A Learning Experience: Chapter One, Turn Seven

Monday morning is clear, with a faint crispness in the air that tastes of fall. A number of students enter the school building with some reluctance, the excitement of the first week of school having worn off; now, their posture states plainly, there is only the day-in, day-out routine until they are free again in June.

The sign for fencing tryouts is still up on the bulletin board, along with Emmet and Bela's fliers. Next to them are fliers for cheerleading and football tryouts on Wednesday. Tacked conspicuously close to the football and cheerleading fliers is a flier with a rainbow border. The center shows a hand-drawn cartoon of Snoopy from Peanuts holding a triangle. The flier states that there is an introductory meeting of BGL in room 307 after school next week Tuesday all are welcome.

Niko stops at his locker and then hits his homeroom early, waving to anyone he knows. While waiting for class to start, he sketches a quick but accurate picture of his English teacher. He then waits for Aidan to enter the class.

Aidan enters the class chatting with his girlfriend, Shakti, and twin sister, Alyssa.

Shakti is an athletic brunette with forest-green eyes and a direct, confident manner. She's wearing her usual outfit of jeans, black leather riding boots, and a T-shirt with an environmental design on it; today's choice is a black one with a wolf's head and "Wolf: Guide, protector, initiator" on the front. A pendant shaped like a double-headed ax hangs at her throat.

Alyssa is a vivacious girl with a thick fall of wavy red hair, sparkling blue-green eyes, and a ready smile. She's dressed in jeans and a blue peasant top currently worn low on her shoulders.

As Aidan goes to sit down, Shakti brushes his fingers with hers; the tenderness in the gesture is evident.

Before class begins, Niko finishes off the sketch of his English teacher in his fae seeming and then turns toward Aidan, "Excuse do you think this looks like Mr. Ravenscroft? I'm drawing it for a friend of mine." He shows him the newly drawn picture.

Aidan looks at the picture and a strange expression comes over his face. "Not really," he says after a perceptible pause, "unless you're trying for Hildebrant or Elmore's style." His tone seems to be trying for levity, but the effect falls flat.

"You sure? Hmmmm... Okay what do you think of this one?" He flips to the picture of Trevor and Layla in their fae mien.

"They sort of look like two of the kids in my English class," says Aidan, perhaps a little too casually. "Minus the pointed and bunny ears, though." He gives Niko a grin. "Those are really good -- you ever think of sending them in to The Dragon or something like that?"

Niko opens the sketchbook to the still unfinished drawing of Bekka and starts to finish the nude, "Nope do it for personal amusement. I draw what I see."

Aidan smiles. "Wow, you've got a really good imagination."

Niko chuckles lightly, "Imagination...yeah." He puts his pencil down and extends his hand, " By the way, name's Niko Rayne."

After a moment of hesitation, Aidan takes it. "Aidan...Aidan Ryan."

***

Layla walks up to the school with her usual bag swinging by its straps in her hand, she watches everything with obvious interest and goes inside. Today the top hat is back on and a burgundy velvet band had been slipped into place, her skirt is a matching burgundy velvet with a tight black velvet tank and fishnet sleeves that cover her hands with just her fingers coming through. her cloak is of silver grey today and seems to be serving as her coat as its left in her locker when she stops there for her school books. She stops at the bulletin board as she passes and reads off the date on the flier and committing it to memory and making a mental note to go. She waves hi and will talk to anyone that stops her but otherwise heads straight to homeroom and sits in her seat waiting for class to start.

***

Trevor arrives with a group of students, all of them just having disembarked from a school bus. He yawns as he heads for his locker. He scans the hall, looking for familiar places, though he doesn't seem that interested in people watching as usual. He dumps his bag in his locker, collects what he needs for his first class, and heads for homeroom. He looks at Niko's as he passes by, slowing momentarily to look around for Niko. When he doesn't spot Niko, Trevor will head for his homeroom.

When Trevor gets to homeroom, he sits near Layla. "Hi Layla. Nice top."

Layla smiles over at him.

"I've never liked it, nope not one bit. I mean dolphin net feels cold and velvet is hard, see?"

Rubs the fishnet covered palms of her hands over his arm so he can see how it feels. then uses the bottom of her skirt to let him touch the velvet revealing fishnetted legs as well

(imagination says it could possibly even be a body suit)

As Trevor touches the velvet, his gaze is on Layla's fishnetted leg. "Lovely."

"so we going to try for the attic again today?"

