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04 January 2006 @ 03:43 pm
Five Rites For Passage (Lunar: Eternal Blue) by Racoati  
...okay, so this is yesterday's news to the only other member of this comm so far (unless we've had new ones over night... zomg. o.O), but posting it here anyway for archival and linking-to purposes. Slightly edited version, nothing to reread for, but link this, rather than the one on my journal, if linking desired.


Title: Five Rites For Passage
Author: Corin Arkadios (Racoati)
Fandom: Lunar: Eternal Blue
Pairing: Jean/Lemina
Rating: ...you know, that's a hard one. There's not strictly any explicit sexual description, but there's everything else but, including some kinks. R? M? Judge from warnings?
Warnings: Mild bondage, breathplay. So consensual it squeaks when you rub it.
Wordcount: 7,300, give or take.
Summary: Lemina sets Jean an examination for entrance to the Magic Guild, but Jean's creative response to the task forces Lemina to confront a few control issues. A sequel-of-sorts to my altcanon rewrite of the EB ending, Integrity, though perfectly readable whether you've read that or not.



Five Rites For Passage
(or to give it its Japanese-style title, "Lemina's Examination Hell! A Rising Star in the Magic Guild!")
by Corin Arkadios



She'd have made a trite remark about how the pupil had surpassed the master, if she could have swallowed her pride for the length of time it took the words to form. Or if, for that matter, she'd actually felt like summoning the motivation to speak.

As it was, she was rapidly submitting to the inertia the situation induced. Curtains drawn, the lights turned low, candles dipped in scented oils and carved with arcane symbology forming a ring around them; it was all pomp and circumstance, hardly any of it necessary, but it did add a fitting atmosphere. Despite the dimmed oil lamps, the heat was so heavy that their wan flames rippled, distorted; the haze made even the bright lights of Jean's spellcasting blur at the edges, and colours swirled into one another such that she could no longer determine the nature of the magic. Or was it just that her eyes were beginning to have difficulty focusing? Now that she reflected, her mind wasn't exactly doing a stellar job of staying on the task at hand, either....

A-ha. So that was it. Fingers groping blindly at the nightstand for the paper and ink-pen she'd left there were stopped short in their quest, another set of digits wrapping themselves around her wrist, gentle yet firm.

"Wha-- whudya-- how d'ya 'spec' your tuh-teacher t... to write an'thing down if you gonna use ch... charm magics?" she managed to stammer finally, almost impressed with herself for having completed the sentence under that sort of duress. She was not yet under, merely being prepared, but it wouldn't be long; she needed that paper now, but already her will to act was fading, swallowed up by a comforting warmth. Charms were slippery things, potent yet little-used due to the reputation they tended to confer upon those who wielded them. They took time to work, and required a certain degree of willingness to be enthralled on the part of their target; but once the subject had allowed the suggestion to take hold, they could bind as effectively as any physical snare, command as surely as any spell of brute-force domination. The target's thoughts found themselves consumed wholly by the caster's will, as if enveloped in bubbles that drifted harmlessly away, far out of reach, the sense of total helplessness accompanied by a druggish euphoria.

It was wholly enjoyable, but then, that was the very definition of "druggish euphoria", wasn't it?

She was roused from her reverie just slightly, by the calling of her name and a light splash of water on her face. The room temperature had warmed the liquid, keeping its touch from being shocking; it felt like the brush of a scarf.

"Lemina," she heard her say, close to her ear and a million miles away. "Remember, you can call it quits. If you don't answer me, I'll drop the spell." The pause between each word was clear even in her languid state, her words carefully chosen to be simple to understand.

She still had presence of mind enough to choose, and Jean knew that. She wasn't being taunted.

Not right now, anyway.

"No quits," she said, the words clear as she could possibly manage. As the last of her resolve slipped away into a pinkish mist, her final thoughts were of how she'd gotten herself into this unholy, wondrous situation anyway....


***


"Okay, so in summary...." Lemina's staff rapped the green slate board that had been liberally augmented with chalk over the course of her lecture, looping scrawls that were possibly intended to be words annotating various diagrams; the underlying infrastructure of elemental oppositions, the Rule of Threes (three short, sharp spells are usually better than one big one), and of course the First Law of Magic. Her only pupil rested her chin on folded hands, not taking her eyes off the "teacher" several years her junior, her face graced by a soft smile that hadn't budged for the last hour.

