Chapter 145: Shahin
They gave me a life that's not so easy to live
And then they sent me on my way
I left my love and forgot my dreams
I lost them all along the way
Shahin didn't want to come off as giddy and dippy, to gush like a teenager (Shahin, her mind reminded her dryly, you are a teenager), so she spent time at lunch focusing on her breathing and, when that wasn't helping the urge to sing out "we're getting married! Married!", she focused on her Kept and friends' faces, trying to read what should could there. She'd missed them so much, recently; it was hard to believe she'd only known these people for a couple months.
Xaviera was quiet, but she seemed to be doing better, more natural and relaxed. Ayla and Ioanna seemed to be doing well, although Shahin thought there might be a little tension there - Tolly-related, perhaps? She swallowed a pang of guilt at what she'd done to her friend there. Yngvi, however, looked unhappy, rubbing his new horn-buds and looking around the Dining Hall as if looking for someone.
"Something on your mind, Vi?" she asked, trying for a sympathetic tone.
He jumped, glaring at her. "Nothing," he lied transparently.
Right. Now, was that "I don't want to talk" nothing, or "what do you care" nothing? Or "I'm too prickly to have this conversation" nothing?
"Well, if you want to talk about it," she replied, letting the rest go without saying.
Ayla, however, leaned forward, her hair seeming to gleam in the fluorescent lighting. "Vi, we're your friends. What is it?"
"Alexander," he mumbled inarticulately.
"Alexander?" Shahin asked curiously. "He's in my PE class, but I don't know that much about him. Jamian spends more time with those guys than I have…" She cut herself off. "What did he do?"
"Nothing," he sighed dramatically. "Nor will he. Are there no gay people in this school?"
Io coughed discreetly, which didn't help Yngvi's distressed expression at all.
Oh, my. Lack of romantic interest; trust Yngvi to find a way to have a unique problem in Addergoole. "It's not always easy to tell, given the rules we're working with," she hedged. She'd certainly been finding out new things about her own interests lately…
"Weren't you just having a problem with a man after you, not long ago?" Emrys put in, cutting off her un-helpful train of thought.
"That," Yngvi declared, with a bit of his normal hauteur, "was different." Which might qualify as the understatement of the decade. Did Emrys like making Yngvi unhappy? And, if so, why? "I mean a real interest, from a real person, not a monster."
Across the table, Ayla frowned gently. "I'm sure it will work out."
"Course it will," Emrys said cheerfully. "No need to have a stick up your ass about it. Oh, wait..."
Before Shahin could kick him in the shin - which she did anyway - Ayla's faint backlighting turned into a spotlight, flooding the whole table with a bright white light. Shahin felt her irritation mellow.
"You..." Yngvi's snappish answer faded off, and he chuckled ruefully. "It does seem a bit dire at times," he admitted.
"But you're interested in Alexander, then?" Shahin asked. "He does seem like a nice boy."
"Nice," Yngvi sighed, "just not interested."
"I'm not sure if he swings that way," she mused, trying to remember whose company she'd seen him in.
"If he does, he's been hiding it real well," Emrys chuckled. "Down a lot of girls' pants."
"I've noticed the proclivity," Yngvi sighed. "Next year, I suppose."
"Next year you think he'll change his tune?"
"Next year there might be someone else." Ayla's light had dimmed down, but now it began to shine again as the two bristled at each other. Shahin could feel its warmth permeating her, relaxing her, making everything all right. Emrys, for his part, was shrugging, apparently content to let the issue drop.
"That," Shahin murmured, "is a beautiful trick." It calmed even the whispers of anxiety that had been her companion as long as she could remember, eliciting a little giggle from her. She set her hand reassuringly on Yngvi's. "It'll work out," she told him. "Neither Emrys nor Conrad had girlfriends their first year, and that worked out fine for them, didn't it?"
"Yeah..." He glanced down at her hand and his eyes widened. "Shahin, is that...?"
"Oh…" she felt a smile growing on her lips. "Yes."
Ayla was craning her neck to see it now, her glow slowly fading. "Oh, it's beautiful!"
"It is," she agreed, the unaccustomed smile stretching her lips. She reached for Emrys with her other hand. He took her hand, and for a moment they made a perfect tableau: the glowing young woman, hand clasped with her proud fiancé at her side, awestruck friends admiring the dazzling symbol of their love. She could not have staged the moment better if she tried. She looked up at Ayla, reluctant to break the mood but hoping her friend approved.
