August 24, 2015 by Lyn
Empathize, can I look through your eyes?
I’ll find different paradigms
The big biker thumped out of the room, brushing his hand over a dark-haired girl’s cheek. Seconds later, Kailani followed, her red hair like a banner behind her; her boyfriend – her Kept? – Conrad following after her unhappily.
Jamian sat at lunch, his hand cautiously in Ty’s, this whole romance still new and fragile enough that he didn’t want to jostle anything too hard. The whole table was watching the biker’s progress across the Dining Hall, Shiva and Magnolia whispering gleefully, so he watched too, wondering if the biker really was just here to hit on pretty girls.
As he left though, Jamian noticed that he was trailing a wake, not just the angry redhead and her worried boyfriend, but slow-motion line of girls looking a little pale, a little woozy. As Aelfgar threw one door open, near the opposite door, a girl – pretty little Eriko with the peacock-tail blue hair – tumbled to the floor. As Kailani followed him out the door, the blonde cheerleader swooned against her border-collie-eared boyfriend’s shoulder, and almost fell before he hastily caught her.
As Conrad rushed past him, calling out after his Keeper in a voice thick with stress and embarrassment… heart in his throat, a fucked-up combination of fear and humiliation and concern. Let her be okay. Please make her stop doing this to me. Let her… Marje from his Russian class, Marje with the stunning green eyes and hair the color of molasses, moaned loudly and flopped onto the table.
Wrong. Wrong. This is so wrong. Get me out of here. Get me out of here!
Jamian swallowed, half-rising, but Kendra had managed to wake up Marje and was helping her out up. And Eriko and the cheerleader – Renata – he didn’t know either of them well enough to help.
I love her so much. I love her like my world will end if she’s not here by my side. I love her like she’s the only thing worth knowing about, the only person worth speaking to. I love her like she is more important than breathing.
I hate him. I hate him. I hate him. I want to see him hurt. I want to hurt him. I want to rend his skin and pull his organs out and dance on them.
I’m so scared. So scared. I need to run away. I need to get away. Why can’t I stand up? Why can’t I just walk away?
“Jame?” Ty’s hand on his shoulder pulled Jamian out of the spiral he’d been falling into. “Honey, what’s wrong?”
He was crying, oh, shit, right here in the middle of the cafeteria, and how many times had Charlie pounded into his stupid head boys don’t cry. But it was all too much, so very much. “Marje,” he gasped, trying for a whisper and managing something like a moan. “Marjolaine. There’s nothing I can do to help her and, and…” he swallowed hard, trying to calm down. “and god, I hate him so much!”
“Hate who, honey?” Ty sounded worried, very worried, I don’t know what to do about this and I’m supposed to have all the answers. I don’t know how I’m supposed to do this right. Do this at all…
“I… I don’t know.” He breathed, and rubbed at his eyes with the back of his hand. “I don’t know how I’m supposed to handle all of this – and look, isn’t anyone going to help her?” The dark-haired girl that the biker had caressed on the way out the door was walking uncertainly, drunkenly, towards the door… don’t touch me don’t touch me “Don’t touch me!” He shook off Ty’s hand, pulling his knees up to his chest, gods he really does hate me he really does think I’m tainted. Dirty. Filthy. Impure.
“I’ll take care of her. We will.” Shiva stood, resolute. Time to do what needs doing. He felt his spine stiffen, a little ashamed of himself.
“I’m okay, Ty,” he murmured, noticing for the first time that his Keeper was crying softly. “Ty, I’m sorry. Please don’t cry!” He folded his hands awkwardly over Ty’s, searching his unhappy, twisted face for some clue.
Maybe it’s okay? Maybe it can be okay? The stab of hope was almost painful, catching in his throat and stealing his breath, echoed in Ty’s expression.
“Are you sure you’re okay?” Ty asked uncertainly, searching Jamian’s face. “I mean, you’re acting a little weird, my love.” Concern. How do I fix this? Can I fix it? Somewhere in the soup of emotions, Jamian heard my love, but he didn’t have any energy left to react. It was all tied up in the reactions that were flooding through him, twisting through him like a tornado.
“I’m…” he managed, but had no way to finish the sentence. He cleared his throat and tried again. “I’m… not okay,” he ended lamely. He was terrified, his hands shaking. Miserable, tears streaking down his cheeks. Angry, his jaw clenching, his teeth grinding. His body trembled, as if it would shake itself apart, all his bolts loose and his shocks spent.
A hand smacked sharply against his cheek, and, for a moment, his head was clear, nothing but his own nerves and confusion. He gasped, swallowing air as fast as he could bring it in, until the same hand smacked his other cheek.
The second stinging pain brought him back to himself, and he blinked, glaring, at…
…a stunningly beautiful blonde elf, probably a boy, his eyes the bluest Jamian had ever seen, and inexplicably not there, not… oh. Not feeling anything. Jamian drew a breath, and another, the pain in his cheeks helping focus him, the blue eyes of the boy in front of him holding him.
“He’s coming into the receptive empathy.” It was only when she spoke, her voice, however businesslike, still pouring warmth into him, that he realized that Magnolia’s stunning sexpot friend Ivette was standing just behind the boy who had slapped him.
