Hank 6: To Companions, New and Old!
A Whateley Academy Tale
To Companions, New and Old!
by Phoenix Spiritus
Sunday Evening, September 2nd 2007
Poe Cottage, Whateley Academy
Hank smiled at Leanne and held open the door, allowing her to proceed him out of their room. With the small brownie looking around curiously from where she walked right next to his legs, Hank turned the corner and walked down the short corridor to the large common room on the second floor of Poe Cottage.
Pausing in the entrance, Hank watched as Leanne peered curiously around the common room, full of their fellow floormates sitting on couches watching the TV, or gathered at the tables playing games. Slowly Leanne's presence at the entrance was noticed and more and more people stopped what they were doing to turn around and stare at the little brownie, causing her to retreat behind Hank's legs shyly.
Smiling, Hank knelt down and gently picked up Leanne, standing back up with her cradled in his arms so all could see her. "Hello everyone, I'd like to introduce you all to Leanne, my brownie. She'll be staying with Danny and me in two eighteen. Say hello Leanne."
"Hello," Leanne spoke quietly, nervously waving to the crowd staring at her.
"She looks just like Fey!" someone whispered in awe, when with a squeal Bunny ran up, followed by ... Hank winced. All of Wondercute, and for some reason they had on their Sailor Fuku uniforms.
"She's so cute!" "Isn't she adorable!" "Oh I just want to cuddle her!"
Hank fixed Jade with an evil eye.
"You said you were going to introduce her tonight," Jade reminded him with an innocent smile.
"To our cottage! Not everyone in the school!" Hank growled at her
"But they all wanted to meet her!" Jade widened her eyes, posing artfully with a sad puppy dog expression.
Hank groaned and concentrated on fending off the hands of Jade's fellow Wondercute members so Leanne didn't become petted to death. "Easy, let her get used to people first!" Hank reminded them.
"Can I hold her!" Anna and Bunny both begged, arms already reaching for the little brownie.
"She's not comfortable being held, in fact." Hank knelt down and put Leanne back on the floor, where she immediately scurried around behind him again, peeking out cautiously at the crowding girls, crouching down to see her better. "OK, if you girls can control yourself, I'll introduce you. Come back around here Leanne, say hello to Wondercute. Come on, you know Jade? Say hello to Jade," Hank cajoled her as he knelt down.
Cautiously, furtively looking between all the girls now kneeling, also glancing at the people standing behind them looking on curiously, Leanne crept back around Hank till she was standing in front of him, her back pushed hard against Hank's knees.
Smiling Jade extended a hand to the little brownie. "Hello Leanne!" Jade greeted her cheerfully.
Smiling shyly in return, Leanne reached out to touch Jade's hand. "Hello Jade."
"And you know Bunny," Hank continued, indicating the bouncing divisor who stretched out her hand and said hello.
"Hello," Leanne repeated as Bunny giggled at her.
"And this is Molly," Hank continued.
"Hello," Leanne politely touched the outstretched hand of Molly.
"And this is Anna, she has lots of squirrel friends."
"Squirrels?" Leanne asked curiously as she touched Anna's proffered hand.
Anna smiled and pointed to picture on her chest. "This is a picture of a squirrel," Anna explained as Leanne leaned to looked at it with a frown.
Next Misty held out her hand. "Hi, I'm Misty!" she greeted Leanne, smiling at Leanne's hello.
"And I'm Lindsey, and this is Pern!" Dragonrider introduced herself, putting her house cat sized dragon on the floor in front of her.
Leanne's eyes widened, and for the first time she left the protective safety of Hank's legs, actually taking a couple of steps closer to Pern, almost reaching out to the dragon, before stopping herself and glancing up at Lindsey fearfully.
"Go ahead!" Lindsey encouraged her. "Pern won't hurt you."
Cautiously Leanne again reached out, smiling in delight as Pern sniffed her hand curiously.
"Give him a little scratch on the head, just above the eye ridge," Lindsey encouraged her, smiling in delight as the little brownie did so. When Leanne stopped, Pern head-butted her, demanding more, causing Leanne to fall down onto her bottom. Pern immediately took advantage of the opportunity to push his head into Leanne's lap, demanding another scratch. As Leanne obliged delightedly, the surrounding girls sighed as one, "So cute!"
After watching Leanne pet the dragon for a while, smiling happily at his little brownie, Hank stood, gesturing to the kneeling girls. "OK, if everyone could get up, we can stop blocking the corridor and I can introduce Leanne to everyone else."
With a sigh Wondercute started standing, Lindsey reaching out to gather up her dragon, putting him back on her shoulder and allowing Leanne to stand up, which she did, quickly scurrying to get behind Hank's legs again. Smiling as the girls stood back, opening the way into the common room, Hank nodded and stepped forward.
As soon as Leanne set foot in the common room though, there was a shriek of outrage. Everyone turned in surprise as from behind the couch Nikki was sitting on, her brownie, Koehnes, appeared, running at Leanne and yelling. "Filth! Degenerate! Consort of humans! You are not worthy to enter the presence of my Mistress, Her Majesty! Daughter of the Burning Oaks, Paramount Queen of the West ..."
"Koehnes!" Nikki called sternly.
"Leave! Return to the stables, the filth ridden abode of your master, the animal that he is ..."
"Master is not an animal! Master is a human!" Leanne screamed in denial.
"Humans are animals! Humans are filth! You are less then animal! You are servant of animals!"
Leanne screeched in outrage, hands raised she charged at Koehnes. As soon as she did, Koehnes stopped, pointed a finger at Leanne and released a bolt at her. When it hit, Leanne stopped in shock, crying out in pain, her hand moving to cradle the point of impact. Smiling nastily Koehnes released another bolt, and then another one, Leanne crying out as each hit. Finally Leanne turned and ran, Koehnes running after her still shooting bolts at the crying brownie.
"Koehnes!" Nikki called shocked, running to chase her brownie, as Hank too turned to run after them.
Down the short corridor between the two RA rooms they ran, turning the corner to find just in front of Hank's room the two brownies, Leanne kneeling on the back of Koehnes and repeatedly slamming the other brownie's face into the carpet.
"Master not animal! Master is a very kind human! You take back words! You apologise to Master or Leanne make you!"
"Leanne stop!" Hank called out desperately.
"Now Leanne!" Hank sternly ordered her.
Grumbling slightly, Leanne dropped Koehnes's head, allowing it to slam into the carpet once more, before climbing off her and reluctantly making her way to Hank, who knelt down to carefully check each of the points where Koehnes' bolts had hit her.
Nikki rushed to her handmaiden, kneeling down beside her. "Koehnes?" she called out, reaching cautiously to touch the still body. "KOEHNES?" she cried more anxiously when her handmaiden didn't stir.
At the cry, Hank looked to Nikki horrified, others now running to see what had happened.
"I'm taking her to Doyle," Nikki wept. "She's hurt!" Mumbling a spell, Nikki reached out and gently touched her handmaiden, both of them disappearing with a pop as air rushed into the space where they had been.
"Serves her right!" Leanne declared rebelliously from within Hank's arms as the other brownie and her mistress disappeared.
Mrs. Horton’s Apartment, Poe Cottage
Mrs. Horton nodded. "OK, I'll let them know," she finished, disconnecting the call and putting the phone down on the table, turning to look at the three before her. Arriving at the scene just after Nikki had teleported Koehnes to Doyle, Mrs. Hortan had escorted Hank and his brownie to her suite so she could discuss the incident in private with them. Ayla had followed and insisted on being present, he now sat impassively across from her, his blank face revealing nothing. Hank sat cradling his brownie, who managed to stare at Mrs. Horton both definitely as well as fearfully, as Mrs. Horton carefully considered the three of them.
"Nikki's Koehnes will be alright," she finally informed then as both Hank and Ayla released a sigh of relief. "She was just dazed and a little bruised, Miss Reilly is bring her back now, the normal way, on foot."
Mrs. Horton turned her gaze to the brownie in Hank's arms. "Put her on the table Hank, let me get a good look at her." Reluctantly Hank reached forwards and placed Leanne on the table between them, where Leanne looked around a bit desperately before kneeling facing Mrs. Horton, her hands held in her lap, head down staring at them. Hank reached out to comfort her and Leanne leaned into his hand gratefully.
"She really is a pretty little thing isn't she," Mrs. Horton murmured. "An exact little copy of Nikki Reilly." Mrs. Horton looked at Hank curiously. "Why 'Leanne'?" she asked.
Hank shrugged. "She had no name of her own, so Leanen Sidhe - Leanne."
Mrs. Horton nodded her understanding. "And now the important question," she spoke firmly, sternly looking Hank in the eye. "What is her problem with Nikki's brownie, Koehnes?"
Ayla lent forwards, drawing Mrs. Horton's gaze to himself. "Koehnes is the one that has a problem with Leanne," he stated simply. "As you know, Koehnes was bought here by Aunghadhail and she's ... never really enjoyed the company of humans."
Hank snorted. "That's an understatement," he muttered. Mrs. Horton glanced enquiringly at Hank, raising an eyebrow. Hank looked to Mrs. Horton and squirmed uncomfortably before sighing. "Koehnes has often encouraged Nikki to return to the 'True Ways', were humans are slaves and entertainment for the Sidhe, nothing more," he admitted.
Ayla coughed, bringing attention back to himself. "Koehnes has some deep seated prejudices about humans, and she's upset at Leanne because Leanne's attached to a human, to Hank ..."
"He is my master!" Leanne declared firmly. "Master is a good master! Koehnes is wrong to call Master an animal!"
"Very true," Mrs. Horton relied firmly to the little brownie defiantly staring up at her. "It's also wrong to hurt people," she admonished the little brownie. "Especially when you hurt them so much they end up needing medical care!"
Leanne flinched from the strident lecture, wilting down to stare at her hands again. "But Koehnes deserves ..."
"You are not to hurt Koehnes," Hank firmly told Leanne.
"But Master!" Leanne stared at Hank in shock, tears appearing in her eyes.
"Nikki is my friend Leanne," Hank explained to the crying brownie, reaching out to gather her into his arms. "And when you hurt Koehnes, you hurt my friend. I don't want my friend hurt Leanne, I can deal with what Koehnes calls me, but I can't deal with my friend being hurt. Do you understand Leanne?"
Leanne nodded. "Don't hurt Master's friends," she mumbled to his chest. "That hurts Master."
"Correct little one," Hank agreed with a smile, cuddling her tighter to him.
Mrs. Horton frowned at the crying brownie in Hank's arms. "And what of Leanne's injuries? How was she hurt?"
"Ah, she was hit with elfshot in a few places," Hank admitted, pointing to spots on his arms and shoulders.
"Elfshot?" Ayla asked curiously.
"It basically feels like being tasered," Hank explained. "Only concentrated in a specific area."
Ayla nodded his understanding keeping his face blank, but he studied Hank thoughtfully. Hank had just pointed to places on his own body to indicate where Leanne had been injured, not on Leanne. He'd also described the feeling of those injuries, not the effects of them, though Hank hadn't talked to either Leanne or Nikki about 'elfshot'. Ayla looked to Leanne and then back to Hank and worried about what those two things could mean.
"Well?" Jade demanded, standing on the landing of the stairs to the second floor common room, flanked by all of Wondercute as well as Toni, Billie and the friends of Team Kimba, waiting as Hank and Ayla ascended the stairs.
"Koehnes is fine, just a little dazed and bruised, Nikki is on her way back now," Ayla informed them to sighs of relief.
"And Leanne?" Jade prompted him.
"Leanne promised not to hurt Koehnes again," Hank told them stepping off the stairs and into the common room, looking around and noticing that everyone was still there, apparently waiting for them.
"Can we ...?" Bunny again held her hands out towards Leanne being carried by Hank.
Hank looked down to the brownie in his arms. "Do you still want to meet everyone?" he asked her. Looking up at her master, tears still in her eyes, Leanne nodded firmly.
Hank sighed noting the way all Wondercute stood ready to cuddle his brownie like the greatest doll ever. Hank made his way over to an empty table, placed Leanne on it and sat down beside her. As Leanne kneeled on the table a crowd formed around her.
"OK people," Hank declared firmly. "She's a brownie, not a doll. Come up and introduce yourself to her, let her get to know you. No petting or pawing though, she's not a dog!"
As the sophomore and freshmen Poesies introduced themselves, Hank's eyes were caught by movement on the stairs, turning he saw Lily standing there staring towards Leanne. "Lily!" Hank called surprised, starting to stand, he had not seen Lily at all today before now, as though she was avoiding him.
"Mistress?" Leanne too called, causing Hank to turn to her in surprise. Leanne had stood up on the table, leaning to look between the pressing bodies. When Leanne saw Lily her eyes lit up, arms reaching out and she called again "Mistress!" At the same time a haze covered the little brownie and when it cleared Leanne was standing there in an exact replica of the jeans and blouse Lily was wearing.
Lily saw all this and wide eyed she stared at Leanne before glancing back and forth between Hank and the brownie, backing away from them. Suddenly Lily turned and without a backwards glance she fled up the stairs to her own floor, leaving Hank staring after her in disbelief.
"Mistress!" Leanne wailed, falling to her knees weeping into her hands.
"Lily, it only hurts this much because you love him," Angel comforted her friend, hugging her tight as they sat on Lily's bed. Angel had chased after Lily after the scene on the stairs, unsurprisingly finding her crying in her room.
"But he wants Nikki!" Lily wailed into her friend's shoulder.
Angel sighed and gave Lily another hug. "Lily, you know that's not true."
"How couldn't it be? She a model and beautiful and graceful and has presence and lots of friends and she's a mage and she's, she's ... it's not fair!" Lily wailed. "She's got everything and I've got nothing! How could I ever compete with that?" Lily bawled into Angel's shoulder.
"Lily, Hank loves you!" Angel snapped, trying to get through to her friend. "It's you he wants, not Nikki!"
"Then why does his Hearthwife look like her!" Lily wailed. "I wanted to be his wife! I wanted to love him forever! And it's all gone!" Lily buried her face into Angel's shoulder and sobbed.
"Oh Lily Turner," Angel murmured softly. "Only you could believe Hank has eyes for anyone but you," Angel shook her head as she rocked her friend in her arms, letting Lily cry herself out.
"What you going to do with her tomorrow and during classes?" Danny asked curiously, looking over Hank's shoulder as they both stared into Hank's wardrobe. Hank had bought the crying brownie back to his room, where Leanne had climbed into his wardrobe. Looking inside they had found that Leanne had taken Hank's duffle-bag, shoved a pillow into it and crawled inside, curling herself up into a ball and crying herself to sleep.
