Friday, March 23, 2001
Leo was back.
No. No, someone in Leo’s body was back.
Someone with Leo’s hair and Leo’s sparks and Leo’s little spikes of antlers was in the suite. He Belonged to Aviv, now, because — as Cya understood it, as Zita had explained — Sheba had passed him on to Lydia, because Sheba had never intended to Keep him, just to get him away from Eriko.
Lydia’s boyfriend had been Kept with Aviv, which was generally understood to be something like a bond. And from what she’d heard — it was amazing what people would say around you if you closed down enough that they forgot you were a person — about why Lydia… why she gave him to Aviv, Cya got the feeling that Leo had no intention of ever being a good Kept again. Except, looking at him, she wasn’t always sure that he had any volition left for intention.
But Leo — the body that had housed her friend, at least — was back in the suite, and as an added side-effect, Eriko was spending less and less time in the common space of the suite.
Cya sat down on the couch near Leo. Aviv was on the other side of him, reading a book. Dysmas was in his room, working on homework. He didn’t want to be disturbed.
Cya, she realized, had no interest in disturbing him. And the door was closed, and Aviv was pointedly ignoring him.
She unfolded herself carefully, finding the parts that made her her. “I’ve been thinking about this summer,” she offered Leo. That was Cya, always planning ahead.
“Yeah?” He focused on her. As long as she kept the conversation fairly light, she didn’t have to see the places Eriko had broken.
“Oh, just wondering where my father will be this year. We were in Hawaii for a while. I liked that.” She’d loved Hawaii, even if she hadn’t particularly liked the school she’d been in or the people in that school. The weird new kid in the school, as always, she never expected to get along with her fellow students. Addergoole was the first place that was different, and, since it seemed she was stuck here for four years, she might actually hold on to some friends. “But that was months ago.” She gestured vaguely in the direction of Hawaii. “He’s probably somewhere else by now.” He hadn’t fought. He’d run, sure, but when Luke had come to take her to this place, he hadn’t fought at all.
He made a promise, Professor Drake had reminded her. They all did.
Well then, she’d countered, it was a stupid promise, And he should have fought anyway.
They’d gotten in a long discussion then, about the consequences of breaking promises and the ways that the universe forced things on you. Cya had almost promised never to make promises. Professor Drake had raised his eyebrows at her.
You are a student, and as such, the consequences of that would be gone when you reached adulthood. You are ‘Kept’ – she’d practically been able to hear the quote marks – and as such cannot make promises even here. But tell me, no. Write for me an essay and bring it back next week, on the consequences of promising to never make another promise. And while you’re at it, come up with a quest to rid oneself of a promise to give one’s children to a school.
That had been some interesting homework. Now, however, she wrinkled her nose at her absent father. “The bonus is,” she said as cheerfully as she could, “I get to see a lot of places. Someplace new every time, and if I don’t like it, it never lasts too long.” Unlike this place.
Leo was going to say something. She would never know what, because Dysmas called her. “Cynara.”
She closed her eyes for a moment. Just for a second. She’d forgotten. She’d let herself forget that she had to be on guard. She was still living with Dysmas. She still Belonged to Dysmas. “Yes?” Her voice was bright and chipper and a little vapid. She didn’t look to see what it was making Leo think of her. She couldn’t afford that right now.
“Go to the store, get some beer for dinner and something nice for yourself. And while you’re there, pick up another one of those lace bras. We ruined the last one.”
We could just Jasfe it, you know. “Of course. I won’t be long.” She gave Leo a brief smile, as real as she could manage, and hurried out.
The nice thing about go to the Store sorts of orders was that they didn’t really have any urgency to them. Dinner was hours away and already nicely cooking in the oven, since she’d gotten pretty good at casseroles. So she had to pretty much go to the Store, but she didn’t have to rush, and get something nice for yourself, while the sort of order she wasn’t thrilled with – it was her Store account, after all, could take as long as she wanted.
Within limits. She could never forget within limits. That was one of Professor Drake’s favorite phrases, and she knew the way he looked at her when he said it was purposeful.
Within limits. Everything here was within very tight limits.
As long as her limits were smaller than Dysmas’, she didn’t have to feel his walls.
She stood a little straighter as she hit the basement level and murmured a series of Workings she’d been practicing.
They were going to be superheroes, Howard and Zita and Leo – and her.
She had grown up thinking she was going to be a cat burglar, if she was being honest. That’s what her father did, sometimes. She already knew how to dodge the police, and now she could Find anything she wanted.
But they were going to be superheroes. And she couldn’t be a superhero if she was a thief, so she was going to have to be the rogue in the D&D party.
She lifted herself up onto her toes and Knew the floor and the walls, searching for traps. She’d asked, earlier in the year, watching Dysmas and his friends play D&D:
“So, what kind of Working would Detect Traps be? Sense Motive is easy, that’s just a – emotions Working or, I suppose, an Intinn Working if you’re clever. Magic Missile is forces. But Detect Traps?”
She hadn’t known, then, that having ideas he hadn’t had was one of the forbidden things. She hadn’t understood that she had to stick to things he wanted her to think.
“It’s just a game,” he’d explained patiently. “It doesn’t work by the real-world rules. They aren’t Workings.”
If there was a crack in the floor, a trapdoor, she’d Know it before their fighters fell down into it. If there was a person around the corner, she’d Know that, too.
She could Find them any way in to anywhere they needed to be. She could find them anyone they needed to rescue.
If they still wanted her when they got out of here.
If Leo remembered any of this when they got out of here.
If, if. She Found the weakest spot in the ceiling and wondered how much effort it would take to bring it tumbling down between them. Stone and limestone and water, that was easy.
If someone was attacking their fighters, she could —
She could stop their minds, easily. She could destroy their minds, if she was particularly careful about it, and precise.
She was pretty sure that superheroes didn’t do things like that.
She stopped in her tracks. (There were no traps down here. She wouldn’t have been surprised if there were.) Am I really taking ideas on how to act from the cartoons?
No. No, she was taking her ideas on how to act from what would her friends approve of? That was normal, right? People who had friends did that, right?
She supposed if she did it and liked it, it was going to be normal for her.