Shirin’s Change, for Lyn
She hadn’t meant to fall asleep in his room. They hadn’t been doing anything–she’d be quick to point that out–but they’d been talking in his room late into Friday night and one thing led to another…and there they were, both curled up on his bed–conveniently big enough for both of them, which was a bit suspicious–sleeping the day away.
She winced, her head pounding from the sounds of all the noise and conversation from the hallway. How is everyone up so early? She looked at the clock Fionn had managed to wrangle from somewhere. 7:04 in the morning. There’s no way, not on a Saturday. She rubbed her temples and tried to lie back down and ignore it.
The trouble was that the sound was getting louder. More and more voices were layering on top of each other, worse than the dining hall had been the first few days, worse than the dance, worse than she’d ever heard it before. How hasn’t Aodhfionn woken up to all of this? She knew he was related, a little distantly, to one of the professors so maybe all of this noise was more normal for him, but she couldn’t take it.
Gods dead and returned, I’d kill for a waffle. Wonder if I can get one.
I’m never gonna get a collar on that bitch; she’s too close to–
I wonder if he actually likes me? Or if he just wants to–
I’m never going to get my literature–
Did I really pick the right Mentor? Can you–
I wonder what my mother is–
Did you know you could–
Maybe if I ask nicely–
She didn’t realize she was whimpering until Fionn stirred next to her, sleepy gaze rapidly gaining focus as he sat up. “Shirin? What is it?”
“Why is it so loud?” she whined, hands over her ears.
Loud? What is she talking about? I can’t hear anything.
“How can you not hear it? It’s like the whole school is out there screaming in the hallways.”
Fionn blinked at her. “Shir…I didn’t say anything.”
“But…I heard you…” Her voice broke as she pushed her hands tighter to her head. “It hurts, god my head it hurts, Fionn…”
“Okay…okay. Let’s get you to Doctor Caitrin, alright? She’ll know what to do.” She has to.
“I can’t walk…I can’t move.” Her head was pounding, all the yelling just getting louder and louder.
She could hear his wings flap–he’d Changed a few days ago, relatively early on–as he made a choked sound. “Okay. I’m going to carry you then, if that’s alright.” All she could do was nod. “Right. Hold on tight, then.”
He scooped her up into his arms and started speed-walking toward the infirmary. And true to his word…she couldn’t see a single person out in the hall. It was totally empty. So who am I hearing…?
Luckily, it was still early enough that no one was in front of them when they got to the infirmary. “She’s got a splitting headache. And…” His voice faltered. This is gonna sound crazy. “She’s hearing things.”
The nurse raised an eyebrow. “Hearing things?” That’s an interesting symptom.
“It’s not interesting, it hurts,” Shirin whined.
The nurse sat up straight. “Ah. Room three, then. The doctor will be with you in a moment.”
Aodhfionn nodded and carried her into the room. “I’m going to set you on the bed, okay?” She nodded and he laid her down carefully on top of the examination table. “Does your head still hurt?”
Being in the infirmary seemed to have made the noise quiet a little, but it was still hard to keep her eyes open. “Yes. Oh gods, it feels like my brain is going to explode.”
She heard a chair scoot, and then a hand rest on her knee–and she fought to bite back the tears. “It’ll be okay, Shirin. The doctor will know what to do. She’ll know what’s wrong, and we can fix it. We can do it together, okay?”
She nodded, sniffing. “Okay.” Her voice was little more than a whisper. Fionn had been so sweet the whole time she’d known him. They’d only met what…a month ago now? Had they really only been in school that long? One month, and she couldn’t imagine being anywhere else, with anyone else. Even though they’d managed to get through Hell Night unscathed, they’d both walked out knowing that something had to happen. They hadn’t figured out what yet…but the one thing they knew for absolute certain was that no one was getting a collar on them…that wasn’t them. Shirin had seen the after-effects of that too much already, and Fionn’s sister had already made strong implications about watching themselves.
Knowing what little she knew of Mystral, if the girl was going to give advice, Shirin was willing to listen. Myst seemed to have a good idea of what was up.
