Wednesday, February 14, 2001
Cynara sat in the living room of Dysmas’ crew’s suite. It was Valentine’s day; Dysmas had given her two wrist cuffs that matched the collar around her neck, delicate and silver. She’d smiled and thanked him sweetly and considered exactly how useful they would be if transmuted into a knife.
At least they hadn’t been hawthorn. She was pretty sure he couldn’t buy those in the store, and so far, all of her attempts to work with the wood in question had been lop-sided and awful. Rowan and hawthorn took time and more energy to Work, Professor Valerian had told her, and then, with arched eyebrows, asked why she needed them.
Cynara had answered her with complete honesty: “I don’t know why I need them right now, but I’m sure at some point I will. Poison wood is really useful, isn’t it, when you’re considering people who are essentially superhuman?”
Hawthorn berries in a pie would be quite nice. She’d have to be careful that she didn’t poison Leo, though.
Leo. She glanced up at him, letting her gaze travel over the whole room so it wasn’t obvious that she was looking at him. He was sitting in the corner of the room with his textbooks.
He caught her looking and flashed her something that really ought to have been a smile, but was a little too sickly and a little too forced. Nobody was watching her, so she smiled back at him, then let her gaze continue to sweep the room and let the smile fade from her lips.
The warmth lingered, though, along with a renewed murderous urge towards Eriko. What would happen to her? That – that thing that had possessed Leo had talked about murdering a Keeper but not about who, or why, or what had happened to them. It would probably be worth it. Cya looked down at her wrist-cuffs and considered Shape and Metal, Earth, and how you could probably hide an edge on one of the cuffs if you didn’t mind risking getting cut.
She was getting used to pain and bleeding. Some part of her thought that maybe she ought to be worried that those things were beginning to feel normal, but there were so much bigger things to worry about. Dysmas… was unpleasant, in a sort of distant manner, a manner she could smile and not think about. Eriko, Eris, other Keepers, those people were flat-out bad.
And nobody at the school seemed to notice or do anything. It would make her angry, if she was allowing herself to feel that sort of thing. It would make her furious.
She didn’t have room for fury right now. She glanced around the room again and let her gaze linger on Leo for a minute. There was something about that little almost-smile that made her want to run over there and hug him, brush his hair away from his forehead, and kiss him.
She definitely didn’t have room for that. She stood up and walked to the kitchen. The kitchen was usually safe. She could do pretty much anything there, as long as it looked like she was busy and the end result was dinner for four.
To be honest, she could probably just make dinner for Eriko and Aviv and nobody would mind at all, until she fell over in the halls from blood loss. Eriko certainly didn’t give a shit about her Kept’s-
A knock at the door stopped her from going into yet another helpless mental rant. “Well?” Eriko snapped. “Someone get the door.”
Someone was usually Leo, but today he wasn’t moving. What…? Oh. After that order, that stupid, ridiculous, rip-Eriko’s-face-off order, he’d stopped – well, doing everything. Anything. Cya swallowed a sigh – it wasn’t his fault, after all, and got the door.
She opened the door to find herself face-to-face with Sheba. Well, the cat-girl was in Dysmas’ cy’ree, wasn’t she? She’d heard for older students that meant something. Students who were allowed to be people. She bowed just a little, a polite smile on her face, the sort of expression a butler might wear. “Are you here to see Dysmas…?”
“Eriko, actually. I have some business to discuss with her.”
Business? That couldn’t be good. Also, it meant Cya actually had to talk to Eriko, since the older students all pretended they couldn’t hear when anyone was at the door. She turned halfway. “Eriko? Sheba is at the door for you.”
“Well, let her in, then. Sheba, come on in, don’t mind the Kept. Both of you, get out of the living room.”
Going back to the kitchen seemed like a good bet. Cya headed back there, a little surprised to find Leo following her. What was he– well, he hadn’t been told to go to his room, her room, and anyway, why would he?
Cya waited until Eriko’s attention was on Sheba, and then she sat down on the floor on the soft rug in front of the stove. She pointed an ear in the direction of the conversation.
It would be useful to have an eavesdropping Working, something she could whisper, but what could she use? She didn’t have any useful Words for it, although there was something about that… Later. She had the conversation to worry about now.
“You said you had business with me? What did Leofric do this time?”
Leo sat down next to Cya. She took his hand – there was nobody to tell her not to, and she didn’t actually have orders about that.
“Oh, no, he hasn’t done anything to me, at least yet, although frankly, considering I’m Keeping Zita, I’m a little surprised. He cares for her, you know.”
“He’s a good Kept. He cares about me. He doesn’t need to care about anyone else.”
Cya struggled to keep her disbelief and nausea off of her face. That hadn’t been what the bitch had been saying yesterday.
“Ah? Well, I hear he’s been causing you some trouble lately.”
“Oh, he’s doing much better now. He just needed to be reminded what his place is, you know how that is.”
“Oh, my Kept usually know exactly where their place is.” Something about the way Sheba said it had knives and prickly edges all over it. “Speaking of, I was wondering if you’d sell him to me.”
Cya tensed. Her head was pounding; that had to be the effort of holding in the screams, the way her jaw was clenched until it felt like she was biting through her jaw. Yes. No, no, please don’t take him away, yes, get him away from her, please? She glanced over at Leo.
He was listening intently with an expression of confused disbelief – until he noticed her looking, and then he gave her a small smile. A real, everything-is-okay smile, not the pitiful attempts he’d been doing for weeks.
Cya held his hand a little tighter. Was he following the conversation? It was hard to tell, these days, if he was processing anything that he heard.
“Sell him?” Eriko’s voice dripped with disdain. “What on earth do you think you have that I could be interested in?”
“I hear he cut up all your clothes. He skips class, he gets into fights. Selling him to me lets you get rid of him before he gets you into even more trouble.”
Cya bit down on her wrist to keep from snarling. She was surprised to feel a hand on hers, tugging her arm away from her mouth.
She let him move her hand, although she found herself staring at him. They were talking about selling him. Like he was a thing. Like he was chattel. And he was still trying to comfort her.
She swallowed a lump in her throat and managed a smile for him. Being away from Eriko, that would be better for him, right?
She’d missed some of the conversation. Her back was stabbing her – from bending over? And her heart was pounding.
What was she going to do without him?
How was she going to keep an eye on him if he wasn’t here? Zita and Howard could, right? They could take care of him?
“Leofric, come out here.”
His hand slipped away from hers and Cya passed out.