Layla's comment takes a few moments to penetrate into Trevor's brain. "Actually today is fencing tryouts. After I'm on the team..." Trevor pauses, looking around at some of the other students in the classroom. "...which won't matter 'cause we don't need any fencing equipment to visit the attic." He winks at Layla and gives her a sly smile. His eyes happen upon the fishnets on her hands and he becomes distracted. "Um, anyway, Niko and I have something to ask you later," Trevor says, eyes still on Layla.

"Umm... Okay, why later though? And we do too need weapons to search the attic "she says pointing down

"I mean read the sign on the door "Here there be monsters!" and I personally value my tail even if I don't show it often! but we've never had that argument before so why do it now?" Will I see you at lunch today?"

"By tomorrow I should be on the fencing team and I got Miss K to give me permission to teach Niko how to fence when I was on the team. And Niko and will be able to get weapons and stuff if I'm teaching him." Trevor grins at Layla, "And yes I'll be there for lunch - it's my favorite class!" Trevor's expression changes to some cross of amazement, happiness and perhaps-not-so-innocent curiosity. "You've got a tail?" he says in a low voice.

Layla blushes. "ummmm... maybe? There could possibly be a reason I wear skirts all the time but I don't think so. anyway, you said that you and Lestat had something to ask me later right? as I stated next time, why later?"

Trevor smacks himself in the head. "Oh that. 'Cause we're both asking you, so the three of us should be together when we ask you. So we can ask you at lunch"

***

Bela enters the school, letting the silk of her sari sweep just above the floor, smiling, while expecting trouble. Her dark skin showing in the middle between the sari and the cholis. She heads for her locker and home room. Looking for the classmates she meet just days before.

In fact today Bela chooses not to wear any western clothes... a pista (pistachio) green lehengas (blouse) that leaves her navel and lower back bare. The pista silk sari has designs in copper threads on the border and pallu (the part that goes over the shoulder).

In Fae mien she wears a sari that looks like it is made of green amber, including faint images of dragonflies and butterflies in the pattern.

Emmet arrives later than usual, a mere five minutes before the bell. He looks haggard, as though he was up most of the night, and somehow drained. He goes directly to his locker and slips into his homeroom seat seconds before the bell.

He says nothing to anyone.

Andromeda is strangely absent.

While students take their places in homeroom before the bell rings Bela introduces herself to the students she hasn't meet yet.

The worn out nocker holds her attention for awhile. "Hello. Long weekend?"

Emmet regards Bela balefully for a moment, as if he's perched on the edge of a long tirade. In the end he merely nods, further evidence of his exhaustion. It is evident that he is terribly worried about something.

Bela doesn't know her classmates well, but she saw enough yesterday to know that the nocker was more apt to be verbose and loquacious, while at the same time being to the point and coarse, than taciturn. Bela looks at the nocker thoughtfully, "Are you ok? Where is your Charming friend?" Bela pulls on her voile as she says charming, and to mortal eye it looks like she is running her fingers over the pleats of her sari.

Emmet sighs and mutters something under his breath that Bela doesn't quite catch. He turns sideways in his chair to address her.

"Look," he says softly. "Right now I don't much feel like laying the last 12 hours of my life out for your casual perusal. I appreciate your concern, but butt the hell out."

With that, Emmet faces the front of the class and pretends to pay attention to Ravenscroft's morning announcements.

"Fine, offer stands if you change your mind." Bela turns her attention to the front of the room.

Valeria watches the exchange between Emmet and Bela, concern evident in her blue eyes. She looks like she's about to say something, then seems to think better of it and buries her head in a paperback book.

The book's cover bears the image of two young women, one with blonde hair and one with black, both of them clad in some sort of gossamer draperies and exotic golden jewelry. Below this picture is one of three young men, all of them with the pretty-boy look common to numerous Japanese anime series. The youth on the left-hand side has dark hair held back by a headband, and the one on the right side is light-haired with an enigmatic smile. The young man in the center has a serious expression, and is holding up one of the gossamer draperies mentioned above between the thumb and fingers of his upraised hand.

***

At about 8:05 a.m., the homeroom bell rings, and Dr Summers' voice comes over the PA system:

"Good morning, teachers and students. Today we will follow a regular A' day schedule.

"There are only a few announcements for today tryouts for the fencing team will be held immediately after school today and Tuesday in the school gym; please see Mr. Ravenscroft or Miss Kapatelis to sign up.

"There will be cheerleading tryouts on Thursday after school in the gym; please see Miss Kapatelis if you wish to sign up.

"The Harvest Mixer will be held at 7 PM on Friday, September 27 in the school gym. Tickets are six dollars, and will be on sale in Room 110 before and after school, and in the cafeteria during lunch periods, from tomorrow, September 10, until Monday, September 23.

