August 25, 2015 by Lyn
So you think you got it all figured out
You’re an expert in the field, without a doubt
“Look nice tonight,” he’d said, rather perfunctorily. He’d backed off much of the cold, arrogant high-and-mighty treatment since her little bout of illness Thursday morning, so she’d been taken aback by the shortness of the comment, even though he softened it with a smile. More than that – didn’t she always look nice? She was beginning to wonder if he hated her chosen look.
She’d cautiously suggested that, it being nearly a week living out of one small bag, she might look better if he let her go back to her room for a change of outfit. Much to her relief (and to more than a little of her surprise), he’d agreed.
Now, feeling properly attired for the first time in a week and much better for it, she was walking with him, her hand in his, towards some sort of party.
He’d said that this was a “hall party”, essentially the product of several people with nearby rooms jointly throwing a party with all the doors open. Indeed, it was certainly raucous as they approached, the slowly curving walls opening up into one of the ubiquitous, identical common areas that joined the rooms. There were nearly a dozen people standing about, drinking and talking over the thumping techno music that blared from two of the rooms simultaneously.
She might be a little overdressed for something as low-key as this, but that was a common state of being for her. She smoothed her skirt with her free hand, and surveyed the crowd, hoping that Emrys’ good mood would hold. This could get very embarrassing very quickly, if he chose to push matters in a situation like this. She doubted her stomach would be as helpful twice in a row.
She recognized maybe half of the people here from her classes; Melchior and Nikolai from Lit and Trig, Alexander from PE, Anwell from History, Nikita from Japanese. Anwell was talking to a purple-haired girl she’d seen him with before. Was that Yngvi? Damn, that was his room right there, so yes. Well, Emrys had been better the past day; maybe it would be alright.
It took an effort to neither squeeze Emrys’s hand for reassurance nor to cling to his arm, but she made the effort, and smiled around cheerfully, as if this was just an ordinary party, as if Emrys was just her boyfriend.
Alexander made his way over to them first; the tall, tall man, who she would have called “giant” had she not been spending too much time around Anatoliy, was smiling in an affable, friendly manner. He still looked human, she noted, or, rather, he looked human again; she’d seen his inhuman appearance once, the day before the first dance.
“Hey, Emrys, glad you made it. Beer? Or, wait… rum and coke? And for the lady?”
“Please,” he smiled. “And whatever she’d like.” He half-turned to her, clearly awaiting a response, after he’d spent most of the week making every minor decision for her.
Who are you, and what have you done with my master? she didn’t ask. Instead, she licked her lips and said, with as little appearance of hesitation as she could manage, “vodka cranberry, please.”
Emrys simply nodded and continued to lead her through the crowd as Alexander headed into one of the rooms, presumably to get them drinks. They caught sight of Yngvi as they reached the middle of the gathering.
It hurt Shahin to realize that she was tensing with nerves as one of her only friends noticed them, that she was now, without meaning to, clinging tightly to Emrys’ hand. She relaxed her fingers and found a pleasant smile for Yngvi as he came over.
“Shahin!” He greeted her warmly, with a brief but sincere-seeming half-hug. ”I didn’t expect to see you here, or I would have pried Ayla out of her room. Emrys,” he added, with a cool, perfunctory nod. ”Good evening.”
“Well, I wouldn’t miss one of Melchior’s parties, and I wasn’t going to show up without my girlfriend,” he smiled at Yngvi, only slightly toothily.
Girlfriend was a lot nicer than pet. Shahin kept her pleasant smile on, hoping Yngvi wouldn’t blow things up. Again.
“Girlfriend, is it now? Not that she had a choice in that, of course.”
Forget cheerful smiles. She glared at Yngvi, frustrated. ”Say I did,” she demanded, “would it make any difference to you?”
She finally got to see him just a little bit flustered. “Well, that is… I just don’t like the way he treats you.”
His answer took the wind out of her sails. She glanced at Emrys briefly, then turned back to Vi, her voice gentler now. ”I don’t always like it, either. But I’m a big girl, Vi, and I got myself into this mess. I’ll get myself out of it. Besides,” she added, with a tiny, conspiratorial smile, “wait ‘till next week.”
Emrys chuckled, shaking his head slightly and putting an arm around her shoulders. “She’s not yours to worry about, Yngvi.”
She turned her glare on him, but found she couldn’t stay angry at him for long. Besides, Yngvi had started it. She looked back and forth between the two of them, frowning. ”Could we please just enjoy the party?” she pleaded. ”I’m beginning to feel like a ping-pong ball, and it’s really rather nauseating.”
