Chapter 177: Ba'al
Oh, I just gotta know
If you're really there and you really care
'Cause baby I'm not
First Weekend of April, 2000
"Just think." Ba'al leaned back in the grass, letting the sun warm him. "We've been here eight months already. It doesn't seem that long." He folded his hands over his chest and regarded the group over the tips of his fingers. "So… Who?"
"Speak for yourself." Alepou shifted uncomfortably into a sitting position against Ataru, her heavy belly making any position look uncomfortable. "I'm pretty clear on the length of time." Her Keeper set his hand protectively over her belly, eyes mild and sleepy. She leaned against him. "Hurrm. I'd say Daniel, but there's the crew issue."
"There's ways around both of those," Ba'al teased, leaning against Fiji to illustrate both points.
"Just in the short term," Syl pointed out. "You still need to have your two, just like anyone else. And I don't know about Daniel. I mean, we could probably get around the crew problem, but is he the most deserving? There's always Agatha."
"All the time in the world," Ba'al assured him. He didn't want to think about not being with Fiji. "Agatha? Hrrm. Certainly deserving. Certainly evil. But would her crew put themselves in the line of fire for her? What about Trona?"
Syl laughed, his vines curling up tightly the way they did when he was uncomfortable. "Trona? I don't think she really counts." He changed the subject with another nervous laugh. "Man, I can't believe we made it this far. After the mess with the unicorn at the beginning of the year…"
"You're telling me! I know Doctor Regine didn't want us to feel trapped down here, but I think leaving a big hole in her defenses was not the way to go about it," Ba'al complained. "That thing, it nearly…" He didn't like to think he was leaning on his Keeper for support. He didn't want to acknowledge that. But Fiji's arms were warm and comfortable around his shoulders.
"Yeah," Alepou whispered, biting her lip. "We really owe you, Syl."
The sylph-boy shrugged and pulled at the grass, making it grow longer and longer and pointedly not looking at any of them. "It had Aden. I had to stop it."
It was Ba'al's turn to change the subject, as Sylvan cuddled Aden and Kelby close. "So… Ally has a point. I mean, not just babies. It's been a long year." He reached over, mindful of Ataru's presence, and stroked one of the foxlike girl's ears. "Syl, do you remember how much you wigged out, when everyone dropped their Masks that first time? Or how badly I freaked out, for that matter?"
The sylph-boy chuckled. "Man, we weren't the worst, either. Channing and Kendra… I thought they were going to go through the roof. Kendra ran away, didn't she?"
"They got her back." Ataru's laugh shook the ground under them. "Nobody really gets away."
"Seems unfair to make it seem like you can leave anytime." Alepou shook her head. "We've seen how good Regine can be with mind control. It doesn't seem like it would be that hard to put in a 'don't spazz when you find out you're a fairy' clause."
"Or a 'don't kill yourself' clause," Fiji pointed out. The upperclassmen were quiet for a moment, remembering - well, Ba'al wasn't sure WHO they were remembering, they'd never say, but it was clear there was someone."
"'Don't hurt the babies.'" Kelby added, a haunted look on her face. "'Don't hurt each other.'"
"I dunno," Ataru rumbled, "there's a few people that just need hurting. And you don't want people messing with your brains, trust me… ow!" He glowered at Alepou, who growled at him unrepentantly, his arm between her teeth. "Right, right, the rest of you trust me. Ally, that wasn't an order. Please let go?"
"You know, I've been wondering," Fiji commented over Ba'al's head. "Why don't you just order her not to bite you?"
"Because I don't think I can make her orders tight enough that she couldn't come up with a way to hurt me for ordering her. So I live with a little pain, instead of a continually resentful Kept."
"Learned from Desdemona, did you?" Kelby muttered. The big man said nothing, just pulled his fox-Kept closer to him and stroked her soothingly.
Ba'al poked Fiji with his elbow, and his Keeper coughed. "Seriously, guys, you've come a long way this year."
"So have you," Sylvan countered. "I totally thought you were going to let Anacletus get Ba'al and Ally on Hell Night. Speaking of people who need hurting."
"Speaking of monsters," Alepou countered. "And things I wonder why Dr. Regine allows. Anacletus. Ardell. Either of those would do for a target."
"Delaney," Fiji commented with a shudder. "Ivette."
"Exactly. Why not use mind control there, if you're going to use it? 'Don't abuse your Kept. Don't rape people.' Since she doesn't… we should deal with it. One of them. All of them."
"Free will," Ba'al countered. "Making your own bad decisions. And I think all of them is a bit much for the seven of us."
"With no information," Syl frowned. "I like this place, I really do, but someone needs to teach people a lesson, and it doesn't appear to be on Dr. Regine's agenda. I'd go for Anacletus or Ivette over the others, but I still think Agatha's our best choice. Really, does anyone deserve it more?"
"Delaney," Fiji muttered again. Ba'al reached back to stroke his Keeper's shoulder soothingly.
"The problem with Agatha is her crew. Anacletus doesn't have that. We can handle him without a problem."
"The goal is the most evil person?" Kelby mused. "Off that list, you're best hitting Ivette. You can handle her, we can handle her, sorry," she added, as her two lovers shot her a Look. "We can handle her easily. And she definitely counts as evil."
"Right," Ba'al agreed. "Ivette. All in favor?" Most of the small gathering raised their hands; Syl and Ataru kept theirs down. "Those opposed?" Syl's hand went up; Ataru's stayed down. "Great. So, Aden and Syl provide distraction, Ally handles the bucket of ink, I get the door open, and Fiji toupees the whole thing…."
He leaned forward, sketching his plan in the dirt. It was good to have friends, especially on April Fool's Day.
Copyright © 2009-2012 Lyn Thorne-Alder. All rights reserved.
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