"All of Mr. Shih's Pre-Calculus classes, please make sure to bring your review books to class today.

"Thank you, and have a good day."

***

During announcements, Niko continues on the drawing. Barely paying attention to homeroom, he waits for the bell to ring to signal the next period.

***

The classes before lunch pass without incident. At 11:55, at the end of fifth period, the bell rings for Lunch 2 and students bustle along to the cafeteria.

***

Niko walks into lunch and buys a bottle of juice before sitting at his usual table. He sits down and with an utter look of deep concentration he starts a detailed sketch of every fae in this school that his seen. 'Maybe he believes, but wouldn't admit so in front of his girlfriend' Niko muses to himself before continuing with the sketch.

Trevor arrives in the cafeteria and buys himself a considerably more hearty lunch than Niko's. He sits down next to Niko, but doesn't disturb Niko while he's drawing. He starts on his lunch and watches Niko draw.

Bela arrives after getting her lunch from her locker. It looks like yogurt and fruit with spices. She watches Niko draw for a while, then watches Trevor watching Niko. "Before we start talking about the mystery, who is going to the dance?"

Niko stops for a moment and takes a sip of juice. Noticing Trevor and Bela, he gives them a smile and continues with the drawing. In a whisper he says to Trevor, "Can you make a list of all the fae you know for me?" To Bela he says a bit louder, "We are I think."

Emmet joins the group silently, sitting at the end of the table farthest from everyone else. His lunch appears to consist of whatever happens to reside in his mug. After a moment he reaches into his vest, shakes something from a small vial into his hand, pops it into his mouth, and chases it with a long drink.

He spreads a small stack of paper about the tabletop and begins to review the contents. Every now and then he removes a pen from the breast pocket of his vest, makes a notation, and replaces the pen.

Bela glances at Emmet's papers, still giving him 'space'.

Valeria comes over to the table with her tray on top of a folder. Before she sits down, she places the folder carefully beside her chair before starting on her lunch.

Trevor returns Niko's smile and nods affirmatively in answer to his question. Then he turns to see who Niko was addressing. "Wow, neat outfit. You look good in it. Maybe you should wear that to the dance." Trevor's gaze lingers on her for a few moments before he pulls out a piece of paper and starts writing a list.

Bela beams and asks in a supporting tone, "Together? That is great, are you going to go to the meeting Tuesday? And this, I'm sure I could dig up something a little more 'fancy' for a dance."

Trevor looks up from writing his list and notices Emmet. A slight frown appears on his face and disappears almost instantly. He then looks around, eyes passing over Valeria, and then coming back to rest on her. He nods to her and says, "Hi, Val." He turns back to Emmet and says, "Hey Emmet, you want some fries? I haven't touched 'em."

Layla skitters in in her usual late fashion, singing her favorite theme song under her breath (I'm late, I'm late, for a very important date...) she buys a bottle of water and sits down at the table between Niko and Trevor, plops her top hat on Trevor's head, taps Niko on the shoulder, and with such a hopeful look even Trevor can tell that the secret has been killing her since homeroom.

"so what did you want to ask me?"

"Huh," Niko gives her that oh so cute puzzled look and then looks at Trevor for an answer.

Bela smiles at Layla as she arrives and watches her briefly, smiling.

Trevor looks at Niko and then back at Layla. "We wanted to ask if you'd come to the dance - our treat."

He looks at the others around the table, eyes settling on Bela. "Of course it be fun if everyone else went too."

"Oh yeah," Niko sets his pencil down and goes to stand in front of Layla. He kneels on one knee. Taking her hand he says, "So will you grace us with your presence, oh fair Layla."

Layla blushes deeply and looks more and more helpless as she tries to reply truthfully and fails

"No, I mean yes, I mean maybe, I... why not?"

"Hi Val, I didn't get a chance to tell you, but I was thinking about the mystery, and what I read in the library. Oh and on something completely different." Turning to include everyone, Bela asks, "What can you tell me about Crystal?"

"Crystal Logan?" Valeria snorts. "A spoiled brat of a rich girl who won't deign to mingle with the 'common people.'" She takes a savage bite of her sandwich and chews fiercely as if for emphasis.

If Emmet heard Trevor's question, he gives no indication.

