July 19, 2016 by Lyn
Don’t talk out of time
Everything’s just fine
Last week in March, 2000
There were papers everywhere. Kai had taken to sitting on the floor to work on her homework and projects, since it gave her more floor space in which to spread out, and she was leaning against the bed, working on her math homework while contemplating mind control.
“You couldn’t mention it to me without pain when you were first Kept, is it still the same?” she asked Conrad over her shoulder.
“Mention which?” He had escaped to the bed, since it was the only clear space in the room, and was reading his own homework up there. He can’t read your mind, you know.
“Sorry.” She reached up and brushed her hand over his foot in apology. “The mind control.”
“Oh.” He winced. “More of that, Kaia? I thought you got that all straightened out?”
“Not the mind control, no.” She turned to study him. “I took care of telling everyone everything. You knew I wanted to know all the answers from the beginning, Conrad.”
“I did, but…” he shook his head. “What was the question?”
She was frowning, she knew, and tried to smooth it out as she answered. “Mind control. Is it still hard for you to talk about it with me, now?”
“The mind con… what, Kaia?” His forehead furrowed. “I don’t remember talking about anything like that.”
“Honestly, Conrad,” she protested.
“Kaia, I am being honest!” His tail was lashing, and his voice was raising towards a shout. “I don’t lie to you, I’ve told you, I can’t lie to you. Why are you pressing this?” His shoulders slumped unhappily. “Do you want to get in another mess?”
“Now you sound like Mabina,” she complained. “No, no, I don’t want to get in any more messes.” She squirmed unhappily; she’d rather forget about her “mess” entirely, not have her nose rubbed in it. “I’m trying to find answers. Remember, that’s what we talked about when you first kissed me? That’s what we talked about when you agreed to be mine? I like knowing things, Conrad.” Now she was shouting, frustration pressing at her. “I’d have thought you’d have figured that out by now. I like knowing what’s going on. And this mind control – I don’t know what’s going on there.”
“I keep telling you, there is no mind control, Kaia! This place has enough problems – all the Keepings and the creeps and just passing classes. Why do you keep looking for even more?”
She shook her head. “Conrad…” Shahin and Aelgifu had mentioned that their upperclassmen acted like they didn’t know what they were talking about. Was it possible the mind control was that deep? “Idu intinn Conrad cy’Luca oro’Kailani,” she murmured. “Let me see what’s going on, Conrad.”
With the order on top of the Working, he didn’t have any choice in the matter, and it was clear that he knew it. He slumped on the bed as she penetrated his thoughts. I wanted to show her the world, I really did. What happened? It was a good question; she stayed quiet to see what he came up with.
She wanted to dissect the world with a scalpel. I wasn’t expecting that. I wasn’t expecting her to go after the monsters. We never did, when were figuring things out.
Should we have?
It was a good question. Kai knew she’d pulled Conrad, willy-nilly, into some hard spots. Conrad, Tolly, even Jamian. But she’d freed Bowen, that had to be worth something, didn’t it? She was pretty sure he was happier now, at least.
But she was getting sidetracked. She’d dealt with Bowen. She’d shared her information with everyone she could and, with any luck, those pamphlets would find their way into the hands of the incoming Cohort next year. Right now, her concern was mind control.
“On Hell Night,” she started again.
Hell Night. The images flashed through his mind – the short discussion beforehand, trying to talk Taro into protecting her without going for the trap scenarios. Mabina, Cassidy, Taro, all saying that Kai would be fine, she’d be safe, and of course she’d see reason and agree to be Taro’s when faced with a threat like Ib or Baram.
Or Rozen. In his mind’s eye, there was a blur of angry red filling in the scene where Kai remembered being held up by her throat while Taro tried to claim her, a moment of panic when he realized Taro was going to screw this up, like he’d screwed up so much already: “She doesn’t know what she’s saying. She’s just being stupidly stubborn,” Taro had spurted, and Conrad, Conrad and the rest of the crew, she saw, had winced collectively.
