Chapter 33: Jamian
Everybody knows that it's now or never
Everybody knows that it's me or you
Everybody knows that you live forever
You Belong to her.
Jamian was feeling more than a little out of sorts. Niki’s words were twisting inside his head like a spiteful worm, repeating over and over before vanishing, only to appear again at the most inopportune moments.
He’d tried asking Ty about it, but every time they were together, the thought seemed to fade. His concerns looked trivial and petty, excuses to be unhappy with the way things were turning out, excuses that didn’t make him look too hard at this strange new relationship, or at what it said about him, or about Ty, whose ex-girlfriend was dating his ex-boyfriend: after scoffing at Nikita “having trouble with Ty’s junk,” he couldn’t very well flip out about the same thing, now, could he?
After a couple hours in Ty’s presence, even that much thought about the matter seemed useless. He was with Ty now; what did it matter what someone Ty had discarded thought to call it? It was obvious that Niki was a bit warped, anyway – just look at him curled up at Shiva’s feet, like a dog.
By Sunday evening, after spending the entirety of Sunday hanging around Ty and the rest of the crew, Jamian no longer even thought about Niki. He was content to lean up against Ty’s legs and watch Simpsons and bask in the strange feeling of having a girlfriend.
Sunday night, he stood in the middle of Ty’s room, sweating, staring at the exit, while Ty showered. He wanted to go back to his own room. He didn’t want to sleep up against Ty again, trying to ignore the strange and beautiful curves of her body; he wanted his safely solitary bed and the familiarity of his nightmares. But the door was so far away, and his feet would not seem to close the distance. Wait right there, Ty’d said before he went into the shower, and it seemed he was going to wait where he’d been left, whether he wanted to or not.
What if Ty doesn’t come back? He had to be able to move; if he didn’t, if she didn’t come back, he’d stand here until he died, some pitiful lost-dog skeleton of a freak. He forced his feet to move, one step, and then another, towards the door. One more step… So he could do it, if he tried. Relieved, he let himself stop trying.
The shower stopped running and, his stomach twisting and his heart rattling in panic, he jumped back to where she’d left him. Right here. She said “Wait right here.” Then she stepped into the room, wearing nothing but a towel and a smile, and even that thought was gone.
Sleeping next to her at night was a peculiar torment, sort of like being starved to death while staring at poisoned filet mignon. His body had some very strong opinions about what should be happening, but the logistics still stopped him cold. He lay awake, staring at the way the pale curls trailed over Ty’s slender neck, the way her thin shirt clung to her shoulder blades and her pink-and-orange boxers defined her perfect ass. He could pull that shirt up and kiss her spine, all the way up to her beautiful neck. He could pull those shorts down and cup that ass in both hands.
But then what? The thought of dealing with his own mutant anatomy was difficult enough; he spent a lot of time not thinking about it more than he absolutely had to. To deal with someone else seeing him naked made him want to curl up and die. And to move past that to thinking of Tya’s switchblade anatomy… he couldn’t make the leap. Despite having a pretty good idea what a hermaphrodite looked like undressed, he just couldn’t think of Ty naked, so he lay stiffly in bed a couple feet away from her, and stared sleeplessly at the back of her neck.
Monday morning found him cranky, groggy, and entirely out of sorts. He stumbled through breakfast without tasting it, barely aware of the conversations around him, and sucked back coffee until he felt something near to human. By the time he made it to his first class, he could at least see around him. By the time his second class was underway, he felt clear-headed enough to start thinking.
“So you’re Ty’s new pet.”
He looked up sharply at the voice, to see Melchior studying him, the dozens of sharp teeth making his expression look dangerous while the floppy lettuce-leaf ears countered that with a hang-dog feel, making him look like a sad pit bull.
Although that imagery softened any malice Jamian might have heard in his words, he still didn’t know quite how to reply. Finally, unhappily, he settled on “I suppose I am.” The idea didn’t bother him as much as it probably should have, nor did it seem to surprise Melchior, who was looking him over with a speculative expression that made him nervous.
“Pretty clever of Ty, I suppose. I mean, who else is really going to be able to satisfy all of his-her desires?”
Jamian froze. “Sorry, what?”
The goblin boy frowned. “That was tacky, wasn’t it? But still! If you ever want to try a different path, I’m in room D-7.”
