Tag Archive | yr8

How Do We Manage?

This is to [personal profile] wyld_dandelyon‘s prompt to this January card for [community profile] origfic_bingo.

It fills the “management” slot, and is in Addergoole, which has a landing page here

Warning: discussion of incest.

“You have it easy.” Aelgifu sighed and flopped against the back of her chair.

“Easy?” Shahin raised one perfectly-shaped eyebrow in question. “I’m not arguing that I don’t have a hard life, although I miss Emrys – although I had him here a year longer than you had Io.”

They were sitting in one of the cozy visiting rooms in Lady Maureen’s voluminous creche and child-care center, Ayla’s daughter and Shahin’s three-and-a-stepchild playing around and with them. Shahin managed to look simultaneously matronly and adorable while nursing young Belladona; Ayla had never managed to feel anything but half-naked and frumpy.

“Well, you don’t mind the preliminaries.” How much could you say around two-year-olds? What would babies Niobe and Arturo remember?

“I don’t recall you minding the preliminaries with Ioanna.”

“That’s was different. And the baby-making parts were, ah, separate. Dr. Caitrin helped with those.” Dr. Caitrin had been necessary for the complex Workings that had turned part of Ioanna’s female DNA into sperm and then impregnated Aelgifu with that sperm – Ayla was a bit fuzzy on the details, but the end result had been Niobe.

“Well, it’s not as if Dr. Caitrin couldn’t help you with a nice boy’s consent.”

“Finding someone I can stand enough to bother with is half the problem.”

“I really doubt you want to go the route of magically-and-inexplicably-attracted-to-your-brother.” Shahin seemed to have no problems at all talking about such things in front of her children. Well, with her relationship with Emrys…

“That’s it.” Ayla sat up straight. “Shahin, you’re brilliant.”

“I know, but… how, in this case, exactly?” Her friend was watching Ayla with both eyebrows raised.

“Brothers. I have an inordinate share of brothers, and I know at least two of them have no interest in women.” Their father had said all my kids turn out gay, but nobody was going to take Aelfgar as an expert in anything except fighting. “That’s brilliant.”

Shahin shook her head, but she was smiling, not scoffing. “It is. I’m glad I thought of it.”

This entry was originally posted at http://aldersprig.dreamwidth.org/674807.html. You can comment here or there.

Basalt, his First year

Eighth in a series of character-building vignettes following a bunch of characters through their time at Addergoole & beyond.

Basalt shows up in Addergoole: Year 9 as Ahouva’s rescuer-slash-Keeper; Thorburn shows up as Ceinwen’s Keeper, and Brydan and Indigo have passing mention through the series.

“Oh, Bry, he’s something else.”

Basalt hadn’t been aware he’d dazed out until the voice brought him back into consciousness. Being around Brydan seemed to do that to him, especially in the last week. Since the dance. Since he’d kissed her, and told her she was an angel and…

…the rest was a little fuzzy. Basalt had drunk more than he ought to, but the booze had been flowing freely, and he’d always been able to hold his liquor before that.

He blinked up at Brydan. He hadn’t been told to move yet, but he didn’t really mind. Kneeling with his head on her lap was one of the more comfortable ways he could think of to pass the afternoon.

She was frowning, however, which wasn’t as good. “Indigo. I don’t recall inviting you in.”

“You gave me a blanket invitation, remember? And I wanted to show off mine, but you’ve beaten me to it, as usual.”

Even where he was, Basalt could hear the growl from the doorway. His shoulders tensed. He didn’t mind being in Brydan’s lap, but it was going to be hard to defend her if he was stuck here.

She patted his shoulder. “It’s all right, sweetie. You can move.”

He didn’t want to, not really. But he did, standing, stretching, and getting into a nice bodyguard position looming just behind Brydan’s left shoulder.