Taking one of his pullovers, Hank tucked it around his brownie and then mostly closed the wardrobe door, leaving it a bit open. "Same as Nikki does with Koehnes I expect," Hank answered his roommate gathering up his pyjamas and toiletries bag. "Leave her in my room." With a shrug Hank opened the door and made for the bathroom, soon followed by Danny with his own pyjamas and toiletries bag.
"Is that going to be OK? Leaving her alone like that all day?" Danny asked as he caught up to Hank in the boy's bathroom.
"Seriously, how much trouble can she get into in Poe?" Hank asked rhetorically.
Monday Morning, September 2nd 2007. Labor Day holiday
Crystal Hall, Whateley Academy
Hank watched Lily scan her student card and follow Ashley and her sister Peggy out into the main part of Crystal Hall. Sighing he looked down at his own tray and returned to dishing out eggs. Lily had left Poe just before him this morning, but when he had called out to her, she had turned to him, face paling before she vanished, leaving only the sounds of running footsteps. Hank had stared in disbelief at where his girlfriend had turned invisible on him before running away. Sighing Hank had made his way slowly to Crystal Hall. Seeing Lily here with Ashley and Peggy Hank had hopefully waited for Lily to apologise to him, but she had ignored him and made her way through the food queues instead.
"So, when do you think someone will get up the courage to ask Nikki for their own House Elf, and who do you think it will be?"
Hank turned surprised and blinked at the thousand watt smile of Toni, who reached out an arm and gave him a quick hug, before nodding over to where Nikki and Bunny were dishing out their own breakfasts.
Automatically swinging his gaze over to where Toni had indicated, Hank was just in time to see a furious Nikki turn and fix a thunderous glare on a boy, who dropped his tray and started running. Hank didn't blame him, small sparks were shooting from the ends of Nikki's finger and running all through her hair, and the area around her had darkened significantly. Bunny and Nikki were now surrounded by a rapidly expanding circle of emptiness as everyone near Nikki backed away fearfully.
"Well, that answers the when," Toni smirked. "I wonder who it was? Did you see Hank?" Hank shook his head. Quickly glancing around he was just in time to see the back of the boy disappearing through the exit, the one closest to the toilets Hank was amused to notice. Silently offering Toni some eggs, at her nod Hank dished a couple of poached eggs onto Toni plate before turning and making his way to the checkouts.
Toni watched Bunny attempting to calm the enraged Nikki down and winced before she followed Hank to the checkouts. “Nikki better be careful,” Toni murmured to Hank as they waited in line. “Carson and Sir Westamont are already furious with her over cursing you with a Leanen Sidhe, and then that ceremony you all did to control Leanne without even telling them?” Toni rolled her eyes. “Displays of anger like that are gonna quickly get her even more detention!” Toni moaned.
Hank merely grunted, looking forlornly towards the Star League Jr. table as they passed it heading for the escalators to the higher level and the Team Kimba table.
"Lily still upset about Leanne?" Toni asked quietly, nodding to where Lily was sitting with her fellow Star League Jr. teammates, very obviously avoiding looking towards Hank.
Hank sighed. "She's ... not happy," he admitted finally.
"Well der!" Toni snarked. "Nor is Nikki for that matter. I don't think either of them like the fact that your image of a perfect wife looks like Nikki and calls you master!"
Hank blushed bright red. "It's not like that!" he exclaimed. "It's just, when Kodiak said 'fey', all I could think of was Nikki ..."
"That's her code name!" Toni chimed.
"It was ... something that popped into my head when Kodiak described her! I didn't know that's what she'd look like! I wasn’t thinking about Lily at all!"
Toni burst out laughing. "I think that's exactly why Lily is mad at you! You thought of 'wife' and you didn't think of her? Just Nikki? That's gonna sting, she's been your girlfriend for nearly a year now, not to mention all she did for you over summer."
"I know, but. I wasn't thinking 'wife'! I was only thinking of fey!" Hank corrected angrily.
"That's your defence? You were only thinking of Fey?" Toni teased.
"Toni! It wasn't like that at all!" Hank moaned as he put his tray down and slumped into his seat, dejectedly poking at his food.
Toni sat down next to her unhappy teammate, reaching out to give him a pat on his back. "Don't worry so Hank, Lily loves you. You'll find a way through this." Looking up she winced as the arriving Nikki glared at Hank, luckily Hank was too depressed to have looked up and seen.
"So Nikki, which potential new boyfriend of yours is it whimpering in the bathroom this morning?" Jade ask brightly as Nikki and Bunny arrived at the team Kimba table.
Toni turned wide-eyed to Jade, trying to signal her no as Nikki slammed her tray to the table and fixed Hank with an accusing glare. Finally Nikki sat, grabbed a roll and tore into it fiercely with her teeth and chewed, pointedly not looking at Hank. Bunny carefully sat down beside Nikki, moving slowly and cautiously, warily keeping an eye on the upset Sidhe, everyone letting out relieved breaths as Nikki angrily attacked her food but otherwise didn't react.
Jade drew breath to make a follow-up comment, subsiding only when Billie kicked her and glared rebuke. Jade blinked surprised, before looking towards Nikki and Bunny puzzled. Ayla discreetly measured a short height off the table with his hand, before pointed glancing between Hank and Nikki, finally Jade got the message and wide-eyed she silently mouthed an apology to Hank, which he waved away.
Trying to change the subject, Ayla turned to Toni. "So, Basic Martial Arts with Outcast Corner this term, looking forward to it?" he asked as Toni smirked back at him.
"How come you're not doing BMA with us this term Onee-San?" Jade whined to Billie.
Billie shrugged. "I'm doing an advanced course already," she murmured. "And I wanted to try Survival, see if I could learn some ways to avoid fights."
"But you're so good at fighting!" Jade pleaded.
Billie glanced at the Ultra Violent armband Jade was wearing today, before glancing and wincing at the band she herself was required to wear, the one that warned the entire school body that picking a fight with her and surviving was an immediate, no appeals considered, expulsion from the school. Of course, the expectation that they wouldn't survive was an unsaid but understood component of the armband's message.
Billie turned to Jade, raw appeal in her eyes. "I need to do this Jade, I ... I want to know all the ways possible to avoid having to fight."
"Aww Onee-San, you'll be just as good at Survival as BMA! You'll still get to do awesome combat finals! Pew pew pew!" Jade mimed shooting laser beams at her team mates. "All the robots are dead!" she cheered before giving the now smiling Billie a big hug. Hank shook his head and smiled, noticing that even Nikki was smiling at the antics of Jade.
"So, everyone got their courses sorted?" Toni asked looking around.
Ayla cleared his throat and looked significantly at Nikki, who returned the look puzzled. Ayla cut his eyes to the condiments and finally Nikki's eyes widened in understanding. Reaching around for her purse, Nikki dug into it and removed a gem, placing it among the condiments and touching it to activate it. Once everyone had reached out and touched the gem Ayla nodded.
"Everyone signed up for the combat light course load we discussed last year?" he asked looking around.
"BMA only, no Team Tactics or advanced fighting classes," Hank reported with a nod.
"Same here," Jade reported. "Though I need to see my advisor and add an arts class all of Wondercute is taking."
"An arts class?" Billie questioned puzzled.
"Yes!" Jade enthused. "We met the new Arts teacher Saturday at the Alpha party and she's awesome! And she says that learning painting and drawing and perspective and stuff like that will help me with my Japanese and Chinese and also to be a better Devisor and Bunny and Anna and Lindsey and all the others wanted to do it too and we can all fit it in cause we all had the same free periods so we can all do the class together! Isn't that amazing?"
"Wait, there's a class that is going to have all of Wondercute in it? Together?" Toni confirmed disbelieving. "You're sure the Administration will let you do that?"
"Why wouldn't they?" Jade asked looking hurt.
"Destruction of the school? End of the world as we know it? Premature death of the Universe? Little things like that?" Nikki muttered, earning herself a glare from Bunny, her girlfriend and a fellow member of Team Wondercute with Jade.
Ayla shook his head and turned to Toni. "And you?"
"No problems. BMA with TK and the Outcasts, and that advanced weapons course Sensei Ito recommended."
"So, we're really doing this?" Hank asked softly. "Keeping a low profile? Is that going to work? As Sophomores we're going to have to compete in Sim matches anyway, even though we're not doing Team Tactics this term."
Ayla shrugged. "It should work, as long as we remember to not get into fights and draw attention to ourselves," Ayla glared at Jade and Toni. "Other than that, we just need to make sure to lose to the better Sim teams."
"You're really OK with that Ayles?" Nikki asked softly, worried because it was partly to protect her that her friends were going to start throwing Sim matches. "Won't that affect your perfect grades?"
Ayla shook his head and smiled at Nikki. "Don't worry about it," he assured her. "Winning all the matches isn't required to get A's for the course credits."
"Yeah, and you can bet Ayla has planned out exactly how to make sure we both hide our strength and get him his As," Jade smirked at Nikki.
Nikki gave Jade a lopsided smile, before turning and regarding all the concerned, determined expressions of her friends. With tears in her eyes and a shaky voice Nikki thanked them, then quickly returned to her food, busily eating so as to hide the struggle to contain her tears.
After Breakfast, September 2nd 2007. Labor Day holiday
Poe Cottage, Whateley Academy
"Hank, a word?" Looking over Hank nodded and made his way to Mrs. Horton who had called out to him from the doorway to the Housemother's apartment.
"Yes Mrs. Horton?" he asked as he came up to her.
Mrs. Horton held out some things and Hank took them, looking through them curiously. It was a copy of the Whateley Academy Handbook and the Poe Cottage pamphlet all Poesies received when they arrived. Puzzled he look up at Mrs. Horton.
"Since Leanne is going to stay with us for a while, please make sure she reads these and understands them. I assume she's like Koehnes?" Hank blinked puzzled. "I can't spell her to keep the Poe secrets safe?" Mrs. Horton clarified.
"I assume so, Kodiak described her as a brownie the same as Koehnes is."
Mrs. Horton sighed. "OK, please make Leanne understand the importance of not revealing to anyone outside the Cottage things she learns here."
"I will Mrs. Horton," Hank promised.
"And Hank? Give the poor dear a tour of the place?" Mrs. Horton smiled at Hank. "I think she's pretty bored being confined to your room."
Hank blinked. "You're OK with her ...?"
"Oh Hank, of course! She lives with us here, I'm perfectly happy for her to make use of any of the facilities just like any other of the other residents, and admin is fine for her to have full run of the grounds too, provided she's obeys all the same rules the students do," Mrs. Horton paused with a frown. "Do make sure to especially tell her about the flags," she instructed Hank. "We don't want any stories of Whateley having 'house elves' spreading now do we?" she finished with a smile. Smiling in relief himself, Hank nodded before taking his leave and turning back towards the stairs with a spring in his step.
Hank made his way up the main stairs to the second floor, entering his room and pausing in surprise. The bed he'd left unmade before leaving for breakfast was now perfectly made. The clothes he'd left on his chair the night before were now in the laundry basket, folded neatly Hank couldn't help noticing. Glancing around, Hank saw every part of his room was perfectly presented as though ready for inspection. Curious Hank opened his wardrobe, even his clothes were hanging neatly, pressed and perfect.
Wide-eyed Hank glanced around as he crossed the room, noticing that even Danny's side of it was perfectly clean, neat and everything ready as if for inspection. Glancing forwards Hank sighed. Sitting on the windowsill, gazing longingly out of it, sat Leanne, a sadness obvious in her posture.
Dropping the book and pamphlet on his desk, Hank crossed to the window and caressed his brownie. "Want me to give you a tour of the cottage?" Hank asked, smiling as Leanne's face lit up and she nodded excitedly. Gesturing to the door, Hank smiled as Leanne jumped down and happily followed him from the room.
"Where you going Hankster?" Toni called as they entered the common room, giving Leanne a wave when she noticed her peeking out from behind Hank's legs.
"Giving Leanne a tour of the cottage, then I was going to go to the store and purchase all my books and supplies."
A sound on the stairs caused Hank and Toni to turn towards them, just in time to see Lily climbing up. Lily paused wide-eyed on the stairs, staring at Hank, before her eyes flicked to his legs and the brownie standing next to them. With a flash of anger, Lily turned abruptly and stumped up the stairs.
"Lily wait!" Hank called starting to run towards the stairs. Lily turned and glared at Hank, before tears falling from her eyes she turned away, leaping up the stairs two at a time and quickly rounding the corner to the floor above.
Hank sighed, turning back to Toni who winced in sympathy, both of them glancing down to the upset brownie whose clothes had once again morphed into a perfect copy of the ones Lily had been wearing.
"Come on short stuff," Hank murmured. "Let's start in the basement."
Toni watched sorrowfully as Hank and his brownie made their way downstairs.
"Mary, can I talk to you?" Hank pleaded when Angel answered her door. Hank had given Leanne a tour of Poe, now they had come back to their floor and Hank had knocked on the door of the freshmen girl's RA.
"Sure, but you know, Lanie is your RA," Angel answered with a smile, standing back and waving Hank into her room.
"Ah, this is personal, not because you're an RA," Hank replied, entering the room and standing uncertainly by the door.
"Personal?" Angel questioned surprised.
"It's about Lily," Hank admitted and Angel made an ah of understanding, waving Hank over to a couple of chairs she had setup around a low table. Hank gratefully sank into one of the chairs as Angel took the other, both of them watching Leanne as she curiously explored the room.
"So that's your Hearthwife," Angel murmured.
"Brownie," Hank corrected quickly. Angel turned to Hank and regarded him quizzically. "Calling her a 'Hearthwife' just causes too many issues," Hank muttered.
"Is this why you want to talk to me?" Angel asked softly.
Hank nodded. "It's Lily, ever since Leanne arrived she's been avoiding me, running away when I try to talk to her." Hank frowned, "I think she's been crying."
Angel sighed and nodded. "Yes Hank, she's very upset that your 'perfect wife' looks like Nikki," Angel told him seriously.
Hank stared at her in shock. "That's not true!" Hank finally exploded in denial.
Angel raised an eyebrow and pointed to Leanne. "Hearthwife!" she reminded him.
"But! That's not why she looks that way! Kodiak never told me to imagine a wife! He told me to image a perfect fey servant!"
Angel stared at Hank for several seconds, before quickly turning to Leanne and giggling. "A perfect fey servant?" she asked pointing at the curious brownie who was currently looking under her bed. "You imagined Nikki as a perfect fey servant?" Angel fought back but failed to contain her laughter. "You really need to tell Lily that, because she thinks this is your perfect wife!" Angel instructed Hank when she regain control of herself.
