Chapter 182b: Kailani
Every gaze in the gym was suddenly on Acacia. The Thorne leader was frowning, both hands up.
"Oh, hell no, you're not stopping this now, Cay, this was your plan. I get the boy, I get the baby, we can get out of here at the end of the year together. And the little snip gets a lesson in friendship and who not to trust."
"Us, you mean?" She'd have to ask Conrad later - maybe she could just use an Idu intinn Working and pick out his perceptions in situ? - but she was pretty sure Allyse wasn't happy, either. "Wonderful lesson if we're going to need her watching our backs in the future."
"I already figured that part out," Kai grumbled. "Lesson learned, trust your crew, and get a crew you can trust."
"You can trust the one you have, if only you'll let yourself." Allyse had the faint sing-song to her voice that seemed to presage a vision.
Massima, however, was having none of that. "Hello? My win here? We get the guy, we go fight the bad guys, we come home and fuck our Kept? Normal order of operations, right?"
"She agreed to come with us, Sima."
"She's being stupid. You know she can't go and risk the babies."
That was it. That was… just… it. "I'm not stupid," Kai snapped. "I. Am. Not. Stupid. I may be naïve. I may not understand how people work. You may have tricked me into thinking you were my friends; you may have been setting me up to steal Conrad from me and hurt him. But if you were planning on that, then you are the ones who are stupid. Haven't you been watching? What did I do to keep Agatha from getting her hands on him? What makes you think I'd go any less far to keep you from hurting him? From having him? Didn't you teach me that, Acacia? Didn't you tell me he was my responsibility?
The Thorne Girls looked at her. Just looked at her. She wished she knew what they were thinking. Again. "Idu Intinn…"
"Tuapeka intinn Thorne Girls a Kailani sh' Regine," Allyse snapped.
"…Conrad oro'Kailani," Kai finished .
Me? What? She's really pissing them off. Good for her.
She murmured a filter to be able to focus on two things at once, a trick she'd been working on with Regine over the last few weeks. "Conrad is my primary responsibility. I'm not going to let you have him."
"Even at the risk to your children?"
"You assume I think there's a risk."
"Of course there's a risk, you stupid girl," Massima snarled. "Haven't you heard anything we've said? You can't do that, can't put your children in harm's way. The school geasa won't let you."
"We'll see, won't we? I'm not going to let you Own Conrad. I'm not going to do that to him."
Thank gods… but the babies? But my daughter? Struggling against her orders, Conrad moved closer to her. I'm still out of the way, aren't I? He put both hands protectively over her stomach.
She fought down a surge of irritation. Why did everyone think she'd turned into some helpless, useless thing? "Allyse will fight, and she's pregnant."
"Allyse is a trained warrior. Also, we only have one gas mask." Her heart's not in it anymore, Conrad's mind told her, watching the way Acacia was shifting. Maybe the mind control is pushing at her, too.
"Is that all?" Kai couldn't help but smiling. "I'm Named for this. I can clean the air around myself in my sleep." She looked between the three of them. "You might not have noticed, because of the social insufficiencies, but I'm a genius.."
"And?" Sima's going to wring her neck soon, Conrad's thoughts provided. She really thought she was just going to win this. Shit. Win me. This was all so she could Own me. A wave of panicked revulsion colored his mind for a moment.
"And that means that your trap isn't going to work. I might not be able to kill him - you're all clearly better warriors than I am - but I can go in, keep myself safe, keep the children safe, and get out. Your bluff is called." She felt on top of the world. She felt a thousand times bigger. She was grinning, which was probably not a good thing, but it wasn't as if she could manage a poker face.
They won't stop until they get what they want. Kaia, are you listening?
She nodded, just barely moving her head until she felt him notice the gesture. The Thornes were glaring at her; Massima had begun to pace back and forth, and Allyse was whispering to Acacia.
Sima wants me. But what she needs to graduate is a baby. I can give her that. I don't like it, but I'll do it.
The thought of him with someone else, under someone else, naked and sweaty under another woman, filled Kai with a surge of angry jealousy, which, in turn, made Conrad unhappy, his thoughts swirling. Damnit, this would be easier out loud. I wish I hadn't been shushed.
Shushed… oh. You inexplicable twit. Kai shook her head. "I rescind the shut up." She didn't bother to make it too quiet; the Thornes all had amazing hearing. And, more importantly, they were closing in on them.
"I'd go with this trap if I were you, Girl Scout." Sima smiling was a far less pleasant sight than Sima frowning. "The next one probably won't be so subtle, or so pleasant. We could do with Rozen owing us a favor, for one."
Fuck that. Over my dead body is he touching her. She didn't need emotional overtone to hear the anger in Conrad's thoughts.
"I think we can bargain." It might be a bad idea, but meeting these three in a dark alley would be a horrible idea. "I'm not giving you Conrad to Own. I will not do that to him." Or to yourself, mmm? That thought wasn't his, but hearing it while she was hearing Conrad's thoughts almost threw her off her game.
"So we don't have a bargain. You're coming hunting with us, and maybe you fall down and maybe you don't."
"You still need a second child to graduate, and I'm sure you don't want to be stuck here when your sisters leave, correct?"
"Why do you think I want him?"
She's getting worked up. Watch out, Kaia. Conrad shifted to one side of her, his posture defensive. With a jolt of surprise, Kai remembered that cy'Luca did combat training, too.
"So you need a second child."
Acacia cut her off. "Sima, you can just use Finnegan."
"I don't want Finnegan." Her snarl was getting almost incoherent. "I want a man. A real man. One with teeth."
"Finnegan's not for communal use, anyway." Allyse wasn't looking at Kai and Conrad; she was looking at her sisters. And bristling. "He'll find his second some time later."
"Damnit, did we waste all this time on the fucking Girl Scout for nothing?"
"Allyse, we're a crew, we share." The two comments came on the heels of each other, the snarling rising up louder and louder.
"We're not a fucking socialism. It's not like you share your boots."
"I know. Conrad, are you sure…?"
No. But it's better than the other options. His hands pressed against her hips. "Yes."
"I have a deal for you." She raised her voice to carry over the shouting Thorne Girls. "Massima. Dr. Caitrin can handle artificial insemination." She leaned into Conrad's hands, into his strength, for a moment, waiting until they were all looking at her.
"This is the deal. I will send Conrad to Caitrin's to provide the sperm to inseminate you, provided you agree to give him right of first refusal should you choose not to raise the resultant child or, if you do choose to raise it, you agree to reasonable and regular visitation rights, at least four times every year for at least a full day each visit.
"sIn return, we cancel our arrangement. You no longer have to train me or answer my questions about relationships, and I no longer need to train with you or go on hunts with you."
"One change." Acacia was nodding, looking thoughtful. "We will need you on a hunt. But that hunt will be one we actually need you on, and it won't be, if we can avoid it, in a situation that would endanger your children."
Need her how? Conrad wondered. Kai echoed his question aloud.
"Need me in what manner?"
"As signed and sealed by our seer."
"All right." This could, she realized go badly. Everything in Addergoole could go badly. But it wasn't going badly right now. "Do we have a deal?"
Allyse was smiling. That didn't seem like a good sign, but Conrad didn't appear worried. "This will be a more interesting hunt anyway."
"Good, I think that's good. Sima? Settle for the kid?"
She was glowering. "I'm going to have you some day, Conrad."
"You might," he agreed. "The world goes on for a long time. But not today."
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