Chapter 112: Shahin
We got one thing in common when we walked in
A memory we're tryin' to kill
Swearin' up and down we'll never try again, but
We know we will
Welcome to the club
Shahin settled onto Carter’s bed for their Sunday cy’ree meeting, looking around at the group thoughtfully, her gaze returned just as pensively by Eris.
“We’re an interesting group,” she offered. They were waiting on the other three girls; Channing, at least, should be there, though they were never sure about Callista and Kendra.
Eris nodded. “We used to call it the Pelletier Support Group.” There was a clear challenge in her tone; Shahin met her eyes and nodded.
“You all seem rather tight-knit,” she agreed.
“We are,” Nikolai replied, his defense nearly as bristly as Eris’s tone before he added, “And you now, too.”
She blinked, failing to cover her surprise, and stared down at her gloved hands for a moment, trying to come up with a suitable response. For once, she was speechless.
“You’re one of us now,” Carter reiterated. “Welcome to the club. We may not have much, but we have each other.”
“Welcome,” Eris echoed, far less graciously. She, clearly, still felt Shahin was an interloper.
She was, to an extent, wasn’t she? She looked between them slowly. “Thanks,” she murmured. “I’ve never… never been part of anything before, not a group, that is.”
“We all need someone to lean on sometimes,” Nikolai said. “Some more than others, and we don’t begrudge that. Shira helps, too.”
Community. It was a concept she’d heard of, but never been included in. She nodded, understanding the obligation implied. She could do that. “I…” I’m still broken, I can’t go more than three hours without wanting another pill. “I might be a bit wobbly on occasion, but I can be steady enough to be leaned upon.”
“You’ll fit right in,” Carter grinned, though there was something deeper in his eyes, an old pain. What, who, had hurt him? Were all of these people...?
She couldn’t expect them to tell her anything if she didn’t tell them anything. She fiddled at the cuffs of her gloves.
“A dragon,” she whispered softly, just as someone knocked on the door.
Carter stalled her with one finger as he went to answer the door. “Come on in. We were just welcoming Shahin officially to the cy’ree.”
Channing entered, with Callista behind her. As Carter finished his sentence, though, the spiderlike girl scurried over to hug Shahin fiercely. “Oh,” she said, the simple commiseration in her tone saying more than more words could.
Shahin, startled, returned the hug carefully. There was nothing to the girl but flesh stretched over ribs; what these people had been through, she couldn’t even imagine. She felt somehow like a fraud.
Callista detached herself quickly, taking a seat in the corner of the bed as was her wont.
“A dragon, you said?” Nikolai prompted gently. “That much was true?”
She nodded, trying to find the words. “A dragon,” she repeated quietly. “Took Emrys and I. Wanted to break the Belonging, so he could Own us both.” The words seemed to rasp out of her throat, as she remembered the tiny bed, the sink, Emrys’ bloody and unconscious face.
“It’s okay,” Carter said, forestalling her. “You don’t have to say any more. We all have our demons.”
She nodded gratefully, shoving her hands inside her gloves again. “Yeah.”
“I suppose you deserve to know as much, then,” he continued. “Acacia.”
He nodded to Eris, who spoke in turn. “Shadrach.”
She looked towards Callista, but it was clear that the girl wasn’t going to speak for herself; Nikolai said what they all knew. “Ib.”
She hadn’t heard of Shadrach, but Acacia, Kai had told her a few things about. “Conrad’s collar,” she said softly.
“I heard about that,” Carter nodded. “It was supposed to be disenchanted; but, his Keeper does seem to be angling to be Junior Thorne Girl, so...”
“Kai?” Shahin blinked. “Are we talking about the same person?”
“Redheaded Fifth, Regine’s pet student, hangs out with the Thornes and trains with them, got herself a Kept in two weeks?”
When he put it like that, it not only sounded bad, it sounded like a completely different person. She shook her head slowly. “She doesn’t hang out with the Thornes, she hangs out with Jaya cy’Linden and Conrad’s crew. I’m not really clear on why she’s training with them, but, knowing her, it was probably some sort of research.”
“Research,” Carter sighed, shaking his head. “You know, that’s what the Director - her mentor - calls everything that happens to us down here?”
“I can believe that,” Shahin admitted slowly. “Which brings us back to winning this thing.”
