September 4, 2015 by Lyn
Gotta let me in
Let the fun begin
I’m the wolf today
I’ll huff, I’ll puff, I’ll huff I’ll puff I’ll blow you away
Shahin twisted in Emrys’ lap at the knock, and opened her mouth to call out.
“No!” he said sharply, jostling her as he turned. ”Don’t just invite people in blindly.”
She snapped her mouth shut, glaring at him balefully. ”Do you think I’m a moron?” she grated out. “You just pissed off another crew, and you think I’m just going to shout out a welcome to whatever monster happens to be standing outside the door?”
“Sorry, but it’s important, and we’ve got a lot on our minds.”
Slightly mollified, she nodded, and was about to call out again when the door was rattled with a second knock.
“Little pig, little pig, let me in,” boomed out a voice barely recognizable as Ardell’s.
Emrys seemed puzzled. ”Wait… then who was the first knock?”
Shahin shook her head. “I don’t know. Avon?” She slipped off of his lap, walking towards the door. He rose from his seat to hover behind her, and she pretended she wasn’t very grateful for his reassuring presence.
“Who’s there?” she called, although she knew the answer. She set her hand on the door, wondering if she could get any sort of feeling through it.
Indignation. Fear. Lust and bloodlust in equal measure. Panic. Triumph. The two sets of emotions tangled together, threatening to overwhelm her.
“I’ve come to make a deal with Emrys. Open the door, little girl, or I’ll open it for you.”
“He can’t do that,” Emrys said quietly behind her. ”But he also can’t cross your threshold without an invitation. You can open it safely as long as you stay completely inside.”
“More Law?” she murmured just as quietly back to him. “He’s got someone else out there. Someone scared.”
“Let’s find out who it is then,” he said gently, setting a hand on her shoulder.
She opened the door half-way, standing as if she wasn’t at all frightened.
Ardell loomed outside, looking for all the world like an evil demon football player, the impression only aided by the way he was holding Agatha, one hand in her perfect blonde curls, the other wrapped around her throat, her toes dangling off the ground. “Hello,” he grinned. His hair, Shahin noted, was singed, and he smelled faintly of burnt plastic.
“Well hello there. Making progress I see, you’ve picked the right gender this time, but you may have bitten off more than you can chew with that one.”
Shahin spared a moment to glance at Emrys in chagrin, noting, when she looked back, that Aggie, blue-lipped or not, was giving him much the same look.
“I think once she passes out, she won’t be much trouble at all. And she’ll pass out in just a moment or two, won’t you, beautiful?”
Aggie’s retort was no more than a thin wheezing gasp.
“So,” Ardell continued, “pass over the little bitch, I’ll give you back your crew-mate, and we’ll all be happy.”
Shahin didn’t turn to look back at Emrys again, but she was braced for his response. Crew was important, he’d said. Important enough for him to try to trade her friend for his?
“Or, you could just set her down and I’ll let you walk away, again, without a trip to Caitrin’s. Although if you really want to wait for Luke to show up again, we can play it that way too. Given our last meeting, I’m sure he’s still watching us remotely, and he’ll probably be thrilled if he has to come out for you twice in one day.”
Interesting. Well, that definitely explained the singed edges.
“Or I could grab your pretty little pet, too, and be happy with her instead.” He leered at Shahin, who smiled back, unshaken, albeit a little offended. Pet, indeed.
“I don’t think you could handle her,” Emrys smiled. ”Why don’t you set Aggie down and try.”
“Bird in hand, bush, all that,” Ardell grinned, and bulled forward into the doorway, still carrying his prize.
“Invite Aggie in, quickly,” Emrys whispered behind Shahin.
Under ordinary circumstances, the last thing Shahin would want in her room was that poisonous bitch. But, considering the situation…
“Welcome in, Agatha,” she murmured softly.
Ardell hit the threshold of her room with a thud, his hands slipping away from Aggie. The tiny blonde fell to the floor at Shahin’s feet, while Ardell slowly fell to his knees, his eyes watering.
