June 21, 2016 by Lyn
I gotta take a risk
Take a chance
Make a change
Jamian, staring at his dismal lack of notes, was beginning to think that most of his fellow Fifth Cohort never really paid any attention to anything except, possibly, their boyfriends or girlfriends (and, in some cases, their Changes; with Yngvi’s horns, ears, and tail having come in, it seemed that everyone left at the school, at least, had Changed).
He was down to Mark and Wyatt for “safe,” un-Kept people to talk to, and Shera, Finnegan, and Bowen for unsafe. Mark… well, given how entirely useless Kylie had been, it didn’t seem worth his time to pull Mark out of bed. That left Wyatt. Hoping he wasn’t going to get his ass kicked for the crime of being Daeva, Jamian went knocking.
Wyatt didn’t have his happy face on when he opened the door; inasmuch as he ever had a happy face, Jamian supposed. His mood didn’t seem to be improved any by the sight of his visitor.
Jamian coughed uncomfortably, and resisted the urge to run away. “I, ah, we’re working on collecting and disseminating-” disseminating was one of Kai’s words – “information on the strange stuff around here, the stuff the upperclassmen won’t or can’t tell us.”
Wyatt grunted, but didn’t shut the door on him at least.
“Yeah? Like what?”
“Like about Keeping, and what it is, and what the graduation requirements are, and what the Law actually says about other people’s Kept.” And he was getting really uncomfortable standing out in the halls. “And that there are cameras in the halls but not in the rooms,” he hinted.
Wyatt may not have been nice, but at least he wasn’t stupid. “Come on in, then,” he grumbled.
“Thanks.” He stepped in. “You know about thresholds, then?”
“Yeah. Actually, Mark showed me and some of the other guys a few things.” Wyatt closed the door carefully.
Trying not to feel panic crawling up his spine – Wyatt might be an ass, but he wasn’t one of the bad guys – Jamian asked, as casually as he could, “yeah? What sort of thing?” Maybe he should have stopped at Mark’s.
“About… Sanctity, he called it. And Belonging. He did some demonstrations.”
“Demonstrations? On Sanctity, or on Belonging?” His hand went unthinkingly to the necklace at his throat.
“Belonging, actually. We weren’t in a place that had Sanctity. Although he did point out that it stops people, but not objects, so someone could still throw stuff into your room.”
“Hunh. Never thought of that.” Not that he had Sanctity, but he could throw stuff into other people’s. “What sort of demonstrations?”
“He asked for a volunteer, to say they Belonged to him for the demonstration. Promised to let them go after.”
“Man, that sounds pretty risky.” Not that he was one to talk.
“Well, the kid does it, and Mark pulls out a knife and tells him to stab himself.”
“See?” Jamian shuddered. “Risky.” He paused. “Did it work?”
“Well, kind of. It was obvious the kid tried to fight it and couldn’t, could barely even twitch. He slams the thing into his leg. Turns out it was a trick knife, one of those stage things that folds into the handle, so he couldn’t actually hurt himself. But he didn’t know that.”
Jamian twitched. “I’ve never heard of a Keeper doing that.” He’d heard of a lot worse, though. “Are you Kept?”
“No, hell no, man! And I won’t be, either. Not after seeing that. Kid couldn’t stop shaking after Mark let him go.”
“I don’t blame him. Who was it?” If he’d known… would it have gone any differently?
“Scrawny kid… Elfred, I think?” Wyatt shrugged noncommittally.
Well, that explained that. “Thanks,” Jamian said, rather sincerely. “And good luck. You’re not getting pushed into being Owned?”
“Nah. One of the girls was looking at me like that, when I first got here, but no one’s really bothered me about it. If she needs a… ‘graduation requirement’, I’d hit that, but I’m not gonna be nobody’s bitchboy.
“Lucky you,” Jamian muttered, ignoring the guilty stab at talking that way about Tya. Things weren’t all that bad, were they? He coughed. “I’ll bring you a copy of the whole set of notes when we’ve got it together. Thanks again.”
“Yeah, no problem.” He seemed to hesitate a moment, before adding, “Good luck, man.”
