Addergoole
Stamps Bonus Story
Ripples

On the first day of the first year of the Addergoole School

The years had been kind to Ambrus, but he hadn’t noticed how kind, or how many years, until he stood in the hallway, watching the first cohort of Addergoole students flowing past him. The kids were grown adults – the boy walking past him had a beard – and he’d been their age, or thereabouts, when they’d been conceived. In some cases, he’d facilitated or even watched their conception.

In at least one case, his participation had been more direct. The boy was walking straight towards him, and, even if he hadn’t read the roster on Regine’s desk, he would have known this one for what he was.

“Hey, new here too?” And it hit home like a sledgehammer – he thought he was a student. The boy made an embarrassed negligent gesture at Ambrus’ expression. “Yeah, I know. We’re all new. Just makin’ conversation. Hi. I’m Trist.”

Tristan sh’Lacey. He had his mother’s coloration, her hazel eyes and tousle-ready brown hair, but that was Ambrus’ chin on his face.

“Ambrus.” He shook the proffered hand, pretending it was Luke or Doug and making it a firm, manly handshake. There was no recognition on the boy’s face, and he didn’t know whether to be relieved or aggrieved by that. “What do you make of this place?”

The kid looked around, surveying the passing students. He was heartbreakingly handsome, Ambrus noted, in a cowboy way that was so unlike his own prettiness. He’d been named well. “Not a lot of people here, are there? Maybe twenty, twenty-five of us? The teachers practically outnumber us.”

“It is kind of small. Isn’t this the first year it’s open?” He didn’t know how long he could keep this up, but it was kind of free-feeling, to just act like a normal teenager.

“That’s what my mom said. She seemed to think there was something special, or weird, or exclusive about this place, but she wasn’t really clear. I got the feeling she didn’t want to talk about it.” He shrugged. “Enh, whatever, man. I can have fun wherever I am.”

Ambrus tried not to start, wondering at this stranger who was, at least in some genetic sense, his son. “So you’re just here to party?”

Trist laughed. “I’m just here ‘cause I was sent here. I can party wherever I am. Why?” He shot Ambrus a funny look, a little distrustful. “Are you one of those super-Christian sorts? ‘Cause I’m sure not here to have my soul saved!”

Ambrus choked out a laugh. “No, not me,” he said, turning what wanted to be a hysterical giggle into a lazy smile. “I’m just here for the girls.” As he said it, one of those girls undulated past – full lips, high, round ass, and long waves of chocolate-brown hair. Her little green tank top was half-slipping off her sculpted shoulder, and she walked like she knew every guy would be staring at her. “See,” he murmured, “girls.”

“Mm-hrmm,” Trist agreed, but his eyes had slid past the sex-on-wheels to a fresh-faced pretty girl across the hall. She had twisted one braid of her auburn hair around the top of her head like a coronet, and her smile, as she talked to another girl, was bright, open, and honest.

Ysolde. Ambrus swallowed a sigh. Whatever her name was, it was going to turn out to be Ysolde in the long run. He patted Tristan on the shoulder. “Good luck with that, man.” What else could he say? Why do you think I named you for him? I saw when you were barely a day old that she would break your heart. No, that would lead to way too many questions. Better to walk away, and smile at the lovely girls, and try not to call to mind their mothers and fathers - Joseph, shy as hell about swinging both ways but once Ginger had gotten what she’d wanted from him, how gorgeous he’d looked all sweaty and urgent. His daughter had his twist of lips and the same stubborn jaw-line. He wondered if she’d make the same adorable needy little noises. Aiden, her smile open and welcoming as she assured him there was room in the hot tub for one more, two more if he wanted to bring a friend. He caught her daughter’s eye, and received an echo of that smile in reply.

Lacey, standing soaking wet on his doorstep… He had a son. More than one son, of course, at least three children that he could remember and some odd gaps in his memory that probably spoke of others, gaps he’d never minded because Regine had told him not to mind. But holding them when they were infants, murmuring the rites over them and picking a name from the ether of visions, that was one thing. Talking to the grown man, that was different. He watched Tristan walk over to his Ysolde, marveling at how free he was, open and smiling and without restraint. What would that be like? Damnit, what would it be like to have that and then to lose it?

“Gay much?” The man standing next to him bled aggression and hatred in waves. Ambrus turned a charming smile on him as if he couldn’t read his disdain.

“Only when the occasion rises.” He had to look up, way up into the sharp, harsh face. The guy was stupidly tall, and tightly muscled, emanating a dull malice; he reminded Ambrus painfully of Ian. But Ian had been a lifetime ago, and this boy was just a boy. He smiled puckishly. “Were you looking to raise an occasion with me?” He trailed his fingers down the boy’s arms.

“Get off of me!” The kid shoved, pushing Ambrus back against the wall, but he’d been expecting it, and he rolled with it, coming up on his feet.

“No? All right then.” He walked away, laughing to himself. Tough guys were all the same, deep down inside, even the nastiest ones.

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