Chapter 2: Settling In
Jamie wandered the campus with Scott as Ethan took them on a winding tour of the academic buildings and the sports complex. Although they were probably as exhausted as Derek had looked, neither of them wanted to sleep. Jamie was a little worried about the cats but Scott had assured him that as long as their door was locked, no one – including the Elder – would break in. Jamie suspected that the Elder had snuck in when Scott was here, since Scott had only recently started locking the door.
The campus was beautiful and it was a sunny day. It was almost always drizzly on the main Tarragon campus and combined with the ever-present mist, sunny days were a rarity. The last time he had experienced the sun for extended periods of time was the summer spent in the hatching grounds while they prepared for war with Ashton. They were preparing this summer, too, but hopefully not for war. He didn’t think many dragons would side with Margot, but their humans might.
They reached the theatre and started heading back to the apartments, where he could see dragons circling. There had been dragons perching on several of the buildings during the tour and Jamie wondered where the dragons would go in the fall when the freshmen came and the dragons had to stay out of view. It was easy on the main campus with dragon canyon nearby; perhaps there was a similar area for the dragons to fly and play and stay away from the students.
Scott chatted with Ethan as Jamie walked in silence, and Jamie was glad they were on good terms. While Scott wasn’t the Queen’s mate in charge of this council, he still ranked above Ethan and Jamie didn’t want that to cause friction. He knew that Scott hadn’t exactly been friendly with the council on his previous trips here because of something they had made Derek do, but over the past few months as reports of Derek doing well with the council came in, Scott had seemed friendlier. They seemed to be talking about Mike now, and Jamie smiled.
He knew Scott and Mike had finally made peace on Scott’s last trip and wondered if that had to do with Mike’s recovery. Mike had been in pain for too long and now seemed completely himself again. Even stealing a kiss from Scott was something he once might have done, though he had never done it while Jamie and Scott were together that Jamie knew of. Jamie didn’t mind, though; he was just glad that Mike was back and he knew Scott felt the same.
Jamie zoned out of their conversation again and reached to Marisol. She was happy with her eggs. Actually, she was flying lazy circles around her nest to stretch her wings at the moment. The nesting site was completely hidden and could only be accessed during the first year exam or by people who knew the tune to enter, and Jamie and Marisol had told no one the tune.
Marisol informed him that Jettie had been quizzing her about caring for the eggs and they had been sharing their experiences. Jettie, she informed Jamie, would be an excellent mother. Jamie was pleased. Hopefully with Marisol’s guidance they could avoid some of Marisol’s mistakes, too, such as when she had attacked Derek. Derek had been the first student in the first year exam and he had been destined for her most prized egg: the Queen egg. Panicked and threatened, Marisol had attacked and only Jamie had managed to coax her into leaving. Derek had survived, of course, and Marisol had saved his life later when one of Ashton’s hitmen tried to kill him so she and Derek had no hard feelings, but if Marisol could help Jettie leave before the first year exam then hopefully they could avoid injuries like that.
It wouldn’t be an issue for Marisol this year because she was leaving her eggs at the start of the fall semester to join him. He had insisted. It was far too lonely without her. Jamie looked around and considered. Would they still be here in the fall? No, he reassured himself. It wouldn’t take that long. He would figure something out. There would be some way to neutralize Margot and Yasmina.
“Jamie,” Scott said, taking his hand. Jamie blinked and realized they were at their apartment door and Scott and Ethan were both looking at him. He had been completely absorbed in Marisol and in his thoughts.
“Jettie and Marisol are helping each other,” he said, knowing he needed to explain his distraction somehow. Both men look just as pleased as Jamie had felt.
They said goodbye to Ethan and entered the apartment. As soon as the door was closed, Scott hugged him. Jamie hugged back tightly. He knew how frightened Scott still was after nearly losing his memories. Scott had broken down during the night, sobbing into Jamie’s arms. Jamie had never seen Scott like that before, especially since it came on rather suddenly. Jamie had been half-asleep when Scott lost control but there was no room for sleep when his love was in pain. Even Tiger, Scott’s cat, had sensed his pain and came to cuddle Scott.
When their hug didn’t end, Jamie reached up to stroke Scott’s hair. He wasn’t sure if Scott needed to cry again, if hugging were enough, or if Scott were so exhausted he just needed to lean on Jamie for a while. Finally, Scott kissed his cheek and the hug ended. Scott was smiling and Jamie was relieved. It hurt to see Scott in pain. Jamie took his hand and led him to the closet where the kittens were. They both crouched in the doorway.
Janna was sitting like a sphinx with six squirming kittens partially under her, partially playing beside her. Their eyes were still tightly closed. Jamie would have to look up how kittens aged. Although they didn’t really have fur, they did have fuzz and he could see what their coloring would be. One looked like its mother, grey and white, and one like its father, a brown tabby, but the rest were a blend of grey, white, tabby, and one was a calico cat for some reason. It must have been a recessive gene, Jamie thought, since he didn’t think Janna had been going out while in heat. She did go out, though, so it was possible.
