Addergoole
Chapter 54: Jamian
There's a danger in loving somebody too much,
and it's sad when you know it's your heart you can't trust.


It felt a little strange to be back in Ty’s room, after days in his own room under the strange chaperonage of the Succubus Committee. Stranger was Ty treating him like a human-sized Ken doll, dressing him up in outfit after outfit as if trying to turn him into the perfect boyfriend by applying the right look over his form.

At first, Ty was content to hand Jamian the clothes and let him turn his back and change. After the fourth or fifth outfit, however, growing antsier and anstier, Ty shook his head. “No, just no.” He started unbuttoning Jamian’s shirt – his own shirt, which Jamian happened to be wearing – yanking at it as he did so, popping buttons off.

He grabbed the shoulders of the shirt and began pushing it off Jamian’s shoulders before Jamian could react. He grabbed for Ty’s wrists, catching them easily. “Hey,” he protested. “I can take it off myself. Just give me whatever you want me to change into, okay?”

Ty made a small, frustrated noise, pulling against his hold ineffectually. “I don’t know, okay? You’re just so very Daeva.”

Stung, he dropped Ty’s wrists and stepped back. “You knew what I was before this whole mess started,” he said, the words tasting bitter in his mouth. “You knew I was a hermaphrodite.”

“No,” Ty shook his head. “I knew you were a hermaphrodite. I didn’t know you were going to turn out to be a full-blooded Daeva, horns and all. Everyone else here is a half-breed. Like me.”

Jamian just stared at him. Speaking of incubi and Daeva half-breeds and stuff, there’s something you need to know about, Joff had said. And, much earlier, when Tya had tried to explain what he was, Daeva. Callavanaei. What most of us are, here, are mixed-breeds, not pure bloods. The faerie version of mutts. He’d thought she was having second thoughts because he was a freak.

He’d been right, apparently.

“And you... what? You’d rather I was a different kind of freak, is that it?” He found he was angry, frustrated, and maddeningly hurt by the whole mess. ”Sorry, I didn’t get to check a box when I was born. Hell, I didn’t even get to check a sex box when I was born, much less ‘type of freak.’ Do you think I would have chosen this if I’d been given any say?” He grabbed his tail and brandished it at Ty angrily.

“But you do get to choose, don’t you see?” Ty shouted back at him. ”Of every student in this school - you get to be the one with the multiple-choice body!”

“Of course I don’t see! You don’t tell me anything! The freaking Succubus Committee has told me more than you have! Other people’s ‘Kept’ have told me more than you have!” As he said the last, he could tell he’d gone too far.

“Whose Kept?”

Perversely, the upset expression twisting Ty’s face, and the dangerously soft tone of his voice only made him angrier. “You don’t want me to know, do you?” He stared in angry horror at the boy he’d agreed to Belong to. “You’d rather keep me ignorant. What, barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen?”

“Stop shouting!” Ty glared.

“I’m not shouting,” he said, but he dropped his voice to almost a whisper. ”And you didn’t answer me.”

“Not barefoot,” Ty mumbled.

Jamian stared at him. “Not barefoot? What kind of answer is that?” His eyes travelled down to the hooves Ty had instead of feet, still bare while they were in the process of dressing. Not barefoot. He didn’t want to grow hooves. He didn’t want to…

“No, no, no.” He shook his head, as if denying it would make it go away. “No!” Barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen… “I’m no good at cooking,” he whispered, knowing that was the least of his worries. “I’d make a lousy housewife. I’m a boy!” He couldn’t shout the last, as much as he wanted to, but he stomped his foot and clenched his fists, not even feeling silly, too angry to feel anything else. “You’re not a boy,” Ty snapped. “You’re a freaking Daeva. You’re a freaking immortal full-blooded elf.”

“I know,” he snapped back. “I’ve lived with the confusion down my pants my whole life, same as you. But that doesn’t mean I’m not a boy.”

Ty shook his head. “I keep telling you you’re not the same as me!” He slammed his fist down on his desk. “You’re better. You’re everything I’m supposed to be.”

“Don’t be stupid.” Jamian glared at him. “I have a longer tail. That’s it.”

Ty flinched back. “Don’t you get it?”

“No, I don’t. I get that this stupid tail upsets you - I could cut it off, if you’d like - and I get that you are once again not telling me anything. We were talking about barefoot, and kitchens, and pregnant, and how none of that except maybe the barefoot is okay. Remember?” he added nastily.

Ty seemed at a loss for words, and, for a moment, Jamian was afraid he was going to do the girl thing he seemed so good at and start crying. The tears were there, at the edges of his eyes, but he was still glowering angrily. “I own you, you know,” he said. It was the nastiest Jamian had ever heard him.

