Sometimes People You Aren’t Close to Can Help You Say Things You Wouldn’t Otherwise
The snow was melting, but it was still cold.
“You doing okay?” Ozzy asked, nudging Daniel.
“Hm?” Daniel was running his fingers through some snow on the side of a building, making it fall to the ground in a shower of white dust. It was pretty, until it mixed with the slush on the ground and got gross right away. “Yeah. Just tired.”
“Yeah,” Ozzy said, hands behind his head. He didn’t seem tired. “Staying up all night is hard. You were up super early, too.”
Daniel hadn’t slept at all. “Theodore always gets up early. I can’t sleep after he gets up.”
“Yeah.” Ozzy hopped over a puddle. “I know you’re okay, but I just want to say. It’s okay if you’re not. It’s hard, what we do. And we all pretend we’re okay. But it’s okay if you’re not.”
Daniel nodded vaguely, watching some kids play in the snow. Maybe they didn’t get tired of snow down here, where they didn’t get as much of it. It was probably still frigid up home. “I’m okay,” he said, shifting under his coat to try and warm up.
“Me too,” Ozzy said. “If you ever want to talk about stuff or whatever…”
“I don’t,” Daniel said immediately. Then he felt bad. “I…I know I’m supposed to. And that talking about stuff makes you feel better or something. But I’m fine, really.” He was just cold and tired and he couldn’t complain to Ozzy about that. Ozzy had been doing this so much longer than he had.
The stupid part of Daniel that wanted to ask Ozzy how he was able to be so fine all the time pressed on him, but Daniel ignored that. Ozzy would just say something dumb and make fun of him. That would probably make Daniel feel better, if he were feeling bad. But he was too cold to feel bad.
Ozzy nodded. “Okay, cool. Just…you know.”
“I know. Thank you.”
“Listen, I have to go report the stuff,” Ozzy said, gesturing vaguely. “There’s a secret base but it’s probably not a cool one. You can come if you want, but you’d have to wait outside.”
“No, go,” Daniel said, waving Ozzy off. “I’m going to go back to the inn in a few minutes anyway. I might take a nap.”
“Okay. I’ll see you soon, then.”
Ozzy didn’t let him go with just that, of course. He pulled Daniel close to him and kissed him on the mouth right there on the fucking street like people weren’t watching, managing to slobber a little on Daniel’s cheek in the process. “See you,” he said, darting off with a small laugh.
Daniel sighed and wiped his face, turning and heading in the other direction. Ozzy was trying to be helpful and he was being helpful, and Daniel appreciated that. But Daniel didn’t need help, he just needed something to keep him busy. But failing that he’d take a nap until Theodore was done working.
Except he’d stupidly just walked the opposite way from Ozzy instead of back to the inn, and by the time Daniel noticed where he was going, he was already on the wide street that led to a bunch of shit like…the mages’ academy. It was in view right there.
Well, there was something he could do. Isaac had invited him to come hang out. Daniel could case him and figure out a plan to kill him. Or just kill him, if he could get Isaac alone without anyone realizing he was there. He hadn’t been able to find anything about Cyrus’s relic hunter, though Theodore said he worked for Prince Gavin now. Maybe Greg knew him.
Daniel decided that wasn’t worth thinking about right now, and he wandered around the walls of the academy until he found the series of hidden handholds he and Ozzy had discovered the other day. Well, Daniel had a feeling Ozzy had already known about them, but whatever. Daniel didn’t have any climbing equipment, or any proper clothes for this, just a normal coat and stuff. It was even green, but whatever, Theodore had bought it for him. He climbed freehand up the wall, then back down the other side. It was easy. Much easier than last night.
Now he was standing in a gross melting snowbank though, and there was no way for Daniel not to make a huge trail in the snow. It was okay, though. Anyone who saw it would just assume it had been some student sneaking out. Still, he took a winding path that crossed over itself a bunch of times, which made him more cold, before he finally found a path that already existed. He followed that to some buildings. Cool, buildings meant people. How the fuck was he going to find Isaac? It was the middle of the day, he was probably in class or something. Daniel had not fucking thought this through. Why was he even here?
Wait, if he was in class that was great. The students must sleep somewhere, and maybe Daniel could find Isaac’s room and hide in it or something. Or find out something about him, like his schedule. Maybe he was like Theodore and had a schedule lying around.
Maybe there’d be something in there that would tell Daniel why someone wanted him dead. Though that didn’t matter. It only mattered that someone did.
