It was late—ever so late—as Killian labored away on a project that was part for Aedeir, part for class, and part for Killian’s own edification.
Really, Killian was a firm believer in learning in its own right, but that that learning should be focused around the interest of the learner, should be learned for the learner’s own edification rather than—other reasons.
There had been a lot of “other reasons” in Killian’s life, and now, Killian was determined to not have them unless it was absolutely necessary.
(Of course, let’s start a revolution in the Venery was quickly becoming one of those “other reasons” that was “absolutely necessary” so no pressure at all.)
That was one of the things that Killian really enjoyed about this “advanced” schooling in the Euigilans Somnium: a lot of individual direction.
And, now that Killian wasn’t just trying to figure out how to survive Imogen, Killian was finding a lot of individual direction.
It was probably some sort of reaction to years and years and years of being singularly focused on one thing: survival. As much as Killian had ALL THE DIRECTIONS now, it was still kind of—overwhelming.
Really, just—this was all so magickal.
You really did that, huh?
Also the nice thing about working by one’s self in the night: there was no one but Killian’s own internal Greek Chorus to mock him.
That was a nice thing.
And, that metaphor of the Greek Chorus? A most excellent Euigilans Somnium invention.
Just, top notch.
Who was Killian trying to fool anyway? This was all just—
Killian conked his head down on to the book in front of him. He didn’t know what to do. It felt like working on revolutionizing the Venery was just going to be futile and dangerous and would Not End Well, but he also knew that it needed to happen, that those people who thought that those who wielded the arcane (or who wielded more physical things) were somehow less than or corrupt or not fully Venery were wrong, that the sort of prejudices—that kyriarchical rigidity—is what led to Killian’s life basically being forfeit for most of his existence, is what caused Imogen to think that they were better than Killian, more Right To Rule, is what led to the genocide of the Recaps in general and the specific entrapment of Otello, Harry, Bob, and Murphy specifically—that they lived in some sort of liminal, eternal bondage and slavery was even more of a reason why the revolution needed to happen—is what led to the gieseing of the Pookas to Calamities’ throne.
(Is what led to the current Scioncy all being so collectively fucked up.)
There were just so many injustices, so many hurts—large and small—in the world, so much to do, and Killian didn’t know where to start, but he knew that he had to start somewhere.
Maybe realizing and acknowledging your own biases and internalized kyriarchy is where you start, Killian. Maybe your first step is with yourself.
And, really, Killian was making those particular first steps—and it wasn’t always easy and Killian fell back on previously learned behaviors more often than he liked or was comfortable with, but he also figured not being comfortable was a good place to start too, a productive place to start—but Killian also felt the need for now, fast, more, and that he didn’t know how to affect.
In the midst of Killian’s completely justified (he thought at least) meltdown, there was a knocktaptapknock at his chamber door, which was more than a little odd and a little disconcerting considering that Killian lived in the Scioncy’s house’s basement: dark and cool and cave-like. Basically, everything as an owl hieracosphinx that he could want at, like, a basic level.
That was one of those things that Killian wondered about the rest of the Venery, in general, and the Scioncy, in particular: did they realize how much their bodies dictated the what and the how and the where they preferred to live?
It was a fascinating question that Killian kind of wanted to do a study of. Maybe Persis could help me with the analysis and generating the statistics.
The knocktaptapknock came again.
Because, of course, Killian had been wool-gathering.
“Enter?” Killian sat back up from where he had slumped against his desk on top of his book so that he could face whoever was visiting him so late in the night.
Grey’s dark head appeared around the door, eyebrows scrunched up in a look of concerned inquiry. “Good evening, Killian,” Grey spoke softly, which was always an odd occurrence since—for the most part (at least, from Killian’s perspective)—Grey was not-loud but bold, speaking with straight fury and a level of bluntness that was severally painful to be caught against, and here they were, stepping the rest of the way into the room almost hesitantly now that it proved there was nothing waiting for them—like a trap or an experiment running rampant—and closed the door with a solid thud behind them. “I apologize for the lateness of my visit.”
Killian shrugged a shrug of Not To Worry and motioned at his face. “I’m a bit of night owl, so there’s nothing to be sorry for.”
A small laugh escaped Grey. “How long have you been waiting to make that particular joke?