“I know.” He returned nastiness with his own bitter snark. “And if you wanted to, I suppose you could pin me down and rape me. And then next year I can stand on the sidelines and glare at you and hate you like Niki does now… oh, wait, you’ll be gone next year. What do you need another kid for, anyway? Don’t you have enough?”

Ty shook his head, stepped back a step, and shook his head. “You just don’t get it, do you? I try to do right by you, be patient with you getting used to things Down Here, and you turn out to be a freaking Daeva. And it’s ripping me up and you think it’s just your tail you don’t even like, you don’t get how it’s important, why it matters. I bend over backwards, trying to take things slow, trying to ease you into this place, and all you can do is whine that I’m not telling you everything. You’ve been here three weeks. People take lifetimes to learn all of this… if I’d dumped it all on you at once, you would have fallen down in a pile of melting goo!” Ty glared indignantly at him. “I don’t know what else I can do for you. Do you want me to spoonfeed being an Ellehemaei to you?”

“This is taking it easy on me?” Jamian gestured wildly, having nothing to point at, ignoring the question because he didn’t want to answer “yes” to it. ”What you call taking things slow? Making me your possession? Your pet?”

“Better me than someone who wouldn’t understand about you, who wouldn’t be willing to work around that.”

“What, I couldn’t just be a normal student? I was going to end up someone’s toy no matter what?”

“There’s no such thing as a ‘normal student’ here,” Ty snapped. “Haven’t you figured that out yet? And almost everyone ends up as someone’s pet for a little while.”

“Ty, until I met you, I’d never kissed anyone.” If he hadn’t been so frustrated, the admission would have been humiliating. “If I hadn’t known you were…” he gestured vaguely and grabbed for the term Ty had used, “a vacuum cleaner with all the extra attachments, I never would have gotten close enough to you for you to trick me into Belonging to you. Do you think anyone else would have been able to manage it?”

“Ivette,” Ty replied, biting the word off as if it tasted bad. “And she’s not kind to Kept. Shiva could have done it. Mags too, probably.” He shook his head. ”I Kept you because I didn’t want to share you, Jamian, and because I know I can take care of you better than any of them.”

“By not telling me anything?”

“What could I have told you right away that wouldn’t have made you freak out?”

“I didn’t even know you had kids!”

“Could I have told you that without you getting tweaked out? Not just ‘by the way, I have a daughter,’ but, ‘oh, yeah, I have two daughters and a son?’”

It sounded more real when he said it than just hearing Joff say Ty has three kids. He licked his lips, his mouth suddenly dry. “Two daughters and a son?” He tried not to squeak. “Who’s the… the mother? Mothers? Shiva?” He thoughts about the way the cat-girl was around Ty, and shook his head, doubting it. He couldn’t imagine being that casual around someone who had fathered your child.

Ty frowned. ”You won’t like it,” he hedged.

“I’d find out eventually anyway, wouldn’t I?” He wasn’t certain that was the case – but he could probably get Joff to tell him.

“Eventually.” Ty sank into the desk chair. ”Mies is my daughter by Anise, the First Cohort I dated my first year here. Eryk is Shiva’s son.” He hesitated again, making Jamian wonder what he thought was so bad about his second daughter. “And Siriana - I’m Siri’s mother.” He didn’t look so sure about that, which was a little funny.

“Ooh.” That fit with what Joff had told him, though he wasn’t sure it was a good idea to mention it. “Who… who’s her father, then?” He really didn’t want to know, did he? He already knew, didn’t he?

Ty’s hesitation confirmed his suspicion, but he waited for him to actually say it. “Niki,” he said quietly.

“Oh.” All his fire had burned out, and he had nothing but a dull ache at the thought. “Niki… Niki knocked you up?”

“Well,” he smirked, “I couldn’t very well knock him up, could I?”

Jamian ricocheted between mental images. Niki on top of Tya like some bad porn movie, Tya fat and pregnant in a little lace apron, Niki in the same apron, round with Ty’s baby… himself, herself, female and big-titted and heavy with a child, chained to the stove by silly little jingling chains like some harem slave. “Haven’t you ever heard of condoms?”

Ty bit his lip. “That’s another problem.” He sighed. “For another day, okay?”

“I can’t really argue with you, can I?” Jamian answered, still feeling a little nasty, still feeling the jingle of imaginary chains.

“You’ve been doing a pretty good job of it. But I’d rather you not, about this, please?” He looked tired, worn out. Jamian wanted to hug him and tell him it would all be better. He sat on his hands, instead, not quite ready to make that overture.

