Eons and Eons Ago
Rican sighed as she looked out at the field. Thirty graves in a neat row, freshly dug and filling the air with the rich, loamy smell of displaced Earth. Something in her felt she should say something. She was the Captain; these had been her crew. In a testament to Manik's skill as a pilot, their ship had not crashed; indeed as far as Rican was concerned the pup deserved a commendation for the skill with which she had maneuvered their stricken craft down.
Rican had certainly experienced landings at full facility ports that had not been as soft.
But that hadn't kept them from finding every elf on board dead at their posts, looks of shocked agony on their faces. As if their souls had been ripped cleanly from their bodies. Grizzly was taking things especially hard; feeling responsible for deaths by simple fact of organizing the expedition. Rican shook her head, trying to clear the cobwebs of thought. Their benefactor was not the cause of this string of failure. She was not in command.
The old soldier sighed again, cursing fate or karma or whatever offense she had given the Creator that caused her and her mate to be given the command from the great General to take the Lady Grizzly from the world, right in it's most desperate hour. She wished she had met her fate in battle, defending her home, dying a warrior's death, teeth locked on the throat of an enemy.
The situation was far too grim for her liking. The spell that had sundered the world and ripped and locked away magic. That was what had killed the Sidhe with them, the sudden, instant separation of the flow of essence. There was still magic, but precious little and holding it was like trying to hold water. Their ship would rot and be dust long before they could store enough essence to light the main drives again. As surely as those elves in their graves, this world would be all of their tombs.
Rican turned her back heavily on the graves, knowing they were the first of many. Winter was coming and they had precious little time to prepare. Death would come soon enough, time now to live. She wrapped an arm around the weeping Grizzly and lead her back to the make shift village they had set up by the ship.
Time now to live.
May 4th (Just Barely), 2007
Rm 216, Whitman Cottage, Whateley Academy
Mrs. Savage woke from a deep sleep because her necklace was burning against her skin. She was out of bed like a shot, snatching up a red silk robe to keep her modesty and following the vague sense of need the necklace gave her. She was used to things like this. About half the girls in her cottage had spectacularly bad times at some point, generally because of their GSD.
The others usually because of boys.
Up the stairs, her slippers were silent on the carpet runner than ran down the middle, even if the old wood creaked every now and again. She heard it now, a high, wailing keen of loss and she had a good idea of who and what was wrong. “Go back to bed,” she ordered the handful of girls that were in the hall, looking at the door to Rm 216. Her master key opened the door and she found her kneeling on the floor by the bed, her head buried in the mattress and sobbing.
She had lost control of her form again, her school uniform a ripped ruin unable to contain a figure so much larger than the tall, curvy red head they were made for. As the light from the hall way fell on her, she turned, shocking green eyes staring out of the muzzle of the bear and fur soaked with tears. “Why?” she wailed, shouting at the House Mother. “Why would she do this?”
Trish flipped on the light and closed the door as she came over to the troubled teen and sat down on her bed. This let her cradle the massive head in her lap and stroke her fur reassuringly. “Lanie, sweetheart, you know why,” she said softly.
Maggie Finson had been a very hard student to place in a dorm. She was too adventurous and rebellious to put in Dickinson and, unfortunately, the popular culture in Melville wasn't a good fit either. She'd seemed a perfect fit for Whitman and Trish had placed her with Harpy. Unfortunately Maggie's family had been involved with a Rager incident in Topeka. They hadn't been harmed, but it had been a very near thing only through the intervention of a hero. The rager had chased them nearly half a mile before being stopped.
The very first night she'd started having night terrors.
It had been Louis who found out that Harpy was triggering the dreams, not on purpose of course, but because the rager that had attacked Maggie and her family had been severely affected by GSD. And Maggie was too kind a soul to admit being roomed with Harpy made her uneasy. Trish had moved She-Bot in with Harpy and paired Maggie with She-Bot's roommate Elaine Nalley.
The two had bonded almost instantly.
“Ah would never hurt her!” wailed Elaine
“I know,” Trish assured her. “But you know about Maggie's aversion to GSD, and yes, Lanie, I know what you have isn't GSD, but we can't pick what we will and won't be afraid of.”
The bear girl flung her arms around Mrs. Savage and hugged her. “She's mah best friend,” she cried and yet again Trish Savage wished she had some power help these poor girls more than just being a good woman with open ears and shoulders to cry on.
“Nothing will change that, Lanie,” Trish told her. She let the girl cry for a long time, not answering the incoherent mumbles that she knew from experience didn't need answering. Finally, the creature stood, sniffing mightily to clear her nose and trembling from being emotionally spent.
“You...You can tell Mrs. Horton, Mrs. Savage, that Ah'll take her offer. In fact, if she has a place, Ah'll move today,” she said sadly. “Ah don't want to be here any more.”
She stood and collected the girls bedding from the bed. “There's plenty of time for that, Elaine,” she said softly. “Come down stairs. “They said you shouldn't be here tonight. You can sleep in my apartment. We'll deal with things in the morning.”
The girl pulled on the sweat pants and top that fit this form, took her bedding from the House-Mother and followed her down the stairs and into her apartment. Mrs. Savage pulled the mattress out of her sleeper sofa and provided a bit more bedding and while Elaine made a pallet on the floor, she called the administration line and gave her an all day pass for class later that day. “Why am Ah not going to class?” she asked, curious.
“Well, for starters, I'm taking you to see Celia Rogers,” Mrs. Savage told her. “You need clothing that can stand up to that new ability. For another, I think you need some time to get your head on straight. This isn't the end of the world, Elaine.”
If you only knew, she thought darkly, but nodded and curled up on the pallet and was quickly asleep.
May 4th, 2007
The Hot Tub Grotto, near Poe Cottage, The March of Dreams
Elaine floated in warm water, buoyant, relaxed and at peace. It would be nice being so close to this hot tub, she realized, being able to use it whenever she liked. The girls wouldn't mind, she was a Sister after all, and the boys? Well, if they weren't interested that was fine and if they were, well, Elaine was beginning to like being stared at. It would take the sting out of being so isolated anyway. She was relieved her mom knew about her. There was still Dad to worry about, but to know that she had not broken her mother's heart was such a huge relief.
She floated, warm and alone and let the water caress her.
The roof of the grotto was actually the most uneven area of the room, the least artificial and she wondered if maybe some part of this space had been naturally carved, but it was decidedly hard to concentrate about anything because the water felt so good. It was wonderfully liberating to be naked in such a full and deep pool, to have nothing between her and the element she floated in and the solid rock of the world around her.
And then she realized that it wasn't just warm water and loose, relaxed muscles that made her feel good. The water seemed to have hands that were caressing her, gently coaxing her thighs open. Nonsense, she told herself. Ah'm alone.
But she still spread her legs comfortably, making her floating just a bit easier. The water felt so nice up against her. She closed her eyes and sighed as the water lapped against her and she began to relax in new ways. Her breath started getting shorter, and little mews of relaxation sometimes muttered under her breath, and still the water felt like hands.
Until it felt like a tongue.
Lanie gasped in shock and arousal, her eyes wide open. She could see no one, but the scent, the scent in the air was so familiar. As the sensations wouldn't fade, she called out, guessing, “Selkie?” She had control of water, perhaps...?
The water rose up like some movie special effect between her legs, clear, but distorted until it took on features and then was flooded with a ruddy skin tone and unnaturally green eyes looked into hers. “No,” she said, her head dipping down again. “Not Selkie.”
“Kayda,” whispered Elaine and for a brief moment, she fought the feelings her mind was flooded with, she tried to the remind herself of the decisions she had made, how she should stand by them and be loyal and...and...and it felt so good. And she couldn't think of loyalty or rationality or anything other than the beautiful girl that was making love to her, who, at her urging turned so that she could eagerly return the favor.
May 4th<, 2007
The Hallow Realm of Grizzly, The March of Dreams
Grizzly growled softly in pleasure as the huge, strong, hands squeezed the muscles of her neck, forcing them to relax. She wore the form of a human, and the hands on her neck and shoulders were coated in clear oil so they did not pinch or bind on her ruddy skin as they worked the tension from her. A talented masseuse would know how to apply the pressure that was bathing her brain in a very pleasant haze. A healer would know where and why the muscles collected the stress, where they held it and why and by some luck she was still trying to work out, the hands on her back were owned by a male who was both.
“There are times,” she murmured softly as he worked her back. “When I don't remember or care why our marriages never work.”
“We're too alike,” Kodiak chuckled from his firm working of her muscles. He was also wearing the form of a human, a big, powerful man like his host, with a blocky face, reddish brown hair in a wild mane and ruddy skin. “Too stubborn to concede and too proud to apologize.”
