August 19, 2015 by Lyn
I will be your father figure
Put your tiny hand in mine
He didn’t really want to see Ty and his friends at dinner, but he was too hungry to go hide in his room, so, after Professor Pelletier ended their class in knowing the dirt, Jamian reluctantly headed for the Dining Hall. Kendra, beside him, seemed just as reluctant. He thought about just telling her they should run away together, turn around, go back out the door, and keep running till they hit the Canadian border.
And then what? Even if they got away – and Professor Pelletier had said they wouldn’t – he stuck out like a sore thumb anywhere, like a freak show attraction. Older students seemed to know how to hide their deformities, but no-one had taught him anything like that yet.
Taught… “Shit!” He smiled ruefully at Kendra. “Sorry. I forgot I have to see Professor VanderLinden now. Have fun at dinner.”
“Yeah,” she answered, in a voice so un-enthused, it even sounded gray. “You have fun, too.”
He was going to have to find a way to help her… and find out what was wrong that needed helping. For now, he squeezed her shoulder gently, trying to be reassuring, and fled.
“Come in,” the Professor called from the half-open door, before he even had a chance to knock. He entered, closing the door behind him, and took a look around.
Luke will come get you if you run away, he told himself firmly, even as he scrabbled behind him with one hand for the doorknob. This wasn’t a teacher’s office. There was a bookshelf, sure, and a window – he didn’t want to think about the window, there shouldn’t be a window down here, certainly not one opening onto a sun-lit field of clover, and why was there a breeze? – and a desk, wide and heavy and official-looking, but it was as if that corner of the room, bookshelf, desk, window, had been set aside to pretend to be an office.
The rest of the room was a boudoir, a harem room, an opium den. An ornate wooden screen half-concealed the daybed covered in disheveled satin and velvet covers. Two wing chairs upholstered in thick black leather flanked a small table, just big enough for the wine bottle and two glasses. Thick pillar candles sat in elaborate wall sconces, flickering lightly. The entirely inappropriate window was draped with velvet curtains. Even the floor was layered in oriental rugs over the carpet, with embroidered cushions tossed haphazardly.
Framed as if he’d posed himself, Professor VanderLinden sat in the far chair, his slippered feet up on an ottoman. “Jamian,” he said warmly, “come on in and take a seat.”
What was there to do? Feeling a terrible sense of inevitability, like a crypt door slamming shut behind him, Jamian sat in the second chair, which, he noticed, had been fashioned with a gap between the seat and back for a tail to slide through. . He glanced again at the Professor, rather hesitantly.
He looked like a demon, the thick ram’s horns so much bigger than Jamian’s, and black along the ridge, the tail, too, protruding out the back of the chair, was black on the ridge and almost-red on the underside. He was too handsome, too young, to be a teacher, and his tailored pants and shirt made him look like a lawyer trying to dress as a Literature professor.
“I’m like you,” Jamian said slowly. Not in what was human of their appearances – the professor was blonde and blue-eyed, where Jamian was dark and brown-eyed, and not nearly as fae-handsome – but the rest of it.
“Yes,” he answered, with some odd hesitation. “We’re both full-blooded Daeva.”
“What’s that mean?” he demanded. “People keep telling me that, and maybe some stupid little factoid here and there,” like that everyone knows I have two sets of junk, “but no-one has told me what it means. What’s so cool about being ‘full-blooded?’”
To his surprise, the professor laughed softly. “Departed gods,” he murmured softly. “People have been arguing about that for centuries – longer than I’ve been alive, certainly – but to you all it means is ‘why should I be happy that I have a tail?’”
“Well, yeah,” Jamian answered, feeling a little put out. “Like I said, no-one’s telling me anything. Why should it mean anything to me but a tail and…” he hesitated. VanderLinden was a full-blooded Daeva, too, right? That meant he (it?), too…
He hastily found somewhere else to look – the desk, the history book sitting askew, that should be safe.
The Rape of the A.P.E (American Puritan Ethic): The Official History of the Sex Revolution looked back at him, and he hastily looked elsewhere, finally settling on the window; as disturbing as it was, it was better than what he was wondering about… oh, no. It was like the old “don’t think about pink elephants” game.
“It’s okay, Jamian.” The professor’s voice drew his eyes back to his face. “I promise you, nothing you say here in this office will go beyond that door.”
