August 31, 2015 by Lyn
And I know there will be mistakes that I will make
But I know none are worse than chances I don’t take
Right before your eyes, I am changing
Saturday morning found Jamian waking to much the same situation as the last two mornings had – alone in his own bed, under enforced house arrest, with a baby-sitter sitting watch over him. This morning, it was Joff, soundly asleep and snoring softly. Asleep, the little elf boy looked far younger and more vulnerable. His face settled into an almost babyish roundness, and his corn-silk-blonde hair fell across his face. His knees were curled up to his chest, and Jamian half-expected to find him sucking his thumb.
He brushed the boy’s hair out of his face – it felt as soft as it looked, like petting silk – and smiled a little wryly. The kid was clearly not cut out for the job of jailer, but he’d been very patient with Jamian over the past couple days – and even more patient with Ty, who’d been needing an extra-big dose of tolerance lately. He seemed, more than anyone, to understand what was wrong inside Ty’s psyche. Jamian wished there’d been a time to talk about it, but they were rarely left alone for long.
And now that they were alone, Joff was sound asleep. Jamian eyed the door, thinking of wandering out somewhere – he could; they’d told him to stay in his room, but no-one had bothered any more enforcement than his Succubus Committee of baby-sitters.
That would just get Joff in trouble. He headed for the shower instead. At least in there, he could be alone. Alone was getting hard to come by; they seemed afraid that he’d blow up if left alone, or start sucking the marrow out of nearby students.
It was kind of strange. Ivette and Joff didn’t seem to have a problem with him, but Professor VanderLinden alternated between treating him like a bomb about to go off and handling him with kid gloves. And Professor Reid treated him like a five-year-old learning to walk.
At least they were all teaching him. It seemed as if there was nothing but teaching sometimes; every waking moment would be filled with instructions, most of which he didn’t understand, some of which he wasn’t sure his teachers understood. Then, abruptly, the instruction would be stopped for an ad-hoc discussion on “don’t be evil.”
Those conversations were even weirder than the training. It was as if VanderLinden and Ivette really wanted him to understand the importance of the color purple, but yet they had never, themselves, seen purple – or, perhaps, as if they’d never even seen in color. Joff was a little better – but it was more like he knew that purple existed only because he’d extrapolated it from a life full of orange. There was something horribly kicked-puppy about his voice when he tried to talk about it, so Jamian did his best to change the subject.
They all seemed really intent on making sure he understood… well, something. It never seemed to be much more clear than don’t be evil, although sometimes it got as clear as don’t suck people’s souls. Since the rest of his time was spent teaching him how to not suck people’s souls – along with more general lessons on how to not use his new power at all – he didn’t think it was that big of a deal. It seemed rude to mention that, though, so he tried to pay attention.
Once in the bathroom, the door locked behind him, he stripped off his clothes and set the shower to somewhere between scalding and boiling. Long practice let him get into the shower without seeing himself in the mirror, but the tail still threw him off; he could see its twitching reflection out of the corner of his eye.
Well… The full-length mirrors in the bathrooms seemed a bit sadistic, in a school full of students turning into monsters, but it was beginning to seem like the changes that should horrify him weren’t the physical ones. He turned back to the mirror and looked hard at what he was becoming.
Ignore the breasts, though they were getting bigger. If he looked at them too long, he’d tweak. Ignore the shoulders, too; they’d always been too feminine.
His face was still his face. He still didn’t have a beard, but that was no surprise. From navel to chin he still looked like himself. Itself. Screw it. My self. The horns sticking out of his hair were weird, like little baby goat horns, but they didn’t look that bad by themselves. They’d stick out like a sore thumb in public, but that thing that everyone seemed to know how to do, the Mask thing that had hidden things like Shiva’s tail and her cat ears, and Magnolia’s spots, could probably hide his horns, too.
And the tail. He twisted around to look at it. It was kinda cool, though it got in the way when he was sitting, and sometimes when he was standing, and he’d trod on it more than once when standing up, and, unlike every tailed superhero he’d ever seen in cartoons, he couldn’t pick anything up with it. But it was a little badass anyway, when it behaved.
