Archive | January 22, 2017

January By the Numbers Ninteen: Tendril (ficlet)

January by the numbers continues (still three days off…)!
From [personal profile] clare_dragonfly‘s prompt “tendril;” a ficlet.


She was sitting on the floor, leaning against his legs while they watched TV. She liked sitting there, and he liked the feeling it gave him – security, being taller than her, bigger than her.

He was a very insecure man, although nobody would say that to his face and those who knew him only casually wouldn’t guess it. He liked being in charge – but he was good at it, and so nobody questioned it. He liked being intimidating – but he was 6’6″ tall and broad-shouldered, muscular, and so he didn’t have to work at it.

She sat against his leg because she knew that it made him comfortable, the same reason she wore his collar.

She knew who was really in charge and, somewhere in the back of his mind, so did he, but they danced the dance anyway, and she did what he said, and sat at his feet.

He kept her safe. Not just because he was big, and strong, and intimidating, but because he offered protective coloration, camouflage. She could look different, be different, but some people could always find her. Belonging to someone else, that made her someone else entirely. And since it was something nobody who knew her would ever expect, it hid her all the better.

She leaned against him, her hair twisting around his legs on its own. It did that, her hair, the tendrils sliding around whatever they could reach. She pulled herself up that way, like a squash plant, rising higher on what her tendrils grabbed.

And they slid into him. Not in a way he could feel – not that he could feel much, so defensive, so closed off, that he never noticed things that close to him – but they slid into his psyche. He liked being in charge… but she liked running him.

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First: Slaves, School
Previous: Three Routes

Another door. Desmond stepped through it cautiously, half-expecting to find darkness, or a pit, or someone flinging fire-balls at him.

He found a stairway. He sighed quietly and started climbing.

::Urgh. I hate that feeling. Hate it. It’s like being put in a box. Hate it.::

“Welcome back to you, too.” The stairway seemed interminable. It seemed like exactly the sort of thing he should expect today, so he just kept climbing.

::Hate it. Hate it, hate it, hate it…. All right. I’m done complaining. What did you decide?.::

“You really weren’t listening?”

::No. They – well. It turns off my external senses. I can’t feel anything, can’t see or hear anything. It seemed to take forever, though..::

“I thought it through quite thoroughly,” Des admitted. “I didn’t know you were unhappy, or I would’ve gone faster, though.”

::Don’t fret; it’s silly. I’m fine. It was unpleasant, but it’s over now. And you, you’ve chosen, and you still haven’t told me what we’re going to be doing with all of our training.::

“Instinct and intuition. We’re going with our gut.” Des smiled, because it felt a little silly, but also because it felt a little right.

::With our… well.:: There was a long pause. Des wondered if it meant the collar was thinking things over, or controlling some sort of reaction. ::That will suit you, I think. Let’s go, then.::

Just like that, the stairway came to an end on a landing. Des, who had been certain the stairway went on forever, stopped in surprise.

The landing had three hallways. Des was just about ready to start tearing his hair out in frustration.

::This one is mine. Take the center path. And then I imagine there will be dinner for you and a nice charge up for me.::

“A what?” Des took the center path. He had long since stopped trying to make sense of his route, but some part of his brain offered that he might be out over the alleyway again.

::A way of… replenishing energy. The way that food replenishes energy for you. Obviously, I can’t eat. I have no body. And yet things I do require energy, such as channelling your power.::

“Oh! Oh, that’s interesting.” Desmond touched the collar thoughtfully. “Does thinking, talking, require energy?”

::About as much as it does for you. Which is to say, an amount only notable when one is very low on that energy.::

“Ah.” The hallway, this time, stopped quickly. There was yet another door, which Des found himself sighing as he opened.

::Almost there::, the collar reassured him. ::See?::

There was another desk, with another collared person sitting behind it. This one looked older — Desmond’s parents’ age — and was wearing a very ornate gold collar and another one of those loose, wide-necked robes.

“Ah, a new student. Very good. You’re the last for the day, so come on in. We’ll get you a room and a uniform, and then you can move on to dinner quickly.”

Desmond smiled cautiously. “Dinner would be nice,” he allowed. “Ah — I’m the last for the day? Is that a bad thing?”

“No, no, not at all. Some people take the stairs at different speeds. Some people make the decision of the three routes more quickly than others. And some, well, their collars take a horribly long time at that last intersection. So.” The collared person stood. “I’m Grenor. I teach several seminars here but, more importantly to you at the moment, I’m here to show you to your room, your uniform, and your food. This way – and no, no more decisions for a little while.”

“Does this place even exist in the world?” Desmond hadn’t quite meant to say that, but some of the implications of Grenor’s little speech were sinking in. “I mean… everyone ends up here?”

