September 13, 2015 by Lyn
You gotta go for what you know
To make everybody see
In order to fight the powers that be
Jaya listened to the crew talk, content for a bit to snuggle into Ty’s embrace and listen. But something that Shiva and Niki had said was pricking at the back of her mind.
“Devoured,” she said abruptly. “It happens a lot, doesn’t it?”
Niki chuckled nastily. “You oughtta know.”
“Niki,” Shiva scolded tiredly. He just smirked at her.
“You know it’s true.”
“No.” Jaya shook her head. “I don’t mean… just Owned. Or even tricked into being Owned.” She felt guilty saying it, but wanted to be clear. Not look at Ty, she kept going. “I mean… well, like Bowen. Or, have you heard Joff talk about the guy that used to Own him?”
“Meshach was a real piece of work,” Phelen nodded. “He owned Ardell and Delaney their first year here – and see how well-adjusted it made them.”
Jaya shook her head. “So it happens, and everyone knows it? I mean, yeah, I guess we all see Bowen’s bruises…”
“Well, it’s not like most of any new class doesn’t get Owned,” Niki pointed out.
“But why? I mean… just for this stupid babies thing?”
“Lots of reasons,” Magnolia purred, draping her arm possessively over Anwell’s shoulders. “Around here, it protects them from the predators, the real monsters, like Meshach.”
“Some people just like to have someone to hurt,” Anwell muttered, scooting away from Magnolia’s arm as far as the couch would let him.
“Some people are just more content being Owned,” Shiva put in. “It removes all the responsibility from their shoulders.”
“Oh, that’s nice,” Niki complained. “You make me sound like a bum.”
“I’m sorry, you know I don’t mean to.”
“Yeah, well, you’re starting to sound like Agatha or something. Next thing I know you’ll have me chained to the foot of your bed.”
“Maybe she ought to,” Ty suggested, “if you’re going to keep being a little bitch.”
Phelen snickered nastily.
Shiva glared at both of them. . “I stayed out of your love life, Tya-mia. Stay out of mine.”
“Oh, no, this is lovely,” Niki laughed. “Now the truth comes out.”
Jamian looked in frustration at the boy, and tried to change the subject back. “So sometimes people are trying to do the right thing. And sometimes, they’re not.” Thinking about Kendra on Hell Night, he glanced over at Phelen.
“What?” He shrugged. “I still need a graduation requirement.”
“That’s kind of shitty, man.”
“Well, it’s taken care of now. I made a deal with Shahin.”
“Shahin?” He made a gesture at chest-height. “Little china-doll girl? Isn’t she dating that grumpy boy… Emrys?”
“Yeah… oh, oh!” He laughed. “Not like that. She’s hooking me up with someone.”
“That’s going to be a trick,” Magnolia purred maliciously. “I didn’t think you were into necrophilia, dear.”
“Cute, Mags.” He rolled his eyes.
“So…” Jamian struggled to bring the conversation back on track again. “People want their graduation requirements, and normal dating is too hard or something, and that’s, well…” he glanced at Ty “…fine. But I’m talking about the really bad stuff. I mean – like you said, Meshach. Agatha. I’m not really totally sure about Allyse. I mean, is that common?”
“More than I think we’d like,” Shiva murmured. “It’s not everyone, clearly, not even half, but some people do really get out of hand.”
“Why doesn’t anyone stop it?”
“That’s sort of against the Law, sweetie,” Magnolia chuckled. Jamian wondered if she could sense Anwell’s discomfort, if she noticed how he kept scooting further away.
“There isn’t all that much you can do,” Ty agreed. “The law says that you don’t mess with someone else’s belongings, and that includes, well, people that Belong to them.”
“No poaching,” Jamian muttered.
“That’s part of it, yeah. It goes with what Mags said about protection, too: if anyone hurts you or Niki, Shiva and I are well within our rights to pay it back to them tenfold.”
“But if they’re hurting their own Kept,” Jamian persisted.
“Then, really, the only thing you could do is find a way to get them to free their Kept. Make a bargain, some sort of deal, or challenge them.”
“Like an old-fashioned slap-them-with-the gauntlet sort of thing?” He wondered if he could take Aggie in a fight.
Phelen laughed. “Yeah, you go right ahead and try that.”
He glared at him. “Someone ought to. Just sitting around and watching it happen, that’s practically the same thing as doing it yourself.”
