July 20, 2016 by Lyn
“Pretty soon, I’m not going to be able to do this.” Jamian buttoned his tux shirt over the growing roundness of his belly, thinking about Kai, stretched like she’d pop, and Shahin, swathed in lace and velvet. He didn’t think about how close to the end of the year they were – barely two months left. By the time he was swelling up with pregnancy, Ty would be gone.
“You’ll be gorgeous. I’ll look like a beached whale, I did last time.”
“You’re better at Masking than I am, though.” Jamian leaned over and kissed Tya’s forehead. “And you could never be anything but gorgeous.”
“You’re starting to sound like a cy’Linden.” He could tell she was flattered, even without the smug-kitten smile. “There. You should dance with Kendra – actually, we should stop by and make sure she comes.”
“Are you sure she wants to?” If Jamian was her, he’d want to hide in his room until the year was over. Or run down the halls celebrating, but that didn’t seem to be her style.
“She should, either way. And the crew can protect her. Will protect her.” Ty grinned. “It’s already going around that I challenged Ofir for her. She’s as safe as she can be in Addergoole.”
“I still haven’t thanked you enough for that.” They could just skip the dance. He snuggled her close, trying to send the idea by psychic waves, despite his total inability with Intinn. As his Keeper starting wriggling and squirming, he belatedly remembered that he could, with no Intinn at all, do what he was trying to do.
“We could stay home,” he murmured.
“We have to be seen,” she countered, although her body was telling another story.
“We’re cy’Linden. They could come watch.”
“What’s gotten into you?” Her lips on his neck were not helping him pull away.
“Just my birthright, I guess?” He pressed his hands against her back, feeling her shoulder blades through the thin fabric of her dress. “And I really like you.”
“I really like you, too, Jame’.” She sighed, and grabbed his wrists. “Later. Tonight. With Melchior if you want. With Kendra, if you want. But after we go to the dance.”
Jamian echoed her sigh. “Or just the two of us.” He was pretty sure Kendra wasn’t going to want to play threesies. “I’m ready when you are.”
“I just need to…” she stared at the mirror for a moment, her Mask adjusting to party makeup. “There. Now. If anyone gives you shit, Jamian, remember that you’re Mine and they can’t mess with you. And please try not to start any fights.” Her smile softened her exasperated tone.
“As long as nobody starts beating their girlfriend in front of me….” He smiled, even though he knew there was little he could do if they did. Ofir had been a fluke. Neither Ty nor the administration would put up with that again.
He swallowed a sigh and bowed to Tya. “Shall we wow them?”
“Are you sure all you’re learning in private lessons with Mi- with our Mentor is Ellehemaei stuff?” Tya’s suspicion was only mostly faked, so Jamian made sure to be as sincere as possible in his answer, avoiding an off-the-cuff joke about being a Daeva.
“And charm and stuff, and the Law. Professor VanderLinden thought I was too rough-around-the-edges for one of its students, I guess.”
“I kind of like you rough.”
“Then for you, I’ll be rough. C’mon, we’re going to be late.” He offered her a hand, still smiling. She was touchier and touchier about their mutual Mentor, and he didn’t know what to do about it.
“Can’t have that.” In the suite living room, the rest of the crew was already waiting for them, as well as an uncertain-seeming Anwell.
“Ready for war?” Magnolia purred.
“War?” He thought they were all settled. Everything was okay now, right?
“She means social war,” Shiva explained. She and Mags were both dressed to kill in James-Bond-worthy dresses and high-heeled shoes. “Tya-mia threw down the glove, played with her power, made a move.” She was almost purring; Jamian thought she might be excited about the idea of a fight. “Now we get to see if anybody is offended by the thought of us not being lazy slobs.”
“And remind them why they’re glad we don’t normally do things like that.” Even Nikita looked violent today. Jamian hadn’t known he had it in him.
“Oh. So, uh…”
“So do what you normally do,” Tya assured him. “Dance, flirt with Melchior, any of that. Flirt with Kendra.”
“Flirt with everyone,” Magnolia offered. “I’m going to.”
