Chapter 61: Shahin
What happened to Miss Independent?
No longer need to be defensive

You can take over from here if you want.

She wanted to glare at him, to snap at him, but reason told her he had been being helpful. She sagged a little more against his warmth and looked up at the doctor.

“This is almost certainly your Change,” the doctor said crisply. “I can get rid of the icing effect, but there will probably be some residual pain for a few days. If the Change centers entirely on your wrists, it will be like a really bad case of carpal tunnel syndrome.” She lapsed out of English and into the strange non-language that magic seemed to always be worked in.

Slowly, the ice retreated, until just her wrists were covered. She tensed, hating that she wanted Emrys’ comfort, but leaning against him anyway.

He held her gently, arm around her shoulders. “So any idea what it means?”

“What it means?” Dr. Caitrin looked oddly at him, then back at Shahin’s wrists. “Oh. Oh!” The ice had left, leaving behind stone-like blue markings. When the visions had started, Shahin had painstakingly tattooed, with pin and pen-ink, a series of strange runes around her wrists. Now her wrists were circled with the same runes, marked in frozen stone. “It could be the Old Tongue.”

“Old Tongue... does anyone even use that anymore?”

“Well, your Mentor speaks it, and I believe so does Reid Solomon.”

“Old Tongue?” Shahin snapped. Her wrists were glowing with blue runes. How was she going to cover that up?

“Yeah, I guess I could ask Professor Drake.”

“If you want to, ah, translate her wrists, yes, that would be your best bet.”

They were talking over her as if she were an object. He hadn’t even been this bad when he Owned her. She reached up, glad she could still feel and use her arms, and grabbed the base of Emrys’ ponytail firmly. ”Old Tongue?” she repeated.

“It’s an ancient language,” he replied blithely. ”No one uses it anymore; a lot of people wouldn’t even recognize it, much less read it.”

She didn’t let go of his hair; it seemed to hold his attention. ”And it’s carved into my wrists.”

“By you, right?” He eyed her curiously.

“Well, originally.” She ignored the gasp from the doctor. ”But that doesn’t explain the ice crystals.”

“It doesn’t,” he agreed, looking up at the doctor again.

She shook her head slowly. ”All indications are that this is the beginning of a Change. As to why these glyphs, I’d talk to Drake. And as to how you-” she winced “-knew of these beforehand, I’d talk to Shira Pelletier.”

“So that’s it?”

The doctor hesitated again. “I can give her something for the pain - sorry,” she turned to look at Shahin, “I can give you something for the pain, which should help with the other symptoms as well.”

Shahin’s hand clenched in Emrys’ hair. “Would this be like the pills you gave me for ‘birth control?’ I could probably do without that sort of help.”

She didn’t even look embarrassed, just nodded crisply. ”That’s a fair point. These pills will help soothe the pain, and calm the excess frost effect from your awakening magic. It’s not as inconveniencing as, say, setting the bed on fire, but it will be annoying, if not controlled, for a few days.

“They’re narcotic, however, and they are very easy to over-use. Normally, I’d give the pills to an older student who could control and monitor their use...”

“I’ll do it,” Emrys interrupted her.

The doctor looked askance at him. ”Can you keep her from over-indulging?”

“No, I volunteered because I planned to fail,” he snarked.

Shahin held her tongue. She was beginning to understand how the rules of this place worked.

The Doctor nodded. “No more than one pill every twelve hours.” She handed Shahin a pill and a glass of water, and handed Emrys a small bottle. “Don’t operate any heavy machinery or motor vehicles.”

“And don’t overdo the magic. And don’t get fed on by succubi or other energy-drainers,” Emrys supplied. He fidgeted under her glare, defensively adding “These things happen.”

“You’ll have to point out the succubi, then. And incubi, I assume?”

“Yeah. That probably includes Dysmas; I’m not sure if there are any more. We get a lot more succubi.”

“I imagine that’s more…” she trailed off as she noticed the tattoos on his chest. “Emrys…”

“What?” He blinked, following her gaze.

She held up her wrists against his body, where the fluid markings that wandered over his torso had settled into a long line of glyphs circling him – the same sigils that were etched into her skin.

“Oh. Um. So, yeah, about talking to those professors?”

“I’d like some clothes first, if you don’t mind.”

“I guess not, since we’re likely to be out in public.”

“Take me home, Emrys, I want my clothes.”

“Right.” He scooped her up again, taking care to keep the sheet wrapped around her.