Tiger sat beside her, one leg stuck out as he licked his belly. At least it looked like his belly. Jamie blushed and wished cats would be a little more private when cleaning themselves. Scott must have seen his blush because he laughed and poked Tiger, who looked up with a guilty expression and closed his legs.
“Tiger,” Scott said in a sweet, teasing voice. “That’s not polite.”
Tiger just got up and came over to them, purring and rubbing against both of them. Jamie scratched behind his ears, again wondering why the cats were so important. He thought of the Elder. He knew something. He knew Margot; it was obvious from his lack of surprise when Jamie announced that Margot had tried to erase Scott’s memories. Derek had been surprised, but also confused, and Ethan had been shocked. The Elder, though, had only been slightly surprised and a little thoughtful. He had to know something, but Jamie didn’t know how to approach the Elder.
Jamie’s only direct contact with the Elder – as direct as it was – was during Derek’s mating flight when Jamie had accidentally gotten caught up and the Elder had deliberately filled him with mating flight lust. Desperate for relief, Jamie had forced Scott into sex without telling Scott who had won Derek’s mating flight and the resulting fight had nearly ended their relationship.
In terms of indirect contact, the Elder had kidnapped Scott for weeks. Although he had treated Scott well, Jamie had suffered. And then the Elder had won Derek’s mating flight and, worse, Scott had been forced to seduce Derek yet again to free him from the Elder’s influence. Things had been quiet since then, but Jamie had no good experiences with the Elder aside from the neutral greeting last night when the Elder had helped him off Narné and escorted him inside. That was it.
As Jamie showered Tiger with love and cooed at Janna and the kittens, he wondered if he should confront the Elder immediately or wait. And if he should tell Scott or not, and bring Scott or not. Scott would insist on coming. Did he want that, or did he want to speak in private? Scott had extremely negative experiences with the Elder and his experiences were direct, unlike most of Jamie’s. Compared to Scott, Jamie’s feelings were almost neutral. He didn’t want to start a fight with the Elder, so perhaps it would be better if he went alone. Tarragon law prevented the Elder from harming a Queen, so he ought to be safe. But now how to leave without Scott?
“Scott,” he began, and Scott sighed. Jamie looked at him in surprise.
“I suppose you want to go talk to the Elder,” Scott said, sounding glum. “And you won’t let me come.”
“How did you know?”
Scott rubbed his shoulder. “I saw his reaction, too, you know. He knows something. And he’s not going to talk if I’m there. It’s just, you don’t know how dangerous he is, even though he might not look it.”
“He kills dragons,” Jamie said in a hard voice. There was no greater crime. “I know exactly how dangerous he is.”
Scott shook his head. “That’s abstract. He would never kill Marisol. I mean that he’s pure evil. His soul is corrupt. Everything he does benefits him and no one else.”
“Then I’ll be careful,” Jamie said. “I don’t want to dismiss your concerns, Scott, you know I don’t, but I have to talk to him and I don’t really want Derek to be part of the conversation either.”
“Can I at least walk you there?” Scott asked.
Jamie leaned into him and smiled. “Of course, love. Then you can come back and love on the cats some more. Maybe Janna will even let you pet her. Janna, do you think you can do that?”
Janna sneezed and there was a stir among the kittens. Jamie and Scott laughed. Janna curled to her side to let the kittens feed but she batted a paw in Scott’s direction as if indicating that she would give him permission. After the kittens fed, probably, but it was a good start. Jamie blew her a kiss, petted Tiger, then walked with Scott down the hallway to the Queen’s chambers.
The apartments were set up strangely. Most of the apartments on campus were more like townhouses but this one was more like a dorm with the main doors facing an interior hallway. There were only four units, though they were enormous. The largest was the Queen’s, of course, and Ethan’s apartment was here too since he was head of the council. The other two were empty. One was intended for the female head of the council, but none had been selected so far. The male and female councils were completely integrated, as were the students, so there might never be one. The other empty apartment was intended for visitors, so Jamie and Scott were using it for its purpose, but not for a visiting Queen since the dragon room wasn’t big enough for two dragons. If Marisol did come, she would likely get the room and Narné would have to sleep elsewhere.
It did make sense for the head of council to have quick access to the Queen, but the layout was still strange. There was a couch in the hall right next to the Queen’s door and Jamie puzzled over it until he remembered that guards had been stationed by the door for months to make sure the Elder wasn’t hurting Derek. He wondered when they had stopped.
Scott knocked on the door quietly, so quietly Jamie almost asked him to knock louder. He didn’t want to wake Derek but the Elder had to hear them. Luckily, he heard footsteps approaching and the door opened. The Elder looked at them impassively and Scott tensed.
“I would like to speak with you, if I may,” Jamie said, placing his hand on Scott’s arm to defuse his anger.
“Of course, Queen,” the Elder said, then glanced at Scott. “Alone?”
“Yes,” Jamie said firmly.
Scott pulled him into a possessive kiss and Jamie let him, knowing he needed to show his claim over Jamie to feel comfortable with this. Scott followed up with a quick peck and then headed back to their apartment. The Elder held the door open for Jamie. He took a deep breath and entered into the Elder’s territory.