June 29, 2016 by Lyn
Gotta know who’s got your back
Because they’re right in front of you
Because they’re telling you the truth
After the mess with Nydia – and Kailani was terrified, now, that she’d either gotten the girl in trouble or managed to raise Aggie’s ire again – she and Jamian had decided that some students were just easier to talk to in class.
She spent most of her morning on Monday handing out the pamphlets. Russian was a safe class, and Yngvi and Elfred received the documents with little commentary. American History was trickier. Shera and Finnegan both needed them still, but she was eerily conscious of Acacia and Dysmas’ watchful eyes. In the end, Jamian slipped one to Shera, but they’d have to try Finnegan later.
She got her chance in English Literature with a large group, including Finnegan as well as Mark, Ayla, Kendra, and Caity. The only person to look askance at the exchanges was Aviv, and he clearly wasn’t going to open his mouth with those odds in the room.
Kailani mentally reviewed her Chemistry class as she walked down the hall towards it. The only Fifth they hadn’t reached there yet was Bowen – but Dysmas was in that class, too. She chewed it over as she sat down, watching everyone file in – and then Rozen sat down next to her with a little smile. There’d be no chance there.
She smiled back at Rozen, just to be polite, and then, because she was curious, she asked, “How did you find out? About the way things work around here, I mean?”
He paused, as if considering how to answer, before saying, “”It was a little more obvious back then. There was only one class ahead of me, so we were half the students. Not everyone even knew about the Laws – we and the First Cohort kind of figured it out for ourselves.”
“That had to be some interesting experimentation,” she mused.
“It wasn’t bad. By the end of the year, we all knew what we were doing… and then the Third Cohort showed up.” His grin was sharklike and mildly unsettling. She winced. Callista. Carter. Joff.
“And then the Fourth,” she mused out loud. “Eris, her friend Rafe…”
Rozen nodded. “And now you.”
Professor Pelletier began class, sparing her from having to decide if he meant that personally or collectively. At least it was Chemistry, and not Biology.
She moved through her classes, slowly getting more nervous as PE got closer. She hadn’t even mentioned her findings to Jamian, telling herself it was because they were busy finishing the project. But when they got to PE… well, she had to tell her, didn’t she?
“Shahin…” she started, as they began to change for class.
“Kai,” the girl smiled warmly. That was a bit odd, actually, wasn’t it? “I have something to tell you.”
“I have to tell you something too, Shahin. You see…” She was stopped cold as Shahin raised her hand and she beheld the glittering jewel adorning it. Had he…? Had she…? Kailani swallowed the frog in her throat. “Oh,” she managed in a small voice.
“I was a bit surprised, too,” the petite girl admitted quietly. “It’s a bit of a grand gesture.”
“Grand… yes. Yes, it’s grand. Oh, it’s beautiful, Shahin.” It really was, the sort of ring you saw on TV shows, not on teenaged girls. Somewhere in the back of her mind, Kai’s mother snipped “it’s just a very small slave collar, a mark of purchase.” But Kai knew what her mother didn’t, that slave collars were something much more real. She touched the ring gently. Was it real? “This… Wow. He proposed?”
“He proposed,” Shahin confirmed. “And I accepted.”
“Wow.” She fished for the proper thing to say, the sort of thing a normal girl would say. “When’s the wedding? Where?”
“We haven’t figured everything out yet, but soon. Within the next few months,” Shahin added, placing a hand on her stomach.
“Ooh, yes.” Kai mirrored the gesture, struggling with envy and concern. Shahin obviously didn’t know…
“But, you said you had something to tell me, too?” Shahin turned her focus from the ring to Kai, smiling patiently. Kai flailed. She couldn’t tell her now, she couldn’t…
“The project,” she blurted.
“The project? Oh, yes. How’s that coming along?”
“I, uh, we finished.” She dug in her bag, wishing the blush would fade, and pulled out their packet. “Here it is.”
“Hey, that’s great.” Shahin took the packet from her and put it in her locker. “So is that it, then?”
I found out what aeosthena meant… “Yeah. Well, I’m a little worried about Dysmas and Nydia…”
“Dysmas and Nydia? She seems… well, all right, at least.”
“After the package I dropped off.” She gestured at the packet of papers. “I don’t want her to get in trouble. Do you think Emrys could talk to Dysmas…?” It was worth a try, right?
“I can ask him, at least.”
“Thank you.” She hesitated, not hugging her – she seemed to twitch when hugged, and, instead, asked, “so, do I get invited to the wedding?”
“Of course you do,” Shahin smiled. “All our friends will.”
Friends. She beamed in response. “Wonderful.” The class itself passed uneventfully after that, and Kailani checked her notes as she waited for Jamian to finish changing. They were almost finished – the last two Fifths were Bowen and Aneislis.
She felt like a bad person for not wanting to get near Bowen, but it seemed like such a risk, and she was going to be dealing with the consequences of her last risk there for… well, ever.
“Bowen, right?” came Jamian’s voice beside her, making her jump. Well, she supposed it had to be done.
“Yeah.” It wasn’t as if Anatoliy could impregnate her again. “Where should we look for him?”
“His last class is World History… with Agatha. We probably won’t find them apart.”
