It didn’t feel like enough, but it was already over 250 (270, not counting date/time tags).
Then Rix sponsored more.
This is the whole story again; the new part is the 300 words in the middle.
Year Five, Week Six
Bowen sat uncomfortably in his Mentor’s office, fiddling with his collar. He had orders about what he could say and couldn’t, but going up against the edge of his orders was sometimes enough; his face twisted and his ears went flat, and people seemed to understand what that meant.
“There’s got to be a way,” he said quietly, not quite begging. Professor Fridmar shook his head slowly.
“Being Ellehemaei about being strong,” he said, in his thick Russian accent. “What doesn’t kill you, et cetera. Find ways to be stronger.”
Year Seven, Week Eight
Professor Fridmar frowned over steepled fingers at Bowen. “Shira has been talking to me.” His tone suggested he didn’t like Professor Pelletier talking to him about anything; Bowen could already guess what this was about.
“Yeah?” Never show your cards.
“She says Adannaya has seemed strange lately. The girl is not complaining…” His look said what they both knew, that Ada wasn’t going to say anything against Bowen. “But Shira does not think she is happy.”
Bowen met his Mentor’s gaze evenly. “What doesn’t kill you, et cetera,” he quoted.
Year Seven, Week Eight, Three hours later
Fridmar had let him go. What was he going to do?
He lay in bed next to Adannaya, tracing fingers over her fear-rigid body. Her face was blank, eyes closed. “The Professors say you’re unhappy.”
She shuddered, swallowing a sob. “I didn’t say anything. I swear.”
I didn’t say anything, Aggie. I didn’t ask for any help. His remembered shudder echoed Adannaya’s. “I know you didn’t. I ordered you not to.”
I know you didn’t tell them anything, Bowen. You’re a good boy. You wouldn’t want people to think ill of me.
She didn’t say anything. She didn’t need to.
Year Seven, Week Eight, Saturday
Bowen was a bit surprised to find cy’ree-mate Penny knocking on his door, but not at all surprised to find she was carrying food. “Ada’s seemed off her feed in the Dining Hall. I thought my shepherd’s pie might cheer her up.”
He eyed the tasty-smelling pastry. “No mutton?”
“No mutton. May I come in?”
He couldn’t turn her down; she’d know something was up. And the pie smelled very good. “Come on,” he grunted unwillingly. “Ada’s in the bathroom.”
“Crying.” She set the pie down in the kitchenette and began serving it out.
“She’s always crying, Bowen.”
Year Seven, Week Nine, Sunday
Reheated shepherd’s pie made a decent breakfast. Bowen sat watching Adannaya, struggling with himself.
“You’re mine,” he rumbled, as much telling his suddenly-guilty conscience as her. She twitched, and nodded.
“I know,” she whispered, setting her spoon down.
“I can do what I want with you. No one will stop me.” Aggie had cut his tail off, starved him. Nobody had stopped her.
“I know.” Her voice was flat.
He took a deep breath. Power was strength. Power wasn’t kicking rabbits.
“That doesn’t mean I ought to.” He watched her jerk as if he’d hit her. “Or will. I’m sorry.”
Year Twelve, October
Bowen was unsurprised to find his old Mentor standing in his living room. They all knew, by now, that the professors stopped in on their former students, “to be sure they were all right.”
Sibil had let him in, pretty, doll-like Sibil, who ran his house. The Professor was sipping the tea Talitha had brought him, and studying the two women thoughtfully. When Bowen walked in with Kate, one bushy eyebrow rose.
Bowen couldn’t help but grin. The girls were happy, with or without orders. “Stronger,” he laughed. “And better.”
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