It was the easy joke that Abrelle was cold. Ha, ha. Snake, cold-blooded. Emotionally frigid. She’d gotten through three years of Addergoole without making very many friends; her former Keeper’s crew sufficed for companionship and back-watching, and her former Keeper had taken care of the first of her required two children for her.
It was the easy joke that she was cold, and she preferred it like that. If nobody thought she had emotions, nobody would try to get in. If nobody tried to get in (The way her former Keeper had. The way their child had) then nobody could hurt her again.
The 17th Cohort kids were freaked out. Nobody blamed them, really: even the 14th Cohort were a little twitchy; even the teachers were a little twitchy. The Gods were coming back. The fairies were turning out to be real.
They almost cancelled Hell Night. By sworn agreement of all the Crews, they kept the hazing ritual low-key and far more mellow than any of them could ever remember.
It didn’t stop them from Keeping people, of course. Many of them – Abrelle included, of course – still needed to finish their graduation requirements. Not a one of them thought that the return of mysterious Gods would get them out of Regine’s schemes. And, while the safety of the wards seemed a little more inviting, the world wasn’t that bad yet, and none of them wanted to be trapped in the school any longer than they had to be.
Abrelle grabbed Kevin through the simple expedient of a couple Intinn workings and one good snare trap, a trick her crew-mate Gillian had used to good effect three years running. He fought, which she expected, kicked and spat, which she didn’t fault him for, swore, and dangling upside down from her trap, grew claws and tried to rip her face open, which she hadn’t quite been expecting.
She wrapped his claws in mittens, carried him to the Doctor’s, and gave him just enough orders to keep him from hurting himself or her too much.
That set the tone for their first month together. Kevin fought, spat, kicked, swore, complained, and then would settle down for several hours, sometimes because Abrelle restrained him, sometimes because he ran out of fire. Abrelle didn’t mind. She found she liked it; actually – not the fire, but the time afterwards, when he would lay down next to her, his head on her lap, and twitch until the last of the anger had left him.
She’d had to restrain him this time, or chosen to; she found she liked it, and so sometimes took the opportunity to do so when it wasn’t entirely necessary.
She ran her fingers through his copper curls while he twitched. They were so soft, so fun to pet, although he rarely tolerated the attention. She couldn’t remember ever enjoying touching someone like this before.
As the twitching slowed, he opened his eyes. “You never get angry, no matter how much I yell.”
It was a common complaint. She had no better answer than the one she had given him every other time. “I’m very hard to piss off.”
“They say you’re cold, you know.”
“I know that’s what they say. The whole snake thing.”
“I don’t think it’s that.” His teal eyes met her colorless ones. “I don’t think you’re cold.”
For some reason, she found that made her smile. “No?” Against his fire, she was certainly a little chilly.
“No.” His shoulder jerked as he pulled against the bindings wrapped around him. “Damnit. I’ll behave.” His cheeks colored a little. “Please?”
That was unusual, and Abrelle was reluctant to indulge him. He had said please, however, so she unwound the restraints.
His hand shot out, and for a second, she thought he would hit her. Instead, he stroked the edge of her hair, and then, cautiously, the root. “Ever since I met you, your hair’s been white. I thought it was part of your Change.”
“It is.” A strange feeling settled in her stomach. “Why?”
“Your roots. They’re turning blue.”
“Blue?” That was new. They’d never turned blue before. She peered over him at the mirror. The deep royal blue had, indeed, stained her roots. “It’s a mood ring.” She didn’t quite tell him, so much as she told the mirror.
“But your hair is always white.”
“Usually, now.” She caught his wrist, and watched the blue in her hair deepen.
“So what’s blue?”
“I…” The pink tinging the tips of her hair she knew. That was mild embarrassment. “I think it might be love.”
She grabbed his other wrist before he could freak out too badly, and they both watched as the blue seeped down her hair.
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