"For the entrance examination this year," she said with a glance at Jean, whose smile broadened just a little too much. She exhaled resignedly, and corrected herself. "...well, for your entrance examination, anyway, I'll be setting you a combination research and practical project. What I want is for you to research five unique forms of magic, using the resources available in the library or any legitimate others you come across," and here an eyebrow raised pointedly, bringing forth a giggle from Jean.

"Don't worry, I won't go grilling Ronfar for the secret of how he loads his dice," the dancer said in feigned defeat.

"Good, because I want you to take this seriously," Lemina replied, though she couldn't hide the amusement in her tone. "As I was saying, five unique spells, from any branch of magic you like; they must be different, but they must all be related in some way. I want you to write a short report that describes each one, its history and current usage, and how the five connect. You'll bring this to me no later than sundown a fortnight from now, in my private quarters, where you'll also present me with a full demonstration of the spells in use."

"Your room?" Jean queried, raising an eyebrow herself. "For a magic demonstration?"

"Well, I'm not expecting you to pull out anything with great powers of combustion here," said Lemina. "Though if that is your kettle of kiwis, we can always take it outside." Jean shook her head a little, and she continued. "It's just that ever since Vane kinda... well, you know, it's not quite everything it used to be, and right now my room and Mother's are the only places in the mansion that still have decent magical shielding. If we do it up there, nothing you cast can leak out and have any effect beyond the immediate area."

The other woman nodded, seeming lost in thought for a moment. And hey... was that the beginnings of a smirk? She'd have to find out what that was about later... preferably not too much later. But for now, it could wait. There were other matters on her mind besides schooling her newest -- well, yes, and first -- student in the fine art of advanced sorcery, even if that was a noble pursuit. She scooped up a little golden bell from the desk and tinkled it, bringing back Jean's attention. "Well, that's about all you need to know, so... unless there are any more questions, class dismissed! So," she continued, hopping up onto and over the desk to sit by Jean, "sound like a fun assignment?"

"I'm sure we'll both enjoy it," was Jean's cryptic response, her smile never fading.

"Why do I suddenly not feel mega-confident about the way you say that?" said Lemina disconsolately, though even as she did she couldn't help but feel a slight shudder run through her -- and a not entirely unpleasant one, at that. After all, Jean was hardly going to do anything to harm her; she simply didn't possess that kind of malice, least of all towards Lemina. Still, anticipation was a double-edged sword, and she didn't like being kept in the dark.... "And wipe that silly grin off your face! Unless, that is," she added as a sudden afterthought, swiftly moving in close enough for their lips to brush, "you want me to do it for you...." It was an attempt to regain control of the situation, and, she thought as she pressed her fingers firmly into Jean's back through her clothing, it had worked rather well. All things considered, anyway....


***


So here she sat now in her room, the appointed evening almost upon them, its approach measurable from her window by the steady slide of the sun towards the horizon and the colours it brought to the sky. A barely-touched textbook lay face-down on the bedsheets, a half-finished tumbler of water on her nightstand, both testimony to her inability to shake the anxious fluttering in her stomach at the thought of Jean's presentation. Part of it, she guessed, was a genuine apprehension on the part of her student and the hope that she wouldn't mess up; Lemina wanted Jean to succeed, not just for herself and for the Guild but because she knew the girl had a talent. She hadn't borne witness to Jean's mastery of the healing arts under Ronfar's tutelage, being as she'd been their target at the time, but from what Jean had told her she'd caught on quickly; with the proper guidance and application of herself, she had the potential to become quite a powerful mage. And part of it, she supposed, was also the fact that if Jean did make a slip, while the rest of Vane might not suffer the effects, the two of them would probably be feeling the flak for a while. At least the dancer didn't seem to have an interest in actively aggressive magics, for reasons Lemina understood well. Still, a mistimed rite of empowerment or even a simple botched litany could have quite serious consequences; magic was an unpredictable thing when freed from Althena's direction and placed into the hands of humans.

But the bulk of her nervousness, she knew, stemmed from the fact that she still wasn't sure precisely what Jean was planning to demonstrate. More accurately, she wasn't sure at all -- and she had more than a sneaking suspicion that her dear, sweet, wholly kindhearted and eternally mischievous girlfriend was Up To Something, with all that those capital letters implied. She'd enquired* repeatedly into the nature of Jean's research, but had failed to beg, prise or torment a single detail out of her; she'd noted one afternoon that one of the books she'd been reading before she hastily screened them from sight was an eminent tome on elemental magics, but that meant little, since the elemental system was a foundation for all kinds of workings. Besides, five elementals? Classic, but hardly original, and therefore hardly Jean's style; and furthermore, nothing to cast such a veil of secrecy over. Unless she was double-bluffing her, of course. Was she double-bluffing? Was that even likely?