“Not to mention we both have tempers like volcanoes,” she agreed with a sigh as he worked a knot loose and her back popped because of it. “Not that any of those things stops me from being addicted to you, you hairy old bastard.”
“You're a complete and perfect bitch,” he agreed, leaning down to gently kiss her ear. “But you're my bitch.”
“Flattery will get your ashes hauled,” she promised with a lazy grin as she gave him her arm to work on. “Though I worry about our hosts. You didn't say she had a temper as bad as mine.”
“And spoil the surprise?” he asked with a sardonic smile. “That red head of hers is no lie.”
She rolled onto her side and looked up at him, completely comfortable in her nudity with him. “Kodiak, I mean it. Our bond is strong. She's going to get some of my temper and she's already struggling with her own. You know how Wyatt feels about her, you want them to split because of us?”
“Of course not,” he told her, gesturing for her to lie on her back and re-coating his hands with oil. There were few men, in Grizzly's experience, that knew how to massage the front of a woman without it being a veiled groping. Fortunately, Kodiak was one of them and his touch was soothing. “That was, after all, the whole point of this.”
She snorted. “This was a bonus,” she growled. “You are as unyielding about your revenge as you ever were.”
“I prefer to think of it as a bonus in addition to saving the world,” he shot back with a grin. His hands slid down her torso to begin to rub her thighs. “The Pict Daughter...”
“Her name is Elaine,” Grizzly said with a growl.
“Elaine,” he admitted from his rubbing, “was too much of a distraction for him. I had to bring her into the fold. And yes, my dear, I did a hamfisted job of it.” He rubbed in silence for a moment, paying particular attention to the ligaments of her knee. “I should have come to you first,” he admitted softly.
“Who are you, and what have you done with my ex-husband?”
“I've locked him in a closet to beat sense into him,” he shot back. “Their relationship has always been volatile. They've broken up and made up three times now? Four? And started it with a fist fight!” He laughed and moved to the bottom of the table where upon he began to give her a foot rub that would melt concrete. “She's such a wonderful little spitfire. I can see why he's obsessed with her.”
“Oh, you stud,” she moaned in a pleasure filled haze of the rub. “How do we keep them together, lover?”
“Well, I have hopes that you and I will have some measure of...”
She sat up and took her foot from his grasp. “Really? Kodiak, do you really want to go through that again? Haven't we tried and failed enough? And God help us, what if we break them up? Or worse! They split and we've finally found a way to sort our selves out?”
He put his hands on the padded table and leaned forward. “When have I ever lived in fear of what might be?” he demanded. “To let the fear of loss keep me from having a thing I want?” She frowned and looked away.
“Stubborn,” she muttered.
He reached out and took her chin to gently guide her eyes back to his. “Determined,” he corrected. “The only problem I foresee is Elaine's love of loving other women that she's finally worked out for herself and missing it making her rash. I can hear the dream she's having, same as you.”
Grizzly blushed. “It's a crush,” she said. “The Ptesanwi is very deeply in love with the older girl...”
“Who is very similar to Elaine,” Kodiak reminded her.
“She's older, yes,” Grizzly admitted.
“They are both strong, beautiful exemplars and they radiate confidence and desirability,” he corrected. “And, more to the point my old love, they are both seducers, inviting in like spiders, not chasing like wolves. Tell me the Ptesanwi is not just as enamored of Elaine? That she is not at this very moment, dreaming of Elaine the way Elaine dreams of her?” Grizzly was sullen and turned away.
“Don't spoil this,” she growled softly. “You're doing so well!” She reached up and cradled his face with her hands. “I want to be seduced, and make love, and not worry about this for a little while.”
He picked up her other foot and began to rub it which caused her to lay back down and sigh. “Perhaps,” she admitted finally. “Perhaps maneuvering them into a triad like you had suggested is the best answer.”
“I'm listening,” he said noncommittally from rubbing her foot.
“Well, it would give Elaine an outlet for her bisexuality and what male would complain about servicing two women?”
“Then you eliminate the Ptesanwi,” he remarked thoughtfully. “Even if I had her complete trust, which I most certainly do not, I doubt I could heal her of those scars until she was well past child bearing age, and then, what's the point? If the triad is not balanced, if all are not in love with all, jealousy will tear it apart. Wyatt Cody would have to be a saint to watch his wife love a woman who flinched at the sight of him for decades on end. What has become of that Doe you were involved with...?”
“She's bonded with a heroine in California somewhere,” Grizzly replied dreamily. “The Golden Hind I think is what the heroine calls herself; and her host is forty eight.”
“Her memories indicate she seems to have patched things with the first girl,”Grizzly started, but Kodiak shook his head.
“No, the Spaniard has accepted a teaching position at the school. Their laws and customs are very strict on the matter. Until Elaine graduates, the Spaniard is off limits and that is two years from now.”
Grizzly sighed and sat up again. “This is going to be harder than we thought, isn't it?”
Kodiak grinned and leaned in to rub his nose against hers. “Isn't it always?”
The oil her body was covered in made her arms slick and easy to slide up his shoulders to embrace his back. “Why don't we not think about it for a while?”
“Sounds wonderful,” he agreed as their lips met.
May 4th, 2007
Penthouse, 1160 5th Ave, NY, New York
Freya was in a wonderful mood.
Of course sleeping on a two thousand dollar bed in a penthouse instead of a bunk in a cell certainly made the difference. It hadn't taken long to reassert her control over the girls. Deborah, the oldest of them she had left in charge was so deeply enthralled she'd actually made a set of priestess robes and was trying to convince the girls into holding formal worship services. Freya had been deeply amused by it and rewarded the older woman's loyalty by allowing her to service Freya for the past two nights. She was in her middle thirties, too old really to keep whoring out, but she had a head for numbers and figures that Freya found boring and tedious. Freya offered to put her through an accelerated learning program to become a CPA to manage the growing empire and Deborah had shown her gratitude by licking Freya's feet.
For an hour.
Still, pleasures of the night gave way to the business of the day. Deborah had the girls back in line with a minimum of fuss from Freya and the accounts were nicely full of cash. That allowed Freya to concentrate on other matters. A good breakfast and a shoulder rub from Shield-maiden, who was delightfully jealous of Deborah in a way she obviously didn't want to admit to, combined with a wonderful shower and a several thousand dollar silk skirt suit had her ready mentally to face down her appointment for the morning.
There were not many who were completely immune to her Brisengamen Effect. Mrs. Carson, she was chagrined to find out for sure was. She had always wondered if the little pushes she'd given the older woman had worked or not. Having the Headmistress of Whateley Academy under her thumb would have been the coup d'etat to end all, but her plans didn't hinge on that. Once Carson was dealt with, another puppet could be put in her place to feed Freya with a steady stream of young mutant soldiers.
Deborah perhaps. Managing mutants wasn't so different from managing whores.
But there had been another student who had been Freya's rival, in deed, the only real competition she had had in her four years at Whateley who was also immune to her power. He was a powerful mentalist, powerful in ways that the little fool Don Sebastiano only dreamed about, but ironically, Freya had also been immune to his power. It made for four years of uneasy stalemate and mutual non-aggression. Freya liked being visible, popular and beloved all who saw her, and so she had claimed the Alphas. He, well, he imagined himself a shadow manipulator playing in the dark behind the scenes and so they had come into an understanding.
At least until Aries had found out that he was planning to make mind slaves of the entire school.
While the thought did amuse Freya, and watching his plan be unraveled by the information she had discreetly allowed Sahar and the Spy Kids to 'discover' was even more amusing. Still, she was certain he didn't know who the real source of his downfall was. And, as Freya had intended, he was hungry and desperate enough that he'd agreed to this meeting.
He stood like he didn't have a care in the world, ebony hair immaculate, Armani suit in pressed perfection, but his eyes were a bit hollow as if he had not been sleeping well, and he was certainly a few pounds lighter than from when Freya had seen him last.
Evidently, life as a fugitive didn't agree with Nicholas DuPraeve.
“Nicholas,” Freya had purred in greeting, all dazzling smiles. Seeing her rivals wanting and desperate always put her in a good mood. “How have you been, my dear?”
DuPraeve smirked as he examined the penthouse around him. “I had always known you were a whore, Freya, but I never thought you'd take it quite so literally.” Shield-maiden growled but a little gesture from Freya, and her musical laugh kept her where she stood at Freya's back, behind the ornate chair and desk Freya was sitting at.
“Just because a profession is old, Nicholas, doesn't mean it can't be profitable,” she drawled through lidded eyes. “Of course, I understand lately, you've been fucked for free. Champagne?” she offered, gesturing to the bar off to one side. Shield-maiden walked briskly over and set about opening a bottle.