“Okay. No more talking about condoms or babies.” Or Niki knocking Tya up. Or Ty knocking him up. Shit. “For tonight.” He tried to put it aside, and found what had started this whole argument still waiting patiently in the back of his mind. “Ty, are you going to be able to deal with this?” He held up his tail again, feeling a little bit silly. ”With whatever it means that I’m a Daeva? Because…” Because he really didn’t want to lose him. “Because I don’t want you to keep yelling at me for something I can’t change.”

“I think I can deal with it. I’ve been dealing with it so far.”

“Badly.”

“Hey!” Ty wrinkled his nose indignantly, then slumped again in the chair. ”You’re right. I’ve been all over the place. You really mess with my head, Jame’.”

A cold understanding settled in Jamian’s stomach. “It’s not me,” he said slowly, hating it, “it’s the baby hormones.” That’s what Joff had meant, wasn’t it?

Discuss

Chapter 54b: Jamian
What else should I be?
All apologies...


“What? No!” Ty looked stunned for a moment, almost angry, and Jamian worried he’d finally pushed it too far. Ty’s expression slid from stunned to thoughtful, and Jamian’s fears slid, too, worrying that, now that he had explained the horrible truth to Ty, that things would change, would end. “Well…”

This was it. Once he knew that this was all just a hormone stew messing with his head, Ty wouldn’t want anything to do with Jamian anymore. He braced himself for the impact, willing himself not to cry. ”I guess I have been a little up and down lately,” Ty allowed, speaking slowly, “kind of, yeah, hair-trigger. Why didn’t you say anything?”

“You’re the only boyfrie- significant other, or Keeper, or anything, I’ve ever had,” Jamian answered, a little numbly. ”I don’t have anyone to compare you to.”

“I… oh.” Ty blinked. “Yeah. I forgot.” He shook his head. “Sorry. Well, um, I guess I’ve been sort of weird for the last few weeks, maybe not myself. Shiva would know better than I would.” He caught sight of Jamian’s face and stopped. “Sorry,” he said again. All the apologies were just making it worse; Jamian wished he’d get to the point, rip the band-aid off.

“What I’m trying to say,” he started again, and stopped again. Jamian, pushed beyond endurance, finished the sentence for him.

“Is that you let your hormones get the best of you.”

“Yeah.”

“Because you weren’t expecting them. You’d never been pregnant before.”

“Yeah.”

“And you acted in ways that you wouldn’t, normally, and said things you wouldn’t, normally.” It felt like driving nails into his own hands, but he loved her too much not to help her through this.

“Yeah.” She bit her lip hard. “Pretty much.”

“Like picking up a messed-up whatever-the-hell-I am, when you really want nothing to do with the Daeva.”

“Ye… no!” She glared at him, and he found himself shrinking against the bed. “No, of course not! How could you think such a thing?”

Her anger was more chagrined than irate, leaking out of her like little flames. He would have loved to take her answer at face value, but it didn’t sound true. “Because it’s true.” He kept talking before she could interrupt. “You said it yourself: You’ve been weird for the last couple weeks. You don’t like Daeva. You don’t know what’s come over you. I mess with your head.” He laid her words out like testimony to his own death sentence, and she flinched with every line.

“That’s not what I meant!” She covered her face with her hands. “I just… I don’t know.” Her knees went up to her chest. Jamian stared at her in perplexed horror. This wasn’t what was supposed to happen. “I didn’t mean I don’t like you,” she whispered through her hands and legs. “I just… I don’t know.” A muffled sob escaped.

“Hey,” Jamian tried awkwardly, “come on. It’s okay.”

She sniffled without looking up. “How can it be okay, if you think I want to get rid of you?”

“Well,” he said slowly, wondering if logic would do any good at all, “you don’t, do you?”

“No!” She looked up at him over her knees. “No, of course not. I- I like you, Jame’. A lot. And just because I’m not really sure what to do about this Daeva thing…”

“Well, that’s two of us,” he answered dryly. “I don’t have any idea what to do about anything here.” He patted her shoulder awkwardly. “But we’ll figure it out, okay?”

She shook her head, and the hope that had been slowly climbing dropped again, leaving his stomach twisted. “Are you sure?” she murmured.

“Not at all,” he answered frankly, “but I’m willing to try until I am sure.”

“Oh,” she whispered. “But, Jame’, I’m a mess.”

“Me, too,” he answered. “Come on. You have to decide what I’m going to wear. Um…” He concentrated for a moment on one of the tricks Joff had been hammering home, putting his Mask in place. “Here, now you can take a nice guy to the dance, instead of a slightly freakish Daeva hermaphrodite.”

“But I like my freakish Daeva hermaphrodite.” She looked up anyway, smiling a little through the tears. “That’s a good Mask, though.”

