May 16, 2016 by Lyn
You got your friends, just like I got mine
We might think a little differently
But we got a lot in common you will see
We’re just like you, only prettier
When Ty had told him – when, tired but full of ideas, he’d left Kailani’s bedroom to slip into Ty’s bed late Friday night – that cy’Linden was having a cy’ree meeting Saturday, Jamian had been a little dubious. Reassurances about their Second Cohort aside, it didn’t seem like the most studious group.
The morning’s preparations didn’t make him any surer about this, although running to the Store with Magnolia gave him a chance to ask her Kai’s question. And the walk back, hauling cases of soda and chips – apparently he was male enough for Magnolia to dump all the carrying onto – gave him time to ponder the answer, and how it related to him.
Apparently, he was transparent even to non-succubi, because she rested a hand on his shoulder when they were a few feet away from the suite. “Ty isn’t an asshole, honey,” she said quietly, the profanity sounding strange in her sweet drawl. “He ain’t ever gonna be like Agatha or some of the bad’uns, and he’s not gonna keep you on a short leash just because he can. Trust me,” she added dryly, “I’ve had plenty of time to watch him with his Kept.”
Short leash. “I’m still getting used to the idea of a leash at all,” he admitted. “I mean, I know it’s been weeks, and I know he can just say what he wants and I do it, but still, the fact that I belong to him like…”
“Baseball cards?” she echoed his earlier comparison.
“Yeah. Property. ‘Don’t fuck with my collectable figurines, they’re one-of-a-kind.’”
She patted his back again. “You’re priceless, dear, but Ty won’t treat you like a thing. Talk to Nikita about it sometime… ah, probably next week. He and Shiva appear to be having a thing this week.”
“I noticed.” He shifted – the cans were heavy – and she seemed to remember he was carrying everything.
“Let’s get inside and get that set down. We can talk more later, if you want, honey.”
Anwell had shown up while they were out, and Mea was draped over the couch, too, playing with the end of Anwell’s braid. She wasn’t wearing enough for anything but a beach party, and the way she was leaning forward meant she was half-out of that. Jamian searched for something else to look at, just as Anwell stuck his long, forked tongue out at Mea. What would that tongue feel like…?
He looked hurriedly in another direction. Someone was knocking on the door. Ivette and Joff, escorted by Mark. Ivette was wearing nominally more than Mea, but it was sheer in all the wrong places. And Joff seemed to have mislaid his shirt. Oh, god, it was going to be a long day. He wondered if Ty would just let him hide in their room and actually study or something.
Another knock on the door. Don’t let it be a half-naked Ardell. Don’t let it be a half-naked Ardell. Magnolia blocked his view and he didn’t know whether to kiss or curse her for that. Neither. Unless he thought Ty wanted her kissed or cursed (or both).
“Oh, hello, honey, didn’t expect to see you here. Come on in, if you want. Jamian! Your little friend is here…”
His little… oh. Yes, oh god, there was Kailani, looking like the age of innocence and blushing furiously as she looked around at the gathering (and necking) cy’Linden.
“I’ve-got-plans-Ty-I’ll-be-back-later-study-without-me-okay-thanks,” he called all in a rush, and grabbed Kailani’s hand to drag her from the suite before anyone could stop them.
“What…?” she asked, staring behind them at the closed door.
“Cy’Linden meeting.” He could taste her incomprehension, and wondered how innocent she really was, and how she’d managed to stay that way this long at Addergoole. “Um, Professor VanderLinden’s cy’ree… he gets most of the Daeva-halfbreed-succubus sorts…”
“Oh. Oh!” She was blushing fiercely now, and so was he, but at least she got it. “Oh… did you want to stay?”
“God, no!” He slammed his mouth shut as she stepped back in alarm. “Sorry, I didn’t mean like that. It’s just… they’re a bit much, you know.”
“Oh.” She looked thoughtful. “Yes, I could see how they would be.”
“So!” He scrambled for a subject change, as they ambled towards her room. “I talked to Magnolia.”
“Oh?” She was a little bit nervous, and he couldn’t say he blamed her. “Come in.”
Probably better to have this conversation behind closed doors. He followed her into her room to have a door to close. “So, yeah. It’s against the Law to interfere with someone else’s Kept.”
She sighed, slumping a little, such of mess of chagrin and relief that he was hesitant to continue. But he couldn’t not tell her. “But it’s not like… I mean, you can be in a room alone with me, and that’s fine, right? So it has limits.”
“Oh?” She clearly was trying to get a handle on her emotions. He didn’t know how to help, and the last time he’d tried, he’d suffocated all of them. “So did she tell you what the rules were?”
“More or less,” he nodded. “Let me try to remember everything, okay?”
“Okay.” She pulled out a notebook and waited expectantly, pen poised. Nothing like pressure.
“Right. So, ‘interfering…’ it’s sort of more like guidelines. Like, there’s the top end, but a lot of Keepers won’t care about everything on the list, right?”
“But how do you know who will care about which?”
“I think it’s sort of knowing people-” He grimaced at her chagrin. Oh. Poor girl. “- or talking to the Keeper, or erring on the side of caution until you know. But um. So, injuring the Kept. Having…” Not thinking about her half-naked in the locker room. “Having sex with them. Bringing them somewhere where their Keeper can’t find them. Um. I don’t think Ty will be looking for me anytime soon.” He didn’t want to think too hard about that one. “Trying to make a deal with them directly. That one sort of sucks. Or doing magic on them.”
