Chapter 103: Shahin
That drip of hurt, that pint of shame
Goes away; just play the game!
You're living in America, at the end of the millennium
You're living in America; leave your conscience at the tone
“Shahin cy’Pelletier, we Belong each to the other, for all time, unending.” She’d stared at him for a moment, her ears ringing, her lip bleeding, her world rearranging. A tiny part of her brain had pointed out that he’d definitely won this round, while the rest of her was shouting Shut up shut up and say the words!
It felt… perfect. It had been two days, and it still felt perfect, almost blissful. Like they’d locked in a piece of the puzzle, finally gotten it exactly right. “Emrys cy’Drake, we Belong to each other, for all time, unending.” There was no getting rid of him now. She found it was a comforting thought. She found his bare skin against hers in bed just as comforting, warming her ice until she no longer felt frozen.
A thought occurred to her, and she chuckled, rolling over to look at her lover.
“Mmm? What’s on your mind?” His fingers traced fire down her side - not literally, she was getting better at telling without looking - in a simple, unconscious motion, one of a host of little things that underscored their closeness now.
“Well,” she murmured, still a bit surprised that she felt comfortable enough to tease him, “you’ve gotten me pregnant. And we’ve already agreed to stay together forever…”
“Yes?” Despite his questioning tone, she could tell from the quirk of his smile that he already knew where she was going with this.
“Just pondering the next step, although it seems we’ve gotten things a bit backwards.” She was, clearly, only going to do this the once. She wasn’t going to give up any faint chance she might have at getting a proper proposal.
“We may have,” he admitted. “Of course, not everything works quite the same down here.”
“Clearly,” she smiled. “Are you going to tell me how this one works differently, too?”
“Depends on what exactly you’re looking for, I suppose.”
She tilted her head, wondering if they were on the same page, wondering, idly, since they were together for the unforeseen future, if she still needed to win every match. “Whatever I want,” she said carefully, “it’s going to involve you in a central role.” She smirked faintly. “For all time, unending.”
“And I have no objection to that,” he smirked.
“Clearly.” She poked him lightly. “Difficult man.” Her difficult man.
“Would you rather I was easy?”
“Of course not. But some days I’d rather you were slightly less opaque.”
“We could be direct about this if you really want.”
She glanced at the clock. “Perhaps another time,” she admitted ruefully. “We need to go collect Xaviera’s… tribute.”
“Ah, that we do. It sounds like you have a plan.”
“Didn’t I tell you I did, back when Aggie came knocking?” A lifetime and a half ago.
A smile crept across his face, slowly, but widening. “I see. An interesting plan indeed. Well, I hear she has a lot of cranial kinesis...”
She liked that smile, liked it enough that it almost distracted her from what he’d said. “Cranial kinesis?”
“The thing that lets snakes kind of unhinge their jaws, y’know?”
Her smile widened. “Ah, yes. I see we’re on the same page. Shall we go collect?”
“Let’s,” he nodded, offering her his hand.
She squeezed his hand and smiled as she stood. “At the very least, I need gloves.”
“Is that all?” he teased. “We could do that, I suppose.”
“I wouldn’t mind clothes as well. But I need gloves.” She released his hand reluctantly to choose an outfit. “We should at the very least formalize cohabitation. Do you have room in your closet for me?”
“Of course, I always keep room in my closet for a girl. You never know when something like that’s going to come up,” he replied glibly.
She chuckled. If he hadn’t done so when he was Keeping her, he probably wouldn’t try it now. “I’m small. How about my wardrobe?”
“That’s a lot bigger than you, y’know. But yeah, we can make it work.”
“Or you could just move into my room. I think you have less to move.” Getting dressed was becoming bearable, although she still couldn’t look at her corsets without flinching. At least the doctor had healed the worst of the damage Xaviera had inflicted.
“I like my room, though. I’ve been in it longer.”
“As long as you’re willing to help me move my clothes.”
“If that’s the worst we have to deal with together this week, I’ll be grateful.”
She winced, hoping he’d blame it on the blouse she was buttoning up. ”Yes.” Fortunately, he didn’t seem to notice, busy as he was dressing himself. “Hrmm. I wonder if poisonous bullies rank higher or lower than clothing?”
