September 13, 2015 by Lyn
But I’ve got to get a move on with my life
It’s time to be a big girl now
And big girls don’t cry
Aren’t Mentors suppose to help? Kai wandered out of Dr. Regine’s office, feeling more despondent than when she’d entered. Mabina&Cassidy had helped her more than the Director, so far; maybe she should have listened to the crew and not taken Regine as a Mentor at all.
She’d thought, being a scientist, the Director would be able to help her, to better understand her in ways that her fellow students never had.Well, the helpful voice in the back of her head offered dryly, if you’d gone to her with a scientific problem, maybe she would have. Instead you went whining about romance and didn’t even tell her what you’d done. She didn’t want to tell anyone what she’d done, but she needed advice on how to proceed. She was still certain that, given the option between what had happened and leaving Conrad in Agatha’s clutches, she’d done the right thing. She just wasn’t sure anyone else would agree with her.
The hallway outside Dr. Regine’s office was empty, no Vlad in sight. She could just walk back to the suite on her own – she hadn’t promisedVlad that she’d stick around – but if he missed her, coming back, then they’d be wandering around in circles looking for each other all day.
And you’re scared. Scared of dragons, scared of Agatha, scared that her shame was visible to anyone for the looking. And ashamed that walking down the hall had suddenly become a frightening thing. Where had the strong, independent girl her mother raised gone?
Your mother sold her to a breeding factory. She twitched, feeling tears threatening again. Maybe she could make it rain here, that would cover the tears – although it would probably look a little strange. Where was Vlad? She just wanted to go home. Just wanted to hide.
“Hey, everything all right?”
She yelped, startled – she never failed to notice people around her, how had she missed that, where was her purse, oh god, had she offended someone again and what was it going to cost her this time – and swallowed a whimper, trying to seem calm. Probably failing. Certainly failing at beingcalm. Where was a thunderstorm when she needed one? She smiled nervously at the person in front of her. People. She’d seen them both around – sometimes hanging out with the very intimidating Magnolia before and after Calculus, or around the far-less-scary-but-apparently-gender-uncertain Jamian (-mia? How did that work, anyway?), around American History and PE – but didn’t know their names or share any classes with them.
“Hi,” she squeaked, mortified and more scared than she wanted to admit. The blonde boy looked friendly and safe, but her judgments of people seemed to be entirely off-base. The girl, on the other hand, looked sharp and aggressive, if you discounted the tabby-cat ears and the lazy smile.
“Sorry,” the girl was saying. ”I didn’t mean to startle you.” Her ears folded back along her head, ears like she’d sometimes wished Conrad had – Kai stifled another sob. ”Oh, shit, I’m sorry. Here.” She offered a tissue like dealing with crying girls in the halls was no big deal to her – and maybe it wasn’t, here.
“Thanks.” Kai took the tissue and dabbed at her eyes.
“I… yeah.” She flopped against the wall. “Aren’t Mentors supposed to be helpful?”
“You’d think,” the blonde boy said dryly. “Who’d they stick you with?”
“Dr. Regine,” she sighed. “I thought it would be a good idea. But… she just doesn’t get it.” She cringed, realizing she sounded like every bad teenaged stereotype.
The girl laughed. “Yeah, that’s Regine for you. Don’t let it bother you too much, though – it’s not you, it’s her.”
“Thanks,” she sniffled.
“Anything we can help with, maybe?” she continued casually – but Kai noted that the girl’s tail was very, very still.
“I can’t afford any more help,” she answered, hoping she didn’t sound rude. She couldn’t afford any more enemies, either.
“You’ve been talking to too many upperclassmen,” the boy laughed. “Hi, I’m Ty, this is Shiva.”
She shook their hands, now even more bemused. “You aren’t Fifth Cohort. You weren’t at the first-day announcements.”
“No, but there’s upperclassmen and then there’s upperclassmen,” he retorted. ”And the wrong sort can get you into all sorts of trouble.”
Oh, yeah, or you can get the right sort entangled in your messes. She curled her arms around her stomach again, holding herself tightly. What was she going to do?
Shiva looked sharply at her, and turned to Ty, poking him in the ribs. “Off with you. It’s girl talk time.”