He didn’t want to look at the other people in the room, either, but he did. There was something about the woman’s voice that made what he and Brydan were doing sound dirty somehow, instead of just right and proper. And the growl…

Yeah, he’d been afraid of that. The woman was the blonde-and-sometimes-blue girl, Indigo, one of Brydan’s friends and in the same Mentorship as Brydan. The other… yeah. Basalt met Thorburn’s eyes and shrugged.

The other guy showed all his teeth, in something that was definitely not a smile. Basalt just shrugged again. It could get embarrassing, sure. But if Brydan was anything like Indigo…

“He’s pretty awesome, isn’t he?” Brydan patted Basalt’s shoulder.

He straightened up a little bit and smiled at her. “So are you, miss.”

Basalt: His First Year
Nyyrikki: Her First Year
Orliath: Her Second Year
Cynara: Her Second Year

This entry was originally posted at http://aldersprig.dreamwidth.org/573312.html. You can comment here or there.

An Education

For [personal profile] rix_scaedu‘s commissioned continuation of Educational.

Teach me.

It was the best way to couch it to him and, it seemed, the best way to show her, too.

Ambrus could teach. He hadn’t been given that much opportunity, before, but he knew how it worked. He had been watching people teach for years, spending his free time around teachers, reading the books in the Library on teaching. He had an idea of the concept.

And Phillipa seemed to enjoy learning. She wasn’t one of those goody-good-good students, the ones who knew everything and kissed the teacher’s ass – he couldn’t imagine her kissing anyone’s ass, or anyone’s anything, for that matter – but give her a challenge and she dove into it with a vengeance.

Learning how to be a sub was her new challenge. Teaching it was Ambrus’, and he found that, despite knowing all of it, so many of the ins and outs, teaching was turning out to be an entirely different thing.

“We’re going to the Library.” He was running out of other ideas. She kept asking why. He couldn’t remember, not clearly, the last time he’d asked why.


He almost laughed. Instead, he took hold of the ring in the front of her collar. The gesture forced her chin up, so that she was looking into his eyes. He smiled; she shivered. Something about his smile did that to her. He couldn’t really say he disliked it, but it was certainly novel. “We are going to the Library to research the condition of being submissive. You may come along unbound and speaking, or you may come along bound.”

Ambrus was a little surprised to see Phillipa licking her lips. “Bound sounds kind of hot.”

Damn. How was he going to get this one past Luke? He took the opportunity as a teaching moment while he worried about that.

“‘It sounds hot’ is one of the primary reasons for a great deal of d/s. After all, being Kept might be a cultural condition…”

“But being a submissive is a social kink.” Phillipa recited the response with a lip-licking smile. “Yes, sir. And I’m being a submissive today, right, sir?”

He’d found he couldn’t stand being called Master. Well, he was in charge, he could choose which title he wanted to hear.

“Today is a sub day. Good girl.” He patted her head and thought about the problem he’d created. All right. Taking her bound to the library. “Go put on that pretty little sundress. Skip the shoes and underwear. You won’t need them.”

“Yes, sir.” Her arousal was coming off her in waves. Ambrus adjusted his pants and thought about will-power, and the sacrifices of being in charge. You should Keep someone, indeed. His Mentor was a sadist.

While Phillipa dressed – such as it was – he dug through the toy box until he found the restraints and collar he wanted. His penchant for playing dress-up with her meant that his Kept had more collars than anyone but Zita. Luckily, she didn’t mind.

Today would be white leather. He took off her classroom collar and buckled the heavy collar around her throat. O-rings everywhere; this one jingled like a parade.

Then he added wrist cuffs – jangle, jangle, until he hooked them behind her back – and then the ankle cuffs. He stepped back and grinned at her.

She smiled back, testing out her range of motion. “I think I need a leash.”

“I think you need a leash, too. Conveniently, I brought one.” He hooked it to her collar. “Now. Let’s go to the Library.”

“I thought you said I was going to be silenced.”

“I like talking to you.” He kissed her, because the taste of her lips was wonderful. “Fine. Do not speak unless spoken to until we get back to the room. You are a hard woman to please.”