"I know, but she won't talk to me!" Hank wailed. "Every time I try, she runs away! I can't get near her!"
Angel frowned, the levity of just a moment ago abruptly subsiding. "Oh Hank,” she sighed. “I'll try again to talk to her," she promised.
"Thank you!" Hank exclaimed, jumping up and stepping towards Angel, before he remembered her allergy to males, quickly backing away at her wince. "Sorry," he muttered.
"Don't worry about it," Angel waved away the apology before smirking. "But if you want to talk your roommate into giving me a proxy hug for you?" Laughing Angel stood, making her way to the door which she opened for Hank. "I'll find Lily and talk to her for you, I promise."
Nodding his thanks, Hank quickly exited, making sure to keep as far from Angel as he could, unable to avoid noticing her slight wince anyway as he slid past. Turning to make sure his brownie was keeping up, Hank headed for the stairs, it was time to introduce Leanne to the Whateley tunnels, then he'd do the shopping he needed to do before classes started.
"Mrs. Turner?" Angel had, as promised, made her way to Lily's room and tried to talk to Lily about Hank. Unable to get through to her, Angel had sought out help, finding it in the person of Lily's mother, still on campus after escorting her daughter and friends to Whateley a few days before.
Tabitha turned, eyes widening in surprised delight. "Angel!" she cried, sweeping the senior girl into a hug. "I've told you, call me 'Tabitha' or 'Tabby Cat', either's fine. How are you? I hear you're a Resident Assistant for the Poe freshmen girls? Congratulations! I'm sorry you're no longer my daughter's roommate, but they couldn't have picked someone better to be an RA for the new girls!"
Angel smiled in delight. "Thank you Mrs. Turner," she blushed.
"Tabby Cat," Tabitha insisted. "After all, we're in the Sims, code names only remember?" Laughing Angel nodded her acceptance. "So what brings you here?" Tabitha asked Angel.
"Lily," Angel admitted, causing Tabitha to stop in surprise. "Has she talked to you about ... Hank?" Angel asked softly.
"Want about Hank?" Tabitha demanded.
"Ah, you know about Hank's brownie right?" Angel begged.
"No, I don't know about Hank's brownie, I assume we're not talking baked goods here?" Angel shook her head sadly. Tabitha looked around quickly then nodded to an empty Sim suite, ushering Angel inside and shutting the door behind them. "OK, tell me. Why does Hank have a brownie, and how does this affect Lily?" she demanded.
Angel clasped her arms tightly to her chest, glancing around the room furtively. "Ah, you see Nikki and Wyatt worked out what happened to Hank at the end of last semester, why he was so upset."
"That fight with Nikki?" Tabitha guessed.
Angel nodded. "Ah, apparently it was worse than just a fight,” Angel murmured. “In her anger Nikki cursed Hank, accidentally tying a Sidhe spirit to him, a Leanen Sidhe."
"A Fairy Lover?" Tabitha gasped. "A Gaelic muse?!"
"You've heard of them?" Angel exclaimed surprised.
Tabitha nodded. "They supposedly tortured the great Irish artists to inspiration and madness!" she explained.
Angel winced. "Fortunately Kodiak, Wyatt's spirit, is a healer from the time of the Sidhe, and he knew how to tame the Leanen Sidhe, and he guided Hank in doing so, turning her into a brownie for Hank, similar to how Koehnes is for Nikki."
"Thank God!" Tabitha breathed in relief, before frowning. "And?" she demanded of Angel, observing her still reluctant demeanour. "What is it you're not telling me? How does this concern Lily?"
Angel wriggled uncomfortably, finally relenting under the demanding gaze of Lily's mother. "It's because of how Kodiak described the Leanen Sidhe, he called it a 'hearthwife', not a 'fairy-lover'," she blurted.
"And?" Tabitha growled.
Angel took a deep breath and it all spilled out. "Well, Hank's brownie looks exactly like a miniature version of Nikki, she even sounds the same and calls Hank 'master' and looks up at him in adoration! And well, Hank's hearthwife looks like a miniature version of Nikki and Lily's terribly upset by it all, she's avoiding Hank and running away from him and just spending all her time crying in her room because of it!"
"Oh Lily!" Tabitha exclaimed in frustrated love, reaching out to grasp Angel in thanks before turning and hurrying from the room.
"What you got there, short stuff?" Toni called out as Hank led his brownie through the second floor common room.
"Master bought me bedding!" Leanne replied back happily, holding up a sleeping bag and a shopping bag, both almost as big as she was.
"Really?" Jade jumped up and ran over, followed by her sister Jinn and Toni. "What did he get you?"
Putting the sleeping bag down, Leanne happily held open the shopping bag to Jade. Looking inside Jade frowned. "A sleeping bag and two duvet covers. Where's the duvet?" Jade asked Hank puzzled.
"Ah, I was thinking that Leanne could put the duvet cover inside the sleeping bag," Hank explained. "Use them like sheets, so we only need to wash the duvet covers regularly, not the whole sleeping bag."
Nodding at the logic of it, Jade picked up the sleeping bag. "Where is Leanne sleeping?" she asked curiously.
"In my wardrobe."
Jade, Jinn and Toni stopped and stared at Hank. Even Ayla who had come over stared at Hank in shock. "Ah Hank ..." Toni started when Leanne interrupted.
"I like the wardrobe!"
"Hank!" Jade exclaimed stamping her foot.
"Where else was I going to put her? That's where Koehnes sleeps!" Hank defended himself.
"Koehnes sleeps in a dimensional pocket to somewhere else Nikki just keeps in her Wardrobe!" Ayla corrected Hank disappointedly. Ayla paused thoughtfully then held up a hand. "Wait here, I think I've got something." Turning quickly, Ayla made his way down the stairs.
Curious, Jade wondered over and looked down the open atrium. "Basement storage?" Jade guessed turning to Toni.
"Basement storage," Toni agreed sagely.
Presently Ayla flew back up through the atrium, nodding to Hank and indicating he should lead the way to his room. Shrugging, Hank picked up his bags of shopping again and set off down the corridor, followed by Leanne and his teammates.
"What you got there, Ayles?" Toni asked as they all trooped into Hank's room.
"A spare hammock," Ayla said unrolling a silk hammock of the same type he had hung in his new room. Rooming with Vamp again, Ayla had been able to setup his new room in exactly the same manner as he had last year, with, if anything, even higher quality fittings. Utilising all the space available because of the bunk beds Ayla and Vamp preferred, Ayla's room was once again equipped with hanging hammocks, beanbags, a fridge, a microwave and all the delicacies.
Standing up, Ayla looked thoughtfully around the room. "We could hang it over Hank's bed," he suggested.
Jade looked at the small brownie hugging her shopping bag. "How's Leanne going to climb up into it?" she pointed out.
"Maybe we should just get a set of bunk beds like you have?" Toni suggested to Ayla.
"How about above the desk instead?" Hank suggested. "Leanne climbs the bookshelf anyway in order to get on top of the wardrobe," he pointed to the wardrobe in the corner of the room next to the door.
"Really?" Jade asked surprised.
"Easy!" Leanne stated. Putting her shopping bag down carefully next to the wardrobe, Leanne climbed up the front of the wardrobe using the drawers as a ladder, jumped onto the desk and started clambering up the bookcase until she could perch on top of the wardrobe and wave at them.
"Looks like it will work," Ayla agreed. Taking a couple of eyehole bolts from the hammock fittings on the floor, Ayla carefully measured the correct height, and going light pushed them into the wall and set them. Then together with Hank he quickly got the hammock tied to them so that it was positioned above Hank's desk, swinging in front of the bookshelf.
Smiling Toni unpacked the sleeping bag and rolled it out onto the hammock as Hank took one of the duvet covers and pushed it inside. When they were finished, Leanne happily hopped onto the hammock from the wardrobe and snuggled inside.
"Needs a teddy-bear," Jade smiled from where she had floated up to look more closely at the snuggling brownie.
Hank grinned. Going to a shopping bag he produced with a flourish a smaller version of the teddy-bear Lily enjoyed cuddling when she sat on his bed. Floating up Hank tucked the bear into the sleeping bag with Leanne.
"Master!" Leanne squealed joyfully, cuddling the bear to herself and wiggling in delight, causing Hank and Jade to smile widely.
Tabitha walked into her daughter's room and sighed. After letting her in, Lily had returned to her bed, slumping there dejectedly, not even willing to meet her gaze, red rimmed eyes all the evidence Tabitha needed to see of her daughter's state of mind. Tabitha was familiar enough with her daughter's moods to know that now was not the time for a lecture, nor even a conversation about Hank.
"Come on Lily," Tabitha commanded. "It's time for me to leave, you can walk me to the bus." Reluctantly Lily stood and followed as her mother lead them from her room.
Stepping out of Poe, taking a deep breath of fresh mountain air, Tabitha turned to her daughter and smirked. Not paying attention, Lily was wrapped up in her own little world and absently following wherever her mother led her. Taking the path up the hill away from Poe, into the woods there, Tabitha led her daughter along a secluded trail.
"Do you know what I did when I first feared I was in love with your father?" Tabitha asked eventually when they were alone on the path.
Startled, Lily blinked and shook her head. "No," she admitted. "You usually don't talk about it." Lily considered her mother curiously. "I've only heard Dad's side of the story," Lily offered, looking to her mother hopefully.
Tabitha sighed. "I'm not proud of the things I did then," she reluctantly admitted.
"Running with the Master Minds?"
Tabitha laughed and smiled. "That was a career choice dear, one I ultimately didn't go with." Tabitha turned to her daughter and winked. "I was good at being a thief," she boasted. "And it had some wonderfull perks," she purred. "Your father was ever so tall, dark and handsome, and nothing excited the man in him like seeing me in a tight black sneaksuit," she smirked.
"Mom!" Lily screeched horrified as her mother gave a throaty laugh.
"No dear, running with the Master Minds was never anything I was ashamed off," Tabitha returned to the original subject. "I was good at it! It's the things I did in my personal life I regret." Tabitha stopped and sighed. Looking around she spotted a park bench and nodded her daughter to it, sitting and waiting for Lily to do so to before continuing.
"For the longest time I wouldn't admit to myself that I loved your father, nor, especially, that he loved me. I did everything I could to prove to myself that there was no way a real man would ever see a changeling, a pretend woman, a fake, as anything other than a throwaway piece of meat. A slut. Something for animal lust and then to be discarded."
Lily stared at her mother in shock, astonished to hear this from the, even now in mid-life, stunning woman beside her. Lily had always been in awe of her mother's looks, her sexy struts, her very presence when she entered a room.
Looking off blindly into the woods, oblivious to her daughter's reaction, Tabitha continued. "I'm sure you know, I had quite a reputation when I attended Whateley, and I'm sorry to say dear, I deserved every bit of it. Desperate for acceptance, unable to believe I deserved anything better, I was worse than a slut, I was the campus whore. Sleeping with anyone who'd have me, boys, girls, it didn't matter. I had no belief in myself, nothing to offer but my body, so I offered it, paraded it, aggressively marketed it in the desperate need for somebody, anybody to acknowledge I was desirable."
Lily stared at her mother in shock, watching the tears fall slowly as she talked.
"And then I meet your father," Tabitha sighed. "And even in my denial I recognised the real thing, that here finally was someone who actually wanted me for me, not my body, not to just satisfy their carnal urges, but someone who truly wanted me, and that scared me. Scared me more than anything else I'd ever faced in my life. I panicked, thrashed out blindly, pushed it away, tried to force it not to be."
"What did you do Mom?" Lily asked finally when it seemed her mother couldn't continue.
Tabitha took a deep sobbing breath. "I stole a bottle of bourbon from the staff bar, got myself drunk and then put on the sexiest sneaksuit I owned, the slutty one, more suggestion then clothing. I climbed into his room in the middle of the night and right into his bed, kissing him hungrily before he was even awake, fully intent on fucking him until the pain went away."
"And then?" Lily asked shakily.
Tabitha gave a sobbing laugh. "He awoke, surprised and ever so excited, but still he pushed me away. Sternly he explained that this is not how he wanted me and firmly he escorted me to the door and pushed me outside." Tabitha stared off into the distance, jaw set tight. "And then because I was a teenager, because I was drunk and horny and denied and I so wanted to hurt him, make his suffer, make him regret, I search out the one person I knew your father hated more than any other on campus, and I had the noisiest, loudest most immodest sex I could with him so that there was no way it wouldn't get back to your father what I had done." Tabitha stared down at her hands, clenched so tight they were white, silently crying her shame.
"What are you trying to tell me Mom?" Lily asked confused, staring at her crying mother in distress.
Tabitha turned to her daughter, firmly fixing her gaze on her. "Love is the reason dear. I know you've been reading Shakespeare, all the great poets and plays, you've a better idea then I ever did what love is and what love means. You've grown up in an age of cheap thrills and sex that is everywhere and means nothing, but take it from someone who knows, someone who almost threw it all away. Love is the ultimate goal and it's worth everything it costs to find it and keep it."
Lily stared at her mother and then burst out crying. "But Hank doesn't want me anymore!" she wailed.
Tabitha reaching out, gently wiping the tears away with a thumb. "That's your fear talking Lily, not your heart. Love isn't something you are 'worthy' off, love is something you find and then fight every day of your life to keep. There will be challenges, so many many challenges, never believe otherwise, but love is always worth the fight. It's something that needs to be nurtured and protected. Your job isn't to be 'worthy' of love dear, your job is to find it, protect it, nurture it."
Tabitha sighed and gently raised Lily's eyes to hers. "Lily, you need to live your love. Have you been living your love?" she asked Lily softly.
Lily stared at her mother, unable to answer her. "I ..."
Tabitha pulled her daughter into an embrace. "I know you haven't dear, Angel talked to me. Your friends are worried for you." At the renewed tears Tabitha hugged her daughter tighter.
"I want him Mom!" Lily sobbed. "I want to be his only one, but his ideal is Nikki and she ..." Tabitha held Lily tight and let her sob almost incoherently in to her chest. Finally she decided it was time to get blunt with her daughter. Leaning back she held Lily at arm's length and waited for her to look up at her.
