Fridmar has always encouraged a set of basic orders that keep one’s Kept from rebelling too much.” The professor grimaced. “But we were speaking of bad Keepings.”
“The school doesn’t stop bad Keepings, right?”
“We try not to. We do try to stop abusive Keepings. But we don’t try to interfere in what are basically interpersonal problems.”
“So, Kendon and I…”
“If Jeremiah and Basalt had not interfered, one of the staff would have soon. I know Kendon’s Mentor had already spoken to him several times.”
“Kendon won’t change.” She was certain of that.
Ahouva felt her cheeks heating up again. “Basalt is nothing like Kendon.” She caught the professor’s eye. “And I like him.”
“Good.” It might have been Ahouva’s imagination, but she thought the professor looked truly pleased. “Very good. And your baby?”
Ahouva set both hands over her stomach. “Growing. Kicking, too. Kicking a lot, if he doesn’t like what I had for lunch. Dr. Caitrin says he’s doing really well, though.” She found her smile getting warm.
“Have you and Basalt talked about names?”
“No, but he gets to name the baby, doesn’t he? That’s what Ceinwen said.”
“He gets to name the child, per tradition. However, per the Law, that child will be yours until they are an Adult. Any name he gives the child, you are going to have to explain until they come to Addergoole – and possibly afterwards.” The professor’s smile looked as if she was remembering something from a long time ago. “I have always found it useful to at least find out what they are considering, so that I can steer them away from the… shall we say sillier names.”
“But isn’t it some sort of seeing ceremony?” Ahouva gestured with both hands. “Where they look into the kid’s future?”
She managed not to wince when Professor Pelletier smirked at her. It wasn’t like Kendon’s smirk. It didn’t mean that she was being wrong-stupid-bad. “I can see that Basalt explained that part to you.”
“With some input from Ceinwen, which I guess she got from Thorburn.”
“Yes. Well, the Naming ceremony is intended as a Seeing. There are elements of the ceremony that bring forth whatever little Sight – ability to read the future, or the trends of the world, depending on who you ask – the father has. However, not all men have any to bring forward, even with the help of the ceremony.”
“Is the ceremony a type of Working?” Ahouva hadn’t heard of anything except Workings and the innate powers that did magic.
“In a way. As I understand it, it is more calling upon the connection to the world, somewhere between Laws and Workings.”
Ahouva frowned. “That seems sort of… fuzzy.”
“There are a few things about our type that are a bit… fuzzy. Many of them focus around tradition instead of Law, habit instead of Working.” The Professor made a dismissive gesture, flopping one hand sideways. “Regardless, it would behoove you to talk to Basalt.”
“I can do that.” Ahouva found a warm, goofy smile sliding across her face. “I like talking to him.”
The professor returned her smile. “That, my dear, is a rare and wonderful thing. Cherish it.”
Later that evening
“How was your meeting with your Mentor?” Basalt had cooked dinner, the way he did every Thursday after Ahouva’s meeting.
“It was pretty good.” She put on her apron, a frilly match to Basalt’s sedate charcoal-grey one, and pulled out the ingredients for dessert. “She wants us to work with the basement students a little.”
“Us you-and-me or us cy’Pelletier?”
“Cy’Pelletier, but she probably wouldn’t mind if you came along. I think she likes you.”
“Yeah? She usually doesn’t approve of my cy’ree.”
“She thinks you’re good for me.” She patted his arm. “It helps that I think you’re good for me.”
“I try.” He flipped dinner onto two plates and added a garnish. “How’s Junior doing?”
“Agitated.” She set a hand on her belly, where it seemed to spend more of its time lately. “He doesn’t really like Workings. Especially Huamu Workings.”
“He’s his dad’s son in that. I don’t even like the way it sounds.”
“I’m sorry.” Ahouva winced. “I won’t say it around you.”
“Hey, babe.” He set down the spatula and turned to Ahouva, a deep frown on his face. “No, no, don’t… damnit.”
She took a half-step backwards. She hadn’t seen him like this in weeks. Months, maybe. He reached out for her, and she had to struggle not to flinch away.
His hand touched her cheek. “You’ve been getting so much better.”
“I’m sorry.” It came out as a sob; she slapped her hand over her mouth. He didn’t like it when she cried. “I’m sorry, I’ll try harder.”
“Damnit… Damn, oh, lover. Pretty girl, come here.”
She couldn’t disobey that one. She stepped closer, trying not to shake. “I’m sorry.” She mumbled it through the hand she still had over her mouth.
He hugged her against his chest, one hand on the small of her back and the other at the top of her head. “I’m sorry, Ahouva. Please, it’s okay. It’s okay. You didn’t upset me.”
“You got all frowny.” She had to move her hand to be heard, since his chest was muffling her now, too. “You got all frowny and sweary.”