“So,” he said to his reflection, “this is what a Daeva looks like, hunh?” Professor VanderLinden had promised him that, when he mastered the art of not-eating-people’s-souls, he’d start teaching him the shape-shifting that, he said, was part of the package of being a full-blooded Daeva. He’d even given a small demonstration. It looked creepy, very creepy, but the possibilities, the idea of being able to just be a guy, all the way down to the bone, and stay that way as long as he wanted – for that, he was willing to put up with a lot of creepy.
He squinted, and tried to imagine his body more masculine. Less hips. Wider ribcage, no breasts. The freedom to take off his shirt in gym, and not stand out as the freak that didn’t. And your teacher and your new friends are afraid you’re going to suck people’s life force out their ears, like some creepy vampire. It wasn’t fun, but maybe, if he showed them he wasn’t going to be a monster, they’d let up.
“Jamian?” The doorknob jiggled, turning Jamian’s blood cold. He scrambled for a towel, shit, that’s not going to work… realized he was projecting his panic, and swallowed, picturing a green horse on a sandy plain. “Jame?” Another door-knob rattle. “Is everything all right in there?”
He pulled his pants back on and found his shirt. “I’m fine, Joff.”
“You’re shielding.” His voice, normally so quiet and deferential, sounding accusing and angry.
“You’ve been pounding funny-colored animals into my head for days now, of course I’m shielding.”
“Open the door, please.”
“Can’t a guy get a shower?” He glared at the door.
“Oh.” He sounded a little chagrined “You were gone when I woke up, and I was worried. And you’d locked the door…” The doorknob rattled again.
“Geez,” Jamian sighed. “All right, all right.” He opened the door, but didn’t look right at the little elf. Sure, he could just read his emotions, but there was no use making it easy for him. “You were sleeping, and I didn’t want to wake you. I don’t need round-the-clock minding, you know. I can shower myself.”
“I know.” Jamian glanced over, to find the boy blushing miserably. “I shouldn’t have interrupted, but if anything happened to you, they’d never forgive me. Ty would never forgive me.”
“Oh, hell.” He flopped down on the bed. “Look, I’m okay. I’m not going to explode, and I’m not going to do anything stupid. I promise, all right?”
The boy just frowned more. “You shouldn’t go throwing around promises like… oh.” He blinked. “You’re Owned, aren’t you?”
“Yeah,” Jamian muttered. “I thought everyone knew that.”
“I don’t get out much,” he shrugged.
“You, either?” He couldn’t work up much bitterness about it, though. “What’s it like?”
“Being Owned?” He blinked. “Don’t… well, I guess it’s different for you. You didn’t know what you were getting into, did you?” At Jamian’s mute head shake, he made a disapproving noise. “I wish people wouldn’t do that. It never works out well.”
“You knew what you were getting into?” He shook his head incredulously. “And you still did it?”
“Yeah,” Joff blushed. “I sort of made him do it. Well… I mean,” he trailed off, clearly uncomfortable.
Him. Hunh. “You, what, hit him with a stick until he agreed to Own you?” The image was ridiculous, silly enough that Joff managed a little smile.
“No,” he shook his head, “though I guess I could have. I just followed him around until he agreed.”
“You wanted to be Owned that badly?”
“Kind of, yeah. I…” He looked down at the floor.
“Hey, it’s okay,” Jamian said hurriedly. “I didn’t mean to pry. It’s just…Ty…” he trailed off.
“Yeah,” Joff agreed. “Ty can be a little much sometimes. It’s kind of high-strung, I guess?”
He flinched. “Yeah. High-strung.”
“It’s not hurting you, is it?”
“No! God, no! Just…” He lowered his voice, and thought intently about green horses for a minute. Some of Joff’s kicked-puppy moments were beginning to become uncomfortably clear. “He… she… she, I guess, just confuses me sometimes. It’s like her emotions are all over the place; she’ll start crying for no reason sometimes, just out of the blue!”
“There’s a reason for that,” Joff said quietly.