"Lily, Hank loves you," Tabitha stated sternly as her daughter stared up at her wide eyed. "Angel knows that. I know that, even you, deep down, know that to be true. It is not Hank's affections you need to fight for your love, it is your own fears." Leaning forwards Tabitha kissed her daughter on her forehead, pulling Lily close, till Lily's head was on her shoulder so she could whisper in Lily's ear. "Daughter of mine, take this from a former thief, a slut, someone who started life as a boy and who knew no real man could ever truly love someone like me, a pretend girl, a fake. Someone who almost threw away happiness because she could not overcome her fears and see what was being offered to her. You and Hank are every bit as deep and committed as your father and I. All you need do is allow yourself to believe what it is you are seeing."
Bursting into tears Lily clung tight to her mother, crying her fear into her mother's arms like she always had when the nightmares forced her awake into the comforting arms of her mother.
"What you doing Hankster?" Toni called out as she walked through the open door into his room, looking down in curiosity to where Hank was seated at his desk with Leanne kneeling on it before him and papers spread around both of them.
Hank looked up and smiled a greeting. "I'm teaching Leanne the rules," he explained waving to the Whateley Student Handbook and Poe orientation pamphlet on the desk before him. "Mrs. Horton said Leanne is welcome to use the facilities in Poe and also move around the school grounds, as long as she obeys the same rules as the students, so since she can't read these for herself, I'm reading them to her."
"Boring!" Toni cried, picking up and turning the Poe pamphlet over before the sudden silence in the room penetrated. Glancing towards the door Toni's eyes widened when she saw the timid presence of Lily glancing in unsure. "Welcome! Enter! I was just leaving!" Toni exclaimed, jumping to the door and ushering Lily in before she could run away.
Seeing the hesitant glances, especially Lily's furtive looks towards Leanne, Toni smiled and gathered up the pamphlet and Whateley Handbook from the desk. "How about I take over instructing Leanne on the rules, and leave you two alone for a bit?" she suggested. After a nod from Hank to Leanne, the little brownie jumped down and followed Toni from the room, her big eyes pleading towards Lily the whole time.
With a firm push Toni shut the door behind them and looked down at the dejected brownie. "Cheer up short-stuff," she murmured. "How about we go to my room? Nikki's off getting her course materials, but I'm sure if we look hard enough we'll be able to find Koehnes!" she grinned wickedly.
It was after dinner and Hank was in the common room attempting to teach Leanne to read, when Nikki stumped up and glared at the diminutive brownie, causing Leanne to squeak and dive for Hank's arms.
"Why did you lock my attendant in the wardrobe!" Nikki demanded of the terrified brownie.
"Attendant?" Hank questioned confused.
"Koehnes!" Nikki snapped. "She locked Koehnes into my wardrobe and the poor dear couldn't get out!"
Leanne whimpered in Hank's arms. "Lady Toni said ..."
"Lady Toni?" Nikki goggled at the brownie's honorific for her roommate.
"Isn't she your Lady of the Night?" Leanne asked Nikki confused, peaking out of Hank's arms.
"Toni isn't my Lady of the Night!" Nikki shrieked, starting to blush as she realised her shriek had all the other students in the common room hiding smirks.
"But, she sleeps in your bedchamber?" Leanne insisted in her high pitched voice. A voice, Nikki realised, that carried amazingly well throughout the common room. "Is it not her duty to provide for you? To attend to your needs?"
By now Nikki was surrounded by sniggers and giggling. "Toni doesn't do those things for me!" Nikki gasped, blushing brightest red.
"Oh!" exclaimed the brownie, also blushing. "I was not aware she was your bedwarmer your Majesty, please forgive my ignorance."
"Bedwarmer?" Nikki spluttered as even Hank could no longer contain his laugher. "Bedwarmer!?"
"Whoops, time to leave," Hank muttered hearing the distinctive frequency shift in Nikki's voice as her temper flared. Clutching Leanne tightly to his chest, Hank dived for the stairs, flying fast to get his brownie out of range of the rapidly enraging Nikki.
"BEDWARMER!!" The screech followed them as Hank abandoned his plan of flying out through the open doors of Poe cottage, and instead made his way for the basement and the rabbit warren of tunnels beneath the school. There were many more places to hide from the wrath of Nikki down in the tunnels and besides, the curves and corners of the tunnels would make it that much harder for Nikki to hit them with any bolts of elfshot she might send their way.
Ayla smirked as he watched Hank cautiously creep up the stairs. When Hank glanced his way Ayla waved him over. "Relax, Nikki's gone to the Grove again," he called. Sighing in relief Hank put down Leanne, who stayed close to Hank's heels as he walked over to Ayla. "I'm assuming discretion is the better part of valour?" Ayla smirked.
Hank nodded and sighed. "Leanne didn't mean things the way they sounded, but I think I'll wait awhile before I explained that to Nikki and apologise."
"So she didn't call Toni a 'lady of the night' then?" Ayla teased Hank.
Hank blushed. "Well ... yes ... but," Hank spluttered. "She didn't mean it like that! The 'Lady of the Night' was an attendant for the Sidhe Queen. She looked after her chamber-pot, it was a prestigious position for a Lady of the Sidhe Courts! Nothing else!"
"So Nikki was wrong in thinking Leanne said her and I were sleeping together?" Toni unexpectedly interrupted.
"Ah," Hank's eyes widened, and he desperately looked around for escape, but Toni and Ayla had him boxed in against the wall. "Well, ah, she, ah, the thing is, ah ..."
"You mean she did?!" Toni demanded in disbelief.
"Look, when she called you Nikki's bedwarmer, she was confused. For a Sidhe Queen, only three people would spend the night in her quarters, and you're neither Nikki's husband nor her Lady of the Night, so she jumped to the wrong conclusion. She's very sorry," Hank apologised.
Hank looked down to where Leanne was pressed up against the back of his leg, looking up at Toni and nodding with tears in her eyes. "I'm sorry Lady Toni," the upset brownie cried hugging Hank's leg. "I didn't know!"
"Oh," Toni cried, flowing down to pull Leanne tight to her chest, standing and bouncing as she hugged the brownie tight. "I'm sorry I upset you, I know it's not your fault," she comforted the brownie. "It's this lump here that's not teaching you the things you need to know. Come along with me to my room and I'll explain it all. If we're lucky, Nikki might not have taken Koehnes with her to the Grove, and you and I can play with her again!"
"Toni no!" Hank protested, desperately trying to snatch Leanne back from her grasp. "You and her pranking Koehnes is what got us into this mess to begin with! Toni!"
Ayla smiled as Hank chased the jumping and dodging Toni down the corridor, till Toni danced into her room and slammed the door on Hank. Shaking his head Ayla slowly made his way to his own room, smirking as Hank pleaded through the door for Toni to give him back his brownie. Just as Ayla got to his room, Toni snatched open her door and glared out at Hank. "Hank Declan! I'm not talking to you because you allowed your brownie to call me a street walker!"
Ayla couldn't help it, he laughed out loud as Hank stood there gaping like a fish at the slammed door in front of him.
Early Morning, September 3rd 2007.
Poe Cottage, Whateley Academy
Hank tumbled out of bed, fighting with his blanket as he tried to make his way to the door.
"Hank Declan!" the thundering on the door continued. "You open this door right now!"
Hank finally tripped his way to the door, snatching it open and blinking sleep from his eyes as he stood there in just his pyjama pants, eyes widening at the furious Nikki in the hall.
Thrusting her arms forward, Nikki barged her way into the room. "Look at this! Look at what your feral brownie has done! Look!"
Hank looked down at the furry bundle Nikki was pushing towards him, blinking a few times before what he was seeing made sense. When it did, Hank had a hard time stopping himself from smiling. In Nikki's outstretched arms was her brownie, Koehnes, dressed in a furry brown leotard, with a fury brown hood over her head with cats ears attached to it.
"Your brownie glued her into this costume and I awoke to her weeping at the end of my bed!"
"Um, ah Nikki I'll make her tell me what glue she used, but can't you sort of ..." he wiggled his fingers suggestively.
"Of course I can Hank, that's not the point! I want you to stop Leanne playing nasty tricks like this on my handmaiden! She's feral and uncontrolled and running around causing all sorts of trouble, and I want you to make sure it stops!" With that Nikki turned on her heel and stomped from the room, pausing long enough to slam the door shut behind her. Only as she did so did Hank realise Nikki had been in her flowing silk almost see through dressing gown, which was pulled over a light silk nighty that had been leaving nothing to the imagination.
Hank sighed and turned to Danny, grimacing as he prepared to apologise, but the sight of his roommate goggling slack-jawed at the door, eyes bulging like some Saturday morning cartoon as he squirmed uncomfortably in a desperate attempt to discretely reposition his pyjama bottoms relieved Hank's sense of guilt, if only for the briefest of moments. Shaking his head, he made his way to his desk and regarded the brownie crouched down hiding in her sleeping bag as her hammock swayed back and forth. Reaching in he pulled out Leanne and put her on his desk, looking down at her with a sigh.
"Where did you get the costume?" Hank asked finally.
"Lady Toni had it, she'd been trying to think of a way to glue Koehnes into it for ages," Leanne admitted shamefaced, looking down at the desk to avoid Hank's glare.
Hank sighed again and shook his head resigned. "How do you keep overpowering Koehnes like that?" he demanded. "How do you even keep finding her?" he exclaimed. Ayla had told him that Koehnes usually stayed in some sort of dimensional thing Nikki built into her Wardrobe, something that not even Toni could enter.
Leanne grinned up at her master. "Koehnes just handmaiden. She only knows how to use household spells. Leanne lives here too! Queen's household spells also there for Leanne to use!" Hank blinked, realising that Leanne had access to all the 'brownie' magic Aunghadhail had built into Poe when she'd summoned her handmaiden and placed her enchantments around the cottage. "Koehnes not linked to Queenship like I am to Master. Koehnes not have access to Queen's memories like I have to Masters. I know all the fighting moves you know Master!" Leanne shimmered and suddenly was wearing a Gi, with a fierce cry she started going through the basic Aikido 'first moves'.
When Hank heard a disembodied giggle he face palmed and moaned. "Oh no, Jade!" Hank wasn't at all surprised to hear a scratching from the door soon after, and with a sigh he opened it to allow Billie's Cabbit to fly through the air and land on his desk, where it started sparing with his brownie. With a martyred sigh Hank closed the door, turned off the lights and crawled back into bed.
"Shouldn't we ..." Danny began when Hank's muffled voice from where he was face down in a pillow interrupted him.
"It'll be fine." Hank vaguely waved a hand at his desk where the brownie and the Cabbit continued sparring. "Both of them can see in the dark."
As the sounds of the sparing got louder, Hank groaned and pulled the pillow over his head, using his arms to wrap it around his ears, only to let out a surprised squawk as first Leanne, then the Cabbit landed on his back and proceeded to continue sparring as they jumped up and down on him, squealing in excitement.
Tuesday Morning, September 4th 2007
Crystal Hall, Whateley Academy
"I thought you and Lily resolved things?" Toni said nodding towards where Lily was once again queuing with her fellow members of Star League Jr.
"We discussed things," Hank explained. "Lily still needs some time to get used to Leanne."
"Leanne's not here," Toni noted to Hank's shrug. "What are you going to do?" Toni asked softly.
"I don't know, find some way to get them together?" Hank sighed sitting down, trying to ignore the glare Nikki gave him, though Toni blissfully smiled back at her and Jade giggled. With a confused look Ayla glanced between them, finally fixing his gaze on Jade as the most likely to share.
"Leanne caught Koehnes again yesterday, and this time she glued her into a furry catsuit!" Jade spilled with a laugh.
"It's not funny!" Nikki growled as everyone at the table, bar her and Hank, either valiantly tried to contain their smirks or laughed outright.
"I made Leanne promise not to do that again," Hank apologised to Nikki.
"That's what you said when she locked poor Koehnes in the wardrobe!" Nikki snapped.
"To be fair, she hasn't done that since," Toni smirked, earning a glare from Nikki for her part in the pranks against her brownie.
"I'm sure Hank has imparted on Leanne the importance of not pranking Koehnes," Ayla assured Nikki, trying to calm her. Nikki snorted and returned to her food.
Hank too had turned back to his food when out of nowhere a great fear gripped him. Gasping in shock Hank dropped his cutlery, grabbing the table for support. Darkness engulfed him and everything seemed to be shuddering and shaking, the water around him stirred into a churning maelstrom, frothing and seething around and over him, pulling him under, snagging his feet and dragging him down.
Hank fought for air, gasping and struggling, surging to his feet. Sightlessly he thrashed his head as his teammates rushed to him, calling out his name demanding what was wrong, reaching out to Hank as he mindlessly fought off their embrace.
Suddenly Hank stilled, his eyes regaining focus as he gasped out a single word, "Leanne!" Surging to his feet, running for the edge of the upper level of Crystal Hall, Hank dived over the rail and flew for the entrance, leaving his confused teammates behind.
Ashley watched Lily looking forlornly after Hank as he rode the escalator up with his teammates. "I thought you were going to patch things up with Hank?" she questioned Lily confused.
"I ... tried."
"And Hank said no?!" Ashley squealed in disbelief.
Lily shook her head. "I ..." Lily stopped and stared. "Mom?" she exclaimed in surprise as she watched her mother come through the food lines and out into the main hall.
Ashley quickly turned to look too. "I thought you said your Mom left yesterday?" Ashley exclaimed.
Not even answering her friend, Lily almost ran towards the secluded section of the Crystal Hall her mother was making for. "Mom?" she questioned as soon as she drew even with her.
"Morning pumpkin," her mother smiled. "Do you want to have breakfast with me?" she asked nodding towards an empty 'couples booth' she'd been making for.
Nodding she did, Lily slid in opposite her mother, staring up at her in surprise as her mother settled, spreading ketchup, salt and pepper on her eggs as though nothings was amiss. Finally Lily could take it no more, and blurted out. "You said you were leaving yesterday! You had me accompany you to the bus!"
"Yes dear, I needed an excuse to get you out of your room and to somewhere you'd open up to me," she explained reasonably before starting to eat.
"You lied to me!" Lily exclaimed shocked.
Tabitha paused, put down her knife and fork and looked at her daughter. "Lily dear, when we left, what day did your father say he'd pick me up?" she enquired.
"Friday," Lily said immediately. "He would drive down and pick you up Friday," she repeated.
Shaking her head at her daughter, Tabitha resumed eating as Lily blushed bright red, picking up her own knife and fork and attacking her food to hide her embarrassment. Tabitha chuckled and casually asked. "So, how'd your conversation with Hank go?" Lily stopped eating and stared off into the Crystal Hall, Tabitha blinked and paused eating too. "Lily?" she questioned softly.
