“We’re doing the Ioses signing ceremony thing this afternoon. You want to stick around?” Dan managed to keep the pleading out of his tone as he Garrett returned from lunch.
Garrett smirked. “Do you want the one or the two-word answer to that?”
“I don’t even remember what I wrote on the rocks back in the day,” Dan lied.
“Oh, I bet you do. Fi will understand. It was two decades ago, man.”
“Still don’t want to go.”
“Try to remember how fucking cool we thought it was when we were here.”
“You sound more and more like your old man.”
“Dad told you to remember how fucking cool something was?” Garrett chuckled.
“I meant metaphorically.”
“I honestly don’t get why you hate this job so much. The kids like you. You’re good at it.” He shrugged.
“You don’t have to go all the way to lecturing me about my attitude to be like the Governor. Don’t forget there’s a whole bunch of crazy shit going on up here that I’m supposed to be figuring out. None of which I really want to know about.” Dan sighed.
“I kinda figured the test vault thing would intrigue you. Sounds like something a young Pendergrath would’ve done.”
The name alone shot a chill up Dan’s spine. He could still hear the cool metal clank of Pendergrath’s casted shackles as they’d led him out of the courtroom last April. “He would’ve orchestrated it just to see if he could do it without getting caught.”
“Yeah, well, he’s rotting in prison but you might find a kid with that same idea.”
“I’m not certain it’s a kid.”
“See there, I knew you had to have something in mind. Tell me what you’re thinking.”
“I’ve got to get to that damn ceremony. It just seems to me that a mentor who was about to lose her job for having an affair with the chancellor might need a little extra income. She could grab print copies of the tests and exams when she’s in and out of the vault. No one would notice.”
“This is why you were Chief of Iodex. That never even occurred to me. I figured it was a hotshot kid looking to see what he could get away with.”
After dropping his stuff off in his office, Dan slogged out to the Ioses courtyard. His shield shimmered around him trying to keep the memories at bay. The statue of Crown Governor Lawson stood stoic in the distance. Dan wondered if Rainer hated the tradition as much as he did. The statue, cold and unmoving, was nothing like the Crown Governor had been before his untimely death.
Dozens of smooth stones comprised the foundation of the statue. Governor Lawson was the only Ioses to ever hold the highest position in the American Realm. The statue had been erected upon his election. And ever since then Ioses students had carved their names and messages into the stones at his feet.
As the last class of the day was released every Ioses predilect headed towards their courtyard. Other predilects had their own traditions. The name carving was legendary, however.
The largest stone at the feet of the Crown caught Dan’s eyes. Once it was wriggled away, it would reveal the things he’d carved when he was sixteen years old. An entire lifetime ago and yet he remembered like it was yesterday.
“Who the fuck is he, Amelia?” The fight they’d had the first day of school replayed in his head without his permission. He could still see the sting his accusation had brought to her beautiful eyes.
“He’s some guy in my homeroom. What is wrong with you? Why don’t you trust me? I love you. I barely even know him.”
“I love you, too and I do trust you. I don’t trust him.”
“I had no idea he was going to drop by. He must ride my bus. How else would he know where I live? If you didn’t have to go to your school for people bitten by radioactive spiders, you could drive me home and then this wouldn’t be a problem. Now, it’s still hot out. Let’s go swimming.”
She wrapped her arms around his waist and he was done for. “If I go home and get a suit I’ll have to deal with my mother and I’m not in the mood.”
“Then we won’t wear suits. Mom and Dad have theater tickets tonight. They won’t be home for hours.” Hope had replaced the rejection in her eyes. “Please forget whatever his name is.”
“Thinking about skinny dipping with you has pretty much erased him from my mind, trust me.”
“Good.” She’d stepped back and slowly lifted away her t-shirt. He’d begged his cock not to lose it all right then.
Banishing the self-hatred he still had for what he’d caused her and for the things he’d taken from her when he was nothing but a kid, Dan blinked away the memories. Suddenly, a warm hand slipped into his.
Whirling around, his mouth fell open. “Thanks for not throwing me when I did that. I’ve always wondered if I could ever sneak up on you. Your shield must know me.”
“Fi, baby, what are you doing here?” Drawing her into his arms he pressed her bump between them.
“You’ve were talking about how much you were dreading this. And since I’m not an Ioses I’ve never seen the rock engraving thing before. I figured no one would tell me I couldn’t since my husband is the head of Ioses now, so….” She shrugged. “Do you mind if I stay?”
“You’re supposed to be home resting.”
“I’ve been sitting all day long. Halia is good. See, she hears you.” Fionna took his hand and placed it on her bump just as one of Halia’s hands nudged outwards.
“I’m a weak bastard but I’m so glad you’re here.”
She shook her head at him. “You know, all Auxiliary house does is pick a new charity we’re supporting for the year. This is really a cool rite of passage. With everything else going on up here, I bet it means a lot to the kids.”
“I’m trying to remember that.”
The sound of Thane clearing his throat had everyone quieting down. Dan wrapped his arm over his wife’s shoulders.
“Uh… this is the first meeting of Ioses Order for the school year. It is also the time when each of us make our markings on the Ioses stones set before us by the late Crown Governor Lawson. As the years pass we add more stones to symbolize the continued work of every Ioses to keep our Gifted foundation strong so we can protect others.”
Dan remembered the speech well. He’d recited it numerous times when he was the head of the order.
“We will pull away the stones one at a time starting with the Seniors and working our way down to the Sub-Freshman.” Thane nodded to Jeff and Tad Bentley who were already croched down easing two of the large stones away from the foundation.
As the stone the Juniors were signing that year was pulled away, Fionna gave Dan a sweet smile. His initials along with Amelia’s were in a rather large cross bar he’d created with a heat cast. “I don’t want you to forget,” she reminded him. “I don’t want you not to love her or the memories you have with her.”
She put her arms around his neck. He held on for all he was worth.