“Far longer than I would care to admit,” Killian smiled himself—just a little—and gestured at his everything self-deprecatingly. “However, it is true, so I think that’s fair. Please, have a seat and tell me what I can do for you.”*
Grey found what was probably the most comfortable chair in the room—which didn’t actually look comfortable, but really, really was, so Killian was mentally applauding Grey’s perception because everyone always overlooked it—and sat back in a way that was luxurious in a way that Grey often was not. Despite the Court of Miracles having a reputation for being decadent, there was very little of Grey that seemed to have benefitted from that decadence—which meant that either those were terribly misleading stereotypes or Grey themself had been treated far worse than the rest of the Scioncy realized.
Or, Killian acknowledge, it might be just a bit of both.
And, theoretically, this is one of the things that Scioncy was supposed to accomplish: increased understanding across the Courts and debunk the ridiculous rumors, theories, and beliefs that permeated one Court about the others.
In reality, Killian was nigh on positive that the past Scioncies had accomplished the exact opposite, but Killian wasn’t certain if that was a defect of the previous Scioncies or something else, something more insidious.
Something like the conspiracy that Aedeir and not-Aedeir had spoken of, that Persis and the previous Archivists had seen in the patterns.
Maybe the previous Scioncies had been purposely working to cross-purposes. Maybe the Courts themselves did not realize that, in working with this outside agency, they were working towards their eventual, mutually assured non-existence.
Maybe they didn’t know that they were each working with the same faceless group.
Because, really, what better way would there be to destroy the Venery than to work with each Court, convince them that they were the only ones being cooperated with, and pit the Courts against each other.
If you had the patience for it—and this insidious Euigilans Somnium organization surely had an excess of patience to work with—it was a fairly water-tight plan.
Killian’s logical extrapolation/thought-experiment came to an abrupt halt, and Grey was still sitting in that so comfortable chair watching Killian as Killian’s brain whirred. “Do I need to come back?” Grey asked, neither cruel nor offended, but with this awareness that was part and parcel of the Grey Holiday Package.
It was almost, always as if Grey were seeing so much further into someone else than they saw into themselves.
And, wasn’t that an unsettling thought.
“No,” Killian hurried to answer, not wanting Grey to leave even if Killian’s mind was still turning everything over and over and over—plans, problems, people just objects being spun in three dimensional space until the answers clicked into place—because, really, Grey (or any of the other Scions) in Killian’s own space was one of the nicest things that he could think of. “I apologize for the wool-gathering. There are things and THINGS in my mind today that are troubling.”
“It’s what Aedeir was talking about, yeah? That Euigilans Somnium group that’s working against and from within the Courts?”
There was that unsettling perception again.
Killian nodded, trying not to show—well, anything. “There’s a lot to worry about there.”
Grey nodded their head in assent. “We’ll figure it out.” Grey spoke with that strange insight again, and then, it broke with a sad half-smile and rueful head-shake. “I don’t know how we’re going to do it—especially since we’re all just kids—but we’re going to do this. We cannot allow this corrupting rot to continue to plague the Venery. We’ve work to do, but it’s work that I think that we can do.” That half-smile became even sadder and more—almost distant. “It just might take a lifetime to accomplish it. It might take more.” Grey moved to stand before Killian’s desk—the desk that he had not moved from since Grey’s entrance—and put their hand out. “What say you? Do we fight together for the greater good? Or, do we allow the darkness to overtake us?”
Killian stood and grasped Grey’s forearm. “We fight for the greater good,” Killian agreed seriously and then turned to teasing. “But, no fair using Sophie’s tactics to get me to agree.”
Grey blushed in that soft, dusty-dusky rose that was particular to the Corvidea Tengu. “Sorry, I got caught up in the drama and rhetoric.”
“The School of Love, Blood, and Rhetoric?”
“Okay,” Killian sat back down at his desk because he just felt more secure with that rather large piece of furniture between him and basically everyone in the History of Ever. “Now that we have reaffirmed our commitment to the revolution, you actually came down here for something, yes?”
Grey shuffled a little, which was odd—not because Grey was this serene whatever in the midst of the wine dark sea of whatever, Grey was a fairly outwardly uncomfortable person, but because there was no reason for Grey to be uncomfortable now—and moved back to sit in that wonderfully comfortable chair. “You mean that I’m not allowed to come down and visit you in your hide-away cave?”