“We can do it,” Nikolai said. “Gods know we could use the vacation.”
“Yes,” Shahin agreed. “That was the plan. I, ah,” she swallowed, and tried again. “I don’t know how being away from Emrys will work, but I’m willing to do everything we have to, to win this thing.”
“Well, a second cy’ree will go,” Channing pointed out. “Who’s on his team?”
She shook her head. “cy’Drake. Finnegan, Nikita, Dawfyyd and Rafe.” She winced a little as she continued. “I think cy’Fridmar or Team Misfit could use the vacation more.”
“Well, it’s not like we get to pick,” Nikolai laughed.
“Why not?” she countered.
That flustered him. “Well, I mean, everyone’s going to try their best, right?”
“Are they?” she asked, a little more gently this time.
“Most people, anyway. But how could we help someone that isn’t our team?”
“It comes down to a matter of who we don’t want to win, I believe, rather than who we want to win. Hindering is usually easier than helping.”
“She’s right,” Carter said, nodding slowly. “I think I see where she’s going with this. So, who don’t we want to win?”
“Who doesn’t need the vacation?” Shahin asked. Eris looked very thoughtful about that, before answering,
“cy’Luca and cy’Doug are fine. You’re probably right about cy’Drake,” she added ruefully, “but I don’t know about cy’… Misfit needing it, either.”
“Yeah, who all got lumped into that one, anyway?” Channing asked.
“cy’Regine, cy’Akatil…” Shahin struggled to remember, “and I think Nydia is cy’DJ?”
“I don’t know what cy’ree everyone is yet,” the girl complained.
“I don’t, either,” Shahin admitted. “My friend Ayla is in Akinobu’s cy’ree; I think Xaviera is, too. And Yngvi is in Solomon’s.”
“Solomon’s a mixed bunch,” Carter noted. “He’s got Ib and Rand, but also Mabina and Cassidy, among others. Akinobu only had Coy and Xaviera before this year.”
“They don’t all seem to be as themed as some,” Shahin mused. “cy’Doug vs. cy’Akinobu, for example; there’s very little, as far as I can tell, that Xaviera and Ayla have in common.” Except her.
“Both athletic, blonde girls?” Nikolai smirked. “Maybe he has a type.” Eris hit him with a pillow.
“Well, some of the qualities they look for are less tangible than others,” Carter explained. “And occasionally there are personal reasons.”
“Personal reasons?” she coaxed.
“I don’t know details, but you can see some matches where it seems like something else is going on. Delaney and Valerian. Kylie and Doug.”
“Hey,” Eris complained.
“I don’t mean it’s anything bad,” Carter said quickly. “But it’s a puzzler. For four years, he takes no students but the Thornes, and now this girl?”
“Dancing,” she explained shortly. “She’s a dancer.”
“There you are, then,” he nodded, turning back to Shahin. “Sometimes there’s a simple answer. But it’s not always obvious from the outside.”
She nodded. “That makes sense. We don’t look like a very homogenous group from the outside, either. But… so who do we not want to win?” She urged them gently back towards the point.
“Cy’Fridmar. Cy’Linden. Probably cy’Solomon.”
She glanced at Callista sidelong, curious as to her take on that.
The girl was drained of all expression; she didn’t comment.
She’d heard Eris doing an idu intinn during their last cy’ree meeting; she glanced over at the blue-haired girl.
“It’ll be tough,” Eris said softly. “Being apart for more than a day or so, after the time they’ve been together. She needs him.”
“Aaah.” Shahin nodded slowly. ”I’m still learning how it works,” she admitted. She was admitting ignorance an awful lot lately. ”Should we scrap the idea?”
“It’s better than them being together.”
Shahin, looking at the girl’s ribs sticking out either side of her skimpy halter top, couldn’t bring herself to argue. ”All right, then.”
Through all of that, Callista herself still had no comment.
“Callista?” she asked gently.
“It doesn’t matter unless we win anyway,” she replied quietly.
“I am planning on us winning,” she pointed out gently.
“That’d be nice, I guess.”
Shahin sighed, wishing she could do something more to help the girl. “So. How do we do this?”
“We play to win, first and foremost,” Carter said.
Copyright © 2009-2011 Lyn Thorne-Alder with Elasmo. All rights reserved.
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