"Crystal Logan?," says a low, melodic voice from behind Trevor. Andromeda runs her hand through the sidhe's hair as she sits between the him and Emmet. Today she is a poster model for the agnst grrrrl look: a fitted white T-shirt with the words "I love my geek" written in neon green across her breasts, a loosely-fitted tie, baggy low-rider jeans with a blown-out knee, her black and white Converse All-Stars, hair slightly mussed and tucked behind her ears showing both kohled eyes for a change. Somehow, she's managed to twist a large red rose with wicked-looking thorns around her right forearm like a bracelet. Her obvious good mood twinkles in her emerald eyes. "That bitch needs to be grudge fucked."

She grabs one of Trevor's fries and eats it seductively while looking deep into his eyes. Her seduction complete, she throws her arms around Emmet - who is in a complete state of shock at her arrival - and plants numerous kisses around his face. "Thank you for last night, Emmet. I feel like a new girl!"

Her comment strikes an odd chord in the group. There is something different about Andromeda. There is a touch more color in her alabaster skin and she seems a little more ... real.

Trevor is watching Niko's dramatic request with a somewhat dumfounded look when Andromeda arrives. The unexpected feeling of hand through hair apparently takes Trevor by surprise, as he turns to look. Already off balance, whatever pitiful defenses Trevor might have had are completely ineffectual against her gaze.

Deserted by Andromeda, Trevor's attention is drawn by Layla's reply. Trevor's chair falls backward with a clatters as he abandons it to catch Layla and Niko in a hug. "This'll be so much fun!" He looks at the group around the table. "Everyone should go!"

Niko kisses Layla on the cheek as soon as Trevor let's them go. "Good now that that's settled," He turns to face the table,"Anyone else want to join us?" He sit's back at the table and takes a sip of his juice, waiting for any replies.

"Sure, why not?" Val says brightly. Then her smile fades. "I really hate to dump cold water on everyone's social plans, but I talked to my aunt on Friday, and Bela and I did some research on what's been going on." She lowers her voice so that it doesn't carry beyond the table. "So, did anyone find out anything?"

Trevor picks up his chair and sits back down again. He slides the cardboard dish with his fries down the table so it ends up mostly in front of Emmet, but also a bit in front of Andromeda.

Trevor slides the list he was writing so it is in front of Niko. After releasing the paper, Trevor's hand continues moving, catching Niko's hand and giving it a gentle squeeze.

"Well we," Trevor glances at Niko and Layla, "wanted to investigate the basement." Trevor turns back to look at Val, and apparently catches sight of the others. Trevor's expression changes and he asks eagerly, "So what about you three? Are you going too Bela?" Trevor smiles at Andromeda, "And you should drag Emmet along too." Trevor expression turns somewhat puzzled, as if he's finally noticed there is something different about Andromeda. He turns to look at Emmet with surprise and delight written on his face.

Emmet, still surprised by Andromeda's sudden appearance, struggles a little to catch up to the conversation.

"Er, wait. Who's dragging whom where?"

Niko gives Trevor's hand a returning squeeze and goes back to his drawing, adding Andromeda to the picture. Unless asked a question or someone starts talking to him, he remains quiet the rest of the period.

Bela was enjoying listening to the banter as she pulls out her notebook, which if anyone looks at the pages is chaotic mix of drawings and doodles, eastern characters, English and Spanish, as if she chose the word that matched best what she wanted to express without regard to consistency. She turned to page that was mostly in English.

"I'm going to the dance. I wouldn't miss it. About the mystery, I found lots of stories, about people disappearing, and never coming back, or coming back years and years latter without aging. And of wounded animals escaping the hunt only to be found latter healed. It sounds like there might have been something here for certain."

"You're going to the dance with everyone. It's all settled, isn't it Andromeda?" Trevor winks at Andromeda.

"And I'm glad you're going too, Bela."

"Dance? Oh," Emmet's eyes flick briefly toward Val. He says with a crooked smile, "Right. What else would we be doing?"

He turns more serious.

"Val and I had a conversation with Ravenscroft the other day after school. His research into local folklore confirms what Bela found - there are ancient tales of some sort of healing lake or glen in this area. He mentioned that the librarian has a lot of information about the school in her 'personal collection. Might be something to check into if no one has."

Emmet takes a moment to eat a few fries from the container in front of him.

"It's all too damn neat to be meaningless coincidence."

Bela smiles, "So what do we want to do first? The basement the grounds? Where do we want to start? And when?"

"Not to sound like a badly dressed cartoon character, but we should split up." Niko looks up, "I mean it will save time. Especially if we go with our talents. Although if there are safety risks that anyone is worried about, then we can stay in a group. As for when we start, I say as soon as possible."