There were two squarish buildings not far from each other, and Daniel watched a group of students walking towards them. They broke up into boys and girls and the boys went into one. These must be sleeping quarters. Daniel waited ten heartbeats and then once the coast was clear, he went inside, found himself in a bland foyer with some doors going off in different directions. There was no map or anything.
One was open into a room that looked like it might be a bedroom. Maybe whoever supervised the quarters? They probably had a directory or something, right? Daniel didn’t know how many students there were, but with a building this big, they must need some way to keep track of them.
Fuck, Daniel didn’t know how many students there were, but they were all mages. He shouldn’t fucking be here. He should go back outside, hide in a tree or something until nightfall, and sneak around in the dark like a normal fucking…
“Hey, are you lost?”
Daniel span around, saw a guy a little older than him, about Hugh’s height, dark hair, dull eyes. He was smiling at Daniel and had a dog with him. Shit. Daniel moved his hand away from his knife and tried to smile back. “A little,” he said, thinking as fast as he could. “I’m not sure if I’m allowed to be here? I met this guy Isaac a while ago and he offered to show me around, but I…”
The guy laughed just a little bit as the dog came up and started sniffing Daniel’s crotch. “It’s very unlike Isaac not to tell you where his room is, but he’s a bit forgetful. He’s upstairs if you want to come with me. Baker, let’s go see Isaac.” He didn’t sound like other people from the capital, who all talked really fast.
The dog barked and took off through one of the doors, which he got up on his hind legs and pushed open. “Not that way…” The guy sighed as the dog disappeared. “Okay, he’ll be fine down there, but I don’t think Isaac’s in the shower. Let’s go upstairs.”
“Thanks,” Daniel said, and the guy opened a door, letting Daniel follow him easily up a flight of stairs concealed there. “That’s nice of you.” This guy was going to feel like shit when Isaac died later, he thought. Though Daniel couldn’t kill him today now that someone had seen him.
“No problem. I’m kind of the dorm supervisor. My name’s Vinnie.”
Daniel shouldn’t give his real name. It was bad enough that Vinnie had seen what he looked like, though his coat hid his frame at least a little. It was well tailored, but a little bulky. “I’m Trevor.”
Vinnie glanced over his shoulder at that, just for a second. “I used to know someone named Trevor before I came here,” he said. He blinked. “Sorry, that’s a weird thing to say. Are you a student?”
That was a trap. “No,” Daniel said. If he were asked to prove he was a mage, Daniel would be fucked. He knew better than to lie about something falsifiable. “Just visiting.”
Vinnie nodded. They passed a redhead on the stars, and Vinnie put a hand on his arm. “Where’s Isaac?”
“Common room on the third floor, last I saw him.”
“Thanks, Chester. Please don’t forget to do your laundry, okay?” Oh, Daniel thought, listening to the way he spoke. He was from Merket. He was hiding his accent a little, but that was why he sounded different; he sounded like everyone Daniel knew.
Chester nodded, and Vinnie and Daniel kept going up the stairs. “So you’re sort of the boss, huh?” Daniel asked.
“Not really. I just keep things organized.”
“Sorry if I’m interrupting something,” said Daniel. “I can probably find the common room on my own.” The building wasn’t that big.
“It’s fine, it’s easy to get lost in this place,” Vinnie told him. Oh. He didn’t trust Daniel. Fair enough, but it stung a little. Daniel hadn’t even done anything.
“Sure.” Maybe Daniel should try to make him less suspicious, so he didn’t tell anyone about this? “Everything in the capital is like a maze.”
Vinnie laughed again. “Yeah, honestly. They’re really into narrow hallways and rooms with small windows. Most of the buildings look the same too. Though I guess that’s what people think about Merket when they first visit.”
Right. If Daniel had noticed Vinnie’s accent, Vinnie had noticed his, of course. Especially since Daniel hadn’t thought to try and hide it. “Yeah. I guess to be fair, everything in Merket does look the same.”
“I can’t remember, to be honest. It’s been a while. Are you just visiting Three Hills?”
“Yeah, my dad is a merchant or something,” Daniel said. Why was this so fucking stressful? His heart was pounding in his ears as they came out of the staircase and into a narrow hallway. “I don’t actually know what he does, to be honest. I know it’s boring.”
“Good thing you met Isaac, then,” Vinnie said, buying Daniel’s lame excuse readily. “He’s the least boring person I know.”
“He seemed pretty cool,” Daniel agreed, as they came to a room. A darker boy with curly hair ran out of it, colliding with Vinnie and almost falling over.
