July 5, 2016 by Lyn
Remember who you really are
Do what you, what you want
“Come on,” Shiva urged, tugging Jamian’s hand as if he wasn’t going along on his own. “This is going to be fun! Thanks for coming with me – Niki gets… cranky and Magnolia gets catty and Ty gets sulky when I make them come with me.”
Jamian almost balked on reflex as she explained her motivations. Was shopping with her really going to be all that bad? “I need to do some shopping of my own, so it’s no big deal,” he answered weakly. He couldn’t really back out now.
She grinned widely – and sharply – at him, and he thought about reconsidering. “Cool. Tya, of course, right? And…?”
“Everybody, really. I kind of haven’t started yet,” he admitted sheepishly.
“Everyone, hunh?” she teased. “Like the whole school? That’s one way to avoid politics.”
“Okay, not everyone. But the crew, and a few other people.”
“Your hot redheaded friend, right?” There was no sting in the way she said it as, still holding his hand, she dragged him into the back of the store. “Niki’s a bitch to buy for,” she confided. “So’s Tya, but mostly because she likes everything.”
“Not just her,” he protested weakly, then clung to the subject change. “And liking everything would make it easy, wouldn’t it?”
“Well, sort of, but it does make it harder to decide,” she allowed. “Niki’s just a snob.” Her ears twitched unhappily and her tail lashed every time she mentioned her Kept; Jamian didn’t need his empathy to read her with tells that obvious.
“How’s that going, anyway?” he asked sympathetically, giving her an outlet; it seemed she could use a chance to vent.
“Aargh,” she sighed, stilling as they found the fine-china-and-other-breakables section of the store. “We have like a week of good, then a week of okay, and then he’s back to being angry again, and I don’t know why. With Tya, at least, I knew she’d tricked him into it. With me – I think he just likes being difficult.” She picked up a small glass statuette of a jaguar. “Nice?”
“Oh, that is nice, yeah. Hrm. Maybe someone else should talk to him.”
Her spike of hope was almost palatable, but it was followed just as quickly by a tail-drooping sadness. “Who would, though? Not his friends…”
Had he really set himself up that easily? Jamian sighed, realizing that yes, indeed he had. “I could give it a try.”
“Yeah?” Her ears perked again. “Would you, really?”
“No promises,” he warned her. “But I can at least talk to him.”
“Thanks.” She set down the glass jaguar and looked around a little more. “I know it’s silly, since I’m his Keeper and all…”
“You can’t tell your Keeper everything though,” Jamian said, then realized how that sounded. “I mean…”
“No,” she shook her head. “I know what you mean. Tya Kept me for a year, too.”
“Yeah… um. About that…” He hadn’t had the courage, before, to ask her about that one horribly awkward conversation with Ty; did he now?
“Yeah?” Her whole body language shifted, and she was looking straight at him, projecting, somehow “I’m listening.”
Her ears went downwards, but she nodded. “Go on,” she encouraged. Jamian begin gesticulating as he talked, subconsciously hoping to convey the message in as few words as possible. “We were talking about, well, things that happen to Kept, like at parties, with other people…”
“And Ty mentioned, well… He was concerned, that… Were you always, y’know, okay with everything?”
“With everything? No,” she answered flatly. “But nobody ever raped me when I was Ty’s Kept. He didn’t give me enough orders to keep me from gelding them if they tried.” There was nothing of malice in her voice or emotion, just a flat, tired assurance of fact. “Sometimes,” she admitted, and now her voice got a little shaky, “sometimes I suppose my consent wasn’t, I don’t know, entirely consensual.”
He just hugged her. There were no more words; it seemed like all he could do.
She leaned into the hug, her chin on his shoulder. “It’s okay, Jame’. I’m not carrying around scars. Not big ones, at least. Just remember it’s easy, easy to do things because you think she’ll want them.”
“Easy… Yeah. How… how do we know how she really feels?”
“The Daeva is asking me?” She shook her head, smiling sadly. “The point is, Jamian, don’t. Don’t do something you’re uncomfortable with unless she directly orders it, and then, if you don’t like it, make sure she knows she’s ordering you.”
“Will I even know I don’t want it, though?” he asked softly.
She paused, looking off into space, giving, it seemed, due consideration to his question.
