Chapter 102: Jamian
Mother knows best
Listen to your mother
It's a scary world out there
Things had been tense around Ty since the cy’ree meeting, and Jamian didn’t know how to fix things. He’d tried everything he could come up with - short of breaking down and crying, or switching into girl form and letting Ty do what he so clearly wanted to – to make things better, but he’d only managed to get them so far as not-horrible. Ty was in a sulk, and wasn’t going to be talked out of it until he was damned good and ready.
He’d been expecting to be kept in the suite all weekend; Ty had been being like that, and had flat-out refused to go to Shahin’s challenge Friday. It didn’t stop him from being antsy – what would Kai think if he didn’t show? Would she come knocking on the door? How would that go over? Would she go out on her own instead? How would that go over?
“Do you love her?” Ty’s question came out of nowhere. “Jamian, tell me the truth.”
“Who?” He bit back Kailani?, figuring that would confirm Ty’s suspicions, order-to-be-honest or no.
He flinched, and looked over at his strawberry-blonde Keeper. “I don’t love Kai,” he said carefully. “Or Ivette. Or Kylie. Or Smitty,” he added belatedly. Ty,” he added, a little exasperated, “you’re the first – and last – person I’ve ever loved.”
“Oh.” He looked so small and startled, Jamian just had to hug him. From the inside of the tight squeeze, Ty murmured, “oh. Okay…” and hugged him back.
After a few moments, he added, “you’ve got a study session with her, don’t you? Go ahead, don’t keep her waiting.”
“Thanks, Ty.” Feeling immensely shy about it, Jamian kissed him. Ty was … was pretty cool, when they weren’t fighting. Maybe even when they were.
Before he changed his mind, before Kai ended up knocking on her own door because it was next in the alphabet, he hurried off to her suite.
Mabina answered the door there, which came as little surprise. She seemed to have taken on the role of mother to her crew, having rather more self-motivation to be, or at least act like, a responsible adult. It must be nice having her around, he thought.
“Hi,” he smiled, trying to think of Shiva or Magnolia being motherly. “I’m here to see Kailani.”
“She’s out at a cy’ree meeting... but come on in, Jamian,” she said, stepping aside with a warm smile.
“Oh.” Obedience was getting to be a habit; he stepped inside. “Okay? I didn’t know she had a meeting today.” He could have stayed with Ty…
“It came up suddenly, I think,” she said breezily as she walked briskly to the kitchen. “Have a seat, I’ll get you a cookie.”
He sat, a little bemused. “I don’t want to impose…”
“Nonsense.” There was a soft burp of Tupperware from the kitchen, followed by the sounds of a shaker of some sort.
“O-kay. Thanks, then.” He looked around. “Your suite is a lot less messy than ours.” It wasn’t brilliant conversation, but it was true.
“I do try to keep things tidy.” She returned from the kitchen with a large sugar cookie. A capital J was drawn on the top of it in red sprinkles. “Here you go, dear.”
He stared at the cookie for a moment in awe before he took it. “Wow, wow. Thanks. This is… wow.”
“You’re welcome.” She sat down next to him, folding her hands in her lap. “So, tell me about what you’re doing with Kailani.” She was so very nice, he hadn’t even seen the trap closing around him until he was stuck, and now he had the incredibly awkward feeling of discussing his girlfriend with her mother, even though neither Kailani nor Mabina were actually those things.
“Uh…” What did she already know? Kai wouldn’t have gone and told her, would she? Would Conrad have? Could he have? “Just talking,” he hedged, and took a big bite of the cookie.
“About your ‘studies’,” Mabina nodded. “I talked to Kailani. And then Conrad, at somewhat more length.”
Fuck. And he was going to have to tell Kai her boyfriend-slash-Kept had ratted them out. But… he nibbled a little more cookie while he tried to feel out Mabina’s emotions.
“Thanks for the cookie, it’s delicious. So yeah, we’ve been talking to some Fifth Cohorts.”
“You’re welcome.” He could feel her warm sincerity there, but there was also something else; he’d need more time to figure it out. “Where do you see this going, Jamian?”
Damn damn damn. Well, if they’d managed the talk with Emrys without any major explosions, he ought to be able to handle this. “There’s not a lot of information easily available, and we all got so distracted right away with upperclassmen that we never really got a chance to know that many other of the Fifth Cohort,” he hedged. Kai had said something about that – things seemed designed to isolate the Fifths.
