Chapter 121: Shahin
I can't make my own decisions
Or make any with precision
Well maybe you should tie me up
So I don't go where you don't want me
Shahin was trying to ignore the fact that she would be leaving Emrys for two weeks, but situations didn’t seem to want to allow her to do so. There were, of course, the congratulations, however strained and uncertain. There was Kailani’s bubbling bliss. And there was Regine’s announcement, so very bland, over lunch on Monday.
“Because the dance was preempted for the cy’ree challenge last Saturday, there will be a dance this coming Saturday, before the two winning teams leave for their field trip. There will then, to continue on schedule, be another dance the coming week.”
A dance. They had missed their share, too busy with their own problems, but the memory of that first time with Emrys was still burnt into her. She was pondering what she could wear, still, when Xaviera approached her after classes.
“Mistress,” Xaviera greeted her. “Is there anything I can do for you?”
It felt strange to be called Mistress, but it defined their relationship well enough. She eyed the girl curiously. “There’s nothing I need right now, Xaviera,” she said carefully. “What’s on you mind?”
“I’d like to ask a favor? It’s about the dance,” she continued hurriedly.
Shahin wasn’t certain how to get Xaviera less jittery around her without pushing the girl further into submissiveness, but she nodded encouragingly. “Go ahead.”
“I’d like to go, if that’s alright?”
What sort of Keeper do you think I am? really wasn’t a fair question, so Shahin simply nodded. “Of course it’s all right.” A small voice of concern made her continue, “do you have a date in mind?”
“Yes,” the girl nodded, seeming to relax a little. Maybe, after enough of this, she’d learn that she didn’t have to shrink back to ask for something. “I was thinking I’d go with Ardell.”
Then again, maybe she wouldn’t. Shahin frowned, even as she discarded several responses. “No,” she settled on.
“No?” Xaviera echoed in a small voice, chewing her lip.
“Not Ardell. I’m sorry,” and she was, “but that brings him too close for comfort. Do you have anyone else…?”
“I... um. Maybe. I don’t know...”
“Why him?” Shahin asked, resisting the urge to give in just to wipe the lost look off of her Kept’s face.
“I... miss him,” she admitted softly. “I miss the way he made me feel.”
Shahin opened the door to her room, where Xaviera was living. “How did he make you feel, Xav?”
“Like... I can’t even describe it. Like everything was right, and good. Like I was perfect.” Like a good Kept, Shahin realized. The girl didn’t understand the difference between having a boyfriend and the artificial feelings the Bond imposed on her. She shut the door slowly, pondering. “Have you ever had a boyfriend, other than him?”
“Not seriously. I was sixteen when he Kept me,” she explained.
“And no-one this year,” Shahin nodded, understanding. “Well, is there anyone else you like, at all?”
“Well.” The girl clasped her hands nervously. “Since we started this challenge thing, working more with our cy’rees...”
Xaviera’s cy’ree was Aelgifu, Coy, and Azumi. She could be interested in any of them. Shahin reached for a brush and started working on the blonde’s hair gently. “Mm-hrmm?”
“He’s so quiet, and handsome. Dignified. I don’t think he’s interested at all, though.”
He. Well, that made that easier. “How would you know, without asking?” she offered gently.
“He doesn’t seem interested in anyone, really. He’s so aloof.” She sighed, leaning into Shahin’s hand. “Well. Except maybe the Japanese girl. It’s hard to tell.”
“Could that just be a common silence?” Shahin offered, pulling out what little she could remember of Coy and Azumi.
“Maybe? He’s kind of into that stuff, though. Does the swordfighting and meditation and herbal tea and junk.”
“So why are you cy’Akinobu, then?” Shahin coaxed.
“He’s a good teacher. It doesn’t seem like he’s got an agenda, like a lot of the rest of them do. I was in his class when I first came here.”
“That makes sense,” she agreed. Brushing was soothing, almost like brushing a pet… and that wasn’t the train of thought she wanted to be having. “Well, if you want to go to the dance with him, why not ask him?”
“Can I?” Her tone lowered again as she added, “I don’t think he’ll say yes, though.”
“You can,” Shahin agreed. “Why don’t you think he’ll say yes?”
“Well, like I said. I really don’t think he’s interested. And his crew and Ardell’s don’t get along, at all.”
“But,” Shahin pointed out gently, “you’re not part of Ardell’s crew.”
“Well, no, but. I’m associated with them.”
“Do you want me to ask him, then?”
“No, no. I can do it.”
