This is a continuation of The July Linkback Story by imaginaryfiend‘s request.
It wasn’t that far to Addergoole. It had seemed farther, on the way home, but then again, on the way home, he’d ridden in silence. Phelen and Rozen spent the ride cracking inappropriate jokes, Baram laughing along and sometimes grunting in a word or two. And, in something that was new, they talked to him, too. Included him.
Included him in everything except an explanation of what was going on. That, Rozen was keeping close to his chest. “You’ll see,” is all he’d say on that matter – and Bowen noted that, in their rather cramped motel room that night, they all made sure he slept in the middle.
If he’d wanted to get away, that wouldn’t really have stopped him. He was pretty sure they all knew it, too. He was tempted to prove it, to show them that’s Aggie’s little sheep bitch… but he decided to stay, to show them that he wasn’t afraid. He was cy’Fridmar, after all, like them.
And then they were driving back into the school where he’d been held captive for a year, and nothing could have stopped him from panicking and clawing at the door, wondering why it suddenly wouldn’t let him out. It was only when Rozen stopped the car that he realized what he’d been doing, and sat back in his seat, embarrassed.
Rozen and Baram said nothing. It was Phelen, a puddle of black shadows in the back seat, who just nodded, like he understood. “Breathe. And remember that it didn’t beat you. The school did its best to fuck you up, but in the end, you won.”
It was a nice pretend game, but Bowen knew the truth. His cheeks flushed. “It’s not like I got out on my own.”
“People don’t get out of being Kept on their own.” Rozen’s rumble sounded amused. “It’s the whole idea.”
What would you know? He wasn’t suicidal, so he didn’t snap at Rozen. Again, it was Phelen who nodded, like he was reading his mind. He might be, for all Bowen knew.
“Just because we didn’t get stuck under the collar doesn’t mean we don’t have some idea what it’s like. You did what you had to, and you survived.”
“But it’s good to remember who helps you out.” Rozen twisted to pin Bowen with a glance.
He found he was squirming. “I helped her with Aggie, didn’t I? I owed her, so I made it right.”
“You did?” Rozen turned back to the road, but Bowen thought he sounded surprised. “Hunh. Good for you. But did you ever say thank you?”
Bowen wasn’t the brightest bulb in the box, but the way Rozen sounded, he thought there was more going on here than his debt. “I don’t think I did,” he admitted. “Is that where we’re going? Why, I mean?”
“Yeah.” He grunted softly. “First stop on the trip, at least. You’re going to thank the girl for what she did.” He drove in silence for a while, through the wheatfields that had led to so much misery. “It took guts to do what she did. Most people wouldn’t go up against an upperclassmen, especially one with a powerful crew.”
Bowen hadn’t thought about it quite like that before. “I guess it did. Hunh.” He stared at the wheat. “Why would she do that?”
Next to him, Phelen laughed. “You’d have to ask her, but I can bet you I know the answer already.”
It was Baram who mumbled out an answer. “She thought it was right.”
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