May 14, 2016 by Lyn
One of these days you’re gonna reach out and find
The one that you count on has left you behind
Kai hadn’t made it to the library after Jamian left. She’d thought about it, but spending time with Conrad and the crew had seemed more important after the day they’d had. The Library would, presumably, still be there when she finally got there.
As she changed for PE, she found herself mulling it over. Not just Jamian’s strange Word – she needed more data, but she was hesitant to ask him to experiment, considering the results the last two times – but that none of the teachers had mentioned the Library to her, even when she was directly asking for information. Maybe they’d thought she already knew about it?
Jamian wandered into the locker room, wearing his girl form – although that ought to be “wearing her girl form,” shouldn’t it? – and looking thoughtful as well. “Oh, hi, Kai.” She smiled, her eyes settled firmly on the floor.
“Hi, Jame… er… Jaya.”
“Hey… sorry.” Her shoulders hunched forward, reminding Kai painfully of the way Bowen looked around Agatha.
“Is everything okay with you and Ty?” She realized it was rude the moment it was out of her mouth. “Oh, I’m sorry, that was horrible.”
The Daeva looked at her, frowning, her hand on the necklace that sat snugly around her throat. “Me and Ty? No, we’re fine. Doing…” she blushed, with an expression even Kai could read, “really well lately.”
“I’m sorry,” she repeated. “It’s just, the collar…” She hoped she wasn’t just making things worse.
But Jaya was nodding slowly. “Yeah. I think I got really lucky. That collar,” she shuddered. “Getting shocked every time you said anything…”
“Anything mouthy,” Kai corrected quietly. “Professor Akatil called it a behavioral modification device.”
“Really?” The girl pulled on her shirt and shook her head. “So you could talk, as long as you were quiet and obedient. That’s pretty fucked up… uh, sorry, messed up.”
“Yeah, it is.” She was seriously second-guessing asking the Thorne Girls for advice in handling Conrad. If they’d been willing to do that to someone…
Face it. On some level you liked him not being pushy and bossy. But she hadn’t liked the stressed, sad-puppy look. She hadn’t liked him not wanting to be with her!
“I wonder,” she continued, to distract herself from that train of thought, “why the administration lets it happen. I mean, Bowen,” she whispered, “and he can’t be the only one.”
“Kendra,” Jaya offered. “I mean, I don’t know, but she’s Owned by Ofir, Melchior said. That can’t be fun.”
“Being Owned isn’t always bad,” Kylie offered, stepping into their row of lockers. She was wearing a pretty wire-filigree collar and matching bracelets with her pink gym shorts & t-shirt. “Mark takes good care of me.”
“Everyone’s scared of Ty,” Jaya offered, smiling a little bit. “I’m not sure why yet. But yeah. It can be really good – Conrad usually seems pretty happy with you, doesn’t he, Kai? I mean, when he’s not worried like he was last night. But when it’s bad, then it seems like it’s pretty horrible. Joff talks about what it was like with Meshach, and it sounds like hell.”
Kylie nodded, seeming a lot more subdued. “And Eris, with Shadrach. And Rafe, with Liza.”
He was worried, last night. He really had been thinking about leaving her. And what would she do, if he did? Hope you’re already pregnant. Hope it’s his baby and not Anatoliy’s. And hope you can find someone else willing to be your friends. She could worry about that later. She focused on what Kylie and Jaya had said. “So… there are Keepers who treat their Kept badly, and it’s common knowledge?”
You can’t rape your Kept, since you can simply order them to consent. Taro had said that. And more people seemed to agree with his view of Ownership than with Mabina&Cassidy’s.
“Well, everyone can see what Bowen looks like,” Jaya pointed out. “Like a whipped puppy.”
Even she had seen that. “Yes, but I thought-” that Agatha was just a bitch “-that was an anomalous case.”
“Oh, Aggie? That’s nothing,” Xaviera scoffed. Kai jumped; she wasn’t used to people being able to sneak up on her.
“Nothing?” Jaya retorted.
“Bowen’s a pussy. If you know what you’re doing with Keepers like that, they’re not that bad.” She seemed to realize they were all staring at her in horror. “What?” she laughed. “Ardell Owned me for two years, and I turned out fine.”