“Thanks.”

“If you turn out to be better at that than me, too, I’m going to be annoyed.”

“Not gonna happen,” he answered firmly. “Joff and Ivette say you’re the best they know at Masks,” which explains how easily you gender-swap, “and it takes all I have just to put one up that looks like me.”

“Well, mostly like you,” she grinned.

“Mostly?” He patted himself subconsciously, and looked for her mirror. He looked like himself, didn’t he?

She walked up behind him, the sway of her hips undeniably feminine, her boy-Mask shifting to her girl-Mask as she walked, as if she were refining herself into a different person, painting makeup on by force of will alone. She stood behind him, close enough that he could feel her breasts against his back, her lips against his neck.

“You look like you.” Her breath was warm and sweet against the back of his ear. “But a little more you. More Jamian, less…” she hesitated. “What do we call the girl in you?”

“I look girly, normally?” He frowned at the mirror. Sure, he didn’t have facial hair, but that didn’t make him a girl.

She ran the side of her hand down his jawline. “You look like a hermaphrodite, normally. Male, but with an underlying female. But your jaw is firmer now, here, and-” her other arm wrapped across his chest “-I think your shoulders are a bit broader. It’s a nice look. I’d like to see what the other side of your Mask looks like, too.”

“The other side?” he stalled. “You know what my horns and tail look like.”

She pressed herself closer to him, her hand and arm pulling him right against her. “Your girl side,” she whispered. “What do you look like as a girl?”

“I don’t know.” He wanted to be annoyed, but she smelled so very nice, and she was so close to him. “Is your smell part of your Mask?”

“Changing the subject,” she scolded gently. “Some of it is Mask, some is just the scents I wear.” She sniffed the side of his neck. “Is yours all soap?”

“Yeah. But you smell nicer than I do.”

“Thank you, dear.” She smiled at him in the mirror. “Can I see your girl Mask now? Can I see Jamia?”

“Jamia?” It sounded strange in his mouth. “Like Tya?”

“Or Jia,” she said thoughtfully. “You’ve never thought of what you’d call yourself as a girl?”

“I’ve always hoped it would go away some day,” he answered, a little more frankly than he’d intended. “I mean, until I met you, it never occurred to me to ever pretend to be a girl.”

“Jamita?” she tried. “But you’re not pretending, Jame. Jemma? You’re half-girl, and you have been your whole life.”

“I’ve had an extra set of junk my whole life. But I’ve always been a boy. Jemma’s my cousin.”

“It wouldn’t hurt, just here with us, to see what it would be like, would it? Mia?”

“Mia.” He looked at her in the mirror, not quite looking at her own reflection. “Short for Jamia, I guess?” He glanced at his chin, still held in her hand. Was it firmer than normal? “I didn’t try out any other Mask. Joff said most people just learn how to Mask as themselves – the way they looked before their Change, I mean?” He hesitated for a moment. “Doesn’t Shiva call you Tya-Mia?”

“Oh, yeah.” She snuggled against his body, her hair hiding her face. “I guess that wouldn’t work then. Try the Mask for me?”

“Jaya. Short for Jamia.” It sounded tomboy-ish enough, although the terminal “a” was damning. “Don’t laugh if it looks silly?”

“I won’t laugh. But it won’t look silly.” She rested her pointy chin on his shoulder and smiled brightly at the mirror.

“Okay.” The concept of a Mask wasn’t that hard; to put up the “normal human boy” face had just taken a sort of mental click and a strong picture of what he looked like. Regardless of what he’d said to Tya, enough of his nightmares had featured himself as a woman that the image was already there.

Not the giant tits of his worst nightmares, but reasonable protuberances that were still undeniably breasts and not pecs. A waistline, girls had waistlines. Longer hair, and softer, right? Fuller lips.

“Oh! Oh, nice.” Ty’s pleased exclamation made him open his eyes. “Oh, Jame’… Jaya, you’re lovely.”

“I…” He looked at himself – at herself – in the mirror. “I think I got the hips a little big?” she tried, running her hands over her jeans. “My pants don’t fit right anymore.”

“I have a skirt that will fit. And I think you got them just right.” Tya hurried to her closet and began rummaging.

“A skirt? I’m fine with the tight jeans!”

“How about a kilt?” Tya waved something in red plaid. “Ooh, and here, I have a shirt that goes with that.”

“A kilt?” She bit her lip. “I guess I can do that.”

“My bras won’t fit you. That’s okay though. Here.” She passed a handful of clothes over. “I’ll be a good girl and turn my back.”