“After that,” she prompted. “In the Dining Hall.”
His mind flashed to the memory: the Dining Hall, Hell Night morning. Offering to be hers, knowing that that tied her to him as much as it bound him to her. Never expected she’d end up with a second Kept. Pledging himself to her.
“There, yes,” she agreed, trying to ignore the more personal thoughts she was reading. He was jealous of Anatoliy? She’d never guessed, never suspected. “You asked why I wasn’t disturbed by your tail. Why I wasn’t ‘freaking out.'”
I didn’t? Did I? That sounds like me, but…
Feeling more than a little guilty, Kai ordered him, “Remember, Conrad. It’s in there somewhere.”
His brow furrowed. There’s nothing. She’s making it up. She’s…
…it’s just buried, isn’t it? With the realization, the memory came peeling out of his mind.
Kai, frowning, that thoughtful look he liked so much. “Why didn’t that freak me out?” The geas pressing against him as he tried to tell her, forcing his throat closed, making him mute. If he could say one word, maybe he could get out the second. “Mind…” he choked out. “…Control,” Cassidy rescued him, laughing at him for even trying. “Don’t be a moron, Con. You’ll burst a blood vessel in your brain and bring the Administration down on our heads.”
Where … where did that memory go? He puts both hands on his temples, trying to press out the pain. What else have I lost? Why didn’t she lose it?
“I’m a first-year student,” she answered him. “Thank you, Conrad.”
She’s… what? Oh. Reading my mind. Damnit… sorry, Kaia, darn it. Hurts.
She hopped up onto the bed next to him, not pulling herself out of his mind quite yet. It was nice to be able to know what was going on with him. Was this how Shahin and Jamian saw the world all the time?
I wish she wouldn’t bounce around like that. She might hurt herself. She might hurt the babies. She might hurt my baby.
“What? Oh.” She looked down at her swelling abdomen. “I’m fine. I might not have any sort of Change but I do have a perfect center of balance.”
“Oh, well…” He faltered, the stabbing pain in his head making it hard to think at all. “I get to worry, don’t I?” The stab of defensiveness he felt didn’t, as far as she can tell, show on his face at all, but it made ripples of nerves in his mind.
Touch helped. Kai scooted up against him, pressing her thigh against his, and watched the way his thought processes immediately calmed. He smiled at her and draped an arm around her shoulders, as his thoughts continued to order themselves, all pointed directly at her and her approval.
“You get to worry,” she assured him, and his thoughts calmed even more. Was his whole mind really that focused on her approval? “Idu intinn epsilon sundesmos Conrad cy’Luca oro’Kailani.”
Sundesmos? Oh, bond, right, she wants to know… Uh “Kaia?” He frowned at her, stroking her back to reassure himself.
“It’s okay, Conrad, I just want to see what the Bond is doing to your brain.”
Doing to my brain… It’s not doing anything to my brain, is it? Kai watched with fascination as he contradicted himself. Of course it is. It makes me obey her. Makes me want to be near her, not that I wouldn’t, anyway. Makes me… that’s it, isn’t it?
He really hadn’t known what he was getting into, any more than she had. The thought made her squeeze him closer to her as she looked at her mind, at the way the neural pathways were twisted by the Bond. “Flex your left hand,” she ordered, to watch how it shifted his mind, how it acted almost as autonomous response, while his thoughts were twisted in momentary confusion and a bit of distress. “Good, thank you.”
If the physical contact had relaxed his thoughts, the praise electrified them. Every pleasure receptor he had lit up, and he snuggled her closer, a bit of chagrined giddiness dancing in his thoughts like raindrops on hot pavement. It was fascinating, and a little alarming. That much power, and she’d been holding it in her hands all year, all unknowing.
“You’re so wonderful,” she whispered, watching the way it colored his thoughts. “I’m so lucky to have you.”
A knock at the door interrupted his response. “Kailani?” Mabina called. “Anatoliy is here to see you.”