“Of course, hon,” Emrys said in a reasonable tone that was nonetheless full of victorious satisfaction. “Look, our drinks are here.” He deliberately turned his back on Yngvi to take two glasses from the approaching Alexander.
Shahin sighed, wishing they’d get over this silliness, but found her smile again for Alexander.
“Rum and coke, and a vodka cranberry. Eat, drink, and be merry!”
Shahin sipped at her drink – he’d mixed it light, but there was still a nice pleasant bite to it. ”Thank you, Alexander.” Drink in hand, she glanced around the common area at the gathering party, taking it all in.
It was a more casual scene than the few parties she’d attended, seeming more like a bachelor party then Addergoole’s dating-heavy mentality had led her to expect. The few women that were there seemed thrown in for colour – or, in the case of the heavily-pregnant elf, because her twin was also there. If “single” had been a mile or less from where she was, she would have considered the party a beautiful place to meet a like-minded individual. As it was, she was a little confused as to her place or purpose here.
“Friends of yours?” she asked casually, indicated the room as a whole.
“Some, yeah. Alexander’s crew are friendly with pretty much everybody. That’s why you end up with such a cross-section of crews here.” He took a big swig of his own drink.
“But not the rest of your crew.” Not that she minded – if she never saw Agatha again after this week was over, she could die happily.
“They like to keep things friendly,” he smiled. “So, I’m here, but not Agatha or Dysmas. Cass and ‘Bina are here, but not Taro. Shiva and Niki are here, so Ty isn’t. Magnolia’s here with Anwell, so Ivette isn’t.”
She stared up at him, a little in awe. “Do you keep a chart to keep track of all that? It sounds like a soap opera.” She ran through his list again in her mind, trying to memorize it. ”And Magnolia, ‘Bina, Shiva… who are all those people?”
He chuckled, shaking his head. “It’s a small world, down here. Everyone knows everyone else’s business, for the most part.” He pointed at the purple-haired woman. “That’s Magnolia, talking to Anwell. She’s Second Cohort, he’s Fourth. Last year she wanted to Own him, but Ivette, a Third, got to him first. They kind of both date him now, so they’re catty with each other, even though they both hang out with Shiva’s crew. Although I hear rumors that Ivette got herself Owned by a Fifth Cohort this year.” He seemed to find that intensely amusing.
She raised an eyebrow, equally amused. ”Is it considered in poor taste to ‘get yourself Owned’ by an underclassman?”
“Well, it’s pretty unusual. And for someone as predatory as ‘Vette… well, she must’ve been caught off-guard pretty hard.”
“Ah,” she smirked. ”Perhaps she just found it the quickest means to the end she wanted?”
Emrys looked skeptical. “Typically she only wants men… or women, for that matter… for one thing.”
“Aah.” Whatever point she’d been trying to make vanished. ”I thought that was generally a male trait,” she said, less cleverly than she wanted.
“It’s also generally a Daeva trait, even for half-bloods.”
“Daeva?” she asked, feeling particularly ignorant. She sipped her drink and tried again. “I assume you don’t mean female opera performers. I don’t think those come in a half-blood variety.”
“Ha, no. There’s basically three kinds of, well, us. Daeva are commonly called succubi.”
“Three kinds of us?” She looked around the room at the wild variety of mutations – Magnolia’s leopard spots and purple hair, Nikita’s grape-vine-like dreadlocks, Nikolai’s tusks and horns, the curling elf ears on both the pregnant woman and her twin. ”Only three?”
“Well, pretty much everyone here is mixed. The only purebloods I know of are Dr. Regine, Luke, and Vanderlinden.”
She took a long sip from her glass, and stared at him. ”Okay,” she said slowly, as the oddity of Addergoole really began to sink in. “This place is full of half-blooded… us. Usses.” She frowned, distracted by the horrible way that sounded, and dragged herself back on topic. ”Of which Ivette, who I believe I share a Lit class with – pneumatic redhead? Yes, Lit – is a half-breed succubus. Am I on track so far?”
“That’s about right,” he nodded, casually sipping his own drink as if this were the most normal thing in the world.
“And this seems totally normal to you.”
“Well, you get used to it. I mean, you have visions and you’re learning magic, how is this stranger?”
She frowned at him. “I’ve been having visions since I was thirteen, Emrys. I didn’t need an underground school for that.”
“Right, and I didn’t understand why I set fire to things. Almost everyone here manifests some sort of talent, even if it wasn’t evident before they showed up.”
She sighed, leaning against him as she downed the last of her drink. “There goes being strange and unique.” She laid a heavily over-dramatic tone on it, but underneath, she felt a tiny lump of misery threatening to grow.