"How did you," Lily asked softly still staring off into the Hall. "How did you and Dad get together if you hurt him so badly?" she all but whispered, turning to looking towards her mother, a desperate plea in her eyes.
It was obvious from Tabitha's body language that the question made her uncomfortable. She put her cutlery down and rubbed her hands together, her turn now to stare off into space, unable to meet her daughter's gaze. "Now that, that's an interesting tale," she murmured before taking a deep breath and facing her daughter.
"As I got close to graduation I thought about trying to amend my ways and settle down, so I picked one of my favourite boys and went exclusive with him. At the party after graduation, I asked him if he wanted to introduce me to his parents," she said and licked her lips nervously then trailed off, staring into space again. Finally she sighed, and turned to look her daughter in the eye.
"And… he told me… that he had no intention of introducing a whore like me to his parents," she admitted, tears coming to her eyes, hurt showing in every angle of her body.
Lily flinched as if she had been struck as a fury rose up in her that anyone could speak to her mother that way, but Tabitha merely smiled a sad smile and shook her head. Sadly, she took her daughter's hand and squeezed it. "My darling, I appreciate you wanting to rush to my defence, but back then I was indefensible." She laughed a dry, gallows humour kind of laugh. "So of course, who was the next person I would see after that?"
"Dad?" Lily suggested hesitantly.
Tabitha nodded. "And there he was, Mr. Perfect! Everything that I wasn't. Class president, graduated magna cum laude; I was just the class doorknob and I barely graduated. He was on his way to Dartmouth, full scholarship beaming parents, and I … I flew into a rage when I saw him." She laid her forehead on her clasped hands, elbows on the table as she sighed deeply. "What a complete ass I made of myself! I started screaming at him, I called him every vile thing that I could think of, not because he was, but I was projecting myself on to him. And the nastier I got, the sadder the expression on his face became. Finally, I couldn't take it anymore and I told him that he could wipe that smugness off his face because he wasn't the only man on the campus that had told me 'no' anymore." Tabitha sighed again and leaned back against the chair staring up at the ceiling.
Almost inaudibly Lily asked, "What did Daddy say?"
While her face was still pointed at the ceiling, one of her cat's eyes came down into the corner of her eye to look at her daughter. "He shrugged," she said at last. "And he smiled at me; smiled! Like nothing I'd said registered. And he stepped forward, and he took me by the shoulders and he said that he was in a much more exclusive club, because he was the only man on campus that respected me."
Tabitha brought her gaze back down and smiled at her daughter and the look of dumbstruck amazement on her face. "That's your father," she told Lily. "I've never seen anyone who could get under his skin. Then he kissed my forehead, and he whispered come see me when you're ready to hear what I have to say. And he nodded to someone behind me and walked off. I turned to follow him, but Mrs. Carson was standing behind me, and," Tabitha smiled wryly at the memory. "She was very much less than pleased with the language I used. She dragged me off to her office and gave me The Talk again." Tabitha chuckled. "I lost track of how many times she gave that speech to me; about how I needed to get my life together, get my head out of my ass, and I'd had enough at that point so I told the old bitch to shut her mouth."
Lily's mouth fell open even further if that was possible and her hands came up in shock to cover it. "What did she do?" Lily gasped.
Tabitha licked her lips. "What she probably should've done the first day I landed in her office as a freshman; she slapped me across the mouth." Tabitha shook her head and laughed again. "My girl, you don't know fear until Lady Astarte is 2 inches from your face and pissed. She reminded me that I had just graduated, which made me fair game, and if I wanted to go toe to toe with her she would be more than happy to give me the beating I had deserved from the moment she first laid eyes on me and then, Lily, it was a little miracle. The dam just broke, and I started crying, and I cried out four years of self-loathing and despair and God knows what other emotions."
"The woman that had just threatened to beat my ass, sat down with me on her couch and gave me her shoulder, and she listened to all of it." Tabitha's voice clogged with emotion which finally closed her throat. She sniffed mightily to clear sinuses and wiped furiously at the tears that were beginning to leak from her eyes. The dark-haired vixen turned and smiled at her daughter while gently caressing her face. "Four hours, baby. She sat with me for four hours but I told her everything. And I realised that I had hated and abused Robert Turner because I loved him. Oh, you can't imagine how afraid I was that I had ruined my chances with him. Mrs. Carson got me presentable, called around and cashed in a bunch of favours to get me accepted at a little community college not far from Dartmouth. She told me to get my act together, that this was my last chance and not to waste it."
She forced her hands to unclench and rubbed her palms on her thighs. "So I made sure I didn't waste it!" she told her daughter. "Oh, I hit the books too, but I knew that Robert wouldn't resist being the local hero. So I borrowed a page out of the funny papers, played Catwoman to his Batman and let him do what he been trying to do from freshman year."
Lily cocked her head to one side in confusion. "What was that?"
Tabitha smiled and lovingly mussed her daughter's hair. "Save me," she told her with a smile. "But!" she said sitting back and picking up her fork. "Happy as this story turns out, it's not helping you with your problem, is it now?" she asked taking a bite out of her breakfast and chewing, eyebrow raised at her daughter.
Lily blushed, turning away from her mother embarrassed. Suddenly a commotion at the doors pulled her attention, and wide-eyed she stood. "Hank!" she called out in distress before she dashed off for the escalators without a backwards glance towards her mother.
Hank came back into the Crystal Hall and flew up to the Kimba table, cradling what looked like a wet toddler to his chest. Sitting down he placed Leanne on the table before him, where she knelt in a sodden mess looking very dejected indeed.
"What happened to you?" Toni asked her sometimes trickster companion, bending down to wipe the face of the brownie with a serviette.
"She fell into the washing machine and it turned on with her in it," Hank explained, handing Toni some more serviettes.
"So you really do feel what happens to her?" Ayla asked coming up to Hank and offering the pure white cloth napkin from his serving tray to Toni as a better option to the paper serviettes she was trying to use to dry Leanne with.
"It appears so, if she's afraid enough," Hank admitted. "I could feel her drowning all the way in Poe Cottage."
"We noticed," Jade chirped staring down at the little brownie in concern. "Is she going to be OK?" she asked Hank worriedly.
Hank shrugged. "She coughed up a lot of water when I pulled her out, I was going to see if Kody could get Kodiak to give her the once over," he nodded to the Alpha table where Kody and Lanie were presiding.
"And why was she in the laundry to fall into a washing machine anyway?" Toni demanded of Hank, sparing time from trying to dry Leanne to glare at him.
"Master's clothes needed washing," Leanne spoke up. "Was using the washing pool when earthquake caused everything to start moving."
"Earthquake?" Toni asked confused.
"The sun was covered and darkness descended and then the whole pool started thrashing and churning as a great earthquake shook the ground and thunder filled the air," the brownie wailed trembling from the table.
"Hang on, you were in the washing machine?" Toni pressed the sodden brownie.
"How else do you beat the dirt from the clothes if not by thrashing them?" Leanne asked confused.
"Oh no, someone must have seen the washing machine open and closed it, starting the cycle," Bunny squeaked.
"Trapping her inside!" Jade gasped, before turning a fierce glare on Hank. "How could you make an innocent go down there, doing your washing no less! She has no idea of modern dangers, she could have drowned!"
"Make!" Hank defended himself valiantly against Jade's unfair accusation. "I do my own washing! I didn't know she'd go down there, I didn't even known she knew where the laundry was!"
Ignoring him, Jade continued her impassioned tirade. "Working her to the bone, cooking and cleaning and no time at all for herself, not thinking at all for her needs, the need to learn how to live in this strange environment, to learn the dangers it holds for the unaware, I bet you don't even leave a saucer of milk out for your brownie!"
Hank stood with open mouth, blinking, desperately trying to think of how to defend himself from Jade's unfair accusations before eyes narrowing, he quickly reached out and grasped Leanne to his chest, pulling her almost out of the hands of the reaching Jade.
"Oh no you don't," he declared firmly. "There's no way I'm allowing you to cart off Leanne and turn her into a mascot for Wondercute. You leave my brownie alone!" he ordered the now pouting prankster. Turning to Toni and Ayla he thanked them with a nod. "I'll just get a change of clothes for Leanne and then take her to Kody for a check. I'll keep her with me for today, just to make sure she doesn't get into any other trouble."
"Change of clothes?" Toni asked puzzled.
Hank smiled and nodded to where Lily was coming up from the deck below, a worried look on her face. "You know as well as I do, as soon as Leanne gets a look at Lily, her clothes will morph into a perfect copy of whatever she's wearing."
"Mistress?!" Leanne gasped, wriggling around in Hank's grasp until she was standing on his cupped hands looking towards the escalators and the appearing Lily. As she did so a mist seemed to surround her, dispersing quickly to leave the formerly sodden brownie now standing immaculate in a copy of Lily's super suit, not a wrinkle or drop of water anywhere to be seen. Hank chuckled at the sight as Lily quickly crossed towards them, giving the brownie standing in Hank's arms a cautious look, which Leanne returned with one of adoration.
"What happened?" Lily asked worriedly, having seen Hank fly past muddled and clutching a soaking wet brownie.
"Leanne fell into a washing machine," Hank explained to his girlfriend, who had been standoffish ever since the existence of Leanne had been revealed.
"And Hank felt her drowning," Ayla explained to her. "So the 'possible' link between them is real."
"You felt her drowning?" Lily asked Hank anxiously, stepping close to Hank.
"Like it was happening to me," Hank confirmed.
With a strange expression, Lily reached out to caress the brownie in Hank's arms, gathering her up absently in a hug when the little copy of Nikki held out her arms in mute appeal. As she hugged the brownie tight to her chest, a gasp from Hank caused her to look up in alarm.
"I felt that!" Hank exclaimed.
"Felt?" Lily asked to Hank's stunned nod.
"The hug. Leanne. I feel it."
"Did you feel it when I was ..." Toni started asking when Hank silenced her with a quickly shaken head.
"Only when Lily hugged her," Hank admitted.
"Only when I hugged her?" Lily drawled staring at Hank, before with a mischievous smile she bent down to give Leanne a kiss to the cheek. Looking up, Lily laughed outright as Hank blushed from his head to his toes. "So it's only my touch that does it huh?" Lily smirked hugging Leanne to her chest again, before turning and starting off with the little brownie still clutched to her breast.
"Lily, she needs to be seen by Kody, she could have issues from her near drowning!" Hank called after Lily as he hurried after them.
"It's OK Hank, I'll take her," Lily assured him breezily as she turned in that direction.
"Lily ..." Hank desperately called out again before he came even with her and started an anxious whispered pleading that Lily serenely ignored as she continued on her way.
"Did Lily just discover she could use Leanne as a voodoo doll for Hank?" Toni asked aloud.
"Yessss," Ayla drawled, his mind slowly turning over the consequences of that revelation.
"Do you think she's likely to give Leanne back to Hank?" Toni continued curiously.
"I'd say that was unlikely," Ayla admitted watching the serene Lily ignoring Hank's pleading.
Jade giggled and almost vibrated her enjoyment. "I'd say Hank has a very interesting day ahead of him," she laughed delightedly.
Toni shrugged and smiled at Ayla. "Well, Hank's has been racking his brain for a way to get Lily and Leanne together so that Lily would get past her reluctance around Leanne, now he has!" Picking up her tray, Toni left to get ready for her first class. Ayla, turned and looked towards where a curious Lily stood holding Leanne in her arms as Kody examined the small brownie, a rather anxious Hank standing next to them.
"Careful what you wish for," Ayla murmured. "You just might get it." Ayla watched Hank slump in resignation as Kody finished his examination and talked to Lily briefly before she nodded her head and turned away, still cradling the brownie in her arms, ignoring all attempts by Hank to take Leanne from her.
Smiling wryly Ayla shook his head and bent to pick up his own tray. He was sure that dinner tonight would be full of interesting tales of all the discoveries Lily and Leanne would find about the curious link between the brownie and Hank.
"So this is the infamous brownie," Tabitha murmured as Lily returned clutching the toddler sized brownie to her.
Lily nodded, setting the brownie down on the table as she resumed her seat. "Mom, let me introduce you to Leanne. Leanne, my mother."
"How do you do?" Tabitha murmured offering her hand to the brownie. Staring up in awe, Leanne slowly shook the offered hand. Noticing where Leanne's gaze fell as she let go, Tabitha offered the brownie one of her sausages, smiling in delight Leanne gratefully accepted it, biting off a piece and chewing it happily.
After smiling at the endearing antics of the brownie, Tabitha turned to her daughter. "So dear, how is it you run off to comfort Hank and come back clutching his brownie?" she asked amused.
Lily blushed. "Ah, well the problem was Leanne fell into the washing machine back at Poe and it turned on with her in it, and Hank felt her drowning and rushed off to save her ..."
"And?" Tabitha pressed.
"Well when I kiss Leanne, Hank feels it so ..."
"What?" Tabitha gasped in shock.
"Well, ah, Hank feels all touches I make to Leanne and he, ah, doesn't for anyone else, so, ah ..."
Tabitha burst out laughing. "You stole your boyfriend's brownie from him so that you could use it like a voodoo doll against him all day?" she exclaimed in joy as Lily blushed brightest red. Staring down at her hands Lily nodded guiltily.
Wiping tears from her eyes, Tabitha smiled and reached out to grasp her daughter's hand. "Well, have your fun dear, but make sure you keep a careful eye on Leanne here," she gestured to the brownie. "There are all sorts of diseases she could have caught in a near drowning like that."
"I will Mom," Lily promised relieved. "Kody told me the same thing."
"Well, OK. I was going to Kane Hall next anyway, I'll let them know why you have a brownie with you today." Smiling Tabitha offered her last sausage to the grateful brownie and stood, leaning forwards she gave her daughter a quick kiss and a hug, then with a wave to the brownie she gathered up her tray and left.
"How about you Leanne?" Lily murmured also offering the brownie a sausage. "You happy to stay with me for the day?"
"Oh yes mistress!" Leanne replied, a smile covering her whole face as she clutched the offered sausage to her chest.
Dinner, September 4th 2007
Crystal Hall, Whateley Academy
"That looks ominous," Ayla murmured to Hank as they arrived at the top level of the Crystal Hall platforms carrying their dinners to find Lily and Jade already seated at the Kimba table, heads together animatedly discussing something with Hank's brownie, Leanne, who was kneeling on the table between them. Hank merely sighed as he made his way towards the table with his tray piled high.
"Lily's been keeping Leanne close to her all day," he quietly moaned. "Do you know how distracting it is to feel phantom hugs, kisses and caresses out of nowhere?"
"Is that what happened in BMA?" Ayla asked amused, smiling at Hank's immediate full body blush.
