Inasmuch as the ice queen had emotions, Shahin didn’t seem all that thrilled with cy’Pelletier’s win. Xaviera wanted to ask her about it, but it wasn’t her place to question her Keepers, certainly not for such an insignificant curiosity.
She would’ve liked to be going herself, but she’d been realistic about it from the beginning; there was very little chance that cy’Akinobu was going to reach the semi-finals, even. She and Coy weren’t dumb, but they weren’t geniuses either, and their cy’ree-mates were only Fifth Cohorts. Not to mention the fact that they’d had no alternates. No, she’d held little hope that the vacation would be hers.
“Well, we did it,” Shahin murmured, as they made their way back to Emrys’ room. “Is it me, or did people not seem all that thrilled with the outcome?”
He shrugged. “Cy’Pelletier isn’t exactly one of the more widely-respected cy’rees. And the Misfits? A lot of people thought they were a joke.”
“They weren’t paying attention, then.” Shahin closed the door behind them and turned her gaze on Xaviera thoughtfully.
Xaviera took the opportunity to speak. “That redhead is pretty smart, I guess. Most people figured it would be cy’Linden or cy’Solomon on top though.”
“Cy’Linden are smarter than I thought they’d be,” Shahin admitted. “No offense meant to Agatha,” she added dryly, “but the rest of them never seemed all that bright.”
“You still beat them, though,” Xaviera pointed out.
She shrugged, glancing over at Emrys. “You were right about Callista,” she murmured.
“Was I? What happened with her?”
“She froze up on the winning question of the round.” Shahin bit her lip. “I hope I didn’t get her into trouble. I think she was trying to throw the round.”
“Ib wouldn’t want her going off without him,” Emrys nodded thoughtfully. “By that point, cy’Solomon was already in the bottom bracket.”
“That was… well, yeah. It’ll be interesting, with Callista and Kendra and Nydia on the field trip.”
“And none of their Keepers.”
That’s right... Shahin would be leaving, too. Without Xaviera. The thought of it sent a pang through her, but she glanced at Emrys and was relieved. He’d still be here.
Shahin looked at her a little more sharply, as if reading the thought. “And Kai and I without Conrad or you.”
“I don’t think it’s a problem for you,” Xaviera put in softly. “That part only goes the one way.”
“You should be okay with Emrys, right?” Shahin asked just as quietly, even as she reached out, herself, blindly, for his hand.
Xaviera looked down, watching their fingers entwine, and another pang shot through her. “Yes,” she nodded.
“Will they?” she asked, seemingly unaware of either Xaviera’s unhappiness or her own hand clinging to Emrys’.
“Callista, Kendra. Nydia.”
“Probably?” She shuffled her feet uncertainly. “For only two weeks, I’d think so. It’ll depend a little on what kind of relationship they have with their Keepers.”
“We are talking about Callista here,” Shahin pointed out dryly. “I don’t know as much about Kendra and Nydia, or their Keepers.”
“How much do you really know about Callista?” she replied acerbically. “Perceptions are one thing; have you been behind those doors?”
For a moment, she thought she’d gone too far; Shahin looked as if she’d been slapped, the stunned look shifting to anger before shutting down altogether.
Oh shit oh shit. “I’m sorry,” she said quickly, falling to her knees before the girl.
“I’m sorry,” she repeated, head bowed. “I meant no offense.” Please don’t hurt me. She’d learned better than to say those words out loud, though.
“Fuck.” There was a sound of rustling fabric, and then Shahin was kneeling in front of her. Cautiously, she turned her gaze upwards, to behold her Keeper; she was stripping off her gloves, laying them carefully in her lap, not looking at Xaviera yet, looking, instead, at her fingernails. Xaviera swallowed hard, watching those same fingernails, imagining them digging into her flesh.
Instead, Shahin set her bare hands on Xaviera’s cheeks gently and kissed her, a light sort of thing straight on the lips.
Her eyes widened, startled, and then she relaxed. Her touch was so warm, and gentle, and reassuring.
“Thank you,” Shahin murmured quietly.
“Thank... what did I...?” She’d done something right, clearly. She licked her lips, wondering what it was, how she could do it again.
“You’re right. I get very pleased with my own cleverness, so much so that sometimes I forget to think. Thank you.” With that, she kissed her again.
Xaviera flushed with pleasure. “Thank you. May...” Her Keeper was pleased with her; she bolstered up her courage. “May I stay here tonight?”
They exchanged a look, her Keepers. “Yes. Yes, you may.”
It had been so nice, last time. It would be again, of course. More than that, though, in the back of her mind, a plan was percolating.
Copyright © 2009-2011 Lyn Thorne-Alder with Elasmo. All rights reserved.
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