Septi walked out of the History building and crossed the campus quickly, not stopping on the way to talk to anyone. As she let herself into the library, she spotted Nito watching her from the window. She slipped into the seat across from his, and smiled at him sweetly.
“How are you?” she whispered.
“Good. You?” he sked, moving several books out of the way so he could see her a little easier.
“Busy,” she responded, still in a whisper,while looking a the boks he had moved. They were from their general science class, and she had used those same referance books not too long ago.
“You a little behind still?” he asked, his one hand dissapearing under the table. A slight pressure on her knee told her that he had placed his hand there.
“Not too bad,” she said, slipping her hand to take his hand, trying to conceal her nervousness.
“Why do you always wear gloves?” he asked, slipping a finger into the wristband of her glove and tugging at it.
“Because I like to,” she responded, not wanting to give him her full answer.
“You’re not like Rogue, from X-Men, and will kill me if I touch your skin?” he asked. She laughed quietly,trying not to show her surprise. Several people glanced over at their table and glared at her.
“No! What might have given you that idea?” she asked, lowering her voice.
“I don’t know,” he said, tugging her glove completely off of her hand and sticking it in his pocket.
“Please could I have my glove back,” she asked, trying to fight the wave a terror that had hit.
“Could you realx?” he asked, leaning back. “Relax,” he repeated, taking her now bared hand. She bit her lip slightly, fighting the instincts that told her to pull away.
“How can I relax?” she asked, trying to force herself to do so anyway. “Not when I’m-” she caught herself before she said anything that she’d regret.
“Not when you’re what?” he asked, looking genuinely interested.
“Nothing,” she said. “It’s not important.”
“It’s you,” he said. “Of course it’s important.” Septi sighed, fighting the urge to roll her eyes.
“And I say it’s not important,” she said firmly. “You know, it’s getting late. I should be going.”
“Is it?” he asked absentmindedly. “Can’tyou stay for just a few more minutes?”
“No. I’m needed elsewhere,” she said, her blue gaze staring him down.
“Alright,” he said, finally releasing her hand.
“Could I have my glove please?” she asked, holding out her hand expectantly. He pulled out the glove again, holding it tauntingly.
“For a kiss, mabe,” he said, his eyes flashing in the light.
“Over my dead body,” she snapped, her face and eyes still light and smiling, but her voice slightly threatening.
“Lighten up, Renee!” he said, standing up and shoving her glove into his pocket again. Her eyes followed it as she walked around the table. “Kiss?” he asked, watching her.
“Would a hug do?” she asked. He nodded, and she stepped into his embrace. Gently and carefully she tugged her glove from his pocket, doing so in such a way that he wouldn’t notice.
“That wasn’t so bad, now was it?” he ased, still not noticing that she held the glove in her tightly clenched fist.
“No, it wasn’t,” she said, removing her other glove in such a way that it covered the one she had retrieved. “I’ll see you later, Nito.” As she left the library without the books she went in for she dropped the gloves into her bag, feeling very good about her small triumph.
Septi viciously sliced at her target, fighting her way through the obstical course that Valencia had set up. Sweat was pouring down her face and back, andshe was fighting for each and every breath. An intense joy filled her as she moved along the line of targets, leaving wreckage in her wake.
All of a sudden a spray of paintballs shot towards her and she ducked, narrowly avoiding them. At the same time a stack of mats fell from the rafters, where they had been pecariously perched, falling right towards Septi. She dove forward, but her foot was hit by one of them.
Mutering a cuss word, Septi stood up and examined the next section of the course. There was a wall and the only way past it was to climb over it, using the ladder leaning against it. She stepped up and started to climb.
At the top of the ladder she saw that there were beams and catwalks that she’d have to walk on to get across, unless she wanted to fall about twenty feet. Cautiously she tested her weight on the first one, and then scampered across. Examining the next set of boards, she noticed that although several were steady, only two commetcted to the next point.