Vinnie helped him up. “You okay?”
“Yes, I’m great, thank you Vinnie, you’re a pal.” The kid ran away without even looking at Daniel. He was moving awkwardly.
Vinnie shook his head and looked into the room. “There’s someone here to see you but I don’t think he’s been here before. So I brought him up so he didn’t get lost.”
“Who is it?” Daniel heard Isaac’s voice ask. He sounded a little different now that they weren’t in a cave full of magic.
Oh, shit, Vinnie was going to give the wrong name. So Daniel stuck his head around the doorframe. “Uh, hi.”
Isaac was in there with a gaggle of other boys, but it seemed like Daniel had his whole attention as he came over. “I’m going to go,” he said over his shoulder. “I promised Daniel a tour. I’ll see you all later.” Daniel winced, trying not to look at Vinnie.
“You don’t have to stop hanging out with your friends for me,” Daniel muttered, for something to say. He was going to get caught right away, fuck this.
“I live with them, I’ll see them again.” Isaac was beaming. “Thanks, Vinnie. I met Daniel at the wedding.”
Vinnie nodded. “He said he knew you and he kind of has Jacob’s vibes. Turns out he and I have stuff in common too. You guys need anything?”
“Nah,” Isaac said, rocking on the balls of his feet for a second. “Thanks.”
“Okay.” Vinnie kind of looked at Daniel before he went inside the room, a soft expression on his face. It was…understanding? Or something? Daniel wasn’t sure. But he didn’t say anything about Daniel lying to him.
“It’s cool you came,” Isaac said, talking even faster than most people from the capital. “I thought after about how you said you wanted to hang out but then probably had no idea where to find me. How’d you get through the gates? They don’t let random people in.”
“The guards aren’t magic, I just snuck past them,” Daniel said, giving a shrug. Magic people thought they were all powerful, but they really weren’t. “Sorry, this is super weird. I’m leaving the capital soon and I just wanted to…get that tour before I left.” The more and more Daniel thought about this, the more and more he realized it wasn’t going to work. Why had he done this? All he was doing was hanging out with someone he had to kill. It was the exact fucking thing he wasn’t supposed to do, fuck.
“It’s not weird. It’s good to see you again.” Isaac sounded like he meant both of those things.
It was weird and it made Daniel feel weird. “I mean it’s not like we’re friends. Your life wouldn’t be any different if you never saw me after the wedding.” It would be better, objectively. Because he’d have one.
“Sure it would be,” Isaac said, no hesitation. He was like Ozzy, a bit, in how easy he made smiling look. “Because it’d be a version of my life where I only got to hang out with you once.”
“What…that’s such a dumb thing to say.” Daniel probably should have said something nice, but that was just very stupid.
“Sure,” Isaac agreed, sounding like he was laughing. But not at Daniel. “But you came here. Because you didn’t want to live the version of your life where you only got to hang out with me once.”
“That’s not why I came here.”
“Why did you, then?”
Daniel didn’t fucking know anymore. He looked away, but it didn’t help. He felt like Isaac was watching him in a way nobody ever watched him. He needed to distract Isaac. “So you guys all live together here?”
“Yeah. This one is the boys’ dorm, and there’s one for the girls. I can show you around, unless you want to see the whole academy first?”
It would be so much more useful to see other parts of the academy where he might find Isaac, and hiding places and shit. He’d been here with Ozzy but it was big, and they hadn’t seen all of it. “Uh. I mean, I assume it’s just beds and stuff, right?”
“Yeah. We sleep four to a room even though there are empty rooms, go figure.”
“Go figure,” Daniel muttered. Isaac sharing a room meant Daniel couldn’t kill him there. He should say something to make it seem like he wasn’t just mining information. “I shared a room with seven other guys for a while even though our house was practically empty.”
“Wow. You guys must have had fun.”
They had. They had, for a long time. “Yeah, I guess.” Now all Daniel could think about was how empty that room was now. How empty the house was now.
“What? Yeah, I’m fine.” For fuck’s sake, why did people keep asking him that? At least Ozzy was his boyfriend, so it wasn’t weird. “I just don’t see most of them anymore, that’s all. Not because of anything terrible, they just moved out.” Why had he said that?
“Aw, that really sucks. I hope they didn’t move too far away.”
“I guess not, they’re pretty close by.” Stupidly close. Hugh was down the road. Daniel could just visit him. Daniel should just stop being a baby and fucking visit him and Simon. “What was wrong with that kid who was running away when I got here?”