“I can certainly understand that,” she said sympathetically. “When you do have all the information you want, though, what then?”
He shrugged, feeling a little angry. “Make sure everyone has it? I mean, it’s a bit late for me and all, but maybe people can, you know, know the rules enough that they don’t end up getting giant-raped.”
“Oh, Jamian.” It still surprised him when strange people hugged him. Especially attractive girls, although he hadn’t thought of Mabina that way at all until she was pressed up against him. He worked furiously to banish the thought as she talked. “So you want to tell everyone everything?”
He winced, his thoughts scrambling away from the pretty girl hugging him. “Well, I want to. But I don’t know what’s actually reasonable,” he inserted quickly. “I don’t even know what we’re going to learn yet. And how much of what we’re learning is just lies?”
“Good questions.” Curiosity, yes, he’d thought he recognized that, and... suspicion, was that it? It took him by surprise, coming from her, and that had likely delayed his analysis. She was still talking, though. “By the end of your first year, though, you’ll have sorted out all the truth, I think. Faster than that for an inquisitive young man like yourself.” She released him with a smile. “But then what, next year?”
Next year. He winced. He didn’t want to think about next year. Ty would be gone. “Ty’ll be gone. I think, next year…” Next year, Kai had plans. But Kai might be carrying Tolly’s kid. And Tya wanted him to carry hers. “…next year, I,” he gulped back a treacherous sob, “I’m going to have my hands full with the two kids Ty wants to leave me with, and, you know, the three he has already he doesn’t do anything about.”
And then he was being hugged again. “You poor thing.”
“I…” The hugs were nice, but if he didn’t disentangle soon, he was going to start crying on this complete stranger. “It’s not that bad. I mean... I get to go out and hang out with people and stuff. Thanks for the cookie.” It was still half-eaten; he took another big bite and enjoyed it before speaking again. “Will you tell Kai I stopped by, please?”
“Of course I will, dear. Is there any news from your work I should pass along to her?”
He shook his head. “Nothing. Ty’s had me at home all week.”
“Alright, then.” She released him again and rose from the couch. “I’ll let her know you came. Enjoy your cookie.”
“Thanks again.” Even if the cookie had come with an interrogation, it had been relatively pleasant – and a very nice cookie.
Well, if Kai wasn’t around, he could probably manage the next person on the list without too much trouble. He smirked to himself. That was him. No, no, Finnegan was first, but he was Kept. Did he want to risk that?
And Kylie… considering the way Ty had been lately, he wasn’t sure he wanted to show up at Mark’s suite without a chaperone. Well, short of showing up at Kailani’s door…
He’d been wandering, not really thinking where he was going, or, apparently, looking; he jumped as Kendra greeted him in her tiny squeak of a voice.
“Hi, Kennie. I was just thinking of you,” he blurted. Shit, did I just say that? The color in her cheeks suggested that yeah, he really had.
“Yeah?” She smiled shyly at him and fiddled with her collar.
“Yeah. Um. Kai and I have been talking to the other Fifths, just, um, getting to know everyone. And we hadn’t gotten to you, yet.”
“Oh.” Was it his imagination, or did she look disappointed? He couldn’t resist the urge to taste her emotions. No, she really was a bit let down. He fiddled with the necklace Ty had given him. “Just… getting to know the rest of the Fifth?”
“Kinda, yeah. Sharing stories, that sort of thing.” Damn, damn, damn.
“Oh. That sounds kind of fun.” She smiled faintly at him.
“There are no stories to be had here.” Jamian recognized the golden-skinned boy, Ofir, primarily from that nasty scene in the lunchroom a few weeks back. He stepped up close behind Kendra, setting a hand on her shoulder possessively. “Don’t go sticking your nose in where it doesn’t belong.”
Shit. Then again, having seen Ofir get his ass handed to him by Mark didn’t make him the most intimidating figure. “We were just talking,” he answered mildly.
“Of course you were,” Ofir agreed, leaning down to kiss Kendra’s cheek. She smiled faintly at him, leaning into his touch; her emotions were a mix of nerves and affection. “Now run along. I don’t want to see you bothering my girl again.”
“Sure.” It wasn’t worth a fight right now, and he could tell Kendra didn’t want him making a fuss. He could talk to Manira, maybe. She wasn’t Kept, as far as he could tell… and she was cy’Linden.
Copyright © 2009-2011 Lyn Thorne-Alder with Elasmo. All rights reserved.
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