Thursday, November 9, 2000
If Abednego could figure out what he’d done to get Rafe pleased with him, he would have taken notes, because he definitely preferred this to what had become his new norm.
He was sitting on the floor in front of the couch, reading his literature homework and taking notes – lots of notes, because Professor VanderLinden paid an uncomfortable amount of attention to him in class, something he assumed he could probably thank his brothers for, like everything else in this damned place. He was to the left of Rafe, leaning against his Keeper’s leg, finding the presence actually comforting.
That wasn’t exactly comfortable in and of itself. Rafe had been erratic on good days, awful on bad, and had narrowed Abednego’s world to what he was allowed to do (go to class, do his homework, eat when food was put in front of him, and do apartment chores if he wasn’t in Zita or Zeke’s way) and everything else. But still, leaning against his leg felt good, felt safe, which was just about the most ridiculous thing that his stupid brain had ever come up with—
—well, except the part where he’d thought coming to Addergoole would mean he had gotten away from his brothers. Someday, Abednego was going to find both of his brothers, and he was going to nail them to the wall and leave them there for their victims to find. Maybe send a telegram. Telegrams took a while, right? Dear Eris, Ra- Sir, Dysmas, Ardell, Joff, Delaney — he thought that was everyone — please look for your Christmas present in a shed off Rt. 39. In Vermont. Merry Christmas.
His Owner and Eris would probably still find a way to blame him for everything, but he’d be long gone by the time they got there. Once he — once he — when his Owner and Eris left Addergoole, Abednego fully intended to never, ever see them again.
And even that would be too soon.
“What are you making?” Eris’ voice cut across Abednego’s rather pleasant daydreams of never seeing anything from here again. He tried not to tense up, because sometimes that made Rafe mad, instead just leaning a little harder against his Owner’s leg.
“Lasagna. It seemed like a nice dish for a cold day.” Zita’s voice was calm. Too calm. She sounded a little out of it, actually. Rafe glanced up, even though it wasn’t his problem, wasn’t his business. Wasn’t anything he could help with, at least.
“I don’t want lasagna. I hate lasagna.”
“Last week you liked it.” Zita had that tone like she was reasoning with a child. Abednego tried not to think it too loudly, but she was, in a sense, doing just that. Eris sometimes just… went off the deep end.
“Well, I don’t today. Make something else.”
“But the lasagna is nearly done. It’s going to be a good lasagna. Joff and Abed really liked it last time I made it, and you enjoyed it.” Zita’s tone didn’t rise at all; if anything, it calmed further. Abednedgo wanted to hide somewhere, but he couldn’t leave the room without permission and right now getting permission required talking, which required bringing attention to himself.
“I said make something else. Why is that so hard to understand? I don’t like lasagna. I’m sorry you thought I liked lasagna last week, but I am not fond of the stuff. It. makes. Me. ill.”
“Well.” Zita was making all her words more carefully now. “I’ll make lasagna for the boys and you and I can have fish. That’s easy enough to make. Why don’t you go do your homework or something and I’ll finish dinner?”
Abednego moved backwards, even though there was nowhere to go. He knew it was bad when Rafe put a reassuring hand on his shoulder, and knew it was worse when he leaned into his owner’s hand rather than trying to flinch away.
“Did you just tell me what to do?” Eris’ voice had gone from simply cranky to dangerous. “You know, I don’t think it’s your place to tell me what to do. I wonder if you’d tell me what to do if you couldn’t open your mouth?”
“We’ve tried that. It doesn’t make your food taste any better. And you know you—”
The backhand made a loud, sharp sound that seemed to echo through the room. Rafe stood up. “Come on, pup,” he murmured, grabbing at Abednego’s arm.
Abednego let himself be pulled to his feet – not that he had any choice – but his eyes were still on Zita.
Her hand went to her face. She smiled. It was a sharp thing, with all those fangs. “You know, I was trying to be reasonable. I want to be reasonable, and Howard and Leo keep telling me to be calm and reasonable and just wait it out. But you, you don’t actually like reason, do you?”
“Don’t tell me what I like!” Eris nearly screamed it. Rafe moved sideways along the couch, moving slowly and carefully, like he didn’t want to attract attention, while pulling Abednego along with him.
Abednego was all about not attracting attention right now. He moved just as slowly, trying not to breathe. Eris had just slapped Zita again, this time on the other cheek. And Zita’s grin had just gotten bigger and bigger and—
Rafe had reached the end of the couch and pulled Abed backwards. He stumbled, caught himself, and tried to stifle a gasp as Zita lept onto Eris, fangs bared, and Eris stumbled backwards, tripping over her own feet in her haste.
“Easy, easy.” Rafe moved backwards towards his room, pulling Abednego with him, his voice warm in Abednego’s ear. He sounded like he was trying to calm himself down as much as he was Abednego, which was good: Abednego wasn’t so much worried as he was trying not to cheer for Zita.
The two girls crashed to the floor, their fight hidden behind the kitchen counter, and Rafe pulled Abednego into his room and shut the door.
“My homework…?” Abednego realized. It was sitting out on the floor by the couch.
“That’s all right. You don’t have to do your homework until later. Come on, come sit with me on the bed and we’ll watch… something loud.”
Something loud. Abednego didn’t know why Rafe didn’t want to be there for the fight. It wasn’t like Eris wasn’t going to win, anyway. But he curled up on the bed next to his owner and thought, maybe, he ought to remember to send Zita a present when they were out of here.