“Do I have something to celebrate?” he demanded.
“I think so,” Freya replied as she accepted the flute from Shield-maiden and took a sip. “The world is ripe for conquest, and after all, who can stop me? And you, my poor boy, to have come so close last year, only to falter at the finish line and brought low by the secret squirrels of all people.” She shook her head as if morning his poor luck. “But, what is truly lamentable my dear boy is the time you and I wasted sharpening daggers for each other. Had we combined our forces, well...they say it is pointless to dwell on what might have been.”
He had watched the Amazon open the bottle, tracked both glasses and waited until she had drunk from it before he took a sip of his own. “An intriguing thought, Freya. What is it that you're offering?”
She stood and walked around to lean against the front of the desk. “You know I've never liked to get my hands dirty. I've assembled a team, or at least the core of one. Killers, everyone, the kind of quality muscle we had such a tough time finding at school. And while I've always done well strategically, I'd be fooling myself if I didn't acknowledge your tactical genius. It's my intention to tidy up a few personal matters, pay back an old friend or two for the kindness they've shown me of late, and then bend this world to my will.”
She spoke confidently, matter of factually, certain she could do what she said and the outcome would be so. “There's a place for you at my side, Nicholas. What Queen had no King? What Goddess, her God?”
“Tempting,” DuPraeve admitted with another sip of the champagne. “What exactly did you have in mind? And, of course, what's in it for me?”
Freya walked around the office, casually drawing attention to the wealth, and beauty of the women who sat on the sofas and chairs, wearing practically nothing, all gazing up at her in radiant love and wonder. “I'm offering you the world, Nicholas,” she replied evenly. “The best of everything in it. Money, clothes, cars,” she paused and held a hand under the chin of one of her girls. Freya knew Nicholas' tastes and had made sure Sofia hit every one of his buttons, busty, long raven haired, sharp featured and cold blue eyes dancing with malicious intelligence behind fashion eyeglasses that were purposefully unattractive. She was the very picture of Tatiana 'Nightshade' Markov who DuPraeve had lusted after in vain for three years.
His eyes hadn't been off her more than a minute since he'd walked in the room. “Of course, the attentions of my glorious young ladies. Sofia, what would you like to do with Mr. DuPraeve?
Sofia looked him square in the eye with a cruel smile of a professional sadist. “Break him,” she purred in a velvet contralto. Freya raised her arms as if her point had been made.
“What more could a man ask for?”
Nicholas licked dry lips. “So, you want me to be your general? How can you be so confident to build an army when you're a wanted fugitive just like me?”
Her smile was predatory. “My dear Nicholas, I always land on my feet. You haven't wondered why I took over a brothel? Beyond looking for cheap and obvious ways to insult me? I'm not a wanted fugitive. In fact, thanks to having four judges and two assistant district attorney’s in my thrall, all customers of mine I'll point out, any record that I've ever been arrested has been erased.”
His nod of respect was actually genuine. For a long time Nicholas had not been sure if Freya was all rep and was just fantastically lucky, or if there was something more serious going on under that blonde head. To finally know there was, in fact, more to her than luck was worth the price of admission. And the champagne was top notch. Freya always knew how to party. “Alright, Why don't you show me around this little empire you've built? And the Army I'll command. In your name, of course.”
Freya smiled, a deadly spider smiling at another fly caught in her web. “Of course.”
“You realize, to do what you're talking about properly, to be fully prepared, will take years?”
“Certainly. What do you think? Ten or so?”
May 4th, 2007
Rogers' Fabric Boutique, Dunwich, NH
“Trish!” exclaimed the young woman who looked up from the counter as Elaine and Mrs. Savage entered the shop. She left what she was doing and came forward to give the tall House-Mother a hug. “It's always so good to see you!”
Mrs. Savage hugged the young woman back then held her out at arms length. “How have you been, Celia? Staying out of trouble?”
Immediately the woman seemed to become a young teenager again. “Yes, Mrs. Savage,” she said with a grin. The two women laughed and Trish gave Elaine a wink.
“Celia is one of my alumni,” the House-Mother told her. “Class of '01. And quite the hell raiser in her day.” The other woman blushed while Mrs. Savage made introductory gestures. “Celia Rogers, Elaine Nalley.”
The proprietress blinked. “Kevra?” she demanded.
Lanie blushed. “That's me.”
The two young women shook hands. “The honor is mine, Miss Nalley. What can I do for you?” Mrs. Savage stepped forward again with a smile.
“Celia, Elaine is going through a difficult time. She's just bonded with a spirit. One of the powers the spirit has granted is a manifestation overlay of Elaine.” Rogers nodded.
“Common enough. And we need clothing to accommodate that? What kind of spirit is it?”
“Her name is Grizzly,” Elaine said.
“As in the bear?” Rogers asked eliciting a nod. “Goodness, that must make a tremendous height increase! Six six to six eight, I'm guessing?” she asked.
“Seven three,” Mrs. Savage corrected, digging a small note pad from her purse and handing it to the other woman. “These are her measurements, before and after.”
She studied them for a moment, nodding. “Obviously she'll need uniforms. Two of each, pants and skirts I'm guessing?”
“Ah would like one or two casual tops and some jeans too, please,” Lanie added. “Ah mean, until I get this under control...”
Miss Rogers smiled. “Oh, of course you don't want to be in a school uniform all the time! I think something can be arranged. But, why me? Surely...”
Mrs. Savage was as smooth as silk. “Celia, in something like this, when looking good is so important, would anyone not come to the best?” The seamstress cocked an eyebrow, sure she was being played, but decided to go along.
“Would you care to wait, or shall I have them delivered?”
“It would probably be a good idea to have at least one of the casual tops and jeans now if you could, dear?” Celia nodded and took a step back to examine Elaine.
“What a lovely complexion you have!” she complimented then looked and caused bolt of a burgundy fabric with a paisley pattern in a subdued gold thread to unroll and float over to hold up against Elaine's cheek. “Is that hair natural? Oh please say it's a color! I'd love...”
Lanie smiled sheepishly. “Sorry.”
“Oh, it's just my luck,” the seamstress said with a chuckle. “And what a magnificent figure you have, stand up, dear, be proud of it!” She glanced over at a dress form that began to adjust itself to match the numbers on the pad. “I think perhaps a scalloped neck blouse with a bit of a ruffle at the bust to both flatter, and draw the eyes upward. Perhaps with slashed sleeves, what wonderful skin you have! And a gather at the left hip. The extra fabric will be able to expand out deal with the new size, what color is the fur?”
“It's very close to that burgundy you picked,” Mrs. Savage noted.
“Perfect!” Miss Rogers smiled. “Trust me dear, you will be stunning.”
May 4th, 2007
Melville Cottage, RM 803, Whateley Academy
Wyatt opened the door to his room to find a determined looking Steve Nalley staring at him, the tie of his uniform askew and sloppy in the manner of someone who obviously didn't like wearing a tie. Cody leaned against the post of his door frame and did try not to lord over the polo he got to wear as a senior. “Mr. Nalley, what can I do for you?”
“Why did you break up with Bridget Johnson?” the boy demanded.
Wyatt blinked, but otherwise kept his expression neutral. “That's none of your business, son.”
The younger man put his hands on his hips. “Let's be clear, Wyatt, I'm not your son, your buddy, or any other fucking little pet name you might come up with. I'm a big enough man to pony up to my mistakes and if I owe you an apology, I'll give it. But right now, all I want to know is if what you did matches up to what Bridget thinks you did. So either you're a right Joe, and I'm wrong, or you're a smooth bastard and we're about to fight because I'm going to tell you to stay away from sister or I'll feed you your fucking teeth.”
Steve was ready; the young man was mentally prepared threats, or obscenities, or even a leap straight to violence. What he wasn't ready for was a grin to spread across Wyatt's face and a look of clear approval to replace the neutral expression. “You know,” Wyatt said at last, “I was an only kid, I don't often regret it either. But I'd be damned proud to have had a brother like you. You're alright, Steve.” he stepped out and shut the door.
“Don't flatter me,” Nalley pressed, “and don't blow smoke, just answer the question.”
“I'm just headed to Crystal Hall,” Wyatt replied. “I can smell they've got some fresh French Toast out with my name on it. Why don't you join me?”
Steve reached out to grab the boy by the arm and stop him. Before he could, Wyatt had seized his wrist, stepped backwards and reversed his arm while using it to press him face first into the wall. It was the neatest arm bar reversal the younger Nalley had ever seen. “Uh,” he grunted, not in pain as much as surprise.
“Steve, you're being a good brother, and I respect you for that, but if you put hands on me, well, that will be unfortunate. We can have this conversation civil, or we can fight, your choice.” He released Steve's wrist and stepped back in a smooth motion that carried him out of retaliation range before Steve could capitalize on being free.
