Chapter 21: Jamian
I'm on the hunt, I'm after you...

The hallway outside Jamian's door Saturday morning was dark and empty. He had grown so used to meeting Ty halfway between their rooms, however, that he didn’t pause before heading out towards their meeting place. It wasn’t all that dark, anyway; the emergency lighting made everything clear enough, and the halls were wide and clear.

At the corner just about halfway between their rooms, Ty was leaning against a wall, chatting softly with a couple people. Silhouetted against the dim light, they were still very clearly Shiva, Nikita, and the Trenchcoat. Jamian swallowed a lump of stupid jealousy – they’d have met them at breakfast, anyway – and closed in.

“No ‘Vette?” Ty was asking. For a ludicrous moment, Jamian pictured someone speeding a Corvette down these carpeted halls. The main passages were wide enough, but there wasn’t much length in which to get up to speed.

Shiva shook her head no, those cat ears turning like antennae, but it was Nikita who answered, “Nah, she’s off playing house.” Jamian wondered if sounded that resentful any time a girl paid attention to someone else, or if it was limited to girls immediately surrounding him. He was pretty certain he’d been the target of that snide tone of voice when his back was turned.

Because he thinks I’m sleeping with Ty. Somehow, the thought didn’t bother him as much as it should. Maybe because, even standing next to him, he had trouble thinking of Ty as a boy anymore.

Or maybe it was knowing that Nick had slept with Ty, although, knowing that and looking at him, and at Shiva, sent weird rumbles through Jamian’s stomach. He didn’t really want to think about Ty naked yet. He didn’t even want to think of himself naked! But he didn’t really like knowing that these other people had been with his…

…with his what? And every time he got to that point, his brain froze up, clenched into paroxysms of confusion and something that left a taste a lot like inexplicable guilt in the back of his mouth. This was not, could not be, a relationship.

Yeah, right. It was thoughts like this that kept him up nights after Ty had returned to his own room. Her own room. The room that was not with Jamian.

Ty draped an arm around his shoulder, and, just like every morning, those thoughts dissolved into a stupid, warm, fuzzy feeling. “Ready to have some fun, Jame?”

He swallowed the indignant comment that popped up from sheer force of habit. Easy, there. Any sexual innuendo was, this time, in his own head, not Ty’s. Probably.

“Sure,” he said, hoping he sounded game and not just stupid and awkward. “What are we doing?”

“Well,” said Shiva, talking over any answer Ty might have provided, “today is Hell Night. And that means we get to play!” She sounded both eager and fierce, a kitten with her first kill; Jamian didn’t know whether she was scary, erotic, or some combination of both.

Both, he decided, catching a glimpse of her fierce smile in the dim light. “Play?” he asked, trying to sound casual and cool about the whole thing. “Hell Night” did not sound like a romp in the park.

“Hunt?” she shrugged, smiling. “But not really. Some of the older kids get really into this, and get a little mean. A lot mean. We’re just gonna have some fun.”

He glanced over at Ty, curious. Ty, as a second Cohort, certainly counted as an “older kid,” didn’t he? But Ty was stripping off his T-shirt, leaving him in a tight wife-beater tank top, his tiny breasts pressed against the cloth, her nipples hard and faintly pink under the thin white fabric.

She dropped the T-shirt casually on the ground, and his eyes followed it. She was wearing shorts today, he realized, and, beneath their rather minimal coverage, her legs were muscular and smooth, and her feet…

…and her feet were hooves, or, at least, where her toes would be were instead three-toed hooves, black and shiny.

“It was probably better when you were looking at my breasts,” she said softly, and Jamian blushed, embarrassed to have been caught staring, embarrassed to be called out for noticing her breasts. He dragged his eyes upward from the – really kind of cute – hooves, past those tantalizing nipples, to her face.

Her nervous-looking face. And, behind her, Shiva’s tail thrashing warningly. Oh, god, she was worried that he didn’t like it what he saw. She had that vulnerable look on her face, the one that made him want to take him in his arms and hold her, and just tell her it was going to be all right.

And what if he did? Her friends weren’t going to mind. At least two of the people standing here dated Ty. Had seen her naked. He didn’t want to think about Trenchcoat, who seemed so much more male than whiny, sulky Nikita, and wonder if he, too, had seen Tya naked.