“I should have thought of that.” The chagrin from Ty washed over him, but it was more bearable now, and he could tell that it wasn’t his embarrassment, but someone else’s, somehow. Receptive empathy?
“It’s not all that common,” Ivette soothed. “And it’s just because he was projecting it all like a giant amplifier that Joff and I noticed.”
Projecting? He couldn’t seem to look away from the boy’s eyes, but he could breathe, at least, so he did, feeling emotions brush past him and keep moving: fear, so much fear and anxiety. Hatred. Someone… that guy over there. He was almost consumed with it, all directly at his tiny doll of a girlfriend and her vampire friend. The vampire, Jamian knew. Dysmas. He seemed amused by the anger – or maybe just amused by life.
“It seemed to hit him like a truck,” Ty was saying. Like a typhoon, he thought. “I didn’t think…” Something was making him very unhappy about this, something other than Jamian’s sudden melt-down.
“No, it shouldn’t hit him like this,” the blonde answered. Joff? He did sort of look like the skinny kid in the back of Jamian’s Biology class, but more like his far-prettier brother or elven clone. “Something went through the Dining Hall, just before he began shooting off fireworks.” He was wearing a collar, wasn’t he, a soft strip of leather almost under the edge of his shirt. And so was Ivette, if you could drag your eyes from the rest of the scenery to study the piece of jewelry around her neck. It didn’t seem to hobble either of them.
And, as Joff was talking, Jamian found that he was looking away from him, no longer trapped by his gaze. “Fireworks?” he asked, somewhat surprised to find he still had a voice.
“Fireworks,” Joff laughed. “You know, bright shiny lights and a lot of explosions?” He relented a moment later, though, with an abashed smirk; Jamian imagined he looked as lost as he felt, if the pity on the boy’s face was any indicator. “Ivette and I are both receptive empaths – it comes with the Daeva package, sometimes.” At sometimes, he shot an uncertain look over Jamian’s shoulder at Ty, who felt as if he was nobly stifling a snarl. “I mean… some of the half-breeds, like us, have it. I don’t know about full-bloods, except that Professor VanderLinden does.”
He took a deep breath, as if realizing he was babbling. “So when you started feeling everything everyone around you was feeling, you were projecting that – feeling it very loudly – over the whole room. So, um, we felt it too.”
“Speaking of fireworks,” Ivette inserted, with a spine-twisting purr, “I should go find Mike and see if he can fix this. You have things handled here, Joff?”
“I think I do,” the boy answered. “Go ahead, ‘Vette.”
Feeling more than a little stupid – not the least of which was because this shrimp of a kid, no more than a hundred pounds soaking wet and half a foot shorter than him, prettier than most girls, even here, was talking to him like he couldn’t tie his own shoelaces and, apparently, handling him – Jamian sat down, wondering when he’d stood up. Projective empathy. Receptive empathy.
“Is this like the Words?” he asked, trying to sound, maybe, a little less stupid. From the unhappy look on Joff’s face, he hadn’t succeeded.
“Sort of,” he answered slowly, “but not really. Um. The Words are a focus for specific directions of magic, right?
“Okay?” It sounded like it should make sense, at least.
“Things like the empathy are more inherent. They’re like… like your horns. Things that come with the package.” He paused, frowning over Jamian’s shoulder again, a bit of irritation beginning to swirl in the previously-empty area where he was standing. “Look,” he snapped, still looking at Ty, “do you want me to go get my Keeper so you can snarl at him?”
A spike of angry surprised from Ty threatened to knock Jamian right off his chair. “I’m not snarling, and I don’t see why I should abide by the protocol if you’re not going to.”
“I’m sorry, did you want your Kept’s head to explode?” Somehow, Joff managed to say it sincerely, without the faintest touch of malice. Jamian admired his skill, even as he tried to ignore his choice of phrasing. His head exploding? That sounded like a pretty lousy idea.
“No, of course not!” Ty bristled, little spikes of his anger shooting through Jamian. Who does he think he is? Mine mine mine mine mine!
“We only came over because we know we can help,” Joff said soothingly. “We didn’t mean to step on any toes.”
“I should be able to take care of my own Kept.” I’m not good enough. Never good enough. Not enough. The shame was harder to bear than the anger, harder to keep separate from his own emotions.
“You have to start by calming down. You can take care of him. It’s okay to not know how to do everything. That’s what friends are for.” Friends. Jamian glanced around; Magnolia had made herself scarce, Anwell with her. Niki had gone with Shiva to help Marje. Phelen was still there, a smirking, cold presence between them and the rest of the room. That left this skinny twerp calling himself a friend…. “Ty. Rein it in.” Joff’s voice was as sharp as his slaps had been, and the resentment Jamian had been feeling abruptly vanished. “You need to take your Kept to your Mentor. Professor VanderLinden will be able to help you help him.”
Help me… It sounded like a very good idea.
“Yeah,” Ty grated out, struggling against pride and some resentment Jamian didn’t quite understand. “Come on, Jame’. I’ll take you to Professor VanderLinden.”
It seemed like a bad time to point out that Ivette had gone looking for the professor, so Jamian let Ty help him up. Leaning maybe a little more than he needed to, he let his Keeper take care of him.