It was now obvious to him that he had not been lied to, Wyatt Cody was an extremely dangerous fighter. Nalley rubbed his wrist, somewhat needlessly and scowled at the older boy. “If you're messing with my sister we will fight, sport. And you probably will beat me, but you can take it to the bank I'll make you bleed for it.”
Wyatt grinned again. “Come on, let's get some breakfast. My treat.”
“Food is free,” Stephen reminded him.
Cody clapped him on the shoulder and used that to guide him towards the elevator lobby. “Ah, but the view isn't,” he told him. “This morning, you dine with the Alphas.” He pressed the button to call the car and when they were alone inside it he turned and said, “I broke up with Bridgett because she was terrified her parents would disown her if she brought a white man home. I don't mean worried about what they say, either, I mean nail biting, sleep loosing, 'you aren't our kid anymore,' terrified. I don't know her folks and I don't need to but that doesn't mean I'll wink at them being back bit, so if I hear that being spread...”
Stephen sighed. “I'm sorry,” he started with. “I've obviously misjudged you and for that I apologize. I hope you and Lanie...” he swallowed. “I hope you and Lanie are very happy together. But if you break her heart, I will break your face.” Steve extended his hand as the elevator doors opened on the ground floor of Melville.
With more solemnity that Steve would have expected, Wyatt took his hand and shook it, giving a firm hand shake and looking him dead in the eye. “It takes a big man to admit he's wrong,” Wyatt complimented. “I'd be proud to have a man like that as a friend of mine.”
“I'm not saying or doing anything to suck up to you, or score points,” Steve persisted.
“I get that,” Wyatt replied as they walked out the doors of Melville and began to follow the path towards the Crystal Hall. “Still, I call things like I see them and you've done right by your sister, Steve. That makes you a right guy in my book. How are things with you and Marty? Doing good I hope?”
Steve shrugged. “We're...progressing, I guess you could say. Marty's a good person and I'm really lucky to have somebody like her in my life.” Wyatt grinned.
“I know the feeling.”
Steve chuckled darkly. “Ok, I guess I walked into that one.”
Cody was gallant enough not to agree, but caught sight of another boy ahead of them, also in the polo shirt. “Hey Art! Wait up.”
The boy turned to reveal Arthur Smith. “Hey Wyatt, and Steve! Since when do you guys hang?”
Wyatt made a dismissive gesture. “Don't listen to the talk, Art, you know what a rumor mill this campus is! Say, I think I might have a solution to your Iron Star problem...” Cody clapped a hand on Steve's shoulder and urged him to keep up with the taller boys.
May 4th, 2007
Rogers' Fabric Boutique, Dunwich, NH
It may sound odd having so many examples of Miss Rogers' work on campus, but Elaine finally got why her stuff was in demand. The jeans were a stone washed, pale blue denim the way she liked and pulling them on was like pulling on a second skin. They didn't bind or pinch but they fit absolutely perfectly, bringing out the curve of her leg better than some hose she owned, while lifting, shaping and presenting her derriere in a perfect cradle. They were close down her legs to a cuff around her foot so they would slide effortlessly into boots, but not so close she couldn't wear socks and sneakers. She looked at the tri-folded full length mirror and boggled. Never had something so simple as a pair jeans made her so proud of her body.
In short, they were amazing.
While the jeans were amazing, the blouse was genius. It was full, and loose and comfortable, flowing and flirty while teasing with skin at the same time being so modest no one could find fault. But for being so comfortable and breezy, it didn't hide her figure at all, indeed, it actually put it on display, gathered at her hip in a way that was neither tawdry or prudish. She was a woman and she was beautiful yet even the most protective of fathers couldn't find fault with it.
Miss Rogers had been watching her reaction and the expression on her face was the sly look of a craftsman who had yet again exceeded their reputation and their customer's expectations. “You like it?” she asked coyly.
Elaine turned to look at her, radiant in excitement. “It's marvelous!” she exclaimed. “Mah waist, and mah ass, oh mah gawd! Look what it does for mah ass!”
Mrs. Savage was smiling the pleased smile of a parent who gave the best present at Christmas. “Alright, Elaine, let's try your other look.”
“Ah...” she started, but the felt Grizzly mentally hug her.
Just relax and call me, the voice whispered. Elaine closed her eyes and felt a thrill pass through her, a feeling of power and strength and yet also as if her spirit had hugged her tightly in affection. She opened her eyes and looked into the mirror.
The jeans had an expanding panels cleverly concealed in the inseam like the joining of the two halves of the fabric. They were just as close and flattering, save for an opening that let her tail out that was how the ass of the jeans expanded. The blouse was gathered with a strip of elastic fabric that now was stretched out, but not straining. The top was a midriff now, close against her fur, but not so close it caused her fur to ruffle up around it. The sleeves that had stopped at her wrists, now hung just below her elbows and the ruffled neckline had expanded to swallow her new, much larger breasts.
It wasn't nearly as modest as it had been, but it still managed to stay on the hot and she knows it side of the line between it and tramp.
Elaine looked into the mirror and cocked her hip to plant her hand on it. She certainly had no right to look as good in this form as she did and Celia Rogers deserved all the credit. “What ever you want for this, it's worth it,” she whispered.
“I'm sure we can come to an equitable agreement,” Celia replied. “After all, we Whitmaniacs have to stick together.”
“Hell yeah,” Lanie agreed, bumping fists with the seamstress.
“I thought you were going to move to Poe?” asked Mrs. Savage like a tiger springing on a gazelle. The bear girl looked at her for a bit, then wagged a finger in her direction.
“Is that what this is about?” she demanded in a direct manner that was unusual for her. “If you don't want me to leave, Mrs. Savage...?”
The House-Mother walked up to cock her head up at the young girl. “Elaine, I want you to decide what you want, not to have a knee jerk reaction.” She reached up and took the bear girl's hand in hers. “You will always be one of my girls, Elaine and of course I want you to be in Whitman if that's where you're happy. If you want to do this favor for Mrs. Horton next year, do it because that's what you want, not because you think you're not wanted. You are, honey, you are.”
Lanie reached down and with great care enveloped the tall blonde and a massive hug. “Mrs. Savage, you are the best!”
May 4th, 2007
The Crystal Hall, Dinner, Whateley Academy
Friday night dinners were always the most raucous. The weekend was getting started, with the scattered exception of a couple of kids with late night or Saturday classes, it was sweet freedom until Monday. Lanie had continued to wear the outfit Miss Rogers had made and gotten a number of compliments from girls she was friendly with and some appreciative stares from boys and was feeling wonderful. She'd picked a Caesar Salad with a sirloin cut into chucks in it and some of the fresh baked bread sticks and sweet tea while Wyatt had claimed a kings portion of Prime Rib and a potato that must have been the pride of Ireland that he was busy stuffing butter, sour cream, cheese, bacon and chives and God only knew what else into. Elaine had been reaching for the butter spoon on the cold bar when another hand closed on it first and she ended up grabbing that hand.
“Oh, Ah'm sorry,” she started and then turned with a start. “Debra!” she exclaimed, hugging the older blonde.
“Lanie?” Cornflower asked, somewhat shocked. “Look at you!” She returned the hug and grinned as they stepped back. “Goodness have you blossomed! How's my favorite photographer?”
“Missing mah favorite model!” Lanie replied with a grin. “Mother Nature gave me a present last summer. Though Ah figured there's no way Ah can compete for the Vogue photography medal without you, so Ah've been doing other stuff.”
“Oh no!” Debra exclaimed. “You have such a good eye!”
“Lanie?” asked Kayda as she walked up with her tray. “I guess you and Deb really do know each other!”
Elaine smirked as she reached for the butter and put some in a portion cup for her bread. “What, did you think Ah was lying to ya?” she teased. “Mr. Parker paired Deb with me.”
“You know that picture of me on the beach with the dog that's pulling my bikini bottom down?” Deb asked Kayda. She nodded eagerly.
“Like the old sun tan lotion ad, that's my favorite poster of you!” Her eyes glazed over a bit and her smile became lecherous. “You look so innocent and naughty at the same time...!”
“Ah took that picture,” Lanie told her with a grin as she gave the butter spook back to Cornflower.
“Get your due!” Cornflower scolded. “You thought the whole shoot up!”
“Hey, Deb!” greeted Wyatt as he came over. “Long time no see! What brings you out East?”
“Visiting my aunt in Boston,” she replied. “She's fighting breast cancer and sometimes the Chemo gives her trouble. And since I was so close while she was spending a couple of days with her husband's family I thought I'd run up here and see everyone.”