Emrys reached down quickly, pulling Agatha farther into the room and stepping back, fixing a saccharine smile on Ardell. ”Oh, I’m sorry, did you think that was an invitation?” His eyes narrowed at the taller boy as his voice became tense. “Now get off my turf before I light you up.”
Shahin decided that a united front was more important at the moment than her pride, and helped the other girl to her feet.
Ardell stumbled to his own feet, rubbing his nose. “You’re awfully brave when you’re hiding behind a threshold, you scrawny little pussy. But you can’t stay in there forever, and neither can your little stable of whores.”
“You want to try me outside of the threshold again? Just like earlier?” Flames licked up from his fingertips as he stepped forward, just inside the doorway.
Ardell shook his head. ”I think I’ll wait till she’s alone. Better to just give me the bitch now.”
Emrys sighed, shaking his head. “Seriously, man, pick some lower-hanging fruit. I don’t care if you want to play the game, but there’s plenty of Fifths still unaccounted for.” The fire coursed down his body like a living thing, spreading across the floor in a thin line and roaring up the sides of the door to outline it.
“And you’re laying claim to a whole crew of them. Share the wealth, man.” Ardell, Shahin noted, was backing up prudently while he complained. “Or we’ll share it for you.”
“Only the one is mine. If you want the others, approach them fairly, but I don’t want to see her crewmates taken by raw force. You’re not a bad-looking guy… when you’re not singed. Maybe you should try working that angle for once.” The flames danced forward, over the ceiling, extending the door’s outline into a box across the hall, framing Ardell.
Shahin bit her tongue and set the tottering Aggie in the chair she and Emrys had so recently vacated.
“Fucking…” Ardell stepped over the flames. “Right. I’ll stay out of your sandbox.” Grumbling, he backed away rapidly.
“All I’m saying is don’t break my toys, man.” The flames vanished, leaving the structure completely unharmed, as he closed the door.
Shahin watched him, smirking just a little bit, as the door closed, waiting for him to say something.
He just sighed, shaking his head. “So, what’s up, Aggie?”
Later. Once again, her queue for later was piling up quickly.
Agatha ran her hands over her throat. “My hero.” Under her sarcasm seemed to be a layer of actual gratitude. “But regardless, it’s time to pay your debt.”
He arched a brow at her. “What did you have in mind?”
Shahin watched, willing to let this go for the moment.
Agatha gestured languidly at Ayla. “Well, she’d do. But there’s others. I’m not picky, and Anatoliy can’t afford to be.”
“Ahh, yes.” He eyed Ayla speculatively.
“What…?” she asked cautiously, backing up to the other side of the bed.
“Indeed.” Shahin sat down pointedly on the bed, putting herself between her friends and the other two. “What?”
Emrys directed his words at Ayla nonetheless. “Have you met Tolly?”
“Anatoliy? He’s the giant, right?” She gestured an inadequate representation of Tolly’s height. “Yeah. He’s a nice guy. But…” she frowned deeply. “Not my type.”
“Yeah, I kind of got that impression.” He turned back to Agatha. “Who else, do you think?”
Agatha pursed her lips. “As long as they’ll hold still long enough, what do I care?”
Emrys didn’t seem the least bit fazed by that attitude. “Well, there’s this lovely pale thing in my PE class. I get the impression she’s looking for an older man to show her some things, y’know? What was her name… Manira?”
“Yeah, but if she’s not already carrying your half-brother it’s just a matter of time.” Aggie dismissed his suggestion with a handwave. “Useful, Emrys. Someone useful. You promised.”
Shahin looked between the two of them, growing increasingly irritated, and yet increasingly curious, and bit her tongue. Near her, it seemed her friends were doing the same – no, Ayla was. Vi was snoring.
“Okay, okay. Marjolaine. Brunette, green eyes, she’s in four of my classes so I see her pretty much all day. Not bad looking, but as far as I’ve seen no one’s looked twice at her, she’s kind of under the radar.”
“The one that looks just like Anda? Well, I guess he likes the type, if you can talk her into it.”
Shahin shook her head, past her curiosity. “The boy can’t get a date on his own?”
“To be blunt about it? No. He’s just too self-effacing.”
“So the promise you made was to get him a girlfriend?”
“Something like that,” he hedged, turning back towards Agatha.
“‘Something like that,’” she quoted back at him irritably. ”What specifically?”
“I have to help him have a kid,” he sighed.
Aggie laughed. “Ooh, you’ve switched over? Beautiful. That doesn’t get you out of our agreement, you know.” She turned her sharp gaze on Shahin. “Get used to it, sweetie. Welcome to our world.”
It would probably be a breach of hospitality to strangle the little bitch. Shahin smiled at her instead, and then turned her attention fully on Emrys.
“I assume that means procure the girl and make sure she’s cooperative?”
“Um, basically.” He fidgeted nervously.
She nodded, and turned to look at Aggie. “We’ll take care of it,” she said, with far more certainty than she felt. “Do you need someone to walk you back to your room?”
Aggie smirked. “No, I think I can find the way myself.” She stood, smoothing her skirts. “Thank you for your hospitality. I’ll see you later, Emrys.”
She exited with grace, which saved Shahin throwing her out on her ass, leaving Shahin with a snoring Yngvi, a silent Ayla, and… Emrys.
“Don’t worry about it, really.”
“Too late.” She kept the smile pasted on.
“Seriously, this doesn’t have to be your problem. Any of yours,” he added, glancing at Ayla.
“I, uh, I think I’ll go do my homework.” Ayla hugged Shahin fiercely. ”I’ll see you at breakfast tomorrow?”
Shahin unbent enough to hug her back. “I’ll be there.” She waited until Ayla had left to turn back to him.
Her hands were shaking, so she clasped them together in front of her, and looked him up and down slowly. “You didn’t want me to know.” It didn’t surprise her, but it did make her curious.
“To know what?” he asked cautiously, watching her.
“About your deal with Aggie. I suppose, specifically, that you agreed to help Tolly father a child.”
“I didn’t think it was any of your business, really. It certainly won’t involve you.”
“Except now it does.” She stepped in closer. “And that’s the only reason you didn’t tell me?” Something was making him jittery, and he just didn’t get that way normally.
“Well, I kind of knew he had an eye for Ayla too, and I figured you wouldn’t like people looking at her like that.”
“Aren’t you the soul of solicitousness?” She shook her head at him. “You’re good. I’m a little in awe of how good you are. Why – and the real answer this time, please – are you hedging like your life depends on it?”
“Because there are questions I can’t answer. I mean actually can’t.” He frowned again.
She sat down on the edge of the bed, well out of the sleeping Ynvgi’s way, and held out a hand to Emrys. “And why Anatoliy needs a baby is one of those questions?”
His silence was all the answer she needed.
“Come here,” she said, no longer annoyed with him.
He approached, taking her outstretched hand in his. “Just let this one be, please.”
“If you were smart,” she told him, smiling, “you’d learn to quit while you were ahead.” She stood up and wrapped her free arm around him. “So…” The glimmerings of a plan were beginning to occur to her. “We get to find Tolly a date.”
“Well, yeah… like I said, maybe Marjolaine I think…”
“Does it have to be a Fifth Cohort?”
“Well, no, but anyone else available he’s probably struck out with already.”
She liked him more that he was thinking of it that way, and herself less for what she was thinking. “I might have a plan.”
“What’s your plan?” he asked skeptically.
She grinned. “I’ll tell you later.”
“Well, should I keep trying on my own, then?”
“In the copious spare time you’re going to have? If you wish.” She kissed his nose lightly. ”Or you could, I don’t know, trust me.”
Chapter 55c – Shahin – Deleted scene
“It’s not that I don’t trust you, but you don’t know everything that’s going on here. Not by a long shot.”
“Well, then, maybe you ought to start telling me what’s going on. The parts that you can, of course.”