“I try.” She was grinning widely. Ambrus found her pleasure thrilling, a sort of thrill he didn’t remember feeling in a long time. He could make her happy, not because he had to, but just because he wanted to. That was neat.

Leading her through the hall made the hairs on the back of his neck stand up. What if they ran into a…


“Luke.” He swallowed hard. Ever since Regine had first brought him here, the angry Mara had terrified him. Even when Luke had clearly been trying not to be scary, he had still been so angry.


“Sir.” She was grinning, the little minx, grinning. Awesome. He’d never seen an unhappy Kept be able to pull of a real grin.

“This is an interesting arrangement for the hallway.”

Oh, he was going to do his disappointed face. Ambrus smiled back at him, hoping he could pull this off. “We’re going to the Library to research Kept-Keeper dynamics.” He threw in, for fun, a little barb. “My Mentor thought it would be good for me to learn how to Keep someone.”

“Hrmph. He would.” Ambrus thought he saw the ghost of a smile on Luke’s face. “Well, if Wysteria doesn’t complain, I won’t either. Have fun, you too. Just… not in the halls.”

“Yes, sir.” Phillipa’s grin was catching. Ambrus tugged on her leash. “Come on, Pretty Petal Pony. Let’s… study.”

This entry was originally posted at http://aldersprig.dreamwidth.org/495078.html. You can comment here or there.


This was supposed to be for @dahob’s prompt, but it really ended up somewhere else. Enjoy it anyway!

Ambrus/Ambrose and Phillipa are Addergoole: Yr9 characters. Phillipa has shown up in previous stories as well; see her wiki page for details.

“You should try Keeping someone.” His Mentor was gentle but insistent; he gave Ambrus-called-Ambrose this speech at the beginning of each year.

“I like being a bottom. And it’s not like I need to provide more kids to the program.”

“Still. You should understand what it is to top.”

“But I…”

His third year there, he finally gave in. Understand what it is to top. Fine. Fine, he’d Keep someone. At least then his Mentor would stop pushing him.

It wasn’t hard to grab someone. It wasn’t hard for the normal students to grab people, and he had a generation and more on them. In the end, he simply walked up to her and made the offer. He layered it with enough flowery words and enough silly affection that the prickly girl with the thorns in her hair to match her personalty stepped into his sugar-sweet trap.

It was almost shameful how easy it was.

On the other hand, it got hard really quickly after that, and just kept getting harder.

“This is sick. I got through six weeks. Six weeks! And then you had to come and… trick me.”

“Don’t cry.” He wasn’t ordering her, he was pleading with her. And to his horror, she stopped crying with a strangled choke. “Shit. That wasn’t an order.”

She looked up at him through the tangled vines of her hair. “You’re not very good at this, are you?”

“No.” He sank down on the bed. “No, not really.”

“They why did you do it? Why catch me? Why…” She tugged on her collar in a gesture he recognized all too well.

Dryly, he gave he an honest answer. “My Mentor thought it would be a good idea.”

“I wonder if he talked to my Mentor about it.”

“Valerian, right?” His memories of Laurel were an interesting and heady mix. “I’m sure I could convince her it was a good idea.”

“I bet. You could probably convince people up was down.”

“Thank you.”

“It wasn’t a compliment.”

He sighed. “Are you going to spend the whole year hating me?”

“Depends. Are you going to spend the whole year ordering me around?”

“Well, that is, generally, the point of having a Kept, as I understand it.”

“Kept? Is that what this is called? Better than ‘pet,’ I suppose.”

“That’s a specific sort of… never mind.”

She pushed her vines out of her face and looked at him. He was startled to find how pretty she was, under the thorns. “Tell me.”

Ambrus responded well to direct orders. He sat down on the bed, near Phillipa but not touching her, and began to tell her about pets, and toys, slaves, and lovers, and all the permutations of being a sub that he had encountered.