Lanie winked at Kayda, “Some, more than others,” she said. The two blushed and looked at their significant others. At the same time they started, “Maybe we should talk...” and stopped, looking sheepish and worried.
“Sure,” Wyatt said after a long moment, picking up his tray and Lanie's. “Right this way, Ladies.” He led them over to a secluded table near the waterfall. Like most of the ground floor tables, it was empty as the school was still sorting out the new pecking orders on the tiers. That left this private nook by the waterfall which ensure they won't be over heard. “What's going on?” he asked as he sat and covered his prime rib in A1.
Kayda sighed and shot a glance at Elaine before she turned to Debra. “We...we have something to tell you,” she managed finally. “Both of you, really.”
Debra arched an eyebrow. “Be careful you don't talk out of turn,” she cautioned.
Wyatt cleared his mouth and shook his head. “I know Lanie is Bi.” Cornflower's eyes darted between her and Wyatt and she smirked.
“Wyatt Cody, you never cease to surprise me!” she declared. “What is that, three?”
The big man actually blushed and grinned. “Lanie really came after me,” he admitted with a grin. “Don't know how I'll ever get my ego back in its box.” This caused Kayda to cock her head in confusion and turn back to her girlfriend.
Debra leaned close in a conspiratorial manner. “Wyatt is such a man's man he's actually coaxed girls out of the Sisterhood.” Kayda blushed deeply an her eyes went to her plate in embarrassment. “Now, what is it you two want to tell Cody and Me?” she asked cautiously.
“We haven't done anything,” Elaine assured her.
“Yet,” Kayda whispered. Lanie winced and nodded her admission to the proviso.
“I...see,” Cornflower said slowly. Turning to Kayda, she asked. “You're attracted to Elaine, Kayda?” The Lakota girl's skin significantly darker than normal because of her blush. Finally, her eyes fixed on her plate, she forced herself to nod. Debra looked over at Elaine and instantly the red head's skin went scarlet too. “Oh, I see, and there's no point in asking Lanie, I know her tastes and you are right up her alley. So, are you asking me for permission to carry on with Elaine while I'm back in Sioux Falls?”
“No!” Kayda cried plaintively.
A sly look came across Debra's face. “Oh, so you're having second thoughts about being a lesbian and you want to try out Wyatt?” Kayda's face shot up, going almost white from the color draining out of it while Wyatt choked on his beverage and had a coughing fit. Debra pretended not to notice and blithely continued. “Well, from what I've heard you couldn’t ask for a better 'trial run' so to speak. Wyatt is known for being...remarkable...that way. You probably ought to ask Lanie's permission first though.”
“I'm not asking that!” Kayda exclaimed. “I'm not even tempted...!”
“No?” Debra asked with a smile. “Goodness, I was...”
“You were?” Wyatt demanded and instantly regretted it from the loud smack of Elaine punching his arm.
“Is there anybody in this school you haven't slept with?” she demanded with mostly mock peevishness. Debra raised her hand and wiggled her eyebrows.
“Though, not for a lack of trying on his part,” Debra said then turned back to her girlfriend. She reached up and brushed a few stray hairs from her eyes. “Kayda, I don't own you, and I won't ever be jealous because you see someone and have a reaction. That's perfectly normal.”
“I want to be with you!” Kayda exclaimed.
“And Ah love Wyatt,” Lanie added. “It's just...”
Kayda sighed. “It's just, we...we happen. I didn't want you to think I was sneaking behind your back. I want to be friends with Lanie, and yes, I have to be honest, I am attracted to her, but I love you.”
Debra smiled. “And I love you, sweetheart. And I trust you. Both of you,” she added. “I can't speak for Wyatt, but I do appreciate you both being honest about this.”
The big senior rubbed his chin. “You know, Deb, maybe...maybe we should give them a lark. I mean, now they'll be the 'girl they didn't score with' or something.”
“You want...?” asked Debra with a raised eyebrow. He sighed and shook his head.
“Want?” he asked, his face stony. “What I want is to have somebody I can punch.” There was a soft pop and Tatanka was suddenly by the table, his eyes blazing and his breath in gassy snorts. “Back off, mighty whitey,” the senior growled. “I won't hit her, that's not how I roll. But you? I'll turn you into steaks the mood I'm in.”
The beast made a sound almost like a chuckle and sat with a thump on the tiled floor. Wyatt sighed again and fixed his gaze on Debra. “What I want is to be a fucking Neanderthal. I want to drag Lanie by the hair into a cave and take a club to anybody who doesn't like it. I want to shout out this is my bitch and keep your fucking hands off. But I'm all civilized and shit so I don't do any of that.”
“Thank God,” chuckled Cornflower.
Wyatt shrugged. “I dunno, I'd probably look pretty good in a cheetah skin.” The two shared a laugh at what was probably some kind of 'in' joke between them. Finally Wyatt turned to Elaine and Kayda, his face stony again. “But more than anything else, I want Lanie to be happy. Happy with me and the choices she's made. And if she needs to have sex with you to do that, well, hell, here's the key to my dorm room,” he said dropping it on the table. “Just get it out of your systems.”
“No!” the two girls said together.
“Besides, Ah love you!” Lanie protested. “Ah made mah choice!”
“Just because I'm attracted to Elaine doesn't mean we have to act on it!” Kayda declared. “We can be friends and not have sex!”
Debra smirked and raised an eyebrow. “That's funny considering how uptight and absolutely dead set you were that you hated Loophole not two weeks ago.”
“Hated?” demanded Lanie. Wyatt looked back and forth between Kayda and Lanie with a confused expression on his face, much to Debra's bemusement.
Kayda sighed, seeing it had to be hashed out again. "I ... sort of prejudged Lanie from all the talk I heard - how she's a Gadgeteer Goddess, the Lab Queen, and so on," Kayda admitted sheepishly. "It was ... intimidating, because ... I ... felt pretty inadequate. I used to do a lot of tinkering back home, and," she looked down, blushing from embarrassment at how she'd overreacted, "I didn't figure I'd ever get any respect in the labs. Not compared to how people talk about Lanie. I ... kind of felt like one of the things I was good at was ... taken away, because I," she paused and gulped at the shameful admission, "I couldn't be the best, or even in the same league."
Lanie's hand patted Kayda's, causing both Debra's and Wyatt's eyebrows to lift. "It's okay, Kayda," she reassured her friend. "Ah know how you felt, and now you know Ah would never try to deliberately humiliate you or try to make you feel second-best."
Kayda looked up into her friend's eyes gratefully. "I know. Now." She swallowed the lump and continued, turning to look the big senior in the eye. “Wyatt, I'm not trying to...how did you put it, Elaine? Poach?” The red head nodded. “I'm not trying to poach Elaine. She kept me safe at the hot tub because of Rosalyn...”
Wyatt frowned. “Rosalyn? Rosalyn Dekkard?” She nodded and his eyebrows acceded his forehead. “Super tramp was coming after you and didn't score?”
“Full court press,” groused Kayda to an amused chuckle from Debra.
Wyatt guffawed and shook his head. “We have nothing to worry about,” he told Debra with a smile. Debra reached over and hugged Kayda while Wyatt did the same to Elaine.
“I never thought we did.”
May 4th, 2007
Arena 77, tunnels between Schuster Hall and Doyle Medical , Whateley Academy
Tabitha smiled as she crouched in the gap between the air conditioner unit and the water tower on the roof. One or the other of them had set the simulator to have a light, but constant breeze blowing in her face from the 'east' as the arena built the skyline of New York. One or the other them meant to try and sneak up on her from 'downwind.' She had to grudgingly admire the children, they were determined to one up her, mostly due to Mrs. Carson still having her touch after all these years.
As if she'd ever promise a student something she didn't have every intention of giving them.
Still, Tabitha could remember those days, could remember the awe and in some cases justifiable terror she had held Elizabeth Carson with. She looked, Marty was to her right somewhere playing hound to Stephens hunter. He would be laying in wait somewhere ahead and to the right and Marty was diligently herding her that way. Tonight was a pursuit scenario; catch the bad gal before she got away. She'd honestly expected more flak from them when she'd informed them they only had twenty minutes to catch her before she 'got away'.
Tabby Cat frowned, suddenly getting an inspiration from her gut. They were planning something, something beyond Marty herding her to...
Her intuition pulled again and Tabby moved, ducking and rolling right as a heavy looking wooden crate burst to pieces against and wrecked the AC unit, right where she had been a moment before. For once, Marty had resisted the urge to monologue and had led with an attack, excellent!