Sitting down next to Lily, Hank was pleasantly surprised as she turned and leaned into him for a kiss, something she hadn't done since Leanne had been revealed. "What have you been discussing?" Hank asked cautiously, giving the giggling Jade a wary glance.
"Oh just Leanne's diet, did you know she has almost none of the dietary issues Nikki has?"
"What?" Hank asked surprised.
"Yeah, with a few exceptions, she eats almost exactly what you or I would," Lily explained.
"Leanne eats?" Hank looked towards the diminutive brownie in surprise. "I thought she subsisted on magic or psychic energy or something."
"Oh Hank, of course she eats!" Lily scolded him. "I was able to get her a plate of food for lunch, but the checkout ladies insisted that future meals need to come out of your student card, so that the books balance properly," Lily sternly instructed him.
"Master got me food?" Leanne asked hopefully.
"Yes, Hank's got your food," Lily agreed smiling down to the brownie.
With a squee of excitement Leanne jumped up, and before Hank could even think of stopping her, she grabbed one of the plates from his tray and carried it back to the table between Jade and Lily where she sat down cross-legged, balanced the plate on her knees like a tray and began to eat. The sight of a miniature Nikki grasping a sausage with two hands and gnawing on the end of it causing two passing boys who happened to see it almost to swoon.
"Ah Jade, do you think you could make Leanne a set of cutlery?" Lily asked, warily glancing to the scowling Nikki just arriving at the table who was not pleased to see a miniature version of herself eat a sausage in such a manner.
Also glancing to the rapidly bristling, Nikki Jade quickly agreed, before grabbing the plate, and the sausage, from Leanne and cutting it up for the appreciative little brownie.
Evening, September 4th 2007
Poe Cottage, Whateley Academy
"You want to know everything about the Leanen Sidhe?" Kody asked Ayla as he stepped out of Lanie's RA room to be meet by the waiting Ayla. Wyatt had followed Lanie back to Poe after dinner, and now leaving Lanie to complete some tasks she needed to do before classes tomorrow, was on his way back to Melville.
"Yes," Ayla replied, gesturing to his own room, currently empty as Vamp was out and about hustling.
Nodding Kody stepped into Ayla's room, taking in the bunkbeds, hammocks, beanbags, cushions and other modifications Ayla had done to the room, even the small fridge and microwave. "Still the Team Kimba clubhouse I see," Kody smiled as he settled himself in one of the hammocks Ayla had strung across the corner of his room. Ayla shrugged and settled himself into his desk chair, swinging it around so that he faced Kody, his posture upright and attentive. Kody sighed. "So, business it is then," he murmured. "Kodiak?" he called.
Kodiak materialised and settled himself into a beanbag, stretching and wiggling until he was comfortable, only then turning to regard the stoic young business magnate across from him. "So, what is it you wish to know?" he smiled a toothy grin at the unfazed Ayla, his grin becoming wider when Ayla's facial expression and body language remained unchanged, but his desk chair squeaked a little as it settled lower, Ayla being unable to help his almost instinctive reaction to increase his density at the sight of the Kodiak bear's teeth.
"I wish to know all there is to know about the Leanen Sidhe that is now linked to my friend," Ayla replied.
"Such as?" Kodiak queried.
"What is the link, how does it affect Hank. What is a 'Leanen Sidhe', where did they come from? How similar to the stories is it ..."
"You are worried about the Leanen Sidhe ridding Hank to depression and death?"
Ayla considered Kodiak for a moment before answering. "You were not there in Washington."
Kodiak nodded. "It is true the legends of the Leanen Sidhe are based, to some small extent, in fact. But that fact is a corruption by the Enemy, and not the true intent of the Leanen Sidhe."
"And the true intent is?" Ayla pressed.
"Helpers for the warriors. Brownies to mind their camp and gear. The equivalent of Koehnes for the Sidhe warrior class."
"I find it hard to believe warriors would accept help bound to them so closely if it endangered their lives," Ayla replied, pointedly reminding them of the events that morning.
Kodiak smiled. "Only a newly created Leanen Sidhe is so closely linked to its master, most Leanen Sidhe were passed down from parent to child, and the link was far less dangerous."
"In what way?" Ayla inquired.
"The link is spread, between the Leanen Sidhe and all the members of its family," Kodiak explained. "Leanen Sidhe start bound closely to their first masters, bound so close that an injury to one is an injury to both. But if both survive, when the master takes a partner, slowly the Leanen Sidhe will also become bound to its Master's partner, reducing the severity of the bond to its master directly in relation to its strengthening bonds to the partner. When it's Master and partner have children, the Leanen Sidhe will also bond to them, again reducing the severity of its other bindings in proportion to its new ones. By the time a Leanen Sidhe has bonded fully with a child, it's remaining bond with its Master has lessened to the point that they are no longer receiving each other's injuries, and the Leanen Sidhe can survive the death of its original Master, allowing for them to become the equivalent of family servitors."
Kodiak shrugged. "Hank's Leanen Sidhe is new, she is bonded tightly to Hank and no other."
"What about Lily?"
"An emotional attachment only on the part of the Leanen Sidhe. As of yet, no deeper bonding has occurred."
"As of yet?" Ayla pressed.
Kodiak smirked. "There is little doubt about Hank and Lily's relationship. I'm sure, given enough time, Hank's Leanen Sidhe will bond with Lily in a similar way to how it is now bonded with Hank."
"And that bond to Hank?"
Kodiak shrugged. "They are linked, physically and psychically. Hank stamped his dominance over the Leanen Sidhe by dictating her looks, so the Leanen Sidhe is as she is, not as she was, but an injury to one is an injury to the other."
Ayla leaned forward to fix Kodiak with a stare. "It was you who convinced Hank to do that. It was you who pushed him to create the link," he accused.
Kodiak laughed, then shook his head. "The link was already there. At its creation the Leanen Sidhe was linked to Hank, created from his parts, both mind and body. The only choice in the link was if Hank was going to control it, or if the Leanen Sidhe was going to continue to do so. You already know what the outcome of the Leanen Sidhe controlling the link was."
Ayla frowned. "How can we break the link? Free Hank from the Leanen Sidhe?" he demanded.
"The only way would be to kill the Leanen Sidhe," Kodiak informed Ayla with a shrug. "Unfortunately its link to Hank is too strong, killing the Leanen Sidhe would also kill Hank."
Ayla growled. "So Hank is stuck trying to protect a child until such time as he himself has children?"
Kodiak blinked. "The Leanen Sidhe is not a child," he corrected Ayla. "It has access to all the memories Hank has through their link. In addition, the spell that created the Leanen Sidhe imbued it with the knowledge of the servants of the Sidhe."
"So why is Hank having to teach Leanne reading and writing?" Ayla demanded.
Kodiak smiled. "The Leanen Sidhe has access to Hank's memories, this does not necessarily mean that it has accessed them. Suggest to Hank that instead of teaching the Leanen Sidhe it's ABCs, he instead make use of his dreams to show the Leanen Sidhe he himself learning to read and write, this should prompt the Leanen Sidhe to access his memories and acquire the knowledge for herself."
Ayla pausing before asking his next question. "And the Enemy's stain on the Leanen Sidhe?"
Kodiak sighed. "The ability to access the dreams of their masters was imposed upon the Leanen Sidhe during the final war," he explained. "The demons were inflicting nightmares on the Sidhe warriors, sapping their will to fight. In a desperate attempt to block that, the ability to enter the dreams was given to the Leanen Sidhe, and they were instructed to steer their master's dreams, force them away from the horrors the demons were making them relive."
"And how did the Enemy corrupt them?" Ayla pressed.
"When the Enemy became aware of how the warriors were being protected, they used the very same dreams the Leanen Sidhe were protecting the warriors from to corrupt them. They sent dreams that intrigued the Leanen Sidhe, causing them to delay steering their masters away from them out of curiosity. Slowly, the Leanen Sidhe became addicted to these dreams, and instead of banishing them, they encouraged them. Slowly the Leanen Sidhe stopped being protectors to their masters, and become the very instruments of their master's despair and demise."
"Banshees," Ayla spat.
"Not really," Kodiak smirked. "Most Leanen Sidhe were male."
"Male?! But 'Hearthwife'!" Ayla exclaimed.
Kodiak grimaced. "Perhaps 'Hearthwife' is a poor translation of the Sidhe name," Kodiak apologised.
"I'm what way?"
"The Sidhe term has no gender associated, in fact Leanen Sidhe were universally created the same gender and aspect as their first master. At creation, the Leanen Sidhe is a reflection of the subconscious of the one it is created from."
"So what happened with Hank?" Ayla asked puzzled.
"It appears Hank's subconscious it a great deal more 'female' than he shows to us," Kodiak murmured, raising an eyebrow at Ayla.
"You know the secret of Poe?" Ayla asked cautiously.
"Which one?" Kodiak grinned.
"The Kimba one," Ayla admitted.
"Ahh, so Hank before?"
Ayla nodded. "Female."
"Indeed." Kodiak paused and thought for a moment. "Hank was female for a great deal longer then he has been male, apparently that was the part of himself that most resonated with the Leanen Sidhe," Kodiak mused. "It seems Hank no longer had a 'feminine' self-image, so the Leanen Sidhe did not get that from him as well, no wonder Hank had to impose one on her later in order to fully complete the bond."
"And the Enemy's taint?" Ayla pressed.
"Cleansed," Kodiak assured Ayla. "Hank's Leanen Sidhe is as was originally intended, Leanne is free of the Enemy's taint."
"Can he taint her again?" Ayla worried.
Kodiak smiled. "Only if he manages to taint Hank too, but don't worry. None of the Leanen Sidhe who were bonded to their first Masters ever feel victim to the taint. The bond between the Leanen Sidhe and their masters were too strong. To taint that bond both the Master and the Leane Sidhe would need to fall victim to it at the same time, and the Taint is too weak to manage that."
Ayla's eye's widened in surprise. "So Leanne is protecting Hank?" he asked excitedly.
Kodiak frowned. "Somewhat, but not as you think. Hank has no more protection from psychic attacks then before, but if someone tried to suggest something, control Hank is some way, the part of his mind that is normally suppressed, the part crying out that this is wrong, would still be linked to his Leanen Sidhe, and if Leanne was not being controlled too the reluctance would echo back from her down their link, making Hank much more likely to shake off the compulsion, to ignore the suggestions. And as well, as soon as the Leanen Sidhe realises Hank is being controlled, she'd be able to break the control with a single touch. The Leanen Sidhe's bond is a much deeper bond, it would supersede any other influence."
Ayla sat thinking, absorbing the information Kodiak had revealed. Finally he stood and held out his hand to the bear. "Thank you," he offered as he shook the bear's paw, watching as it faded. Turning to Kody he thanked him too.
Grunting Kody got out of the hammock and nodded to Ayla. "See you later," he rumbled as he crossed to the door and left, leaving a pensive Ayla thinking about what he had been told.
Hank came back from his shower and stared thoughtfully at his brownie, Leanne, as she happily folded his washing that he had bought back from the laundry before leaving for his shower, humming happily as she put it away for him.
"Um, Leanne," he mumbled blushing slightly.
"Yes Master?" No matter how many times he asked, she refused to call him by any other name.
"Since you eat, I assume, you, ah ..." Hank blushed bright red.
"Go to the toilet Master?" Leanne giggled. "Of course!"
"Um, how?" Hank blurted. "I mean, where, um, do you ... ah, go to the ... ah ..."
Leanne stood dutifully before Hank, watching him stumble and mumble his way through the question before giggling happily. "I know about using the bathrooms Master!" she finally replied.
"Ah, good," Hank sighed in relief, before pausing to frown again, looking at the small size of his brownie. "Ah, Leanne, don't you find it hard, ah, climbing up?"
"Leanne's good! I can jump!" his brownie assured him. "And there is that smaller one, on the end, that Jade uses."
"Smaller one?" Hank blinked.
His brownie looked at him quizzically. "At each end the toilets are different. One end there is a larger than normal one, and the other end there is a smaller one."
Hank looked at her in surprise. "I hadn't looked, I wonder if it's the same for the boys?" he mused.
"It is," Danny said from his bed where he was reading. "There's also lower sets of controls for the showers too, I guess whoever built this place tried to be accommodating to all sizes."
"That sounds like Ayla," Hank sighed.
Danny blinked at Hank. "Why would Ayla matter?"
Hank smirked. "Ayla's a control freak. If he put up the money, you can be sure he had his fingers all over the plans."
Danny's eyes widened in understanding, sharing a smile with Hank before he glanced at Leanne with a frown. "Ah Hank, the toilet on the end might be 'smaller', but it's not 'small', you might want to think about getting her a step and a special seat or something to help her, you know ... go."
Hank stared at the brownie for a moment, then nodded. Gesturing Leanne to follow him, Hank opened the door and exited the room.
"Hank! How can I help you?" A member of the J-team, basically one of Billie's shirts floating in the air in front of the door it had just opened, greeted Hank.
Looking around Hank spotted Jade at her desk. "I was wondering if I could borrow Jade for a sec?" he asked as Leanne sneaked a look inside around his knee.
"Leanne!" Jade squealed, diving for the brownie, picking her up and cuddling her. "What can I do for you Hank?" Jade asked, Leanne firmly grasped in her arms.
"Ah, I understand there is a smaller toilet that you and Leanne use, and I was wondering if I could look at it, see if there isn't something we could do to make it more comfortable for Leanne?" Hank asked blushing slightly.
Jade looked down at the diminutive brownie with an 'O' of understanding. "You want me to check to see if the girl's bathroom is empty?" she asked.
"Please," Hank sighed in relief.
Smiling happily Jade put Leanne down, grabbing the brownie's hand in hers and together they crossed the corridor and slipped inside the girl's bathroom, presently Jade stuck her head out and waved Hank inside. "All clear!" she called.
Stepping inside, noting that the girl's bathroom was just a mirror image of the boy's one at the other end of the corridor, Hank made his way to the stall Jade held open. Leanne showed him how she jumped up by climbing onto the lid while Hank frowned, the toilet wasn't that much shorter then Leanne was herself.
"Maybe a step at the side?" Hank suggested frowning. "Something that won't interfere with others using the toilet?" he mused.
Suddenly the door to the bathroom opened, and an outraged screech of "Hank Declan! What are you doing in the girl's bathroom!" caused Hank to turn guiltily.
"Oh hi Bunny!" Jade called waving to her fellow devisor. "Hank and I are trying to work out how to get Leanne more comfortable using the toilet."