Lemina glanced over at the sinking sun, though she had no need; the hues it cast across her bedspread, the palette sunset painted on her pale skin, was evident enough. She sighed, a deliberate action, the tension mounting inside of her constricting her throat and her chest. She toyed with the idea of a vengeful psyching, telling Jean she'd failed the assignment for handing in tardy, but she wasn't technically late; Lemina was just antsy, and every second felt like an eternity. And Jean knew it. She was playing with her, dragging this out until the last possible moment, and dear sweet Althena if there wasn't going to be payback for this one....

A knock on the door, and Lemina almost jumped clean out of her skin. This is it, then. "Come in," she said automatically, entirely forgetting her planned rebuke.

Jean spared a glance for the landscape, the now-reddish sun spilling its last threads of light across the hillside, the faint glow casting her own features into darkened relief. "Beautiful night out, isn't it?" Her voice was hushed, almost reverent, and so gentle, like a spider spinning its web. Lemina wasn't sure the scholarly robes of Vane had ever looked more intimidating, all scarlet and swishing and pooling on the ground at Jean's feet like a sacrifice to some dark god. She tingled, and successfully swallowed down both a whimper and the words "...get on with it".

"Okay," she said instead, in tones octaves calmer than she felt. "You brought everything you need? Everything I asked for?"

Jean nodded. "I've written up the report, though I would like to add some final comments in the light of the practical experiment, if that's permissible." She set the rather bulky-looking satchel she'd been carrying on a nearby chair as if to punctuate her words.

Well, that seemed reasonable enough, Lemina thought, as she nodded her head sagely. &qout;...wait a minute. Practical experiment?"

Jean smiled a little sheepishly, though Lemina wasn't sure it was shyness. "Well, of course I've tested all these magics myself individually, to an extensive degree," she explained. "But what I'm interested in, and what you're interested in, is how they relate to one another, right?" Lemina just nodded, unsure where this was going, but fairly certain it was going somewhere fast. "What drew me to the spells I've selected is their effect when used in combination, or, rather, when used consecutively over a relatively short period of time. On... a human subject."

Lemina's eyebrows shot up. "Now wait just a minute, I'm not your practice dummy--"

Jean walked up to place a hand on her shoulder. "Easy, Lemina. First, I've practiced all of these magics well and not a one of them is going to hurt, or have any long-lasting effect, I promise. In fact, the point is quite the opposite. Secondly, you don't have to agree to this at all if you don't want to-- though it does mean I'll fail my assignment, I guess." She smiled wryly, and Lemina's expression softened a little. "And thirdly, at any point during the sequence you can ask me to stop. At any time. Just raise your right hand, or say a word that'll let me know you want out."

"What word?"

"Any one you want."

Lemina crinkled her nose. "That doesn't make a lot of sense."

"Well, no, I mean pick something now. Something you'd never ordinarily say in any other situation, so when you say it, I'll know to stop immediately. Like, I don't know...."

"Like 'embolimaeal?'"** Lemina offered.

Jean rolled her eyes goodhumouredly as she sat down beside her, tucking a strand of hair behind Lemina's ear as an afterthought. "Your studiousness is impressive, Lemina, but I was thinking more of something you'll find easy to say. Easy to say when you're...." Jean paused, apparently not wanting to finish that thought; a new thrill of nervousness slid down her spine at that, but she chose to ignore it in favour of the fact that she was rather enjoying having her earlobe teased.

"Why not just 'stop'?" Lemina mused. "Simple enough."

Jean seemed to consider this for a second, as if trying to find the best way to express the reasoning behind her thoughts. A moment later, said reasoning was inexplicably expressed by Jean running a pointed finger up and down Lemina's side, causing the girl to double over in a fit of convulsive giggles.

"Hey, hey, stop that!" she cried out through her laughter, but Jean instead closed in on her and redoubled her efforts, her free hand now fending off Lemina's madly thrashing limbs while most of her body weight went into keeping the hapless girl where she wanted her. "Stop it, ahh, hey, get off me! No, no, please, I'm begging you now--" She felt Jean shift off her again, the older girl returning to a sitting position as the still-prone Lemina wiped tears from her eyes.

"...Because sometimes what we say in the heat of the moment isn't always what we mean," Jean finished.

"Well, I really did want you to stop, though," Lemina pouted, pulling herself back up and trying to shake the tingling feelings that still coursed through her body.