Isaac snorted. “Cormac thought that God made a mistake in giving boys nipples. I showed him why he was wrong.”
That was such a…it was the kind of conversation Daniel would have had with Simon and Marcus. “Okay. I guess you guys don’t get any privacy in here.” There had to be some somewhere. They were all people, not things.
“Not really. I mean there are empty rooms and the privies have doors. The showers don’t and you just kind of get used to it after a while.”
“It’s cool that you get showers, though,” Daniel said, and then felt stupid. They’d had showers in the Empty Moon base when he’d been training there for people who weren’t into the pools, and he’d liked them. Theodore didn’t have them.
Isaac was watching him closely. “You want to see them?”
“No, I…” They were back on the stairs. What did Daniel want? He didn’t want to be friends with Isaac. He should do his reconnaissance on his own like a normal assassin. Ozzy was going to kick his ass for this.. “I should go. I shouldn’t have come here.”
Suddenly Isaac was in front of Daniel, blocking him from moving down the stairs. “You know what I think?”
Fuck. “No, I can’t read your mind.” But Isaac might be able to read his. Fuck.
“I think you didn’t come here to hang out with me.”
Fuck. Daniel considered the width of the staircase. How easy would it be for him to get around Isaac? He had some pretty serious magic. Maybe a knife to incapacitate him. Or he could just kill him now and run away. He’d be fucked for cover, but Theodore would hide him. He’d have to.
“I think you’re upset about something and you came here because it was somewhere you’d technically been invited to where nobody would ask you why you were upset,” Isaac said.
Huh? Daniel looked back at him. Isaac looked worried. “I’m not upset.”
“Okay,” said Isaac, with a small nod. “I’m not going to ask about it, if you’d rather not talk about it. But I want you to do me a favour and stop acting like you’re a burden. You’ve been here like fifteen minutes and three or four times you’ve made it seem like I should be mad that you’re here.”
“You should be.” Even if Daniel weren’t here to hurt him, who appreciated someone barging into their house and demanding attention?
“Well, I’m not.”
Isaac’s eyes were almost pleading. They were so kind. He seemed nice. He seemed like he really meant all the nice bullshit he was saying. Fuck. “I should go,” Daniel said quietly.
“Because you want to?” Isaac asked, leaning in just a little, but letting Daniel keep his space. “Or because you think I should want you to?”
“You don’t even know me.” This didn’t make sense. Nobody was this nice. Nobody would want to kill someone this nice. “You have no responsibility to make me feel better.”
“Yes, I do,” Isaac said. “Because you’re in front of me and you’re sad.” Now he sounded like Benedict.
Daniel…Daniel didn’t know what to say except the truth. “I did something terrible,” he whispered. Why would he say that? But he knew why. Isaac was nobody. He wasn’t Ozzy, who’d try to help him reconcile his emotions with his behaviour. He wasn’t Marcus, who’d feel bad for him and want to help. He wasn’t Theodore, who loved Daniel so much and hated to see him upset. He was nobody.
And so Daniel didn’t have to pretend to be okay. Because Isaac didn’t matter to him.
“That’s okay.” Isaac’s voice was so soft.
He had no idea what he was talking about. “No, it’s not. I’m going to do something else terrible.” He might do it right now, still. He didn’t want to.
He didn’t want to kill Isaac.
“Do you want to do it?” Isaac asked him, like he’d read Daniel’s mind.
Maybe he had. Daniel didn’t care. It didn’t matter. “I have to.” He needed to know who’d hired him to kill Theodore. Isaac was nobody. He didn’t matter to Daniel. Daniel was shivering cold.
Isaac’s hands were so warm in Daniel’s when he took them. “No, you don’t.”
“No you don’t, Daniel,” Isaac insisted, as if he knew what he was talking about. “And I think the only reason you came here was so you didn’t have to. So instead of doing something terrible, why don’t you let me show you the academy and introduce you to my friends? You can even sleep here tonight if you want. We have room.”
He meant all of that. He was so nice. And so stupid, everything he was saying was so stupid. He didn’t know Daniel. He didn’t know why Daniel was here. Daniel didn’t even know why he was here. Why hadn’t he just gone back to the inn? Why hadn’t he gone back to the people he cared about? He was practically sabotaging himself by coming here. He’d never be able to kill Isaac now.
And maybe that was what he’d wanted.