“Thank you.” She turned her back, too, on the mirror, stripping off her jeans and shirts and, as quickly as she could, throwing the new clothes on. The shirt buttoned strangely over her breasts, but it seemed to close fine. “I think I’m done.”

Tya turned around and gave her a lascivious once-over. “You look adorable. A pair of Mary Janes and little eyelet socks and you’d look like the world’s sexiest schoolgirl.”

“Thanks?” she gulped. “That’s a good thing, right?”

“Absolutely wonderful. Oh, Jaya, I want to take you to the dance like this.”

Discuss

Chapter 54c: Jaya
But the thingmabob
that does the job
is bibbidi-bobbidi-boo


The praise felt nice, a warm sense of approval and belonging, almost a guilty pleasure – being praised for being a girl shouldn’t feel this good. Being a girl shouldn’t feel this good! But Tya liked her like this. She thought she was adorable. She wanted…

“What?” she squeaked. “No, no, no, Tya, no.” She covered herself ineffectually with her hands and arms, realizing uncomfortably how drafty the kilt was. “I can’t go out like this!”

“Come on,” Tya coaxed. “It will be fun.”

“Fun?” she squeaked, reaching for her pants. “Ty, people will be looking at me. As a girl. Me,” she repeated, “a girl. Everyone is going to know!”

“Jaya,” Ty answered patiently, “you’re a Daeva. Everyone already knows. And, besides, you’re a beautiful girl. Why wouldn’t you want people to know?”

She threw up her hands, tossing the pants as she did so. “Oh, I don’t know, I’ve only been hiding this secret for my whole life, and you just want me to go out there like it’s nothing?”

“Not like it’s nothing, like it’s something to be proud of. Hold your head high and acknowledge it.”

She found her chin rising against her will. “Ty!” she complained. “Stop it, please. Yes, I’m a hermaphrodite.” It sounded wrong still, like someone was going to pound down the door and beat her up, egg her and mock her for being not manly enough. “But I like being a boy.”

“Stop it?” Tya frowned. “Oh… sorry. I’m not commanding you. I, um…” she squirmed a little. “If I need to tell you to do something, I’ll put your name at the beginning, okay?”

“Okay…” She slumped a little, released from the command. “Thanks. So can I put my guy face back on?”

“Oh, come on,” Tya wheedled. “You know it’ll be fun.”

It sounded more like slow torture, but she wasn’t relenting based on the “I’ll be miserable” argument. “I don’t think this is the right kind of clothes, is it?” She tugged uncomfortably on the skirt. “Everyone was wearing these fancy shiny dresses and stuff, and I don’t think I can walk in high heels. We could…” Gulp. “Just stay here instead?”

Tya looked her up and down slowly, licking her lips. “Oh, I’d love that. But I don’t think you’re really ready.”

(She wasn’t, but she wasn’t ready to go out like this, either!)

“I know someone who can take care of the dress for you. You’ll be gorgeous. More gorgeous. Just let me get dressed, and we’ll go.”

“Please?” she whispered softly, even though she knew, by now, that it was a lost cause.

Ty glanced at her as he stripped off his clothes and plucked a suit from his closet. “It’s not that bad, Jaya,” he said, though he sounded sympathetic. “You’ll have to get used to it eventually.”

“Why? I mean, I could just live as a guy forever, except that one weekend I promised you. I don’t need to be a girl!”

“People say that after a couple centuries, it gets old, wearing the same face all the time. That Daeva live the longest because they don’t get bored.”

“Then I’ll try the girl thing in a century or two.”

Ty shrugged into a vest and a suit jacket. “Look at it this way,” he suggested, “I’m all in a suit now. So it’s go girl, or go as a couple of guys.”

Jaya winced. “You fight dirty, Ty.”

“I thought you’d like that better than just telling you what you were going to do?” He finished tying the bow tie. “I could go back to that, if you’d rather?”

“I guess fighting dirty is better than just puppeting me,” she agreed reluctantly. “Can we leave early if I’m miserable?”

“Two dances, one drink. If you hate it, we can leave after that. If you really hate it, I’ll never ask you to do it again.”

Well, that’s almost a positive. It would make Ty happy for her to do this. She clutched tightly to that thought, and tried not to think about walking into a crowd of staring people with her tits out there for anyone to see.

Ty stepped away from his closet, dressed and dapper, carrying a long handful of black velvet. He draped it over her shoulders, revealing it to be a cloak, and pulled the hood down almost over her eyes.

“What…?”

“Give you a little anonymity for the moment.”

“Oh.” She clutched the cloak tightly around her. If only Ty would let her wear it to the dance! “Thank you.”

“I know this makes you nervous, sweetie.” He set his hand at the small of her back – steering her, she thought, shoving her very gently towards the door. “But I think it will be good. And people here aren’t the superstitious hicks you went to high school with.”