Fine was subject to interpretation, but then again, maybe she’d always been a bully. Kai felt Shahin’s absence sharply; the pale Victorian girl seemed the best able of any of them to deal with Xaviera’s unpleasantness.
Just ignore them and they’ll go away, isn’t that what they always said? “I hope they find Shahin soon,” she murmured to Jaya.
“I’m sure that Captain Angst and his little sex toy are just hiding somewhere being dramatic,” Xaviera scoffed.
Kai didn’t think the bully was worth sharing information with; she ignored her as much as she could and headed with Jaya and Kylie out into PE.
After class, she tried to get Jaya alone to talk to her more. She was lucky, and the Daeva seemed to know what she wanted, trailing her to the last row of lockers.
“What’s up, Kailani?” She didn’t seem to want to look her way while she was changing, so, politely, Kai didn’t look at her, either, letting her eyes settle on the lockers. It felt more conspiratorial that way; she lowered her voice to a whisper.
“I don’t care what Xaviera says. There’s something wrong with treating your Kept like…” like some sort of animal, hrmm? “well, worse than animal cruelty laws would allow you to treat a farm animal.” She frowned. That wasn’t quite right, but it was closer. “Like a kid with a kitten, dragging it around by an ear because no-one’s said that they shouldn’t?”
“Yeah. Whether it’s technically allowed or not, it’s not right.”
She nodded. “Exactly! Although I don’t understand why the Administration allows it at all. But they allow a lot of things that I don’t think they should.” Like slavery at all, though that apparently had something more to do with being Ellehemaei than with the school itself. Like Emrys lighting the hall on fire, lighting Taro on fire. Rozen, with his hand on her windpipe. I think I’m going to enjoy keeping you. Breaking you.
“I know, right?” She frowned, clearly thinking of her own examples. Was “Kai and Anatoliy” one of them? Kai bit her lip, but Jaya started talking again, rather hurriedly. “It seems like… well, the upperclassmen are all under geasa not to tell too much, right?”
She nodded. “There are ways around it…”
“That’s what Shiva said. You can get around it, but it’s ‘brain-breaking.’”
Brain-breaking seemed an apt way to describe the way Conrad got when she forced answers out of him. “It seems that way, yes.”
“But the Fifth Cohort…” her voice dropped to a whisper. “We’re not geased yet. And, well, I’m Kept, but Ty’s trying to be good about not giving too many orders. And you’re not Kept at all. No-one’s going to tell you what to do.”
She didn’t think it was quite that simple. “Conrad will,” she pointed out. “And Mabina-and-Cassidy will yell at me.”
“But you don’t have to listen to them. And… I know you won’t, you’re a good person, but you could just tell Conrad to shut up.”
“I could.” The last time she hadn’t listened to him, she’d ended up… she wrapped her hands around her stomach and sat down abruptly.
“Oh, hey, I didn’t mean to upset you.” She – no, he – sat down next to her and draped an arm over her shoulders gently. “I just meant, you didn’t get hook-line-and-sinkered the way some of us did. You have a little more leeway.”
She nodded slowly. “That’s true. But leeway to do what?” She curled up a little tighter on herself. “You can’t just try to help the Kept. I mean…” she gulped, suddenly cold, and tried to pull away, “should you even be touching me?”
He scooted over on the bench away from her. “Sorry?” He looked hurt. She didn’t want to hurt his feelings.
“I didn’t mean…” She reached out a hand awkwardly towards him, but he shied away. “I’m really bad with people,” she tried to explain, “please be patient. I’m trying…” she gulped. “I mean, I touched Bowen,” she dropped her voice to a whisper, “Conrad did. He picked up him to take him to the infirmary.” She was crying, no, she didn’t want to be doing that.
“Hey…” Jamian had scooted close again, his arm back around her shoulders. “What happened?”
“Agatha…” she gulped, and tried to be clinical about it. “Agatha said we’d interfered with her Kept against her wishes. And she called in a debt. She wanted Conrad, and I wouldn’t give him to her. So I …” she caught her breath.
“Oh. Oh!” Jamian blinked. “Anatoliy?”
He’d been there when they were talking to Shiva. She nodded, just glad she didn’t have to explain anymore, and he hugged her even tighter. “Ty won’t do anything like that. I’d stop talking to him if he did.”
That elicited a small, surprised giggle from her. “See? You have leeway.”
“I guess I do,” he agreed, smiling back at her.