“You know a lot about this from the other end, don’t you?” She wasn’t angry anymore, and he hadn’t had to lean on his power to get her there.

“I do.” He shrugged. It wasn’t anything he was ashamed of; if anything, trying to Keep someone was the embarrassing part.

“Teach me.” She shifted to sit a little closer to him, took his hand in hers, and put it on her collar. “It could be educational.”

Next: http://aldersprig.dreamwidth.org/495078.html

This entry was originally posted at http://aldersprig.dreamwidth.org/483009.html. You can comment here or there.

Countdown to Addergoole Year 9: a Vignette of year 8

52 15 Days To 52 Weeks

For the 52 days leading up to the 52 weeks of Addergoole: Year 9, I will be posting something Addergoole-related every day.

Today: A vignette of Year 8, from Rix’s prompt.

If you leave a light scenario and a number between 2 & 98, I may write another scene!

Thanksgiving, Year 8
Damaris was in Gregori’s room crying again.

He really wasn’t sure what to do about that, so he left her there. The other Kept had Thanksgiving dinner taken care of without her help, and dragging her out into the living room would just make the rest of the crew jeer at him.

He’d asked Deus about it, about Damie crying all the time. “It means,” his crewmate had told him, “that you’re doing it wrong.”

Doing it right, apparently, wasn’t a lesson Amadeus – or anyone else in the crew – felt like teaching him, so he left Damie in his room, got his own beer, and stared at the football like it still meant something.

“Still doing it wrong?” Even Nessie wanted to hassle him about it now.

“Still doing it wrong.” He finished his beer in one gulp. “Maybe you could…”

“Not that kind of girl, sorry. I’ll get you another beer, though.”

“Thanks.” When he got drunk, they’d discovered last year, he lost control of his tentacles. She wasn’t really being generous, just lining up the entertainment. Maybe he should stop at one.

Maybe Damie should stop crying all the time. Maybe…

A knock at the door broke his thoughts. Clearly still unsure of her role, but eager to please, Gita wiped her hands on her apron and opened the door.

“I’m here to see my daughter for the holidays.”

With that dark hair and that height, she probably wasn’t Nessie’s mom, and she wouldn’t have said that if she was Gita’s. Gregori stood up, not sure this was going to be a good idea. “You’re Damie’s mother?”

“And you must be the scumbag who thinks he’s Keeping her.”

note: Gregori becomes the Kraken from the Black House stories.

This entry was originally posted at http://aldersprig.dreamwidth.org/393750.html. You can comment here or there.

A bit of Porter, for @kissofJudas

Addergoole Year 8, after Behind Door Number Three

Porter was being hunted. By a mouse.

He had discounted it at first. The pretty girl just happened to be around a lot. The school only had a hundred or so students. He was bound to run into everyone eventually.

And he could tell by the looks that he wasn’t her first target. The Sixth Cohort Sylvanus gave her a wide berth, and watched her with haunted eyes. He wasn’t the only one, either; there was a Seventh Cohort who followed her around, pretending he wasn’t.

Porter didn’t want to be on a string of guys. He really didn’t want to be on a string of guys to a mouse, no matter how cute she was (and he had to admit, she was sort of cute). But she kept following him. And she had a way of doing it where he wouldn’t notice she was there until they were alone. He’d walk through the halls, thinking he was fine, and then, poof, there was a girl three years ahead of him who looked like prey, smelled like prey…

…and his stupid tiger-brain wanted to pounce. Down, boy he told himself, smiled, tipped his hat, said “ma’am,” and found another way to the suite.

Every day. Every. Damn. Day. And she wasn’t saying anything, even. Just smiling at him. But it was such a knowing smile, such a painfully pushy smile, that he wanted to run and hide.

From a mouse. It was more than he could bear. Or, for that matter, more than he could tiger.

This entry was originally posted at http://aldersprig.dreamwidth.org/357472.html. You can comment here or there.

