Calvin had seemed like such a nice guy.
Looking at him now, from the safety of Arundel’s arms, Timora wasn’t certain anymore. Sure, he’d taken an interest in her, when no-one else had, but here he was standing there next to Tiggs, staring at her, and claiming she was his. Arundel had said he was too late. Too late? That seemed like a strange thing to say.
“Is that right?” Calvin seemed to agree with her on that, at least. “Is the ickle bird-boy right about that one, Timmy? Is he too late?”
He was probably waiting to trap you. Looking at him standing next to Tiggs, it seemed more than a bit likely.
“I really liked you,” she told him, wincing as her voice came out like a slow-speed car crash, then wincing again as he – and Tiggs, and Porter – took an involuntary step backwards.
“I like you, Timmy, that’s why you’re going to be mine. Quietly. Right?”
“I told you, Calvin, you’re too late. Leave her alone.” Arunde’s voice was louder and more high-pitched, and his wings were spreading to fill the hall.
“You couldn’t keep her if you tried, junior. Hand her over now and no-one gets hurt.”
Keep. Mine. Timora shook her head. “I’m not yours, Calvin.” Her voice was getting more level, but it still sounded like tortured metal. “Stop it.”
Calvin was loosing his cool. “Well, this little shit can’t keep you. How’s he going to protect you?”
That was the second time in less than an hour someone had mentioned protecting her. “Porter, Arundel,” she whispered.
Porter was quick on the uptake and covered his ears. Arundel’s hands were busy holding her, but, on the other hand, he didn’t seem nearly as bothered by her voice as everyone else.
“You’re being silly, Timmy,” Calvin said, and then she screamed.
This time, she was paying attention. Even with his ears covered, Porter was wincing, walking backwards slowly away from her. Calvin and Tiggs, who were either slow, brave, or stupid, didn’t even try to cover their ears.
“Tim-” Calvin began, over the start of her scream, which only sounded like a three-car pileup running into a flock of eagles. She pushed a little more air into it,adding a semi truck full of upset canaries to the sound crash, and Calvin and Tiggs started running. She made it louder, as loud as she could go, and Porter tripped over his feet backing up, falling on his tail.
Arundel stood there, holding her, seeming hardly fazed at all.
She caught her breath and stopped, smiling at him, then a little more apologetically at Porter. “It really does work.”
“It does,” Porter agreed shakily. “Your speaking voice is still pretty…”
“Oh, yeah.” She clapped her hands over her mouth, abashed.
“It’s okay,” the tiger-man assured her. “Come on, buddy, let’s get her into the doctor’s. Do you think it’s your power, that’s why she doesn’t make you run?”
“I guess?” Having the person carrying you shrug was, Timora discovered, a rather strange sensation. Sort of like a very mellow roller-coaster. He looked down at her thoughtfully. “Everyone has a power,” he informed her. “Porter can make doors. Anywhere. It’s pretty awesome. Me? I’m fearless.”
She made a noise that she hoped was encouraging, and he grinned at her even more widely. “And you’re really pretty. Here, Doctor’s office. I think you’re fine, though. It’s not a bad Change.”
The nurse shooed them into an exam room, all three of them, although Porter stayed near the door, as if guarding their escape. Once in there, Arundel picked up as if he hadn’t stopped, not seeming to mind the one-sided conversation. “So yours seems to be… sort of…”
“Kelpie?” Porter offered. “Kelpie meets a banshee.”
Dr. Caitrin walking in stopped all speculation. “The tapes are very interesting. It’s going to take a while to get control of that, I think, Timora, so I’d ask you to be careful with your voice until then, all right? In the meantime…” She laid her hands on Timora’s ankles and began muttering under her breath. “Interesting.”
“Interesting?” Arundel asked. “I see hooves. And a tail, right?”
“Unsurprising, considering her ancestry. Yes. Yes. This is going to be an interesting Change, and I don’t believe it’s over yet. Are you Keeping her?”
“Ah. We need to talk about that.”
“Keeping?” Timora whispered. “Calvin…”
“Yeah,” Arundel muttered. “I’m not him.”
“Hrmph. Well, Timora, take these two pills. If you are in pain in the morning, come see me. In the meantime…” the doctor looked thoughtful. “I don’t normally suggest Keepings, but, if he thinks he can hack it, and you’re willing, Timora, considering your peculiar power, I’d consider Arundel.” She pressed the small blue pills into Timora’s hand and, on that very odd note, left, Porter following discretely behind her.
“Well.” The eagle-boy flared his wings uncomfortably. “I don’t want to pressure you into anything, I really don’t. But I was gonna offer…”
She looked up at him uncertainly. “If you’re the only person I can talk to without them running away…” she whispered.
“There is that, but that seems like a lousy reason to Keep someone. ‘Here, be Mine so you have someone to talk to.’” He shrugged again. “I’ve been watching you, and I like you.”
“You make it sound like stalking.” It was nice to be able to speak again without someone flinching. Then again, he’d started looking nervous.
“Well,” he squirmed, “kind of? I mean, everyone kind of stalks the new students around here. I guess I got stalked last year?”
Oh, he looked nervous because he was nervous, not because of her voice. Nervous of her? “Why are you all squirmy?” Lovely, she winced; that was exactly the way to get a guy to like her.
“Well, I don’t want you to think I’m a creep like Calvin. I mean, I guess I deserve it.”
“Did you set me up to get terrified and dragged around and what-have-you, Kepted?” she countered. Calvin had done that. Calvin who had seemed so nice. Arundel seemed nice, too.
“No? I mean, I just kind of tried to be where I thought he’d set you up, so I could rescue you. Well, Porter got there first…”
“Okay, that’s a little creepy,” she agreed. But… “Why?”
He folded his wings up uncertainly, hiding his head. “Because I like you.”
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