Teasing. Teasing was a little strange too.
“You are always welcome to visit me in the deep, dark abyss of the basement,” Killian assured Grey, surprised by the earnestness of his own words but not wanting to take them back—maybe, wanting to hide them away so that no one ever saw how earnest they were but not take them back. Killian wasn’t used to speaking truth and Truth let alone personal Truth, and it escaping from his mouth unbidden was—worrying.
Grey genuinely smiled at that, and Killian was suddenly completely okay with earnestness escaping unbidden from him if it meant that Grey smiled sincerely and wholeheartedly.
“So, this is potentially going to sound very strange,” Grey said, that awkwardness stealing over them again. “And, honestly, I’m not sure how I was nominated to talk to you about it, and it wasn’t even like everyone agreed to this because we really didn’t speak to Tove because we’re already still trying to ease her into the whole thing—” Grey just kept going, and Killian was really wondering if they were going to take a breath anytime soon because, otherwise, Grey was going to pass out. “—and you should totally feel free to say no—there is no pressure involved in this, and no one is going to be angry or put out if you say no, or if you need time to think about it, or anything—”
“Grey,” Killian hated to interrupt, but Grey seemed to even be losing the thread of their—talk? “You wanted to ask me something.”
“Yes. Right.” Grey closed their eyes and took a deep breath. “So, through a completely unexpected occurrence, Persis, Ione, Tove, and I have begun—co-sleeping might be the best term.” That wasn’t an interrogative despite sounding like an interrogative.
That also wasn’t an interrogative despite sounding like an interrogative.
Grey nodded. “It started because Tove and then Persis had a nightmare, and one thing led to seventy-five million others, and now, I regularly have three people taking up most of my bed.”
Killian knew that the Venery as rule didn’t find what the Euigilans Somnium called polyamorous relationships taboo, and in the Court of Calamities, it was a more common occurrence that it wasn’t, so there was that, but Killian also felt like he was missing something kind of huge here. “Congratulations?”
That wasn’t meant to sound snotty. It really wasn’t, but maybe it had because Grey had kind of—flinched? A little?
“Yeah, yeah,” Grey said, that self-deprecation that Grey wore with too much pride sometimes sneaking into their voice. “I know it’s kind of—not a standard issue relationship thing for the Venery’s ruling classes, especially since Tove and I are basically married. I shouldn’t have said any—”
“Grey,” Killian interrupting Grey was getting to be a habit that he didn’t want, but they were just kinda—spiraling down into a thing with a capital THING. “I miss spoke. I wasn’t trying to be intolerant. I was surprised.” Killian was so not good with this kind of thing. “Please, feel free to speak with me. I will endeavor to be less of a jerk.”
Grey looked really hard at Killian for a long, long, long moment and said “I thought that you might like to join us.” Killian was flabbergasted. He was shocked. He was awed that they would even consider inviting him into their group let alone actually invite him. “Please do not feel obligated,” Grey rushed to continue. “It’s just that—well, we’re all in this together—the Scioncy, the reformation of the Venery, the nascent Revolution—so being together, being able to be together, is, like, maybe a reward from the Universe to us. A way to bolster us and give us a support system that none of us have ever had.”
Killian just breathed for a moment and thought—thought about Persis’ insidiously curious mind, Ione’s startling stealthy protection, Tove’s surprisingly compassionate bravery, Grey’s always unsettling insight—and thought about how these were the first people in his entire life that seemed to actually want Killian around and who Killian in turn actually wanted to be with.
There had been so little joy, so little happiness, so little anything of worth in Killian’s life that it felt almost selfish to accept the intimacy and consolation that Grey was offering—that they were all offering—because how could Killian possibly be deserving of anything so right and good and wonderful as this little clutch of people who had decided that they would be family no matter what they were otherwise being told to become.
Revolution happens in small steps, with small acts of kindness and smaller acts of love.
Killian might not deserve Persis, Ione, Tove, and Grey, but if they thought that he was someone of value, of worth—that he was someone that another would be deserving of—then he would do everything that he could to become that person.
To be deserved.
To be deserving.