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Chapter 169: Shahin


July 15, 2016 by Lyn

And in our blindness, do we move onward
And cling to the lies that we have harbored?
We could not admit we were mistaken
But if we don’t do it now, dear God
Could you please come down here and tell me when?

It was the last D&D night before the wedding, so Shahin and Emrys made a point of showing up to game early. They wanted a chance – or he did, at least – to hang out with his crew, relax, and, for a couple hours, not think about wedding planning.

They were welcomed, of course; they were pretty much always welcome to hang out at the suite, when they were so inclined. After all, these people were… Emrys’s crew. For a moment, she had thought of them as “their” crew.

And why not? came a little voice from inside her. What’s his is mine, right? We share everything else. Still, something was holding her back from accepting these people as her own.

“Hello, dears,” Agatha greeted them, her gaze running over them quickly before pausing at Shahin’s belly. “Oh, my. Well, I’m sure the dress will cover it.”

Ah, well, there was that, of course. Shahin smiled sweetly back at… damnit… her half-sister and envisioned eviscerating the woman slowly.

Dysmas seemed content to let them exchange quips, but before she could say anything, Tolly lumbered into view, and Shahin’s eyes fixed immediately on the collar at his neck. Had Agatha…?

“Tolly?” she asked, as gently as she could.

“Hey guys,” he replied, boisterously as ever. “How’s it going?”

“Tiring,” Emrys chuckled. “But it’s almost… well, I was going to say almost over, but I guess that means it’s almost begun.”

“From one challenge to the next,” Shahin agreed, a hand over her stomach. If Emrys wasn’t going to ask… “New fashion accessory?”

“New…?” Tolly blinked, then raised a hand to his neck as he followed her gaze. “Oh, oh! Um. It’s… complicated?” he offered weakly.

“I’m sure.” She couldn’t see someone jumping Tolly in the halls, and he didn’t seem angry about it…

He sighed, rubbing the back of his head, and she recognized that he didn’t want to just leave them hanging like that. “It’s Kailani.”

“Oh.” She actually stepped back a half-step, glanced at Agatha, and looked back at Tolly. “Oh, Tolly.”

“No, it’s okay, it really is.”

Agatha looked none too sanguine about the idea, however, as she turned towards her room. “Your game will be here soon, I’ll leave you to it.”

“Do have a good evening,” Shahin murmured with a passable pretense of sincerity. “Tolly, you’re sure?” Kai hadn’t mentioned this to her at all.

“It’s a little late now if he’s not,” Dysmas commented from the couch, but Emrys shushed him with a glance and moved to distract him with game talk.

She hugged the big man impulsively. “I can talk to her…?” she offered quietly. Why hadn’t Kai said anything to her?

Tolly put his arms around her with a care that made her feel like a porcelain doll. “It’s not like she bullied me into it or anything, y’know. I can handle it. Thanks though.”

She chuckled faintly. “I can’t see her bullying anyone into anything. Tell me if you need anything, though, seriously.” She glanced at Agatha’s closing door. It wasn’t like he could trust his crew to back him up. Again though, then, was she his crew now? And Emrys was here for him; even Dysmas, in his way. The boys weren’t so blatant about it, but she knew they’d be there for him if he needed them.

“I will. Right now I just… I dunno. I mean, I’m okay with it. I’m just not sure why.”

She patted his arm. No, she wasn’t his crew, any more than Emrys was Ayla and Vi’s crew, but that didn’t mean she couldn’t be his friend. “I’ll talk to her. I’ll figure out what she’s up to,” she assured him.

“Thanks? I mean, I don’t want someone to go in all accusatory or anything,” he added quickly. “It’s…” He shrugged, taking a step back as he released her. “It’s just all so complicated.”

She smiled, remembering the push of the Bond. “It’s okay, Tolly, she’s my friend,” she reassured him. At least, I’m pretty sure she is. “I’m not going to holler at her.”

“Okay then. I’m sure it’ll all work out.”

Famous last words. She smiled anyway. “I’m sure it will,” she agreed. “Io says the baby’s growing well.”

“Hey, yeah?” He smiled softly, some of his usual joie-de-vivre coming through again. “That’s great. I think she’s gonna do great with it.”

