Thursday, May 31, 2001
Abed was wandering.
There were parts of the school he hadn’t seen. There was a whole floor of the school, and all he’d seen of it was the front of the Store.
His room had been exactly as he’d left it on Hell Night. Rafe, apologetic and twitchy, had helped Abed move what few things he had and cared about back to the room.
The first thing he’d done was to buy new clothes. Kilts. He’d seen the bull-guy in kilts, and he had to admit, they suited his new legs better. Shirts that didn’t have anything to do with home, weren’t hand-me-downs, didn’t smell like Rafe or like his brothers or like anything except himself.
It wasn’t enough, of course. People still knew he was Abednego, brother of Shadrach and Meshach, and months of being under Rafe’s collar hadn’t changed that. He was wandering, in part, because if people didn’t know where he was, he was less likely to get jumped.
In part he was wandering to shake loose the feeling that he was doing something wrong, that he should crawl back to Rafe and beg him to take him back.
And in part he was wandering because he could. There was nothing holding him back except the walls of the school, and even they had doors. There was the meadow and the orchard, a little village where fae moved around openly, a playground where kids he’d never seen before romped and squealed and did all the things he was pretty sure normal kids were supposed to.
But eventually, for the third time, his wanderings took him back to Luke’s office.
This time, he swallowed his nerves and knocked.
That took even more nerves, but he wasn’t going to ding-dong-ditch the security professor. He let himself in and closed the door behind him, trying to ignore the feeling that he was trapping himself in a small room with a large angry predator.
“Sir.” He cleared his throat. “I’d like to learn how to fight back.”
Luke taught combat, he knew he did. But cy’Luca had not exactly been falling over themselves to talk to him, any more than anyone else had.
And Luke looked doubtful. “Not to defend yourself?”
“I already know how to minimize damage, sir. I mean,” he swallowed down a surge of anger. “I was Shad and Meesh’s younger brother. Still am, I suppose. Who do you think they practiced on?”
Luke’s wings did something strange, where they stretched just a bit, twitching at the tips. “I suppose we didn’t think about that.” His admission was gruff. “You’re catching trouble, now that Rafe let you go?”
“Plenty of people seem to think that was a mistake. You know, as long as the poison was contained, it was tolerable, that sort of thing?”
That was a direct quote. He’d had to do some healing after that one.
“People want to punish someone for what your brothers did.”
“I noticed. The thing is, the person who should be punished is Meshach. I don’t want to be their whipping boy any longer. So I’d like to learn to fight back.”
Luke stared at him levelly. Abednego shifted his weight backwards but didn’t back down.
“People are going to get hurt if you do that.”
“Yeah. People who are trying to hurt me. People who think I’m my brothers. I’m. Not. Meshach.”
“Why him? Why not Shadrach?”
“Because Meesh is the monster. Sir.” How had they had the two of them for four years and not figured this out? “Shad does whatever Meesh tells him to do — or eggs him into — but Meesh is the monster. He probably had Liza under his thumb, too. Be fun to talk to her and find out.”
Fun wasn’t really the word that he meant. Fun didn’t come anywhere close to the word that he meant. But it was a word, at least.
And Luke was looking at him — really looking at him. Abednego dropped his Mask. That seemed to help.
“You want to learn to fight back,” he repeated.
“Because right now I’m getting my ass kicked at least three times a week, sir. And that sucks.” The word sir sounded wrong in his mouth. He used it anyway. “I’m getting the shit they were afraid to give my brothers, and to be honest, if I thought they’d track down Meesh and Shad after school and do the same to them, I wouldn’t mind so much. But we both know they won’t.”
“Will you?” Luke’s gaze was considerate.
“Of course I will. I just put up with over six months of minor hell because they put three people through a year — two years, in Joff’s case — of major hell. I’m getting my ass kicked every other day because they raped people who went on to rape other people. I have been living in their wake of shit since I was born. Yes. Of course I will.”
“And if I tell you that we punished them?” Luke’s voice was steady. Abednego’s was not any whit less so.
“Then I’ll tell you that you didn’t do enough, sir. It won’t get their attention. It won’t change anything. It might just make them angry. No matter what you did. I am still going to track them down, and I am going to hurt them.”
Luke’s wings stretched out to their full width and slowly folded back in. “We’ve done you a disservice.” His voice was quiet. “And for that I apologize. And I’ll teach you. But the kids here… I’m going to draw a limit on how much you can hurt them, fighting back. Don’t worry,” he added dryly. “It’ll be further than the damage they’ve done you. Are you going after Rafe?”
The question took Abednego by surprise.
“No… no. He was awful, but he was awful because… well. Like Eris. They can’t help themselves. Someone else ought to help them, but they can’t. I’ll leave them alone.”
“Then let’s start your lessons.”