“Yeah,” she said after a time. “Yeah. I knew it wasn’t what I wanted. But it’s what she wanted, so I thought it would be okay, you know?”
“Isn’t that kind of give-and-take what relationships are all about, sometimes, though?”
“Well, of course.” Her tail twitched and her shoulders slumped a bit, uncomfortably. “But give-and-take suggests, you know, give and take. And being Kept is not by any means a normal partnership.”
“I guess not… I’ve just never been in a, well, normal partnership, to compare it to.”
“Me, neither,” she admitted. “Tya, and well, nothing real last year, and now Nikita. Addergoole isn’t a great place for healthy relationships.”
“Maybe I’ll take some time off of relationships after this year,” Jamian mused. “I’ll have my… graduation requirements…”
“Maybe,” she answered, with a smug smile. “Love has nothing to do with graduation, however.”
“I just mean I won’t be, y’know, pressured.”
She chuckled. “You’re a teenager. I’m a teenager. You’ll be pressured.”
“You?” he asked, startled.
She made an impatient gesture. “No, no. Not like that. Just saying, I know what it’s like. Don’t worry,” she teased, “you’re not my type.”
“That’s a relief,” he chuckled, then realized how that sounded. “I mean, not that you’re not, I mean, I would, but, you’re…”
“I’m?” she smirked.
“A friend,” he finished weakly. “Not that kind of friend.”
“Mm-hrmm. So who else are you getting presents for?” She changed the subject and turned her back on him with one move.
He ticked them off on his fingers as he thought. “Well, you of course, Niki, Mags, Phelen. Manira. Melchior, Kailani, Shahin. Joff, Kendra, Marjolaine. Ivette, and I suppose Conrad and Emrys.”
“Well, probably.” She looked like she wanted to pat him on the head. “If you’re buying their girlfriends things. Mark, then, too?”
“Mark?” He blinked. “I wasn’t going to get him or Kylie gifts… should I?”
“Isn’t he still Keeping Ivette?”
“Oh! Crap, yes, you’re right. I forgot because I usually see her by herself.”
“Well, it’s not like you’re planning on getting Rafe or Ofir anything either, though I bet Ofir won’t like you getting Kendra a gift.”
“That’s a good point; I’ll have to pick that one carefully I guess.”
“Very carefully, or we’ll be spending Christmas Eve fighting Ofir.” She licked her lips. “That might not be a bad Christmas present, actually…”
“Huh? What present?” Having a conversation with her was likely to give you whiplash.
“Giving me an excuse for a good fight.” She showed all her teeth in something she might have meant as a smile.
He tried not to shy away, nodding quickly. “Right, yeah, well… I think I’ll still try not to be in a fight.” Not with her, that was for sure. She looked dangerous like that, ready to hurt someone.
Shiva’s shoulders slumped a little, and she smiled much more weakly at him. She wanted a fight? Really? “Right. Tya would probably prefer that, sorry.” She licked her lips. “Kendra, something stealthy. That might be tricky. So… let’s start with Mel?”
“Yeah, about that. What kind of gift would even be appropriate? It’s almost like I have two entirely separate relationships with him, sometimes.”
Shiva laughed, her bad mood apparently vanquished. “Boys. Well, what do you think he’d like?”
“Some kind of, I don’t even know, hip geeky thing. Is there such a thing as ‘hip geeky’?” Did he sound as silly as he thought he did? Shiva’s smile seemed to suggest so.
“If you’re a geek, yes. And really, it’s not like he wants to seem hip to non-geeks, is it?”
“No, that’s true. The problem is, I have no idea what kind of stuff that entails.”
She shook her head at him. “What do you guys do when you hang out?”
Jamian squirmed a little. “Well. That depends on, um, the mood I guess…”
“Sex, right, buy him sex dice,” she gestured impatiently at him. “The rest of the time…?”
“Just normal kinds of stuff, y’know? We play cards, watch movies, go to the arcade.”
“Mmm. I don’t know, a collector’s edition of a movie?”
“That could work. Some kind of geeky cult movie,” he grinned. He could think of a few candidates already.
“Yeah, he’d love that.” She seemed approving. “Now. What in the names of thirteen departed gods am I going to get Niki?”