“Thank you,” she murmured to the bemused doctor, who just nodded at the two of them, clearly thinking they were strange.

“Do you think we’re weird?” she asked, as he carried her back to her room.

“By local standards?” He laughed shortly, shaking his head as he walked. “Not particularly.”

“I don’t mean the Changes, ancient unknown language or not,” she shook her head impatiently. “I meant us, this relationship.”

“I haven’t seen a lot of ‘normal’ ones to compare it to,” he said carefully.

“Not much of an answer,” she smiled.

“Unusual, maybe. I wouldn’t say weird.”

“Half naked in the hall at two in the morning looks pretty weird to me.” Their path was blocked by a muscular man whose skin was midnight-black and eyes were redder than even Emrys’.

“Rozen.” Emrys frowned, taking a short step to the side to allow the larger boy room to move past. “We’re just out for a stroll, and you?” Shahin held still, letting him handle this.

“Couldn’t sleep. Hungry.”

“Right. Well, I’m sure you can pick something up at the store.” Emrys cautiously began to move past Rozen.

The demon was having none of that; he set his hand on Emrys’ free shoulder, stopping him.

“Neither of us needs this, Rozen. I respect what you can do, and you’d be well-advised to do likewise. This one’s mine, but there are plenty more for you.” His hands tensed slightly, holding the wrapped Shahin a bit tighter to him. “Hey, maybe we can go hunt them together sometime.”

She really had to put a collar on him. But maybe he was just trying to protect her? Rozen was half again his size…

And laughing. “Tell you what. You tell me the story sometime, and you can take your girl back to your room now. Sound good?”

“Sounds good,” he grinned.

The demon nodded, and stepped out of the way. “Better be a good story.”

“Oh, you’ll get a good laugh.” He began casually walking away, though he didn’t fully turn his back on Rozen.

Shahin twisted in his arms to be able to watch his back more effectively, still not saying anything. Life just kept getting weirder.

Only once they were back in her room was his relief evident in his voice. “That was a bit close.”

She slipped out of his arms, watching his face curiously. “He’s dangerous?”

“Very. He could’ve easily taken you from me, and it would fit his usual MO.”

“Well, then I’m glad you protected me.” She tugged on a pair of mitts, then went digging for the rest of an outfit.

“What were you thinking, wandering the halls at night dressed like that?,” he grinned.

“What, naked?”

“Basically. Sorry about that, but it seemed like an emergency.”

“I… it probably was.” She smirked at him. “Did you just apologize?”

“Could be,” he shrugged. “No big deal.”

She set down the clothes she’d just picked up. “It’s too early to go bothering the teachers, isn’t it?”

“The ones we need to talk to, anyway,” he agreed.

She shed her mitts again; she should be cold, but she was uncomfortably warm, even naked, and more than a little woozy. “I like the new tattoo design.”

“It’s certainly interesting. I’d like it more if I knew what was going on, I think.”

She rested her palms on his chest, just below the still, black glyphs. “You’re cute when you don’t have a fix on a situation.”

“I didn’t realize it worked like that,” he smirked. “You must be confused all the time.”

“Only for guys, dear.” There was just the warmth of his body when she touched him, no visions tonight. She wondered if they’d left her entirely, now, with the Change. “It’s the moment of vulnerability.”

“Ah, I see.”

He probably didn’t. That was, for the moment, okay. “We’ll stalk some professors in the morning, then. And maybe you’ll stop telling people I’m yours.”

“Maybe, but not if it’s necessary to protect you.”

“When did you get so concerned with my well-being?”

“I didn’t think it was that unusual to not want you dragged off and assaulted.”

She bit his collarbone, right through a glyph that looked like an angry letter H. “For me, it is.” She supposed she could just tell him not to hedge. Some part of her must be enjoying watching his dodging.

“If you’d rather fend for yourself, I suppose you can, but I don’t think you’d like to be carried off by the likes of Rozen.”

She bit again, harder, since he clearly wasn’t getting the point; the glyph flipped on its side. “Thank you for the permission – but I wasn’t complaining. I rather like the protectiveness. I just want to know where it came from.”

“You’re asking when the sky became blue, Sheen. That’s just how it is.”

She stared up at him for several long heartbeats, uncertain whether to hug him or bite him again. Finally, she settled on an embrace, a tight thing, squishing herself up against him. “I love you too,” she murmured into the side of his (uncollared) neck.


