Soeman was not in a great mood by any stretch of even Anli's rather optimistic imagination. Scrying, a waste of time and a devil's choice way to ruin a perfectly good day, and he had the rather depressing choice of either going to class or having Mr. Tigavian calling his mothers. That was a can of trouble he did not want to open up, so he'd go. He'd probably fail unless he changed his mind about studying some time soon, but he would go to class, at least. The strap of his dark green nylon bag dug into his shoulder, weighed down by his never-opened Scrying textbook, his notebook, and his velvet-wrapped mirror. At least if he had his own focus, he wouldn't run across a lot of unpleasant surprises. He'd had quite enough of those.

The doorway to the Scrying classroom stood before him like the jaws of death, silent and intimidating. He looked at them, ignored the shiver going up his spine, and crossed the treshold, casting a stray glance up towards the teacher's desk. As if attached to his chair, the blonde Islandic teacher already was seated by his desk, seemingly immersed in a dogeared paperback novel. At least that was marginally better than he expected from Scrying, or from Mr. Tigavian. The man might not have been his least favorite teacher if the subject had been another, but he would never have made the top of the list, either. As things stood, the Islander equalled Soeman's most hated class in the teenager's mind, and he'd do his best to avoid both of them, given the choice.

His preferred desk was empty; all desks were, this early, and he didn't lose time setting down his bag on the floor next to it and mercilessly gutting it, placing books and mirror on the desk's worn wooden surface, before he got himself settled on the tall chair, folded his arms on the desk, and leaned his forehead on his arms, the same way he'd remain until class was dismissed for the day. The same way he always remained throughout Scrying class. It might not be very productive, but he hadn't asked to be there, and he wasn't willing to cooperate, failing grade or no, quite yet. There were so many better ways to spend those hours he was supposed to be in class. Ways like entertaining vain and hopeless notions that any of the handful extraordinarily attractive students he'd noticed so far would show any interest in him. It certainly passed the time.


The blonde, green-eyed boy looked up from under long, unruly bangs, not sure he wanted to know what would come next. Not that he had much of any choice in the matter. With a sigh, he sat slightly straighter and started rubbing his feet together under the desk. It was all nerves.

"Yes, Sir Tigavian?"

"I'd like to talk to you."

"I'm listening." It wasn't even a lie.

The chocolate-skinned adult rose from his desk, putting his book down and walking down to the very back of the classroom, where this one early arrival was sitting, not moving an inch. The only thing that betrayed Soeman's nervousness was the reddish tint his cheeks were starting to take on, the sound of his shoes rubbing together, and the way his fingers picked threads out of the velvet that was wrapped around his scrying focus.

"Soeman," the Islandic teacher started again, when he came and stood by the desk, his voice gentle but stained with frustration and impatience. "I'm worried about you. You're only three weeks into the term, and you already have completely botched two tests, barely strung by on a third, and have a failing grade that is going to be hard to remedy. And you're probably the only one in this room who really needs the class."

He looked at the teacher for a moment. Way to go, to remind him that he was the only one in his class, at least, who didn't take Scrying because they'd chosen to, but because he'd been obligated to. It wasn't as if the class wasn't already feeling like being locked in a 2900's torture chamber.

"Need it for what?" he whispered to himself, his cheeks still somewhat hot. All he really wanted at the moment was for the teacher to go away, bother someone else, go back to reading his book, whatever. Just not stand there and talk to him about a failing grade he had a hard time caring at all about. "I'm the only one in here who can scry with any accuracy in the first place."

Mr. Tigavian studied him, and the man's gaze made his cheeks heat up further, wanting out of there. It was all too clear that the teacher had gotten the gist of what he'd said, even if the words might have eluded him. He was, admittedly, unsettled. He did not want any more attention than neccesary, and speaking back to a teacher would certainly get him attention.

"I will admit you do have a really strong gift, Soeman, but as you've noticed, it's not going to be of any help to you unless you learn to control it. That's what I'm here for."

He shrugged, trying and not succeeding in looking away.

"Soeman. If you do not start working in class, I will be forced to call your parents. I don't expect you to put out enough to pass my class this time around, but I do expect you to at least make an effort. If you will not even do that, you do not have a place in my classroom."

"Fine." Soeman nodded, trying to look sincere even though he wasn't planning of making even the token effort asked for. He hated the class and he didn't want to make it worse by actually participating. If it meant he'd be dropped, so be it.

"Which would mean you are not taking your required classes in a timely manner, and will be dropped from Avelyon High."

That wasn't quite so fine. Soeman stared at the dark-skinned blonde for a few moments, shocked. He could only imagine what his mothers' reaction to a stunt like that would be. And he wasn't so sure he wanted to find out firsthand if he was right in that regard.

This was blackmail. The worst kind, since it involved contacting parents. He would not have gone to Erigineea if he'd still been stuck with two over-protective mothers that could talk even Anli into mother-henning him. It was nice to know they cared about him, but he didn't always want to have the reminder quite so close.

