Disclaimer: Valdemar and concepts belong to Mercedes Lackey; this fic and original characters belong to their author.
BROTHERS AT ARMS
Chapter Seven: Revelations of the ineloquent kind. (Way to go, Harlan.)
When Nova and I arrived back at Healers, Kenna was fully clothed again—or so I had to assume.
Both boys were substantially unamused.
Hugely. Monstrously. Enormously. Un. A. Mused.
I stood in the front doorway, poking my head into the building, trying to decide if I should venture in or not.
It wasn't that I was really worried about what the Healers would say if I wandered into their building; the doors in the various wings of the Collegium were specifically built to accommodate a Companion's bulk, should the need arise, and though I'd never been into any of the buildings myself, I certainly knew others who had.
Teague, for example…
The thing was that I was getting fairly strong I'm going to kill you vibes from Morgan, probably because I had abandoned him during his somewhat—ahem—harrowing experience, moments before. It made me glad, for once, that he wasn't Gifted with ThoughtProjecting.
And I was honestly kind of afraid of what he might do to me if I ventured inside.
At least I didn't have to face them alone. I turned to look behind me, where Nova was poking through a sprouting of wildflowers, which were growing in patches along the edge of the fence that surrounded the property. She was obviously not paying attention, despite how amused she had been when I told her what was going on.
:You'll protect me, right? …Nova? Uh… right?:
:Whatever you say, Harlan…:
I glared in her general direction, but was distracted when Morgan's voice echoed through the hallways. I swiveled my head (and ears, incidentally) toward where Kenna's room was located, focusing inward a bit as I tried to catch what my Chosen was—um—shouting. Practically at the top of his lungs.
So basically, it wasn't hard to catch.
"What is your problem! I'm just—"
"It's none of your business!"
"Do you act like this to everyone who wants to know how you're doing? Hells!"
"I'm fine, okay! And I don't like being peeped on, that you very mu—"
"I wasn't peeping at you, you jerk!"
"Then why the hell did you—"
"Gods, I was just visiting Dori and decided to che—"
The yelp of pain—and subsequent exclamation—followed the sharp sound of a hand cracking across bare skin, and, surprisingly, didn't come from the injured boy—not that I thought Morgan capable of slapping someone while they were in Healers, but somehow it surprised me nonetheless. A quick and short surge of pain and anger flashed down the Bond between us.
I was about to relay the oh-so-helpful recommendation to stay calm, when Nova's nose bumped against my neck.
I hadn't even noticed her wandering over.
:Harlan? What's going on? I heard shouting.:
Distracted, I turned to look at her, even as Morgan escaped into the corridor once more, slamming the door behind himself. The sound echoed down the hall, rattling the windows as if the earth itself was shaking. I could feel his scathing glare on me even though I wasn't facing him, and from the expression on Nova's face and the way she seemed to be wincing, I wasn't sure if I wanted to turn back around at all.
My ears went back and I looked toward him. Hesitantly.
My voice came out as a pathetic squeak; :yes, Chosen?:
"This is your fault!"
His accusation made Nova snort quietly. I would have glared at her, had I dared turn my attention away from Morgan. In the back of my head, a little part of my mind was screaming "lies! All lies!" …but I knew it wasn't true.
I shuffled and tried to look as pathetically remorseful as I could.
Morgan's left eyebrow ticked slightly. He wasn't buying it.
I sighed. :Okay, I'm not sorry.: A pause as I eyed him slightly, :and did he really slap you?:
There was a short silence then, and Morgan lifted one hand to absently rub at his cheek. He had stopped a few yards away from us and the exit, but now he continued forward. As he got closer, the angry red mark on his face became more and more apparent. At least he was in the right place to be injuring himself… or having other people do it for him.
:Maybe he should see a Healer about that.: Nova suggested.
I considered, really I did. But in the end I figured he'd probably just snap at me and leave anyway, so there was no point in bringing it up. Besides, part of having a circus performer for a Chosen was knowing undoubtedly that he had, at least once in the past (or, in Morgan's case, many, many times) hurt himself severely.
I'm told he once slipped off the ladder on his way up to the high wire and landed on two other people when he hit the ground.
Sounds like Morgan all right.
A little slap certainly wouldn't kill him.
But I digress… again.
So, Morgan was glaring, Nova was staring, and I was… well, I was pretty much staring, too.
I swear time seemed to freeze.
Finally, Morgan uttered a frustrated sound and crossed his arms. "I hate you."
:Aw, that's not true.: I couldn't help sounding relieved. Morgan fixed a stern look on me and I sniffed slightly. :So, uh… I take it things didn't go very well?:
Nova was looking a bit bored, now that all the naked fun was over. She also seemed vaguely disappointed that she'd missed it. Crystal eyes drifted from me to Morgan and back again, then she flicked her ears and seemed to shrug mentally. I had to stifle a sense of panic, and whirled to look at her when she turned to go.
I still didn't want to be left alone with Morgan and his Angry Eyes of Harlan-Death.