“But…” he protested.
“Irrelevant. Go!” She waited until he’d rounded the corner, then turned back on Kai. “Walk with me?”
“I…. I can’t.” She shook her head nervously. “I told him I’d wait here.”
“Ah, okay. Then I’ll wait with you, if that’s all right?”
“I guess so.” She was being rude again. “I mean, sure, if you want to.” And that wasn’t any better. She bit her lip.
“Hey, it’s okay. You’re Kai, right? The Fifth who ended up Owning her wannabe Keeper?”
“I don’t Own Taro,” she demurred. Shiva laughed, startled.
“Oh, that’s right! You Own Conrad, though, right?”
“Yeah. For now.”
“Hey, what’s up?” At Kai’s sudden cringe, she continued intently. “Look, I know a lot of the upperclassmen are a bunch ass… of jerks. But I promise you that I won’t ask any recompense for talking with you today.” The air shimmered and popped with the promise. “You have that feeling like something’s weighing on you,” she continued. ”And I can’t promise I can fix it, but sometimes it helps just to talk about it?”
“I…” she gulped. “Maybe I can… practice on you? I’ll have to tell Mabina eventually, and she’ll yell at me.” She cringed just thinking about it. ”I made a real mess of things.”
“We all do, our first year. Sometimes we’re just sort of wandering around the cliff edge, not knowing it’s there, and some asshole pushes us over.”
“I should have known the edge was there, though. Conrad told me.” Over and over again. And she had thought he was being overprotective.
“Hey, a month ago you thought magic was a myth, didn’t you? Don’t be so hard on yourself.”
“No.” She shook her head vehemently. “Cut yourself some slack. It’s a new place, with new rules, and people cheat all the time.” Her tone got quieter and more gentle-seeming. “Do you want to tell me what happened?”
“Agatha…” she began, and then, over Shiva’s shoulder, she saw the top of Conrad’s head. “Conrad?”
He approached quickly, walking in a way that wasn’t actually running but showed his clear intent to get somewhere in a hurry. “Kai,” he said, his tone sounding relieved. Shiva stepped adroitly out from between them. “All yours, sport.” She patted Kai’s shoulder lightly. “Come by and talk sometime, okay? Free gratis.”
“Okay,” she murmured, her eyes on Conrad. Was he angry with her? “Shiva,” he said neutrally, nodding to the other woman, before turning to Kai. “Did Regine help?”
“No,” she answered, her frustration exploding all over again. “Oh,” he frowned, reaching out to put an arm around her. “I’m sorry.” She leaned into his arm. “Maybe Mabina can help. But I don’t want her to yell at me.”
“No one’s going to yell at you, Kai. We just want to help you.”
She rested her forehead on his shoulder, wishing it could be true. “You were right,” she whispered, hating it. “I dove in headfirst without thinking, and it hurt everyone – and we didn’t even help Bowen!” “It’s okay. We all made mistakes our first year. Very bad ones in many cases.”
“I…” She’d have to tell him eventually. “Tolly, he…” She gulped hard. “He was gentle. But… I didn’t want him.”
“And Agatha made you…?” He held her tightly, looking down into her eyes, his own warm with concern.
She nodded. ”Agatha made us,” she whispered.
He blinked, caught by her wording. “Did Tolly not want to?”
“She didn’t… she didn’t,” she gulped, trying to force the words out. “Didn’t hold him at gunpoint or anything. And I’m stupid about people. But he didn’t seem to want to.”
“Oh, Kai…” He kissed her gently on the forehead and just held her.
“You’re not angry?” she murmured nervously
“Of course I’m not. It’s not your fault Aggie’s a monster.”
“You told me not to, though.”
“You can’t go through life doing whatever anyone else tells you to.”
She coughed out a small laugh and smiled up at him, wondering if he heard what he was saying.
“Well, not unless you’re Owned, anyway,” he finished lamely, looking down.
She hugged him tightly. “I’m scared,” she whispered
“It’s okay to be a little scared. I’m here to protect you, though, if you’ll let me.”
“Okay,” she acquiesced.
“Can we go home now?”
“Yeah.” She untangled enough to walk and claimed his hand in hers. “Let’s go home.”