“Except Manira.” Phelen’s threatening scowl was made actually frightening by the cloud of shadows pooling around his feet.
“Except Manira.” Mags patted her crew-mate’s shoulder. “Relax, boyo, she’s not Jame’s type.”
“Okay, so we’re just going to go and smile?” Jamian interrupted quickly, before it could get into a conversation on his type, or lack therof. “And party? That sounds easy.”
“It should be.” Shiva was licking her lips. “It’ll be fun.”
Not entirely reassured, he took Tya’s hand a bit more firmly, and they followed Shiva and Nikita to the dance.
The theme for the dance was “Classic Hollywood,” hence Manira’s Audrey Hepburn look and Magnolia’s Vivian Leigh impression. The Dining Hall and Auditorium had been Worked over into a black-and-white vision of the roaring twenties, with no bar in sight, and the music – much to Ib’s apparent displeasure – just as classic.
The moment they set foot on the floor, Jamian knew what Magnolia had meant by war. People stared. People had stared at them before, stared at him before, but not like this, with the radiating waves of curiosity, caution, awe, and, in some cases, anger.
He followed the anger to its sources, staring around the room. Ib, who didn’t like people messing with the status quo. Agatha, who was likely the same, and glaring at the world through a saccharine smile. Not Ofir – Ofir had Xaviera, dressed in an elaborate beaded dress and cap, on his arm, and looked mostly-pleased with himself about the whole situation. And, luckily, not Kendra. Rozen was curious and amused, Ardell cautious, and Delaney furious. Interesting combination, if not the safest in the world. Jamian moved a little closer to Tya.
She, gently but firmly, nudged him away from her. “Go talk to Kendra. Go dance with her.” Even without the press of an order, her intention was clear.
Jamian sighed. “I don’t want to leave you alone.”
“I’m not alone, darling, and I can protect myself, I promise.” She reached over and patted Shiva’s arm. “Besides, I have my attack kitties here.” She smirked, clearly pleased with herself, and just as clearly un-budgeable.
Tya chuckled at him. “You’d think you didn’t like the girl. You’ve been fretting about her all year, and now I can’t get you out on the dance floor with her?”
“I wasn’t… I didn’t… you’re not jealous?”
“Oh, Jame, I’m cy’Linden,” Tya answered, as if she hadn’t blown up about Kailani and Melchior and everything else. “Go play with your little mouse girl. I’ll be here playing with the kitties.”
With the feeling he didn’t quite know what was going on, Jamian crossed the dance floor, looking for Kendra.
…and found her. “Woah.” He slapped a hand over his mouth, blushing, and was rewarded by a blush in return.
“You like it? I thought… well, I look good in green.”
“Yes, yes you do.” That was hardly the word for it. Even though the Working over the place rendered her dress in shades of dark grey, the velvet dress, slit to the hips, was still breathtaking. “That’s something else, Kendra.”
She smiled brightly at him. “You’re something else, Jamian. You never stopped trying.”
“I couldn’t.” He wondered if the color Working would hide his blush. “I wanted to, sometimes, because I was afraid he was going to hurt you because of me. I was afraid I was just making things worse for you.”
“Sometimes,” she admitted, her head down. She’d done something complex with her hair, so that its elaborate curls shone. “Sometimes he’d come home and just shout at me. But sometimes he’d do that anyway. And sometimes he’d yell at me for something Agatha did.” She took a breath, and another one, moving her dress in nearly a Manira fashion. “Sometimes he just yelled because he could, Jamian. And you never stopped trying.”
“I’m sorry it took so long.”
“I’m glad it happened at all.” She draped her arms around his neck. “Can I dance with you?”
“As a matter of fact, I’ve been ordered to dance with you.” He hoped that didn’t sound as corny to her as it did to him. “I like this song, too.”
“So do I.” She moved with his hand, letting him guide her onto the floor. “Watching him with Xaviera… it’s weird. I thought I’d be jealous. But that brochure you sent around… Being Kept messes with your mind, right?”
“Enjoying the spoils?” Ardell loomed over them like a sudden dark cloud.