Jamian blinked at him, struggling to make sense of that. Was he… no! Well, Jamian had just admitted to being Ty’s “pet.” “Uh, thanks,” he managed, “but I’m not gay.”
Melchior laughed, not unkindly. “Me, neither. But I’ve never had a Daeva, certainly not a new-Changed one. There’s not much I wouldn’t do for the chance.”
“Uh…” Unwillingly, he glanced at his tail. Everyone kept talking about being a “pure-blooded Daeva” as if it were some wonderful, special thing, but… “why?”
“Damn, Ty hasn’t even told you that much? I know he likes keeping his lovers in the dark, but that’s kind of excessive.”
I’m not his lover! But after agreeing that he was Ty’s pet, arguing about mechanics seemed silly.
Melchior shook his head. “I suppose it doesn’t hurt to tell you that much. I mean, everybody knows it. But you should go talk to VanderLinden, if you can.”
“Tell me what?” Jamian asked, although he wasn’t sure he wanted to know.
“Well,” he continued reluctantly, “I guess you probably haven’t finished your Change yet. But when you do – all Daeva are shapeshifters. True gender-benders, whatever your heart’s desire.”
Everybody knows. He stared, blankly, at Melchior. Misinterpreting his expression, the goblin smiled sympathetically. “It’s not that bad. Actually, I think it’s pretty cool. It’s better than these-” he tugged ruefully on one of his ears – “and it comes with the horns, which are just awesome.”
“Thanks,” Jamian stuttered, uncertain what else to say. Everybody knows.
“Hey, don’t thank me.” His grin was something to see, sharp teeth that went on seemingly forever. “I’m in this for myself, just like everyone else here. But, seriously,” he dropped the shark-smile, “come hang out sometime, play poker with Nick and Niki and me. You need to get out of that room once in a while, or it will suffocate you.”
Suffocating sounded like a good word for what he was feeling lately. He nodded, a bit reluctantly, and said the first thing that came to mind. “Niki plays poker?”
Melchior laughed. “You’d be surprised what people are like when they’re away from their owners.”
He thought about Niki in the grotto, laid-back, lecturing Jamian on the nature of reality as if they were in a classroom, and shook his head. “Probably not,” he admitted. He wondered if Niki felt as stifled and foggy-headed around Shiva as he did around Ty. Was that why he’d wanted to go walking to have that conversation?
He shook his head, and looked back to Melchior. “Poker sounds great.” Maybe he just needed to hang out with other people. Even if they did all know he was a freak.
“Look,” Melchior said, suddenly solemn. “I know Ty’s gorgeous, and I’m, well, I’m a goblin. And you’re in a male mindset, and you’re straight, and that all makes sense. But if you need to get out, if it gets too much for you, seriously, let me know, and I’ll challenge Ty for you. No strings attached.”
Jamian gulped. That sounded awfully formal. “I’m… I’m okay, thanks,” he stammered. He was pretty sure he was okay.
Melchior just nodded. “Still,” he said, as he settled into his seat as class began. “Keep it in mind. The offer is always open.”
Chapter 33.5: Jamian
At lunchtime, Jamian headed back to his room, figuring that the Gym Teacher Gestapo was unlikely to care if he skipped a meal. Even if they did care, the worst they seemed willing to do was lock him in his room for a day, and right now that seemed more like a blessing than a punishment.
His room seemed strange and a little bit grubby, everything still where he’d left it in a hurry Saturday morning. He hadn’t been intending on being gone for two days; the slightly used smell of the clothes he was wearing could testify to that. Still, even as messy as it was, it was home.
He flopped on the bed for a minute, spreading out, enjoying the feeling. His sheets. His ceiling. His mess. It felt so dreadfully empty. He felt horribly empty, as if everything that made him Jamian had been sucked out, and all that was left was a husk, some sort of Jamian-doll.
Stop tugging the poor kid around like a puppet on strings, Shiva had said when she was scolding Ty. She’d also said that Ty should explain things – and that hadn’t worked out that well, had it?
The thought felt vaguely disloyal, but it was true, wasn’t it? He tried it out loud, to see how it sounded. “Ty hasn’t told me anything.”
That wasn’t quite true. “Ty hasn’t told me much at all. He…” He frowned. “She, err…” Aah. “It would rather distract me than be honest with me.” He’d expected the “it” to sound dirty, but it was the only part of the sentence that didn’t make his skin crawl. “And she didn’t tell me everyone would know I was a freak!”
