On Monday Kane dressed them both for the upcoming meeting with the school principal, thankful that he had contacted the Agency about it and let them handle the details. He tended to be rude when he was nervous, and that would not be a good way to get things settled for Devin.
The meeting wasn’t scheduled until late morning. The boys went into the music room after breakfast to practice. The drum didn’t seem to bother Devin as much.
“It’s okay, Kane, since it’s just you and me. I don’t mind the noise.”
Kane didn’t quite understand the explanation, but accepted it with a shrug.
Albert insisted they have a snack prior to leaving for the school. There was no telling how long they would be gone, and it was unwise for them to go hungry. They ate, cleaned up, got into the waiting car. The driver -- not the one who took them shopping their second day -- gave his name as Steve. Kane remembered hearing Albert use that name the day they’d gone to the hospital. It was good to have a face to go with it.
Steve played the radio as he drove. A nice change from Shyla’s full silence. The school was not far, no more than a mile from the house. They could walk it on nice days, Kane figured, once Devin was a bit stronger. It’d be good exercise for him. He noted with pleasure that Devin looked much better than when they’d first met.
“I’ll be going in as your temporary guardian…” Steve informed them as he pulled into a parking space, flashing a grin at Kane in the mirror. “…your Foster mother being in police custody on abuse charges and all. call me Steve – or Uncle Steve, if you want.”
“Does everybody work for the Agency?” Kane demanded as he got out of the car. Under the care of a servant? Really? Or...maybe Steve was really their new Foster dad or whatever and not the driver? That would make more sense.
Steve laughed, masking his surprise. He realized that Kane knew they were part of a Government experiment. He hadn’t known that Kane knew the Agency had taken it over. What else did Kane know?
“No. I’m Agency, and not, as I’m sure you’ve guessed, one of the servants. I’m your official new Foster parent. Albert and Nancy are both Government. Shyla was picked by the Government of Human Services to act as your Foster mother. The Agency is doing an investigation into her appointment. I get the feeling there was a records screw-up somewhere.”
“She matched the records I read on her,” Kane said dismissively, unaware of the sharp look Steve gave him. Devin had taken his hand, distracting him, as they started into the building. Classes were in session, the hallway crowded and noisy as they worked their way to the office. Devin crowded close to Kane, tightly clutching his hand. Kane spoke into his ear. Devin nodded and let himself be led. Inside the office was as noisy and crowded. Steve saw a pair of empty seats and pointed them out to Kane, who urged Devin into the one closest to the corner and took the other for himself. He leaned over and started talking to Devin, who ducked his head.
After several minutes Steve made it to the desk, where he was informed that he was, in fact, in the wrong office. The one they needed was farther down the main hall. Just then the bell rang -- a loud dissonant jangle that had most of the people in the office jumping or cringing. Steve thanked the harried woman, told Kane that they were in the wrong place, and went into the now-empty hallway.
The next office was thirty feet down the hall, but with fewer students was far more peaceful than the first. Once more Kane urged Devin into a chair in a corner, taking the one next to him and checking out the new room. Steve went to the smaller desk and explained to a harried woman who they were and why they were there. She flipped a button and spoke into her headset, then smiled. “Someone will be right out. Have a seat, please.”
Another woman emerged, stating that she was Ms. Milton, the vice-principal in charge of new students. She ushered them into another, smaller office, shutting the door once they were all in.There weren’t enough chairs; Devin would have remained standing, but Kane insisted they share his chair.
“I understand the boys are to be kept together,” Ms. Milton was saying to Steve, “even though their previous school records would warrant their being separated.”
“They stay together,” Steve confirmed. “They’ll be fine.”
“One of them,” she went on, voice souring, “is going to be a non-student. Taking up valuable space yet not attending our school. He will be using a computer for his actual classes, seated at a special table with his…brother? In one of my classrooms yet not considered one of my students? I find the whole situation absurd and insulting.”
“You’re being funded for his attendance,” Steve shot back. “The necessary equipment and rewiring is being done at no cost to the school and is, in fact, a prelude to the entire school being upgraded over the summer. I fail to see where this would be insulting to either you or your school. If anything, I would think you would be grateful for what changes their presence will be bringing.”
Ms. Milton flushed, glaring at the boys. Kane glared back, daring her to say something to him. Beside him, Devin was staring at his hands, twisted together in his lap. Kane put his arm around him, still glaring at the woman. There was a brief tense silence.