“Hey, honey.” He pulled back just enough to touch her cheek. “I was being frowny and sweary at myself, okay? Not at you.”
“Yeah?” She bit her lip. “You looked mad.”
“No, no. It’s just – you don’t have to not say something because I’m not good at it. Please. If you’re Working with it, especially.”
She blinked at him. “Okay. But you don’t like it?”
“That’s okay.” He stroked her hair. “What’s gotten into you, hon? You haven’t gotten twitchy like this in a while.”
“I don’t know.” She peeked up at him through her hair. “I really don’t. Professor Pelletier and I were talking about… well, all sorts of stuff. Kendon, a little. Being a bad Kept, being a bad Keeper.”
He glowered. “Nobody better be telling you that you’re a bad Kept. You’re my Kept, and you’re perfect.”
“Mmmf.” She peeked up at him. “No, we agreed Kendon was a bad Keeper. And I’m a good Kept.”
“You are. But that shouldn’t have gotten you all twitchy. I mean, should it?”
“I don’t think so.” She ran her hands over the slightly-craggy surface of his back. “Maybe… we talked about Caiside?”
“The cute Zeroth Cohort?”
She ducked her head down so he couldn’t see the flush she was sure was rising to her cheeks. “Yes. Yeah. Him. Like I said, Pelletier wants me to talk to some of the basement people…”
“Aah. And he’s cute.”
“Yeah?” She whispered it, as if that would make him less likely to hear it.
“Well, he is.” Basalt’s laugh rumbled in his chest. “I’m not going to get upset about that, but the bond has probably got you all twisted up, doesn’t it?”
“Maybe?” Was that what she was feeling. “You think he’s cute, too?”
“Aaah.” He kissed the top of her head. “That, too, hunh?”
“That, too?” She peered back up at him.
“You’re jealous?” He stroked her hair with the back of his hand. “No wonder you’re a bit of a mess.”
“Hey.” She swallowed a lump of sudden worry and sadness. “I’m okay.”
“You’re more than okay, pretty girl.” He hugged her tightly again, bits of his craggy skin poking against her softer body. “You’re far more than okay.”
“But you still think Caiside is pretty?” She didn’t want to ask it, but it came out anyway.
“Well, I can think lots of people are pretty.” He sat down on the bed and pulled her onto his lap. “I can think Thessaly is pretty, but she’s still a soul-eating bitch. Dirk is pretty, but I wouldn’t trust him too near me with a knife. Caiside is fun to look at, sure, but I don’t trust any of the Zeroth Cohort. And then there’s you.”
“Me?” Ahouva wasn’t sure what she should make of that.
“You. Beautiful, smart, sharp, fun girl. My Ahouva.” He grinned at her, and she didn’t mind at all that it was a bit of a dopey expression; she found herself smiling back with just as dorky a look. “And you’re worth a hundred of Caiside, or Tess, or any of them.”
“Hunh.” She felt as if someone had filled her with sunshine. “That might be the nicest thing anyone’s ever said to me.”
“I’ll have to keep trying, then, and make sure I say more and more nice things.” Basalt tried for a kiss, and Ahouva was more than willing to indulge him.
The Next Day – Friday, April 30, 2004
It took Ahouva until the next evening to remember the rest of her conversation with Professor Pelletier. While she was making dessert – peach cobbler, and she really wanted to know how the school managed to get fruit that tasted summer-perfect while underground in the middle of the midwest in early Spring – Junior kicked, forcefully reminding her of his presence.
“Everything okay?” Basalt set the skillet off the heat and reached one hand towards her. Ahouva waved him off with a smile.
“Everything’s fine. Junior’s just making himself known.” She rubbed her belly ruefully. “Which reminds me – Professor Pelletier thought we should talk about baby names.”
“Yeah?” Basalt moved the food back onto the heat but kept looking in Ahouva’s direction. “She worried I’m going to name my kids something like Rock, Stone, Diamond or something?”
“She didn’t say anything specifically like that.” Ahouva smiled. “I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t name your son ‘Rock’ after growing up named ‘Basalt.’“
“Probably not.” He tossed a splash of olive oil into the pan and a handful of minced garlic. “Do you have any names you like, or anything you really don’t like?”
“Nothing horrid.” She wrinkled her nose. “I know, that’s not any help at all. But, I mean. Æowyn has that funny A-E thing in her name, and that’s given her trouble forever. Ceinwen, nobody can pronounce her name. Mine’s not much better. You got called rock-brains, yeah? And I remember Damaris complaining that she got ‘Damn, Eris,’ a lot, when they read up on mythology in school.”
Basalt chuckled. “That last one is kind of cute. Probably cuter if you’ve heard stories about Eris.”
“The goddess of chaos and discord?”