Testing her weight again, the first plank snapped as soo asshe put any pressure on it. Moving on, she tried the second. It bounced, but held, and se knew that this was the path she’d have to take.
Not entirely convinced of the safety of th board, she stepped on it anyway, and was halfway across when it snapped.As she fell, she frantically grabbed at the plank, catching herself. When she had finally managed to pull herself up she crouched and ran the rest of the way, to the final plank. There was a rope ladder that she could climb down and, and she quickly and greatfully did so.
As she dropped the last five inches she heaved a sigh of relief. Taking a step forward, she lowered her guard a little, and it was only a slight buzzing noise that made her stop and look around.
A motion censor sat just a couple of inches away. Septi loked around again, and noticed a keypad, set on the wall only a few inches beyond that. Touching the small bag she had attatched to her belt before she had entered the course, she allowed herself a small smile.
Septi quickly approached the keypad, knowing that there was not way to avoid setting off an alarm. Even so, she jumped when a loud beeping noise sounded throughout the gym. Tugging a small tube of powder and a brush from her bag, she gently brushed the dust over the key pad.
Quickly typing in the password, she sighed in relief once more when the alarm was silent. Looking around again, she noticed that door she knew was her way out of the course. Relieved she went through it.
“How’d I do?” she asked Val, who was sitting at the desk watching the different screens.
“Your time was the quickest, even once you add the penalty for getting hit with the mat,” Val said, hitting save on the file. Shutting off the screens, she turned in her chair to face Septi. “I was quite impressed.”
“I’m glad I can impress youi with my mad skills,” Septi said, smiling slightly. “Though I should have seen those mats before I did.”
“All the same,” Val said with a slight shrug. “It’s not bad at all.”
“Good,” Septi said as she crossed the room to the other door, which let her into the rest of the hideout. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to take a shower.” Val nodded and carefully started shutting everything down. Septi left the room, feeling a little tired and more than a little stressed.
‘I still have to study for the finals,’ Septi thought. ‘And then the dance is tomorrow eveing, so I’ll need to be sure that I’m ready for that. Then the bill will need to be mailed on Monday.’
“Septi,” Mes called from the living room as Septi walked past. “You ready for your last dance lesson?” Septi stopped in her tracks, cringing as she turned to face Mes.
“I was actually going to take a shower,” she said, leaning on the doorframe. “I’ve been going through the obstical courses, and I really don’t think it’s a good idea to go around smelling bad.”
“Good,” Mes said, ignoring the last little bit. “Then you won’t mind getting a bit sweaty while you attempt to dance.” Septi gave Mes a deadly look and Mes intentionally ignored it, again.
“You know just how to torture me, don’t you?” Septi asked.
“Yup, and I enjoy it too,” Mes said, pushing some of the furniture in the living room away from the center of the room.
“You’re not going to have me… not in here, in front of everyone?” Septi asked, feeling a bit sick to her stomach.
“There’s no one else in here,” Mes said, glancing up at Septi.
“There will be,” Septi said, trying to slip away without Mes realinzing what she was doing. Mes gave her a slight glare and pointed to the cleared area.
“You will dance, in front of people or not, now,” she said, crosing her arms and tapping her foot slightly. Septi cringed, and Mes turned away to turn on some music.
‘It’s now or never,’ Septi thought, turning and vaulting.
“Septi!” Mes shouted. “Get back here!” Instead of answering, Septi took a deep breath and kept running.
‘If I can get to Raram’s room, I bet she’ll hide me,’ Septi thought as she changed directions. She heard Mes skid, then a slight bang as she crashed into a wall or something of the sort, and Septi pushed herself to the limit.
She knocked on Raram’s door quickly and firmly, praying that Raram was actually in her room. Breathing a half sigh of relief when the door was open, she slipped into the room while offering a rapid and quiet explanation.