Tabby Cat snatched the biggest chunk of the destroyed crate from the air and hurled it back in the direction she felt Marty was. She heard the wood bounce off a skull and a muffled curse as she drew a pair of batons and snapped them out to their full length. She perry-ed the attack of a dark shadow, too nondescript to know if it was Marty or Stephen, and they both suddenly had dark uniforms when they'd been quite bright in the briefing. Interesting.
When the attack failed, the form used the momentum to carry on past, not standing to go toe to toe. Why became apparent when she dodged a new ranged attack, this time from the left. They were tag teaming, mixing range and close to keep her off balance. Remarkable what growth in just a week...
Tabby couldn't finish the thought as an ear splitting whistle in the range the vast majority of humans couldn't hear indicated they had been studying hard and were attacking her with sonics. Her brain quickly pinched off her hearing and back flipped, trying to move in a way they didn't want. They didn't follow up instantly on the sonic attack so they must want to be stealthy now.
Another rapid, in close physical attack, this time a kick, she blocked and instead of recoiling away she charged down the roof where the figure had just come from. This was down wind, whatever their little surprise, it was likely this way. Behind her a muffled curse and a launched industrial pallet but she slid under a handy AC that took the hit for her.
She stood up as her intuition was screaming at her. She jerked backwards as she saw an arrow with a blunt tip that exploded like an airbag into, of all things, a boxing glove that zipped by where her head at just been. Tabby's head snapped around in the direction the arrow had come from and saw a woman in the shadows on the far roof, a dark body stocking and enough bulges to suggest some kind of belt or harness. “Who, the hell, are you?” she whispered as she rolled into a better position to thwart her aim.
For a split second her intuition screamed about danger from above then a net fell on her as she tried to dodge but couldn't move far enough. It was weighted at the edges and sticky like a spider web, so that the more she tried to free herself, the more entrapped she became. Marty and Steve landed, grins from ear to ear on their faces. “Caught!” Declared Steve, “in a S.T.A.R. League Man Catcher.”
“Oh the delicious Irony!” chortled Marty.
“Very amusing,” she admitted as she pressed a button on her belt and the net dissolved. The two came set but she raised a hand. “Easy! I concede, though I see we need to have a conversation about rules and cheating.” She looked up to the sky. “End Program!” she ordered.
The lights came up and New York faded away. Tabitha turned and made a beckoning motion to the third player now obvious in the room. “Starting with who are you?”
The girl, in a dark, dark red body suit with a quiver of arrows at her hip, a belt with pouches and a sheepish grin walked over. “Uh, Loophole, ma'am,” she greeted.
“Bullshit,” the teacher declared. “I've read Loophole's file and you are nothing like her. Who are you?” She reached up to pull off her mask, but Tabitha stopped her. “Not in here, Out side, all of you.”
She herded the children to the hallway and made sure the arena door was closed before she turned back. “Now, you can never be too careful in those things. Answer the question.”
Lanie reached up and pulled the mask down around her neck. “Ah am Loophole, ma'am. Though, in this outfit Ah went as Wicked.”
“I see, and you inserted yourself, why?”
“I asked her to,” Steve told her. He reached up and tapped the plate on his chest and the darkened version of the costume he was wearing went back to it's original colors. The others did the same, though 'Wicked' used a control on her gauntlet. The legs of her leotard seemed to disappear but this close she could tell that although color was very good, they did not quite match her skin tone though the error was very subtle. And from dark red it lightened considerably to crimson.
“Interesting trick,” she admired. “Who did that?”
“It was a combined effort,” Lanie told her. “Mah coding and Compiler's nanites.”
Mrs. Turner turned back to Steve. “You want to tell me why you involved your sister?”
The young man crossed his arms over his too well for his age developed chest in annoyance. “Oh, you can ass pull adamantium claws for a villain as 'research' but heroes can't team up? Is that what the co-founder of STAR League is saying?”
Mrs. Turner smirked. “Mr. Nalley, what is it about me that challenges your manhood? Do you talk to your other teachers this way? How have you avoided being expelled?”
“The ad hominem is the last resort of those without logic to argue,” he shot back. “And you're not one of my teachers, Mrs. Turner, you're the other participant of a bet with the Headmistress of my school. Who, I will add, I'm doing everything in my power to defeat.”
“Hey, Steve,” Marty cautioned, laying a hand on his shoulder. “Tone it down some, big guy.”
Mrs. Turner pursed her lips. “Alright, we'll do this the hard way. Monday morning you will have a five thousand word paper on the dangers of escalation in high stress situations.” His face suffused with blood, but he held his tongue. “As an object lesson to inspire your best work,” she turned to Elaine. “Wicked, huh? That sounds like a villain's name. So, Miss Nalley, you now have a week of detention, to be served one day at time at my discretion.”
“Which,” Mrs. Turner interrupted, “You will spend as the partner of the villainess your brother and his girlfriend face. And if I suspect for a moment you aren't doing your very best to defeat them we will change your punishment to a week of in school suspension. Enjoy your victory, Mr. Nalley. I think you'll find it a Pyrrhic one. Monday,” she growled. “Not one word less than five thousand and yes I will count them.” She spun on her heel and began to stalk away, but his voice stopped her.
“Count them now!” he retorted, as she slowly turned and walked back temper coiled like a spring at its breaking point as he crossed his arms over his chest in defiance. “The number is zero! You're not one of my teachers and you don't have the authority to give me detention, extra assignments or anything else. And that goes double for my sister! You want to settle things in the simulator, after you!” he declared, with a mocking half bow and a you first gesture to the door. “But I'm not writing one word!”
Mrs. Turner actually hissed, a very cat-like sound, she was so angry. “Oh we'll settle this alright!” she said coldly and pointed in the opposite direction of the simulator. “The headmistress' office! Now!”
May 4th, 2007
Headmistress' Office, Schuster Hall, Whateley Academy
Mrs. Carson stood at the window of her office in the corner, in a gesture she was very conscious of mimicking Dr Alexander, her predecessor in the post she held. She had listened, implacably staring out the window at the Crystal Hall at the fixers holding court on the patio, wondering how many of the deals were perfectly innocent, if not exactly above board, and how many would result in visits to her office, or worse. Finally the shouting behind her had subsided and an uneasy silence settled on the room and she sighed feeling her years in a way she very seldom did. “I began teaching here, in 1973,” she said in an off hand manner, still watching the courtyard below her. “In that time I've felt many, many different emotions about my students, pride in their accomplishments, disappointment in their short comings. Vicarious thrills at their triumphs and very personal heartbreaks at their failures, twice I've been horrified that I could misjudge a student so badly, and not see the monster they would become. I have felt pity, and embarrassment and more than once I've been chagrined about situations I've found myself in.”
She turned and walked over to Stephen, Prada heels clicking on the hardwood and in them she was actually taller than the young man. She looked down on him over the top of her glasses, her eyes and voice tight in control. “But I have never, ever been ashamed of one of my students until now. And if I am ashamed of you, Mr. Nalley, I truly wonder how your mother would feel, should I call her and explain to her the situation you have put me in.”
The defiance flowed out of Stronghold and he hung his head. “I'm sorry...” he started, but her finger snapped up under his nose.
“Don't speak,” she ordered. “I can barely contain how furious I am with you, Mr. Nalley, that you would treat a guest of this school, brought in especially for your benefit in this way. If I were your mother I would slap the sass and likely a tooth or two out of your mouth! I have never, in my thirty four years as an educator, been so completely and utterly humiliated. Is this what has become of southern manhood that you would entertain the notion you could address a lady and a teacher in this way?”
“She hurt Marty!” he growled softly, eyes still on the carpet before he raised them to look into hers. “On purpose! She used a weapon intending to cause her physical harm!”
Mrs. Carson stepped back, her hands flat at her side and a twitch passed through her shoulder as if it wanted to raise her arm the better to strike with. “You have exactly five seconds to convince me of that outrageous claim, and if you fail you will spend the next week in a cell in Kane Hall while I make up my mind whether or not to expel you.”
“She brought a set of adamantium claws into the simulator last Saturday and made sure Banded Aides was waiting outside! She's never done that before or since and so she must have meant to inflict harm just to prove a point!”
Mrs. Carson's eyes flicked over to Mrs Turner and as she read something in the younger woman's expression they widened slightly in a look of shock before her face became stony. “The three of you go out to the office and sit on the bench until I come for you,” she commanded. “Shut the door after you.”
The three young people filed out and the door shut. “Well, that sucked,” groused Marty as she threw herself onto the bench. After a long moment of silence she made up her mind and speared her boyfriend with a cross look. “Jesus, Steve, what the hell?”
“You didn't tell me Marty was injured,” Lanie added. “How badly?”
“It was nothing,” Mega Girl quickly said, but Stronghold shook his head.
