August 31, 2015 by Lyn
You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes you might find
You get what you need
Kai was more than a little dazed when she wandered out of Mabina and Cassidy’s room into the suite’s living room. Nobody had ever come right out and confirmed that other people understood these invisible social cues, and that it was obvious that she didn’t.
“Just get a talking-to?” Taro was sprawled on the couch, watching TV, or at least aiming the remote at the TV at semi-regular intervals. No-one else was in sight; when she and Mabina had left them, the whole crew had been out in here.
“They went to the Store. Something about dinner.” He clicked the TV off and looked her over. “Yep, you got the talking-to.”
She sat down on the edge of the armchair. It was odd, sharing a living space with someone she didn’t like all that much. “What do you mean?”
“It’s written all over your face. Don’t worry, we all get them. Cassidy’s dragged me off to the side more than once.”
“But you deserved it.” It was only as he glowered at her that she realized that she’d been a little rude, but what of it? He’d been pretty horrible to her.
He shrugged, the frown vanishing. “None of us are perfect. Not even Conrad.”
“Conrad didn’t try to own me,” she countered. “And he’s willing to share information with me.”
Taro frowned. “Would you have stayed with me,” he asked, “if I hadn’t tried to Own you?”
It was a good question, and one she wasn’t sure she knew the answer to. She felt he deserved her best try, though.
“I don’t know,” she answered, thinking about it as she talked. “I liked being with you a lot. I liked when you kissed me, and I liked some of the nice things you said. When you said I was like Poseidon’s favorite sea-nymph – no-one’s ever said anything like that to me before. It was really nice.” He was smiling, and she almost didn’t want to continue. But she’d wanted to give him an honest answer, not a half-truth.
“But you talk to me like I’m stupid a lot, too, and I really don’t like that.” She frowns. “Being uninformed is not the same thing as being dumb, you know.”
He made a sweeping gesture with his hand. “Aw, come on, Kai. I was just joking around. You should know that!”
She frowned at him. Wasn’t it blatantly obvious that she didn’t know things like that? But he’d already moved on to another point. “I don’t think you would’ve stayed. Conrad said he’d hang back and not make a move on you, but he was, wasn’t he?”
“Do you think I’d know?” she flared.
“Was he finding excuses to spend time alone with you?”
“He was explaining this place to me, which is more than you did!”
“You’re so smart, I thought you’d figure it out on your own!” He laughed shortly. “How’s that working out for you?”
She caught herself before she shouted, and took several long breaths. No more tantrums. No more shouting. She could do this.
“What’s wrong with being smart?” she asked plaintively.
“It doesn’t mean anything,” he snarled. “You think it makes you so important, but what does it do for you? You still don’t have the common sense to come in out of the rain.”
“That’s not true!” She glared at him. “How would you know, anyway?”
“You don’t have a clue about what people really want. Conrad is using you, and you’re too stupid to figure it out. I mean, who cares if you can do calculus?”
“I care!” Her voice was rising again; she calmed herself down and lowered her voice to just over a whisper. “I’m good at it. And it’s fun.” The rest of his sentence worked its way over her indignation. “And… it’s pretty clear even to me that Conrad was trying to get something out of me.”
“Trying to get? You don’t think he’s gotten it? What did you think he wanted, answers to his math homework?”
“You sound like my mother! ‘The only thing a boy wants is to subjugate you and sleep with you,’ is that it?”
“Not the subjugate part.”
She stared at him for a moment, wondering if he realized what he’d just said. He stared back for a second, then another, before laughing ruefully. “Well, all right,” he admitted, “I walked right into that one.”
It wasn’t funny, but she giggled anyway. “If my mother was right all along, I’m going to be rather disillusioned with the male subspecies.”
He laughed a little louder. “Go ahead. Guys are not nearly as complicated as girls think we are. We’re nowhere near as difficult as girls to figure out,” he added, his laugh fading a little bit.
“That’s really all guys want?” It didn’t make sense. She’d known girls who seemed boy-crazy, but even they had other hobbies, even if those hobbies were putting on make-up and shopping for clothes.
“Pretty much, yeah.”
“That’s what you wanted from me?”
“No, I stood up to the Thorne Girls for you out of the goodness of my heart. What did you think?”
“I thought you wanted to be my friend.” She swallowed the tears that threatened, wishing he weren’t confirming her worst fears.
“Friend?” He smirked. “No. I never wanted to be your friend.”
The door swung open on friend, and he looked up, grinning with false cheerfulness. “Conrad! Just in time.”
“We would’ve been back twenty minutes ago, but Cassidy decided to break a jar of pickles all over the place and Lydia made us clean it up.” As the three of them – Conrad, Vlad, and Cassidy – trooped into the suite, the smell of vinegar preceded them. “And by all over the place, I mean all over me. What’s up?”
“We were just talking about ignorance,” Kai said, her voice catching like a sob in her throat.
“Kaia?” Conrad asked. Before she looked up, she heard the thump of a light punch and Conrad’s indignant “Hey!”
“You stink. Go change your pants before the whole suite smells like pickles.”
“I’m not the one who spilled pickles all over me.”
“But you’re the one that stinks. Go. You, too, Vlad.”
Grumbling good-naturedly, they left. Cassidy waited until their doors both thumped shut, then sat down on the couch next to Taro and draped his arm over his shoulders. “Now, you two were talking about ignorance?”
Taro seemed to be having trouble talking, so Kai answered bitterly. “My ignorance. My stupid belief in the male subspecies. Why do you care?”
“Because you’re crew, and when you fight, it makes us all miserable. And believe you me, after the year we had last year, we are not going to put up with that again. And,” he added with a sudden smile, “because we like you, and Taro can be a right moron sometimes. Can’t you, Taro?”
“It’s not his fault.” Kai was a little surprised to find herself defending him, but Cassidy seemed to be missing the point. “We were all bred to be the way we are.”
“Thanks,” Taro muttered.
“Don’t make the mistake of thinking that your genes are what’s making you who you are.” Cassidy leveled a stern look at her. “You or him. We’re none of us just the average of our parents, are we?”
“How could we tell, if we don’t know half the equation?”
“Because we make our own lives.”
“How can you say that, knowing that we were purposefully bred to be the way are? Don’t you think being strong affected the way Taro’s life went? Do you think being smart affected mine?”
“Don’t you think finding myself in a telepathic connection with my girlfriend affected my life just a bit?” he countered. “Sure, we all start from our genes. But we choose where we go from that. Sometimes, for example, Taro chooses to be a moron.”
“Well, honestly. What could you hope to achieve by making our lovely Kai doubt herself? You’ve lost this round, Taro – bear it with some grace.”
As if on cue, Conrad sauntered back into the living room, no longer smelling of vinegar. “What are we baring now? I don’t want to see Taro with his shirt off if I can avoid it.”
“Just setting some records straight. I’ll leave you all to your fun; my lovely lady is calling.”
Conrad wrapped his arms around Kai’s shoulders briefly. “Everything all right here?”
Kai thought about it for a moment before answering. “I think so,” she said slowly. “Taro was explaining to me how you’d been using me to get what you wanted, and I’d been about to explain to him that I was getting what I wanted from you, too.”
Mabina’s words about Megan and the unknown Shadrach echoed in her head …Their only reason to keep their so-called friends around is so they can use them for all they’re worth. She wanted answers. But those answers were beginning to lose priority. She looked back at Conrad, who was holding himself strangely still.
“But?” he whispered.
“But I don’t think that’s an accurate assessment of the situation.” Driven by an urge she didn’t yet understand, she wrapped her arms around him and hugged him fiercely.