Chapter 148: Shahin
Don't censor the way you feel
Nobody cares about us but us
All in the family
The world was swirling more than it normally did, twisting up Shahin's stomach and making the hallways seem to buckle as they headed out Wednesday afternoon. She clung to Emrys' hand and focused on keeping her chin up and her walking even and nonchalant. Nonetheless, she let him perform the obligatory knock as they opened the door to Hayley's office.
Shahin had never been in here before; Hayley was billed as Dr. Regine's "executive administrative assistant," which she understood to mean "secretary." With that thought in mind, the young woman seated behind the desk was perfectly unsurprising. On second glance, she wasn't so young; she simply had an air about her, a kind of classical mystique, that made her age hard to place. From Regine's secretary, this, also, was unsurprising.
Shahin cleared her throat. "We have a couple questions," she said, pleased to find her voice at least sounded calm.
"What kind of questions?" the woman asked, looking up at them with a businesslike smile.
Shahin could match that with her own ice-smile. "I'm interested in my lineage."
"Ah, well." Hayley didn't seem the least bit startled; what did she already know? "What would you like from me?"
"I'd like to know who my father is." It seemed strange to be saying it out loud; she'd spent so long pretending she didn't care.
"I'm afraid I'm not at liberty to disclose that information," the woman replied smoothly. "Was there anything else?" A dismissal, just like that?
"My parentage is classified?" she asked incredulously, glancing at Emrys to gauge his reaction.
It turned out she barely had to look; he was already opening his mouth.
"That can't be right," Emrys said. "It's not like we want the secrets of this place or whatever, she's just looking for her father. You have to know."
"I didn't say I didn't know," Hayley replied, still apparently at ease. "I simply will not tell you."
"Helpful as always," Shahin murmured dryly. "Who will tell us?"
"Presumably, no one," she shrugged, unfazed.
"You can't just do that!" Emrys protested.
"Actually," Hayley said coldly, "I can, and I did. And now I invite you to please take your leave."
Shahin glared coolly at her, but turned to leave, anyway, waiting until the door was closed before asking Emrys, "well, who next?"
"Hell, I don't know," he replied, rubbing a hand at the back of his head. "I didn't expect that much opposition.
"I don't understand it," she frowned. "Why would it be a secret, except out of maliciousness?"
"I don't know," Emrys admitted. "Maybe it's some obscure rule of Law, or related to whatever project the Director's working on."
"So Kai might have a clue." But Kai hadn't been entirely okay with the whole wedding idea. "We can ask her if nothing else pans out… who else might know something?"
"Of course! If it's Law, then Professor Drake would know. And he might be able to tell us about it, since he's my Mentor."
"Drake," she nodded, a little uncertain about the idea. But information was information. "All right, let's do that."
"Come on, his office isn't far. It won't hurt to ask, at least."
She sighed. "I suppose I thought that the one normal thing I tried to do in my life, people would be encouraging, not blocking."
"I encourage it," he said softly, stopping to kiss her in the hallway.
She leaned into the kiss, holding him close to her, loving the taste of fire on his lips. If only life could be as simple as kissing him was… "I'm glad," she smiled. "I would hate to think you didn't want this."
"Of course I do." He smiled back at her, holding her another moment, before beginning to move again. "Now let's see about some answers."
"Answers," she agreed, trying to ignore the sense of foreboding twisting in her stomach. She held his hand more loosely as they walked, reassured by his confidence.
Emrys's Mentor answered his door quickly at the knock, almost as if he had been expecting someone. "Emrys, do come in. And Shahin as well, ah." That tiny "ah" could mean volumes, but what did they say?
"Thank you," she said, rather than asking. She glanced at Emrys, willing to let him do the talking; it was his Mentor, after all.
"I'll cut to the chase," Emrys began. Drake nodded appreciatively; clearly Emrys knew how he preferred to conduct business. "We're trying to find out who Shahin's father is, in preparation for our wedding. Hayley stonewalled us a lot harder than I was expecting, and we wanted to know if there was a special reason for that that you know of."