“The stairs here are something else, you’re right.” Grenor walked unhurriedly but not slowly down another hallway. Everything here was what Desmond thought of as aspiring: the walls were plastered white, the ceilings were low but clean, the floors were stone but very smooth stone. The doors were small, too, wooden doors dyed with a colored stain and with a bare minimum of carving. Grenor opened the fourth small door to reveal a closet.

“Everyone wears very similar uniforms here. No, they are not that which you’ve seen collared adults wearing; that is for very specific roles – normally teachers here, judges, and those in the court system. You will wear something not all that different from your everyday wear, except that everyone within a school wears the same thing. Here.” Grenor looked Des up and down, drew a line in the air and measured Des with the glowing line of light, considered the closet, and pulled out a stack of clothing.

“Pants, kilt, vest, jacket, shirt, cravat, collar. You’ll take your turn in the laundry, same as everyone else, and in the kitchen, and in several other places around the school. Don’t be out of your room without your pants or kilt, vest, and shirt on at any time. Cravat and collar are required for classes as well, and jacket is recommended.”

The pants, kilts, and vest were in a light color between beige and white; the shirts were bright whites, as were the collars, and the cravats swirled in three shades of blue and turquoise. The jacket, Des noted, was a darker beige, cut long in the style of the higher streets.

Grenor gave Des one more assessing look and added two pairs of shoes, twelve pairs of socks, and twelve pairs of undershorts. “That should do. If you ruin something, it can be replaced — but try not to ruin too many things, all right?”

Des, now completely loaded down with clothing, managed a nod.

“And here’s where you’ll be living.” Grenor walked only a short distance before swinging open a door. Three three-high bunk beds, each with three chests at their foot, filled most of the room, each bunk separated from the next by a wide window with a deep seat. The curtains on the windows, the blankets on the beds, and the hangings behind the beds all had the same swirling blue-on-blue-on-turquoise pattern as on Des’ new cravats.

“This will be your bunk. I’m afraid you get last choice, but that comes with its own benefits.”

“Benefits?” Des looked at the bunh Grenor was pointing to — top bunk in the left-hand corner. He set his uniforms down on one of the trunks and looked at the bed.

“Well, the fact that you’re last in counts for something. First-in and last-in, and you’re the last one, and you’re in Impulse, so nobody’s going to think that you spend all that time thinking really hard or arguing with your collar — and if you did, keep it to yourself.” Grenor grinned widely. “Just act mysterious and tell them you climbed up until you reached the roof. They’ll believe just about anything, if you’re that late. Now get yourself changed, and I’ll show you to the meal room.”

Desmond hurried to change into one of his uniforms. Everything fit almost-well-enough, like hand-me-downs or clothing from the second-hand shop. He tugged his vest into place, more than familiar with those sensations, only to hear a faint murmur from his collar.

::Just… hold still… okay. Hold your hands out, palms up, to either side of you, and think about perfectly fitted clothing.::

Desmond thought about a vest that buttoned without gaps or bulges all the day down his front, pants that were long enough but not too long, the way it felt when he sat down and his pants moved with him. He thought about collars that buttoned properly. Shirts that were just long enough. Jackets that moved like the rich men on Ridge Street. He stretched out his arms.

His clothing moved around him. His hands were glowing turquoise. His shirt was glowing blue. Everything was shifting and moving.

::There.:: The collar sounded proud. ::Now you’re set to be seen.::


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Buffy: the Invitation (an Addergoole Crossover), Part 22

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part V
Part VI
Part VII
Part IX
Part X

Part XI
Part XII
Part XIV
Part XV
Part XVI
Part 18
Part 19
Part 20
Part 21

The Director leaned forward over her desk. “You were promised to Addergoole at your conception, Buffy. I will do what it takes to make certain all three of you can attend my school without undue concern for your lives or your avocations.”


“Hobbies,” Willow offered, “or, well, things that we do really well but don’t get paid for and, let’s be honest, Buffy, Slaying vampires is something you do really well and definitely don’t get paid for, and the whole back-up thing…”

“You guys do that really well, yeah. And none of us get paid, except maybe Giles, and if they paid him enough, he could afford better suits.”

“I like my suits, thank you very much! And they suit my cover as a high-school librarian. Sunnydale High, I must say, does not pay its staff very well at all.”

“SunnyHell doesn’t pay for anything. I’m not surprised it doesn’t pay you well, G-man. They spent all their money on that…” Xander had a coughing fit. “Never mind.”