The hall. They were standing in the hall. There were people around – not a lot of people, no, but still, there was a little group of people there, Uberto and his oh-so-elegant friend, and a pretty girl with violet butterly wings, all looking at them. At her, enveloped in a cloak like she was hiding something.

“Hey, Uberto, Aviv, Seralondae,” Ty waved cheerfully.

“Hey, Ty. Going to the dance?” The presence of a mysterious cloaked figure seemed to faze them not at all. Jaya wondered if they knew it was her.

“In a bit, yeah. See you there?” Ty, Jaya was learning, knew everyone, and seemed to be on good terms with them all. And none of them really seemed to care about Ty’s Swiss-army-knife anatomy. She wondered if Ty would care, if he knew how about the run-in she and Niki had had with these guys.

“We’ll probably make it there in a while.” Aviv – that must be the elegant-looking one with the gloves – forced an unctuous smile.

“Great!” Ty kept not-quite-pushing Jaya down the hall, past another small cluster of people – this time, he called out greetings without stopping – finally reaching another suite’s front door.

As he knocked, Jaya felt her stomach doing somersaults again. Oh, fuck. This is really happening. I’m going to have to talk to other people, looking like this. Looking like a girl. In a short miniskirt. And… I’m not wearing any shoes! It seemed so trivial, but realizing she was still barefoot almost did her in. She trembled behind Ty as the door swung open.

The always-cranky body-builder-type Taro, from her PE class, swung open the door. “What d’you want?” he demanded, sounding more surly than usual.

“Could we talk to Mabina, please?” She’d never heard Ty sound quite that way, tense and polite and still a little wheedling, as if he was afraid of the stupid jock.

Taro grunted. “Come on in,” he conceded, stepping out of their way. “Cassidy! The she-he and its pet are here to see you guys!”

Jaya tensed, ready to start a fight. Ty caught her hand in his as they stepped into the suite. “Shh,” he admonished. “Let it lie.”

She fell quiet, glaring silently at Taro’s back. Why would someone as nice as Mabina be living with someone as miserable as Taro?

Might as well ask why people as nice as Ty and Shiva are living with a creep like Phelen. Or why Seralondae is hanging out with Creepy and Creepier. Nothing about this place makes sense.

“Ty!” Mabina glided out of her room, flanked by her twin-or-partner-or-something Cassidy, looking more High Queen of the Elves than normal in her rich green gown that flowed over her full-moon belly. “And.. Jamian?” Her gaze seemed to cut right through the hood.

Jaya glanced at Taro, who was sulking on the couch, and just nodded.

“Mm-hrmm. Well, what can I do for you?” Ty glanced at Taro meaningfully. “Maybe we could talk in private?”

“Of course.” Mabina’s smile was indulgent and amused. “Step into our office.”

Jaya wasn’t sure what she expected, but what was clearly Mabina and Cassidy’s bedroom was so grown-up and homey looking that a tiny sob of homesicknesss caught in her throat. Cassidy patted her back lightly as he closed the door, the same way he would have patted a guy on the shoulders, and she pulled herself together. Just because she was wearing a skirt was no reason to get weepy.

Ty pulled the cloak off her shoulders before she could protest. “We had a little change in plans for the dance.”

“I see.” Jaya squirmed under the Elf Queen’s assessing gaze. “Very well done, Jame…?”

“Jaya,” she squeaked out, “I think.”

“It suits.” She nodded. “And the outfit is cute, I suppose, but not what you’re looking for in the line of dance clothes, now is it?”

“I don’t think so? I mean, a tux is fine with me…” It was a long shot, but she couldn’t help grasping at every straw she was offered.

“But we’re looking for a dress, maybe? None of my stuff will fit her like she is right now.”

“I see,” Mabina nodded, looking Jaya up and down, walking slowly around her. “I can do that. What will you give me in return?”

“A favor in kind?”

She raised an eyebrow. “I don’t think I’ll be needing a garden down here anytime soon.”

Ty flushed, looking embarrassed and angry. Worried, and totally unsure what was going on, Jaya stepped closer, pressing up against his back. “That’s not all I can do.”

“Of course not.” She looked thoughtful. “I’ve always wanted a window.”

“A window…? Oh!” Ty looked thoughtful for a moment. “I can do that, just not all at once. Over the next month?”

“Deal.” Mabina nodded. “Now… what do we want on Jaya here?”

“Something sexy.”

“Something that covers me?”

“Mm, all righty then. I do believe I can do something with that. Come here, Jaya dear, and let me work my magic.”