That was the wrong thing to want and Daniel knew that. But he thought maybe it was what he’d wanted. “I’ve never seen a real shower before,” he said, instead of saying something smart. “And I heard you have a really big library.”
“Which do you want to see first?”
Daniel was going to cry if Isaac didn’t stop saying nice shit. “The shower. It’s closer, right?”
Isaac laughed, but it was a nice laugh. “Just downstairs. There’ll probably be a few guys fucking in there, but if you want I can ask them to clear out…”
“Don’t you dare.” Daniel knew boy rules. He couldn’t go into someone else’s shower and tell them not to use it properly. “They can do what they want. I don’t want to, though. I’m, uh. Not that into sex, actually. Most of the time, anyway.” Why had he said that? He liked sex just fine. Just…only with Theodore and Ozzy and Marcus and Hugh and Simon. None of them were here.
That was what Daniel liked about this place.
“Okay,” said Isaac, as if Daniel hadn’t said anything weird. “Let me know if you’re ever not in most of the time, but until then let’s go see the shower. It’s cool, most of it isn’t even magic. It’s just like, pipes or some shit.”
“Is the water warm?” The water in the Moon’s base had been frigid.
“There’s a warm fountain,” Isaac told him. Daniel pretended not to be interested. “That part is magic.”
“Okay. I’m super cold.” He hadn’t warmed up since yesterday.
“Yeah, what the fuck with this snow?” Isaac asked, smiling again. “I like snow, but blizzards in the spring are a bit stupid.”
“Where I’m from…winter lasts pretty much until summer,” Daniel said, as they went downstairs.
“That blows. Spring is a great season. If you like birds and flowers, I guess.”
“Yeah. Summer is the best, though. It’s the season that’s clothing optional.”
“Um…no it’s not?” Daniel asked, grateful that Ozzy wasn’t here to agree with Isaac.
“Yeah, it is. I mean they all are, but it’s hard to take the option when your dick is in danger of freezing off.”
Daniel chuckled at that, and laughing even a little bit made him feel…something that felt better. “I knew a guy who fucked a snowman.”
“What happened to him?”
Daniel hadn’t seen him in years and didn’t remember his name, either. “Well…I don’t think the relationship made it to Judan.”
“Damn, just at the time of year when you want to put ice on your balls.” Isaac was laughing too.
“I’ve never actually wanted to do that,” Daniel felt compelled to say. It was so easy to talk to Isaac. It was like talking to Marcus or someone, but Daniel hadn’t had to do any of the work to make it that way. “Well, I mean, except this one time when my friend kicked me, I guess.”
It was such a stupid conversation, and it was such a bad idea, and Daniel let himself keep having it. Maybe because he wanted to. Maybe because it helped him feel better. He didn’t know.
Isaac didn’t ask about his knife harnesses or his collar when they undressed for the shower, and the water was really warm. Baker was down there playing in the water and it was noisy and some guys were having sex in the corner, but by the time they were done down there, Daniel felt warm again.
5 thoughts on “Slavery, 106”
“He wasn’t Theodore, who loved Daniel so much and hated to see him upset.”
No Daniel don’t let him get to you he doesn’t love you he doesn’t even know what love IS
and he dislikes seeing you upset because it’s an obstacle between him and fucking you
everyone would be better off if you’d killed him at the first opportunity
I think Daniel has definitely been letting Theodore get to him…especially when he’s in a really bad mental place like he is right now. Theodore insists that he loves Daniel and Daniel believes him at this point and whether that’s true is almost not relevant anymore, honestly.
Probably lots of people would be better off if Daniel had killed him, but it’s not clear if Daniel would be one of those people, unfortunately. I think he might have been screwed either way.
Defusing the Tykebomb: Daniel Edition
Isaac really deserves a medal for this act of damage mitigation. He knew in his chapter that Daniel wasn’t doing well but I think Daniel’s PoV makes it really clear that he was right at the edge of a cliff and Isaac talked him off it just by being Isaac. 😀 Thank goodness for him, honestly!
“Vinnie knows exactly what Daniel is going through. He’s been there himself.
Well, maybe not the whole “assassin cult” thing, unless you omitted some crucial details from his bio. But the Theodore mindfuck? Absolutely.”
(Comment moved from a different post at commenter’s request)
Vinnie does know exactly Isaac’s situation even if he doesn’t know it, yes. He himself is a victim of the Theodore mindfuck, and though he didn’t cope with it by killing people for a living, he did have to learn to cope with it.
I’m personally a big fan of the irony throughout that meeting. 😀 Thank you very much!