“You know what I’m thinking?” He’d meant it as a challenge; it came out as a plea.
“I can guess. And if I focus, I can tell what you’re feeling.” He negated that with a graceful gesture of his free hand. “What I can guess is that someone told you that Daeva are, ahem, gender-flexible, and you’re wondering what that means to you, and how a secret you’ve been hiding your whole life is now public knowledge.”
He gaped. “What? How did you…?” Did everyone know?
“You were born here, Jamian, in the village. Dr. Caitrin delivered you. And no, not ‘everyone’ knows: the Doctor, the Director, Luke, and I know, and anyone you’ve told.”
“But what about the Daeva thing? Melchior said that Daeva were, um… they went both ways?”
VanderLinden chuckled softly. “Literally accurate. Euphemistically, also often very accurate.”
“What?” He took a minute to sort through that, a moment the professor generously gave him. “You’re saying the Daeva often are, um, bisexual. But that they are also, um.” Melchior had said “gender-benders,” but that seemed kind of crude. “That they – we?” he squeaked, “Daeva can physically change gender at will.”
“Is that what Ty does,” he added before he lost his nerve, “when he becomes Tya?”
The professor frowned sadly. “No. Ty-Tya is what you started out as, fully hermaphroditic, but it doesn’t have any ability to physically shift gender. It is just very good at Masks, makeup, and the mindset changes, so it can walk either side of the road.”
So, no matter what, if he went to bed with Tya, all of Ty’s equipment would still be involved. He blanched a little bit – he knew how this worked; he’d lived with it his whole life, but he’d been trying hard not to think about it.
VanderLinden rescued him, in a manner of speaking. “You and I, and other full-blooded Daeva, on the other hand, can, with practice and time, shift form completely. Yes,” he added, before Jamian could voice the question, “That does mean that you could shift form to that of a true male, and stay that way as long as you wanted. That’s part of the reason that I asked you to meet with me.”
“To turn me into a boy?” It sounded silly – he was a guy. “A real boy, I mean?” And that was no better – he wasn’t Pinocchio! He gave up and hoped the professor understood.
“To start teaching you how to turn yourself into whatever you want to be,” he agreed. “But first…”
Jamian sighed. There was always a catch, wasn’t there?
“It’s not that bad,” he smiled. “Have you chosen a Mentor yet?”
“Shit! I mean, no, sir, I sort of forgot.”
“That’s all right, it’s easier that way. Normally, we prefer to be sure Keeper and Kept have different Mentors – it gives the Kept someone they can turn to who doesn’t have any ties to their Keeper. But in this case, I think the risks are outweighed by the benefits. Jamian, will you have me as your Mentor?”
“Um…” a sudden caution made him ask, “what does a Mentor do? Sir.”
He chuckled, and the sound sent uncomfortable feelings wiggling through Jamian. “Good question. A Mentor guides a Student to become an Adult Ellehemaei.” It sounded recited, although not stilted. He gestured dismissively with his free hand again – there was a thin gold band on his left ring finger. Strange.
“In more detail, and more specific for this place, a Mentor will teach a Student about what he is, instruct him in the Law, and help him find his own personal magic – not the Workings, but more innate things. Mentors usually offer help with any school subjects, or Workings, that the Student is having problems with, and can act as… sort of a surrogate parent.”
Jamian grimaced. “I do better without parents around, thanks.”
The Professor winced sympathetically. “We, uh… well, we knew Aza was taking it a little badly when you were born, but there wasn’t really much we could do, considering the Law. It wasn’t,” he frowned, looking like an age-weary teenager who’d seen too much, “wasn’t too horrible, was it?”
He shook his head. “Mom… wasn’t bad. As long as everything was ‘boy’ and masculine, she was okay. But then she brought home That Asshole.”
“Yeah.” Jamian realized he’d pulled his knees to his chest, and forced himself to sit up straight. “When they sent me here, I thought he’d finally convinced her to get rid of me. You know, like military school, only no-one thought I was strong enough for that. But – you said I was born here. None of this is a coincidence, is it?” He’d known, somewhere deep inside him, that it couldn’t be, but saying it out loud still sent a tremor of dread through him. “Mom didn’t pick this place for the academics, did she?”
“No,” VanderLinden shook his head. “None of you came here by accident.” He hesitated for a moment, and then continued, his voice lower, as if sharing a great secret. “You were all destined to come here from the moment you were conceived.”