July 27, 2016 by Lyn
School was settling in to a tolerable level of weird for Donegal. It wasn’t comfortable, exactly, but his friends seemed to be doing well, and there didn’t seem to be any choice but to do well, to, settle in, and wait for the Change.
He had, so far, done well with adhering to his father’s wisheds; he hadn’t preached to anyone, except when someone had specifically asked him about faith or religion. He wasn’t causing any waves, and he hadn’t even commented on the clear pre-marital sex going on all around him. As far as he could tell, he’d kept his nose clean.
That didn’t stop him from cringing when his father and grandfather called him into Luke’s office Friday after classes. Bad enough to get called onto the carpet, worse to have it be your family doing the calling. “Sir? Dad?” he asked nervously, hovering in the doorway.
“Come in, Donegal, and close the door behind you,” Luke rumbled. Once the door was shut, he continued. “We have something of a favor we want to ask of you, and it’s a big one.” Dad coughed, clearly unhappy with the situation. That just made Luke glower. “It’s a lot to ask of anyone, but we’ve found ourselves a problem, and I think you can help her out.”
The problem was a her? Who needed help? He frowned at his grandfather but kept listening.
But Luke was frowning, too. “I am going to tell you things, Donegal, that are not supposed to be general knowledge yet, and I want your promise to tell nobody else – with the exception of one that I’ll name later.”
Promises again. He glanced over at his father, who was echoing Luke’s expression. His glower gentled, though, as he caught Donegal’s glance. “It’s okay, kiddo. Do what he says; it’ll work out.”
He could trust them. He nodded, slowly. “I promise, sir.” The air warped around them, making his head hurt, and Luke’s expression twisted into a wry grin.
“That’s the start of it. It gets weirder from there.”
They spent the next half an hour, his father and grandfather, explaining exactly how weird the school was. What he would be expected to do. Not why, except in the broadest generalities, but very clearly what. And his children afterwards. And theirs.
And then, when his head was reeling and he wanted to throw something at someone, anyone, Luke brought it all back around to the beginning. “And, because of that, in part, we would like your help.”
“My kids aren’t enough?” he snapped, and regretted it just as quickly. “I’m sorry, sir, it’s just…”
“We understand. Trust me,” he continued ruefully, “we understand. I mentioned that there are wards to make this all easier to handle?”
“To keep us docile, sir.”
“More or less. Your classmate, Aella – do you know her?”
Aella. He nodded slowly. “Friends with Megan and that group? She’s the brown-haired girl with the green eyes who always looks unhappy?” Who, like him, had not yet Changed.
“That’s her,” Luke agreed. “What do you think of her?”
“She seems… lost. Like, I don’t know, not a sparrow among songbirds but something quiet and solemn, a dove maybe, and all her friends are loud and flighty…” he flushed. “I’m sorry, sir, I mean, she seems like a nice girl.”
Luke shrugged. “Nothing to be sorry for, kiddo. Honesty is good. Especially considering what we’re going to ask of you.”
“What…?” Considering what he’d been told, he wasn’t sure he wanted to know. He glanced longingly at the door, but Luke had started talking again.
This explanation was much shorter, but left Donegal feeling vaguely ill. “That’s… that’s rather disgusting.”
“It can be,” Luke agreed, “especially if not handled well. But I have faith; I think you’ll be able to handle it. And you can always come to Doug or I for advice if you get into a jam. I don’t think your classmates can say that.”
To be one hundred percent honest, Donegal wasn’t sure he could, either, but he appreciated that Luke thought it was so. “And you want me to…” it still sounded gross, “…to Own Aella. Why?”
“The wards don’t work on her,” his father grunted. “She’s fighting them. Hurting the wards and herself. And we can’t have that.”
“This is the kinder option,” Luke murmured. “And she’s agreed to it, more or less.”
“More or less.” Donegal felt numb.
“As much as we could explain in the situation. Donegal, this would be a big help to us, the school, and to Aella.”
They’d known since they decided to ask him that he’d say yes. Resenting that, he nodded anyway. “Of course. What do I have to do?”
They gave him time to get a suit on, find some flowers, and run to the store for a necklace. Not a ring; they could talk about that later. Donegal had some praying to do, but they weren’t going to give him time for that, it seemed.
He stood in the front of the Library looking at her, a lovely girl who looked angry and terrified all at once. The Director, Professor Valerian, his father and Grandfather, and Professor Pelletier were in attendance, but they were unimportant. She was what mattered right now.
“You Belong to me,” he said, his voice catching a little on the last word, no matter how much he tried to sound firm and certain. This was a commitment, tying him to her as much as her to him, and it was a massive responsibility. Would he be able to do right by her? “From now until we both graduate this place, you are mine. Your well-being is my responsibility, and your voice and hands are mine. I will take care of you,” he added fiercely, as much to himself as to her, “and keep you safe.” That hadn’t been part of the lines Luke had given him, but it seemed very important to add in. He thought he saw her smile a little bit, and her hands squeezed his a little tighter. “I Belong to you,” she recited, hollowly, sounding as frightened as she looked. “From now until we both graduate, your will is mine, and everything that I am and have is now yours.” Her chin went up, stubborn and determined, like she was daring him to boss her around.
Instead, he kissed her. It wasn’t a proper wedding, no, but he could do this as right as he could. “We have a lot to talk about,” he murmured, while she was still catching her breath. “But not here.”
“Not here,” she agreed, looking around, resentfully, at the adults. “Threshold, carry me over it, maybe?”
He couldn’t help but smile at her, and, feeling a bit like a show-off, scooped her up into his arms. “Yes, dear,” he teased. He turned to his father and grandfather, feeling the smile slide off his face. “Dad, sir, if you’ll excuse us?”
Luke, on the other hand, was smiling. “Of course. Good luck.” He held the door open for them.
“Thanks.” He had a feeling he was going to need the luck – and the door-holding helped, too, as he carried his new… hunh, what had Luke said? Keeping. Owning. Property. Thrall…. He kissed her cheek cautiously. “Girlfriend,” he murmured.
She glanced up at him, smiling uncertainly. “It seems like a little more than that,” she offered.
“It does,” he agreed, “but the words for it are all kind of ugly.”
“‘Thrall,'” she agreed, wrinkling her nose. “I have to warn you, I’m lousy at housework.”
“That’s all right,” he assured her. “I don’t require that much in the way of cleaning up after. And I wouldn’t expect that from you, anyway.”