“Mes is trying to get me to dace, in the living room, and I really have no desire to dance there, or anywhere else. Please hide me?” Septi felt like a deer in headlights as a shocked and confused Raram stared at her, while Mes’s footfalls got closer to the room.
“Well, you’re already in here,” Raram began. “But sure, I’ll hide you.” She crossed the room to her desk, where she was appaently in the middle or homework. Septi took the opprotunity to look around as she caught her breath, listening for Mes.
“Thanks,” she whispered. She bit her lip, then commented quickly, “you’ve really redone your room.” Raram glanced up from her work, and smiled slightly.
“Yeah. Like it?” Raram asked, keeping her voice low as Mes tapped on her door. Louder, she called out. “Just a second.” Septi took the opprotunity to dive into the corner, where she’d be hidden by the open door. When Septi was possitioned, Raram opened the door partially.
“Do you know where Septi went?” Mes asked, her voice agitated. Septi could just imagine her, toying with her hair, a frustrated look on her face, and she was filled with pleasure.
“Um, I think I heard her go that way,” Raram said, motioning the other end of the hall. “But I don’t know. I’ve been doing school work all night.” Mes sighed and walked away, and Raram closed the door behind her. When they were sure that Mes was gone, they exchanged glances and started to giggle. Septi crossed the room and sat down on the edge of Raram’s bed.
“I do like your room,” Septi said, tracing the pattern on Raram’s bed. “It’s a bit edgier that it used to be, but it is obviously your room.” Raram smiled and nodded.
“Yeah,” Raram said quietly. “So…”
“I’m sorry for barging in like I did,” Septi said, looking at the door.
“No problem,” Raram said, seriously.
“Thanks.” They fell silent for a couple of moments. Septi waited for a couple of seconds before she stood up and walked to the door. As Septi’s hand closed around the door knob, Raram spoke up.
“Septi, do you know that Chaos has been playing hooky for most of the last week?”
“No, I didn’t know that,” Septi said, stopping and turning around. “Thanks again.” ‘That little brat! He’s going to get us all killed!’ she thought angrily.
“Just thought you should know,” Raram said. Septi nodded and turned to leave. She walked qujickly to her room, where she closed the door and picked up her phone. Before she could dial, though, it rang. Seeing who it was, she answered.
“Hello, is this Miss Carl?”
“This is she,” Septi said, a pit of dread growing in her stomach.
“I’m Danielle Smith, the Principal here at Vegas Elmentry and Middle school. I’m calling because of Andrew Hamilton?”
“There are two things that I think you might want to know about. First off, Andrew’s history teacher and science teacher both have been submitted to a psychiatric ward in order to under go testing and intesive counseling, while his mth teacher has quit his job, and his engligh teacher has, er, left us for a better place.”
“What caused this?” Septi asked, dreading the answer. “It seems almost too coincidental that so many of the sixth grade teachers would be unable to teach at the same time.”
“I don’t know,” Principal Smith said shortly. “They all seemed upset and frazzled, muttering about these mysterious ‘voices’ and writing on the wall.”
“Oh really?” Septi’s voice was inquiring, but her lips were tight as she battled with her gut feeling that she knew the ource of it.
“Yes. Quite insane, actually. However, all of the sixth graders will have no school, as they lack so many teachers.”
“You don’t have substitutes?” Septi asked, surprised.
“Not enough.” Sept cringed, making a mental note to pull Andy out of school and not to send him back. Apparently there weren’t enough teachers to risk it.
“Alright, so there’s no school until furher notice. And the second?”
“Andrew is suspended. He has missed school three days in a row, without any excuses.”
“Ah… I actually wanted to talk to you abot that. I was completely unaware that he ws skipping until earlier today.”
“Oh really?” from Principal Smith’s tone, Septi could tell that she didn’t believe her.
“Yes, and I apologize.”
“I see. He’ll be suspended for a week when school goes back into session. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to call the other parents and guardians.”
“Alright. Thanks for letting me know,” Septi said, hanging up and staring at the phone in her hand for a couple of seconds. Then she stood and began her search for Chaos, all thoughts of a shower abandoned.