Shirin looked over at Fionn, and watched his mouth. She could hear him, a steady stream of consciousness–I can’t imagine what happened. She’s reading my mind or something…I suppose that’s a possibility? It doesn’t matter what it is. No matter what, we’ll get through this. I’m not leaving her side.–but not a single movement from his mouth.
Was she really reading people’s minds? Her stomach wrenched at the thought.
It was a few moments later before Caitrin walked in, peering at a clipboard. “Shirin sh’Leto?” Shir nodded. “And Aodhfionn sh’Gabriele, I see. You’re comfortable with him here, Shirin?”
She managed a nod. “I’d rather him be here.”
Caitrin’s eyes flickered between the two of them, but she nodded and pulled up a chair. “The nurse tells me you’re having fairly impressive headaches, and you’re hearing voices?”
“I–” She winced, hand to her temple again.
“We think she…might be hearing thoughts, Doctor,” Fionn offered. Shirin nodded in confirmation. “She woke up saying she could hear a large group of people, but the hall was empty and I wasn’t talking.”
“Hm.” Caitrin muttered a soft string of Words, and everything went quiet for the first time since she woke up. Then, a single quiet familiar female voice: Can you hear me?
“Yes,” she replied. Fionn blinked next to her.
And only me?
“Yes.” She blinked a few times herself, tilting her head to the side. “I…I can’t hear anything. I mean, I can’t hear any of the voices anymore.”
“Well then. I’d imagine this is the first sign of your Changing, then. Have you noticed any other symptoms? Physical, mental? Anything can be of interest.”
Shirin thought about that. “I…no, I don’t think so.” She looked at Fionn.
He shook his head. “No, ma’am. I haven’t seen a difference in her either.”
“I see. Shirin, is there anyone…in specific you’d like me to notify about this?”
“No, ma’am,” she replied. No one’s put a collar on me, and no one’s going to.
The doctor’s lips twitched in a small smile. “Very well. Who is your Mentor, again?”
“All for the best. I very strongly recommend you go speak to him as soon as you have the ability to. For now, I’ve done a little something that should help with the noise, and these…” She tapped out a few pills. “…will help with the pain, though take them sparingly, and not before you’re planning on doing much moving.” Clearly she’d missed something there, because she saw Fionn’s face go bright red. “Sound good?”
“Yes, ma’am. You think I should speak to Professor Solomon now…?”
“If he’s available, yes. I think it would be wise. Do you think you’ll be able to get there?”
“I have help.” She smiled at Fionn, who returned a small shy smile.
Caitrin seemed pleased. “Good for you two. You’re free to go, then. If anything gets worse, the pain or anything else, feel free to come back in. You’re never a bother.”
“Thank you, Doctor.” Fionn helped her down off the table, and taking her hand, the two walked out down toward Solomon’s office.
Outside the door, the two paused. “Do you want me to come in?” Fionn asked quietly.
“I…” She sighed. “I don’t know. I think until I can get this under control…at least a little, it’d be easier if I were on my own.” She looked up at him. “You don’t mind, do you?”
“Of course not. This is your mind, your Mentor, your decision. I just want to make sure you’re comfortable, no matter what. I want to help, if I can.”
“I know you do.” She gave him a firm hug. “And you help me just by understanding. But especially if I can read minds…you’re going to be a distraction.”
His face flushed again, and this time she just smiled at it. “I suppose that’s not wrong.”
“Mmm.” She leaned up on her toes to brush a kiss to his cheek. “I’ll come find you for lunch. How about that?”
He nodded. “I’ll be in my room, probably.”
“I’ll find you.” She hugged him again. “Thank you, Fionn.”
“Of course.” He pressed a kiss to the back of her hand and headed back toward the dorms.
She took a deep breath and knocked on the door. “Professor?”
“One moment.” She stepped back from the doorway, and a moment later it opened, her Mentor’s face peeking from around the door. “Ah, Shirin. Is something wrong?”
“I…Doctor Caitrin told me I should come see you.”
Solomon frowned, but nodded and opened the door, stepping to the side. “Of course, come in. You’re welcome to speak to me any time. The doctor sent you my way?”
“She…we think I started Changing. And…well. I’m hearing things. She said you could help.”