"Well, I guess that wasn't quite the best example," said Jean with a smile. "But essentially, the point is that you need something that can't be ambiguous. Just pick the first word that comes to mind."

Lemina thought about it for a moment. "...um, okay. 'Silver'?"

Jean smiled again. "Works for me. Just as long as you can remember to say that if you want out."

"Hey, I haven't even said I want in yet," Lemina noted, though inwardly she was pretty sure the point had already been decided; the positives in her feeling of anticipation were now well outweighing the doubts.

"No," Jean agreed, "you haven't. So are you willing to let me do this, or would you rather I didn't?" Her words were sincere, not in the slightest leading; it was Lemina's own heart and mind that led her now.

"Okay," she breathed. "I do trust you. Let's see what my student has to offer."

Jean winked, and tapped her on the nose with a finger. "Your best student, don't forget."

"Yeah, yeah, and my only," Lemina chided goodnaturedly. "Let's get on with this."

"Nervous?" Jean questioned, her voice gentle and low as, rather than rising as Lemina might have imagined -- though she knew by now this wasn't going to be any ordinary magic exam -- she shuffled up closer to her, one soothing hand idly stroking at her back.

"Understatement of forever," Lemina mumbled. "I haven't the faintest idea what you're planning, you know."

"Well, I think my first demonstration can help with both of those things," she replied. "I'm going to start with the first spell I ever learnt -- the one Ronfar taught me back in Dalton. As well as being a fitting beginning, it also leads well into what I want to do next."

Lemina looked up. "But that was healing magic, wasn't it? Why would you want to cast that on me? I don't needhealing...."

Jean chuckled softly, and touched two of her fingers to Lemina's temple. Even without the aid of magic, they felt startlingly cold against her skin, and she cursed herself for her lack of composure; Jean was evidently taking this in her stride, and loving every minute of it. "You think about magic awfully literally, Lemina. Maybe there's a few things you can learn from this. Now, lay back a little."

Lemina, who always liked having the upper hand, wasn't sure she wanted to concede that much ground to Jean all of a sudden; plus, she was still bristling at the idea that the dancer could teach her, the junior premier of the Vane Magic Guild, anything about sorcery. That sounded awfully like a challenge, and Lemina's natural response to a challenge was defiance. But then again, she had said she trusted Jean, and dithering in the face of that statement would be its own form of weakness. And besides, now she was intrigued, just the slightest bit. So she shuffled obediently down the bed, letting her head rest against her pillow as Jean's fingers followed her down. "Close your eyes."

The chill that had previously left Jean's touch as their temperatures evened out now prickled again at her skin, goosebumps rising on her arms even in the sun-warmed room. She wasn't sure whether it was the magic or her own nerves that had caused the drop in heat until her ears registered the tail of a whispered chant, her vision filled with a purplish glow as beyond her shuttered eyelids, she suspected, the room was bathed in blue. She gasped a little as cold energy sluiced into her, slowly at first; it was a sensation she supposed she'd experienced numerous times before, but had never had pause to concentrate on, being that the previous times all her focus had been taken up by pain or imminent danger. Jean wasn't just concentrating the energy where she was touching; it was spreading all throughout her body, not in one unified glow but in directed points that pulsed beneath her skin. It was an odd sensation, more indirect than a physical touch; it couldn't really tease or tingle, but the odd pulsing felt very pleasant nonetheless, as if parts of her were being purified.

Slowly, she felt the light withdraw from her body, only to be redirected. Now she felt the brush of Jean's magic against her mind itself, cool and soothing and a little probing, almost as if it was caressing the outside of her thoughts. She felt conflict begin to drain from her mind as a feeling of calm overtook her, yet even as she felt this she rebelled against it, afraid to lose herself in the flood; her heart began to quiver again, her instincts suddenly primed. Her shoulders tensed, and Jean sensed it, one hand slipping beneath her to stroke her back.

"Don't fight it," Jean spoke softly. "Just relax. It's okay, I promise you'll be fine." Lemina felt wetness on her cheek, and a moment after Jean's motions stalled, the magic within her mind still present but also halting its caresses. "Lemina, are you all right?"

Lemina opened one eye, feeling the moisture brimming on her eyelashes as she did so. "It feels... weird. I'm... a little scared...."

"Do you want me to stop?"