"Interesting," was the professor's only reply for a long moment as he regarded them both over folded hands. "There is another agenda at work, then, since her father almost undoubtedly imparted to Hayley the same message he brought me."
"Brought?" Shahin asked sharply. So her father was here, then…?
"Yes," Drake said, answering her almost as an aside before he continued. "So, Hayley was no doubt expecting your visit, and your query. The real question is, on whose initiative were you denied? The Director is of course the obvious choice," he nodded, waving a hand to forestall that expected interruption, "but there could be any number of other influences."
She swallowed her impatience and leaned forward. "If not the Director, than who else?" she asked softly. "Who would want to keep this information from us?" This information, she noted, that Drake himself had not yet imparted.
"If the Director herself were impartial on the matter - a supposition the truth of which has not yet been discerned - then any member of staff could have leaned on her assistant. The means are ubiquitous; likewise, opportunity. Motive will be your goal there, and I have no particular clues to offer you."
"You do, however, have information?" she prodded gently. Motive she could figure out later.
"I do, yes. Your father asked me to reveal his identity to you, should you ask me for it, and I agreed."
She stared at him for a heartbeat. It was like dealing with Emrys when he was being difficult, only distilled, smug, aggravating, and precise. "Please," she asked, careful to sound nothing but polite, "if you wouldn't mind, who is my father?"
Now, Drake finally smiled, and yes, it was almost the same as the way Emrys did it in those situations. "Your father is Ambrus."
The bottom fell out of the world. She swayed, and grabbed Emrys' arm to hold herself steady.
He held her, even as he stared at his Mentor in disbelief. "Hers, not mine?"
"Both of yours," Drake confirmed. "Ambrus's lineage is well known to me."
"His, in particular?" A distraction; Shahin grabbed on to it. "And you, in particular?" She was Emrys'… sister? "Why is that?"
Drake answered all of those questions with a single statement that only raised more questions. "Not only his, but all of my descendants."
"Oh." She blinked. She'd gained not only a father, but a brother - her lover - and an ancestor. A brother. She swayed again. "Well, then, do you want to come to the wedding… grandfather?" They were having a wedding. She was getting married, to him. To Emrys. To her brother. But it was going to happen, damnit.
"More than grand, but yes, I will attend. I imagine all of your family at the school will be there."
"All." She paused. "How much family do I - do we have here?" She glanced at Emrys, whose stoneface was as good as hers.
The professor considered a moment before answering. "Ambrus has had a son or daughter in every Cohort to date."
"Ah." She blinked. "Prolific, is he? I thought he Belonged to… ah." That bitch.
"Of course," he nodded. "And one of them is, indeed, hers. But I imagine you two have much to discuss now."
Flip out together was a lot like discuss, wasn't it? "Yes, sir. Thank you." She turned to look at Emrys. What were they going to do?
He nodded slowly, the fire in his eyes a bit dulled. "Yes. Thank you. Let's go?"
Where? She let him lead, holding his hand. The halls seemed dimmer than usual, the shadows deeper. What were they going to do? "What about our son?" she asked, after a few steps. "Isn't that… generally a bad idea?"
"Sometimes," he nodded. "Although I'd like to think, if the family trees here are as convoluted as they're beginning to appear, that there's some protection against that for us."
"I wonder if Caitrin knows?" she murmured, and then paused. "He knew. He knows. Your fath… our father." She frowned. "I don't feel sororal about you, at all."
"Good," Emrys laughed, his stony expression finally cracking. "And yeah, Caitrin has to know... doesn't she?"
"I suppose someone has to keep the records around here," she nodded slowly. "We can ask her, can't we? If our son is going to be okay?" She frowned, and clutched his hand tighter. "Emrys… that's all I care about here. If our baby will be okay."
"We can ask her." He squeezed her hand in response. "Everything will be fine. I'm sure Caitrin would've already known if there was a problem."
Copyright © 2009-2011 Lyn Thorne-Alder with Elasmo. All rights reserved.
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