Planting Seeds

For [profile] stryck‘s prompt.
Addergoole has a landing page here and a wiki here.

Content warning: mayyyybe implied heavy flirtation?

Two weeks after Thorny Disposition (LJ)

Phillipa sat in Professor Valerian’s office, very carefully picking the rose hips from her hair and popping the seeds out of them, dropping the roses into a tall bottle.

“There was a student,” the Professor told her, “a few years back. Nikita. A similar Change to yours – he grew grapes. I know that he and his Keeper made wine from his grapes, but it was, for them, an intimate affair.”

Keeper. She had heard that word a few times in the last couple weeks, but she hadn’t quite gotten the gist of it yet. Her new friends seemed to shy away from the topic whenever she brought it up, and so did others, people in class who were so forthcoming about other things, other Eighth Cohorts who were suddenly shy and not talking at all… “Keeper?” Maybe her Mentor would tell her something.

The Professor pursed her lips. “His girlfriend,” she qualified. “Shiva. You know Efrosin? His half-sister.” She reached over and carefully plucked one of Phillipa’s berries. “It can be, I’m told, an immensely intimate experience.”

Phillipa blushed hotly. Intensely intimate… It was as if the professor was reading her mind, her daydreams and fantasies. “I can imagine?” she offered cautiously. “I mean, this is part of me, right?” She stripped the fruit and offered the meaty bits to the older woman, studying her Mentor’s lips and not her eyes.

“It is,” the professor agreed, licking the berry from Phillipa’s fingers. “I wonder what would happen if we planted the seeds?”

Now, she could manage to look her teacher in her amazingly-green eyes. “Let’s find out.”

This entry was originally posted at http://aldersprig.dreamwidth.org/284439.html. You can comment here or there.

Thorny Disposition

For [personal profile] clare_dragonfly‘s prompt.
Addergoole has a landing page here and a wiki here.

Addergoole, Hell Night Year Eight

The halls were dark and creepy, and Phillipa had gotten horribly turned around. She didn’t know where she was, or even how she had gotten there, and she didn’t really know, now, where she wanted to go.

Some giant minotaur had been bearing down on her when she’d slipped and gone twisting down some sort of slide. She’d barely avoided something that looked like a mechanical monster and gotten hit with three squirt guns of stinky, gooey something, and now she was sitting in a tiny box that had the pleasant advantage of being quiet and well-lit but the disadvantage of letting her know exactly how badly she’d gotten drenched. Her heart was still pounding, and her palms and butt felt as if she’d scraped them really, really badly. She really should move, but she knew, if she went back out there, it would just get worse.

The door to her box opened, and a short, cheerful girl stuck her head in. “Phillipa, right? I’m Caity. We’re in the same PE together, remember?”

Caity, unlike a lot of the students here, still looked mostly like Caity, if a bit sharper-edged. Phillipa nodded uncertainly. “Yes? What’s going on?”

The tiny girl was looking at her sharply. “Are you in pain?”

“I think I scraped myself a little bit…”

“I’d say so! Here, stand up, you look like you’re bleeding.” Caity took her hand, very gingerly, and tugged her out of the box. “You’ve fallen into our protective custody trap. I hope you don’t mind too much, but it looks like it stressed you out a bit?”

“A bit,” she winced. “It shows that badly?”

“Well, here.” She reached behind her and took a mirror from… Phillipa wasn’t really sure from where, actually. “Look for yourself.”

“What? I know I’m all coated in goo… oh.” In the mirror, she saw a stranger. Her eyes, but greener than hers had ever managed except with contacts. Her nose, but narrower, her lips, but redder, her hair, but… tangled with vines, somehow. And her fingers were longer, sharper, or something, and along her arms…. “Are those thorns?”

“Technically, on a rose, they’re called prickles. I wonder if you’ll be able to hold onto things better with them?”

“I… rose, what?”