“No, Marty, don't lie for that bitch!” He turned to his sister and illustrated on his own arm. “Four deep cuts here. There was so much blood I thought her artery had been severed and she'd bleed out!”
Lanie turned and fixed her gaze on Marty. Again, another long pause drew out, Elaine's ears straining to hear what might be being said in the office, but it's sound proofing was state of the art. Finally the blonde shrugged. “Yeah, ok I guess they were pretty deep, but so what? Banned Aides...”
“If she brought a weapon she knew would penetrate your field and used it, that's not training,” Elaine declared. “That's assault with a deadly, at least! An anti-mutant ADA could probably make a go at attempted malice murder! If you had done that to her you'd be looking at expulsion and a DPA Van ride to jail!”
“What's the big deal?” demanded Marty, right as the door opened and Mrs. Carson came out.
“The big deal, Miss Penn, is that either the rules apply to everyone or there cannot be justice.” She gestured and they walked back, noting an extremely contrite Mrs. Turner as they did so. The door was shut again and Mrs. Carson walked back to her desk. “Tabitha?” she invited.
“Miss Penn, please accept my apologies for the incident with your injury last week.” Marty watched the teacher speak, her mouth open in shock. “No matter what my motives were I should never have considered what occurred.”
A silence fell until Marty realized everyone was waiting to hear her answer. “Uh, sure...sure Mrs. Turner, no big deal.”
She nodded. “You're very kind.”
“Mr. Nalley,” Mrs Carson asked. “Did you assault Mrs. Turner after a training simulation had ended?”
Stronghold took in a deep breath and let it out through his nose. “Yes, Mrs. Carson; I did. I was sorely provoked, but yes I did attack Mrs. Turner.” He turned to the teacher bowed. “My apologies for that, ma'am. I should have kept my temper and in the future I will endeavor to do so.”
Mrs. Carson sat her desk and drummed her fingers. “You realize you have just admitted to an expulsion offense, do you not, Mr. Nalley?” she asked as Elaine gasped in fear.
Stronghold stood up straight. “A man owns up to what he's done, ma'am. Good and bad.”
The Headmistress' stony expression on her face cracked and she actually smiled. Not a slim little ironic smile, or a polite 'that was funny, but I'm too mature to laugh' smile, but an actual warm smile of a teacher who's just been made proud of her student. “Perhaps you can be salvaged,” she admitted. “Since you're in such an honest mood, tell me where this antagonism of Mrs. Turner comes from.”
The boy had the grace to look chagrined and a bit hang dog. “At first, ma'am, I was just dead set to prove her wrong and win your bet for you.”
“You realize this 'bet' was merely a work of fiction to encourage performance?” she asked.
He shrugged. “Oh sure. You strike me as far too savvy a woman to make a bet on something you can't directly control the outcome of.” A look of respect at the logic flowed across Mrs. Carson's face before it settled back into her stern, 'you're in trouble' expression. It was a kinder, gentler version of the expression that she wore as Lady Astarte about to distribute Justice to those who would not respect the Law.
Steve continued contritely. “Then it just seemed like nothing Mrs. Turner threw at Marty and I was fair...”
“Marty and me,” the former English Teacher corrected. “It's confusing, I know. Because you're commenting on what a third person did to you and Miss Penn the phrase constitutes what is called a gerund, which can behave as a noun or a verb in a sentence. I'll explain it further later. Continue.”
He nodded. “Well, I understand that she had to establish herself as someone to take seriously and earn our respect, it's just after that, most teachers will let you win a bit. Start finding stuff you did right and commenting on that. Heck, Mrs. Carson, you even had nice things to say about what we did in New York! But Mrs Turner acted like she was taking it personally, like it really was a bet and she was going to grind our noses down. It got under my skin and when she slashed Marty's arm, that was kind of the last straw. I might be wrong, but I am not sure we could have gotten Marty to Doyle fast enough the rate she was bleeding. If Banned Aides hadn't been there...” He trailed off and mastered himself again.
“I don't present this as an excuse ma'am. But you asked where it came from and I guess that was it.”
“And you involved Miss Nalley because?”
“I needed to surprise her, catch her with something she couldn't anticipate because she had our number pretty good. Heroes team up all the time, I figured it was fair.”
“You might make the case it was justified,” she replied with a smile, “but not fair.” She drummed her fingers on her desk for a moment while she thought and finally made a decision. “There is plenty of fault to go around here. Mr. Nalley, I am disappointed in your behavior, but now that I have the full story I apologize to you for saying I was ashamed of you. You could have handled things better, but I am, in fact, quite proud of how you have stood here like a man, admitted your faults and defended what you believed was defensible as violations of your principals.”
“Thank you, ma'am, and I'll do my best to see that the next time you have nice things to tell me, you don't have to hang provisos on them.”
Mrs. Carson grinned. “We'll see. So, let us formalize things so we are now all on the same page. Mrs. Turner is one of your teachers and you will pay her every respect and courtesy you extend to any other member of this faculty.”
“She does have the authority to give you detention and extra assignments.” She turned and looked at the more than a little embarrassed Mrs. Turner. “Tabitha, I believe we can call the issue on escalation lesson learned?”
“Yes, Mrs. Carson, I believe so.”
“Tabitha, you are a guest lecturer at this school, and a good friend. You have not been my student for a...well, we'll call it a sufficient amount of time. My name is Liz to you.” Mrs. Turner beamed and nodded.
“Th...Thank you, Liz.”
“So, Mr. Nalley, no term paper for you this weekend.” She paused dramatically. “This time; next time it will be ten thousand words.”
Mrs. Carson stood and walked around her desk to stand in front of Elaine. “That just leaves you, Miss Nalley. First, I commend you on the work you did for this 'stealth mode' as you call it on the costumes. Is it difficult to add to a garment or must it be 'engineered' from garment creation that way?”
Lanie frowned, confused. “Ah added it to the Wicked costume,” she said. “It's just impregnating fabric with Bab's photo-color nanites, a control chip and a nine volt battery.”
“What do you want to add it to a costume?” The expression of confusion on Elaine's face was priceless. Mrs. Carson smiled. “I'll pay both of you two thousand dollars each to add it to one of my Lady Astarte uniforms.”
“Mrs. Carson, you don't have to...”
The Headmistress shook her head. “No, Miss Nalley, I do have to, because part of being Headmistress is making sure you never even accidentally take advantage of a student in your care. “Is that an agreeable price?” She nodded, mystified. “Excellent. “I'll deliver the uniform for alteration Monday morning. Now, we come to the matter of you assisting Mrs. Turner. If you assist Mrs. Turner for the rest of the semester I will give you one PE credit hour.”
“Three,” she answered instantly.
Carson smirked. “Two, and not a minute further.” They shook hands. “I will expect nothing but your best,” she cautioned. Elaine nodded. The Headmistress turned and looked at the group before her. “Now, I think four of you should go find a quiet corner in the Crystal Hall, I'd recommend the Faculty dais on the third tier, Tabitha, sit down and work out your interpersonal problems. Otherwise you, Miss Penn and Mr. Nalley, aren't learning anything and you Tabitha are just wasting your time. Because if something like this happens again, I doubt I'll be so reasonable or forgiving.”
“Yes ma'am,” the students chorused.
May 4th, 2007
Rm 216, Whitman Cottage, Whateley Academy
Elaine was happy to finally get back to her room. She was glad that her brother and Mrs. Turner seemed to be sorting themselves out, but it was Friday night and she had places to go and people to do. She had enough time to get presentable, and get over to Melville before lights out for her date with Wyatt, but there was no sense being cavalier about it. The sooner she arrived, well, the better all around. She sighed, steeling herself before entering the room. Not wanting to be alone in this room was one of many reasons she intended to spend the night somewhere else. Her key let her into the room, but in it there was something of a surprise.
For starters, the light was on, where as she had left it off. Maggie's bed was made with a simple, but comfortable looking set of plaid sheets, pillow case and what looked like a goose down comforter she had never seen before. The wardrobe was closed and a brand new laptop with some kind of huge old phone on top of it was on the desk with a clutter of unpacked items all in a jumble. On the walls were several posters of bands, most of whom Lanie didn't recognize, the labeled ones had names like Pearl Jam, Wheezer and the Dave Matthews Band. She walked over and looked at the 'phone' before she started in surprise.
“It's a Palm Pilot 1!” she exclaimed.
“Yeah, so retro, right?” asked voice behind her. Lanie spun to see a tallish blonde girl with shocking blue eyes and a square, honest face holding a box of what appeared to be personal items. “I'm hoping they'll come back, I loved that thing.” The blonde shifted the box to one arm and stuck out a hand. “We kind of have and haven't met,” she said. “Shelly Wells-Carson.”