Slowly, a smile spread across the blonde's face. "That's wonderful. Congratulations, both of you."
"Congratulations," Io, who had been watching their drama silently, echoed. Yngvi's "felicitations" was more grudging, but he still smiled.
"So when's the big day?" Ayla asked.
"Soon," Shahin smiled. "Preferably very soon."
She was aware, as they kibitzed, of a tense and unhappy presence to the other side of Emrys. She hadn't so much been avoiding telling Xaviera as avoiding thinking about the situation at all, but now that it was out, it was clear that this hadn't been the way to break it - if anything at all had. The girl was sitting ramrod straight, her fists clenched, her lips thin, and her jaw set.
"Xaviera…?" Shahin asked gently.
"Shut up!" The blonde glared at her angrily. "Just… shut up!"
"Don't tell her what to do," Emrys snapped in reply.
"That's your job, right?" she hissed. Shahin watched curiously, not feeling the need to get involved yet.
"No one's, ever again." She could feel Emrys's agitation growing rapidly, along with his natural aggressive response. She glanced at Ayla, hoping she could do the glow-of-calm thing intentionally; her friend was frowning but not yet doing anything else.
"Ever again?" the girl spat. "Oh, I almost forgot about your little adventure. Did the dragon let you watch while it fucked her brains out? You probably liked it, seeing someone else use your whore."
"You will not speak of that again!" Emrys thundered. His temper was flaring; the argument might become heated in a more literal way in a matter of moments. Shahin, too, was livid, the ice wrapping over her as she brought to mind her most aggressive Working.
"Guys…" Ayla was glowing again, shining brilliantly white, bright enough to hurt the eyes. "Xav…"
Xaviera began to retort, but her voice caught in her throat as Ayla spoke her name, and all that escaped was a sob as she rose to flee.
Shahin caught her breath, letting the glow from Ayla wash over her. "Emrys…?" she asked carefully.
"It's okay," he said, unclenching his fist. "We're okay. Um..." He glanced over his shoulder, guiltily, at their Kept's retreating back.
"I'll go get her," Shahin murmured. "It'll take me longer to light her on fire if she lashes out again."
"Right," he agreed ruefully. "Thank you."
"It's all right." She brushed a kiss over his lips, and took her leave, hurrying after her upset Kept. She found Xaviera barely past the doors, on the floor, curled up in a ball in the corner of the hallway and hugging her knees to herself.
She sat down next to her, remembering moments when she'd wanted to do much the same. "Xav," she began gently.
"Go away," the girl mumbled disconsolately, but there was no fire in it.
"No." She draped her arm - her right arm - around Xaviera's shoulders, as awkward as the position was with their difference in heights. "We should have told you beforehand. I'm sorry."
"No, you're not. You have no idea what it's like, being ordinary, do you? You've always been special, and now you're going to marry your lover and raise your kids and go off to your fairy tale life. Well, not all of us get to be princesses!"
The accusation startled her as much as it stung her. "I've always been weird," she said carefully. "No friends, no life, just the girl who saw dead people. And now… yes." She shook her head, Xaviera's words coming back to her. "Enough about me. Do you want to be a princess, Xav?"
"Does it matter what I want? There's no happily ever after waiting for me. You said so yourself."
She bit her lip. She'd been worrying over that one for a while. "I don't know that my visions are fixed," she answered carefully. "I don't know if the future can be changed. And… more than that, Xaviera, I don't know when that was. We can live for a long time."
Xaviera looked up at her, finally, her eyes melting but carefully controlled, as if she couldn't afford to spill a drop. "You don't have to concern yourself with me, Mi - Shahin. I know my place."
Did the dragon let you watch… She pulled the girl to her tightly. "It's my job to concern myself with you," she answered fiercely. "It's my job to take care of you."
"Why?" Xaviera asked. "Io is pregnant. You don't need me anymore. You don't have to be burdened."
"Because you're ours, and that makes you our responsibility."
"You still want me, then?" the girl asked, lip trembling.
"Of course, sweetie." She held the girl tightly. "Of course we do."
Copyright © 2009-2011 Lyn Thorne-Alder with Elasmo. All rights reserved.
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