by melanofly (メラノ飛) (mirrors http://s2b2.livejournal.com/197505.html)
by uneclochette (mirrors http://s2b2.livejournal.com/197867.html)
The headache wasn’t what woke him, but it was what kept him from going back to sleep once he was up. It rolled through his head like a drum line, pounding its high school marching band arrangements of some once-golden oldie across his brain with all the embarrassing force of the time he’d been sixteen and nearly killed himself with his father’s Jack. He hadn’t been hung over like this in years, decades. Just one more shit side effect, he supposed, of getting old.
What woke him was the phone. The Damn Agent had bought him the fucking thing, showed up on his doorstep to show him how to use it, and threatened to show up again every time Sid didn’t pick up, which was by Sid’s estimation a fate worse than answering a phone call every other week or so. Thus he wasn’t surprised when he picked it up to see the words Damn Agent on the screen. He’d learned how to program that little feature himself. “Sid,” he half-mumbled, half-grunted into the receiver end of the weird little rectangle, falling back against the couch cushions and draping an arm across his eyes. He hadn’t made it the bed; he hadn’t remembered that.
“Sid!” chirped the Damn Agent, who sounded too chipper for … well, Sid hadn’t looked at the clock yet, but he decided the exact time didn’t matter as far as too chipper went. “Got something I think you should take a look at, really make your day.”
‘Can I give him a hand with his bags?’
‘Of course, go ahead.’
Toby flashed him a grin like the sun coming up and Lorne wished he’d been paying attention to the boy’s question, because he was good at recognising that wistful half-hoping tone most days and could have politely implied that the kid would have been safer cuddling up to a grass snake than the slippery man approaching them. Too late for that now. Lorne watched Toby almost skipping up the garden path to the cloaked figure.
“…seven, eight!” Arakawa finishes counting, and they start the footwork routine over again, with the next person down the line counting.
After the sixth person, Satoru calls out “Stop!” and they all start the hand drills. The usual repetition, with more than the usual ache in his knees – too much of the sitting techniques the other day.
Practice is, as usual, sweaty and hot and wonderful, and the newly-promoted sophomores are coming along well, which Satoru is proud of. It takes a team to train new members.
It was the last week of spring classes and Xander would have sworn he was too tired to keep his eyes open, much less stare at the stranger across the way from him in the subway car. At first, he told himself it was just the man’s hair that had caught his attention—it was the kind of bright, fiery auburn that looked fake everywhere outside of Scotland, except that the color was too nuanced for it to be from anything as simple as a bottle. Then the man noticed he was being stared at and Xander looked up and away, pretending he was concentrating on the advertisement for Dr. Zizmor’s dermatological miracles. He read the sign mindlessly, too busy pondering the emerald green of the man’s eyes to bother paying any more attention to the words than was necessary to find the obligatory grammatical mistake in the signage.
It all began one summer when–
No, that’s not precisely true, because it could all have been said to have begun years before, with my birth, or my uncle’s birth, or von Helmfried’s birth, or with the birth of whatever knightly fellow decided to clear away all the trees and deer and wolves and what-have-you and set some of his serfs–
–I think they were called serfs, unless I’m thinking of the sort of angel fellows, which isn’t the thing at all–
–to growing turnips and sheep and things on the land that would become known, for some reason, as Grauvghmare.
The first thing Fran saw when he rode into the keep was not the river, or the bridge, but the dogs. There were dozens of them, thick-coated white and grey beasts that could almost be wolves if not for the way so many of them stayed matched with the men in the yard, staying in pace just behind their heels. They roamed free, too; Fran passed a cluster of them tussling on the summer snow and biting at each other’s ruffs like pups. One approached him when he dismounted his horse, coming close to sniff and pace beside him. Fran’s father kept hounds for hunting, so he was familiar enough with what they wanted. He extended a hand for the dog to smell.
“Already looking to lose a hand so soon?” came a voice from beside him, just as the dog began to bare its teeth. Fran pulled his hand away and took a step back. A man approached him then, tall, with a thick red beard, wearing a heavy white furred cloak. “Kljova likes to greet our guests.” He made a quick, sharp noise and gestured at the dog, and it dipped its head and turned to lope away. “But you aren’t a guest. You’re the Garašanin boy.”