“Ah. I think I understand a little more now. Your mind does seem to be in a bit of a fog.” He shut the door behind them. “You don’t mind if I keep this a little more private and personal, do you?”
“No…no of course not. Am…am I okay, Professor?”
Solomon smiled. “Yes, my dear, you’re perfectly okay. Inasmuch as I am as well. Telepathy isn’t our most common gift, but it’s not unheard of. Just…a little less spoken of, since…well. I’m sure you can imagine.”
Shirin wrapped her arms around her stomach. “I don’t want to hear everyone’s thoughts, Professor. I don’t like it.”
“It does get rather loud at the beginning, to my memory. So first off, I’d like to assess how strong your radius is already. Shall we?”
She nodded. “Sure.” The noise filtered back in, but selectively. It was only a few voices.
“All right, I’d like you to try and pinpoint my mind’s voice, if you can.” That one was easy. It was the loudest, though not nearly as loud as some of the others from this morning, and he was reciting math equations. She repeated one back to him, which earned her a smile. “Good. Now, I’ve done my best to pick out a few people in the building, and I want you to focus on the one that’s most quiet to you, and tell me what you hear.”
Shirin frowned, focusing on the few voices. Which one is softest? Eventually she narrowed it down to one, a distant voice that sounded familiar but she couldn’t place who it was. I can’t figure her out. At least last year seems to have mellowed her out a bit. Gods damn, but did she act like her mother. Shirin blinked. “I hear someone saying that someone’s mellowed out, and…she? Was acting like her mother. It’s really quiet.”
Solomon blinked a few times, straightening his glasses. “Well. No wonder the school seems loud to you. You’ve got quite an impressive radius of hearing. Right then. First things first: I’m going to begin to teach you how to shield your mind from those around you. We can start with the furthest away and work our way in. It’s going to be a long process, and it’s not going to come easily. But…well, just from what I’ve seen of you in class, I think you’ll be a quick study.”
Shirin blushed. “Thank you, sir. I’ll do my best.” I have to. I can’t keep living like this.
He smiled. You will, for now. And it will get better. That I can promise you.
Her eyes widened, as did his smile. “You’ll be fine, Shirin. Let’s get started.”
She was a quick study, much as Solomon predicted. She’d taken more of Caitrin’s pain meds than she was proud of, but she was at least getting through her classes with less feeling like she was going to explode. It was difficult, there was no doubt about that. Especially when she got tired, the noise became deafening. She’d ended up curled up and sobbing in Fionn’s arms more times than she cared to count, but true to his nature, Fionn had simply taken on the task without hesitation. After a week or two of only moderate progress, Fionn had sat her down in his room and taken her hands in his, sitting across from her on his bed.
“I don’t know how better to help you, Shir.” His voice was rough. Neither of them had slept well lately, neither in her room or his. It didn’t seem to matter: the voices kept Shirin up, and he stayed awake with her. Luke had started glaring at both of them in class, and there was only so much explaining they could do that didn’t sound like they were trying to cover up all the wild sex they weren’t having.
She gripped his hand. “I know. I’m sorry it’s been like this. I’m…I’m trying.”
“I know…I know, lovely. I don’t mean to make it sound like I think you’re not. I know you’re trying, and Professor Solomon keeps saying how well you’re doing. I just…I wish there was something else.” His wings were tucked tightly against his back, the very image of his grandfather. “Anything else, I could be doing. I feel helpless.”
“My dear cy’Luca. Helplessness never suited you.” She kissed his fingers, and he managed a small smile. “I…it’s better when I’m with you. Something about you seems to ward some of it off. I don’t know what. It’s like…like you have a little shield you can hold around me, and it makes everything quieter.”
That got a more pronounced smile. “I’d love to be your shield, in any way that I can. And…” The smile twisted away. “The locker room comments are getting louder.”
She shivered. Try as she might, those she couldn’t block out in class. “I know. I can hear what they’ve been thinking. It makes me sick.”
“I’m not going to let any of them touch you.” His voice was steel. “We swore, back on Hell Night, that it was you and I, and we’d make it work. But…” He loosed one of his hands from hers to trace his fingertips against her collarbone. “I don’t think we’re going to get out of this without one of us being collared.”
