Just Ignore It
Addergoole – 1342 words. Year 12.
Ashley doodled mindlessly on the paper in front of him. In theory, he was doing Literature homework. But in reality, the book he was to read was closed and under his bed, and the note paper looked more like it belonged in art class.
“Wonder if I can…ah, but I’m no good at that one,” he murmured to himself. “Can’t disguise anything.”
I can just ignore it.Not that he could ignore anything useful. Ignore animals. Ignore heat. Ignore dirt. Ignore stuff.
But he couldn’t ignore his mind. Mind was a word he’d proven utterly useless as early on. The word for emotion hadn’t come much better, but that one he could at least stumble through if someone put a gun to his head.
Two things he’d really like to ignore.
Mallory was fine, as far as Keepers went – at least, from what he could see. Most of his friends didn’t talk much about their Keepers, Sascha especially. However, he didn’t need to know the word for ‘mind’ to figure out that all was not well in some Keepings.
Even his had its issues. Mal had a temper that got set off by the strangest things, and a really strong opinion on odd topics.
“Tempero kwxe alpha.” The candle on his desk flickered, and dimmed. “Weird magic.”
Softly, a low jazz song started in the background – and at that, he had to smile. Out of everything, that had been the part of his Change he’d liked the most. Ashley had always been able to heard music in his head like a soundtrack, but had never thought there was reason for it aside from his own overactive imagination. Now he had his very own personal soundtrack that everyone else around him could hear too.
No one could call him crazy now.
“I would be the coolest dad,” he muttered to himself, sketching a rough cat face in the margin of his paper. “Only dad in the world – well, maybe not the world, but whatever – that can just make their kid a pony.”
“You’ll have to, you know.” Ashley spun in his chair to see Mallory leaning in the doorway of the room she’d had crafted for him.
“Make a pony? Hell of a final exam, but I think I’m up to the task.”
Mallory was amused. “No, not the pony.”
Ashley blinked. “What then? The kid?”
His Keeper just nodded, and held up two fingers. “Don’t go home without it.”
“That’s a shitty catch phrase. School needs a new PR guy. Think they’re hiring?”
“I’ll let you talk to Regine about it.” Mal smiled again, and Ashley grinned back. Part of being Kept or not – he liked making her smile.
But then again…that wasn’t new.
The music had shifted to a warmer, peppier jazz tune – similar to, if not actually, Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five”. Mallory glanced around. “So did this manifest at all before your Change, or did you just suddenly become a walking boom box?”
“I’ve always liked music, and have usually had the fantasy of a soundtrack in my head, but it’s never been out loud before. I dunno, I kinda like it. Like it more now that I can control the damn volume.”
Mallory’s eyes shut in a bit of a smile. “It’s a neat Change. But so is the rest of yours, after all.” She stepped forward and ran the tips of her fingers along one of his horns. He hadn’t bothered Masking, since he had been alone in his room, so they were showing.
Ashley closed one eye and smirked. “They’re interesting. I’ve had more than a few people call me Mr. Tumnus, though.”
“You’re not the first, last, or only Faun to be here at Addergoole. Everyone’ll get over it.” She sat down on his bed, tugging his chair over to her. “Come sit with me.”
“Sure.” He shifted out of the desk chair and sat next to her, crossing his legs and resting his head on her shoulder. “Anything wrong?”
“No. Just feeling lonely.” She turned so that she could wrap her arms around him. “Keep me company?”
His brain twinged, not sure if that was an order or not – and if it was, what was he supposed to do? “Uh – sure. What’d you have in mind?”
She didn’t respond at first, and he felt just the small niggling sense that he’d done something wrong, but then she looked up at him, confused. “Do you not like me?”
She didn’t sound hurt, but it still struck him like she’d been wounded. “Of course I like you! Why wouldn’t I like you?”
“No, no – Ash, it’s okay.” She soothed the side of his face, and his nerves calmed. “Sorry, I forget what that can do sometimes. It’s okay, I promise.” She kissed his forehead. “I mean, more than just being my friend or thinking I’d be cool to hang out with – though I know that comes with being Kept and all. I mean more along the lines of…” She frowned, finding her words. “If I gave you the choice to be completely free about it, would you want to have sex with me?”
That struck his brain completely off-guard. He froze up, his actual thoughts conflicting with what the Bond wanted him to say.
After a moment, she changed her tactic. “Answer me honestly, Ashley. Of your own accord, do you want to have sex with me?”
“No.” The answer tumbled out of his mouth before he could stop it. He bit his lip, closing his eyes. “I’m sorry.”
“No no, don’t be. I’m not offended, I’m not even sad. I just wondered.” She kissed his forehead again. “Open your eyes, please?” He opened them. “Am I just not your type, or…?”
Ashley shook his head. “No, no, it’s not you. It’s….it’s everyone.” He gestured, a bit vaguely. “I just…I’m not interested in sex. At all.”
“Oh sweetheart. You’re ace?”
Ashley nodded. “Yup, through and through.”
“I’m so sorry.” When he frowned, confused, she continued. “Like I said, with the kids…it’s going to be rough on you.”
Ashley shrugged. “It’s not like I’m sitting here being like ‘ew, sex, gross, run away.’ I just don’t think about it. It’s not a thing I really care to do. I mean, if I find someone I really like and they wanna have sex, then I have sex. Whatever. So if Regine wants kids, then she’ll get kids.” He spread his hands in an open gesture. “I’ll get over it.”
“I still need my last child for her,” Mallory mused, playing with the ends of Ashley’s curls. “Not sure who I want to ask, and I’m running out of time.”
“Who fathered the first?” Ashley inquired.
“My crewmate – and the guy who Kept me my first year. He graduated last year – named Silas.” He could see a faint trace of a smile on her lips. Must have been a good guy – at least, in her eyes. “But after that… I don’t know, I just never really thought about anyone. You’re my first Kept.”
Ashley quirked an eyebrow. “Seriously? Weird, but okay. So no second kid for you yet.”
“Nope, not yet.”
“Any ideas on who?”
She looked sidelong at you. “I’d hoped I’d find a nice Kept to help, but I’d feel bad doing that to you.”
Ashley just chuckled, amused. “I’m not going to take offense if you want me to help. But hey, can I make you a deal? Is that kosher by Kept law?”
“Not really, but I’ve never been one to hold tight to the laws if I don’t have to. What’s your plan?”
“I’ll help plan matchmaker, and keep an eye out for boys you might like, and might like you. And if I can’t find anyone by Christmas, I’ll help you. Sound good?”
She kissed his cheek, smiling. “Sounds very good. Excellent idea.” And as the wave of pleasure washed over him, he really didn’t mind being Kept for right now.