"Fine, fine, I'll try, happy?"

Had he just taken an attitude with a teacher? Anli must have started to affect his manners.

"That's all I ask. Please remember that, now, Soeman."

Soeman nodded, grudgingly, and firmly planted his forehead on his arms again. He didn't care if he failed, the class was stupid and unneccesary at best, and ranged through uncomfortable and boring all the way up to plain frightening, when he'd made the misstake of letting someone with a love of horror movies (and with a major concentration problem) borrow his focus. None of it had yet been as bad as just walking the streets of town as a kid had been, but he was convinced that was only a matter of time. And it didn't thaw him up to the class any.

:He has a point, you know.: said a female voice in his head.

Oh, great, so now Anli was going to lecture him, too? :Whose side are you on, really?:

:Yours. You work hard in class now, you don't have to come back to it next semester. Isn't that worth it?:

:It's not that easy, Anli. I'm scared. What if I...:

:What if you see something you shouldn't, again? Then you do. It won't kill you.:

:Anli. Shut. Up.: he snapped at her, letting his terror of just such a situation leak through the mental connection, and feeling her stagger as she was hit with the force of his fear.He would have felt guilty about it at any other time, but after that remark, he if anything felt that it served her right. Anli had no right to lecture him, and being manipulated wasn't anything he fancied. Far from. The wozelle remained silent for the next few minutes, and he breathed a sigh of relief. He'd apologize if she was angry about it later, but for now, he was content with the situation.

The voice in his head returned just when he thought he was fine to sleep clear through the end of the class period. :That wasn't very nice.:

:You could show some sympathy. It won't kill you.:

:I'm hurt.: There was no mistaking the sarcasm in Anli's words. He wasn't sure she was supposed to be able to do that. Then again, she was Anli, and he was fairly sure she already broke a few laws of nature, as well as a busload of wozelle traditions. :I'm just thinking of your own good, Bonded. And the lamb your mothers promised me if I keep you in line all year. Mmmh, mutton.:

:Betrayed for a meal. I'm the one who should be hurt.:

:Lighten up, Bonded. Don't take it all so seriously. None of this classwork is going to risk you seeing anything worse than what's on campus television all the time. Just try, please? It'd make your mothers happy, and I wouldn't have to bug you about it if you decided to do something by yourself...:

He almost screamed aloud, frustrated and frightened by the wozelle's speech and the memories it had brought up. Memories he'd picked up from other memories, and that frightened him beyond measure. :ANLI! SHUT UP!: He released hold of his emotions for that instant, sending them all raging across his link to the wozelle, feeling a flash of pain as she fell and hit her hip, and ignoring it. Tears welled up in his eyes, stung like nettle-burns, and he forced himself to take control of the flood of fear and anger and dam it up, turn it back into the usual harmless trickle that let Anli know when he was upset and nothing more.

She remained silent, this time. Disturbed, Soeman gave up trying to sleep, and instead turned his head to watch the people that by now had started to slowly trickle in the door, cheek resting on his arm, elbow resting on the edge of his book, with him slowly starting to get pins and needles in it. People-watching wasn't exciting at all, they were all the same classmates he'd had since classes started, and none of them warranted any extra attention, in his opinion. Just his luck. He could have ended up with anyone on campus, and it turns out none of the people for whom Scrying was an elective were even remotely attractive.

His train of thought halted there. He blinked. That was strange, he would have remembered a six-foot-some ferret if he'd seen them anywhere on campus, and in his own Scrying class... He might be shy, and sometimes distracted, but he wasn't oblivious enough for that kind of eyecandy to have slipped by his notice for several weeks. Maybe class wouldn't be so bad, after all.

:Hey, Anli?:


:Anli, dear, come on, look at this.: he pleaded, fully prepared to talk until he'd smoothed out the wozelle's ruffled feathers. He had time. :I'm sorry I lost it on you, I was really tactless, I won't do it again, please?:

Anli's voice in his head was all mock hesitation. :Why would I, and why should I trust you after doing that?:

:You aren't hurt, are you?: Well, he knew the answer to that already, all that she'd hurt was her pride, or she would have complained about it already. Still didn't hurt to act worried about her, even if she'd be able to tell it was mostly pretense.

