Chapter 34: Arnbjörg

Tuesday, December 19, 2000

Doug had been not nearly as impressed with Arnbjörg’s new power as she’d hoped he would be, but he’d said “Interesting.  Work on that,” which she took to mean that it was at least an acceptable power — if not as cool as some of the others she’d seen — and as tacit permission to tell everyone and everything no.

She tried telling a door no when it was trying to close in her face, but it only hesitated for a moment before swinging shut.  She had told Rand no, which was very pleasing, if only to watch the look on his face.

She hadn’t quite been brave enough to try telling Luke no, but when it came to Calc class, she was more than willing to look Professor Solomon in the eye and say “No, sir.”

The look of surprise on the professor’s face was wonderful.  The way he coughed and took a step backwards.  “Well, isn’t that interesting.  Arnbjörg, please stay after class, and -”

“No, sir,” Arnbjörg repeated.

“Aah, ahem.  Well, then.  If we could take open to page seventy-two-”

“No, sir.”  This was surprisingly fun!

“Would you just shut up?”

She was not expecting that from Leofric, of all people, but all of a sudden he was glaring at her from across the classroom.

Arnbjörg smiled widely. “No.  No, I’m not going to.  I don’t have to, for once, and I don’t see why I should.”

It looked for a moment like he was going to back down and apologize, when something in his expression hardened. That was the only warning she had before he lunged, a fist aiming for her face.

Only quick reflexes kept her from taking it directly, but his knuckles grazed her cheek as she ducked to the side and flung an arm out to catch him. And it worked — except before she could do anything with him, he’d grabbed the arm and twisted it, making her stumble forward into her desk.
Leofric was cy’Luca; they did combat, too. This wasn’t going to be like fighting John Thomas from her old school.

Arnbjörg broke loose and dodged backwards, shoving a desk at him to slow him down and give her a moment. It barely slowed him at all. She had just enough time to ready herself before he vaulted over the desk, spinning himself into a kick aimed for her head.

This time, she blocked it, then turned the block into a grab to pull him off balance and send him crashing back into the desks.

He was back on his feet almost impossibly fast, but she was ready for him this time and swung a punch at him, feeling it land with a solid thunk. Leofric staggered back, snarled, and darted forward under her second punch to elbow her in the gut.

The air rushed out of her lungs and she stumbled back again, trying not to double over. What the fuck was his problem, anyway? It’s not like anyone liked Calculus.

Arnbjörg swung at him again, dodged a kick, kicked him, and heard Luke shout – but Leofric was trying to hit her again. She blocked, then aimed a punch at his nose, when someone grabbed her and yanked her backwards.

Doug had both her arms, and he had a surprisingly good grip.  A few feet away – out of kicking range – Luke was holding Leofric much the same.  “N-” she began.

“Shut up,” Doug cut her off.  “Not the time.”

She fell silent, trying not to sulk too badly.  He’d told her to practice.  And it wasn’t like—

“Come on.  Sorry for the interruption, Professor.”  Doug glared down over Arnbjörg’s shoulder, never mind that he was shorter than her.  “You walk or I carry you.”

“I’ll walk, I’ll walk.”  She stood up straight as he released her, keeping a good distance between her and Leofric. “Geeze, it was just a fist-fight.”

“Not now,” Doug warned her again.  This time, she fell silent and let Doug escort her to his office. Since that was right next to Luke’s office, that lead to an uncomfortable walk while she and Leofric were guided to their Mentor’s spaces.  

She’d never actually seen the inside of Doug’s office, since their cy’ree meetings took place in the smaller training room.  From the looks of things, he barely saw it, either — there was a shelf with some photos she couldn’t quite see from her angle, a desk with a planner from two years ago, and a mug that declared World’s Best Dad in childish handwriting.

“Sit.”

She sat. The chair creaked under her.

He sat down behind the desk and glared at her.  Arnbjörg squirmed. “I-”

“Not yet.”

She fell silent.  What was she supposed to do?  Sit here and squirm?  It wasn’t like she’d done anything wrong!

Well, she had been goading Leofric on a little bit.  And she supposed she had being a brat to Professor Solomon.

It was just so nice to be able to tell someone no and have them listen!

…Like being Kept and then Keeping someone might feel like, she thought.  Maybe?  All of that “no don’t do this” sort of thing and suddenly you go from having to listen to everyone to everyone listening to you!

She might like that.  She might like everyone listening, for once.

She’d certainly liked Sheba having to shut up.

The look on her face.  It’d been like…

…Like when Jaya had told Arnbjörg to be quiet, and she couldn’t say a thing.

That had felt pretty horrible.

But… what was the use in having a power if – 

-could she spar with it?  She sat up straighter.  If she could use it in combat, that wasn’t like telling someone to shut up.

That was just fighting things.

Doug studied her.

“Feels shitty?” he asked.  Guessed, it sounded like.

In turn, Arnbjörg guessed what he’d meant.  “Being told to shut up?  Yeah.  Like nobody’s listening.”

He nodded. “Feels pretty good?”

This was like having a logic puzzle for a Mentor.  “Telling other people to shut up?  Like the first time I swung a punch and it landed.  Awesome.”

“But you’re not a bully.”  He made it a question – maybe a request.

Arnbjörg took a couple shaky breaths.  “I’m not a bully.”  She had never wanted to be a bully – never except that one time when Jack Bonacci was being ridiculous back in seventh grade and she thought, maybe, it might be nice to be on top for once.  “I’m not a bully,” she repeated.  “I’m not going to be a bully.”

Doug nodded.  “Good.  Good; I’m glad.”  He leaned back and looked at her.  “Three evenings helping me and Luke with clean-up.  Don’t start fights in class.  And we’ll work on using that thing in sparring – not in math class.”

She hung her head. “Yes, sir.”  It had felt really good, sparring against Leofric. “Maybe we can spar with cy’Luca?”

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