Part IV: Retribution
Once Allen was feeling better, Caroline called for dinner and we dove into the food. I probably ate more brisket than anyone else, compensating for the vegetarian torture of the past days. The sides were pretty great too, especially for being vegetarian.
I was almost done with my dinner when Ahti came running toward me, holding a brightly colored lizard about the size of a cat in their arms. It had large frills on the side of its head and its back had colorful splashes of red, orange and yellow while its limbs were a darker tone.
“That’s a nice pet you’ve got there.” I told them. “Does it have a name?”
“That’s Tsun, he’s my little iravi boy.” They declared, really enthusiastically. “If I let you pet him can I pet the Nibbles?”
“Aww.” I answered kind of touched by their behavior. “I’d be honored to hold Tsun, but if you wanted to pet Nibbles, you should’ve just told me, I’d have brought him out and introduced you.”
Ahti started wunning loudly at the news and I guided them to my room where Nibbles was just munching on some hay.
“Just sit on the bed.” I told Ahti and they obeyed. They let go of Tsun who just climbed on top of them.
I picked up Nibbles and brought them over, sitting next to Ahti and keeping him in my arms. I rubbed his back gently while keeping him safely secure on my lap.
“Ahti, go on, you can rub his back gently.”
Ahti reached out very slowly with one of their four fingered webbed hands. They put it on Nibbles’ back and gently moved it back and then forth. They eyes widened at the sensation.
“Front to back, don’t go against the fur.”
“It’s amazing.” Ahti muttered mouth wide open.
As they pet Nibbles, Tsun came down from their body and came closer to me, I extended a hand and he sniffed it with curiosity. After a minute he climbed on me, using the special pad on his limbs to cling to my clothes with ease. Since Nibbles was due for a snack, I let Ahti feed him some parsley.
“Thank you!” Ahti said, wrapping their arms around my body as Nibbles finished eating.
“You’re welcome little one.” I said returning the hug. “You’ll be happy to learn I’m considering getting a little bun friend for Nibbles. I’m very busy and I don’t want him to get lonely. I just need to check with administration first.”
“A bun? The Nibbles like bread?” They asked, tilting their head and I just had to laugh at the adorableness. Not helped by their habit of adding a ‘the’ before Nibbles’ name which was far too cute to correct.
“No, ‘bun’ is a cute nickname for bunny rabbits.”
“Oooh.” They answered, clearly excited at the prospect.
Our conversation was cut short as Kulaat came to fetch her clutchmate, speaking to them in Ibariat so I didn’t understand. That over with, I put Nibbles back in my room and joined Caroline and I’s family which were still together, although I quickly noticed the flirting going on between Ian and Colleen.
When it came time for the visiting family to leave, Ian invited Caroline’s family to stay over at our house rather than go to a hotel and they accepted save for Jenna whom Caroline invited to crash in our room to catch up.
I woke up feeling dehydrated in the middle of the night. I left my room and the sweet embrace of Caroline’s arms and went into the kitchen only to find Sanjay sitting in the living room.
“What are you doing still up?” I asked, wiping my eyes clean and grabbing a glass of water.
“Just being worried about Jaeger.” He answered.
“You shouldn’t be, he’s a butt.”
“I’m worried he’s not coming back.”
I kind of felt sorry for Sanjay, he clearly cared about Jaeger’s wellbeing and Jaeger was just a jerk to him and everyone else, sure he was also different with Sanjay but it felt very much one way, with Sanjay doing all the emotional labor. Not helped by the distinct impression I had that Jaeger had a thing for him and that made him less open…
“He will be.” I said.
“How do you know that?”
“I stole his student file, it was all redacted.” I answered. “Either he’s forced to be here because he’s legally obligated to be like Allen is or he’s here under some witness protection kind of deal. Either way, he can’t go far.”
I’d learned how to break into the Legion’s computer a long time ago, using Ian’s account and nobody had ever really caught on. I’d taken Jaeger’s files hoping for some juicy bits to use against him but hadn’t had any luck, as it had been . The only real thing I’d learned was that he was actually trans but that was one thing I felt was off limit to mess with for obvious reasons.
“Go back to sleep Sanjay.” I advised him before going back to bed.
My dad came back in the morning along with the rest of the parents, save for Allen’s mom who was missing in action. Although Ian didn’t need to attend the presentations and meet the teachers, who were his coworkers, he opted to tag along and meet the other families.
Apparently Colleen and Ian had hooked up the night before, something Caroline was all up in arms about. Personally, I didn’t care. Ian had had a plethora of boyfriend and girlfriends over the years along with casual relationships.
“Come on, it’s not a big deal.” I said, putting a hand on Caroline’s shoulder.
“But it’s weird, I don’t want you to be my stepsister.”
“Caroline, they got a drink and had sex, that’s it.”
She muttered something inaudible, clearly hoping I’d been on her side. She joined up with her mom and I went to Ian’s side who was meeting with Sanjay’s mom.
“So, you and Colleen?” I pointed out once we moved on and headed for another class to meet the teachers.
“You’ve heard about that.”
“Colleen doesn’t keep secrets from Caroline. She’s all weirded out about it.” I said with a shrug.
“What about you?”
“None of my business really, if you’re happy dating Colleen that’s all that matters.” I said, giving him a hug.
“It’s a bit early to tell if this was anything serious.” He answered.
Once all the tours were done, Ian invited all the parents for a big dinner to make better acquaintances and most of them went along with it. Leaving us kids alone for the evening.
With Caroline catching up with Jenna I opted to just chill in my room, giving myself some alone time. So I lied down on my bed only to look up and see the new addition to Caroline and I’s room; a collage of pinups featuring Itharii in suggestive poses pinned to the ceiling. I immediately knew Jaeger was responsible. How he knew about my interest in Itharii, I didn’t know, but it was a cheap shot… I got up and bolted out of my room.
“Batboy!” I screamed out loud enough for the whole house to hear. I passed by Sage. “Have you seen Jaeger?”
“Not since lunchtime.”
“Dammit, he’s gonna get it.” I cursed under my breath
I went for the storage locker, looking for the step ladder but couldn’t find it. I went up, picked the lock on Jaeger’s room, but it wasn’t there either. I was contemplating how to get the darned pictures removed when Caroline came up to me.
“Are you alright?”
“If I can punch Jaeger, I’ll be.”
“What did he do?”
I didn’t answer and she peeked into our room, seeing the pictures on the ceiling. She let out a laugh, which I definitely didn’t find funny. It was a low blow from Jaeger, I hadn’t gone after his pining for Sanjay but my sexuality was fair?
“Come on, Charlie, it’s just a prank.” She said, giving me a hug, which only made me stiffer. “I’ll help you get it down.”
She closed her eyes and called the water of the hot tub to us, climbing on top of it and levitating herself to the ceiling’s reach. She removed the poster, which thankfully Jaeger had only placed with tape, and came down, crunching them into a ball. That done, she dismissed the water, sending it back to the hot tub.
“There. Now we just gotta chuck it in the bin.” She said. “Unless you want to keep some?” She added, obviously teasing but I wasn’t amused.
I just glared at her and she chucked the ball of posters down in the trash.
“Aww, I made my girlfriend grumpy.” She gave me a hug and kissed my cheek. “Better fix that.”
She gently pushed me against the wall of our room and gave the first of many kisses, letting our tongues meet. Under the weight of her attention, I delayed my vengeance plans for later.