"Alright, Sweetheart, do you have everything? Your pencils, books, dagger, everything?"

"My love, stop smothering the poor child. I doubt that the answer has changed since the first four times you have asked."

Vaarsuvius smiled down at Tiasal fondly, running her fingers through the girl's hair.

"I hope your father isn't making you more anxious."

Tiasal gave a nervous smile, shifting her bag from one shoulder to the other while partially hidden behind Vaarsuvius's leg. Blackwing ruffled up his feathers, giving a sympathetic warble before flapping down from his master's shoulder to Tiasal's, giving her ears a few affectionate nips. They made her wince, but they obviously calmed her down a little.

Around them, children roughly elementary school aged up to high school age were milling around, kissing their parents goodbye with varying levels of enthusiasm. Most of them were pure elves, but there were variations, with a few humans, dwarves, half-elves, halflings, and gnomes in the mix, and even one or two half-orcs, orcs, and drow. (The drow immediately put Vaarsuvius a little on edge, but it didn't show.)

It was really the best place possible to go to in hopes of diversity and acceptance, though considering the inter-species political climate, that wasn't exactly saying much.

Nonetheless, despite the diversity, all the 'sore thumbs' were receiving stares.

"This doesn't have to be permanent if you don't want it to be, Sweetheart," Redcloak reassured her, shooting a suspicious glance towards the milling group of humans chattering at the front of the giant gate holding together a wall that encircled the entire campus. The Crimson Mantle was hidden in his clothes, wrapped around his hips like a belt as it always was when he didn't want to be recognized. It seemed that no one except for a fellow goblin could really tell the difference between goblin faces (his wife excluded, of course). "The moment you don't want to go anymore, we'll pull you out."

Vaarsuvius glanced over at him, giving a light touch on the shoulder. "Red…"

"I just want her to feel safe."

The elf paused, then sighed, unwilling to get into another fight, especially in front of their child.

Tiasal kept clinging to her mother's leg before burying her face in the back of Vaarsuvius's knee. The elf looked down at her, her soft gaze belying the chiding tone she took.

"Come now, Beloved. You wanted to go to school, did you not?"

Tiasal nodded mutely, not removing her face from the leg.

"It won't be so bad," Blackwing said, giving her another nip.

"You're too old to constantly stay by our side." Vaarsuvius gently pried the girl from her leg and forced her to stand in front of them, unprotected. "And you are too old to revert to muteness when you are emotional. Words were created to communicate ideas and feelings, and if you don't communicate them in that way, you will start getting physical again."

Tiasal wrapped her arms around her mother's hips and buried her face in her stomach, clinging again. Vaarsuvius didn't try to push her off this time.

"Tiasal, it is only seven hours five days a week that you are away. If you speak to people, you will find friends. If you do not like it here after a reasonable amount of time, we won't force you to continue your schooling. You always have your family at home."

Redcloak frowned, resting his hand on the back of the little girl's head.

"Do you not want to go anymore, Sweetheart?"

"Fir! Fir, come back!"

"Mew!"

A bundle of gray fuzz tackled Tiasal, making her jump with a surprised yowl and Blackwing take off, squawking. The little girl twisted in place, the fuzz grasping on her shirt with tiny barbs before clawing up on her chest. She instinctively grasped the fluff, trying to figure out what it was, before it purred loudly and dragged a rough tongue across her cheek.

Redcloak knelt by her, examining the fuzz in confusion before checking his daughter for scratches. Blackwing, with an annoyed warble, landed back on Vaarsuvius's shoulder. "Tiasal? Are you okay?"

"It's a… kitty."

The kitten let out another loud purr and licked her nose.

"There you are, Fir!"

Another blur was upon them, and before she knew it, Tiasal was swallowed by a huge hug, the air leaving her for moment.

Redcloak jumped in surprise before the blur tore away from Tiasal again, now clutching the cat. "Thank you for catching my familiar! Fir likes running into people."

Tiasal took a deep breath to re-inflate her lungs.

"Hi, my name's Serrin, what's yours?"

The blur finally stopped vibrating long enough for Tiasal to get a good look.

One pointy ear flopped out of loose sandy hair, immediately telling Tiasal the blur's ancestry, and giant blue eyes with a enormous grin stared back at her, so bright that it felt like she was being blinded.

"…?"

"I haven't seen you here before! Are you from the elven lands? Or someplace else? Ooo, you're green! Does that mean you're part orc or goblin?" The blur bounced in place to face the shocked Vaarsuvius and Redcloak. "Are you her parents? That's so awesome! I didn't know there were elf-goblin couples!"

The elf and goblin in question exchanged glances.

The blur bounced again, facing Tiasal. "What grade are you going into?"

"…Fourth…"

"We're in the same grade!"

Tiasal's lungs were promptly collapsed again in a crushing hug. "It's going to be so fun! I've never met another halfie before! Well, except Luic, but brothers don't count…"

The blur—Serrin—jumped away, letting her kitten crawl up her shirt to her shoulder, rubbing its head against her neck. "Let's be friends!"

"…" Tiasal cocked her head slowly, as if she couldn't understand. "…Friends…?"

"Yeah!" Serrin's one ear perked, eyes sparkling. "You want to be friends?"

"…You want to be friends… with me?"

"Why not?"

Redcloak straightened up, eye locked on the young half-elf girl. Vaarsuvius gave a small smile, slipping a delicate pale hand into a strong green one.

Tiasal blinked, staring at Serrin as if she had two heads, and to her credit, the half-elf didn't seem perturbed. "Mommy says that goblins and orcs don't have a lot of friends outside their species, and halfies even less so. I'll be your friend."

She stuck out a cream-colored hand.

Tiasal hesitated for a moment longer before putting her own leaf-green hand on it.

"I think you'll be fine here, Sweetheart," Redcloak murmured softly in Goblin, leaning down to give her a kiss on her cheek.

"Tell us about it when you get home." Vaarsuvius pressed her lips against her daughter's temple before straightening up again.

"This'll be great! Wait until you meet everyone!"

With force that could dislocate an arm, Serrin tore Tiasal away, streaking through the crowd to be swallowed by the milling people.

There was silence.

Blackwing let out another soft warble, shifting so he could stretch his neck out towards the direction they left in. "…I didn't expect that."

"I was personally expecting something… nastier."

"Children can be the cruelest of abusers, but they can also be the kindest." Vaarsuvius turned to Redcloak, smiling and leaning a little against his chest. "Does this ease your worry?"

He hesitated, then ran a hand through his wife's hair. "A little."

"That is all I could ask for." She kissed his cheek and squeezed his hand, ignoring the glares they were receiving from a couple of the parents. They were much fewer in number than they usually got for being together in public, but they were there.

"Let us return home. I feel more secure with her safety, and Aridar will soon be hungry."

Redcloak looked down at his wife, nodding slowly. "Okay. Alright."

"Come with me."

They weaved their way through the crowd and disappeared from the clearing.


A/N: A little fluffy piece as a belated birthday present for my friend. Serrin and Fir belong to her, of course, and since I had to take the original Serrin (a teenager) and shrink her down a few years, I took a couple liberties. With any luck, they were acceptable ones. And a cookie to whoever figures our the obvious reference in the title! :D Happy Birthday, Coffee.