He wanted to think about the look on Ty’s face, and how to make it go away. So he took her in his arms, pulling her close to him, trying to ignore the feel of her nipples brushing against his chest, against his own too-sensitive nipples. More than a little awkwardly, he ran his hand through her hair, and touched his lips to her forehead, breathing in the scent of her.

The feel of her against him, the feel of anybody that close to him, was still awkward and rare for him. Holding her in front of other people, in front of the clearly-judging-him Shiva and her obstinate difficult pet of a boyfriend, would have been, if it had been anyone but Ty, a physical impossibility for Jamian. He just didn’t do public displays of any sort. Certainly not with his hermaphrodite boyfriend.

Then again, he’d never had anyone to do any sort of public display with, boyfriend, girlfriend, hermaphrodite, or not. He’d never dared let anyone get that close to him.

He pulled her a little tighter, kissing her forehead again, brushing his hand across her back, feeling her watch through the shirt, and her spine, every vertebra. Stop thinking about yourself, you moron. “They’re adorable,” he told her softly.

She looked up at him – somehow up, though he’d thought Ty was taller than him, and grinned. “the hooves or the nipples?”

He blushed down at her. “The hooves are cute,” he said, gulping softly. “The breasts are beautiful.”

“Dude. Get a room,” Nick drawled, feigning disgust. For once, Jamian found himself completely unfazed.

“Later,” he told Nick, not turning from Ty. “Don’t we have some playing to do or something?”

“Yeah, Daeva-boy,” Shiva teased. “C’mon, Tia-mia. Are you ready?”

“Born ready,” Ty grinned, extricating himself from Jamian’s arms gently. He glanced back at Jamian with a warm look that sent shivers up and down his spine. “Later,” he repeated softly.

Later. Shit, he had just said that, hadn’t he? Well, time enough to worry about that later. Now, Shiva and Ty were talking, and he’d missed part of it again. “So, what are we doing?”

“Acting scary,” Trenchcoat grinned. When he smiled, Jamian reflected, he really didn’t have to act to be scary. Still…


“To make them run.”

“Them?” He thought he knew the answer, but he wanted to hear him say it. He wanted to hear someone admit it.

That didn’t seem to be a problem for Trenchcoat. His grin only widened. “The new blood. The Fifth Cohort. Got a problem with that?”

“Maybe.” The answer was out before he realized he’d said it, his shoulders set in a combative stance. Shit. Well, there was nowhere to go but forward now. “You think you’re scary enough to make them run?”

There’s been some nice faces in the Fifth Cohort. No-one he knew well - there was never anyone he knew well, anywhere – but people who had been friendly, easy-going. He wasn’t sure he wanted to “make them run.” He was pretty sure he didn’t want to get along with Trenchcoat, any more than he did with Nikita. And the guy’s next words, thick with arrogance, did nothing to discourage that certainty.

“I’m pretty sure I could make you run. I’m not sure about your friends.”

“Make me run? You couldn’t even make me move.” It was stupid, but his dander was up and he didn’t want this punk calling him a weakling in front of Tya, in front of Shiva and grinning Nikita.

“Wanna bet?” and Trenchcoat was enjoying this, smirking, full of himself.

Jamian opened his mouth to answer, and was cut off by Shiva, her voice sharp.

“Phel!” Trenchcoat turned to frown at Shiva, suddenly looking abashed, and sounding silly, as he told her, full of mock-two-year-old petulance,

“He started it!”

“Mm-hrmm.” She draped an arm around Trenchcoat’s – Phel’s – shoulder and smiled at Jamian. “There’s a number of things going on here. The most primary is eliciting fear.”

“Why?” He didn’t want to sound petulant, but he was getting angry.

“Again, a number of reasons, ‘because it’s fun’ being up near the top.” She grinned wryly. “And because every one of us from Second Cohort on down went through it as well. So, come on, run with us. It’s a lot more fun than running from us.”

“Shiva,” Ty said, his voice a much more mild version of her warning to Phel, and seeming to have no effect at all on the girl; she shrugged unrepentantly.

“It’s true.”

“It is,” Ty agreed. He draped his arm over Jamian’s shoulders in a mirror of Shiva’s gesture, tugging him close. “Come on, Jamian, it will be fun. And the way we do it, no-one gets hurt.”

He glanced over at Ty's face, so cheerful and laid-back. He couldn't really tell him no, so he shrugged. "Sure, I guess."

"Great!" Ty hugged him briefly, and then released him, as Shiva shrugged out of her backpack and handed it to Nick.

She looked over Jamian thoughtfully, a very thorough look-over, and he squirmed uncomfortably. "I don't suppose you'd be willing to strip down a little?" she asked offhandedly.

“What?” he gaped at her. “No!” He felt a blush rising to his face, but just as he worked up enough indignation to get past sputtering, she shrugged casually.

“Ah, well, pity. You Daeva sorts are always more impressive with less clothes on, but I’m not gonna push.” She stepped up in front of him and stuck her tongue between her lips thoughtfully for a moment, before rearranging his hair around his still-new horns. “There, that’s better. At least they show now.”

Jamian, who had gotten proficient in the last week at camouflaging the horns in the curls of his hair, found himself blushing all the more. “Can’t hide the tail anyway,” he muttered.

“Why would you?” she asked cheerfully, catching her own tail in her hand and jabbing it playfully at the air in front of him. “It’s a mark of who you are.”

“Just of what I am,” he muttered, but she’d already turned back to the bag Nick was holding and was pulling toys out of it with cheerful abandon. She belted around her own hips something that looked remarkably like a real two-gun cowboy gunbelt, and then passed out four similar belts to the rest of the group. As Jamian was belting his on, she began handing out heavy-duty-looking water pistols, two to each of them, one white and one blue.

“Use the white one first,” she said – mostly to him, it seemed; “it’s water. If they don’t run, use the blue one. Grape Kool-Aid,” she added puckishly.

Feeling more than a little silly, he holstered his plastic guns. Shiva started walking, continuing to pull things out of her backpack, passing them around the group. Pop rocks, which Nick started scattering on the floor behind them. Small glow-in-the-dark gobs of green goo, which Phel smeared on the wall gleefully, leaving slug-trails of phosphorescent slime the vanished at the ceiling line, where the ceiling hung in deep shadow. It all felt a little silly, a little bit middle-school, until Shiva and Phel stopped at an intersection, crouching at opposite corners, and began to chant softly. Ty and Nikita headed in separate directions down the hall, presumably booby-trapping the halls with more dollar-store gimmicks, but Jamian had been given no direction, so he stood, hand on the grip of his water pistol, and listened to the Gregorian-sounding chanting.

As it went on, he realized that Shiva and Phel were each chanting a series of four non-English words, different words in each case, almost like a round, starting out at a whisper and slowly growing louder, while the area between them grew darker and darker. By the fifth, or, perhaps, the seventh round, they were nearly shouting, and Jamian found himself completely in the dark, without even the creepy green slime for light. They shouted one final word at each other –

- and all sound ended, cut off before the words had even finished. He was pretty sure he was still standing in the center of the intersection, but he could see nothing, hear nothing. He tried to step forward, and found his feet numb as well.

“Ty?” he called, but he couldn’t hear his own voice, either. Panicked, he stumbled forward, tripping on clumsy, numb feet, and landed hard, his left hand scraping against the carpet painfully.

Pain was at least a sensation. He crawled towards that sensation, and found himself out of the darkness, with Shiva, smiling abashedly, offering him a hand up. “Sorry,” she said, as he ruefully let her help him up. “I shoulda thought before we let you get caught in that.”

“It’s all right,” he said, not too graciously, but Ty was coming down the hall, and he didn’t want to yell at her in front of him. He turned to look at the darkness, only to find it transformed into a perfect replica of an empty dorm room. “What the fuck?”

“Illusion,” Shiva answered, “coupled with a couple sensory effects from the inside.”

“That’s… pretty fucked up.”

“Pretty awesome,” Nikita countered, stepping out of the illusion and nuzzling against Shiva. “We’re all set to go, and there’s a couple noobs coming down the left hallway.”

“All right, let’s cut around and chase them this way, then.” Shiva shouldered her backpack, the tip of her tail twitching happily. “Ready, Phelan?”

“Always ready.” In his hands, he was carrying what looked like a lash made out of blue and green light, sparkling with tiny fireflies of light.

“Of course you are, love. Tia-mia? Jamian?”

“Back door prepared,” Ty said, with a soft snicker echoed by Phelan.

“Great,” Shiva grinned. Looking over at Ty, Jamian saw that he was holding open a door where, he could swear, there had previously been only wall. “Jame?”

He wished she wouldn’t use Ty’s nickname for him. “Lock and load,” he answered drolly, patting his the grip of his water gun. “Whatever we’re doing, let’s go do it.”


Copyright © 2009-2010 Lyn Thorne-Alder & Elasmo. All rights reserved.
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