August 6, 2016 by Lyn
Sunday, April 30, 2000, Year Five of the Addergoole School
There was a possibility that today would be a quiet day.
Caitin ate scones with Nurse Jo and gossiped about the babies they’d delivered so far this year, and who they thought was likely to pop next. There were less benign speculations, but by unspoken agreement, they didn’t talk about those over breakfast. The messy stuff could wait until they’d each had a coffee or two.
“The Thorne Girls rush it.” Jo was clean in her disapproval, there. “And Doug encourages it. He doesn’t mean to, I know, but he pushes them to train so hard, and they know they can’t train when they’re ready to pop.”
The thought that the school’s most militant crew had been intentionally giving birth early had never occurred to Caitrin. “You don’t really think…”
“I overheard them the other day,” Jo confirmed. “You know most of the students ignore me when they’re in the waiting room.”
“I know.” She’d have been annoyed, but it was useful, at times, for information like this. “I’ll have a talk with Doug. If anyone can get through to them, it will be him.” And the babies… “Schedule check-ups for their earlier children, would you? Maddoc, Lakshima, Willow…”
“Bianca. Bianca’s her daughter by Rand.”
“Thank you.” She frowned at her scone; baby-gossip wasn’t supposed to turn her stomach. “Callista?”
“Any day now. If we catch her in class, we can hold her for a whole day while she labors.”
“I’ll remind the teachers to keep an eye out for it.”
“Thank you, Jo. I couldn’t do this job without you.”
“Don’t forget it when it comes to raise time.” They smiled at each other, able to relax for just a moment.
“Hey, uh, Doc.” The last voice they expected to hear was Rozen’s, sounding embarrassed and a bit worried. “I know it’s early, but we could use some help.”
Phelen’s voice followed quickly on Rozen’s. “We were having a cy’ree sparring session.”
Caitrin opened the door, already expecting to see blood and broken bones. Fridmar’s cy’ree practiced their particularly dark style of survivalism on each other as much as they did on their fellow students (she credited the truth of Manira’s identity with her minimum of visits to Caitrin’s office, although, to be fair to Phelen, Wren had actually been happy and healthy as his Kept).
Rozen was, unsurprisingly, unharmed. Phelen was wan-looking but also unharmed, though his shirt was smeared with blood. In Rozen’s arms, however, an unconscious Bowen was bleeding. “He slipped,” the big man explained.
Caitrin gave the boys a doubtful look, covering her private, guilty relief. She’d been wanting to do a diagnostic on the boy since he was freed from Agatha’s hands. She hadn’t wanted him beaten bloody, however. “Exam room three, boys. I can take it from here.”
Rozen hesitated in the doorway. “Doctor, it’s not that we don’t trust you…”
It’s just that you don’t trust me. She resisted the urge to roll her eyes at the big man. “It’s that he’s your cy’ree, and, despite having beaten him into a pulp, you’re worried about him. Rozen, haven’t I had this conversation with you before?”
“Not with my cy’ree,” he grumbled. Caitrin was gratified to see that Phelen was frowning at him.
“Look, it was like this.” He would have gestured, but his hands were full. “I wasn’t beating her around for the fun of it.”
“I’ve seen what happens on Hell Night, Rozen.”
“This wasn’t Hell Night!” He nearly roared it.
“Boys, boys. Put Bowen on an examination table, and take the fight outside.”
“We’re not fighting, Doctor,” Phelen assured her hurriedly. “We’re just discussing proper Kept treatment.”
“No, we’re not.” Rozen set the still-unconscious Bowen down where Caitrin indicated. “There’s nothing to discuss.”
As reluctant as she was to let him off the hook, Caitrin intervened. “Mea had a fondness for games that got a little rough,” she explained. “And at that point, Rozen was feeling very much like indulging her. Things did get, sometimes, a little more enthusiastic than, I believe, any of us wanted, but it is not my belief – and I pay attention to such things – that Rozen was abusing his girlfriend.”
Both boys regarded her in surprise. “How much attention?” Phelen’s eyes were narrowed.
“Fifty percent more than my job dictates that I should.”
“Mmm. That seems like it could be interpreted as an invasion of privacy.”
“I’m sure some people could read it such. But as an Adult in this school…” She leant the noun its capital letter, its inflection that meant more than I’m older than you “…it’s my job and responsibility to look after the well-being of all the Students. And that includes your Kept.”
“In the halls and the classrooms.”
It was her turn to narrow her eyes and glower at him. “Listen to me, young wolf, and listen well. The rules may currently protect you in your dormitory. But my time of turning a blind eye on the failures of the Students here to be responsible is through.” And it felt good to say it. “And even if the doors of this place protect you– you will not always be a Student here.”
“Those are some big words.” Rozen was looking down at her from his rather impressive height. She looked back up at him, neither showing nor feeling any fear.
“And you have a fraction of an idea of my strength, young man.” She smiled at both of them, feeling momentarily young and wild again. “I beg of you bring it on.”
“Bowen first.” Rozen had the grace to look abashed, although he had his body turned to hide it from Phelen. “You’ll take care of him, right?”
“That, my dears, is my job. Back off and give me room in which to do it.”
Phelen stepped back three steps, Rozen half a step. It was enough. She set her hands over Bowen’s chest and began murmuring a working.
Force of habit and comfort made her Working barely a mutter. She could see that it bothered the other cy’Fridmar boys, well, good. Let them fret. They had far too little of worry, in the grand scheme of things.
First, his injuries from today. Slipped, indeed. It had been quite a beating, but the look of his knuckles and forearms suggested it had been in learning to defend himself. Good. The cy’ree did take care of its own, as much as it could.
She healed the superficial damage, and moved to the sink for a washcloth. “If you’re going to hover, take his clothes off,” she snapped.
She’d expected them to balk, maybe actually leave. But Rozen started stripping the boy’s bloody and ruined clothes from him. “He can borrow my shirt, when he’s ready to leave. You keep scrubs around, for pants, right?”
“I do.” She was, once again, surprised by the school’s most intimidating bully. “Thank you. Could you roll him… oh, my.”
“Shit.” Rozen turned ashen under his black-hued Change. “That bitch.”
“Indeed. Well.” She began washing Bowen gently, cleaning off the blood from his wounds. The stub of his tail twitched once or twice, as she touched deeper injuries under the skin. That hadn’t been Worked off; that had been cut. “Monster.” She thought she’d only thought it. She thought she had better control than that.
“This wasn’t us, Doc.” Rozen turned a glare on her that should have melted her in her tracks. “We wouldn’t – that’s disgusting.”
“I didn’t say it was you, Rozen. I said it was a monster. A bitch, you said.” And Regine would once again let it slide. A small thing, a slip up, a childish mistake.
She stared at the boy for a moment. “Rozen, Phelen…” What she was about to ask was not acceptable under any Hippocratic Oath, under any definition of do no harm. She would quest for forgiveness when she had healed the boy. “Agatha won’t be a Student here forever, either.”
The silence in the room was heavy; Rozen was the first to break it. “Can you heal it?”
“Of course I can.” Her heart sank for a moment, but he wasn’t done yet.
“Good. Doctor, you heal it. We’ll fix it.”