Lemina thought about that for a moment, the magic still lapping at the fringes of her mind. There seemed no rational reason why she should be afraid, why she shouldn't let any worries she had be washed from her mind by the magic; there was nothing to worry about, here in this room with nothing to threaten them. This was Jean, and she loved her. If she couldn't trust her, who on this world could she trust? She made herself think back to all the times she'd truly been afraid, afraid of things that had posed real threats.... when she'd found out from Ruby that Althena's power very nearly destroyed their world, and Zophar's was about to. When they'd actually faced him down, that pus-faced writhing freak of nature, and Ruby had gone berserk on him with all that she could muster, and all hung in the balance of dragon versus god. When they'd travelled to Neo-Vane in search of her mother, and the magic tester had cruelly split them, the ground opening up beneath Jean to cast her into the mines below. When Borgan had first taken her hopes away....

More tears itched beneath her eyelids, and she swallowed audibly, willing composure to her body with that action as a focus. She wasn't sure quite what was getting to her about this, but she'd deal with it the way she'd dealt with everything she'd faced so far -- everything she'd faced, and succeeded against. Fear had haunted Lemina Ausa, but it had never yet bettered her, and it wasn't going to start today.

"No."

Her voice must have been so small that Jean sought to confirm it. "Are you sure? Lemina--"

"I'm okay." She cracked a little smile from behind closed eyes. "I want to feel this."

Seeming to note that decisive action, Jean moved in sychronicity, matching her words with a fresh surge of magic. Lemina fancied brittle barriers tinkled and crashed as what was left of her resistance was swept away, swept up in the lashing foam and the wind and the waves and the soothing, cooling spray that followed the storm, tears now openly spilling not from fear but from tension's release. When the last of the raw edges had faded to dim pinprickings, tiny sparkles rimming the edges of her vision, she could feel her mind a clear cavern, echoing rhythmic and even with the quiet music of her heart.

After what seemed like years she forced her eyes to open, the image of the girl before her immediately crystal-sharp. All her senses seemed harmonised with the world around her, and she flinched a few times at the startling clarity of sounds. "That was.... wow. I don't really have words."

"Not so bad, huh?" Jean smiled down at her. "Though I'd lost you for a moment there." Her face took on a more serious cast. "You looked a little thrown."

"I... don't really know what happened back there," she admitted. "But," she brought the authority back into her tone, "I'm not going to let it stop me from grading your entrance exam!" A hand shot to her bedside table, atop which a neat sheaf of parchments and a long pen, resting in an inkwell, stood unused. Lemina immediately took up one of the papers, drew the pen with a flourish, and began hastily scrawling notes. After a few moments the heat of Jean's eyes on her was too much to bear and she looked up, the face that greeted her amused. "What?"

"Lemina, you're supposed to be relaxing," Jean chided, musical laughter rising in her tone despite her admonishment.

Lemina lifted an eyebrow. "I'm supposed to be teaching," she replied with an air that had been meant to be assertive, but only caused the woman before her to choke back a fit of giggles.

"Then I'm afraid you leave me no choice," said Jean as soon as she regained composure, taking Lemina's wrists in turn and prising the pen and paper - not too forcefully, as she relinquished easily enough, not wanting to tear the paper or break her quill - from her hands. Using one hand to pull Lemina's free ones over her head and the other to scoot her close, Jean drew her into a kiss, her tongue gently dancing over Lemina's lips until they parted to grant it entrance.

"...Choice but to do what?" she murmured breathlessly as they withdrew slightly, mouths still touching and tongues lightly darting at the other's.

"You'll see in a moment," Jean responded. "That is, if you still want to go on with this. What I have planned doesn't get any less challenging."

Now both of Lemina's eyebrows raised. "Challenge is my middle name. Besides, I want to know why I reacted like that, and I'm not going to resolve it just sitting here. I'm game if you are."

Jean pulled back and regarded her, her expression faux-bemused. "...Lemina 'Challenge' Ausa?"

They both collapsed into giggles at that, and Jean took the opportunity -- unsportingly, thought Lemina -- to sneak in another prod at her sides, escalating her laughter into high, shrieking gasps. Lemina struggled to pull her wrists from the clasp Jean still held them in, but instead felt a warmth begin to bind them, one that was not Jean's body heat alone. And, she reflected, though the dancer's grip was understandably strong, and Lemina's arms were fairly slender, she wasn't sure she could be securing her that well with just one hand.

Especially when both of her hands were now folded in front of her.

