August 31, 2015 by Lyn
‘Cause it’s gonna be the future soon
And I won’t always be this way
When the things that make me weak and strange get engineered away
Jamian glared at the tiny elf. “Being a hermaphrodite doesn’t make you unstable!” he said hotly.
“No,” Joff replied calmly, “but being pregnant can.”
“Pregnant?” He stared at the boy, reaching for his emotions. He was open, as if showing all his cards – and he was entirely serious. “But how? I mean, we haven’t…” he blushed even thinking about it. “Has she…” he struggled past a sudden lump in his throat, “I mean, been sleeping with someone-else?” And when had she found the time? “Niki? Phelen?” Was she going somewhere else for it because he wasn’t ready? If he manned up – ha! – would she stop, or was he going to have to live with being second fiddle?
“I’m sorry,” Joff interjected, “that’s not what I meant to say! I don’t think Tya is sleeping with anyone else. I’m sure she’s not sleeping with Nikita anymore.”
The tension lifted, just a little. “Then how?”
“She’s not, as far as I know, pregnant right now. But …” Joff trailed off, frowning. “You really ought to hear this from Ty, but I think you need to understand. Tya had a baby, just a month before school started.”
“Ty… Tya has a kid?”
“Ty has three kids, Jamian,” he answered gently. “You’d be hard-pressed to find someone past their first year here who doesn’t have at least one kid.”
“Wait, what?” He stared at the boy, certain he’d heard wrong. “You’re fucking with me, right?”
Joff shook his head slowly. “‘Fraid not. I mean, there are exceptions – Tolly, for one – but, well, everyone in your suite has at least one child. Or, at least, they’ve fathered or carried at least one child. Some people here don’t do anything that could be called parenting.”
Jamian waved that aside. “So… Phelen has a kid?” It was easier to think about that than about Tya sleeping with someone else. “Where…? there aren’t any kids in the suite.” Not that he’d looked in Phelen’s room, but kids, he was pretty sure, weren’t like pets you could keep hidden in your dorm room.
“What, Greenwich? That’s kind of a stretch.”
Joff giggled. “No. The village here.” He pointed upwards. “It’s above ground, sort of next to the school.”
“There’s a village out there? All I saw was a barn.”
“You can’t see it from the outside. It’s kind of weird,” he shrugged, “but you can’t see the Village from outside of it at all.”
“I’m not sure anything here counts as weird anymore. Tails, horns, soul-sucking… so Ty has kids, like, right outside the school?”
“Yeah. They live with, um, with Ty’s maternal parent.”
“That’s a kind of funny way of putting that.”
“Gender gets funny when you’re dealing with Daeva half-breeds sometimes. D.J. – Ty’s mom – is a hermaphrodite, too.”
“And everyone knows it?”
“Well, yeah. There’s not much point in hiding it down here, around a whole bunch of other Ellehemaei, is there?”
Good question. “If Ty’s, ah, maternal parent – really? That’s a silly way of putting that. If Ty’s mom is open about it, I guess that explains why he – it? – is so comfortable.” And why I’m not, I guess.
“Most people here just go with the pronoun the person is using at the time,” Joff said gently.
“It’s common enough that there’s some sort of standard?”
“Well, not really. I mean, I’m cy’Linden, which is a little different. We’re used to Ty and to Professor VanderLinden.”
“So you know Ty pretty well?” He couldn’t bring himself to be jealous of the kid; he seemed so entirely harmless.
“As well as anyone could, I guess. We’ve never dated or anything.”
Jamian dismissed that with a hand-wave. “I think the people who date Ty probably know him the least.”
“I wouldn’t be surprised. And vice-versa, of course.” Joff glanced at the wall, a long blond curl obscuring his face. “A lot of times, Keepers have very little idea what’s going on with their Kept, and they don’t often want to know, either.”
“That seems kind of shitty.” But that’s kind of how Ty was, wasn’t it? They hadn’t had much time to talk about anything, and Tya derailed most of it with kissing.