“Well,” the tiny girl smiled, “it makes sense. You’re pretty, with a bit of a thorny disposition.”

“I am not…. am I really?”

“A little.” Caity patted her shoulder. “But it’s okay. we’re all a bit victim to our biology.”

next! Planting Seeds (LJ)

This entry was originally posted at http://aldersprig.dreamwidth.org/284018.html. You can comment here or there.

So I’ve Started Out

To Anonymous’ commissioned prompt, a continuation of this story (and on LJ).

Addergoole has a landing page here and on LJ.

Flying, Arundel was learning, was hard work, and exhausting. Even though Mr. Hawk told him that it wasn’t all in the muscles – “If you were doing this all with physical strength, you’d never get off the ground. Your flight is as much a part of your magic as, well, whatever you innate power is going to be,” – there was certainly a lot of something going on with his body, moving these new, strange, massive wings, keeping himself going.

And, of course, there was the falling. He wasn’t, he discovered, frightened of falling, but it hurt, and he liked to avoid the pain, not in the least because it made Sylvia tut-tut at him, which made him wriggle in uncomfortable ways and made Porter glower and sulk.

He wanted to ask his friend about that, but they didn’t seem to have a lot of time to talk. There was class – they had a couple in common, but there were always other people around. Then there were magic classes, and then sessions with their Mentors, and then they were in the suite that Sylvia had finagled for them, despite the objections of the Director’s secretary, who seemed to think that Arundel and the otter girl ought to be sharing a room.

He wasn’t entirely stupid. He’d seen other kids in their class Kept, just like Porter had. He’d seen the collars before Sylvia had put one on him, and he had some idea of how those relationships went, or at least how some of them went, controlling, uber-power-dichotomy sort of things that were still a lot like high school dating. But he wasn’t, as far as he could tell, dating Sylvia, and he wasn’t entirely certain why not.

Luke had said he could come to him with anything. Arundel wasn’t sure that this was the sort of thing he meant – the PE teacher seemed like the “how do I break the bully’s nose” or “how do I not fail math” sort of guy, but “anything” meant anything, and, besides, he wasn’t sure who else to ask. So, at the end of a long, exhausting flying session, stretching his shoulders and wings on the ground, Arundul cleared his throat and, very nervously, asked.

“Sir… this ‘Kept’ thing?”

Luke got an uncomfortable, gassy expression. “What about it?”

“It’s real? I mean… of course it’s real.” He could feel the effects. “But it’s okay?”

“Okay is relative,” Luke grunted. “But it’s allowed by school rules, if that’s what you’re asking.”

“This school is a little messed up, sir. Sorry…. but it is.”

“I’m not arguing.”

It looked like Luke would have been comfortable leaving the conversation there, and Arundel really couldn’t blame him for that. But he still had questions, and he had to start somewhere.

“The collar…?”

“That’s part of larger Ellehemaei society. Not required, but common. Tells other people ‘hands off.'”

“Okay, I can get that. But, um.” He pulled some grass unhappily. “Everyone else I see wearing a collar, they’re all, cuddled up to their… their owner?”

“Or Keeper.”

“To their Keeper. And a couple even say ‘my boyfriend’ or ‘my girlfriend,’ like they’re dating. And Sylvia…”

“Well, Sylvia’s always been a bit…” Luke paused, frowning. “Reserved. Ask her about it?”

Arundel blanched. “No, thank you!” He wasn’t scared of Sylvia. But she didn’t like questions a whole lot, and she didn’t like personal questions at all.

“Hunh, like that, is it?” Luke shook his head. “Do those stretches I showed you. I’ll think on it a little bit. But as to what you’re asking – it’s not always ‘dating,’ whatever that means this decade. It doesn’t have to be sexual.”

“Ack.” The grass was very, very fascinating. “Ack,” he muttered again. “Okay. Um. Sorry I asked?”

Luke stood up. “Stretch. Worry about Sylvia on her time. And on my time, we’re going to go through those flight positions.”

