July 21, 2016 by Lyn
Last week of August, 2000
The sun was beating down on the back yard of the small cottage, so Jamian was sitting under the awning with Dominique and Carey, drinking lemonade and reading a cheap paperback D.J. had lent him. His babies were just waking up from a nap, wiggling ineffectually in their shared cradle. He turned to them, playing with their tiny toes and murmuring nonsense at them while reading their emotions. Awake, aware, and a little bit hungry.
He was expecting company, so he poured a second glass of lemonade when he saw the shadow fall over his shoulder and onto the table. “You’re late.”
“You were expecting me?”
That… was not Ty. He should have noticed the much broader shadow. Jamian turned around slowly. “Hi, sir.” Luke was blocking out the sun, his wings spread wide. “No, I wasn’t expecting you. Sorry.”
“I wanted to see the kids.” His wings twitched, and the burly PE teacher gave off a wave of something Jamian could only associate as squirminess. “If I could?”
“Um… of course.” He fought down a sudden urge to headbutt the man and shifted aside a little bit. His horns weren’t really big enough for that anyway. “They’re still really new, be careful.”
“I will be.” Luke folded his wings in, making him seem much more a reasonable size. “Caitrin said they were both born hermaphroditic?”
“Guess it makes sense?” Jamian shrugged. “Professor VanderLinden says we won’t know if they Change to full-blooded until, well, they Change.”
“That’s true. Regine cares, and Mike does; do you?”
It took a minute for the question to percolate through. When it did, Jamian turned to stare at Luke. “Is this a test?” He kept his voice level; he didn’t want to upset the babies. “Because if it is, sir, it sucks.”
The older man met his gaze steadily, before slowly allowing a smile to touch his lips. “You’re right, it does. And I apologize.” He nodded his head, just so very barely. “Are you going to take them out into the world?”
“I’ve got three more years to decide that. DJ and I have been talking about it…” Jamian allowed his shoulders to relax and, to soothe himself, picked up Carey. The child of his womb was just a few pounds bigger than her twin, having been born a couple weeks earlier. “What happened with Ty, the decisions DK made there. What happened with me, and the decisions my mother made. What our fathers, mine and Ty’s, didn’t do.”
“Your fathers have a lot in common.” Luke gave Dominique a finger to grip onto. “Regine wasn’t looking for stable family situations when she set up her program here.”
“Yeah, I get that. You knew my dad?”
“Both of them. Your biological father still comes around sometimes, but I doubt you’d want anything to do with him.” The teacher rolled his shoulders, a thread of irritation well-hidden but leaking out to Jamian’s senses. “You’re worth a hundred of him.”
“You hardly know me,” Jamian couldn’t help but protest, despite the warm feeling inside him from the praise.
“I’ve seen enough. I’ve seen you stand up to bullies, your Keeper, even your Mentor. And you’ve figured out how to deal with what you are.”
“Ty helped a lot with that.” He was surprised to find that talking about it didn’t make him squirm anymore. “Ty’s always been so utterly comfortable with what it was.”
Luke laughed. “Ty’s always been comfortable with its hermaphroditism. I’d say you helped Ty as much as Ty helped you.” He flicked one of Jamian’s horns lightly with thumb and forefinger. “You’re going to do fine with the kids, you know.”
“I hope so.” He shifted his gentle hold on Carey as she discovered his hair. “And… with everything else, you know.”
Luke looked him over. “Look, the trite answer is ‘if you’re worried about it, you’re going to do fine.’ And that’s not the whole truth, of course. But it’s a good start. If you’re thinking about it, you’re going in the right direction.
“Besides,” he continued, and now he was smiling, at Jamian, at the kids, at the little cottage, “if you were willing to take on Ofir and stare down Ardell when you were a first-year Kept, what are you going to be doing as a fourth-year student?”
“Aren’t you supposed to encourage me to be less trouble?” Jamian found he was smiling, too.
“I’m supposed to teach you how to survive, and how to be a grown-up. I have never in my life found that to be the same as being less trouble.” Luke glanced behind him. “Here comes your Ty. You can do this, kid. Don’t let your doubts undermine you.”
Jamian had a feeling your doubts was Luke’s way of saying other people. He smiled anyway. “Thanks, sir. I’m kinda looking forward to next year.”