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Chapter 54d: Jaya
If I make you happy I don't need no more
Cause you make me feel like a natural woman


“There we go.” Mabina stepped back from Jaya with one last critical look. “It’s sexy and it covers you up. It more than shows off your assets without, shall we say, putting them out for sale. You look classic, dear, and lovely, if I do say so myself.”

“Thanks?” She stepped hesitantly forward in her new shoes, brushing her hands over the grey silk of the dress. “How did you do that?” She’d transformed the kilt and shirt into a high-necked backless dress without ever baring more of Jaya than her arms, done the same to turn her sneakers into … some sort of fancy shoe with a heel… and then spent a couple minutes fussing with her hair, and declared the whole thing done.

“What? The dress? It’s a simple enough Working – Ty here could probably do it, if he applied himself.” She smiled knowingly, and Ty, standing protectively with his hand on her way-too-bare back, winced.

“I never learned how to Work clothes properly. Akatil doesn’t teach it.”

“No surprise there,” Cassidy offered, from his perch on the side of the bed. “I’m surprised your Mentor didn’t teach you, though, considering who it is.”

“He doesn’t do unutu,” Ty answered shortly. “Thank you for… for the dress. I’ll talk to you Monday about the window?”

“Sounds lovely.” Mabina patted Jaya lightly on the – nearly bare, and somehow not showing the farmer’s tan Jamian had developed – shoulder. “You kids have fun. We’ll see you at the dance.”

“Thank you.” Jaya let Ty tug her out of the room. “What’s the rush?” she asked, whispered, really, as the door to the suite swung shut behind them.

“I just, I don’t know…” Ty bit his lip, and took a deep breath. “Hormones. Right.” He took several more breaths, his walking slowing to almost nothing, and said, just as softly as Jaya had, “she was picking on me about my ineptitude. It got me a little angry.”

“The crack about the garden? I didn’t think that was that bad.” She was grateful for the slow pace as she tried not to wobble too much in her new shoes. “She seems like a nice person.”

“I don’t like how everyone knows how limited I am,” he complained. “It’s like the school joke.”

You know what it can do, Aviv had said. He’d seemed scared. “I… I don’t think that’s true,” she said hesitantly. “Ack! How do you stand in these shoes, much less walk!?”

“Ignore your heel.” Ty moved a little closer, supporting her with both hands. “Put your weight on your toes. And don’t try to stride. Sashay.”

“Sashay?” She wrinkled her nose. “You make me sound like a drag queen.”

“Okay, um… wiggle. Sway your hips a little and take small steps. There you go. You just want to be aware of how people are looking at you.”

“That’s the whole problem!”

“In a good way. It’s a lot more showy than slouching in jeans. What did you mean, you don’t think it’s true?”

“I…” She thought about the way the hottest girl in her old school walked, and tried to imitate the hip-sway while balancing on her toes. “When Niki and I ran into your friends Aviv and Uberto there, the other day, they didn’t seem like they wanted to start a fight with you. Like they were scared.”

“When did you and Niki run into them? Careful, your center of gravity isn’t where it should be. Um… think about your womb.”

“My what?” But she could feel what he meant. “Okay, I got it. We went out talking last weekend while you and Shiva were still sleeping.”

“Oh, I see.” His hand slipped a little further down her back. “I think you’ve got the walking thing down. Ready to try dancing?”

“Oh, crap, we’re almost there, aren’t we?” She gulped softly. “Ty, Niki was just trying to explain things to me. It wasn’t anything bad.”

“I…” Ty hugged her spontaneously, and she wobbled precariously on her heels. “I know, Jaya. You’re better to me than I deserve sometimes.” He was pressed against her, his lips almost touching hers.

“No…” she tried, but she thought he might be right. “Just try not to flip out so much, okay?”

“I’ll try.” He brushed his lips across hers, barely a kiss at all. She tried not to be aware of the people passing by. People watching her kiss a boy.

This is supposed to be okay, she reminded herself, but Taro’s words were still resounding in the back of her mind. The he-she and its pet. Apparently, not everyone here was tolerant, PC, and understanding.

There has to be an asshole in every group. And, all in all, Addergoole was a lot better at dealing with freakishness than any place she’d ever been before.

Tail. Horns. Your hermaphroditic boyfriend-slash-girlfriend-slash-owner has hooves, never mind the fact that you have a hermaphroditic boyfriend-slash-girlfriend-slash-owner to start with. It’s okay. You’re wearing a dress and heels and it’s okay. Besides if anyone gave her any shit about it, she could still punch them.

I might get to punch a bigot. And I won’t lose my friends for it. She kissed Ty, rising on her toes to do so – when had she gotten shorter than him? That wasn’t supposed to happen! – putting all of her exasperated affection for him into the kiss.

