Chapter 16: Cynara

Saturday, October 7, 2000

“What is this, between us?”

Cya had moved in with Dysmas.  He’d stated it like a fact, and she hadn’t wanted to argue with him.

Now, she was staring at her trunks where they sat across the room like she was just visiting, while he pressed up against her, kissing her neck and holding her still.

“What do you mean?”  He’d already bitten her.  He did that almost every morning, bit her.  She wanted to be surprised by it, or horrified, or shocked, but she’d found she couldn’t.  There wasn’t anything but the pleasure the bite brought and a sort of numbness when he wasn’t biting her.

“I mean – I live with you.  You gave me this.”  She touched the silver choker, thin enough to not obstruct her neck, to not get in the way of being bitten.  “I’ve noticed that a lot of new students have, ah, they have neckware.”  Like Leo.  “And they don’t all seem happy about it.”

“Collars.”  He ran a finger over the metal.  “It’s a collar.  It means you’re mine.”

“Is that what I’m supposed to say?  To people?  That I’m yours?”  She took a breath and collected herself.  “And everyone here will just accept that as is?”

“It’s the way it is here.”  He kissed her shoulder, near the healed mark where he’d taken a late-afternoon snack.  That really should bother her…

“Is it part of the whole thing?” She gestured with one hand, moose-antlers, her fingers splayed out from her head.  Dysmas though that was cute.  She thought it was a little childish, but it got the point across: my dad has antlers; I’m not unfamiliar with this sort of thing.  “With being fae?”

“Ellehemaei,” he corrected.  “It’s part of the Law.  But you don’t have to know that.  You just have to know that you’re mine.”

She twisted in her arms until she could look at him.  “I want to know.  I want to understand how it works.”

He chuckled.  “That’s a tall order.  I don’t even think Professor Drake understands all of it, and he teaches Law.”

“I’ve never heard of a law that covers dating, except in what it doesn’t allow.”

Dysmas chuckled again, the unpleasant sound that meant she was being foolish.  She had her back to him, so Cya let herself cringe.  “This isn’t some mundane moral law.  This is the real Law, the Ellehemaei Law.  It’s what makes you mine until I choose to release you.”

She squirmed in his arms. “Isn’t that the fact that I like you?”

He made a deep noise that was at least not a laugh.  “That’s what made it so easy for me to get you.  The Law is what made it stick.”

“It’s what makes…” Cynara hesitated.  “Is that why, when you say something, I have to do it?”

“Very good.  I wasn’t sure if you’d noticed that.”

She tried hard not to preen, but his attention felt so good.  “I try to pay attention.”

“That’s because you’re a clever girl.”  His lips brushed across her neck.  “And you’re all mine.”

She leaned against him and tilted her head down to bare more neck.  It was nice, being wanted, being someone’s.  Dysmas was very nice to her, and the bites barely hurt.  It was nice that he’d liked her enough to bring her home, to move her in with him.  It felt so good.

It was hard to hold on to thoughts she had while they were in bed together.  It was as if the whole time was covered in a haze, like it had happened long ago or while she was half-asleep.  She struggled, even as he kissed her, to remember what he’d said.  The Law is what made it stick.

He wanted her home right after class.  But if she timed things right, she could track down Professor Drake before lunch.

“What else does the Law do?” She waited until he was sated, flopped out on the bed with an arm draped possessively around her.  “It can’t just be for… this.”

“Some people treat it that way.”  He tugged her closer with a casual grope.  When she didn’t answer, he glanced over at her face. “Hey, you can’t really be interested in this stuff, are you?”

She bit her lip.  “Why not?  I mean, if we’re all Ellehemaei – we are, right?”

“We are.”  His eyes didn’t narrow, but he was paying attention to her.  Cya squirmed and fell silent. “Go on.”

She swallowed.  “My dad has antlers, everyone student over their first year except like Kailani and Melchior and half of the teachers are wandering around with some sort of inhuman trait–”

“Change,” he interrupted.  “The Change is what makes us look inhuman, the Mask is what hides it, like Melchior does.”

“Change,” she noted.  “So it’s a safe assumption.  So if I’m going to be Ellehemaei,” the word was still uncomfortable but Dysmas wasn’t making fun of her, so she must be getting it close to right, “and there are Laws that bind only Ellehemaei, I should know what the laws are.”

Always know the laws you might be breaking.  That was her father’s Rule Number Two.  She was already having enough trouble with Rule Number One – Always know where the second exit is.  She had to make sure she followed the rest of the rules twice as well.

“Well, you don’t have to worry about them this year.”  He squished her into a brief hug.  “Kept aren’t bound by most of the Laws.  That’s what you are. Kept. And I’m your Keeper.”  Another squeeze.   “You’re not bound by promises – so that I don’t end up being stuck with things you agreed to.  You’re not a Child anymore, and the laws of Belonging say that you’re mine and can’t Keep someone else.  You’re still bound by the rest of sanctity, though.  You can’t go into someone else’s room unless you – or I – have an invitation.   And you shouldn’t attack or take other people’s belongings – including their Kept.”

“So I’m like, what, a radio now?”  She tried to twist to look at his face, but Dysmas was holding her too firmly.  He kissed the back of her neck.

“You’re a rare and expensive stereo that I wouldn’t want anyone else getting their hands on you.”

She was valued. Cynara leaned into the kisses and tried not to think too hard about being a thing.

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