“I believe we will be detailing all of the ‘strangeness’ to Director Avonmorea in due time,” Giles assured him. “That is part of the arrangement we’ve made, which includes being certain the three of you can continue to monitor Sunnydale in a manner you find proper, and that, in turn, Director Avonmorea will ‘deal with’ the Council of Watchers who, I’m afraid, most definitely do need ‘dealing with.’” Giles looked far grimmer than Willow had seen him in a long time. “It’s going to be an interesting time, I will say that, but Buffy… as your Watcher and as your mentor, I think it would do you good to come here.” He looked at Willow for a long moment and then at Xander for even longer. “And as your librarian, Willow, Alexander, I cannot stress how good it would be for the two of you. The training you’ll receive here will surpass anything you could be offered out there in the world.”

Willow looked at Xander. Xander was, unsurprisingly, looking at Buffy. Buffy was glaring at the Director.

“Really. You can really ‘handle’ the Council?”

“Not alone, no, but, just as you have Willow and Alexander, I have Michael and Luke, and they will, ah, ‘back me up’ in such a move. We educate teenagers and young adults here. We do not send them untrained and unarmed into battle.”

“Hey! Giles trained me! And I have weapons.”

“Mr. Giles trained you after you had already been in battle, correct? I do not mean to disparage your Mentor; I believe he has done amazingly well with what he’s been given to work with. I could not have done as well. But I do think this Council has done you a disservice, and, yes, I plan to deal with them.”

“I’d like to be a fly on the wall for that conversation,” Willow muttered.

The Director smiled at her. “It is possible I could arrange something of the sort. So: do we have a deal?”

“I want to meet these fighters, first. I don’t agree to anything without knowing if they can handle their own.”

“I want to talk about the education system more,” Willow put in. “Um, maybe with Professor Valerian?”

“I’m certain Laurel would be pleased to tell you more about our academics.” Was the Director winking at her? No, couldn’t be.

“I wanna know more about the hot tubs… nah, I’ve got nothing,” Xander admitted, “except, uh, why me?”

“The answer to that is long and complex, but the short version for the moment is this: because you are worthy and appropriate for this school.” The Director stood up. “So, we will do this thus: We will walk with Buffy and Giles to the gymnasium, where Luke and Doug are waiting with some students to spare with her. Then we will walk with Willow to meet with Professor Valerian — Laurel — and perhaps with Professors Pelletier and Solomon as well. And then you, Alexander, and I will discuss your interests, and who you might meet with.” She walked out from her desk and strode towards the door, clearly expecting them to follow.

The four from Sunnydale shared a glance, a couple shrugs, and one urging-out-the-door gesture, the last from Giles, who was rolling his eyes at them, and then, with a few more shrugs, followed the Director.

“We built this facility in an old government compound, because we wished it to stay undetected and to remain safe, even in the event of a nuclear attack. We started this project in the seventies,” she explained.

She didn’t look past her mid-thirties, maybe, possibly, a well-preserved forty. “Are you a vampire?” Willow blurted the question out, then slapped both hands over her mouth. “I mrrr…”

The Director turned to her and smiled. “I am remarkably well-preserved for my age, but I do not drink blood and I do not turn to dust when one stakes me, although I’d appreciate it if you didn’t try. We could attempt a church in the middle of the day, if you would like?”

“How – oh, no. You can’t catch me in that trap. That one’s always a trap.” Xander slapped both hands over his mouth. The Director raised her eyebrows at him while Willow and Buffy sniggered.

“I wouldn’t mind that church at high noon idea.” Buffy took a step forward towards the Director. “You don’t smell like a vampire, you don’t feel like a vampire, but you’ve got at least one vamp down here I’ve been told I can’t stake.”

“We’d appreciate it if you didn’t. For one, I do not believe Dysmas would turn to dust, though he would be in a great deal of pain.”

“Most things,” Xander pointed out, in that far-too-casual voice that meant something was about to go wrong, “when you put a stake through them, you know, they just die, not sit there and hurt.”

The Director met his gaze and answered without a flinch. “Many things do. We are not ordinary creatures here, any more than the three of you are.”

“Me? I’m ordinary.”

“Mm. I do hope you will forgive me if I don’t believe you. Here is the gymnasium.” She pushed a swinging door open. “And through here are the training rooms.”

“This is a nice gym,” Willow looked around at the wide space. “No bleachers, though.”

“We are not in the habit of competing in team sports. It would be difficult to explain certain parts of our school sufficiently and I’m afraid it would not really be a fair competition.”

“Oh, we know all about unfair competition,” Xander laughed. “Burning up other cheerleaders, turning the swim team into fish-people…”

“You see my point. If we were to compete with other schools, it would be hard to keep all of that quiet.”

“No cheerleading.” It was hard to tell if Buffy’s expression was a real sulk or put-on, but Buffy was often
like that.

“No, but quite a bit of opportunity to spar with other students who are — if not up to your level — within sufficient reach of your level to offer some challenge.” Regine opened a door in the side of the gym, one of a row of four unevenly spaced. “In here, you can meet with Luke, Doug, and their students. Willow, Alexander, please come with me.”

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