“I am,” Fran said. “My name is Franjo.” He offered up a small smile. “Fran.” The man did not smile back.
Surprisingly, given the clinically precise lines of the architecture and the modern, open-air sensibilities of the lobby, the inner offices of the Ceridian Communications building’s thirty-fourth floor were decorated like a Victorian library. Everything was mahogany and embellished with rounded flourishes. The chair where Dylan was currently crossing and uncrossing his legs, trying to swaddle his fidgeting in an air of thoughtful deliberation, was cushioned with red velvet and horse hair. It prickled through his jeans.
They were dark jeans, good jeans, designer in fact, according to Fiona, his business partner Amir’s girlfriend, who lived with Dylan and Amir in everything but name. She picked out his outfit for this meeting – once Amir’s stomach flu hit the 72-hour mark and it became clear that Dylan would have to go it alone – with so much care you would have thought it was Oscar night. Dylan was originally just going to wear his suit, but when he put it on for the first time in five years it turned out the pants had a mysterious new giant hole in the crotch that the Greek tailor down the block couldn’t or wouldn’t fix.
“Approaching destination. Planet’s denomination: K-72-13. Entering atmosphere in twenty minutes.”
The computer’s voice broke the silence in the transport’s cockpit. A previous pilot had programmed it to speak with a soft feminine voice, so Tyler couldn’t help referring to the machine as ‘she’. He hadn’t given her a name, though, and he tried not to humanize her too much. He saw how some of his colleagues lost track of reality after too many lonely flights and started talking to their computers as if they were their best friends. Tyler liked to think he was a calm, well-adjusted man, and under normal circumstances he preferred the company of other people to that of a disembodied voice.
Today’s passenger, though, was proving to be a handful even for him. Junior technician Mikhail Nikovic was squirming in the seat next to him, clutching the edges of his tool kit with his long fingers. He was a tall, lanky guy, almost as tall as Tyler himself, though you wouldn’t have guessed it by the way he sat with his shoulders hunched, leaning away from the control panel. Tyler ferried a bunch of passengers between the outer planets every month, but he had a feeling that he’d remember this particular one.
According to tradition, a bird offered to God in His shrine was to be killed by way of having its neck broken and its head twisted free of its body, but in modern times this had come to be seen as unnecessarily cruel. The current manner of sacrifice called for a hooked sakin to be pushed into the juncture between the bird’s throat and breast with a measure of precision that most laypeople were incapable of; Aryeh had been trained in it from a very young age. When he was a child, he’d felt intensely bad killing the perfect white doves the Temple bred for this purpose. The priests told him that it was good that he sympathized with the small and the helpless, because it meant he would be a good king. He could now issue the killing thrust without even having to look at the bird, and he was grateful for that.
Today, however, this was the thought that gave him pause. He checked the blade for flaws with his thumb mechanically and took up the dove that was handed to him, and even as he recited the words begging God to forgive them all for unknowing sins committed, he thought, it’s a blessing that I no longer have to look at its eyes. He stopped nearly in mid-word. He looked down at the dove in his hand. It looked back up at him, docile, knowing nothing else.
The priest at his shoulder cleared his throat. “Your Highness?” he whispered.
The first few months that Johan spends in the Gravina family manor are a blur of doing the wrong thing at the wrong time while saying the wrong thing to the wrong person in the wrong place, but his uncle assures him that he’ll settle into his role in time. Serving as Young Master Hugo’s valet is an important responsibility, after all. Does Johan think he was chosen lightly? Well, then.
Moxley Alten opened his eyes, cursed the daylight streaming through the cracks in the shutters, and pulled the heavy quilt up over his head. Damn that Elven wine, anyhow. This was the third time since he’d come to Alvarranen that it had snuck up and blindsided him, leaving him with a splitting headache. If only he could get a proper mug of Dwarven ale.
At the moment he may as well just have stayed in bed. The whole reason he’d gotten accidentally drunk the previous night was because of the end-of-term celebration; most of the students had already left, and his fellow teachers were heading off over the next few days to spend the winter solstice with their families. Moxley and the two other dwarves who had come to Skywhisper Academy to teach that fall would be left rattling around the empty halls. At least Finn and Jessa had each other.