“No. Well… maybe. She was a Fourth Cohort, and she, well, liked to cause a lot of trouble, from what I’ve heard. Or maybe she was just born to it. With a name like that…”
“Do you think the name does that?” She tapped his rocky skin. “Does it change who you are?”
“I really don’t know.” He shrugged. “Professor Fridmar says that the ritual will give you some vision about your kid, and then it’s a case of finding a name that fits that vision. But not everyone has any sight at all. And some people – I dunno, sometimes you do wonder if it’s chicken or egg.”
“My name doesn’t mean anything exciting. I looked it up. I mean, it doesn’t say anything about hyena ears, or about…” She flapped her hands, and then realized she’d never spoken to Basalt about what Professor Pelletier called her innate power. “Magic stuff.”
“Magic stuff.” Kendon would have glared, or scoffed. Basalt just smiled. “Your innate power, that sort of thing? What’s your name mean?”
“Well.” He kissed her forehead. “I like that. You’re a good friend, too, aren’t you?”
“I try to be. Sometimes it’s hard.”
“Because you’re Kept?” His frown didn’t freak her out so much today, but it was still a bit much to deal with. She gulped and shook her head.
“Because they are.”
“Well, yeah. But their Keepers all let them hang out with you, at least?”
“Yeah.” She let out a breath. “They do, and that’s cool. And you do, and that’s cooler, because Kendon really didn’t let me do anything. But, I mean, Æowyn…” She flailed with both hands, because she wasn’t sure how to explain it. “Kat’s better now, I think, although I think she’s looking for a new Keeper. And Ceinwen…”
“Yeah.” Basalt knew all about Ceinwen, or at least, he knew about Thorburn, which was about the same thing, in the long run. “I think they’re doing better?”
“I think so, too. But, I mean, ‘better’ is kind of relative, isn’t it? I know he’s your friend and everything…”
“Hey, he’s my friend, but that doesn’t mean I won’t tell him when he’s being an asshole, you know. And I have. Is be being an asshole again?”
“It’s really hard to tell. She protects him. I think.” Ahouva frowned as she puzzled it out. “I mean, I don’t think she’s keeping things in because of orders, but she’s definitely keeping things in. Hiding things? And I get the feeling that she’s trying to shelter him. Which is weird, and backwards, and a little wrong, but I guess if it works for her?” She shrugged. “I don’t really understand them.”
“I don’t, either.” Basalt echoed her shrug. “I mean, I never quite understood what about Indigo messed Thorburn up so bad. She wasn’t all that different from Brydan.”
“Indigo.” Ahouva repeated the name, tasting the feel of it on her tongue, and thought about the girl she knew who was attached to that name. She was a Sixth Cohort – both Indigo and Brydan were, actually – cy’Linden, a girl whose hair matched her name. She seemed fun-loving, almost fun-worshiping.
Brydan was more lush than Indigo, and, although they both smiled frequently, there was something about Brydan’s smiles that suggested she was smiling with you, rather than laughing at you. “Maybe,” Ahouva hazarded, “Brydan’s just a nicer person than Indigo?”
Basalt laughed. “Well, Brydan’s a very nice person. But Indigo never seemed that bad.”
“Agravain doesn’t seem that bad if you’re not wearing his collar. And there’s, well.” She chewed on her lip. “Professor Pelletier said maybe you weren’t totally straight?” In her old school, suggesting that would have been a mortal insult. Here, well, she’d Belonged to Kendon, who got very angry every time Agra hit on him. But, on the other hand, there was Agra, who appeared to like everyone, or at least want to sleep with someone, if not everyone.
Basalt’s cheeks darkened and he looked away for a moment. “Professor Pelletier… hunh.” He cleared his throat. “Yeah. Yeah, but I prefer girls.”
Ahouva let out a breath. “I thought you preferred me.” Relief made her joke a little sharp, but he didn’t seem to mind. He grinned back at her.
“I definitely prefer you. But you are a lovely girl. Why was Professor Pelletier talking about me liking boys?”
“We were walking about Caiside. And about Thorburn, and how he ended up…” She trailed off, unsure of a polite way to end that sentence.
“Hunh.” Basalt looked thoughtful for a moment. “I doubt he’d tell me, really. But that could be it. Jeez, I hope he doesn’t end up…” He shut his mouth.
Ahouva could follow that thought well enough. “Doing the thing where your Keeper is horrid, so you’re horrid in return?”
“Indigo never seemed horrid. And Thorburn never looked all that unhappy.”
“‘Don’t look unhappy’ is a pretty easy order to give. Not so easy to follow, but I bet if you don’t want the teachers coming down on you, and you think your Kept ought to be happy with the way things are…”
“Jeez.” Basalt winced. “Maybe you girls oughta have another sleepover? And Thorburn and Curry and I – and maybe Fafnir, I guess – can sit around and shoot the shit. And talk about our Kept.”