“I have your schedule and texts,” she said at last, looking down at her desk.“If you will follow me, I will give you a tour of the school and show you where your classes will be.”
“Kane,” Steve said, “you and Devin go back into the main office a minute, will you? I need to talk to Ms. Milton.”
“Yes, sir,” Kane answered. He’d love to stay and hear this. “C’mon, Devi.”
The adults watched the boys slide out of the chair, Kane’s arm still around Devin’s shoulders, and leave the office. Kane shut the door behind them. As he did so, he heard Steve start talking, voice cold and hard. He wished he’d had a bugging system with him. At his old school, he’d been wired into everything going on. If the school was being rewired over the summer, he’d tap in at the start of the new year. They wouldn’t notice, not with the new stuff.
Kane took Devin back to their vacatd chairs. One look told him Devin’s headache was back. He had the medicine, pressed on him by Albert, to give if he could get water. Telling Devin to stay put, he approached the desk and asked for a cup of water. The lady nodded and went to get one.
“You a new student?”
Kane jerked towards the voice. It was a girl about his age wearing a skirt and tight top. Her hair was bottle-blonde, her eyes almost black. Her left ear had four piercings, her right three. She was standing with a hand on one hip, head cocked to the side, smirking at him.
“Yeah. Supposed to start Monday.”
“I’m Jessica. Jessica Cohen.”
“Kane McAllister.” Where the hell was the woman with the water? He didn’t want to talk to this girl, he wanted to give Devin his medicine! He glanced around the room. Devin was sitting in his chair, his eyes getting that bruised look of pain/fear/exhaustion. Kane realized the girl had spoken again. “What?”
“I said,” she repeated, rolling her eyes, “that I’ll be your girlfriend.” The way she said it indicated she was bestowing a great honor. Kane made a face and opened his mouth to tell her off. The woman returned then with the water and the girl no longer mattered.
“Thank you.” He took the tiny paper cup and hurried to Devin, kneeling in front of the chair. “Here, Devi, take this. I got the medicine for your head.”
Devin took the cup, not looking up from his lap, his face pale except for the eye area, which even from an angle looked red and sore. Kane fished the bag out of his pocket, pulled out the two pills and pressed them into Devin’s hand. He took the medicine slowly, as if not quite awake.
Kane took the now-empty cup, crushing it as he got into his chair and pulled Devin’s head onto his shoulder, gently his hair to make him feel better. It was embarrassing, and if anybody other than the lady and bottle-blonde had been in the room he wouldn’t have done it. But the woman looked sympathetic and the girl didn’t matter.
The tour of the school could wait. If they gave him a map Kane would be fine. He’d never had a problem finding his way around, even in a new place. What mattered was that Devin’s head was bothering him. They hadn’t even started school yet and it was a problem. Great.
Minutes passed. The girl left, winking at him. Kane ignored her, continuing to help Devin, whose face was hot between his neck and shoulder. The bell jangled. Devin jumped and pulled upright, his light blue eyes bloodshot and near black. Kane could only imagine how much they must be hurting.
As the noise level rose he held Devin as well as he could. Getting them through that several times a day was not going to be easy or fun.
Kane was grateful that nobody so much as glanced inside. He wanted Devin to feel better. He didn’t like showing affection in public. It was enough he’d have to hold Devin’s hand going through the halls.
“Is he all right?”
Kane tried to smile at the lady who’d given him the water. She, at least, seemed to give a damn. Funny how it was never the people in charge who cared.
“New places, people, and noise makes his head hurt,” he explained. “But the medicine should start working soon.”
“Oh, the poor thing. Is that why your classes are in the Sp-Ed Department? Oh…no, that’s a different set of children.” She frowned, flipped through a pile of folders. Huh? An adult offering information? That was new. Not that he was complaining.
“Kane McAllister and Devin Ashe, right? Let’s see. Devin will sit in your classes with you, but do online courses. We arranged all of your classes in the same hall, so you won’t have to go through as much of this.” She waved an arm, indicating the crowd outside.
“Hear that, Devi?” Kane said with obvious relief. “It won’t be so bad. We’ll have seen the doctor by then, and maybe he’ll know how to keep your head from hurting so much. I hope so, anyway.”