"Don't like the idea of splitting up." Trevor looks at Niko, "And yes, I do worry what might happen to you. And everyone else too." He looks at Bela. "As for when, I'm trying out for the fencing team today, and after I'm on, it should be easier to borrow some equipment." He looks at Val, as if expecting confirmation.

"I have to agree with Trevor on not splitting up," Val remarks. She pauses to take a sip of milk. "And yeah, if you make the team, between the three of us," she winks at Emmet, "we ought to be able to convince Mr. Ravenscroft or Miss K. to let us borrow some equipment." She frowns. "Speaking of tryouts, Aidan and I are supposed to help out with them today and tomorrow." She looks at Niko. "Did you get a chance to talk to him in homeroom? If you didn't, you could always come to tryouts to cheer Trevor on and chat up Aidan afterwards."

"Well, it looks like we don't split up." Niko looks at his sketchbook and then up at Val, "I tried the semi-straightforward way of talking with him." He turns his sketchbook to the pictures of the fae folk that he's drawn and hands the book to Val, "I showed him these, and it got no sign of recognition. I'll try again though."

Trevor looks at Niko. There is a pause and then Trevor says, "Did you ask him in school? He might not want to say anything in front of other people." Trevor gestures at the mundanes surrounding their table. "Or maybe he can tell something but perhaps doesn't see clearly. Now if he could see Andromeda at all, that would be something." Trevor thoughts wander for a moment, then he turns to Andromeda. "Perhaps you could show up for fencing try-outs? Maybe let Niko get set up to watch Aidan..." Trevor looks at Emmet. "...though another set of eyes would be good too. That way if he notices Niko, he'll watch Niko, and Niko will be the decoy so say Emmet could watch how Aidan reacts to Andromeda." Trevor looks around the table. "So what'chya all think of that?"

"It could work. Maybe he said something with out saying something and I'm just losing my touch. In any case you could be right," He turn towards Emmet and Andromeda, "What do you two think."

Trevor gives Niko a grateful look.

Bela leans forward, "I wouldn't mind being a witness. It might be fun to watch all of you play with your swords."

Trevor grins. "I don't mind if you watch me. If you ever want too, I'll even let you hold it." Trevor winks at Bela.

Layla says, "Umm, could I be there? I could have possibly talked to Ravenscroft already, and is anyone else going to that BGL meeting on whenever?"

Trevor grins mischievously at Layla, "Sure, be happy to have you. And later if you want, you can see Niko and I both play with our swords." Trevor pauses, his tone more serious, "I'm going. It's next week Tuesday the 17th. I've discovered that I like guys too - at least some of them."

Bela rolled her eyes, "How did I know... No thanks, I think you will do fine on your own. I'm going in fact Friday I met the guy in charge of the group. I'm going to write a story about them. Which brings be back to Crystal, oh and what do you all think about the deputy Head master?"

"Not a bad plan, Skirtboy," Emmet grudgingly admits. "Though I'll probably have a hard time keeping track of whether this guy is ogling a figment of someone else's imagination. I'll be trying out at the tryouts this afternoon."

A slight smile touches Trevor's lips at Emmet's grudging admission. "I guess it's up to Bela then?" he asks, looking in Bela's direction.

Andromeda kicks Emmet under the table, giving him a "be nice" look before turning to Trevor. "Sounds like fun. I'd planned on attending the tryouts to cheer for Val." She looks sideways at Emmet for his reaction. Getting nothing, she snuggles a little closer to Trevor and continues.

"You know," she says, her voice dropping half an octave to a sexy burr, "I've been known to engage in a little ... swordplay," she puts her hand on Trevor's thigh for emphasis, "from time to time. Perhaps I could see if this fellow would loan me his for a little while. You know - just to see if he reacts to me..."

"I'm sure I could...he would..." Trevor's voice trails off as he looks at Andromeda. There seems to be no evidence of higher brain functions in his eyes. His arm moves to encircle Andromeda's waist - seemingly an instinctual move, easily resisted if Andromeda chooses to do so.

"I would be happy to play 'observer'. I will watch his reactions, this is the boy from English class right?" Bela asks.

Emmet ignores Andromeda's flirtation entirely, opting instead to answer Bela's question about the deputy headmaster.

"Weatheringstone? Strikes me as a bit of a tight-ass," he says between bites of fries. "His ideas about what is proper and what is not aren't exactly in line with the real world. Then again, I suppose one might say none of us are exactly in line with the real world - whatever the furk that is. What do you think of him, Walker?"