"Leanne?" Bunny asked making her way over to them and looking curiously into the stall. "Oh!" she exclaimed when she saw the little brownie sitting on the toilet lid. "I see, she isn't much bigger than a toddler really is she?" Bunny murmured.
"Toddler!" Jade exclaimed happily, to the bemused looks of Bunny and Hank. "Nobody builds special toilets in their homes for kids!" Jade explained. "They just get steps and special seats and things for their normal toilets! Surely we can just get the same for Leanne? Come on, I bet Ayla has a website for bathroom fittings he obsessed over renovating this place, he'll know what we can get!"
Helping Leanne down from the toilet, Jade took her hand and skipped with her to the door, Hank and a curious Bunny following.
Ayla welcomed them into his room, looking curiously at the four of them as they settled. "How can I help?"
"We want to see the bathroom fittings website you have," Jade chirped. "We wondered what things are in it for toddlers," she nodded to Leanne sitting in her lap.
Ayla blinked, frowning thoughtfully at Leanne. "Toddlers?" he asked puzzled.
"Yeah, for toilets!" Jade happily explained. "Because, you know, she is small like a toddler, so we wanted to get some ideas to make things easier for her."
Eyes widening in understanding Ayla went to his computer, waking it up and logging in, opening his browser and clicking a link. "This is just a wholesales plumbing site," he mused quickly looking through the links. "It may not have what we want, we might need to check a specialist baby site or something.”
"There! Special toilet fittings, try there!" Bunny suggested, taking over the mouse from Ayla and scrolling through the selections.
"Ooh! That seat looks good!" Jade pointed to a toilet seat with three instead of two parts, a normal seat, a special seat for a toddler, and the lid.
Bunny opened it up and looked through the pictures frowning. "I bet we can get something like this manufactured real easily in the CNC machine, or even the 3D printer," she mused. "I'd just need to measure the current seat, and change the hinges to allow for three parts instead of two ..."
"Or I could just buy it, even normal shipping it'd be here tomorrow!" Ayla rolled his eyes and pointed to the prominent 'next day delivery' banner on the page. "Is this all you want?"
"Well, the seat and a step thing to allow Leanne to climb up easier," Hank admitted.
"What about washing her hands?"
"Leanne can jump onto the benches!" Leanne assured them. "I can even bathe in the washbasins!" she exclaimed proudly.
"You have baths in the washbasin?" Jade demanded shocked.
Leanne nodded fearfully, looking around fretfully at those frowning at her. "I do it at night, when everyone is asleep ... I wash out the basin after myself!" she defended herself.
"Nikki bathes every night, perhaps if we ask she'll let Leanne join her?" Bunny suggested warily.
Hank shook his head. "Don't worry Bunny, the boys don't use their bath anywhere near as much as the girls do. Nobody will mind if I book the boy's bath nightly for Leanne to wash, there's a door to the bath, so nobody will be embarrassed."
"Leanne can shower with me each morning!" Jade offered, smiling down to the brownie in her lap. Leanne smiled at Jade, quickly looking towards Hank hopefully. "I can come get her each morning?" Jade wheedled, deploying her secret weapon, big puppy dog eyes begging Hank.
"OK, OK!" Hank relented, glaring at Jade and scowling at his brownie, whose own puppy dog eyes were quickly reaching Jade levels of manipulation. "If Leanne behaves, and none of the other girls mind, she can shower with Jade every morning."
"Why would they mind?" Bunny questioned slowly.
"Ah Bunny, Nikki?" Ayla reminded her, delicately indicating Leanne's identical appearance to the Sidhe girl, an appearance which Nikki was still upset about. "If that's all we need? A toilet seat and a step?" Ayla bought them back on topic.
Hank nodded and Ayla browsed through a few pages on his computer, Bunny peering over his shoulder silently pointing at options. After a while the two of them had multiple windows of pictures opened all over the screen and didn't look like stopping. Hank coughed and both Ayla and Bunny glanced at him puzzled.
"Um, aren't you going to buy something?" Hank asked. "Wouldn't that one do?" he pointed at a random picture on the screen.
Bunny and Ayla looked at Hank in outrage. "You can't just choose like that!" Bunny stated shocked. "You need to compare, see what features are out there, narrow down the features important to you, check for materials, build quality, fitness of design!"
"And then there is the look, the style, the colour!" Ayla joined in. "It has to fit the ambience, the decor! Be subtle, there but not noticed! Not just some, some ..." Ayla waved at the screen and the step Hank had pointed to. "Some gaudy thing screaming defiance at culture and decorum!"
Hank sighed and shook his head, resigning himself as Ayla and Bunny returned to their searching, wincing at Jade's squeal of delight as a hello kitty design was accidentally uncovered. Finally Bunny and Ayla came to an agreement on the design, style and colour of the step and seat, Ayla did a few clicks and then nodded. "Both should be here tomorrow," he promised.
As Hank reached into his pocket for his wallet, Ayla glared at him. "It's for the cottage Hank, not Leanne!" he firmly rebuked his friend. "There's an account for these types of expenses, and Mrs. Horton is OK for me to use it."
"Because you're the one who set it up?" Jade smirked as Ayla gave her a glare.
"We all done here?" Ayla asked.
"Yep!" Jade cried happily jumping up.
As Hank too stood, Ayla held him back, waiting for Jade and Bunny to leave, Jade still cradling Leanne in her arms. "Hank, Kodiak told me some things about Leanen Sidhe that you probably should know."
Hank carefully studied his friend's posture. "Me? Or everybody?" he asked.
"That's up to you," Ayla offered softly.
Hank nodded his understanding. "I'll fetch Lily if you invite the others," Hank stated firmly.
Ayla gently squeezed Hank shoulder and nodded agreement.
Everyone stared thoughtfully at the diminutive brownie cradled in Lily's lap. While Hank had been unsuccessful at getting Jade to relinquish his brownie, Lily had entered the room and somehow silently ended up as custodian, seating herself beside Hank on Ayla's bed with Leanne happily ensconced in her lap.
After Ayla had finished repeating what Kodiak had told him about Leanen Sidhe, everyone silently sat and absorbed the information. Finally Jade turned to Hank with a smirk. "So, she really is like a House Elf!" she proclaimed happily. "When are you going to give her clothes and let her go free?" Jade demanded. Turning to Leanne she wheedled. "Come to me, I'd be a great master! I have devises already that do my laundry and cleaning for me, you'd be free to spend all your time playing!"
"Don't want a new master," Leanne stated firmly.
"What about a mistress? Billie and I'd be great mistresses!"
"Already have mistress. Lily is my mistress!" Everyone, including Lily, stared in shock at Leanne's firm statement.
"Ah Lily, you're not noticing anything strange around Leanne are you?" Ayla asked thoughtfully.
"What, other than this?" Lily asked, bending down and giving Leanne a kiss on the cheek, then turning to give Hank a wicked smile. Hank blushed bright red and all the other girl's laughed appreciatively as Lily smirked at Hank's discomfort. Ayla though just thoughtfully considered Lily's demonstration.
Blushing Hank reached out for his brownie and laughingly Lily opened her arms to allow him to take her, but as soon as his hands touched the brownie Hank paused in surprise. Slowly he grasped Leanne and transferred her to his own lap where his stared down at her thoughtfully.
Everyone stopped laughing and quietly contemplated the no-longer-blushing Hank as he considered his brownie. Finally Hank looked up at Toni. "Toni, do you mind giving Leanne a punch? Like you would in BMA?"
Toni blinked at the request, looking down at the puzzled brownie frowning up at Hank. "Ahh, you sure Hankster?" Toni asked worriedly.
Hank nodded. "Please. Just a punch, nothing serious. Just to hit, nothing more."
Toni nodded, moved to carefully position herself so that the punch would hit, but not hurt the brownie, then suddenly yelled "hai!" and threw her punch. Almost too fast to see her fist flew out at the panicking Leanne, who cried out and threw her arms up in fright. Toni's fist stopped just short of the desperate brownies arms and suddenly Toni was hopping around, shaking her hand and swearing. Finally she settled down, cradling her arm to her chest and glared at Hank.
"Not funny Hankster!" she growled at Hank as everyone stared at her bewildered.
"Ahh ...?" Jade asked finally, glancing back and forth between Toni and a totally bewildered Leanne.
"Hank had his PK field up!" Toni snapped. "It was like punching a wall!"
"Except you'd have punched through a wall," Nikki sniggered, earning a filthy glare from Toni.
"But you punched Leanne, not Hank!" Ayla declared, turning to Hank and demanding an answer.
"Sorry Toni, I should have warned you," Hank apologised. "When I reached for Leanne, as soon as I touched her I felt something. It took me a while, but eventually I identified it as the feeling I get when my PK field surrounds my swords or tray or something else I carry. I wasn't sure, because usually I need to do that consciously, but with Leanne it just happened as soon as I touched her."
"So I did punch your PK field!" Toni snapped as Hank again apologised.
Curious, Ayla reached out and carefully held Leanne's arm between two of his fingers, grunting as the two fingers didn't even touch Leanne's skin, stopped by the slippery something he'd felt before pushing on Hank's PK field. Slowly Ayla increased the pressure between his two fingers, increasing density and strength before stopping, staring at the fingers the curious Leanne was wiggling in the empty space between his own two fingers. Letting go he looked up to see everyone had been watching him. "It certainly feels like Hank's PK field," he finally admitted, reducing his density back to normal.
Curious herself, Lily reached out and poked Leanne, eyes widening in surprise as her finger meet no resistance and went straight through to jab Leanne. Ayla rolled his eyes as Jade, Nikki and Toni all sniggered at Lily's shocked expression.
"Even his PK field is pussy-whipped," Toni snorted.
"Of course it is!" Jade smirked. "There's no kissy-kissy in a bubble!"
"Nor anything else either," Nikki sniggered as both Hank and Lily blushed brightest red, Ayla however was studying the brownie carefully, a frown on his face.
Lily picked up the slumbering brownie, standing up and absently giving Hank a kiss. "I think the poor dear has been tired out from her exciting day," she murmured to Hank. "I'll just take her and tuck her into bed." Lily and Team Kimba had been discussing the implications of Hank’s brownie so long Leanne had drifted off to sleep in Lily's lap.
Not knowing why, Nikki got up and followed Lily out, accompanying her up the stairs and into Lily's room.
Nikki watched puzzled as Lily happily cuddled the sleeping brownie, smiling down at it with a loving gaze. "How did you get over it!" she blurted suddenly, blushing a little as Lily looked quizzically back at her. "I mean, she's Hank's 'hearthwife' and she looks exactly like me! How can you cuddle her, smile at her like that? How does it not still upset you!"
Lily stared at Nikki, mouth opened in surprise, before she sighed. Placing Leanne down carefully onto her bed, she pulled the blanket over her and crossed the room. Sitting down beside Nikki on the other bed she put an arm around her, pulling her into an embrace.
"I'm sorry, I didn't realise you hadn't worked it out," she comforted Nikki. Nikki stared at her and Lily pointed to the sleeping brownie. "I didn't put it together fully until Ayla finished explaining what Kodiak told him Leanne was, but personality wise, Hank should have called her 'Hannah', not Leanne."
"Hannah?" Nikki asked puzzled. "His name before ...?"
"Yes Hannah," Lily repeated before turning back to Nikki. "Like Ayla said, Leanen Sidhe are made from the host's 'body and soul'," she reminded Nikki. "Hank's body and soul, and she's female." Lily paused and waited before spelling it out for Nikki. "Leanne there is all the feminine parts of Hank he tried to suppress and ignore. All the parts Hank felt didn't fit." Nikki's eyes widened in understanding. "Basically, if you've ever wondered what Hank would have been like if he'd stayed 'Hannah', Leanne there is your answer."
Nikki turned to stare at the sleeping brownie thoughtfully. "I think I would have been close to Hannah anyway," Lily murmured, causing Nikki to turn back to her, Lily blushing slightly. "Of course, I prefer Hank as my boyfriend rather than 'Hannah' as a BFF, and it took me all day with Leanne and then Kodiak's explanation to finally understand what had happened, I didn't just 'get over it', but that doesn't mean I can't take advantage of the situation now to have them both, does it?" she asked of Nikki.
Lily gave Nikki a final hug. "Think about it Nikki, I can't imagine how weird it is to have Leanne looking like you as she does, but personality wise, she's just a suppressed aspect of Hank, with all the same love and respect Hank has for you." Pulling Nikki up, Lily guided her from the room, pausing to turn out the light before she shut the door.
Walking beside Lily, Nikki was lost in thought, when something occurred to her and she turned to Lily on the stairs as they made their way back down to Ayla's room. "Why your room?" Nikki asked puzzled. "Why did you put Leanne to bed in your bed, why not her own hammock?"
Lily turned to Nikki and gave her a mysterious smile. "Leanne is linked to Hank Nikki," Lily reminded her. "What she feels, Hank fells. Why wouldn't I take the opportunity to place her in my bed and cuddle and kiss Hank all night?" she asked, causing Nikki to burst into laughter. "Besides, imagine how desirous to be with me Hank will be in the morning after he's felt me cuddle up to him all night long? Just imagine what dreams he'll have had!" Lily smirked wickedly, the smile of the cat that got the cream.
Wednesday Afternoon, September 5th 2007
Simulation Suites, Whateley Academy
Hank jogged up late, nodding to the Sim techs as he jumped into the Sim room and plugged himself in. Ayla had managed to wrangle extra Sim time for the team at short notice, and Hank had barely had time to jog in from the Ranges and get changed, so he'd missed the briefing.
<Phase: It's us verse Star League Junior> Ayla filled him in over the spots as he settled. <They were free and up for a quick training bout against us, they want to test out their defences against the strategies Wondercute used against them last year.>
<Lancer: Ah, we know what those strategies are, we helped them come up with them?> Hank questioned as the same forests Wondercute and Star League had battled in appeared around him. Looking around he was surprised to be alone. <Lancer: Hey, where is everyone?>
<Phase: Already spread out and searching, you've got this section to search, we only have the Sims for a limited time before we have to be out and Outcasts have their practice session, so hurry up and find them.>
With an OK, Hank took off and slowly started flying a standard search spiral as he looked for any sign of Star League Junior, he also kept a wary eye out for either of their flyers. Hank flicked down the special goggles Jade and Bunny had made them with built in HUDs, and flicked on the special EM frequency overlay Jade and Bunny had discovered could detect Lily's bubbles. Slowly scanning left and right, with frequent looks over his shoulder, Hank carefully scanned the ground when a wobble in the EM field caught his attention, and a careful study caused him to smile.