“In terms of what I’ll make room for in my closet?”
“Dear, if you have poisonous bullies in your closet, we may need to have a talk. In terms of ‘worst things to deal with.’”
“I’d say she’s slightly worse, but substantially defanged at present.”
“We should go remind her of that before she bites anyone.” She brushed an imaginary speck of lint off her blouse, feeling much more like herself, and once again offered him her hand. “I told her to meet us in the hall outside Agatha’s suite.”
“Oh, that’s lovely. I’m sure she’s dying of anticipation.” He took her hand with a jovial grin.
“She deserves a little of it. She’s horrid to the younger kids.”
“Trickle-down,” he shrugged.
“From Ardell, she said? Mm, but at some point you have to stop, or we’re going to be…” drowning the Sixth Cohort in sinks… She clamped down on the image that wanted to present itself, not bothering to discern if it was a vision or a memory ”…pretty awful next year, ourselves.”
“Well, the other students haven’t treated either of us that badly. On the whole, I think it’s looking up.”
“And we’re about to ruin Xaviera’s day.” It wasn’t a long walk, from Emrys’ pod to Agatha’s suite; they were almost there.
“Year, really. She’s got both her kids already, I doubt she planned to be pregnant again.”
“She should have been more careful who she picked on, then.”
“No argument here.”
“How novel,” she murmured, as they came within sight of the ophidian blonde in question.
“So what’s it going to be?” Xaviera asked, turning an assessing eye over the two of them.
Shahin smiled sweetly at her. “I’ll take my five minutes starting now, then.”
“Done. It’s your nickel.”
Her heart was pounding and her mouth was dry. God, let this work. “Say that you Belong to us, to Emrys and I.”
“Wait, what? That... it’s not...”
“You forgot to limit the deal to things that had no lasting repercussions,” Emrys said. “So sad.”
“Pity,” Shahin smirked. “So…?”
She was fighting it, Shahin could tell, fighting it with everything she had. “I b..b..b...”
It wasn’t going to be enough, though. She didn’t have the strength of will that Shahin herself had, whatever it had been that let her defy the Law even so briefly as she had.
“You Belong to us.”
Xaviera’s slitted blue eyes widened. “No, no please no... I belong to y..y..y...”
Shahin actually felt a bit bad for the girl. But she couldn’t afford to back off at this point. “You Belong to us,” she repeated. “Say it, Xaviera.”
“I belong to you,” she whispered, a single tear welling forth.
“Yes, you do,” Shahin nodded. “There are worse fates, you know.”
“You do,” Emrys echoed.
They looked at the girl for a minute. The next step was obvious; they were standing outside Agatha’s suite for a reason, after all; she’d set this whole thing up for the sole purpose (primary purpose, at least; showing the bully up had been fun, too) of taking care of Tolly’s graduation requirements. But all Shahin could think about was Kai’s stricken face, Kai’s, and Tolly’s. “Fuck,” she muttered softly, surprising herself with the profanity.
“What?”“ Emrys asked. “It worked, I can feel it. We’re almost done.”
“Can you really send her in there?” she asked him softly. “Can you do that to her? To Tolly?”
“Tolly?” Xaviera asked nervously. “What about Tolly?”
“It’s not like we’re forcing him,” Emrys replied to Shahin, ignoring Xaviera for the moment.
“Aggie wasn’t forcing him, either, and look how well that went. He was nearly as broken up as she was.” She followed his lead and ignored the snake-woman.
“She kind of was, in her way. It was a one-time thing. So, why don’t we just let him know the option is available, then?”
“Option?” Xaviera was sounding close to panic now.
She frowned. “We’d still be forcing her, even if we weren’t forcing him. It’s not a bad contingency plan… but I’m not sure I can do it.”
“If it’s that or another year stuck here, I have no problem forcing her.”
“I…” The moment when Xaviera went from worried to resigned was palpable; her shoulders slumped and she fell quiet. Shahin frowned.
“I may have a back-up plan,” she said slowly. “If that fails… then we’ll go with plan A. It’s not as if she’s going anywhere.”
“What kind of back-up plan?”
Copyright © 2009-2011 Lyn Thorne-Alder with Elasmo. All rights reserved.
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