Val's features twist with distaste, as though she's eaten something sour. "Definitely stuck somewhere in the Middle Ages. He and my Aunt Janna don't exactly get along -- he thinks she oughtn't to have a title, or a freehold." She looks like she's about to spit. "Like running off and abandoning everyone else with their tails between their legs better qualifies someone to hold a fief than sticking around and taking care of the people who need you!" Two spots of color appear in her cheeks, and her eyes take on a hard glitter, like chips of blue ice.

As if noticing what she's doing, she swallows hard before she continues. "And I've heard he's got problems with Lady Janelle and some of the teachers -- thinks they're 'too liberal' or something like that." She gives a most unladylike snort. "He ought to join the twentieth century!"

Bela smiles at Val and Emmet, "Well don't get me onto the subject... my tribe has more than one story of the 'noble retreat'." Here the sarcasm drips thickly. "Keighvin from BGL tells me he didn't want them to have the club. That if I wanted examples of the people that have given them the hardest time, to look at him and Crystal and her neanderthal. And I'm going to write a little fable with them as the Moral lesson."

Andromeda scoots over to Emmet just as Trevor's arm begins to move, apparently distracted by the edge in Valeria's voice. She gives no sign that she is aware of Trevor's clumsy attempt at physical intimacy. The pretty chimera absently munches on the few remaining french fries as she listens to the discussion about the deputy headmaster, washing them down with stolen sips from Emmet's mug.

She offers Trevor a wry grin after Bela's comments. "Sounds like Emmet isn't the only one with a strong opinion of the ruling class, Tiger." She gestures with a half-eaten fry, her voice low in mock seriousness. "Looks like you'll have to watch your back around this group of ruffians."

A few minutes later, the lunchtime half-bell rings, sending a number of students scurrying out of the cafeteria. Others remain, apparently having no business outside the cafeteria today.

Aidan Ryan heads out of the cafeteria, accompanied by an athletic brunette with a strong and confident carriage. She's clad in jeans, black leather riding boots, and a black T-shirt with a wolf's head on the front. A pendant shaped like a double-headed ax hangs at her throat.

By contrast, Aidan looks almost plain in a pair of jeans, sneakers, and a Maryland Renaissance Festival T-shirt.

Val waves gaily at the pair; the girl exuberantly returns the gesture with an affectionate smile, while Aidan gives a return wave that's a little more sedate as they disappear out the door.

Bela sees them flee for places unknown, "Or I could just go follow them now... what do you think Andromeda?"

"Whatever you decide," Val interjects, "you've got a little less than twenty minutes to do it before seventh period." She frowns. "Or, you could stick with what we were planning, and have ample time to study him this afternoon."

Trevor's bright azure blue eyes blink at Andromeda's comment. He glances at his arm, as if wondering what it was doing. "Ruling class? You mean Sidhe like Val and me?" Trevor's brow furrows as he frowns - a rare sight. "These are my friends, why should I watch my back?"

Valeria, who had been finishing the last of her milk as Trevor is speaking, suddenly gasps, then starts coughing, apparently having inadvertently inhaled the milk.

Trevor asks innocently, "Are you okay?"

Valeria manages to get her coughing under control and nods. "Yeah...yeah, I'm okay now." She says nothing more, apparently lost in thought, as she occasionally sneaks glances at Trevor from the corner of her eye, a curious expression on her face.

Trevor nods, relief plain on his face. "Okay."

"I could wait till tryouts... and Trevor, not all sidhe seem to think those of the unicorn are the same as the rest, I don't thing they are the same either. They didn't run away when the going got tough. My aunt gave me a bit of history lesson." says Bela.

"Well, I had the short version after my, um, initiation. But I did learn that some Fiona stayed, along with the vast majority of Val's House." Trevor looks at Bela. With a somewhat incredulous tone he asks, "You don't think I would abandon my friends?"

Bela gives Trevor a look that is both honest and kind, "I think you don't believe you will, and that is good start. I believe you don't want to abandon your friends, that is even a better start. I'm still getting to know you. What of complete strangers? Would you save your friends and let the rest of the commoners fend for themselves?"

Andromeda bursts out laughing at Trevor's reaction.

"Silly rabbit," she teases, throwing a half-eaten french fry at him. "I was only kidding. Most of it was directed at Emmet, anyway. From what I've seen of you, you're not the sort to go scurrying away from your friends. Speaking of scurrying... Bela, I think I'll shadow What's-his-name for a bit. Call me psychopathic, but I like to stalk my victims before pouncing on them."

She pauses, as if something just occurred to her, then looks Trevor straight in the eye. "Maybe you do need to watch yourself," she tells him with a wink before following Aidan and friend out of the cafeteria.