She poked him lightly in the stomach. “You should try to be there. We all know growing up without a dad isn’t any fun.”

“Me? Man, I dunno, Sheen.” The big man raised a hand to the back of his head, rubbing it self-consciously. “Do you really think she’d want me there?”

“I think you should at least offer. I know why, now, my father wasn’t around. Our father,” she added uncomfortably. “But it would have been nice to know him, as a kid.”

“You really think so?” he said dubiously. “Well, I’ll think about it, at least.”

“Thank you.” She squeezed his hand again, and turned to find Emrys. When the crew was like this, just Tolly, Dysmas, and Emrys, they seemed so different, so pleasant…

Emrys looked up from the couch, sensing her approach. “Everything’s cool, then?”

“I’m not certain,” she admitted. “I’ll have to talk to Kai. But Tolly seems to be doing fine.”

“I can’t imagine she’d be doing anything wrong anyway. I mean, come on, it’s Kai.”

She chuckles. “If it was me, I can see things I’d be doing. But yes. It’s Kai. She’s one of the sweetest people in the Fifth Cohort. In the school.”

“So, no worries, then.”

“Well, I’m worried that she didn’t tell me.” She paused, as a thought occurred to her. “Oh. Shit.”

“Shit? What shit? Shit why?”

“Agatha,” she murmured very quietly.

“What about Agatha?”

“She was very unhappy when she discovered that Agatha was my half-sister,” she answered slowly.

“I suppose that’s a good thing, really. I mean, you know how she feels about Aggie, so it probably means she actually likes you.”

“So, it’s really not a bad thing at all.” If only he knew. But, why not?

“Well…” He wouldn’t blow up at her, would he? She was uncertain where it came to his crew. “You can’t really blame her, can’t you?”

“Blame Kai, or blame Aggie?” Oh boy.

“Kai,” she answered, watching him very carefully.

“For not liking Aggie?” He shook his head, almost chuckling. “No, I suppose not. They didn’t exactly get off on the right foot.”

“That… is certainly one way to put that.” Set her up to be raped and impregnated for helping her Kept. That’s definitely the wrong foot.

“But, Aggie was just trying to do right by Tolly. Yeah, she doesn’t always think about what’s right for people that aren’t crew.”

She bit her lip, trying not to snap at him, trying not to insult the woman in her own living room. That’s putting it mildly.

For a moment, there was an awkward silence. Shahin watched him unhappily. Did he really think that it was okay, what Agatha had done?

Well, the worst she could get was an answer. “Do you think she did the right thing?” she asked quietly.

“The right thing? Of course not, Sheen.” His startlement was evident and gratifying. “But I don’t think she was being malicious on purpose. She was trying to help a friend, regardless of what it cost someone she viewed as an enemy.”

She relaxed a little bit at that. “Good, good,” she murmured. “I just can’t see anyone thinking of Kai as an enemy.”

“Although that does raise the question of what exactly Kai thinks of them. Rumor has it she’s the new Junior Thorne Girl. I wonder what kind of advice she’s getting?”

Shahin shook her head. “Rumor is just that. She’s training with them as part of her deal, but can you see her turning into Acacia? Hardly. And she has Conrad to balance them out.”

“You think so? I heard Acacia saved her bacon in an altercation with Ardell. She’s another one who’s never been the altruistic type, except where her crew is concerned.”

Shahin hrrmed. Yet another thing to talk about with Kai. But then again… “the same could be said of me.”

“And that’s how we ended up with a Kept, instead of just running with the original plan and having done with her?”

“Well… no,” she admitted. “But it’s how we ended up having her in the first place.”

“Not quite the same thing, though, I think.”

“Well, I do try not to be evil.” She smiled playfully, trying to make it a joke.

“And yet look at the company you keep,” he laughed, before leaning in to kiss her lightly.

“Well,” she teased, “Ayla and Vi are pretty nice people.”

“Ayla, anyway,” Emrys grinned.

A knock at the door interrupted them, and Dysmas rose to answer it. “That’ll be Cassidy; probably a good idea to stop speculating about his crew, I think.”

“Then whose should we speculate on?”

“Maybe he’ll have some more gossip. After all, they say in every rumor there’s a seed of truth, right?”


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