She whimpered softly, even as she wrote it all down. “So why didn’t anyone say anything? I mean, why did they let me make that deal with her, if she wasn’t within her rights?”
“Well… the way Mags told it, some people really do get bent out of shape at touching their Kept at all. Sort of like, I dunno, some hard-core religious types? It counts in with ‘sexual’ touch, I guess. And I guess you could say you moved him where she had to look for him…” He sighs. “She was bending the Law to her advantage. And your Crew, they’re really not bad sorts at all. They don’t Keep a lot of people, right, and they don’t treat their Kept like collectible figurines.” He was starting to like that metaphor. “So maybe they didn’t know?”
“Maybe.” She clearly didn’t want to talk about it anymore, so he changed the subject. “So, were we going to go talk to the rest of the Fifth Cohort?”
“Yes,” she nodded eagerly. “Yes, that’s a good idea.” She held up her notebook. “I’m ready. I made a list of all of the Fifth, and all the room assignments. So we can start at the top? That will be neat, we can begin and end with one of Aelfgar’s children, that will make it tidy.”
He blinked at her. “O..kay. So we’re starting with Aelgifu?”
“And ending with Yngvi.” She smiled cheerfully. “Let’s go? She’s in Pod Two, Room Three.”
A little bemused, he followed her out of her room and pod and down the hallway to another pod. He was beginning to understand the lost expression Conrad sometimes got when dealing with Kailani; her brain seemed to jump tracks with no warning.
And then they got to the door, and all her confidence dissipated. She looked nervously at him, clearly hesitant about knocking.
“What’s she going to do, eat us?” he joked. “Go ahead.”
She knocked hesitantly; there was a long pause before the door cracked open and the pretty blonde girl poked her head out through the opening. “Hi? Oh, hi.”
“Hi,” Jamian said, noting that Kai was still a bit uncertain. “Can we talk for a minute?”
“Um?” She glanced back in the room, and then back at them. “Sure, come on in.” She stepped back, hastily buttoning her shirt as she let them in. On the bed, a lovely orange-haired girl was tugging her own shirt straight.
“Oh, oh god, I’m sorry,” Kai stammered, clearly mortified. “We can come back later.”
“No, I had to get going soon anyway,” the orange-haired girl – Ioanna, wasn’t it? – reassured them. “I have a cy’ree meeting in twenty minutes.” She brushed her lips across Aelgifu’s blushing cheek. “I’ll see you tonight, sweetie.”
“Well, ah…” Ayla and Kai were looking at each other in clashing embarrassments.
“So, um,” Jamian cut across the tension. “We’re trying to talk to all the Fifth Cohorts.”
“Yeah?” The blond girl settled into her chair, still a little uncertain. ”I didn’t think this school had class presidents or anything…?”
“Not that I know of,” Jamian laughed. Man, what an idea that would be. The most rigged elections ever… He turned his thoughts away from the distraction. “But we’ve all seen a lot of strange things since we got here. And by now I think we all know the upperclassmen can’t really tell us much, sometimes. But we’ve found that we can tell each other what we’ve learned.”
She seemed hesitant to admit she knew what they were talking about, but after a moment, she acknowledged, “like the stupid game Shahin and Emrys were playing, with the collars?”
“Yeah,” Jamian nodded. “It’s not a game, not at all.” Is that what some of them still thought? They weren’t a moment too soon.
“That’s what Ioanna said, but she wouldn’t explain it any more than that. And then there was that thing with Ardell and Vi, and Sheen’s doorway. But it’s all way too weird.”
“Shahin’s doorway? What happened there?”
“Ardell had grabbed Agatha in the hall, and he was threatening her. He wanted Vi, I guess.” She shuddered. “He kept offering to trade. And then sort of rushed the doorway, holding her, and Sheen said something I didn’t hear. Agatha fell into the room, and Ardell… he bounced.” She shook her head. “It was pretty strange.”
“She invited in Agatha, but not Ardell,” Jamian nodded, glancing back at Kai. “That’s a neat trick.”
Kai was quietly taking notes. “But why wouldn’t he know that he didn’t have an invitation?” She bit her lip. “And people really bounce off thresholds? That must be the Sanctity Laws.”
“He must’ve thought she didn’t have a threshold? He has to know about Sanctity.”
“Emrys was talking about Shahin like she was his property,” Aelgifu offered. “Even though she wasn’t wearing that horrible collar anymore.”
“Do Kept not have Sanctity?” It made sense, in a horrible kind of way.
Ayla blinked, clearly not understanding the question. Kailani looked thoughtful. “It would be easy enough to find out.”
“It would, I guess. We’ll stop at my room. Hey, thanks, Ayla. We’ll fill you in as soon as we’ve put everything together, okay?”
“Okay?” She seemed a little overwhelmed. “This, the way you guys are talking… it’s all real, isn’t it?”
“Yeah. Yeah, it really is. Look…” He considered for a moment. “Ioanna seems like a nice girl. But don’t say you’re hers, or she can keep you, or anything like that, unless you really really mean it, okay?”
She was listening, that much was certain. “Oh… okay,” she said hesitantly. “Thanks, and… good luck.”
“You too,” he said, turning to Kailani. “Who’s next?”
“Aneislis,” she said, “Pod Four, Room One.”
“Lead the way.” They’d learned something, on the very first try. Maybe there was something to this after all.