Chapter 162: Jamian
Who do you belong to?
I'm sure it's not yourself
"Come on in, Jamian." The professor's voice seemed to come from a long way away, but it was clear enough as Jamian opened the office door.
His first impression was that the office had gotten much bigger; on closer examination, he realized that the velvet curtain at what he'd thought to be the back was pulled to one side, revealing the rest of the room. Jamian had imagined it might conceal storage, a small private area, even a simple window; he hadn't been expecting the opulent bedchamber.
Or the nearly-naked Manira lounging against the much-closer-to-naked Professor Linden. "Ah," he stammered, his hand still on the doorknob. "Um…"
"Jamian, do come in," the professor said, beckoning languidly with one hand. "And close the door."
"Ah, yes, sir." He closed the door and, slowly, crossed the room.
"Take off your shirt, stay a while," Manira purred, eliciting a chuckle from the professor.
"That's not really necessary," Linden added, "but there'd be no objections."
He gulped. "Shirt. Shirt I can handle. I thought we were learning about the Law today?"
"We are, yes, and it's just now time to meet. Manira just happened to be here already."
"Ah." Presumably, Phelen was okay with that. Jamian shed his shirt, focusing on making sure his chest was male-all-male, and sat down gingerly on the edge of the bed. "So…?"
"So, we have several topics to address." By this point Linden sounded just like he was in his classroom; if Jamian closed his eyes, it was almost like a normal lecture. "We'll begin with the Law. Both of you, of course, have some understanding of the Law of Belonging."
"More than a little," Manira muttered. Jamian, his eyes still closed, just nodded, touching his necklace-collar. He knew what it felt like to be Owned.
"It is important to understand how it applies to yourselves, yes," the professor continued. "But, it's perhaps more important to understand how it applies to others around you. By summertime, it's more than likely that both of you will Belong to yourselves alone."
Jamian twitched unhappily; Manira seemed to close in a little on herself.
"Believe me, by next fall, you'll be glad of it. But there's something else you'll both likely be by that time: mothers."
"Ack," Jamian complained. Even though he knew it was true, even though he could feel the small life growing inside of him - inside of her, and, no, she didn't want to go female here, with her shirt off - she took a deep breath, and he complained again, "ack."
"That is certainly a good word for it," Manira agreed unhappily.
"We can discuss the aspects you're likely thinking of in more detail later. For now, we're concerned with the Law. As you know, a child first Belongs to its mother."
Jamian nodded slowly. "I think I heard that," he agreed.
"Of course," Manira muttered.
"This is no small thing," the professor said, raising a finger. "It is your right and privilege, and you need to take it seriously. You also need to be aware that, in some regards, it functions like any other Belonging."
Jamian blinked. "I wasn't that good at doing what my mother told me to do," he protested.
Linden nodded sagely, although the effect was slightly marred by his state of attire. "Thus I say 'some' regards. But, it defines your rights as parents to control your children, and your responsibility to look after them. And, like any other Belonging, it can be lost or given away. I would ask that you not seek to do this by intent, but also that you guard against its occurrence by accident or manipulation."
Jamian was nodding now. He noted that Manira was, too. "So it can be transferred," he asked quietly, thinking of Ty, of Siriana and the baby Ty was carrying.
"Of course," Manira answered dismissively, "but no-one would ever give up that power on purpose."
"You might be surprised," the professor answered her, before looking back at Jamian. "Yes, it can. And it is what defines your legal rights with regard to the child, in the eyes of the Ellehemaei as a whole."
He nodded slowly, wondering again at how much Manira knew. "So if a father wanted a child more than its mother did…?" "That would be a reasonable case, yes. In fact, that sort of thing does go on here with some regularity, and it's the most approved sort of transference."
"That's crazy," Manira objected.
The professor returned his gaze to her, and Jamian noted the curiosity there, but also something more guarded. "Why do you say that?"