“Some people who have Kept are pretty shitty people.” He was still looking at the wall. It wasn’t a very interesting wall, all things considered. It needed a window, but there wouldn’t be anything to see except the hallway.
“Ty isn’t awful. But would you know if he was?”
“Yeah, of course I would.”
“Maybe.” He shook his head, letting more of his hair obscure his face. He was shielding hardcore, so emotionally blank that it was hard to believe he was there. “But Meshach locked me in a closet for an entire weekend and I still thought he hung the moon.”
His voice was as flat as his emotions, so dead that it took a minute for the enormity of what he’d said sink in. “Locked you in a closet? Why?”
Joff shrugged jerkily. “He wanted to?” His voice was rapidly losing the deadness. “I probably did something that upset him, or broke a rule. It was hard to tell. The rules kept changing.” His fists were clenched on his lap. “Nothing I did was ever good enough. Now, now I think that it didn’t matter at all; he just liked to punish me. But when he Owned me, all I could think of was trying to be good enough, not that he wouldn’t hurt me, but that he’d be pleased with me.” He looked up at Jamian, his eyes a little wild. “Even when… even when I was afraid that he’d leave scars, what worried me more was that he was unhappy. Do you understand?”
“No,” Jamian admitted. “Why did you let him do those things to you?”
“He Owned me. I couldn’t stop him.”
The stark acceptance in his voice was terrifying. Jamian blinked at him, the words landing like stones in his consciousness. He Owned me. I couldn’t stop him. “I… I don’t…” He couldn’t even form the thoughts properly, much less the words. If he didn’t Belong to Ty, would he want him anymore? “I don’t want Ty to do that to me,” he finished lamely.
“I know,” Joff said. “You shouldn’t want to be Owned. No-one should. But when you’re there, you can’t really think about being free.”
Jamian nodded a little. That was how he felt; his brain told him he ought to want to be free, but the thought was terrifying and horrible. But…
“But didn’t you say that you followed – um – your Keeper around until he agreed to Own you?”
“Yeah,” Joff blushed, and looked at the floor. “I’m sort of broken.”
“Broken? What do you mean?”
“I…” He flopped down on the bed, on the far side from Jamian and not looking at him. “I don’t do well alone. I can’t sleep if I’m alone in a bed – not well, at least, not without drugs. And,” he sighed softly. “I’m not really a manly man. You might have noticed?”
“A little.” He couldn’t help but smile. There were girls at the school more masculine than Joff.
“Well, the bullies here kind of like everyone to be in nice tidy relationships. I think it’s just part of the whole … thing here. So they get a little heavy-handed, sometimes, with people who aren’t in crews or aren’t dating anyone.”
“Lovely.” Bullies in his old school had been heavy-handed, usually for whatever pretense of a reason made them happy at the time. He’d gotten his share of the torment until he learned to hit back, and, more importantly, to fight dirty. ”I guess, in a way, Ty did me a favor.” He frowned. “But couldn’t you just have dated someone? Did you have to be Owned?”
Joff’s blush grew hotter, and he curled his knees up to his chest. “Race nougat,” he muttered, or something like that.
“What?” He tried to sound gentle about it. Joff looked like he was going to curl himself up tighter and tighter until he vanished, and he wasn’t sure VanderLinden would look fondly on him making another one of his Students vanish.
“Rafe’s not gay,” he said, lifting his face from his knees just long enough to say it. “I could sort of trail around behind him until he decided I needed a keeper, but dating him took longer.”
“But you’re dating him now?”
“Yeah.” Joff smiled shyly at Jamian, a smile that was stunningly bright, from lips that were startlingly kissable… and then the shine was gone, and he was a cute little elf boy again. “I’m an incubus. And he’s not really that straight.”
“Um… oh.” He blinked. “Does it work like that?” Was that what Ty was doing to him?
“Only for a couple of us. And only with people that are on the fence to start with. Look, speaking of incubi and Daeva half-breeds and stuff, there’s something you need to know about…”
A perfunctory knock on the door cut him off, and Ty entered. “Hey, sweetie, I…” He took in the scene on the bed. “Um, hi.”