Chapter 61b: Shahin
Transformation takes my place
And just you keep it coming
A feeling I ain’t never felt before

They slept for a while; it was too early in the morning, and both of them too tired, for anything else. She dreamed, but her dreams were surreal and inconclusive, leaving her only with one clear image, of a teenage boy with his father’s stubborn chin and his mother’s nose.

She woke before he did, and sat watching him sleep. He was easier to deal with that way, softer, open, although there was nothing to decipher in his murmurings.

He blinked awake between one breath and another, leaving her wondering if he could feel the weight of her gaze on him. “I’m pregnant,” she told him, tasting the words for the first time.

He nodded slowly, blinking the sleep from his eyes.

“Doesn’t it terrify you?”

“Not particularly, but I’ve had a bit longer to get used to the idea.”

“In theory, yes, but this isn’t theory. This is practice. Reality, for what that’s worth.” She bit her lip. “And we’re stuck in here. And stuck with this, aren’t we?”

“I don’t mean the theory, I mean the fact that I found out the details Thursday morning. But yes, we are.”

“I’m terrified,” she admitted softly. And tired of the secrecy.

“I’m here for you. You’ll be okay.”

She looked down at him doubtfully, but forbore to comment. ”We need to bother some professors. Your tattoos are still echoing my wrists.”

“Yeah. Drake or Pelletier first?”

“Drake.” She stood, rather regretfully, before she could press a point that would only make her look more vulnerable.

He stood behind her, placing his hands on her shoulders. “It’ll be okay.”

“You’ll make it that way, will you?” she snapped... but she didn’t pull away.

“That’s the plan, at least.”

"Tell me, how were you planning on doing that?"

“I just explained the whole plan so far. We may have to fill in details later.”

She tried to stifle her giggle, but it flowed out of her, quickly becoming a full-blown guffaw.

He lowered his arms, wrapping them around her, and kissed the top of her head. “Come on. Let’s get dressed and go see Drake.”

“I do believe that was the plan.” She pulled her giggles under control and began dressing herself, taking a few minutes to savor the luxury of her whole closet and the time to pick her clothes. Clothes were going to be an issue soon - she made a face at her favorite corsets. Everything was going to be an issue.

Behind her, Emrys dressed himself quickly and quietly; she looked him over with a critical eye as she finished her own preparations. He wouldn’t have to worry about his shirts not fitting. She glared at his flat stomach. “Let’s go.”

He simply nodded and opened the door. “Drake’s office is upstairs, near Regine’s.”

“All right.” She claimed his hand without explanation. “Lead on.”

Emrys walked through the halls silently, hand in hers, finally arriving at a simple office door and knocking once.

“Come in.” The voice rang out crisply. Shahin opened the door, still holding on firmly, and gestured him in ahead of her. This was, after all, his Mentor.

Emrys stepped into the office, sitting as if by instinct in one of the two leather chairs on this side of the desk.

Shahin took the other chair, unobtrusively studying the severe-looking Professor. This was her first glimpse at him, a dour-looking man with thin scales running up both sides of his neck. He glanced incuriously at her and turned his attention to Emrys.

“To what do I owe this rare visit?”

“Well, we seem to have developed a curious issue, and we were hoping you might be able to shed some light on it.”

“I am not a relationship councilor. Try Professor Valerian for such things.”

Emrys barked a laugh. “If only it were that simple. Show him, Sheen?”

She smiled tightly. ”You first.”

Emrys nodded, lifting his shirt. “My tattoos have been changing.”

The Professor looked ever-so-slightly taken aback, his eyebrow lifting minusculy. ”Ah, yes, I see.”

“ match my new Changes,” Shahin added smoothly, peeling off her mitts before she could change her mind.

“Doctor Caitrin says it looks like Old Tongue.”

“She’s not entirely incorrect. Come closer and let me get a better look.”

She didn’t just let people look at her wrists; until Addergoole, not another soul had seen her wrists in nearly a decade. Still, she laid her arms palm-up on his desk. Beside her, Emrys leaned forward, edging slightly closer himself. Professor Drake, in turn, leaned closer to them, studying Emrys’ chest. “They’ve never made actual language before, have they?”

“No, not that I’ve noticed anyway. They definitely react to her now, though.”

“Interesting. ‘Now’ since her Change, or from some other marker?”

“Since her Change, last night.”

“Which placed these Old Tongue characters on her wrists. Mmm.” He continued before Shahin could decide whether or not to correct him. “Your tattoos have never made actual words before, and, to my knowledge, neither have your sire’s. Then again, I’ve never known his to respond to someone else, either, although they do change with his mood.”

Emrys bit his tongue, clearly not wishing to discuss his father. “Can you read them?”

Shahin filed that away for future reference while the professor hummed thoughtfully. “Yes. The question is what meaning is intended and, of course, by whom.”

“You think an outside force might be controlling it?”

“I think the possibility of a young girl spontaneously developing Idu a’Iduþin, that is, Old Tongue, on her wrists is rather slim, although if there is some sort of connection between the two of you, your tattoos then responding to whatever is controlling hers would be more likely.”

“Some of that she’d already written there. Herself. Before ever coming here. The Change just highlighted it.”


“Tattooed,” she clarified, “with a Bic and a pin.”

“Aaah. That makes sense, then. And where did you see these characters?”

She found she didn’t like his tone at all. No wonder Emrys was such a pain in the ass. “In my visions,” she answered.

“When did you start having these visions?”

When Abby died. But it had been before that. “When…” She gestured vaguely, mortified to find herself too embarrassed to continue. The professor turned to Emrys, as if he could answer for her.

“I’m not entirely sure,” he said slowly. “Some years ago, at least.”

Shahin bit her lip. “I was thirteen,” she said carefully. “I’d just started… ah…” well, she wouldn’t have to worry about that for a few months.

“Ah, yes.” Blessedly, the professor appeared to understand. “Such things can often trigger early Gifts. And did a specific vision lead to – ah, tattooing these marks on yourself?”

If all adults were this rational about things like this, she never would have had to cover her wrists in the first place. But the visions he was asking after were uncomfortable to even think about, much less describe. She reclaimed Emrys’ hand, trying not to squeeze.

He held it gently but firmly, a reassuring presence, and she felt like she could go on.

“It was a series of visions, but they kept coming back to the same place. A ruined city. Not a city I’ve ever seen, and without the skyline, I could never identify it. And there was no skyline left, just a few buildings left cutting into the sky.” She noticed the look of surprise he tried to cover, but kept going. “The visions always brought me back to one structure, something that had to be new. It looked like it had been salvaged from other buildings, and yet it was stately, Grecian-looking, like it was lording over the ruin.” Now the professor simply looked thoughtful. She kept on, since she was nearly done. “These letters were carved into the front of the building.” She gestured vaguely at her wrists.

“And it seemed important to you.”

She coughed out a short laugh. “Yes.”


She shrugged. “Why? I don’t know. It was just there, all the time, and when I started doing this, the visions seemed to back off. As long as I was poking it into my skin, they left me alone.”

“And you haven’t had the visions since you finished?”

“Not those visions,” she agreed. “The city and the building went away.”


“And how mine have changed? Was that written as well?”

He, she realized, hadn’t had a chance to take a good look at himself in a mirror. “Yours match mine. Except that H-like thing that turned on its side when I bit you.”

“Exactly the same, then?” He frowned slightly, turning back to Drake. “So, any ideas?”

“None of them good.” He pursed his lips. “What, exactly, is the connection between the two of you?”

“At the moment, I Belong to her, for the rest of the week. Last week it was the opposite.”

“But she began her Becoming when she Owned you. Interesting. It would be educational to see you repeat this when you were out of the school, and truly adults.” He shook his head crisply. “First things first. Your tattoos are likely responding to her because of the emotional connection. I can translate this for you;” he very clearly turned his attention to Shahin, “but as to why it is plaguing you, I’d suggest you talk to Professor Pelletier .”

That name again. Shahin nodded her understanding, and held out her wrists again for Drake to read.


Chapter 61c: Shahin
And I need some good girl in front of me baby
You drivin' me crazy, yeah
She got it written on her

“The first thing you need to know about the Idu a’Iduþin is the manner in which its alphabet functions,” Professor Drake lectured. He was holding Shahin’s hands, turning them over and then back again to study the blue-ice-like characters etched into her wrists. “There are fifteen major and eleven minor characters, each of which serves as a letter sound, as in the Roman alphabet. Each of the major characters also serves as a word-meaning in itself, which can be modified by each of the minor characters in eleven different manners. Used such it is called the High Alphabet (although it is technically a logography), while using the letter sounds is considered the Low Alphabet.”

Shahin blinked, struggling to follow along. He had to be a joy to have as a teacher.

“The interesting thing about your markings-” he actually sounded interested, now “-is that they have meaning in both the High and Low Alphabets.”

“Oh?” She’d lived with these marking for years now. She’s always known they had meaning, but had always been more than a little afraid, considering the nature of her visions, to find out exactly what she’d inked into herself. If the professor hadn’t claimed her hands, she would have clung to Emrys. Instead, she simply looked at him, hoping he could offer some non-snide support.

His attention was focused on the professor, not meeting her gaze. “So what things do they mean?”

The professor kept his eyes on Shahin, even while answering Emrys’ question. “In the Low Alphabet, they translate to two words . The one on her right wrist is ‘Oseraei.’”

Emrys gulped, nodding slowly. “And the left?”

“Well, it’s an interesting word. Words, rather. If you read it from this point, it means ‘that which will come;’ if you read it from this point-” with each point, he tapped her wrist, once at the top, once at the bottom - “it means ‘that which has already been.’ I don’t suppose you’ve read a lot of T.H. White, or Tolkien?”

"The Once and Future King?" Emrys scoffed.

“Or ‘The Return of the First.’” Drake raised an eyebrow at Shahin.

“Well, I’ve read them,” she demurred, “but not until high school. After the visions.” She spared a frustrated glare for Emrys for his complete lack of helping.

“So does that mean, she’s supposed to be...?”

“The returned gods? I doubt it,” he scoffed.

“You two are so very pleasant.”

“Sorry, this is just... gods, I don’t even know.”

“Pretty strange? Yes. I thought you’d had time to get used to the weirdness of this place?”

“There’s weird, and then there’s weird.”

“Well, welcome to my weird.”

“I guess so,” he smiled ruefully. “So, Professor? You said there was a second meaning?”

“You two fence so beautifully,” Drake smirked. “but yes. The other meaning is more complex.” He cleared his throat.

“‘Come now, ye bastards of the three and of the four, “‘Come, ye begat of ice, of fire, of earth and sky, “‘Stand firm, the storm is circling ‘round. “‘Stand together, against the crumbling ruins.’”

“That’s... yes, a bit more complex.”

Shahin couldn’t help smirking a little at that, as overwhelmed as she was.


“Ah, well, that probably means ‘halfbreeds.’”


“Technically, almost everyone here is a bastard.”

“And a halfbreed,” the professor pointed out helpfully.

“At least you know who your father is,” Shahin complained.

“Some help that is,” Emrys snorted.


“My father’s nothing to be proud of.”

“So. I have a prophecy on my wrists.” She looked down at them. ”Or a warning, or some poetry. In a language I don’t know.”

“And it seems to like me, too.”

“Well, you’re so likable.”

“Think it means anything, the way it matched us?” Emrys looked from Shahin to Drake. “We’ve seen Changes affect multiple people before...”

The professor nodded slowly. “As with Mabina and Cassidy, yes. It’s certainly a possibility. Have you experienced any other supernatural signs of connection?”

“Aside from those connected with Belonging, no.” He glanced at Shahin.

“That’s not true,” she shook her head. “That first night at the dance. That wasn’t just, ah, hormones.”

“What exactly did you feel?”

She looked at him with some consternation. She’d believed for weeks that he’d felt it, too.

She voiced that, not sure she wanted to answer more if he hadn’t. “I thought you felt it.”

“We may not have experienced the same things, and that could be important now.”

“Heat. Fire. Lust,” she admitted ruefully. ”More of any of those than I’ve ever felt.”

“Similar, but I didn’t attribute it to magic.”

She shakes her head. “You’re always warm. But not like that. And there were visions… but there’s so often visions.”

He nods. “I seem to feature prominently in those, lately.”

“In my visions? When I’m touching you, yes. And I touch you more than anyone else.”

“I think it might be time to consult with Pelletier.”

“I think ceasing having a private conversation in front of your Mentor might be polite.” She nodded at Drake. “Thank you, sir.”

“Do let me know what you discover.” It was clearly a dismissal, and she didn’t mind at all. She re-gloved herself and offered Emrys her hand. He took it, leading her out of the office.

“So…” she began, as they headed through the halls. He didn’t pick up the conversation thread, so she continued. “Thoughts?”

“Still working on this one. I haven’t seen anything quite like this.”

“That’s a bit of a relief.”

“New isn’t necessarily good.”

“No, it’s not. But you’re a bit insufferable when you know what’s going on.”

“Well, excuse me for having a clue.”

“The moment you excuse me for having been kept in the dark,” she retorted.

