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Peer Review


August 2, 2016 by Lyn

This story takes place in line with the story – the Sunday Night after Hell Night, the Fifth Year of the Addergoole School

“Hey, Reid, come on in.” Laurel Valerian’s smile was open and unguarded – a quality Reid adored in her, but one that had gotten her in more trouble than she really deserved. He smiled back, and kicked his loafers off as he entered her place.

He wasn’t the first one there; he’d made sure he wasn’t. In a living room reminiscent of an Adirondack hunting lodge, Mike VanderLinden was talking softly with Shira Pelletier; Feu Drake listened in, but, as was common, said little.

“Hey, Reid.” VanderLinden looked up and waved. “We were just discussing your favorite student.”

Shit, Mike, not her. Aren’t there enough pretty things around that you have to go after her? The thought was buried as soon as it was born, and Reid smiled pleasantly back at his fellow teacher.

“Which one? I mean, Kennie’s amazing, but I didn’t think she was your sort.”

“What?” Mike actually looked surprised. “Oh, man, no, give me some credit. The new ones are a little young for my tastes. No, we were talking about Kailani sh’Moonchild cy’Regine.”

Out of long, barely-paranoid-at-all habit, Reid scanned the room for any trace of Regine’s mind. She didn’t attend these little gatherings, but that wouldn’t stop her from spying. Finding nothing of her around, he smirked wryly at Mike.

“Right. You’re not hunting the Fifth Cohort, and your attention goes immediately to Kai.” By now, it was just teasing: Mike didn’t have his horny-and-hunting face on.

Mike just laughed. “Do you want to visit my office after lunch tomorrow? You can see the lovely, lovely Third Cohort I’ve been spending time with.”

“Like you’ve ever settled for just one.” But Shira was looking at them strangely, so he brought the conversation back on track. “What about Kailani?”

“She’s smarter than she ought to be,” Shira said bluntly. “She’s figuring out things that PhD’s have trouble with, and it’s making it hard to keep the rest of the class on track.”

“We knew that already,” Reid said, accepting a drink from Laurel and noting that she’d mixed it strong. Did she think he’d need the numbing effects tonight? “Hell, Shira, we knew that before she came here. Not just her ancestry – her tests scores were off the charts.”

“We expected her to be brilliant,” Mike said, and paused to take a generous drink from his glass. “I don’t think we really expected her to be so… human.”

In this place, that was a strange thing to say; from an Ellehemaei as old as Mike – and a pureblood to boot – it wasn’t always a compliment.

“Human how?” he asked carefully. It was Laurel, behind him, who answered.

“Socially,” she said, “emotionally. She’s a lot like a normal teenager. Vulnerable. Wanting praise. Socially awkward.”

“Sweet,” Shira put in. “We expected her to be more like Regine, I suppose – especially considering those test scores. And it’s a blessing that she’s not.”

“Aah,” was all he could say to that. Regine had centuries of age and experience on Kailani – none of them knew what she’d been like as a teenager, except maybe Mike, and he wasn’t talking.

“But how do we keep her from becoming that?” Laurel asked. “Or… and I’m not sure which is worse – ending up emotionally destroyed? This place is very hard on fragile psyches.”

“I think she will be fine.” Agmund Fridmar stepped into the room, his heavy steps soundless on the hardwood. The massive Viking-like man taught the Eastern European languages and, without irony, taught a section of Home Ec to the older students – and a class in melee fighting to a hand-picked group. “I saw her yesterday in the halls with young Conrad cy’Luca in a collar, and it seems your Mabina-and-Cassidy have taken her under their wing, Solomon. I don’t think we need to worry about her.”

“Conrad,” Shira said, rather suddenly. “Has anyone else noticed anyone… throwing grades?”

“Throwing grades?” Mike raised an eyebrow. “Usually they’re falling over themselves to raise their grades.”

“That’s because of the way you take bribes, Michael,” Shira said dryly. “But, yes, Laurel, I’ve noticed a couple of my students have had suspiciously low grades.”

Reid thought about recent test results. “I’ve had some anomalies,” he admitted, “but I chalked them up to the confusion and mess that was being this early in the school year. No-one’s thinking about their classes that much right now.”

“By that logic, though, they’re never thinking about their classes, Reid,” Laurel argued. “I think you’re selling them short. These are good kids, bright students, and they’re getting too consistent of bad grades.”

“Are they Owned?” Oftentimes, that was both the problem and the solution in one.

“Only Conrad,” Shira said, with a glance at Agmund, as if questioning that idea. Reid didn’t blame her; it didn’t seem very like Conrad, or, for that matter, like Kailani. Knowing his Students as he did, Reid suspected the subtle hand of Mabina-and-Cassidy was involved.

“Hunh.” Reid thought about the students in his classes whose grades seemed lower than normal. “I do have a few…” Among them was Ty, although, in that case, it was hard to tell; Ty was too much of a partier to ever be a serious student. “I’ll keep an eye out. What do you think about Jamian?”

He directed the question at VanderLinden, but Mike deflected it with a glance to Shira.

“The Daeva? He’s too shell-shocked to have much of a personality yet, but he seems like a nice kid. I admit to being surprised by the Change, though.” She glanced at VanderLinden, who made a face.

“Don’t blame me; that one’s not mine.” His voice got sour. “None of my kids are purebloods.”

In a room in which he was the only pureblooded Daeva, the frustration in his tone may have been impolitic, but Reid didn’t begrudge him his pain. He came from an older time, after all.

Shira looked as if she was going to step in and say something, but Mike kept talking, his tone more moderate now. “What really surprised me is how attached they got. Ty’s known to have a chip on the shoulder when it comes to purebloods. But Ty hasn’t been known for good relationships, either.”

“I do believe Ty got attached before Jamian’s Becoming.” Trista Caitrin put in from the sidelines, her measured, calm tones cutting smoothly into the conversation. “Ty brought Jame’ in, you know, and you should have seen its face – all concern and mother-henning. That’s not to say it won’t botch this relationship, too, but I think it has a better chance than it ever did with Niki.”

“And Shiva. And Anise,” Mike inserted. “That child is no good with relationships.”

“No surprise,” Shira said, with a sidelong look. Was… ah.

“Does it – he – know?” Reid asked gently. If the kid was falling that badly, and for the school’s only pureblood, who happened to be the most vanilla-minded student they’d admitted in five years, well, some paternal advice might not be bad.

“With the way he feels about purebloods? No. Bad enough, I think, that I’m his Mentor.” Mike frowned a little more. “This is going to end up a mess, with Jamian, isn’t it? And Regine wants me to Mentor the kid, too.”

“Who better?” Laurel said.

“Someone who understands kids,” Mike laughed humorlessly.

“It could be worse,” Reid said dryly.

“How?” The despair in Mike’s voice made Reid wonder how much the man had been drinking, and he scrambled to find an answer less sopped in dark sarcasm than his original thought.

Agmund, his rumbling voice amused, bailed him out. “We could be teaching in a normal school.”


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