"--What the...?" Lemina glanced up above her head, eyes now wide. Tongues of painless green flame licked over her wrists, taking on an almost animated form as they slithered serpentine around them, encircling and keeping them together. No matter how much effort she expended, trying to pull them apart was like trying to grasp water; she couldn't seem to get any leverage, and she realised, an acidic pang clenching her stomach, that her arms were all but immobilised. "Hey, let me go! Get me out of this thing this instant!"

She could swear she saw amusement dance in Jean's eyes; that only strengthened her resistance, and she thrashed in her bonds as much as her numbed arms would allow, knowing her actions were probably futile but hoping at least to put on an impressive show of resolve.

"You're cute when you're angry, Lemina," said Jean, the smile in her voice genuine, not mocking, nor harsh -- though still a little too gleeful for Lemina's liking. "Now, are you sure you want me to let you go? What about this challenge of yours?"

Lemina hmphed pointedly. "Well, if you're going to play dirty...." she intoned. "Very well. I'm not about to back down." Her tone shifted to inquisition. "...oh, one thing. This isn't just one kind of magic, right?"

"You've got a good sense of this stuff," Jean replied, clearly approving. "I spent a while researching and testing this one to see if it would work. A simple magical binding for the most part, but with a paralysis charm in there for added security. It's extremely weak, so don't worry; like I said, nothing I've prepared for this is going to hurt you."

"Wow." Lemina looked up at the snaking charm, its innards threaded with silver fires that revealed the second magic. "I'm impressed, if a little unnerved. I dread to think what you'll submit for your first-year final."

"You, in manacles, to your students," Jean goaded softly, a fingertip tracing Lemina's jawline before lifting her chin upwards in a distinctly possessive gesture. She blanched a little, but held firm; the look in Jean's eyes was all play. Still, she was unused to being taunted like this, to say the least. She tried not to squirm as two fingers traced the length of her body, dancing lightly around her collarbone and trailing down to graze her chest, causing her breath to hitch in her throat as long nails brushed a sensitive spot; continuing on down her stomach, little ticklish spots making her cringe as she lingered there, fingers wandering a little too close to somewhere special before drawing a tingling line down her hip. She felt her skin shiver in Jean's wake as her fingers found bare flesh again halfway down her thigh, respecting the boundary set by her hemline yet no less teasing for their decency, her curled legs naturally stretching in response. She felt her toes brush the footboard, and realised her mistake at once; strong fingers closed around her ankle, and before the yelp had escaped her lips it was shackled to a bedpost, its twin joining it in short order. "Hey, no fair!" she cried, chagrined more at herself for her slip than anything; a glance down at herself confirmed that, yes, this was an extremely compromising position. "Don't you have an ounce of respect for your teacher?" Her words were by now slightly in jest, but if Jean could fake dominance for an advantage, then, she decided, so could she.

"Sure I do," Jean responded, then before Lemina could move her mouth, finished. "That's why you're not naked, hogtied and being paddled 'til you scream."

Fake dominance? Lemina paled again, though she also felt her heart miss a beat. Jean knew exactly how to get to her, tracing that line between fear and craving so finely her words drew blood; quite literally, Lemina found, her tongue-tip wetting her bitten lips and finding coppery residue there. And she was maddened by it; scared and aroused and infuriated by it, and that was a volatile combination. Oh, and bound. She couldn't forget bound. "You've been hanging around with Leo too much. Also, when exactly did this stop being your magic exam and start being your reception night? I don't remember passing you just yet, as showy as these are." She rattled -- or at least, attempted to rattle -- her "chains" as punctuation.

"You didn't," said Jean simply, making her way up Lemina's body with hands and knees either side. "First law of magic, remember? Magic comes from the heart. You taught me that one."

"Oh, yeah, and you're all heart," Lemina snorted, though humouredly, with an emphatic eyeroll on the all. Jean's mouth closed around hers, sucking lightly on her lower lip, drawing forth a muffled whimper as her tongue worried the cut; and another, as they parted and the situation reasserted itself in her mind.

When she'd been nervous about what Jean was going to present for her examination -- and that suddenly seemed like it had been a lifetime away -- what she hadn't imagined was her bound three-point and twice-magicked to a bed, lying underneath her only student with the taste of blood and salt and kisses in her mouth, able only to anticipate Jean's next move with a mixture of thrill and trepidation.

She felt one of Jean's hands move to snake up her side again, and instinctively she reached to swat it, only to find that, of course, she couldn't. Nor, in this position, could she even hope to squirm away. She was doomed. Mega-doomed.

If she had been able to imagine it, she'd probably have fled the room.