“Well, we can’t talk to them together.”
“Actually… I bet we can. Let’s go to their suite.”
“Um?” She stared at him uncertainly.
“Trust me. We’re just going to knock on her door.”
“Okay?” she squeaked.
What was he up to? Why was she going along with this? Nevertheless, she went, standing to the side as he knocked on the door… and Bowen opened it… and Jamian put a finger to his lips, handed Bowen the folder, and closed the door without a word.
“Um?” she asked again. “Won’t he…?”
“No,” Jamian said quietly as they walked away. “I bet Aggie’s the type who showers after class every day, because she doesn’t want to have associated with the likes of us. He’s probably got five minutes to himself right now.”
“Oooh.” She smiled in awe at his people skills. People skills. “Shahin… Emrys proposed.”
“Emrys? To Shahin?” People skills or not, that nearly stopped him in his tracks. “Wow. I mean, good for them.”
“Aren’t we all a little young?” she asked sadly.
“Yeah… yeah. But they seem to really have a good thing. I dunno, they just seem to be connected on a deeper level than, well, most people.”
She coughed, blushing. “Yeah. Yeah, that’s a good word for it.” Jamian gave her a quizzical look, but didn’t press it. Gratefully, she headed for the last person on their list. Aneislis. It wasn’t far, and they covered the distance wordlessly; when they got there, the Polynesian boy’s door was open, and he was tossing things in a duffel bag.
Kai knocked anyway, hesitantly. Trouble?
“Hi,” he said simply, not bothering to stop what he was doing.
She chewed on her lip. “Trouble?” she asked out loud.
“No?” he asked – it was definitely a question – in response.
She studied him. “I wasn’t offering it,” she offered.
That gave him pause for a second. “Can I help you?”
She wondered if, perhaps, they should help him instead. “We’re just bringing this by,” she said instead, offering him the packet.
“And what is it?” an older voice asked from behind her. She dodged before Ardell’s hand rested on her shoulder, and he chuckled softly.
She had done poorly at lying last time; she glanced at Jamian, hoping he could do better.
“It’s,” he began, but Ardell interrupted him.
“It’s your subversive little treatise, isn’t it?”
“It is neither subversive nor a treatise,” Kai answered precisely.
“Then what, exactly, would you call it?” She couldn’t help but notice that he had positioned himself to bracket her against the wall – well, the door, but Aneislis hadn’t invited her in.
Well, she was stuck, now, since he’d obviously heard of the project. “A reference book.” She backed up towards the doorway, bracing a hand against the inside of it – oh. A quick glance back at Aneislis revealed the slender collar she hadn’t noticed before. There was no Sanctity here.
“Reference,” Ardell purred, stepping forward. “Do you really think you’re qualified to produce such a thing?”
“I think that, if any student would do so, it should be a cy’Regine,” she answered carefully. She didn’t want to start playing chase with him. He’d win.
“I thought you’d been warned about interfering.” Ardell stood in front of the door now, all but forcing her into the room. “Perhaps you need another lesson.”
“Silence, dog!” Ardell roared, cutting off Jamian’s protest. “Run back to your master and you won’t get hurt.”
Kai gulped. “Go on, Jamian,” she said calmly. “Go. I’ll be fine.” Or at least alive.
“I’ll get help,” Jamian said, giving her one last distressed look before bolting.
Ardell reached for her, and she sidestepped easily – “Meentik Kwxe!” – directly into the blast of force he summoned with a flick of his wrist, tossing her backwards into the room. She bounced back to her feet, getting the bed between her and the bully.
He began to move again, but then another voice rang out from the hall behind him. “Picking on people smaller than you again, Ardell?”
Of all the possible rescuers in the world, Kailani wouldn’t have guessed it would be Acacia who came to her aid. She kept her eye on her attacker and waited for an escape opportunity.
“Well, that’s just about everyone, Acacia,” he drawled.
“The girl trains with us, she’s one of us. Unless you want to fight all of us?” she asked speculatively.
What? Kai moved forward cautiously, startled. This, this she hadn’t expected.
“Don’t you think I know what she was doing? I’ll take care of it. Unless you want your new Kept to see you get your ass kicked, though, the girl’s leaving with me.”
Frying pan, fire? But Acacia was a fire she knew. She stepped carefully towards the doorway.
Grudgingly, Ardell gave ground, and Acacia settled an arm around Kailani’s shoulders in the doorway. She settled carefully, watching both Second Cohorts.
“Come on,” Acacia said, leading her off without another word until they were well away. She stayed tense and aware, waiting for the hammer strike, hoping for Conrad, for Taro, for anyone, and knowing they weren’t coming.
“You need to stop this,” Acacia said without preamble.
She thought back to her empty backpack. “All right,” she said, without argument.
“I mean it, Kailani. I’m on your side – but you have to be on mine. People are talking. Promise me you won’t keep trying to distribute that stuff.”
“I mean it too,” she said softly, “I’m a lousy liar. I promise you I won’t keep trying to distribute our packet this school year.”
Acacia snorted, but she was smiling. “Fair enough.” She disengaged and began to walk off, calling over her shoulder, “When push comes to shove, Girl Scout, you find out who your friends are.”