"It's a sacred right, a sacred honor. It's like giving up your self." What did she know that he didn't? Maybe more importantly, why did that question keep coming up?
"Your personal feelings aside, then, remember that it can be done, and there may be those who would stoop so low as to attempt to trick you into doing it. Let's move on."
"Moving on," Jamian agreed. "So it can be done." And Ty clearly had no interest in raising his own children. But Manira was still seething; clearly she felt very strongly about it. "Um," he interjected, "can someone be forced by their Keeper into giving up maternal rights?"
"While Kept, no, although a change in Ownership is a vulnerable situation. A newly freed Kept, accustomed to obeying a Keeper's wishes, is certainly more susceptible to being manipulated."
"Man, that really sucks." And it meant they would have to watch the newly-released at the end of the year, to be sure they weren't giving up anything they didn't want to.
"Are there any more questions about that phase of development and Belonging?"
"No," Manira answered angrily. She'd pulled in on herself until she was touching neither of them.
"No," Jamian agreed.
"Manira, you're not content. I was specifically advocating that you retain control of your children, as you recall."
"I didn't think, even here, people would stoop so low as to tinker with that bond," she sulked.
"The circumstances here are rather unique. There is a certain share of mothers who do not wish to be involved with their children, and thus give or trade away those rights."
"The circumstances here are 'unique,' all right," she retorted sharply. Jamian watched the back-and-forth like a ping-pong match, fascinated.
"As is your role," Linden rebuked her. "We all have a part to play."
"Her role?" They were both looking at him before Jamian realized he'd spoken out loud. "What's her role?"
"Not something that need concern you," the professor said primly.
"Aren't we supposed to be learning?" He touched Manira's emotions, wondering what was going on with her. He was unsurprised to find anger and disgust there, but there were also spikes of interest and curiosity.
"Many things, and you are; but this is a lesson for another day, another year. Even for someone with your potential."
He nodded, trying not to sulk. "Yes, sir." Maybe he could catch Manira alone some time and ask her what was going on. "Alone" was tricky for them, but sometimes their Keepers got distracted. It might happen. Or maybe…
They let it drop for then, letting the professor cover the topics on the curriculum, but on a very slow walk back to the suite, Jamian turned to Manira. "So…" he began awkwardly.
"You want to know what I know about what it knows that you don't know," she surmised. "I don't know if I can tell you."
He wrapped his brain around that slowly, and then nodded. "Something about… things that have been tinkered with?" he guessed.
"Things." She grimaced slightly, but nodded. "Yes."
"Things. You said 'this bond.'" He watched her expressions and her emotions closely.
"The bond between a mother and child," she clarified. Her emotions opened to him - good God, had she been shielding them that strongly, and if so, how? Her resentment washed over him like a tsunami, carrying with it an urgent hope that he would understand what she wasn't saying from what she was
"That Bel…" He blinked. "We're still Students."
She only nodded, her emotions speaking for her. Unlike those of pretty much everyone else he had read, they were sharp, clear, and precise; most of the students were a muddled mess. Her hope intensified as he replied, and there was a sense of approval; he was getting it, she thought. The resentment, which he had expected to be directed at her Keeper, became colored, flavored, identifying its targets - Linden, and Regine.
"Regine…" he muttered, pushing his brain. "Wait, wasn't there something about Mother, then Mentor, then to yourself?"
"A child belongs to its mother, then its mentor, then itself," she quoted.
From what the professor had said, that meant he had Belonged to his mother first; that made sense. Now, Linden was his Mentor, right? Did that mean he Belonged to Linden? A series of tantalizing thoughts flashed through his brain, but he banished them; this was important. Did Belonging to your Mentor mean the same things as Belonging to your Keeper? And where did his Keeper fit into that, anyway? He Belonged to Ty... didn't he?
Was that what Manira had been getting at? She was nodding, but they were home, and Ty was waiting for him. The strange thoughts were put aside for another day.
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