"So that's your plan," she tried to say, but what came out instead sounded more like So that's your plaaAAAAHH no stop it stop it please no let me go let me go you bastard when I get outta here I'm gonna AAAHH NO please stop, followed by lots of panting. Jean ceased her torment briefly to touch her palm to Lemina's throat, an action that surprised the girl and caused her to look up. Jean returned the look, eyes heavy and lidded in a way that suggested Lemina wouldn't like what she was about to hear. Not that she had so far.

"If you don't be quiet," Jean said levelly, a slight breathlessness in her own voice, "I'm going to have to make you quiet."

Normally such a statement would have spooked Lemina, its tone uncharacteristic and its demand unexpected; the position of Jean's hand was hardly helping to dissuade that impression. Two hours prior, heedless of any mitigating factor, that statement would have brought her to one of two resolutions: violence, or tears. From Jean, and probably only Jean, the latter. Jean never bullied her. Jean never bullied anyone.

And, she realised with a clarity whose newness surprised her, Jean wasn't bullying her now.

She wasn't. Because she couldn't. Because she never would.

Lemina knew that. And that was the meaning of trust.

Jean saw it in her eyes, she knew, because when she returned her gaze with one filled with the strength of that notion, one that spoke of her absolute confidence that she would not be harmed, Jean smiled.

And closed a hand around her throat.

Lemina struggled, just the tiniest bit, still able to move her head; but it was largely instinctual, and otherwise token. She still had her pride, after all, and it wouldn't do not to put up a fight. Heck, it wouldn't be fun not to put up a fight, not for either person involved. She still wasn't sure what Jean was planning, but she found out a second later as she felt the mist swirling around Jean's fingers solidify into something large and heavy, something circular, something cold and metallic and... oh, boy.

She swivelled her head to try and get a glimpse, but in vain; it was pretty much impossible to see anything that was placed around your own neck. Noting her gestures, Jean shifted off her a little, allowing her to catch her reflection in the mirror of her dresser. The sun was now well below the horizon, but the lamps on the walls still flickered, enough to give her a reasonable view.

Well, the girl had style, she'd give her that much; not that that was exactly unusual, either. Two silver dragons twined around her throat and each other, the tail of each feeding into the other's mouth, bright emeralds studding their scales and eye-sockets. A little bulky for everyday wear, perhaps, but she could get to like it.

"Can I keep it?" Wow, way to go Lemina. Score one for staying on top.

Jean chuckled. "Unfortunately, I can't create silver out of thin air, or we'd all be bankrolled," she said. "It'll dissipate with the spell, but if you're good and do as I tell you tonight, I promise I'll buy you a real one. Money no object."

"Good" and "do as I tell you" were most assuredly not in Lemina's vocabulary, or at least had never been until now. But she was wearing a collar, for Althena's sake. No point in clinging to dignity. Besides, "money no object" most assuredly was.

She nodded, once.

Jean touched a finger wordlessly to the central gem, her eyes closed in concentration. Lemina jumped as she felt the collar begin to constrict, the scaled tails sliding over her skin and into each other; she gasped for air reflexively, and suddenly found that that wasn't nearly as easy as it had been. She made to mention the tightness, but then remembered how Jean had pressed her hand to her throat, how she'd said If you don't be quiet, I'm going to have to make you be quiet. And as Jean moved to caress her -- stroking a fingernail over her chest in a way that made her breath quicken and come in high little whines, the sudden lack of air making her head go all woozy and light and the touches feel sharper and harder -- she thought that maybe she got the point.

She nodded again, slightly, just the tiniest of inclines. Jean's touches had been a question, and if she didn't get a response, she would stop. And she didn't want her to stop.

"Now, where was I?" Jean murmured as her fingers strayed, and Lemina's eyes widened as she felt her skin begin to prickle, those deadly digits hovering inches away from ticklish flesh. She's not going to-- Not while I'm-- For the love of Althena, no.... But she was, and she did, and as her desk bell was pressed into her clammy fingers with the instruction Hold it tight, and drop it if you need to get out -- even that kindness a command and seduction -- she wondered for one awful moment if she'd die like this, flesh screaming, lungs craving, every inch of her body needing. But the moment passed and she was still alive, dragging in hot wisps of air in agonised gulps, thrashing useless and fishlike, probably crying, probably blinded, her vision dark and blurry and filled with bright white pinpoints of light. And when it was over, and she hadn't let go of the bell but only barely registered its imprint in her palm, blood oozing out between her fingers where the rim had dug in, her breath noisy and ragged and hot when it gusted back onto her skin from the bedspread her face was buried in-- Jean stroked her hair, and talked her down into quietude, dissipating the collar and the clasps on her limbs and letting her collapse into a shivering coil of feelings.