“Thanks.” He shrugged, pushing the horrible-kept-bad-boyfriend feeling down as best he could. “Ends in June, whatever happens.”
“That’s that, then,” Wyatt nodded.
Jamian left, before things could get more uncomfortable. It was down to the Kept Fifthies (he laughed at himself, realizing he didn’t count himself in their number); of those, Finnegan seemed the safest.
He tried not to think about it as he walked the halls, but when he rapped on the door of that suite, a wave of trepidation hit him. What would he say, if one of the girls answered? What could… Too late now, the door was opening. Jamian exhaled as he beheld Finnegan standing there, regarding him questioningly.
“I… can we talk?”
“I guess?” The other boy glanced inside the room. “Sure. About what?”
“Can you come out?” he asked, cautiously.
“No, and they’re not around, so I can’t let you in.”
“Kay.” That wasn’t as bad as it could be. “We’re collecting information… and sharing it back out again, among all the Fifths.”
“Information? I haven’t got an awful lot of that,” Finnegan said sheepishly, running a hand through his tousled hair.
“It’s okay, most of us don’t. If there’s anything you can tell us, you don’t think we already know, it’d be great, but, if not, we’ll share what we’ve got when we’re done.”
“I’d bet you know all of it, pretty much. You knew about the doors, and I’m sure you know about Keeping people.”
Jamian winced. “Yeah. I think everyone’s gotten the memo on that one, by now. Okay. I’ll come by with a copy of the notes when we’re done.” He remembered Kai mentioning she trained with the Thorne Girls once a week. “Thursday evenings, right?”
“Uh, yeah,” Finnegan nodded, apparently surprised that Jamian was aware of their schedule. “Sure.”
“Kai’s working on this project with me,” he explained. “I mean, when she’s here.” He hoped she was having fun, on her field trip. Conrad had been kind of hangdog lately, but he didn’t see him often enough to really judge. “I’ll see you around.” Echoing Wyatt, he added “Good luck, man.”
“Thanks. See ya.”
That left Shera and Bowen. Shera seemed like the safer bet, and maybe he could find her with Uberto out. He headed down the hall to their suite and knocked on the door. It had been so easy with Finnegan; what had he been afraid of?
The door swung open, and he swallowed. Oh, yeah. That’s what he was afraid of. “Hi.” Somehow his voice didn’t squeak. “Is Shera around?”
“She might be,” Ardell replied, a lazy grin spreading over his face. “Do you want to come in and look?”
“I, ah, don’t think that Ty would like that,” he responded in complete honesty.
“Too bad, then,” the older boy said, beginning to close the door.
“Wait,” Jamian yelped unhappily. Damnit… well, better him than Kai, right?
“Come on in,” Ardell smirked, opening the door again and standing aside.
Ty would come get him if he didn’t show up, right? “Thanks.” He stepped in, looking around the suite curiously.
From here, at least, it looked incredibly normal. Had he misjudged these people? There was a couch, a TV, a minibar and then a kitchen, hallways leading back to the bedrooms, a few tasteful throw rugs… simple, casual, comfortable.
Ardell closed the door behind him. “So, what do you want with Shera?”
“American History homework,” he said, almost honestly. “Valerian loses me in about a minute, but Shera seems to have good notes.”
“And your redheaded friend from that class is out of town. Fair enough. And what did you come to trade?”
No, he knew that one. “If we’re making deals, I’ll have to go get Ty to trade with Uberto. But I’m pretty good with the Bio homework, and I know she has trouble in that class.”
Ardell seemed mollified; he’d clearly been hoping for unaware prey there, and the vaguely clued-in answer seemed to suffice. “Yeah, okay. I’ll go get her.”
Trying not to visibly breathe a sigh of relief, Jamian muttered “thanks.”
Ardell headed down one of the hallways, and Shera appeared, alone, only a moment later.
“Hey. I wondered if you could come help me with my History Homework?” He emphasized “come,” hoping they could leave the suite.
“History?” She glanced back over her shoulder at the empty hall. “I guess, okay? Should I get my book?”
“Yeah, I’ve got mine,” he gestured at his backpack, “but two is probably good.”
She nodded and ran back to a room, returning with the book and walking briskly to the door. “Let’s go,” she said breathlessly.