Addergoole
Chapter 16: Shahin
Searching our hearts for so long...

Sunday, early afternoon, found Shahin sitting in the waiting room of Dr. Caitrin's office. She wasn't alone there; a half-dozen girls sat in the plush chairs; all but one still appeared human, but even the girl who had a sharp ridge of bone horns down the center of her skull also had a look of lost panic.

Aelgifu had come along for moral support; Yngvi had politely declined. Now the two girls waited for Shahin's turn in the line of embarrassed-looking slightly-hungover seeming girls.

"So?" Ayla demanded, in a giggling whisper.

"So what?" Shahin hedged.

"So, you like him?"

"I... I don't know," she admitted. Drumbeats pounding. Heartbeats thudding. His skin bare and hot against hers. "I..." she shooks her head. "I don't know."

This seemed to befuddle her friend. "You went back to his room with him, didn't you?"

"Yeah." She shook her head, and dropped her voice quieter. "I..." I see cold death when I touch people. But when I touched him, I saw fire and felt warmth. No. Not even Ayla would she trust with that sort of thing. Not again. She shrugged, trying to project nonchalance. "He called it destiny." She laughed shortly, remembering the rueful look on his face after their lovemaking. "He also called it a draw."

"A draw?" Ayla repeated incredulously. "Seriously?"

Shahin laughed despite herself. "I think getting him to admit he hadn't flat-out won was pretty amazing."

"Are you two dating, or playing chess?"

"Um... neither. I think." Emrys didn't really seem like the type to "date," nor did Addergoole, aside from the dances, seem like an environment conducive to the sort of "dating" she'd tried in high school.

"What, you're just..."

"Fucking." With no forethought and not a whole lot of afterthought, just... sensation. She would love to blame it on the drinks, but... it had been more than that. Even the brief, awkward kiss as she'd left his room this morning had sent warm tingles down her back and, from the look on his face as he pulled away, it had done something similar for him.

"Yeah." She met Ayla's blue eyes with a little bit of discomfort. "At the moment, I think that's pretty much what we're doing."

There was a moment, a bare heartbeat, of discomfort and loaded silence between them, as the defensive challenge in Shahin's words hung between them. Then Ayla, with perfect timing, chuckled.

"What, right now?" She mimed looking around the waiting room, peeking under Shahin's chair. "He can't be very good, if you can hold a conversation at the same time!"

Shahin stared at her for a moment, realizing her expression was dumbfounded and unable to muster the presence of mind to correct it. She didn't know where she'd gotten the impression that her new friend was a bit of a prude, but the notion had certainly stuck. She snerked softly. On top of the out-of-character joking, she was struck with the image of Emrys' face, should he ever hear his prowess being impugned like that. The snerk turned into a giggle, and the giggle into a chortle. Ayla, trying to keep a straight face, succumbed to the giggles as well, and the expression as she lost the somber look just got Shahin going even worse, and there they were, laughing uncontrollably, tears rolling down their faces, in the doctor's waiting room.

Shahin caught one of the other girls – a pretty, delicate blonde in perfectly stylish clothes – frowning displeasedly at her, and it only made her laugh harder, this time in relief. Finally! Someone who thought she was a freak!

"Oh, dark goddess," she gasped, trying to catch her breath. "Oh, that was priceless!"

"It was pretty good, wasn't it?" she giggled. "And the look on your face - I have never seen you at a loss like that!" She sounded a little proud of herself, and Shahin couldn't fault her for it.

"Only for you," she said, still chuckling. Before it could get awkward, she turned a wicked smile on her friend. "So... what about your night?"

Ayla was better-shuttered than most people, Shahin had to admit, but she could still see the flicker of hesitation in her friend's eyes, and heard the slight nervousness to her tone.

"Last night?" She shook her head. "You're the one with the star-crossed romance, Sheen."