Septi located him n the kitchen with a jar of peanut butter in his one hand, and a spoon in the other. He didn’t pay any attention to her, instead shoveling spoonful after spoonful of it into his mouth.
“Excuse me, but that’s the community jar of peanut butter,” Septi said, sitting down across from him so that he would find it impossible to miss seeing her, shy of blatantly ignoring her. He looked up, his mouth full of peanut butter.
“No-owt now it ain’t,” he managed around a mouthful, plunging the spoon back ito the jar. “Delishioush.”
“Yes, it is,” Septi said, not easily distracted from the matter at hand. “Chaos, would you de so kind as to tell me something?” He had just put another spoonful into his mouth, so he had to work for a couple of seconds before he could manage speech.
“Wha-?” he asked, thickly. Septi cringed slightly as he sprayed her and the table with spit and peanut butter.
“You’ve been missing school, haven’t you?” Septi asked, her voice deadly sweet.
“Maybe,” he said, looking extremely uncomfortable, and only mildly upset.
“And what did you to the teachers?” she asked,d] dropping the sweet.
“I… uh… well you see…” he stuttered, staring sadly at the peanut butter he was unable to eat while talking.
“Stop babbeling and get explaining,” Septi said sharply, flinching as she realized how much like her mom she sounded. Start with your history and science teachers.”
“I kinda threw my voice and did a bunch of differant voices, quietly, so they was the only uns to hear it. It was so funny!” he explained, his face lighting up as he remembered what he had done. “Miss Kent, the history teacher, thought that there were ghosts, come back to haunt her.”
“And what did those ‘ghosts’ say?” Septi asked, begining to feel like she was interogating him.
“Jusht zhat zhe school wash built on a graveyard,” he said through a mouthful of peanut butter. He swallowed. “Nothin’ too bad, really.”
“Did it ever occur to you that you can get into big trouble for doing something like that?”
“Nope,” he said, pausing with the spoon halfway to his mouth. “So am I?” he added, looking like he really didn’t care one way or the other.
“Well, you’re suspended, though I’m pulling you out of school when it goes back into session.”
“Really?” he asked, looking happier than he had all day.
“Yes. It’s not worth killing off al of the teachers to send you to school.”
“Awesome!” he shouted, jumping up. “And I didn’t kill them.”
“No, but it would seem that one of them did die, whether from this or from something else, I don’t know,” Septi said. “And it’s not awesome for Val, or Chuck, or even Ryan.”
“That’s their problem,” he said, sitting back down with his peanut butter.
“You will not get in their way, understand?” she told him with a glare.
“Yes, ma’am,” he said reluctantly.
“Good,” Septi said, standing up. “Now I can go take my shower.”
“Okay guys, remember- no weapons, no powers. Nothing about what I do is to come up while Nito is on the premises. Understand?” Septi said to the entirity of the VI4C, which had flocked to the living room to meet her date.
“We know, Septi,” Raram sai, sounding a little exhasperated. “You’ve only told us, like, twenty times.” Septi cringed a little.
“No ‘Septi’, either,” she said, sweeping aroun the room to make sure that everything was in place. “It’s Renee when he’s here.” Just then there was a knock on the front door and Septi rushed to answer it, nearly two steps behind Mes, who had also run for it also.
“Hi. You must be Nito,” Mes said, smiling like the cheshire cat and letting him in.
“Uh, yeah, I am,” he said, looking around curiously. Then he saw Septi. “Holy smokes.”
“Hi, Nito,” she said with a small, shy smile.
“You’re gorgeous,” he said, staring at her like he’d never seen her before.
“Thanks,” she said, blushing. Just then Raram stuck her head into the hall.
“Is he here yet?”
“Yes, ‘Licia,” Septi sad, stepping up to him and gently taking his arm to steer him into the living room. “Why don’t you come and meet everyone?”
