May 14, 2016 by Lyn
Am I supposed to be in love
‘Cause that’s what everyone else does
I feel like I should be
But I don’t know if what I’m thinking is quite enough
So grab me by the collar
“Come here.” Ty tugged Jamian lightly by the arm, pulling towards his bedroom. The whole day had felt a little like that – tugged from place to place, from thing to thing, with no real idea of what was going on and the quiet feeling of dread that he kept trying to ignore. He’d thought the people in here were creepy enough – Phelen, Agatha, the Thorne Girls, Bowen – but even Ty had looked a little pale at the mention of a “Nedetakaei Dragon,” whatever that was, taking off with two Students.
He followed Ty into his room with the same confusion he’d had since the air went funny: as if being a magical fairy in a school full of them wasn’t bad enough, now this?
Ty, too, seemed nervous, as he hip-checked the door shut and leaned against it. Not that, with a second exit, he was really trapping Jamian in the room; not that he needed to block a door to trap his Kept wherever he wanted him. Jamian didn’t point any of that out, though; whatever was agitating his Keeper, taunting him would only make it worse.
“I…” Ty coughed, and looked down at the floor, and finally pulled a jewelry box out of his pocket. Not a ring box, thank god – Jamian wasn’t ready to think about how that would work out (Who got to be the bride? Maybe in immortal fairy land, no-one worried about those things, but he might!) – it was a little bigger than that. “I,” he tried again, and then the words sort of tumbled out of him.
“I’ve been meaning to give you this for weeks. Since before Hell Night. Hell, since two days after the dance. But I thought you might freak out. But, well, you know how things work, now, and I thought it might be better for you to have it than not. You don’t have to wear it if you don’t want…!”
Ty had dated Niki last year, Jamian remembered suddenly. He wondered how Niki had reacted to finding out he was property.
“Wear what, Ty?” he asked, even though he was pretty sure he already knew. Glancing at the size of the box, it couldn’t be anything horrid, not those ugly dog collars some of the students were wearing, nothing like what Conrad had on, stiff and metal and unyielding (and electrifying – that had been rather terrifying to watch).
“My collar,” Ty mumbled, glancing up nervously through a fringe of curls. He thrust the box out towards Jamian. “You don’t have to, at all, but it helps people know you’re mine. Um. If you want that.”
Tell your Keeper to put a collar on you and this won’t happen again. Jamian took the box slowly. He wanted to tell Ty to relax, that everything would be okay. Memories of Conrad at lunch, the smell of burnt flesh and hair, made him hesitate.
“Your reputation has already saved me trouble a couple times,” he said instead. “People don’t want to mess with me because I’m your Kept.” He grinned, hoping he’d still be smiling when he opened the box. “I think I can handle something around my neck that keeps Baram from trying to take me home.”
“I’d kill Baram if he tried anything, and he knows it.” The cold tone in Ty’s voice sounded both casual and completely serious. “So… are you going to open it?” Just like that, he was insecure and nervous again.
“I’m working on it,” Jamian smiled. Ty’s nerves were catching, but if didn’t open the box soon, his Keeper was going to jump out of his skin. So, just slowly enough to make Ty grimace, he opened it.
He hadn’t known what to expect, but he didn’t think this was it. It wasn’t a collar like Conrad’s, or Bowen’s, Finnegan’s or the ugly leather one Shahin had been wearing last week. It wasn’t a collar at all, just a flat chain necklace with a smallish O-shaped pendant hanging from the front.
“It changes,” Ty interjected. “With you. It’s more masculine now because you’re leaning boyish, but when you switch girlish, it gets more delicate and girly. So it’s never out of place.”
“I…” Of all the things Ty could have given him, he’d chosen something that he could pretend was nothing but a piece of jewelry. He smiled at him. “I love it. Put it on me?” It seemed like the right thing to say.