Ty squeezed him closer to him. “Well, you can’t do it,” he said, in a gently-teasing way that sounded like telling the baby not to touch the hot stove. “A Kept can’t go around challenging people; it doesn’t work that way. Maybe next year.”
“After the people getting abused now have been living that way for a year? I mean, yeah, I will, but that seems a pretty shitty thing to do to them: ‘hey, sorry, you have to live through this until graduation, but maybe I can help after that?’”
“Your Keeper just told you that you couldn’t get involved. What’s there to feel bad about when you can’t do anything?” Niki drawled.
“Because no-one else is doing anything, either.” He glared around at all of them. “Do you seriously think this is the way things are supposed to go?”
“No,” Anwell answered quietly. “But a lot of the people who are bad to their Kept are pretty unassailable. They’re older students, in powerful crews.”
“It’s not impossible, though,” Shiva offered gently. “Not something you can do directly, while collared…” she hesitated. “Um, Ty?”
“Soon,” Ty muttered. Jaya put her hand up to her bare neck and gulped. Niki’s “collar” wasn’t that bad, but something like Callista wore would be pretty mortifying. But might make it easier to walk the halls. Tell your Keeper to put a collar on you, the ghoul Baram had said.
“Sorry,” Shiva grinned unrepentantly. “So, no, if you’re Kept, you can’t go screaming challenges at people. But there are ways around everything.”
“Stop helping, Shiva,” Ty complained.
“Tit for tat, Tia-mia,” she smirked.
“What’s that about your tits?” A knock on the door cut short their cheerful bickering. Shiva disentangled herself, mostly ignoring Niki’s grumbling, and answered the door.
“Hi, that was quick!’ She sounded surprised, and a little amused. “And you brought friends.” She chuckled. “Hey, Conrad. Tolly.”
“Hey, Shiva.” Conrad smiled amiably.
“Come on in, all of you. Oh, it doesn’t look like you’ve been having a good day. Sit, sit.” She cleared stuff off a couple of the kitchen chairs, tutting impatiently at Niki. “Get over here and let Conrad and his mistress have the couch.”
“Oh, that’s not necessary,” the redhead protested, but Nikita, even his vines looking droopy and sullen, was already moving.
Anatoliy sat gingerly on one of the chairs, looking a bit awkward. Ty murmured a Working under his breath, soft enough that Jamian could barely hear him, and the chair seemed to expand until it was comfortably giant-sized.
Ignoring this all, Shiva tugged her chair up near the couch. “Now what’s up, honey?”
The girl took a deep breath, obviously steeling herself for something, and squeezed her boyfriend’s… her Kept’s, he was wearing a collar, and that was kind of odd, wasn’t it?… hand. “I… I made a deal with Agatha,” she began.
“Oh.” Shiva took in breath, her ears going flat against her head. “That sounds bad.”
“It, ah…” She faltered, worrying at her lip with her teeth, and looked between her Kept and the giant uncomfortably.
“What we did was wrong,” Tolly said quietly. “I want to make amends.”
Jamian felt the disturbance bouncing between their three visitors. Helpless anger, pain, embarrassment, frustration, and overwhelming guilt all ricocheted through them, shattered pieces of emotions, like someone had hit them with a sledgehammer, fragmenting into sharper and sharper pieces with every word.
Shiva looked between the three of them, taking in the giant’s words. “Anatoliy…?” she asked softly.
He just sighed, hanging his head. That just spiked the other two’s emotions higher.
“Damn,” Shiva shook her head. “And now you’re trying to make it right. Because, of course, you’re you. No wonder the poor girl is confused.”
The poor girl was a storm of emotion, in so much turmoil, Jamian wasn’t sure how she was not self-destructing from the tension, from the shards flying around in her psyche. Maybe he could put it back together properly?
“Jasfe hugr,” he meant to say, but as he focused on the words, what came out instead was “Jasfe frodleikr.” He blinked, startled at the feeling of strength the word had, and tried again. “Jasfe frodleikr….” Alpha, beta… what was next? Epsilon? “Jasfe frodleikr epsilon!”
Whatever it was, it wasn’t working. Kailani wasn’t calming down; if anything, she was getting more stressed, her distress rising towards panic, hyperventilating.
“Kaia?” her Kept gasped, hugging her gently. “Kai…?” But Jaimian’s vision was getting spotty, and the air tasted funny. The skin around his eyes was tight, as the visitors started blurring in and out of focus. He thought he heard the big man say something, but his ears were popping. “Air,” maybe? Air would be nice…
With that not-entirely-coherent thought, he slumped into unconsciousness.