She let her have a few minutes then, before prising the bell from her sticky fingers and caressing the backs of her hands as she winced, pressing her water tumbler to her lips and letting her gulp from it thirstily. Lemina sniffled back a few sudden tears, lately overwhelmed; it had been a while since she'd felt that rush, that joyous notion that life stretched out before her once again, and with it the recognition of how lucky she was to have it. Jean had drawn up something primal within her, and in the aftermath of chaos, she basked in it, briefly, before submitting to her next direction.

"You want to go on?"

"Five spells, right? Th-that's three, so far," she responded, her voice still a little quavery.

"I... admit it, I hadn't been intending to go quite this far," Jean said sheepishly, and this time the embarrassment was genuine. "I mean, I'd... you know, thought about it, but I hadn't really planned on doing it. Not all of it."

Lemina stretched to straighten out the kinks in her limbs, relishing the burn in her muscles now that she could once again flex them fully. "Up to you, but I can handle it. I've... learnt a lot tonight, Jean, and right now I think I'm in as good a state as I'll ever be to go on with this." She reached for her pen and parchment, allowing the authority to sneak back into her voice as if it had never been displaced. "Besides, if you don't submit all five parts of the assignment by morning, you'll have to retake."***

Jean blinked, then smiled, touching her lips to Lemina's cheek in a kiss that by now seemed chaste. "You're... unbelievable, Lemina," she said warmly, and Lemina could see she'd surprised her; surprised her, perhaps, with what she had the capacity to face, to endure, to overcome... and to keep on smiling.

She'd never thought about that quality of hers before. She decided she rather liked it.

"Ain't I just," she replied simply, a fiery little smile playing on her lips.


***


...Ah, yes. That had been when Jean had told her, with a fair glint in her eye and a wheedling in her voice, that she'd only planned to count the joint paralysis-binding as one spell, for the purposes of this assignment. She'd considered herself the mistress of fire and ice until now, but had never thought to put them to such... tantalising use.

And then she'd told her that she'd only planned to count the elementals as one spell, until Lemina, tortured and high and half-brainwashed with need, had almost decked her there and then, and she'd admitted she was kidding that time.

And after she'd set the scorched, frozen parchments down on the bedside table, she'd blotted out the world with Lemina's heavy drapes, set the waning lamps to flickering again, ringed candles round the bed and traced hot, scented oils down their bodies. And then she'd told her that that was just the beginning; that she hadn't even cast her spell yet.

She hadn't. But in a way, as well, she had.

After all, the First Law of Magic is that magic comes from the heart.


~fin


*I knew that was the correct spelling. Damn Americans. ;)

**A real word. Means "of days, inserted into the calendar; intercalary".

***This paragraph and the preceding one? So 4am author-meta.


Sappy Ending! Ghods, the sappy ending. XD

...I totally know why so Harry Potter is such a popular fandom now. There's no end to the things you can do with a magic-school setting, particularly if you want to be devious and kinky. Lemina is fun to write. ;) This fic's been building for a while, and was one of the epilogues I always intended to write to Integrity; I'm glad the inspiration finally hit. This got darker and crazier and more complex than I'd ever expected it to; I'd meant to write a fun little light-domination fic, but Lemina threw up her own issues as I was writing her, and complicated the plot -- to good effect, I think. I love when characters take the reins. ^^ (I don't think this was even soulbond-Lemina consciously speaking so much as her "muse essence" permeating my portrayal of her, which is an interesting dichotomy if it is one....)

Jean's "scholarly robes" are based on the Magical Robe that serves as armour for Lemina at one point in EBC; it's described as the Magic Guild's uniform.

Idea sparked unintentionally by Catherine Rain and her "are you really healing me?" mondegreen, which got me on a whole train of thought about alternate uses for cure magic - and exploration of how magic feels in general - that got started in Integrity but didn't really get fleshed out until this fic. I don't blame her for the rest of it, though.

The rather fiendish little asphyxiation/tickling combo was brought about by a New Year's Eve Harry Potter fanfic-binge, which led me to the fic that spawned it: Something to Squeal About, by the rather brilliant (and deliciously disturbed, sometimes unreadably so unless you're me who will read anything, but the lighter stuff is wicked good) Amanuensis. These fics are at the tippy-top of my rec list, even if you don't like HP.

...yes, I probably will fanart Lemina in the collar.
 
 
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