Chapter 12: Others' Feelings

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            Chayton shifted his feet so he sat cross-legged on his bed, his back against his pillows. Perry sprawled on Kaden’s bed, his roommate out as he often was with his girlfriend. He frowned at the satyr, his thoughts hard to put into words. Still, he tried. “Do you think Fiona’s been kind of…sort of standoffish or distant or something? Not as friendly as she has been, I guess.”

            Perry grinned and propped his head up with one hand. “Do I think she’s being distant and stuff? Hmmm… Why do you ask?”

            The way his best friend’s eyes were dancing told Chay it was best to proceed with caution lest Perry add new arsenal to his already impressive blackmail list. He shrugged. At times he wasn’t entirely sure himself what about the dryad girl drew his gaze. She certainly wasn’t the prettiest girl here, though she was attractive enough he supposed, with her tall, willowy form. She wasn’t the smartest, the selkie girl, Meredith, was far more intelligent. Though Fiona was certainly clever and a quick thinker.

He supposed it was her spirit that he found the most attractive. The difference between her usual friendliness with the ferocity she was capable of that disappeared just as quickly, along with the humour he often saw in her eyes was what he liked best. “I’m interested in her,” he said, not wanting to put everything into words, even with Perry.

            The satyr laughed. “I know that. I think half the student body knows that. You certainly watch her during class often enough. Which is kind of creepy, I hope you know. Girls are complicated and you can’t expect her to warm up to you overnight, especially considering how you two met.”

            Chay frowned. “What do you mean by that?”

            Perry shook his head. “Man, you were kind of a dick when you first met her. More than kind of. I mean, I know you’re a sore loser and why you’re like that, but not everyone does. And that wouldn’t be so bad but then you were a complete asshole to Meredith. And given Meredith’s not just her roommate but her best friend, I was legitimately surprised she still talked to you.”

            “I wasn’t that bad, was I?”

            “Yeah, you were. God knows you’re a dick sometimes, but you showed some of the worst of it to her right off the bat.”

            Chay drummed his fingers against his leg. That wasn’t good. He hadn’t considered… From her perspective he must seem like a jerk. They’d spoken since then, and he thought he must have given her a better impression since his first one, but what if he hadn’t? His eyes narrowed as he thought over the possibilities. “Should I try to make it up to her or something?”

            Perry chuckled. “You really aren’t used to women, are you?”

            He glowered. “I’ve been around plenty of women before.”

            His friend nodded. “Yes, but how many of those women did you pursue yourself?”

            Chay opened his mouth then closed it. He mentally went down the list, his frown deepening as he came to the realization that there wasn’t a single one. His expression must have shown that, since Perry shrugged. “It’s not really your fault. You’ve always had girls chasing you. Of course, they’ve always been more interested in what kind of Phasm you are rather than who you are. That’s why they were always all over you.”

            He winced slightly. He really couldn’t deny the truth of that. He’d certainly watched people’s attitudes change as soon as people found out he was a Thunderbird and he’d really had enough of the hungry and jealous eyes. It hadn’t been too bad at school, but then again Perry didn’t give a shit what he was, and Kaden hadn’t heard of Thunderbirds before coming to the academy so he didn’t care either. But there had been a few… At least people had stopped challenging him all the time and that he’d shot down enough girls for most to just leave him alone.

            Maybe that was another reason he found Fiona interesting. She was like Perry, seemingly having no interest in him. She’d only talked to him because of the selkie in the first place. Meredith. He really had to get used to thinking of her as Meredith. She was nice enough, he supposed. And she was a Phasm after all. It wasn’t like she’d chosen to be half human, not that most selkies weren’t already.

            As always when he thought of humans, Kimi’s face rose in his mind. She’d been smiling when he’d seen her last, nearly twelve and already talking about what she was going to do when she came to the academy. But watching her limp away when his aunt had called her had set his stomach to twisting and made the heat rise in his veins, as it always did. Even five years later, the anger still remained.

            He supposed he shouldn’t be taking it out on others, especially Meredith. It was just so easy. Bleeding the emotions off by lashing out gave him some feeling of satisfaction, as if he was striking back against those who’d hurt Kimi. But that wasn’t right and he knew it. In his heart he knew his hatred had gone on too long already, but to give it up, to pretend that his little cousin hadn’t suffered… He couldn’t do it.

            He could leave Meredith alone though. She was a Phasm after all, not human. Chay sighed, his thoughts flittering around his head like dragonflies on water. He looked back at Perry, who didn’t seem bothered by his silence. Then again, he was probably used to it. They had known each other since they were children. “I guess I’m more used to women with agendas than I am with someone who doesn’t seem to want anything from me.”

            Perry snorted. “You’re barely used to people like that even. You mostly just ignore them until they go away rather than actually deal with them. Part of that is your family’s fault, I know, but you could make things clearer, let people know you see through them. When you actually do. Most of the time you just let me vet them.”

            Chay sighed. “I do rely on you too much.”

            “I didn’t mean it like that,” the satyr replied, sitting up. “I meant you should wake up and pay attention. You’ll learn a lot more that way. You normally just let shit happen without doing much about it. Hell, I’m happy you’re into Wilde. It’s making you actually work and try stuff and think about someone besides you and me. You’re a cold, insular bastard and you need to change that. Before we graduate, because you’ll never be able to do it when you’re at home. Your family’s too fucked.”

            He rubbed the curve of his nose, wishing Perry wasn’t so hard on his family. The worst part was that Chay knew that his friend was more right than wrong. He supposed, and Perry wasn’t one to lie to him, that he really hadn’t been paying much attention to others. Except for Perry and Kaden, he really hadn’t interacted with anyone else since coming to school. Oh, he’d hung out with some of the others, with Perry’s roommate Dmitri, with some of the other boys, but he didn’t really have friends beyond the satyr and roc.

            “You’re right,” he said finally. “I do need to be friendlier.”

            Perry smiled. “Good. Also try paying attention to other people and try thinking about shit from their perspective once in a while. It’ll help you, and not just with Wilde.”

            Chay nodded, but his thoughts had already been drawn back to Fiona at the mention of her. He wondered what her perspective was. Not just about him, but about the other people around her. He frowned as something occurred to him. He looked back at Perry. “Do you think Fiona likes Alex better than me?”

            The satyr stared at him before letting out a bray of laughter. “You’re going to need a ton of help.”

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