:What?: She heaved a sigh, rolling her eyes. :Harlan, I'm just going to poke my nose into Dori's room… Toby's in there still.:
:Please don't leave me alone with him…!:
She was looking at me as if I were whining like a child. Which I was, but that was beside the point.
:Harlan, please. He won't hurt you or anything.: Pausing, she looked back to Morgan… who was practically twitching in annoyance, probably because I wasn't paying attention to him and he had something to say. Nova quickly amended her statement with; :well, he won't hurt you much, I'm sure…:
She completely ignored the plaintive note to my Voice. Sometimes I don't even know why I bother trying.
A flick of her tail, and she headed off.
There are times when you just have to make a decision.
I was standing there, with Morgan eyeing me dangerously, on the verge of hyperventilating, my mind conveniently whipping up scenarios for the terrible things he might do to me if I tried to flee—but then I thought, what could he do to me really? I weighed twenty times as much as he did.
I was also ethereal… not that he particularly cared right at that moment.
"This really sucks."
I just kind of blinked at him.
"I don't know what's wrong with me…" he closed his eyes, leaning sideways against the wall beside him. I continued staring blankly. "He slapped me, Harlan. He slapped me!"
There wasn't much I could say, really. Especially given the sudden flood of negative emotions that washed down our Bond and into my mind. Anger, certainly. Depression. And, most alarmingly, a disturbing sense of self-blame that simmered in the background of it all.
Nova had already vanished around the building, so I couldn't call for her to help. My Chosen was standing two feet away from me, seeming on the verge of tears, and despite how close he was there was nothing I could do to reach him or help him. My tail flicked absently, brushing against my back legs—and I finally sighed.
And there was the decision I was talking about: the only thing I could do was tell him.
There I was. Standing in front of Morgan, knowing that he was lifebonded to another boy, knowing that I had to tell him that fact—and not having the slightest idea how to broach the admittedly sensitive subject.
I fear my mind drifted elsewhere while I tried to think of a way. The next thing I knew, Morgan was staring at me again, giving me a look that all but said you've finally done it, Harlan, you've succeeded in growing another head.
That was about the time I realized I had been muttering to myself—and, since our minds were Linked, to Morgan as well. Whatever I was mumbling seemed to be having trouble registering in our collective brain, though, as he obviously had no idea what I was talking about. This was probably a good thing, as I didn't know what I'd been saying anyway.
:Okay… Morgan, there's something I need to talk to you about.:
His eyebrows jumped slightly. He continued staring. "What?"
"Kenna." He repeated flatly. I could tell I was losing him already. "Kenna Dearborn."
The affirmation came out more like a question, and his eyes narrowed. "What about him?"
:Well…: oh Gods, how to start. I shuffled slightly, looking around—as if there was someone or something that could rescue me before I managed to condemn myself to a lifetime of Wallowing In Angst Morgan sharing my thoughts. :Chosen: I managed after a moment, :have you stopped to think why this matters so much to you, yet?:
I had asked him that before, and he had told me he didn't know. I expected his answer to be much the same this time, and I wasn't disappointed.
"How am I supposed to know?"
:You don't even know him.: I pointed out. :Why does he upset you so much?:
"Because I'm just trying to be nice, and he's…" trailing off, he glared back down the hallway a bit; "…he's a jerk."
:Yes, you said that already.: My ears swiveled forward again, and I made a sound akin to a human clearing their throat. :Morgan… I think I know why you're acting like this. And why Mister Dearborn is so irritable when you're around. And why it matters so much to you that he's being that way.:
His eyes turned back to me, and I got the impression that he sensed doom coming his way.
How to put this? "I was poking through your brain, and happened to stumble across a lifebond"?
Alright. So I would just say it straight.
"Harlan…" Morgan was looking impatient.
:Chosen, you're lifebonded to him.:
There. It was out.
Silence. Dead, deafening silence.
I fidgeted slightly, waiting for him to respond.
He stared, uncomprehending.
I flicked my ears nervously.
He continued staring.
Finally, I stamped one hoof against the grass restlessly—:Morgan, I know this is kind of a shock, but—:
"No, Harlan!" I was stopped short when he snapped the words, shoving away from the wall suddenly. Before I knew it he was about three inches from my nose, glaring at me as if he were trying to melt me into a puddle of Companion-goo. If he had been a Firestarter, I would have had a serious crisis on my—proverbial—hands. "Are you insane?"
He was shaking, practically vibrating with pent-up anger and confusion.
Denial was high on his list of currently-active emotions as well.
"You're a lunatic! My Companion is a thrice-damned, stark-raving lunatic!"
"You're wrong!" He had never yelled at me like that, and what made it even worse was that he meant it. He shoved past me, leaving me to stare after him, even as Nova's head was poking back around the corner. "Just leave me alone and mind your own business for once!"
:But it is my…: I trailed off as he vanished from my sight. :Oh, never mind.:
:Harlan: Nova was giving me a stern look from over by the edge of the building. :What in blazes did you do?
I heaved a suffering sigh. :I made things worse, Nova. Infinitely worse.:
And she responded without missing a beat; :yeah, and? What else is new?: