Wednesday, February 14, 2001
“Why is he fighting?”
“Heck if I know!”
“Leo, Leo, it’s okay.”
That voice, it was… “Zita?” Leofric blinked and looked around. Zita was standing in front of him, and he was in… a suite. A suite he didn’t recognize. “Where are we?”
“We’re in Sheba’s suite. Howard’s here, too. We rescued you.”
Rescued? Him? But he didn’t need… “What about Cya?”
“Cya?” That wasn’t Zita, asking.
Leofric didn’t realize someone was holding his arms until they let go, and he slowly straightened up. “Cya. Red-haired girl, Dysmas has her, she’s–” You don’t have a crew, whispered a snide voice in his head.
“She’s part of the crew,” Howard finished for him. “She’ll be all right, Leo.”
No. “No, you don’t understand, she’s not okay.” He started for the door. “I have to go get her, I can’t leave her in there by herself.”
“Leo, there’s nothing you can do right now, you–”
. . .
. . . .
. . .
“I just told him to stop. That bitch must’ve–“
“Zita?” Leofric blinked and looked around. Zita was standing nearby, and he was in… he didn’t recognize the suite, but it felt somehow familiar. “Where are we?”
“We’re in Sheba’s suite,” Zita said calmly. “Howard’s here, too.”
“What’s going on?” someone whispered.
“Why am I…” Leofric was being restrained, by someone. Howard? “What am I doing here? I’m not allowed to… to….” Wait. The orders. They were gone.
“Sheba’s Keeping you now. You’ll be okay.” Zita smiled toothily, her teeth a jagged zigzag of fangs.
You’ll be okay. Of course he’d be okay, he wasn’t worried about himself, he was worried about Er… Eri… no. No, that’s not right, he was worried about– “Cya! We have to go get Cya.” Zita and the catgirl – Sheba? – gave each other a look. “The red-head, Dysmas has her, we have to get her out too.”
“Leo,” that was the catgirl, “Cya’s going to be fine. You’re going to stay here.”
The words pressed at him, like Er– Hers. His Keeper. You’re a bad Kept.
He snarled wordlessly and lunged.
. . .
. . . .
. . .
“Shit, he’s like an wild animal.”
“Hold him down, hold him!”
“Leo, can you hear me?”
Zita’s voice broke into Leofric’s consciousness. Someone was pinning him to the ground, his arms twisted painfully behind him, and he was… He knew this suite. But it wasn’t his suite? “Zita?”
“We’re in Sheba’s suite,” she told him, calmly. The kind of calm that made the back of his neck prickle, that said someone is going to get hurt.
“Again?! Doesn’t he know–”
“Hsst.” Zita waved at someone he couldn’t see to be quiet. “Sheba, can we borrow your room?”
“Yeah, go ahead.” The catgirl was watching him like she might pounce, and there was the weight of an order pressing at him, don’t attack me.
“Come on, Leo, we need to talk.” The tiny Italian goblin-girl took his hand as it was released – Howard? It was Howard pinning him? – and led him to a bedroom.
Thursday, February 15, 2001
Leofric was sitting in the corner of the room, because that’s where he was supposed to sit. He had his homework on his lap, because he was supposed to do his homework. He was being quiet, because he was supposed to be quiet.
They were all vague impulses, supposed to, weak enough that he could ignore them, strong enough that if he wasn’t thinking, it just… happened. Like a habit. He didn’t know why he had a habit of sitting in the corner to do his homework, but he did, and he was trying to do his calculus homework, he really was, he liked math. He thought he liked math. He had a feeling he liked math, even if he wasn’t always sure what liking it meant.
But doing his homework meant thinking about class. Thinking about class meant thinking about sitting next to Cya. Thinking about Cya meant thinking about…
. . . . .
…what was he thinking about?
Zita patted his hand and he realized he was growling. Like an animal. But he was a deer, wasn’t he, and deer don’t growl. Electric-type deer, like Pikachu being an electric-type mouse. He even had the hair color for it. Maybe deer Pokemon growl? Leofric tried to remember if there were any deer Pokemon, settling on “no” before he turned back to his homework. He’d just started the third problem, and the next step–
Leofric blinked at his notebook. The answer was already written out, in his handwriting, but he was sure… He couldn’t remember actually doing it. He felt like that was supposed to bother him.
“Did you have someone in mind?” Zita asked, distracting him from the dilemma (if realizing your homework was half done already counts as a dilemma). She wasn’t talking to him, he realized after a moment; her hand was still on his, but she wasn’t looking at him.
“I’ve got a few,” Sheba answered. His Keeper. He kept expecting her to sound different, somehow. “The easiest of the lot would probably be Lydia… She seemed interested at the beginning of the year.”
The name sounded familiar, a vague impression of a person drifting into his mind. A dark-haired girl, pale, dressed in black, a sense of disappointment.
“Lydia’s nice.” His comment surprised him as much as it surprised Sheba. He couldn’t remember talking to the girl at all.
“Lydia it is, then.”
Zita pounced on him in a tight hug. “You can still visit, whenever you want.”
Visit? Leofric looked at Zita, then at Sheba. “What?”
“I’m going to see if Lydia will take you.”
He stared blankly at her.
“She’s finding you a new Keeper,” Zita told him.
A new Keeper who wasn’t Sheba. Who wasn’t in Sheba’s crew.
Who would take him away from Zita and Howard.
“No? Well, not Lydia, then.” Sheba’s ears tilted in thought.
“No.” Leofric noticed, at the edge of his awareness and through a sudden, throat-tightening nausea, the flurry of sparks around the room. “No, you can’t. I can’t, I won’t leave, we haven’t even gotten Cya out yet, you can’t–”
. . .
. . . .
. . .
Leofric was sitting in the corner of the room, because that’s where bad Kept sit and he was a bad Kept. He would always be a bad Kept, in the corner, just like the sun always rose in the east. (He was less sure about the sun, these days. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d seen the sun.) He was dimly aware of the books next to him. His notebook. He’d been doing homework? No, he was being a bad Kept, he was refusing to do his homework. Only good Kept do things they’re supposed to.
“Leo, look at me.” Zita’s voice slipped in through his thoughts, and he lifted his head. She was sitting in front of him, looking all business, like they were talking about something Important, something impersonal. “We’re going to go visit someone.”
“…okay.” If Zita wanted to do it, he would do it. “Who?”
“Lydia. Do you know Lydia?”
Leofric had a vague impression of a person, a shy dark-haired girl dressed all in goth-black. “Yeah…?”
“Good. I think you’ll like her.” She smiled, all sharp teeth, and he found himself smiling back. “Let’s go, okay? Sheba’s going to come with me.”
Sheba was his… their… Zita’s Keeper. More importantly, Zita liked Sheba. So he nodded, yes, Sheba could come, and he let Zita take his hand and lead him out of the suite.
The halls stretched out in front of him, not far enough, and he wanted to run, start running and just keep going, but as the impulse came it ran into an Order (don’t run off without me) and he stopped.
A light tug on his hand reminded him to think again, to keep walking, to follow Zita down the hall.