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August 4, 2016 by Lyn

Year Five of the Addergoole School, at the time of Book Eight

“Mind your left, Girl Scout!” Acacia was snapping out orders as Luke walked into Doug’s training hall. Against the back wall, Allyse shouted catcalls and math problems, trying, it seemed, to distract Kailani, who was shifting and twisting in an elaborate dance to avoid Sima’s weapons.

“How’s she doing?” Luke muttered, as he lounged against the wall next to his son, his wings folded back as discreetly as he could manage.

“Improving,” Doug grunted. “Damnit, Sima,” he shouted, “don’t ever drop your guard like that.”

“Relax, Doug,” the lithe warrior woman called. “It’s just…”

Karma bit her in the ass as the little redheaded Fifth Cohort managed to land a solid blow across the throat , sending her down to the floor.

“Even rabbits kick,” Doug scolded, though he was smiling. “Remember, Kai…”

“I understand,” the redhead nodded and, much to Luke’s pleasure and surprise, kept her guard up, not just against Sima, but against the weighted dodge-balls Allyse had started chucking. She moved fluidly to dodge, not so much a dance, he realized, as a kata, or a waterfall.

“She’s good,” he murmured to his son.

“She can be better.” There was something edgy about Doug’s characteristic grumpiness, a protectiveness Luke hadn’t seen so strong since Massima had miscarried.

“She’s only been training for a couple months. Give her time,” he soothed.

“She doesn’t have time,” he barked unhappily. “Damnit, Girl Scout! Usethat oversized brain!”

Luke noted Acacia’s grim smirk as Kailani tumbled in a mostly-controlled fall, and the far more feral grin on Massima’s face. Was this a training session or a beat-down?

“It wasn’t her that got attacked by the dragon, Doug,” he muttered. “I don’t see you in here with Shahin and Emrys, training them how to take a hit.”

“Dragon’s gone,” Doug grunted. “Not her problem.”

The redhead bounced back to her feet, managing to dodge a thrown ball and a kick in the process. Acacia and Allyse, Luke could tell, were really trying to train the girl, using the same rough methods they’d used to learn. Massima on the other hand…

“She’s going to kill her if she gets a chance.” Speaking ill of Doug’s Students was always a touchy proposition, but it had to be said.

“Not kill.”

“When you were a kid, I couldn’t get you to shut up,” Luke muttered. “‘Not kill,’ what’s that mean?”

“Means not kill.” Doug spared a smirk for him. “Maybe shouldn’t have tried so hard, when I was a kid.”

“Probably,” Luke allowed. Throttling your grown son was not approved of, even if the resulting combat would be educational for the girls. “Too late to fix that now. Time’s not a Word.” He tilted his head at the fight, which had Kai, now, dodging blunted wooden blades. “‘Not kill?'”

“They’re up to something,” Doug muttered very quietly. His shoulders twitched in a gesture that, in someone with functional wings, would be a protective wing-flare. Luke frowned, and kept his own wings in tight. “They don’t make friends. They don’t get‘friend.'”

Coming from the insular son of an insular man, that was saying something. Luke nodded anyway. “And they’re being friendly to her.”

“Protective. Like a mascot. Not that she notices…”

“And you think it’s a trap.” They hadn’t, Luke mused, talked this much at once in over two decades. Best not to think about the motives for that last conversation, especially not now.

“Yeah.” Doug frowned. “They’re my students. Them and Kylie.” No missing that tone of voice either, though it was surprising aimed at Kylie. Ké, Massima, Adèle… he’d thought he’d pegged his son’s type. “And they don’t give her the time of day.”

“Well,” Luke frowned. “She’s a tough girl.” Tolly had spent several guilt-wracked sessions in Luke’s office talking around what had happened. Conrad was torn up about it, although he didn’t say much on the matter. Kai had, as far as Luke could tell, spent a day being miserable and, like her Grigori aunt, moved on with her life.

“And quick,” Doug agreed, tilting his head to indicate the lithe redhead learning how to get out of a hold. “Learns quick. Rarely makes the same mistake twice.”

“Then we do what we do with our Students, Doug. Let them fall, so they learn how to get up again.”

Doug shot him a sidelong glance. “How’s that working for Tolly?”

“Hrmph. How’s the not-falling thing working for them?” Irritated and worried, Luke stomped out, to the sound of Acacia’s sardonic cheer.

“That’s it, Girl Scout! Another couple months and you’ll be ready to take us on for real!”


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