He grabbed the first thing that came to hand and threw it across the room; his alarm clock made a rough cracking thump sound as it hit the far wall.
His stepfather’s expression - What kind of fucked-up monster are you, anyway? Put a shirt on, I can see your tits. - haunted him, the twisted sneer he’d worn every time he looked at Jamian, the exaggerated care he took to never so much as brush against him, as if freakishness was contagious. But Melchior…
Melchior hadn’t looked disgusted, had he? There’s not much I wouldn’t do for the chance… if it gets too much for you, seriously, let me know, and I’ll challenge Ty for you. No, he’d looked hungry, as if Jamian was a particularly tempting treat. And it wasn’t like it had been with Magnolia, because he wasn’t aware of Jamian’s freakishness. It was because of it.
“I don’t think I’m in Kansas anymore,” he muttered softly. But this wasn’t Oz, either. Oz had never had this quiet undercurrent of the sinister, and a tin man and a talking lion had nothing on the craziness all around him.
And he’d just been … accepting it. Blindly accepting things that should have had him running screaming for the hills. Falling into a relationship that made no sense, with someone that could – and did – change their gender at will, never mind what his mother would say when he finally brought home a girlfriend and she turned into his boyfriend between lunch and dinner.
Well, what could he do about it?
He stood up, needing to take action, any action, and stepped into the bathroom. He needed a shower, badly, so that’s where he’d start. Step A, shower. Step B…?
“Step B,” he said, the words seeming to slip away less quickly if he said them out loud, “time alone.” The words filled him with panic, a nagging feeling that he ought to go find Ty right now and apologize, but he fought through it and stepped into the shower. Time alone would give him more time clear-headed, more time to figure out a Step C.
He stayed in the shower until his skin pruned, then dressed hurriedly and rushed out with just enough time to get to class – and there, in front of the classroom, was Ty. He looked annoyed, his expression getting even more so when he saw Jamian. Across the hall, Shiva and Nikita lounged in front of the Lit classroom with false casualness.
“Hey,” he said cautiously. Had he done something wrong?
Ty smiled a little bit. “Hey,” he echoed. “Didn’t see you at lunch.”
Jamian felt tension leave his shoulders. “Oh, I needed a shower, is all. I was starting to stink.”
“You smelled fine to me.” Did he seem displeased? Jamian shrugged it off.
“Call me paranoid. I didn’t want to offend your nose.” Oh, Christ, was he flirting? Wasn’t he trying for more space?
Whatever he was doing, it earned him a smile from Ty, the cocky, laid-back grin that seemed to sum him up.
“Your smell doesn’t offend my nose. I think it’s kind of sexy.” Jamian’s knees were trying to collapse. Ty thought he smelled sexy? He’d never shower again. “You smell all manly.”
The brakes slammed down, ending his pleasant dirty thoughts in a collision with reality. “Manly,” he squeaked, hating his voice that refused to pick a register. Manly. From the person who knew what he was… although it seemed everyone knew what he was now, damn this tail. Damn Ty’s lies.
“Don’t patronize me,” he snarled at him, angry enough to ignore the sudden twist in his stomach - don’t make him mad don’t make him mad - angry enough that the gut pain was just more tinder on the fire. Ty had lied to him, manipulated him, treated him like, like…
Like a puppet on strings. He glared at Ty, spread the glare over to anyone else who happened to be looking, and stalked into his Bio class.
“Jame’!” Ty called, but he ignored him. Ignored it.
Behind him, he could hear Niki say, in a tone that should have been offensive but somehow wasn’t, “That didn’t take long.” He wondered if the boy meant the fight, or how long it had taken for Jamian to find his spine.
He sat heavily in his chair as Professor VanderLinden stepped into the room, closing the door behind him as he nodded at Professor Pelletier. VanderLinden – whose horns and tail looked suspiciously like Jamian’s, glanced sympathetically out the door, and then looked directly at Jamian.
“See me in my office before dinner, please, Jamian,” he – it? – purred. Jamian sank lower into his chair, blushing. Were the knowing looks the other students shooting him because of the suggestive tone in the professor’s voice, or just because he was getting called to the teacher’s office?
“Yessir,” he mumbled. Maybe the professor would make him miss dinner. Then he wouldn’t have to deal with Ty.
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