Emmet watches her leave, then turns to Bela.

"The Grey Walkers did more than simply stay," he says with more than a touch of bitterness in his voice. "They - " he looks at Trevor and stops. "Forget it. Get Val or Ravenscroft to tell you about it some time. I'm too tired to drag all that mungfudder back into the light of day."

He gathers his papers from the tabletop, stuffs them into his bag, and heads back to the counter for something else to eat.

Bela smiles at Emmet as if his words were a gift, "I will ask them. So she is stalking, what are we going to do for the rest of lunch. I know everyone wants to get swords and hunt rats, but perhaps there are better ways of dealing with them. Traps, cheese, something more humane?"

Trevor looks thoughtful at Andromeda's remark. "I think we touched on this earlier today, but it's worth going over again. My friends come first. Given a choice between them and the rest of the world, my friends come first." He gives Bela a hard look, "And I'm not talking about Commoners in particular. The Sidhe and mortals could go hang too." Trevor shrugs and the look fades. "It's not that I have anything against other people in general - I've discovered I like other people - but my friends are more important than anyone else. As much as I'd like life to be one big party, it just isn't. I'm going to enjoy everything while I still can, and die defending my friends." Trevor seems to have become agitated. He reaches out and puts his hand on Niko's, which seems to calm him. "I'd like everyone to be happy, but my friends - you all and Emmet and Andromeda too - come first. And..." As Trevor's voice trails off, he looks toward Niko and Layla, hand still on Niko's.

***

While the group is talking amongst themselves, a handsome youth at one of the nearby tables looks up from the book he has open on the table, then, after a minute, goes back to reading.

The young man is extremely attractive, with thick dark hair, mysterious dark eyes, and elegant features. He's wearing a white button-down shirt over tailored gray slacks, and mirror-polished leather shoes. His bearing suggests the unconscious arrogance of the monied set.

To fae sight, the youth is revealed as a gorgeous sidhe, so beautiful as to be beyond the ken of mortals. His luxuriant raven hair falls past his shoulders, glimmering with blue highlights when the light strikes it just right, and his features are as elegant as those found on a classical statue. He is clad in a high-necked tunic -- or perhaps a coat -- of white silk with full sleeves, the sides of the garment slit to show the tight black trousers and tooled leather boots beneath.

***

As Bela sees the change in Trevor's expression her's changes too. Her dark eyes are soft like a cool night before gentle rainstorm, there is sorrow and kindness.

"I believe what friendship means to you, and pray you never are faced with such painful choices. And considering that, I'll treat your offer of friendship as the gift that it is."

It takes a moment for Trevor to respond. "Friends are the greatest gift anyone can receive." He turns to look at Bela, hand still on Niko's. "I'd like to have you as my friend too."

Bela smiles, "Friends then." Bela looks around a little self-conscious. "So to really change the subject, instead of being dead set on going after the rats with swords, are there any other plans we can consider? Giant mouse traps? Cheese with sleeping powder in it?" The last said partly in jest, the only sincere part is the desire to talk about other options.

Niko takes Trevor's hand into his own, "I think that anyone who can disappear should. If they can't see us, then they can't attack us."

"Good idea. I've hear there are cantrips that can make people disappear." Trevor looks thoughtful for a moment, then adds, "Don't animals use their sense of smell, like the dragon in The Hobbit?" Trevor looks apologetically at Niko, "Sorry Niko." Trevor continues, "As for traps and sleeping powder, Emmet would be our best bet. Though from Andromeda's t-shirts I guessing he's into computers. Maybe he could come up with a electric stun gun?"

"He's also handy with a cutting torch and a MIG welder. Not all computer geeks are completely fucking worthless without their toys," says Emmet dryly as he returns bearing a large cardboard container of chicken nuggets. "If you give me a few days, I can put together a better mousetrap for five."

He sits across the table from Val, positioning the nuggets approximately equidistant from everyone. "Feel free," he says to no one in particular as he pops one into his mouth.

"Sleeping powder might take some doing. I might be able to massage one of the apprentices in the Weapons Guild to whip up a little sump'n sump'n as an 'extra credit' project. Who'd have thought budding alchemists could be so murfurbin ambitious?"

He takes a drink.

"Bela, what makes you so fricking certain non-lethal methods are applicable here? Rats aren't called vermin because they're all cuddly, and these bastards are downright mean."

Bela looks away from Emmet, "I was raised Hindu. A rat is the mount of Lord Ganesha, the god of prosperity, new beginnings and luck. Besides, what if your favorite aunt came back as a rat? Besides there is always an alternative to killing something."