Worry about Sylvia on her time. It seemed like reasonable advice, and also seemed less likely to get him assigned more push-ups for making his Mentor uncomfortable. Arundel waited until he was back in their suite, showered, dried, and patiently drying his wings before he went back to worrying about Sylvia, under the theory that time that wasn’t for classes or Luke belonged, for good or ill, to his Keeper.

He was still chewing it over when Sylvia walked into his room – she did that, without knocking, and he really couldn’t figure out how to complain – and started drying his wings for him. The touch felt, as her touch always did, nicer than it ought to, nicer than anything. “Sylvia,” he started cautiously. Half the time when he started talking, she just shushed him.

This time, she just said, in her so-very-mild neutral voice that left him a little anchorless, “Arundel?”

“Isn’t Keeping generally… I mean, doesn’t it usually sort of act like dating?”

“It often does,” she agreed, her neutral getting a little colder.

“But you and me…?” Why did Hayley think I’d need a shrink?

“You and I are not dating,” she answered, setting the towel down. “I would not force dating on you.”

He turned to look at her, folding his wings in. He was beginning to learn how to not hit people or low-lying objects or walls or irate professors with them, but only recently. He really, really didn’t want to hit her with his wings. Certainly not now.

“You wouldn’t… force… dating on me?” he repeated, carefully, to make sure he had heard her right. “You think it would be force?”

“I Own you,” she answered, stepping backwards a half-step. “I could tell you we were dating, and we would be. I could tell you to take your clothes off, and you would.”

He sat down on the bed with a thump. “Sylvia, you’re a pretty girl who’s been nice to me since you met me. You could tell me to take my clothes off without this Keeping thing, and I would.”

“But the Bond takes away your choice,” she explained, a little plaintively.

He shook his head, more than a little disbelieving. “Well… so does not asking me, wouldn’t you say?”

Next: Trying (LJ) (Arundel/Sylvia Year 8)

This entry was originally posted at http://aldersprig.dreamwidth.org/246592.html. You can comment here or there.

Behind Door Number Three

To Anonymous’ commissioned prompt, a continuation of this story (and on LJ).

Addergoole has a landing page here and on LJ.

Porter stared at the strange girl who had so tidily taken control of their lives – Arundel’s more than his, certainly, but still. Then it hit him. “Right. Come on, Arun.” He dropped to his knees and got a shoulder under his friend’s arm. “Stand up, that’s it.”

“Ow,” Arundel complained weakly.

“Yeah, I know. Those look like they’re gonna hurt worse than a tail and my ears did. But you gotta stand up.”

“Stand up,” Sylvia echoed, and with a muffled whimper, Arundel made it to his feet. “That’s better.” She slid herself under his other arm. “Porter and I will get you there. I’ll take care of you.” She opened her door and they edged, carefully, through it. “Do you know any combat magic, tiger?”

“Um. I can aba… destroy stuff, but that’s about it. We’ve only barely begun to learn anything useful.”

“Pity. Well. Look fierce if anyone tries to stop us, then, how about that?”

Her tone made Porter bristle, even as he helped Arundel down the hall as gently as he could. “Who do you think you are, to boss me around like this?”

“Well,” she answered, maddeningly calmly, “I believe I’m the person who just Kept your friend. And while you’re under no obligation to do as I say, of course, he is, and, furthermore, I am only taking charge to keep you and he – and myself – safe, so it’s safe to believe that my ‘bossing’ is in your best interest.”

“Seems to me,” he grumbled, “that the only person I can trust to act in my best interests around here is myself. Come on, man, it’s not that much further.”

“Yourself, and your crew,” she agreed placidly. “Which, you may have noticed, we agreed to be.”