“Okay.” She hesitated with her hand on Xaviera’s shoulder. What were they going to do about… she sighed. “I don’t want you having sex with him.” She felt like a heel for saying it. She and Emrys were going to have to do something about Anatoliy soon.
“You... oh,” she said quietly.
Shahin wasn’t sure she’d ever felt like more of a heel. She turned Xaviera gently to face her, her hands on the girl’s shoulders. Could she do this?
“Well... maybe I’ll ask, anyway,” Xaviera said, dispirited.
Shahin kissed her gently. “Good girl.” Xaviera’s response was totally non-verbal, nuzzling back against her. She held her, stroking her back, for a little bit, wondering what she was going to do. The girl’s personality was changing a little more every day, becoming more dependant, needier. Were they doing her damage, keeping her? Never mind what they were planning to do with her.
She was still chewing over it when she left the girl to return to Emrys’ room.
He, of course, picked up on her discomfiture immediately. “Something on your mind?”
“Xaviera,” she admitted, settling onto the bed next to him. “Have you noticed how she’s been changing?”
“Yeah. I’ve seen it before, but this is awfully fast. Probably because it’s not her first time.”
“So being Kept is changing her personality? She’s more pleasant to be around, but I don’t know if it’s good for her.”
“That’s hard to say. Some people take very well to being Kept; others, not so much. As near as I can tell, she’s reverting to learned behavior patterns from her prior Keeping.”
“She wanted to go to the dance with Ardell.” Shahin frowned at that, leaning closer to Emrys’ warmth.
Emrys nodded slowly. “Yeah, that’d be in line, there. What did you tell her?”
“I told her no,” she admitted. “I don’t want that creep anywhere near anything related to me.” She sighed, feeling guilty. “Her second choice was okay… until I told her I didn’t want her having sex with him.”
“Why’d you do that?” he asked with some surprise. “Who was it?”
“Because we Owned her to let Tolly impregnate her,” she snapped, “not to let someone else do so by accident.”
“Right, right. So, have you decided what you want to do about that, then? Ayla say anything?”
“Ayla hasn’t, no,” she shook her head, sighing. “I don’t know. What do you think we should do?”
“I’m really not sure. I’d like to give Ayla a few more days, at least; it’s not the kind of thing we want to pressure her about.”
She nodded, agreeing. “Until after the field trip, then, if you think you can handle Xav on your own.” She smiled affectionately at him, ignoring the small pang of jealousy.
“I don’t expect she’ll give me any trouble. If she does, well, it’s not as if we’re on a level playing field.”
“Yeah.” She stole a brief kiss. “Don’t forget about me, while I’m gone?” It was silly, it was pitiful, and, if she had to, she could blame it on the baby hormones.
“Of course not,” he chuckled, kissing her more thoroughly.
She pushed at his shoulders lightly for the laugh. “Just because you never have a moment of insecurity…!”
“Well, I’m such a paragon of fortitude,” he grinned.
She smiled back at him, unwilling to throw a tantrum. “I’m sure I’ll be fine, too,” she cooed. “There’s Nikolai and Carter to take care of me.”
“Take care of you?” he asked, arching a brow.
She shrugged casually, ignoring the sudden pang of panic. “It’s not exactly safe out there, in the world, without you,” she pointed out with deliberate carelessness.
“I don’t think you’ve got anything to worry about from the other students on the trip. And we certainly have nothing to worry about from normal people, anymore.”
“You could just admit you’re going to miss me,” she pointed out dryly, rather than acknowledge the sudden terror pounding at her. Normal people weren’t the problem. “It would save us a bit of fencing.”
“Well of course I’ll miss you, Sheen.”
“I’ll miss you, too.” She held close to him, not willing to admit quite how much she was worried about this. “Will they let me call, do you think…?”
“I’d imagine so, yeah. Can’t see why not.”
“Good.” She studied him for a moment, looking for the tiny cues she was learning to read. “We’ll be okay, apart.” She was pretty sure she was reassuring herself more than him, but she, at least, needed it.
“It won’t be long. You’ll barely know I’m gone,” he said, hugging her close.
“God,” she whispered, leaning into his touch. She would miss him every second she was gone.
For the summer, Addergoole will return to a Monday and Thursday posting schedule to maintain Lyn's sanity.
Please check out Tales of the Sugar Cat, Lyn's new ebook, including four new Addergoole stories!
Congratulations to Mr. and Mrs. Elasmo on their recent wedding!
Book Nine is looking for a Wonderland-based title regarding the search for normalcy.
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