She really, really hoped she was imagining the note of bitterness in Ayla's voice. She ignored it, real or no, and pressed on, not allowing her smile to falter. "Bah. I had some energetic fucking." She savored the word, and the way it elicited a flinch from the girl still staring across the room at her. "You -" and she dropped her voice, out of both a sense of the dramatic and a sense of consideration for her friend's shyness "- were not coming from your room when we met on the way to brunch. And you hadn't changed clothes."

"Caught," she allowed, with a rueful smile. "I should have known you'd notice the clothes."

She'd also noticed the curve of Ayla's pert breasts under the white shirt, where the night before they had been bandaged flat under the shirt, but she let that lie for the moment.

"So..." She hung the question mark in the air, every bit as curious as she was acting. As reticent as Ayla was, she hadn't expected her to indulge in hook-ups. And her refusal to share made it all the more tantalizing.

"So?" she smiled playfully, before holding up both hands in surrender. "Okay, okay. Yeah." One side of her mouth twisted in a small smile. "I... well... it wasn't ‘fucking.'" She said, her eyes sliding off to Shahin's right. "but I went home with someone last night."

"And?" She recognized the look of secrets untold in the set of her friend's lips – it was a look she was intimately familiar with, after all - but it only made her push all the harder.

"C'mon, Ayla, you can trust me. Who was it. What's he like?" A shoulder shrug – just one shoulder trying to pull her forward into her accustomed hunch - at the word "he." Interesting. She circled around to try another tack. "Chess or dating?"

That, at least, got a playful smile in response.

"Poker," Ayla said, adding, smirking, "strip poker."

"Ooh," Shahin grinned playfully. "Who won?"

"She did," Ayla answered, trying hard for casual. It was a revelation; she was trusting Shahin with is, and she wanted a reaction, and honest and positive reaction. Shahin gave it to her.

She raised one eyebrow, just enough: oh, really? and asked, in the same gossipy tone, "She did, hunh?" She leaned so very lightly on the she. "I see we're going to have to teach you to cheat at cards." She grinned widely : see? We're all okay here, and pressed on, her voice in a conspiratorial whisper. "Dish, woman! Who?"

Aelgifu blushed, smiling coyly. "Ioanna. She's Third Cohort and... I don't know," she shrugged. "She's nice." Dropping her voice a little, she added, "she's got this tattoo..."

"Shahin?" the nurse's voice cut across the conversation like a laser. "Dr. Caitrin will see you now."

Oh, yeah. She wasn't just here to gossip, was she? With a brief, reassuring pat on the shoulder from Aelgifu, she followed the nurse into the examining room.

Dr. Caitrin was far more understanding and tolerant than the last doctor Shahin had visited in such a situation.

"It's far too soon to tell if you've caught," she said, "but, since your last date of menstruation was so recent, I find it highly unlikely." She counted green pills carefully into a small bottle, and handed the bottle to Shahin. "Take four of these today, just to be certain, and then one each day. Come see me again when your next period is over."

Shahin took the pills and dropped them in her satchel, a little taken aback by the woman's matter-of-factness. "What about...?"

"I test each student very thoroughly for disease at the beginning of the year. And the staff," she added with a wink. "So, as long as you make sure to take your pills, you shouldn't have any problems."

Left feeling a little adrift, having been braced for patronizing moralizing, Shahin just nodded, thanked the doctor for the pills, and left.

In the hall, Aelgifu picked up as if they'd never been talking about Ioanna and her tattoo. "So, a draw?"

"That's what he said." She smiled softly at the memory of his naked expression as they lay in bed together. "Coming from him, I take that as a pretty big concession."

"So, what?" The idea clearly didn't set well with her. "This whole thing is some sort of game for the two of you? Are you keeping score?"

"Yeah, I get to carve a notch in his ass for every time I win," she grinned.

"What if he wins?"

"He won't." He might, really. They were rather closely matched. She shook her head. "No scoring system - I don't think it's that kind of contest. It's more like... a clash of wills." A game of romantic chicken. Sexual Russian Roulette. A tournament with live steel. "A combat, maybe. Some grand, continent-spanning war."

"Well," a wide, silly smile was growing on Ayla's face, "you know what they say."

"What's that?"

"'Love is a battlefield'."

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