“I can’t Keep you, Fionn,” she whispered. “Not when I can barely control my own mind.”
“No, I wouldn’t…I wouldn’t have suggested it.” He winced, grimacing. “And as much as I’m not sure I like it…I think it’d be better if I Kept you…first. Maybe later this year we switch, maybe next year… I don’t know. But I want to protect you, Shirin…and this is the best way I know how.”
She took a deep breath, swallowed, and nodded. “I…I think so too.” They both sat in silence for a moment, watching each other. “Do…are you sure?”
“No, of course not. But…I can’t risk anything happening to you.” His voice was rough again. “I wouldn’t be able to live with myself.”
“Such an overprotective mama bear.” She was smiling, and Fionn only looking minorly annoyed. “You know I’m my own person, yes? That it’s not for you to decide what can and can’t be risked about me?”
Fionn leveled a glare at her. “You know full well I know that, and I wouldn’t have you any other way. But…that’s both why I’d want to, and not want to, do this.” His lips twisted. “If…If I did Keep you, then it would be on me, to measure the risks, to watch out for edges. You would be mine to protect. But…” His wings twitched, a sure sign he was fighting to not flap them. “I still don’t like the thought of being able to force actions on you. Force thoughts into your head. I don’t like it.”
“We can work with that, though.” She brought his hands to her lips again. “It’s something we can avoid, or work around. It doesn’t need to be complete or final or written in stone.”
He watched her, no words coming out loud, but she could hear his mind racing. I want so much to watch over her. She’s hurting so much…and being so strong all at once. Gods, how did I ever manage to meet someone as brilliant and beautiful as her this early in my life? How did I get so lucky? I don’t know why she sticks around.
Shirin just smiled and leaned over to kiss his cheek. “I stay because I think very much the same of you, my handsome white knight.” She giggled as he blushed. “I think we both got lucky. And I’ll be happy to have to protecting me this year.”
“You’re…you’re sure.” He kept his eyes on her. “We can stop, if you want. At any time.”
“I know.” She took a breath and squeezed his hands. “I want to. I…I think I may need to.”
Fionn nodded, intensely serious. “Then…for this year, or until we mutually agree to be otherwise…you…are mine. You Belong to me.”
“Under your conditions, I’m yours. I Belong to you.” An odd tingle ran through her, and she shivered.
“I’ll admit,” he muttered, tone gruff. “There’s a small piece of me that likes hearing you say that.”
She smiles. “What, that I’m yours?” She leaned over and kissed his cheek again. “I’ve been yours for a while now, and I think you know it.”
“Mmm. It’s still early on. I’ve been waiting for you to wake up and realize you can do better than me.”
“Better than you? Better than the descendant of both Luke and Boom? No, my dear. I don’t think I could have done better than you.” She smiled, resting her forehead against his. “Besides, you’re pretty cute on your own. And you did sort of insert yourself pretty dramatically into my life.”
He made a soft sound, and she giggled. It hadn’t been something easily forgotten; in the first week of class, one of the older students had decided that something about her didn’t sit right with him, and he was going to make sure she knew it–until suddenly someone was in his way, and he wasn’t willing to budge. Fionn had silently stood in the bully’s way, taking the verbal–and eventual physical–attacks until Luke had shown up to drag the idiot off and mutter a few choice phrases about not being stupid to FIonn as well. She wasn’t sure what it was, but from that point on, they’d been close to inseparable. To be fair, in comparison to some of their classmates, they were moving at a glacial pace. The extent to anything they’d done together was the kisses on the cheeks and hands they’d made habit, and they’d shared a bed. …Fully clothed. Shirin was sure she knew at least one couple who’d already hit the sheets together, and it was what? October? Nearly November? Right.
But luckily for her, his magnetism toward her didn’t seem to be fazed by time, just like hers toward him hadn’t been. It was still that pull deep in her stomach, every time she saw him in the hall–still that flick of his wings and straightening of his back when he saw her, the tiny smile just barely edging onto his face.
If anyone was going to collar her, she’d always wanted it to be him.
“So let’s find me a collar, shall we? One Luke won’t grumble about?”
“As my lady wishes.”