Trevor looks at Emmet, "Or perhaps, what if Andromeda were to come back? Or another of your friends? Or..." Trevor squeezes Niko's hand. Looking at Bela, he continues, "There are always alternatives to killing something, but not always good ones. I'll support your efforts to avoid killing the rats, but if it fails and it's us or the rats, I'm afraid there's no contest in my view."

Emmet stares at Trevor for a long moment, as though deciding what - if anything - can be said in response to such an inane statement, before tuning to Bela with a derisive hurrumph.

"Than she'd be a rat." He smiles a small, private smile to himself, as though considering the possibilities associated with such an event. Bela gets the distinct impression that none of them are pleasant.

"Look," he says, "I'm not going to argue with whatever religious upbringing you had. Furk me, but you can't argue with religion. All I'm saying is these are CHIMERICAL RATS the size of DOGS. LARGE dogs. With the temperament of caged Tasmanian devils. You want me to build a better rat trap, fine. Give me a few days, and don't bitch because they're made from razor sharp spikes and juiced with lethal voltage. You don't want me to build a better rat trap, fine." He pauses to dunk a nugget into the small container of BBQ sauce. "I'll be the one standing by the stairs sketching the locations of your gnawed bloody corpses."

He makes a show of eating faux-bloody nugget by contorting his face in a rat-like grimace, and rapidly nibbling the chicken with his even, pointed teeth.

Val, who has been sitting quietly and listening to this exchange until now, interjects, "I'm going to have to go with Emmet on this one. None of you saw those things, or fought them; Emmet, Andromeda and I did." She shudders a little at the memory. "The three of us barely made it out of there intact." She smiles in a bitter sort of way. "Now, if I could talk my dad into giving us some stuff from the SWAT team...."

The dark-haired sidhe at the other table looks up while Emmet is speaking, then goes back to his book.

"How bout talking with them, or caging them up," Niko doesn't look up when he says this, "I know of people who could do that. That way nothing is killed, even a rabid chimera."

"Or ordering them not to attack." Trevor looks at Emmet. "I'll be honest with you, I can do it with mortals or fae, but not chimera." Trevor tenses, waiting for Emmet's response.

Bela listens to everyone, then quietly addresses their concerns, "Your right, I didn't see them, but I also heard that only one approach had been tried or considered. I understand that if it can't be done humanely, it can't. I just wanted to suggest other options. It could be worse, it could be cobras or manticore, these are rats." The last was said with a smile.

Emmet snickers at Val's comment. "Failing that, I might be able to convince one of the balmalocha in the Weapons Guild to let us, ah, field test one of the newer designs." He grins an evil little grin. "Of course, a malfunction would likely be worse than the murfurbin rats..."

Trevor visibly relaxes after Emmet's comment to Val.

Layla obviously catches the humor in Emmet's move a little late but gives him a curious look and bursts into uncontrollable giggles at the thing with the chicken. probably falling off her chair if no one catches her. blushing and laughing even harder at her own predicament as her fishnetted legs are now visible to the entire lunchroom. if no one catches her she will just lie there on the floor laughing and assuming a properly sexy pose as though she meant to do just that until someone decides to help her up or the bell rings whichever comes first, giggling softly to herself.

Trevor detaches himself from Niko and goes over to help Layla up. He seems rather distracted - in an appreciative way - by the fishnets as he helps her. He gives her a slightly wolfish smile as he extends his hand to help her up

Bela was obviously disturbed by Emmet's ideas about living things, but she could see the humor in his 'chicken' joke, but all she did was smile as he at the bbq 'blood' coated nugget. "Well I'm ready for adventure wherever it leads, but I'm not a fighter but a artist and storyteller. And I will watch Aidan at the tryouts."

As Bela packs up her lunch she looks at Trevor with her brow wrinkled in thought.

Trevor helps Layla up, unaware to Bela's expression.

About five minutes later, the lunch bell rings and students start heading back to classes. The dark-haired youth at the other table pauses in the process of gathering up his books to regard the group with a curious expression before heading off to wherever he's supposed to be next.


Time: 12:40 pm, Monday, September 9, 2002
Current weather: Partly cloudy. Expected weather: Partly cloudy
This web site copyright 2001 by Midori Hirtzel-Church.
This page first posted -- January 29, 2003
First uploaded to mirror site -- January 10, 2003

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This website copyright © 2000 by Midori Hirtzel-Church. All characters © 2000 their respective creators. Changeling: The Dreaming is copyright ©1997 White Wolf Game Studios. No copyright infringement is intended.