Steve exited the office with Ms. Milton; neither looked pleased. Steve approached with a frown, mouthing a question and grimacing when Kane agreed. Ms. Milton was getting a copy of Kane’s schedule from the lady at the desk and saying that his and Devin’s supplies should be ready when they got back from the tour. The lady at the desk -- Koss, the nameplate read -- agreed with a smile.
“Shall we go?” Ms. Milton demanded. The crowd in the hall was starting to thin; the next bell would sound soon.
Devin pulled away and got to his feet. Kane followed, slipping an arm around Devin’s waist.
“We’re ready, Steve. I gave him the stuff for his head, so if we don’t take too long he should be okay.”
The medicine made Devin sleepy, so sleepy he was likely to fall. The only way to make sure he didn’t was to put an arm around his waist.
“This will only take a few minutes,” Ms. Milton assured him. She sounded a little friendlier, but he wasn’t buying it. He followed her into the hall, Steve behind him.
She walked quickly, smiling and responding to those who spoke. Kane was aware of the many speculative, sly, knowing looks that he and Devin were getting, but he ignored them all. Having his arm around Devin the way he did was sending a clear message, one he’d never intended to make, had always thought shouldn’t be made until adulthood. He knew everyone was making note of it for future reference. The only one who didn’t know what he was announcing was Devin.
Maybe it was because of his dad, but he’d never thought public affection was right. It wasn’t really anybody’s business who you were with. It could be dangerous too, letting everybody know who you were involved with. Great ammunition to use against somebody. All but screaming a weakness in front of the whole world. He’d sworn he’d never do something like that, give somebody leverage against him. But everybody in this school would know that Devin was his. His weak spot.
The bell sounded. Devin cringed into him. His thoughts shattered. He tightened his arm around Devin and encouraged them forward. It couldn’t be much further; the school wasn’t that big. It was better off than the school he’d gone to before. Maybe he’d luck out and announcing Devin as a weakness wasn’t going to be as major an issue as he thought.
They turned down a hallway that seemed a bit darker, a bit quieter. Ms. Milton had been talking the whole way. Kane had been ignoring her, but figured he’d better start paying attention.
“All of your classes are right on this hall,” Ms. Milton announced. “Behind us is the library. Room 78 is your homeroom and third period.” She pointed but kept walking. “Room 80, here, is first and fifth period. You have gym second period. I’ll take you there in a minute, and fourth period is in room 86. That’s the computer room; you’ll be taking an online class from the Agency.”
Ah. Now her new friendliness made sense. Typical. Anything dealing with the Agency made adults nervous. Kane wasn’t sure why; the adults he’d asked denied they were afraid of the Agency and changed the subject.
“Your schedule is Homeroom, Science, Gym. Health will be starting next quarter, which is next week. You’re in time to finish volleyball before starting the unit on Sex-Ed,” she said with a fast leer. “English, your on-line class, Math, and Study Hall as your elective. You’ll have a choice for next year, but we only had Study Hall available for the last quarter.”
Kane grinned. “Study Hall sounds good,” he announced, doing his best not to sound like he was trying to annoy the lady. “Do they teach study skills, or is it time to do homework?”
“Study skills and other things are covered,” Ms. Milton answered. “Next year the class will be renamed Life Skills.”
“I’d’ve chosen it,” Kane shrugged. “You need those.” He doubted it would teach Life Skills that were useful, but who knew? Stranger things had happened.
“Study Hall is in room 76, down this way.”
The hall curved to the right, behind the cafeteria, Kane thought. The school layout was kind of weird. Room 76 was alone on the left side of the hallway -- across from the cafeteria. According to Ms. Milton, it had been the In School Suspension room, but had of necessity been converted into a regular classroom. Kane had no idea why she felt she had to mention that. Most adults in power liked the sound of their own voice, so maybe that was all there was to it. Or maybe she was saying they no longer offered in-school suspension as a punishment. No telling.
The gym was at the far end of the hall, emptying outside to a field for football and soccer. At least there were a lot of sports to choose from. Kane wasn’t sure he’d join any of the teams, but there would be people to do sports with. It was something.
“Ours is the oldest, and poorest, of the area’s schools,” Ms. Milton announced as they returned to the office. “We have been refused funding year after year for necessary renovations and upgrades. Yet we have been given six ‘special’ groups of middle-school students and the money and promise of a complete overhaul. I should be grateful, but quite honestly I’m pissed.”