“Mmm,” he muttered, focusing on Arundel’s pained footsteps. “So you get a Kept out of this. I get to keep hanging out with my friend. Arundel gets…”

“A benevolent Keeper, the continued companionship of his friend, and my assurance that I’ll do my best to keep you, in turn, from being Kept. I also get your protection, once the two of you learn to fight. In other words, we become a small consortium of watching each others’ backs.” She smiled, a small, tight thing, as they reached Dr. Caitrin’s office. “If we end up liking each other, that will be a pleasant bonus. You two seem like people I might be able to like, and there have been precious few of those so far in Addergoole.”

“I could like you,” Arundel muttered. He was twisting in their arms, trying to arch his back. “But that could be the Keeping thingy.”

“Probably,” she agreed, the smile barely shifting. “I’m told I’m not, generally, all that likable.”

“That’s sad,” he frowned. “Porter will like you, too, won’t you, Port?”

Porter, sighing, forced himself to calm down, the fur on his neck and tail slowly settling. “If you want me to like her, buddy, I will. What are friends for, anyway?”

He met Sylvia’s gaze as they maneuvered his semi-delirious friend into the exam room. From the look in her eyes, she knew as well as he did that it would be a longer process than that. But they would both make the effort. That was, as he’d said, what crew was for.


It seemed she had a very specific, very close interpretation of “crew,” which Porter couldn’t really object to. Arundel was hardly standing again, swaying a bit with the effects of the little blue pills, when Sylvia dragged them to the Director’s secretary’s office.

“We need a three-room suite. I know one’s opened up recently.”

The woman looked over her glasses at Sylvia, clearly less impressed with her preemptory manner than Porter and Arundel were. “You do, hrrm? Didn’t I hear that Arundel was now oro’Sylvia?”

“Well, yes,” she answered easily, “but that doesn’t mean that we don’t need a three-room suite.”

The woman raised an eyebrow. “Will I need to schedule an appointment with Dr. Mendosa?” she asked quietly, but with clear, if entirely vague, threat.

“I believe we’ll be just fine. But a three-bedroom suite will give us all a little more breathing room, and that would be a very good thing,” Sylvia said very precisely.

The woman frowned, but nodded. “Very well. Since Professor Pelletier had suggested we hold this suite, I’m going to assume this is why. You can move in today.”

“Just like that?” Porter couldn’t help but ask. Why Professor Pelletier?

“When the psychic deems something,” Sylvia murmurs, “this Administration listens. It’s one of the advantages of this school.”

Porter, who had heard plenty of the disadvantages, listened with curiosity. “So. Arundel’s moving in with you, and you want me to move in with you, too?” The three-bedrooms thing was, he had to admit, strange, at least from what he’d heard.

“You want to spend time with your friend, don’t you? And we’re crew now, aren’t we?”

He had a feeling he was going to hear that argument a lot. “All right,” he muttered. He wasn’t all that attached to his room, anyway.

Later, with all their things carted into the suite and generally distributed between the three rooms, Sylvia declared that, now that they had a kitchen, she was going to do some real shopping.

“Stay in the suite,” she ordered Arundel, after having taken a close look at his eyes. “I shouldn’t be more than hour; if I’m longer than that, you may come looking for me.”

He mumbled something uncomfortable, and waited until she left to flop face-first onto the couch. “Shit.”

Porter flopped down in the armchair. “It could be worse?” he offered. “I mean, you have wings.”

“Yeah, they’re pretty awesome,” he admitted, twisting to look at the feathers, which coordinated with his hair nicely. “But … Sylvia.”

“Well, you said yes?” Porter pointed out, mostly to avoid the stab of guilt he felt. “I’m sorry about the doorway thing, man.”

“The porthole? I figured that was you. Though the rest was a bit of a surprise.”

“She promised she’d be good to you.” For some definition of “good,” he supposed. “Why did you say yes?”

“I wasn’t paying attention!” he shouted, and then put both hands over his head. “Ow. It’s like she planned this all out. And that’s impossible.”

“Well, think about what she said about psychics?” He wasn’t sure that was right, but it was an option. “Maybe she really did plan it out.”

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