“Alright,” he said, taking her hand. She glanced up at him, startled, and he laughed. “Don’t look so shocked. I’m taking you to a dance. You’re my date.” She blushed at the emphasis he put on that last word and lowered her gaze.
“Well, come on then,” she said, leading him into the living room. “Everyone, this is Nito. Nito, these are my co-workers.”
“Pleasure to meet you,” he said with a smile.
“And you, too,” Val said from her perch on the edge of the couch. “Finally.” Septi blushed and looked down, very aware of her hand in his.
“Well, we should be going,” she said, suddenly anxious to get him out of there. ‘The less he sees of the VI4C, the better.’ He nodded and hse led him to the door. Picking up her wrap and clutch from the table in the hall, she turned to see the door opened and Nito offering her a hand.
“Careful,” he said. “The steps and path are slick.” Septi nodded and took his hand again.
“Thank you,” she said, smiling at him, just as charmed by him as the first time they’d spoken. ‘A lot has happened since then, but this hasn’t changed,’ she thought with a jolt. Fighting a momentary wave of sickness she tried her best to act normal. ‘But then, I don’t know what normal is. Things may have settled in, but it feelslike I’m caught in the ocean- as soon as one wave ebs, another comes rolling in t take it’s place. Can that ever be called normal?”
The ride to the school was a quiet one and Septi allowed herself to get lost in her thoughts. She jolted back to reality when Nito parked and turned to her.
Septi made it through the first part of the dance in a happy daze. Then she left Nito’s side toget a drink. When she returned, she saw Nito standing by the coat room’s door. She approached him, slightly confused.
“Renee, my dorm room will be empty,” he whispered. “Do you want to come and have our own little party there?” She stared up at him in shock for a couple of seconds, then started fumbling for words.
“No, Nito,” she said, a sick feeling in her stomach.
“Why not?” he asked, putting an arm around her shoulders, and rubbing her upper arm. Septi’s skin tingle, and she tightened her jaw, fighting her imagination and desires.
“I can’t,” she whispered. “Please, don’t ask me to-”
“Why not, Renee?” his voice was just barely audible as he whispered in her ear.
“Nito, no,” she whispered as he began to kiss her face. Her stomach burned with longing and anger, and she fought to gently push him away.
“Do you love me?” he asked. Septi glared up at him.
“That is so cliche,” she informed him, taking a step back, then turning and fleeing into the dance floor, making her way to a table in the corner.
She didn’t look for Nito for another half hour, but when she did, she spotted him through the crowd, kissing another girl. She didn’t know the girl and she didn’t want to. Apparently she had dropped the cup she was refilling again, because she wasn’t holding it anymore. She turned and fled to the ladies room, sobbing.
Leaning against the sinks, she barely managed to compress her sobs. Her makeup had run, and she didn’t care.
‘Nito, trying to convince me to be intimate with him. Nito, kissing that… Nito… Nito…’ Her thoughts swirled and she didn’t care that the smell of vomit hwas strong in the bathroom. ‘How dare he? That worthless, ignorant little pig.’ She thought, her sadness turning to anger.
Her phone rang just then and she dried her face. Seeing who it was she quickly left the bathroom, then the building, moving to a secluded part of the campus.
“Hello?” she said, praying that her voice was steady.
“Septi, it’s Ferinequell. The Saha boy has finally done it.”
“Oh, gods. Something will need to be done,” she said, beginning to pace. A chill ran down her back and she knew it wasn’t from the breeze, although the cold air caressed her back. “I’ll be there as soon as is humanly possible.”
“Alright,” he said. “Any orders in the mean time?”
“Yeah,” Septi said. “Prep Mes and… Raram. We’ll bring Saha to the VI4C, and those two work quite well together.”
“We’ll leave as soon as I get there,” Septi said.
“That’ll be all?”
“Alright. Bye.” She hung up. Turning to go back inside and wondering how she’d get home, she saw Nito.