<Lancer: Found one of Lily's EM bubbles, going down to investigate> he reported.
<Phase: Roger> Ayla replied as Hank landed and looked up at the perfect sphere the EM googles showed him hovering above the ground.
"I can see where you are Lily," he called out.
"Yeah? But what are you going to do about it?" Lily called back laughingly. "You don't have a portal maker who can reach in and grab me out of here!"
"I've always wanted to see what would happen if I hit one of your bubbles," Hank called back smiling.
"You and what army?" Lily teased him. "This thing can stand up to Tanks! At point blank range!" Smiling Hank walked up and readied himself to punch the bubble, when a weird feeling made him stop and stare up at the bubble in shock.
"You've got Leanne in there with you!" he called out in surprise.
Lily giggled at him. "How can you tell?" she called back sweetly.
"Because you're tickling her!" Hank screeched outraged as he tried fighting off the phantom fingers.
"Yes I am! And she has all the same sensitive areas you do!" Lily called back as Hank started rolling on the ground.
"Stop it Lily! Please!" Hank pleaded with her.
"Oh, do I sense a change of heart? The possibility of you coming to Thanksgiving with my parents?" Lily replied teasingly.
"I did Thanksgiving and Christmas with you last year! Mom asked me special to make sure I'll be home this year!" Hank pleaded, wriggling unsuccessfully to stop the tickling.
"But I want to be with both my parents and my boyfriend for Thanksgiving!" Lily pouted, tickling a particularly sensitive area of Hank's body.
"OK, OK. I'll ask my Mom to invite you and your parents to Thanksgiving, just stop please Lily!"
"Fine, but not in Washington! If it's in Washington our Dads will get stuck doing things all week either on the Hill or at the Pentagon! It'll just be us and our Moms all break!"
"What's wrong with that? It's Washington, I'm sure there is some great Day Spas they could visit together."
"Hank Declan! Did you just volunteer to go to a Day Spa with me?" Lily drawled with laughter suffusing her voice as Hank groaned and stood up. "Well nothing for it, you're totally done for already, time for you to just submit and end the game!"
"What?" Hank asked confused again.
"Surrender to me, or I'll start tickling again!" Lily called out her ultimatum.
"I surrender! I surrender!" Hank replied desperately before it all faded to darkness and the oh-so-cheerful voice informed him he'd lost.
Getting up dejectedly, Hank stumbled from the room and down the corridor to the debriefing room, where the whole of Team Kimba was seated in their normal clothes laughing at him as he dragged himself through the door. Hank fixed Ayla with a glare that he returned with an easy smile. "Sorry, it was just you and Lily in the Sim, and you lost royally."
"Tell me something I don't know," Hank grumbled as he sat down.
"It was all in a good cause," Ayla informed him seriously as a Sim suited Lily stepped into the room carrying a similarly suited Leanne. "We wanted to see what effect Leanne would have on your fighting abilities."
"Well, if you let Lily sit there tickling her, a lot!" Hank grouched.
"It's not just tickling her you need to wary about Hank," Billie stated, leaning forward to put a hand on his shoulder. "If anyone gets ahold of Leanne, they basically have your life in their hands. They could do anything they like to you, just by doing it to Leanne. You need to protect her even better then you protect yourself!"
Hank blanched pure white as the full implications of his link with Leanne became clear to him. Reaching out blindly, he gathered and hugged the little brownie tight to him as Lily flowed into the seat next to him, embracing him tightly too.
Wednesday Evening, September 5th 2007
Poe Cottage, Second Floor Common Room, Whateley Academy
"Nikki, that package you wanted is arriving."
Startled Jade looked over. Ayla had just come into the common room and interrupted the group of girls watching a romance movie to talk to Nikki. Jade frowned as Nikki gave her a furtive glance before immediately jumping up, excusing herself and making her way quickly with Ayla towards the stairs.
Eyes narrowed as she watched them leave, Jade hurriedly looked around and seeing nobody watching her slipped a finger into a pouch on her belt and cast Jamie Bond into one of Bunny's micro-speakers and quickly dropped to the ground and zoomed off after the secretive duo.
Flying down the stairs, right next to the wall so that she'd not accidentally bump into anyone using the stairs and give herself away, Jamie was just in time to see Nikki and Ayla exiting Poe. Flying quickly out the door before it closed, Jamie flew up and dropped onto Ayla's should, making herself harder to spot by Nikki as she hid in the fields and auras given off by Ayla.
"Did you get the money my Mom transferred?" Nikki asked Ayla as they made their way down the path, stopping just outside the Poe protections at the place Ayla usually waited to receive deliveries.
"It wasn't necessary Nikki, that was part of the investments your mother made from your modelling money last semester, you should have kept it invested, I would have paid for this."
"It is necessary Ayla," Nikki disagreed softly. "It was my act of anger, so my responsibility to make amends."
"Nikki, your magic has enough burdens for you without ..."
Nikki turned to Ayla and snapped. "Ayla, my magic gift is great, so great that last semester I accidentally cursed one of my teammates and caused great anguish to another. Don't you think it's time I grew up and took responsibility for my actions? Learned to control myself so even in anger my magic remains contained?"
Ayla took a step back from Nikki in surprise, causing Nikki to sob and reach out to him in apology. "I'm sorry Ayla, it's just." Nikki took a deep breath and tried to stifle the tears. "I don't know how I'm ever going to apologise to Hank for what I did, let alone find a way to make it up to him! But this? This I can do to make amends." Slowly Ayla step back to Nikki, reaching out to hug her, giving her a shoulder to cry on as they stood waiting.
Nikki had stopped crying, once again in control of her emotions, even giving Ayla a hug of gratitude, when a pop announced the arrival of teleporter with a large cardboard box. "Delivery for a Nikki Reilly?" he asked.
Smiling Nikki held up her hand and stepped forward, Ayla taking the box from the courier as Nikki signed for it, and with a wave the teleporter left. Turning towards Ayla, Nikki quirked an eyebrow. "Awfully big box, they sure padded it well," she commented with a frown.
Ayla gave the box a careful shake and shrugged. "It weighs next to nothing, I guess they just wanted to be careful." Turning back to Poe he led Nikki back inside and to an out of the way corner of the ground floor. Standing back, he waved Nikki towards the box and waited patiently while she opened it.
"Oh dear," Nikki exclaimed when she looked inside. Turning to Ayla she tried to hide a smile. "It looks like those dimensions were in inches, not centimetres," she half-apologised to Ayla, a hand covering her mouth.
Curious, Jamie raised herself off Ayla's shoulder as he leaned forwards to look, flying up so she could see into box herself. "Nikki!" she gasped in amazement as she saw what was inside. Flying down she landed on the white toy inside, grabbing hold of it. "I love it!" she proclaimed jumping out of the box so she could push the stuffed lion toy against Nikki's waist as though hugging her. "I love it! I love it! I love it!" she cried as she bounced around her two friends with the giant white lion stuffed toy, stalking and pouncing on Ayla, mock growling and worrying at his Doc Martin boots.
Jumping to the top of the box she made the lion rear back as she roared, "I am the king of the jungle!" Bouncing for the stairs Jamie raced up them, presently Nikki and Ayla heard another roar and screams from the second floor, and wryly they turned to each other and shook their heads, unable to keep the smiles off their faces.
"Well, she defiantly loves it," Ayla smiled to Nikki, before bending down to pick up the box. Abruptly Nikki grasped Ayla from behind, hugging him tight.
"Thank you!" Nikki whispered fiercely, a little sob in her voice.
Startled Ayla turned, then sighed in relief at the smile on Nikki's face despite the tears. "What are friends for?" he replied, before awkwardly he nodded, and shifting the box in his arms made for the stairs and the basement below to put the box in storage.
Wiping her tears and smiling happily, Nikki made her way up the stairs towards the chaos and screaming she could hear. Arriving on the second floor she was meet with a pink rocket that slammed into her midriff causing her to grunt in surprise. "Oh Nikki I love it! I love it! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!" an excited Jade repeated over and over, jumping up and down in her excitement as she hugged Nikki in her joy.
It wasn't until a white flash passed her by with Hank screaming "Stop her Nikki!" as he ran after it that Nikki realised Jade's passionate 'thank yous' had an ulterior motive. "She's kidnapped my brownie!" Hank called pelting towards them. Looking down Nikki couldn't help but laugh at the shrug and evil smirk Jade gave her.
"Jade stop it!" Hank called as he thundered past and up the stairs after the laughing white lion with the screaming brownie on its back, clinging on for dear life. "She's terrified Jade!"
Nikki looked down at Jade who gave her a wide-eyed stare of innocence. "I'd never hurt Leanne! You know that!" she proclaimed, eyes wide and sad.
Nikki snorted. "No, but you'd definitely find it funny to terrify her." With a shake of her head, Nikki put an arm around Jade and hugged her tight, before turning and setting off towards their rooms, Jade's arm around her waist and Nikki's over Jade's shoulder. "I'm sorry about what I did to your original Kimba lion," Nikki murmured to Jade.
"I know," Jade replied with a hug. "You were upset, and I shouldn't have tried to ..."
"No Jade, I was in the wrong. I shouldn't react like that, especially in anger," Nikki hiccuped. "I ... I need to control myself better."
Jade hugged Nikki tight. "We'll help Nikki," Jade promised fiercely. "We'll help!"
Lily heard a commotion in the corridor, opening the door she poked her head out. "Stop her Lily!" Hank screamed. Without thinking Lily stepped into the corridor, allowing her door to shut behind her, pushing a bubble around herself that filled the corridor. Finally she looked up at what was making the commotion and stared.
Running towards her was a large white toy lion with a white faced Leanne clinging to its back and screaming out in fear. Running along behind it was Hank, a determine expression on his face. Setting herself, Lily prepared to block the rampaging toy.
With a determined leap the toy lion sailed high, and without thinking Lily raised herself, and her bubble, to block it. Smacking into her bubble, the lion squeaked and was thrown back, Leanne flying free and screeching in terror.
"Leanne!" Hank scream, diving forwards to save her, but mid-fall Leanne halted with a squawk of surprise, hanging motionless in the air until Hank's outstretched arms could reach out and clasp her to him, Hank drifting down and landing with the surprised brownie safe in his arms.
Falling to his knees, Leanne clasped to his chest, Hank turned to the white lion. "Thank you for catching her Jade," Hank gasped out his relief.
"I didn't!" the white lion replied, just as shocked as Hank.
"You didn't" Hank asked puzzled. "Then who did?" he asked turning to Lily who shook her head in denial.
Leaning down, Lily firmly grasped the large white lion, tightly capturing it under her arm, ignoring the wiggling and squirming it was making, as she watched Hank slowly stand back up studying his brownie carefully. With a frown of concentration, Hank carefully held out his brownie and deliberately let her go, staring in wide-eyed surprise as Leanne floated unattached before him.
Thursday Morning, September 6th 2007
Crystal Hall, Whateley Academy
Nikki yawned, covering her mouth and then absently glanced over to see what the buffet options for breakfast were today, when she stopped and stared in disbelief. Slowly she made her way over to where Hank was dishing a plate of food, staring in amazement at the perfect little copy of herself hovering over his shoulder.
"I'd like some of that, and that and ohh sausages!" Leanne was saying as Nikki drew close.
Hank glanced over and smiled at Nikki. "Good morning Nikki," he greeted her as Nikki stopped and stared.
"How? How is she flying?" Nikki gasped, pointing at Leanne.
"I am Supergirl!" Leanne exclaimed, striking a pose and misting slightly before she reappeared in the iconic blue shirt and red skirt.
Nikki turned at a gasp, realising that all of Team Kimba had drawn close and Jade was staring up at the happily floating brownie, eyes wide in awe. Suddenly Jade opened her purse, and with glad cries three pixies in Christmas dresses flew out of it, joyously circling the brownie before with squeals of excitement all four started flying in Supergirl poses around and around their heads.
Tearing her eyes from the circling display, Nikki fixed Hank with a demanding stare. "How?" she repeated.
Hank blushed and glanced quickly around, confirming only his friends were close. "Ah, you know how we discovered that when touching Leanne, my PK field automatically expands to surround her like I can make it do for my swords?" Nikki nodded cautiously. "Well, last night when Jade had Leanne on her back, she leapt high and Leanne fell off and I just did it! Covered Leanne in my PK field, even though we weren't touching. Stopping her in midair!"
"So Leanne is flying because she is controlling your PK field?" Nikki guessed.
"Ah, no, not exactly," Hank muttered, reaching up to scratch the back of his head and blushing a little. "We experimented for a bit last night, Leanne, Lily and me, and it looks as through it's part of the link between her and me. Ah, Leanne is kind of unconsciously letting me know through the link which way she wants to move, and my subconscious is then moving my PK field for her, but I can control it consciously if I want."
Looking up at Leanne zooming around happily with Jade's three pixies, Hank frowned slightly and Leanne stopped suddenly with a squawk, then slowly she started to drift down til she was above Hank's head again. Hank breathed out and Leanne waved before happily resuming flying around their heads.
"So, Leanne kinda has control of your PK field? All eight tons of it?" Nikki wondered to Hank's rueful nod.
"What range?" Ayla asked curiously as he watched Leanne and the pixies fly around. Turning back to Hank, Ayla raised an eyebrow to which Hank shrugged his ignorance.
Just then Leanne screamed out "Mistress!" and Hank turned panicking as the little brownie dived for Lily's arms. Hank breathed out a sigh of relief as Lily caught and cuddled the flying brownie to her chest, unharmed by the brownie's dive.
"Relax!" Ayla laughed at him. "Your PK field is as likely to cut off your own hand as it is to hurt Lily!" Ayla reassured Hank. “Don't you say you control your PK field, not Leanne, and you have perfect control of it? You don't need to worry about accidents with it."
Hank smiled in relief as Lily came up to him, leaning up for a good morning kiss Hank was happy to provide.
Jade looked thoughtfully at the brownie cuddled in Lily's arms, before turning to Hank. "So Leanne has access to all eight tons of your PK field and knows all your fighting moves?" she questioned Hank, giggling as he nodded back. "Oh I can't wait for our first sim match!" she exclaimed joyfully.
"Jade!" Ayla growled repressively.
"What?" Jade replied. "Leanne is like a little ninja Hank! How's that not gonna be fun?" she demanded as Hank rolled his eyes.
"We're supposed to be losing Jade," Ayla reminded her.
"Yeah, but loosing doesn't mean we can't still have fun!" Jade declared joyfully, totally ignoring the groans of all her teammates.