“Jay…” he said, a little surprised. He held her close, looking at her with eyes that were nearly golden. “Jaya, are you sure?”

“Shut up and kiss me,” she whispered. Before she lost her nerve.

“Okay.”

It was weird, kissing in public, but Ty didn’t seem to notice or care, kissing her like he was making love to her. His lips tasted wonderful. His hands on her bare back felt marvelous.

“Get a room!”

Jamian looked up from the kiss, angry at the interruption, ready for a fight. He’d been having fun. For a moment, he’d just been enjoying himself. Ah… yes. Herself.

She looked up at the interloper, straight into a cocky, playful grin framed by a cheerful, handsome brown face and stone-tipped braids. The smile was disarming, and a little distracting.

“Adrian.” Ty didn’t sound happy to see him. Jaya understood why. She wouldn’t be happy to see him around her girlfriend, either.

“Ty.” He didn’t look away from Jaya, and was looking her over in a way that wandered between flattering and insulting. “Where are your horns?”

She blushed. She’d forgotten she’d Masked away her Daeva features. “Under my hair,” she answered. Why was he looking at her like that? Had she forgotten something essential? Ty or Mabina would have told her, wouldn’t they have?

He laughed, sounding like the waves hitting the beach. “Be careful, Ty,” he warned, “or someone might steal her from you. She’s adorable.”

She glared at him. How had she gotten so much shorter. “Bullshit,” she said shortly. “No-one’s stealing me, Ty doesn’t need you taunting him, and I’m not adorable.”

Ty laughed shortly, even though Adrian’s smile didn’t fade, and hugged Jaya close. “Careful. You’d be biting off more than you could chew if you tried to steal my Jay.”

“You have all the luck,” he groused cheerfully. “I’ll go troll in other waters, then. Ib set the stage quite nicely for me tonight.”

“Good hunting,” Ty said, sounding like he really meant it. Jaya couldn’t help but shake her head.

“You people…!”

“What?”

“Like this is all some sort of … I don’t know, trophy hunting expedition.”

He chuckled. “Kind of, but it’s not as bad as you make it sound. We’re happy together, aren’t we?”

Sort of. “We might have been happy together even if you hadn’t been stalking me like some sort of turkey during bow season, you know.”

“I know. But this way no-one else bagged you first.” He held the door open for her. “We’re there.”

She swallowed hard, peering in at the hazy blue scenery. “I… I think I need a drink, Ty.”

“All right, honey.” His hand was spending a lot of time there on the small of her back. It was probably the most time anyone had spent touching her, ever, but it was nice. Comforting. Reassuring. Kind of hot. “What do you want?”

“Cuervo.” Tequila, his drink of choice at high school parties, when he got brave enough to go. Two shots of that, and she wouldn’t care who was looking.

“Would you settle for Patron?” Ty grinned mischievously at her. “None of the cheap stuff here, sorry.”

“I think I can handle that.” She’d been so distracted that he’d managed to walk her to the bar without her freaking out. She smiled gratefully at him; he wasn’t a bad guy, when he wasn’t flipping out. He held out the stool for her and didn’t seem to notice that she had to fuss with the skirt portion of her dress to figure out where it was supposed to go; while she was fussing, he flagged down the bartender.

The six-armed girl headed their way unhurriedly, pouring drinks for three other people on the way. “What can I get you, hon?”

“Two margaritas, por favor.”

“Coming right up.” She mixed with the lowest set of her arms, not looking at what she was doing, studying Jaya instead. “You should show your horns, hon. Be proud of them.”

“Proud of them?” she sighed. She was already tired of hearing that. “They sort of make me stand out.”

“And six arms don’t?” The bartender tapped her on the head with a hand, the cuff on her wrist jangling. “There are kinds of difference that are something to be proud of. Being smarter than everyone else. Faster. Prettier. It means you excel at something by nature. So be proud of your horns. They mark you as a child of Elleheim.”

Ty was looking at her strangely. “I didn’t think you…” He trailed off as she thumped his glass down in front of him.

“I’ve had a lot of time to think about it. And this-” she gestured with her top arms at the rest of them “-this isn’t what I have a problem with.” She set the second glass in front of Jaya, and tapped her head again, between where the horns sat hidden. “Remember that, dear. They can tie you down, they can take away a lot from you, but when they’re done with you, you’re still a child of gods.”

“I…” She didn’t look at Ty. She didn’t want to know, just yet, how he was reacting to that little pep talk. “The child of gods, hunh?” Concentrating very hard, and studying the behind-the-bar mirror carefully, she dropped the Mask covering her horns. “Well, that’s nicer than ‘freak.’”

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