“Elaine,” she sputtered, taking the hand. “Elaine Nalley, mah friends call me Lanie.”
Shelly grinned as she came in and set the box down on the bed. “Pleasure to finally to get meet you, Lanie,” she said with a grin. “Oh, don't get used to my look, the egg heads aren't sure if I'm going to still have MATD or not, so it might change.”
“Why are you in mah room?” she asked.
“Well, I was kind of here first,” Shelly said with a smile. She shrugged. “I got out of ARC a couple of weeks ago, did the bonding thing with mom over at Whateley House and now I'm looking to get back into the swing of things. I don't actually start until next year, but I wanted a bit of a welcome home. And come to find out Mrs. Harker still had all my stuff in storage! She didn't have the heart to throw it away...oh, right, you don't know her because she retired. Mrs. Harker was the House-Mother before Mrs. Savage.”
Shelly grinned and shook her head. “Sorry, babbling. Anyway, I heard my old room had an opening and here I am.”
“Did your mother put you up to this?” Lanie asked flatly.
The smile faded off Shelly's face. “I'm not my mom's spy,” she said flatly. “You don't have to take my word for it, look it up, I was here, though actually I had your side of the room, but I won't ask you to move just for me. I hope we can be friends, Lanie, because it's really awkward being a bitch to one of the people responsible for bringing you back from the dead and all.”
“Ah lost mah best friend...” she started and Shelly raised both hands in defense.
“And I'm not looking to replace her!” she said quickly. She sighed as she dug out a photograph of herself in the Crystal Hall. She was sitting at a table with two other people and a small crowd hanging around. In front of her was a cake. “All of my friends are almost thirty and surprisingly enough don't want to hang out with a teenager. Sounds to me like we could both use a friend.”
She shook her head. “God, you'd think this shit would change,” she groused. “Yes, I am the Headmistress' daughter, and no I'm not looking to score points with my mother telling tales. You've been here two years, do you really think my mom the super heroine from the forties has any kind of tolerance for a tattle tale? But, ok, you need me to prove my chops, here ya go, mom is hip deep in your shit. She knows you're banging the senior over in Melville. Congrats by the way! What a slice of beef cake!”
Lanie opened her mouth to argue, but Shelly held up her hand to make her pause. “Oh, I'm not done. While my mom cares about every kid here, there's like four or five dozen kids that are 'on her list' as she puts it. And we're not talking about the Headmistress' Honors List either. But before you think if you can't blend in to the crowd of the school, you'll blend in on the list, don't. Nobody multitasks like my mom between her photographic memory and a 'gut for trouble' that's never let her down, you can count on her being in your business till you graduate. And while she complains about that list a lot, when she thought I couldn't hear her, your name comes up a lot. She may not want her daughter to be a tattle tale, but she's not above using a spy. While I'm not the spy, she does has some girl watching you, and giving reports. I heard them talking a couple of times in her office, though I never saw her come or go, so no I don't know who she is. I will say her voice is pretty distinct so if you 'introduce me around' I'll see if I can't figure it out just from that, but somebody you think is a friend, isn't. Now, are we going to be pals?”
Lanie smiled and shook her head. She wanted to rage about whoever it was that had betrayed her, but there was no point in having a fit. And while she wasn't the type to be instantly trusting, her gut told her Shelly seemed trustworthy and she decided she would give her the chance to prove herself. If for no other reason to get a better idea who this false friend was. “Ah have to get ready to go have a slice of mah beef cake, but Ah have a little time, you need help unpacking?” The girls hugged and bent over the box on the bed to empty it.
May 4th, 2007
The Hallow Realm of Grizzly, The March of Dreams
Grizzly settled back in the hot tub and sighed in contentment.
She wore the form of a human being, nestled up against a just as human Kodiak, parts of her pleasantly sore, all of her tingling from his attentions, a glass of icy cold champagne in her hand. Life, she decided was good. The tartly sweet bubbly washed over her tongue as her mate sensed her contentment and chuckled. “Of all the times I love seeing you,” he said, leaning down to kiss the top of her head. “I think my favorite is you like you are now, freshly loved and content.”
She smiled and rubbed against his side. “They don't call it after glow for nothing,” she agreed. She laid her head on his shoulder and looked up at him. “I want to watch it again,” she murmured.
“Again?” he demanded aghast. “Lord above, woman and you call me obsessed?”
“You've been bonded with the boy for eighteen years, I haven't ridden a human in twice that!” she countered. She took another sip and held up her empty flute for him to refill. “I'd forgotten how wonderful the world can feel, how a body can drive and push at you and how the little span of days in a life time can make things so important.”
He chuckled darkly as he filled his own flute and returned the bottle to the ice bucket by the tub they had agreed would be their reality. “You put on this gruff, no nonsense, battle hardened shell,” he observed. “The jaded nurse, nothing gets to her, she's seen it all, but you're really just a closet romantic with a closet full of bodices you want ripped off!”
“Hmmm,” she said around her sip, obviously tipsy. “I always was a cheap date.”
“Hogwash, I've been paying for meeting you for millennia.” He smiled as she looked up and kissed her forehead. “Maybe someday I'll be able to afford you.”
“Did Aunghadhail really tell you to court me?”
“She was quite taken with you,” He replied. “There aren't many who could stare her down and actually be competent. And you, my lovely lady, are not merely competent, you're exceptional.”
“I'm more than half drunk and you're complimenting me,” she warned him. “Keep on you'll be very sore tomorrow.”
“I should live so long,” he laughed.
“I want to see it again,” she insisted. He looked down on her, her dark eyes glistening and endless and yet again they worked their magic on him.
“Fine,” he conceded. He made a gesture and reality opened before them. The March of Dreams parted and in the soft moonlight a pair of figures lay on a bed, one a strapping young man, the other a red headed lass who was his equal using his shoulder as a pillow as they both drifted in the March, spent and at peace. Time itself shimmered and spent candles unwound to provide a soft, warm glow. The spirits trembled as their hosts for a split second of eternity became one, sharing a searing kiss that each lover poured their cries of passion into the other least they be discovered.
Finally the moment passed and she laid her body on his, her face nestled in the hollow of his neck where she whispered, “Ah love you, Wyatt.”
His arms encircled her and held her tightly against him as he kissed her forehead and stared at his ceiling. “My love, I wish I was as smart as you are,” he told her softly.
She raised her head to look at him, curious. “Maybe if you didn't pretend to be dumb so hard...?” she teased him. He grinned and poked her nose gently with his index finger.
“Even if I went and got me one of them fancy pee atch dees I couldn't think of no way to tell you how much I'm love'n you!” he declared, affecting a thick hill billy accent. “Why, when you're here, I'm happier than a pig in shit! It's like...like NASCAR on Christmas!”
“You better find you some smarts quick you hill billy, everybody knows the only race on Christmas is to the drug store to get batteries!” The shared a laugh as she laid back down and he began to rub her back.
“I wish, baby, I wish I could find the words,” he said, back in his normal manner of speech. “If I was a poet I could write a poem about how perfectly you feel against me, or how I feel when you look at me and smile or even how much I like to hear you snore into my chest...”
“Ah don't snore!” she protested with mock outrage, rearing up on the bed so that her hair and her breasts hung over him. He grinned.
“Fine, how much I like to hear you breath loudly in a rhythmic manner in your sleep, how's that?”
“If Ah wasn't so comfortable Ah would hit you,” she told him with a sly smile. He reached up and pulled her gently back down against him and returned to rubbing her back.
“I'd probably like that too,” he said with a dark chuckle. Then he sobered and turned his head so he could see her. “It's just, when you were in that coma, I realized how close I'd come to loosing you. I thought of every way I could say this, or do it. Some way just in this to show you what you mean to me, but I couldn't think of anything better than to be naked, to show you I have nothing to hide, to have made love to you, so you can feel how desperately I love you, and with us still joined, to show you how I want to spend the rest of my life.”
“Wyatt...?” she whispered.
His right hand came out from under the pillow where he had hidden a small, dark box that he opened one handed where she could see it. The light of the candles caught like stars and bathed her face from deep within the stone inside the box as her unnaturally green eyes went wide in surprise and shock. “So this is how much I love you Elaine Nalley,” he told her. “I'm all in. Will you?”
Her mouth moved, but no sound came out as for once she had been struck speechless. Her eyes bounced back and forth from the box and its captured star to his face, so full of fear and hope. The eyes filled with tears that over flowed and ran down her cheeks. Finally, she realized he was waiting for an answer and she forced her head to nod. He took her hand and gave the captive star its new home.
In the March of Dreams, a pair of champagne flutes clicked together. “To a successful conspiracy,” Grizzly toasted.
“So far,” he chuckled and the spirits kissed.