“Some of it you just have to see. Well, like crews, and Sanctity. I think today’s demonstrations were better than any explanation.”
“It was certainly a graphic demonstration. Quite impressive.” She smiled warmly at him. “And you are quite the pain in my ass when you’re avoiding topics.”
“So what’s the topic, then?”
“Things I need to know about this school.”
“Belonging and Sanctity are the big ones, the Laws, and you seem to have those down now.”
“And the things you think I don’t know enough about to handle your making-Tolly-a-proud-papa plan?”
“Social relationships down here. And some of the things I can’t talk about.”
She sighed in frustration. “Clearly, since you’re only a year ahead of me, at some point, it becomes okay to tell those things.”
“Yeah, they’ll become obvious over the course of the next few months.”
She looked away, trying not to get agitated with him. “Tell me something!”
He frowned, shaking his head. “I could probably tell you, if you directly made me. But it wouldn’t be fun.”
“This isn’t a lot of fun, either.” She rested her head on his shoulder. “I hate walking blind. What is this place, Emrys?”
“A school. That, at least, is true. It’s here to teach us what we are, and how to be it.”
She thumped her fist lightly against his arm. “You enjoy being a weasel, don’t you?”
“Well, what did you mean, then? I thought that was a good question.”
“Thank you. Schools have bullies. This place has sociopaths. Schools have an accidental pregnancy or three. This place, you’re trying to help your friend get someone – anyone – pregnant. You’d think that a school to teach us what we are would, oh, I don’t know, teach us about what we are, wouldn’t you? And you still didn’t answer my last question.”
“Ah, well. The administration thinks those lessons are better absorbed through life than words. But which question was that?”
“The one where I asked if you enjoy weaseling out of answering questions. And I’m sure Aggie or Vi or – well, I – would have learned very valuable lessons from being dragged back to Ardell or Barem’s room cave-man style.”
“Of course I do,” he smiled. “And I think the theory is, that makes more of an impression than just being warned that it could happen. You should really look into getting a Mentor, too; they’ll help you with some of this.”
She looked up at him, suddenly tired. “Mentor, okay. Anyone you’d suggest?”
“For you? It’s easier to rule people out, really. Not Regine, or Luke, or Linden. Not Drake or Caitrin or Mendosa. How do you get along with Pelletier, or Valerian, or Solomon?”
She sat down on the edge of the bed again, tugging him down next to her. “I don’t think Solomon likes me. He looks at me oddly a lot, at least. Valerian’s kind of flaky, and thinks we can’t tell it’s an act. But Pelletier… I’d like to shake her hand.”
“Well, keep in mind that Solomon’s a full-fledged telepath, you may be giving him reason to look at you oddly. Pelletier may be a good choice though. What draws you to her?”
“Thinking about math gets me weird looks?” She shook her head. “She seems rational, down to earth, and as if she’s very good at hiding something behind a façade of normalcy.”
“Good. You should have a talk with her about it.”
“You’re rather domineering for a Kept, aren’t you?”
“Hey, you’re the one who wanted my knowledge and advice.”
“Your round,” she conceded, thumping him on the arm again.
“So you’re really not going to tell me this plan for Tolly?”
“That’s right, I’m not.”
“Well, what are we going to do about Yngvi, then?”
She glanced over at her sleeping friend. “Drag him to the doctor’s, I suppose. Or let him sleep it off.”
“I mean after that. Ardell’s a bully, he’s not likely to give up so easily.”
“Oh.” She sighed. “I don’t know. He’s so proud, it will be hard to help him.”
“Can he defend himself at all? Not that it’d matter if it came to that, Ardell’s no lightweight, but does he have a chance to get away?”
She shook her head. “I don’t know. Like me, he doesn’t often get into situations where it’s necessary. He just – is monumentally prissy at problems until they go away.”
“That’s definitely not going to help the situation, here.”
“Too bad we can’t just get him a boyfriend,” she mused, as quietly as she could.
“Yngvi? Well, maybe. Someone who could take Ardell, you’re thinking? That’s a short list to begin with.”
