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Epilogue: Kailani


July 21, 2016 by Lyn

First Week of August, 2000

“Have you thought about visiting your mother?” Kai regarded Conrad over the pile of textbooks, unsure why she’d picked now to bring this up. Maybe because his tail was twitching and he’d started doodling in the margins.

“Summer school.” His answer was short and sullen, but he’d been doing that a lot lately. Kai couldn’t help but smile.

“If you hadn’t tried to flunk yourself out of school…”

“I wasn’t trying to flunk out of school!” He pushed the papers aside. “I was trying to make sure I was here for your whole four years.”

“You should have asked.”

“So you’ve told me already.” He stared down at the bed. “Okay, so it was stupid. It never occurred to me you’d try to do it in three years.”

“I told you I could.”

“That was before…” He gestured shortly at the bassinet holding Audra and Alistair. “I didn’t want you to have to cram two babies into three years. And now I have to go to summer school.”

“Well, at least it’s only for two classes. And you’re going to do fine now that you’re concentrating. You’re nearly done.”

“But why ask me about…?”

She sat up and studied him for a moment. “You’ve been angry at me all summer.”

“You were pretty mad at me, too.”

“Only for a little bit. Now… now, I think I understand.” She began packing up the papers. “I know you were trying to protect me.”

“You’ve never let me even try.”

“I’m not very good at that.” Was that what was bothering him? He wanted you to be a pretty princess? One would think he’d have been disillusioned long since. “Conrad… I’m sorry. I’m not very good at being protected or taken care of, being on a pedestal.” She took a careful breath. “I’m sorry if I disappointed you.”

“It’s not that, it’s just that I wanted to be able to keep you safe, and every time I try, you yell at me. I don’t need your protection, Kaia… but you still need mine. And then you get angry that you need it.”

“You agreed to my collar. That means I’m responsible for you.”

“Because you wouldn’t ever agree to be collared yourself!” He ran his hands through his hair, making it stick up in funny angles. “And now you’re not even training in combat anymore, and it’s not over, I know it won’t be, even with Ardell and Agatha and the Thornes gone, because you’re going to keep fighting for everything.”

“Somebody has to.” She glared back at him. “If everyone sits back and does nothing, nothing will ever change.”

“Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t love that you care, but I wish you’d let me take care of you! And I wish you’d stop being so damn mad at me for trying!”

“…Oh.” She found herself curling her knees up to her chest. “Do you want me to release you? I mean, Keeping you longer than a year is really against tradition, anyway, isn’t it?”

“Kaia… Kailani.” He moved across the bed, pushing the papers aside, and grabbed her into a hug. “I like being yours. And sometimes I think it’s the only way I can protect you at all. I just wish you didn’t get so mad at me.”

“I’m not mad at you.” She ran her fingers through his hair for want of a brush. “I’m not, Conrad, I’m really not. And I’m sorry I’m so difficult to protect.” She brushed her lips across his cheek, uncertain if he’d take a full kiss. “I don’t want to lose you, I really don’t.”

“I don’t want to lose you, either. So… you’ve forgiven me for trying to get held back a year?”

“I have. Although I still think it was foolish.” She looked at the piles of paperwork and books. “I also think you’re fine to take the tests, whenever the professors want to administer them. So… have you thought about visiting your mother?” She hesitated, and then decided she might as well ask. “And maybe mine? They might want to meet their grandchild – grandchildren. And …”And you’re too much of a coward to face your mother alone.

“And you want a little back-up, explaining things to your mother. I wouldn’t mind some back-up, too.” Conrad kissed her cheek. “If you’re going to let me out of summer school for a while – I’d like that, Kaia.”

She squeezed him against herself for a moment. “I’d like it too, Conrad. Done being mad at me?”

She was pretty sure he was teasing when he answered “for now.”


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