“Oh, good.” Ty took the necklace from his hands and slipped it around his throat. It weighed less than nothing, the loop settling just below the hollow of his throat like it belonged there. “There, it looks beautiful.” He kissed the back of Jamian’s neck softly. “And if you hadn’t agreed to go to go Mabina&Cassidy’s suite tonight…”
Jamian’s heart skipped a beat. “I…” He wished he could pass the squeak in his voice off to an accidental gender-switch. “I won’t be gone all night.”
“Ah.” Ty’s sigh was delicious against the back of his neck. “I look forward to your return.”
With the breathless warmth of that parting shot, Jamian didn’t want to leave. Would he get the nerve up again? He could just stay and…
He thought of the miserable expression on Conrad’s face. “I’ll be back soon.” Feeling immensely daring, he kissed him, and then, before they could get distracted again, fled out the back door.
Mabina let him in to their suite, where Kailani and Conrad were sitting on the couch, close to each other, the collar on the coffee table and a notebook full of scribbled notes perched on the redhead’s lap. Feeling momentarily betrayed – why had he bothered to rush, then, if she was just going to take the damn thing off? And why hadn’t she done so to begin with? – he glared at the upperclassman in frustration.
Right. Not Conrad’s fault. He smiled gamely at everyone. “So,” he asked Kailani, “you had a theory or something about what happened?”
“Sort of the preliminaries to a theory.” She touched the collar lightly. “It’s a pity you don’t have abatu – you don’t, do you?”
“No,” Jamian sighed. “If I did, I could make really big sinkholes.”
“Okay… but what we know is that this collar used to have an enchantment on it.” She frowned. “Acacia put it there; Professor Akatil took it off.”
“Okay…” Jamian got the sense that she was making an effort to go slowly for him. He wasn’t sure whether he should be glad or offended. “So it’s a second hand collar that used to be enchanted.”
“With something that sounds much like the enchantment it had on it today – and didn’t have on it before we sat down at the table with you.”
Uh-oh. He frowned nervously at her. “I don’t have any sort of Words to be able to make a zapper collar, and, if I did, I wouldn’t do it anyway. I mean…” he touched the ring of his necklace uncertainly. “That’s the sort of shit someone like Bowen’s Keeper would do, and it’s sick.”
“Isn’t it horrible?” She leaned forward as she spoke, reminding Jamian uncomfortably of their locker-room conversation. He looked over at Conrad, wondering what her boyfriend thought of this conversation.
“I’ve seen worse,” he muttered. “Not that I want to try it again,” he added hastily.
That seemed to stall Kailani for a moment. She turned away from Jamian set her hand on Conrad’s quietly, frowning at him in obvious concern.
Jamian cleared his throat uncomfortably, and both of them looked back at him. “Sorry,” he muttered. “I can leave, if you’d rather…?”
She blushed, and squeezed Conrad’s hand. “I’m sorry. I’m horrible at dealing with people.” She took a deep breath. “I think we ought to talk more about the horrid things that go on here, at some point, because I think it’s important. But I don’t want to forget about this Word of yours, either.”
He nodded slowly. “Okay… Wait, my Word?”
“Well, I haven’t actually gotten to the Library yet, and the teachers, except Professor Akatil, were pretty unhelpful, but Rozen suggested there might be lost Words, magic that no-one knows about now.”
“That sounds sort of like a fairy tale,” Jamian argued.
“This whole place is one long, twisted fairy tale,” the redhead countered. “It’s missing a few key elements – a princess imprisoned in a tower, although I think we could probably find a maiden in a dungeon if we looked hard enough, a frog Prince, that sort of thing. But it has its share of trolls and wicked witches and monsters.”
And fairy-tale romance. He wondered if she’d realize in time that she’d found her own Prince, or if he even knew it. Closer to home, he thought about his own Prince(ess) waiting at home. That sort of luck didn’t happen outside of stories, did it?
“Okay,” he acknowledged. “We’re immortal faeries in some sort of fairy tale. I can accept that.” It made as much sense as anything else. “So you think I have some secret Word?”