“Curie Middle was chosen by the Agency because of its staff,” Steve informed her. The boys followed along, listening but not participating. Kane was filing away information for later use. “Your team is the most flexible in dealing with students and problems, and you consistently out-perform better funded, more modern schools. There are Agency children in some of the other schools. This is a pilot program, as you were told, but the Agency is pinning most of its hopes for success right here at Curie. Next year you may have double the amount of Agency students.” He shrugged. “Or it may be two years and exponential. It all depends on the ones finishing out this year and starting next.”
Kane thought Steve was telling the truth. He didn’t know the man well enough to say for sure yet, though. Steve had a habit of running his hand through his light brown almost blond hair as he talked, making it stand on end and fly everywhere. His dark green eyes seemed sincere and ended with laugh lines. All in all, the little Kane had seen of him made him seem decent. Of course, appearances could be very misleading. He’d have to see what he could find out about Steve when they got back to the house.
Back in the office they met Mr. Wender, who apologized for not meeting them sooner but explained he was caught up in meetings about the upcoming changes to the school. He seemed pleasant and befuddled, deferring to Ms. Milton for most things. When he was gone Ms. Milton smiled her own apology to Steve, who nodded understanding.
A pile of books and a thin notebook computer lay on Ms. Koss’ desk. Great. Not only did they live in a house that used real books instead of a reader, but they were attending a school with books instead of the Slate, which had taken the place of books and notebooks and things a long time ago. It was supposed to be more cost-efficient to give students a Slate that got programmed over the school break for the next year’s curriculum.
Books and paper and stuff could get lost, stolen, or destroyed. Wonderful. Give a bunch of kids a way to cause trouble for others. Not one of the more brilliant moves on the part of the Government of Education. At least the Slate could be accessed only by the student and teacher. They could be hacked, but it wasn’t easy. Why was it the people with money did things the stupid way?
Steve picked up the books and the computer as he thanked Ms. Milton for her time. The adults exchanged pleasantries while Kane forced himself to be patient. They’d be leaving soon.
Kane urged Devin to lie down in the back seat, head in his lap. Steve switched the radio to a peaceful music channel and played it low, telling Kane that Devin had a 1300 appointment with Dr. Nelson. They had time for lunch if they did drive-thru. Kane said that was fine, relieved to know Devin would be seeing the doctor soon. With luck the headaches would be easy to get rid of.
After the appointment with Dr. Nelson, which had ended with a shot and prescription for a mild tranquilizer, Steve took the boys home. They could go another day to get school supplies. Dr. Nelson had been adamant that Devin go home and sleep; the shot he had been given would make sure of it. Kane had insisted on getting the same shot. He wasn’t leaving Devin all alone, not after what had happened the last time, but without the shot he wasn’t going to be tired.
By the time they got home the shots had started to work; Steve and Albert had to help the boys upstairs and into the bathroom. From there they made it into their room and bed on their own. Kane stripped himself and Devin down to their underwear without bothering to put on pajamas.
Devin roused when Kane settled into the bed with him, opening his eyes long enough to verify it was, indeed, Kane next to him. Seeing that it was, he allowed himself to be drawn close and arranged comfortably. Kane meant comfort, warmth, safety, peace, lack of pain. Kane was all he needed.
These assurances, whispered in Dr. Nelson’s voice, circled and settled through his mind into his deepest subconscious. As long as Kane was near him there was no way for the past pain to touch him and bring on a headache. In his sleep, Devin sought the peace and safety he had never known and had long ago given up on. He found it now in the thrum of Kane’s heartbeat, the heat of his body, and weight of the arms holding him close.
Kane rolled, tucking Devin under him. Devin was his. His boy, needing him for protection, care, comfort. His doll, his toy to dress up and play with, but gently. Always gently. Already broken, he would be shattered, and shattered would be beyond Kane’s care. And, as much as Devin needed Kane, Kane needed Devin to need him. He would never do anything to hurt his boy, or allow others to do so.
Transcript of Meeting Related to Experiment CS529
Out of all MM groups, they have integrated the fastest and most. Very little has been needed by way of suggestion or command. They were well chosen and matched.
The assigned Mother?
Understands that she overstepped the condoned abusive behavior, and that said privilege has been revoked. A more…suitable outlet is being sought.
Kane desires retribution for what she has done, although her actions made his desires reality. He must be allowed some measure of vengeance, to feel he is performing his duty as guardian. Continue to monitor with minimal intercession unless requested. Ensure the Agency is unaware of our continued interest.
Acknowledged. Next report. FF team #7…