It took Desmond, Jefshan, and, to his surprise, Wesley, all working together, to get the group back on track. “Desmond can go exploring the spare stairs tomorrow on his own time. Right now, we’re working on getting to know our collars, remember?”
It wasn’t a rousing endorsement, but a pointed reminder from Jefshan about exactly how bad their collar rapport class had been got Kayay coming up with a question, and they were back to doing round-robin questions.
Try not to get me in trouble again? He begged his collar. His collar made a mental snort.
::Nothing you do is going to get you on Kayay’s good side, so I don’t know why you care so much. They’ve decided they hate you for being the last one out the door-::
Which was also your fault!
“Desmond? Hey, Des, it wasn’t an essay question.” Jefshan poked his arm. “What’s your collar’s favorite magic?”
“Force- what? That’s a thing?”
“Yes, yes, we all know you like force-fields. I heard, You were amazing at force-fields.”
“I was very slightly better than a couple other people,” Desmond snapped. “It’s our first day, cut me some slack. Besides, no. It likes force bolts.”
“Force bolts? Never heard of it.”
“Like he said,” Talia pointed out, “it’s our first day. What I want to know is how the collar knows that it’s its favorite thing.”
“Me, too,” Desmond muttered. So?
We didn’t spring into existence full-fledged on your necks, you know. We had a life – an existence – before you. Before all of you. After all, we CAN be killed, but not easily.
Desmond listened to see if there was more, but his collar had fallen silent. He looked at Jefshan, who raised one eyebrow at him, then looked around.
“What, did your collar have an answer to that, too?” Kayay sneered.
Desmond straightened up. Maybe the collar was right and Kaya was just never going to like him. Maybe he should stop trying.
“Well,” he coughed. “Well, it says that they had lives before us. And that they’re hard to kill.”
“But that doesn’t answer – oh.” Talia fell quiet and leaned against the bed.
“What does it feel like, do you think?” Doria whispered. “To belong to someone, to be holding on to them, and then to have them die?”
“We’ve all seen death,” Wesley muttered.
“We’ve seen death,” Doria countered. “But our collars are in our heads. They feel things – unless we cut them off. They know what we’re thinking and they work in rapport with us to use magic. And then to have that body die, and to be helpless – I think they’re helpless?” Her voice went shaky at the end.
::That’s quite enough of that::, Desmond’s collar muttered. ::Whose turn is it for another question?::
Desmond looked around the room. “Poiy? Do you have a question?”
“What? Oh! Um.” Poiy squirmed. “Why are they crazy? No, How does a collar- okay, okay.” Poiy made a massive headshake, hair flying. “Okay. Let’s see, if I was meeting someone – oh! What’s their favorite form of entertainment? Are they even entertained?”
“That’s a good one.” Jefshan touched her collar with both hands. “Oh, Hrrm. That’s an interesting question.They are – well, the thing is, something about the way they pick us, it’s supposed to pick compatible mates. Not quite mates, uh…” She flailed a little.
::We are supposed to be paired with partners we can work with. That doesn’t always work. Some – collars – and some wearers are a little too reluctant to be able to get along with anyone. Although those don’t usually make it past the testing.:: His collar paused. ::I don’t know if the things I like are things you like, but I don’t think they’ll be too far off. I like the sunset from the top of the roof. I like the feeling when I’ve succeeded – when we’ve succeeded. I like a good book, a good puzzle, a good – ahem.
Desmond found himself blushing. “Pass,” he muttered. He wasn’t even going to ask how that worked. He was fairly sure he didn’t want to know, and he was at least half-convinced that the answer would lie in that forbidden zone anyway.
“Pass,” whispered Poiy, who was also blushing.
“Cards,” muttered Wesley. “Great, my collar can probably beat me at Three-Card, too.”
“Dice. And it likes to cheat,” offered Talia.
“So. Our collars are people.” Jefshan pulled the conversation back around to something less blush-worthy. “Good. Now, what else do we want to know…?”