“I do remember what that was like, actually.”

She swallowed a snappish reply and, instead, kissed him. It seemed the safest course of action.

He stopped walking, turning in the hall to kiss her back.

The kiss turned from a light peck into something intense; she grabbed his shoulders and then, driven to be touching him skin-on-skin, wrapped her fingers around the back of his neck. The lines on her wrists blazed brightly, shining through her mitts, lighting her nerves on fire. It was hellish, but strangely pleasurable, a five-alarm chili sort of kiss. She didn’t pull back until her fingers began to freeze.

“Wow,” he breathed softly as they disengaged.

“Oh, yes.” Clouds of condensation formed between them with her breath. “Tell me that’s natural.”

“Um, I don’t think so.”

“I agree.” She flexed her hands ruefully. “Ow. But so worth it.”

“Pelletier should be able to tell us more. She knows a lot of theoretical stuff.”

“I believe that’s where we were heading, yes?”

“And here we are, even.”

She looked behind him at the placard on the door. “Ah, yes, we are. Mind knocking?”

He knocked twice, waiting for the response, which came almost before he was done: “come in!”

Emrys opened the door, holding it for Shahin.

She walked in to the office, which appeared at first glance to be horribly cluttered, and at second glance to be very tidy, but incredibly full of things, some of them very strange. Professor Pelletier sat at her desk, an ancient, handwritten book in what looked like Old Tongue open on her desk.

“Well, that’s a promising start,” Emrys murmured.

Shahin coughed. “Professor Drake told you we were coming?”

“Mmm? No, I just had a feeling I’d need this. How can I help you two?”

“Shirt,” Shahin murmured to Emrys.

He pulled his shirt up again, watching the professor’s expression go from concern to mild dismay to shock. “Oh, my. Emrys, you have Old Tongue in your tattoos.”

“Yes, I know. And I’m not thrilled about what it says.”

Shahin peeled her gloves off while they talked.

“So you’ve had Drake translate it – them – no, it, it’s the same thing, isn’t it? – then?”

“Yes. But we’re still not sure what it actually means.”

“Also, I need a Mentor, please.” Before the professor could respond, Shahin relayed the story and the dual meaning of her tattoos.

“Ah, ah yes.” She looked thoughtfully at Emrys. “So very interesting. And you two are, I take it, together?”

“For the moment.”

“For the moment?”

“This week,” she clarified, “I Own him. Last week, it was the other way around. Next week is still up for negotiation.” She glanced at him as she said that. Was it, really? Since he’d gotten his hooks right into her womb?

He just smiled in that infuriating way he had, and nodded at Pelletier. “We hoped you might be able to shed some light on whether this implied a deeper connection. Drake referenced Mabina and Cassidy’s condition...”

“While that could be a possibility,” she hrmmed, “neither Mabina and Cassidy, nor the other couple I know like them, exhibit quite so much animosity. Also, in both cases, they Changed at once. I suspect that this indicates a connection, certainly, but it’s unlikely the two of you will start breathing in synch.

“However,” she continued, just as Shahin was starting to relax, “the message marking itself into both of you would suggest that you’d better get used to each other’s company. I think you’re stuck together.”

She looked back at him, at his exasperating smile. “For how long?”

“Well – and this means more with you and I than with normal people – I’d say for the foreseeable future.” She didn’t look away from Emrys. She wanted to see what he felt about this.

He just nodded slowly, though the smile was gone. “Well, we had some plans for the immediate future, at least.”

“No,” she retorted crisply, “we have a coming baby. That may have been your plan, but it’s not a plan we have.”

“So you’re saying we shouldn’t plan for it now?”

“No,” she shook her head. “We should. We should figure out what it is we want to do. For however long it looks like we’re going to be together… which looks like sometime past the end of the world.”

“I’m not sure we need to plan quite that far ahead already. Maybe we should plan the rest of this year, first, and see how we do with that.”

“Eighteen years.” She snapped the words out, aware Professor Pelletier was listening and not really caring.

“Excuse me?”

“We don’t have to plan for the rest of the world. But we do have to figure out at least long enough to raise this baby.”

“That’s not eighteen years. When he’s old enough, he’ll come here. I’m still not eighteen, and it’s not my first year. You’re certainly not.”

“Come here…?” She glanced at the professor, who nodded mutely. Another nail, damnit. She could argue about that later. “Sixteen years, then. Or, if you prefer, one year, with an ‘and then what?’ clause.”


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