“What’s Ardell’s interest, anyway? Is he just an equal-opportunity predator?”
“Pretty much, I think. Yngvi just caught his fancy.”
Yngvi coughed. ”I’m not…” Shahin almost expected him to end the sentence “gay;” instead, he ended it “…deaf, you know.” He levered himself up on one elbow. ”He won’t stop.”
Emrys arched a brow, not turning to face him. “He’s come after you before?”
He hesitated for a long time before finally muttering “yes.”
Shahin hissed, but didn’t ask the stupid questions: why? Why didn’t you tell us?
“And you got away? That’s not bad, y’know. He’s pretty tough.”
Another long pause. ”Luke stopped him.”
“Ahh, yeah. He’ll do that. Luke’s a good guy.”
“Yeah,” Vi mumbled. More firmly, he continued. “He’s not going to stop. So I suppose I’ll just have to stop him.”
“That’s the spirit. So what’ve you got to work with?”
“Well, there’s my extensive bare-handed combat skills,” he laughed. “I suppose I could snark wittily at him until he fell down. That seemed to work well for Shahin.”
“Nah, I just tricked him into running into a force field.”
“Thank you, dear,” she murmured. ”I’m sure he wasn’t talking about on Hell Night or anything.” She turned to her friend. ”What about… Workings? Magic?”
“I could make him cry,” Vi sighed.
“Hey, that kind of thing works on bullies sometimes. What Words do you know?”
“I’ve been studying hugr this week with Professor VanderLinden. I think the other ones I was good at were tlacatl and eperu,” he shrugged.
“Okay, and what manifestations can you manage? Um, verbs.” Shahin listened to the conversation with somewhat stunned curiosity. She really had been living with her head in the sand.
“I seem to be good at aistrigh and abatu, primarily.”
“Abatu and Tlacatl… nasty stuff, that. It’ll serve you well. But you really need practice with it, and it’s a hard one to practice. Talk to Doug about it if you get the time.”
”Do you think he’ll help me?”
“Likely, but be sure to give him straight answers to whatever he asks. I could show you a few things, I can do that one myself, but you don’t want to practice it without a healer on hand, and I can’t handle that end.”
“Okay…” Vi paused. ”You didn’t keep the last agreement that well, though. Am I going to owe you again?”
“Can’t make real promises while I’m under a Belonging, sorry,” he shrugged.
Shahin chuckled softly. ”What did…” she glanced between the two of them, and decided she had a marginally better chance of getting an honest answer out of Emrys. ”What did Vi owe you for?”
“Saving his bacon out in the hall. Theoretically not talking about it, but since Ardell didn’t let it go, it kind of became necessary.”
Vi glared at Emrys. Shahin, prudently, stayed quiet.
He shrugged again. ”Unless you’d rather we let you deal with him on your own.”
“No…” Vi relented with poor grace. ”You’re right. Thank you.”
“Right, then. So you have any friends who can do a Jasfe Tlacatl?”
“Healing. Repair and Body, together. You and I both have Tlacatl, but practicing combat magic requires either a healer or an idiot.”
“I don’t think so.” He glanced over at Shahin, who shrugged.
“Not unless Ayla does.”
“Okay then. The only student I know for sure has both of those is Allyse, and you don’t want to pay a Thorne’s price for anything. Ever. No matter how innocent it seems.”
“That sounds dire.”
“Kind of, yeah. I’m sure someone else can do it though, you’ll just have to ask around without revealing why you want it.”
“I suppose we can probably do that . Is there anyone else that we really ought not to be talking to?” He must be feeling better; his diction was improving.
“Ardell’s crew. That’s Delaney, Aviv, and Uberto.”
“Right.” He nodded crisply. “I should get back to my room and leave you two to your so-very-entertaining fencing. Ah… thank you. Again.” Even less comfortably, he added, “I owe you.”
“I know,” Emrys nodded simply. “We’ll work that out some other time.”
“We’ll walk you back to your room,” Shahin interrupted.