:Right, right, what's so important, now-: He felt her tap into his senses, it was like having a little not-so-quiet observer at the back of his brain. :Whoa! Why didn't you say anything before? Mmmh, tuberat.:

:Anli! You sound like you want to eat him!:

:Don't you try to tell me you don't, Soeman Fir.: The Anli that was sitting up in his dorm room, much to his roommate's annoyance, grinned, and he didn't need to be there to see it. :He's gorgeous. Positively handsome. Now, there's a stag I wouldn't mind-:

:Anli! I don't want to know!: Too late, of course, he already did. And he was blushing. Badly. Of course life would have it that he hadn't been born with neither fur nor an Islander's dark skin, so it was plain to anyone watching him that something was going on that was embarrassing him. It didn't help that he'd overridden Anli's suggestion of xi'lavri desertwear when getting dressed in the morning. Right now, those baggy pants and airy shirt would have been very welcome. :Wonder where he came from, haven't seen him around campus before... And this is rather late to jump into class.:

He didn't wait for Anli's reply as he unwrapped his mirror, watching the ferret walk up to the teacher's desk with most of his attention, drinking in the very welcome change of scenery. Then he turned his dark green eyes and his attention down to the silvery surface of the antique looking-glass that he'd found in his mothers' attic, and searched for that same image in the past. Four days ago, the mirror insisted, no such creature had existed. Stubbornly, he continued his search, moving to slightly more recent times. Three days ago, a ferret on his hands and knees in a classroom. He didn't care to expand the view of the room to find which one, it didn't seem important. He continued to look. It seemed that was the earliest that shape had been around at all.

:That's strange,: Anli observed. :It's as if he didn't come from anywhere.:

:Nowhere in my range, and that's pretty damned far. Maybe a gift from the Gods?:

:Don't be stupid. Gods have better things to do than give a perverted Scryer eyecandy. Horselizard spit, the High have better things to do, too, and that ought to tell you something.:

He shrugged, and continued searching for images, distracted for several long moments by the image of that ferret locking muzzles with a certain spotted feline he had seen around campus. It made his choice of clothing more uncomfortable, but it was at least a use of scrying he could agree with. One that was quite enjoyable, in fact. He let images pass, searching for something more than that, mentally glancing across the flicker of images that were the last few days' events.

:You know, Bonded, you really shouldn't be doing that... I know you weren't listening, but scrying ethics...:

:I don't care, Anli. Be quiet and enjoy the show.:

He didn't take notice as Anli's presence in his head got the feel of 'absent-minded', too absorbed in the image of a beautiful furred male stretching in front of a mirror. Stretching, and starting to bend over... This was looking very promising.

"Soeman Fir!"

He snapped his head up, mentally cursing that he'd been pulled from that show, face red and eyes wide as he turned his attention to the teacher.

"I do appreciate your newfound, ah, interest in my class. But please put away your focus until I tell you otherwise."

He nodded, meekly, and blinked at a strange sensation in his mind. It wasn't as if he didn't know it could be done, but it seemed unlike Anli to bother with something like the telepathic equivalent of tapping his shoulder before she spoke.


:If you're done getting yourself in trouble, I just thought you might want to know who your new friend is.: The wozelle sounded hellishly smug. With all right, if she'd really figured that one out, but he wouldn't admit that to her. She was enough of a pain in the ass the way she was, she didn't need a bigger ego to make things worse. :Noone other than the dear Royn Cooper.:

:You can tell how?:

:For one, he's wearing Royn's focus, and nobody would be stupid enough to steal that and then wear it in public. Much less to a Scrying class. For the other, he smells like Royn.:

:Really, now?:

:Ask if you don't believe me.: She gave the impression of shrugging her shoulders, and he uncertainly stood up, pretending as if all he was doing was stretching after sitting bent over the mirror. That was, indeed, the very distinctive pendant of polished onyx that his stockier, shorter classmate used for a focus. He was still considering that information when Anli gave him a mental shove, causing him to stagger a few steps forward, and then proceeded to mercilessly rip control of his body from him.

:Anli! No! You can't do this!:

A very stupid thing to tell that wozelle. :Watch me.: And so he was reduced to being shoved into a small space at the back of his head, observer of what his body was doing under the influence of his lunatic Bonded. Walking up to the ferret that might be Royn wasn't so bad, even though he would not have done that himself. There were still plenty of explanations for that. Or so he hoped, he couldn't figure one out that didn't sound conceived at the moment. The normally shy, blonde boy now stood, boldly in the opinion of his powerless sense of self, right next to the ferret's desk. He surely couldn't tell that smelled like Royn. A hint of musk, probably reduced by some form of chemical, was all he could discern. Even that was, in his opinion, something of a shame. Then again, he was probably one of the few people on campus that was not offended by the natural scent of most animals.


He had not just said that. He had not... Furious before the shock of reality hit him, he shoved Anli out of his body and slammed down shields that were purely instinctive behind her, fancying that he probably had managed to close that 'door' on a few hairs of her tail. Then he stood there, in front of a slightly surprised-looking ferret, fumbling in panic for an excuse, and trying to get that excuse off his tongue before he had fully formulated it. The browns of the creature's fur seemed to run out, turning the world greyscale, and darkening. He panicked more, desperately trying to push out something, anything, coherent, as contours turned bright white, and then turned into abstract patterns. Then, all he saw was black, a fraction of a second before consciousness completely eluded him.