“I’m not sure I want you talking about me with Curry.” She smirked at him.
“He’s sort of mellowing out or something. Ever since that thing with the fire and the seeds…”
“Maybe parenthood will do that to you?” She looked down at her stomach. “Junior makes me think about things a lot differently, I know that much.”
“Yeah.” He put his hands palms-down on the curve of her belly. “How about we go get a few name books out of the Library? We can find a few dozen we like, and talk about how our Changes might shake out in a kid.”
“I’d like that.” She found she was smiling again. “Thanks, Basalt.”
“Hey. I try to be a good Keeper.”
“You’re a great boyfriend.”
Friday, April 30, 2004
“I really wish you’d stop asking that.” Llew held up his packed bag. “I’m sure. Quint and Zeke are fine with it. I’m fine with it. I’ll be fine.”
He thought if he kept repeating himself long enough, it was possible Adelheid would believe him. If he kept going twice that long, he might believe it himself.
The thing was, it really didn’t matter. Whether he was okay or not, this was going to happen. Him being okay with it just made Heidi feel better about it.
So he was going to keep saying it. “I’m going to be fine. We’re trying to get Brenna to lend us Noam, and we’re going to hang out and watch stupid movies all weekend.”
She quirked a smile for the first time in at least an hour. “All right. Llew… thank you.”
He hugged her, because he wanted to feel her arms around him again. “Don’t mention it.” Please. Because her thanks was a little more than he could stand. “Look. Have fun with your guy, okay?”
“I will.” Her hug got very tight. “Llew…”
“Now is definitely not the time to talk about that. Hey, we might even get Lee to come over.”
“That would be awesome. Isn’t something going on with him?”
“I’m really not sure. He won’t talk about it, but he’s changed collars four times in the last two weeks.”
“That’s not like Tess.”
“I don’t think it’s Tess anymore. For one thing, Lee sort of looks sane again.”
“He was ever sane?”
“Well, sort of?” Llew shrugged. “Look, have fun. Tell the guy I said hi, or something.” Or don’t. That would be fine, too. “I’ll see you Sunday night?”
“Sunday night. Six p.m.” She kissed both his cheeks. “I hope you have fun.”
“Thanks. Uh, you, too.”
Llew fled before things could get any weirder. He didn’t want to be cool about this, he really didn’t. He didn’t want to be polite, didn’t want to be friendly, didn’t want to know that Adelheid was going to spend the whole weekend with the other guy. The first guy. The one she actually loved.
He took the long route to Zeke’s – down to the Store, grab a bunch of snack food and a couple more movies, stop in the Arcade for a couple rounds of pinball, a quick stop in the Library for a book to read, in case somehow he got bored, then up by Lee’s old room (Lee was, unsurprisingly, not there, and Llew could stick his head in the room without blowing up, so Lee was still Kept by someone), up to his Mentor’s office, although his Mentor was out.
By the time he finally made it to Zeke’s, he was calm. He didn’t look like he wanted to break the face of a guy he’d only met twice.
The big guy answered the door, and grinned at the bags of food. “Are you visiting for a week or just the weekend?” His teasing was, like everything Zeke seemed to do, good-natured.
“Oh, maybe a month.” Llew grinned back. There was a reason he’d picked this friend’s Keeper when he’d decided to make himself scarce for the weekend. More than one reason, but they mostly boiled down to Zeke being a pretty cool guy. “Did you hear from Noam or Lee?”
“Yeah, they’ll both be by in a bit. Brenna wasn’t really happy about it, but Reese seemed more than willing to let Lee do whatever he wanted.”
“Reese? The squirrel? I thought…” Well, he wasn’t actually sure what he’d thought.
“Come on in, by the way. Yeah, I’m not really sure what happened. I’m not sure what Lee thinks about it, either, but with him, who can tell?” Zeke shrugged. “Hey, Quint.”
Quint looked up from his homework as Zeke threw a sock at him; the headphones he was wearing were blasting Metallica loud enough that Llew could hear it across the room. Seeing Llew, his frown turned into a grin and he took off the headphones. “Hey! You made it!”
“No chance of me not, really. Not with…” Llew shrugged.
“So she’s really spending the weekend with him?” Quint’s voice was sympathetic. Llew wasn’t sure he could handle sympathy.
“Well, she’s in love with him. Look, I grabbed some snacks. Do you have room in your fridge?”
“I think we could make some room. Holy shit, Llew, that’s enough food for an army.”
“Well, we did invite Lee.” Llew smirked, and found that smiling made it possible to make the expression real. “It’s gonna be fun.”
As long as he didn’t think about what Heidi was doing.
Art by Itsamellama
Addergoole: Year Nine updates every Wednesday evening EST. Want more?