This may require more context than is available; it comes out of a couple different Addergoole-based RP’s .

Bracken is a former Addergoole student. not a good one, either, rebellious and difficult. She’s, at the point of this story, going through a heartbreak, trying to fix the damage in her heart and her psyche, and trying to make amends with people she’s harmed. Nick is her Kept. Alexi was, at one point, Bracken’s last year of school and Alexi’s first, Bracken’s Kept.

Sometime around Year 21 of the Addergoole school; 5 years after the world ended

There had been easy pieces of Bracken’s recovery journey.

Talking to the teachers at school had not been comfortable, but she’d been able to yell, to lay blame, to explain I wasn’t a bad kid, not really. I was terrified. And then you yelled at me.

Talking to the mind-healer had not been comfortable, but it had been productive. She felt her fear trickling away, even as the pain remained. She felt a sense of worth she’d never before known, and she could begin to allow herself the comfort of the man in her bed, the one who had told her he’d stay.

(The other one had said he’d stay too. But, at the moment, that wasn’t what she was trying to fix. He had his own road to walk).

This one was harder. This wasn’t someone who had wronged her; this wasn’t the ghosts in her own head, or someone who loved her as she was, scars and broken pieces and all. This was someone who clearly felt that she had wronged him, which was a whole new kettle of fish.

Nick, the teleporter who had stayed, brought her to Silas and Orlaith’s door, not for nearly the first time. And, again, poor timing or just bad luck, Alexi answered.

Bracken studied the skinny hermaphrodite and, for a moment, could not find the words to say. Nick’s gentle prod to her side reminded her that staring at someone could be considered intimidating.

She cleared her throat. “Hi.”

“Hi.” He took a step backwards, as if the small space could protect him more than the threshold she wasn’t going to cross without an invitation.

Nick’s hand on her back calmed her before she could say something stupid. “I came to talk to you, if it’s okay…?” He was wearing a collar. It struck her that the only time she had seen him without had been just before she’d put hers on him, and just after she’d taken it off.

“To me?” Alexi squeaked it out. “Uh. Why?”

That was a very good question. Bracken took a moment to suss out a decent answer. “You’re scared of me.”

“Well, yeah.” He peered at her, seeming to be suggesting that wasn’t really an answer.

“That means I did something wrong.”

“Uh? I mean… I guess I mean uh?” Alexi took another little step backwards, hand hovering over what Bracken assumed was a panic button. She held up both her hands.

“I screwed up, Alexi. I didn’t mean to hurt you. I promise, it was never my intent to hurt you. And if I did, if you’re still scared of me now, it means I did something really wrong. And I’d like to make amends.”

The hermaphrodite blinked owlishly at her. “You want to… apologize?”

“Yeah.” She frowned, and found herself looking down at her toes, shoulders hunched. “I do. I want to make things better.”

“Why?” He was moving back towards the gate, at least.

She shrugged hard. This was hard. People were a lot harder to fix than cars, or clothes, or buildings. “Because I didn’t mean to make things bad in the first place. And…” Her shoulders jerked again. “It bugs me that I hurt you. I don’t want that on my conscience.”

It was the wrong thing to say, and she knew it as soon as it was out of her mouth. “You can’t erase the past.” He’s stopped moving closer. “You can’t undo it.”

“No. No.” She shook her head. “I can’t. But maybe I can make amends?” She was running out of ways to say the same thing. “Maybe we can, I dunno, understand each other a little better?”

He thought about that for long enough that she was starting to squirm. Finally, he nodded. “Come on in, if you mean those who reside here no harm.”

“I mean you and yours no harm.” She was surprised to find his invitation worked. “I thought you were…”

“I’m a kept boy without being Kept.” He smiled for the first time she she’d arrived. “I never really had a problem with that part of it.”

“I noticed. Urm.” She followed him into the small gate-house, which was surprisingly large enough for the three of them and rather well-appointed inside. “That’s why I was surprised when I saw you, and you were…” Hanging out with Marius had not improved her vocabulary. She flapped a hand.

“Frightened,” Nick provided.

“Frightened. Yes.”

Alexi frowned. “That bothered you?”

“Yeah?” She swallowed and struggled not to yell. “Yeah, it bothered me. I’m not scary. I’m not the bad guy.” She shrugged roughly. “I rescue people. I help people. I’m not good with people, but I’m not one of the monsters.”

“I know.” Alexi’s voice was soft, barely audible. Bracken glanced at him, then looked again. He looked a little confused, and a little worried. “I know, Bracken. You were never one of the bad guys.”

He reached across the small space and, very carefully, as if afraid she’d bite, he patted her knee. “I know that.”

She wasn’t sure if she should be reassured or more worried, but she felt a little tension leaving her shoulders anyway. A glance at Nick told her that he was, if not smiling, at least frowning less. “You’re still scared of me, though.”

“You were so angry. All through my whole first year. And when you showed up here, you were angry again. You’re kind of scary when you’re angry.”

“I fix things.” She sounded like she was pleading, and she wasn’t sure she cared.

“If you’ve ever seen yourself waving a wrench around…” Alexi shrugged. “Sorry. I mean. I know you’re one of the good guys. But you’re just kind of scary. And when I was Kept by you – you were angry all the time. So you were kind of scary all the time.” Alexi shrugged again. “Sorry. I really am. I’m not trying to freak you out…”

Bracken sighed. She was beginning to understand what happened. “No, it’s all right. I think I get it.” She mirrored the hermaphrodite’s gesture, patting a bony knee. “You’re happy here?”

“I really am.” The smile that lit up that face was something Bracken didn’t remember seeing often, and it was short-lived, sliding quickly to something like worry. “Are you?”

She glanced over at Nick, then back to her former Kept. “Happy?” It was a question she’d never really been comfortable with. “I’m learning how to be.”

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