Charm School

Chapter 1

Min made his way to the main campus building, grateful that the family had seen fit to let him carry the day on the question of who would drive him there. He had had nightmare visions of his entire family converging on campus like an invading army and drawing the attention of everyone within earshot with their admonitions for him to study diligently, work hard and stay out of trouble.

Knowing his family it was not unlikely that there would be even more embarrassing moments, his aunts insisting on touring the kitchens for signs that their nephew would waste away on an unhealthy western diet or even worse, his mother inspecting the dorms for signs that women were in residence.

Why she continued to think that would make any difference to him was a mystery to Min. He had made it pretty clear that his interests lay elsewhere. That his mother insisted on thinking this a phase drove him to distraction, but then, that was a mothers purpose.

His cousin Tsin had backed him on his wish to make a quiet entrance and was walking calmly beside him along the sun dappled path. The Fairhaven School of Arts was located on a large wooded and hilly campus and the buildings were widely spaced, giving the school the air of a resort. It was altogether lovely and Min was eager to get settled in. He had been lucky enough to get a scholarship to the prestigious college, his family could never have afforded a school this expensive.

Tsin bid him a restrained good bye at the steps of the admissions center, earning Mins deepest gratitude. Min watched him walk away into the trees and then climbed the steps.

He approached the main desk, papers in hand, and was smoothly led through the process of getting his schedule, a map and his dorm name and room number. He also got a guide, a half sidhe boy with a mop of multi colored dreads hanging to his waist and a cheerful grin.

"Greetings and salutations! Welcome to Gomorrah in the Pines, we do hope we enjoy your stay. Let me see your papers and we'll get you settled in a trice."

Min handed his paper work over and followed the long legged boy out of the building. Trying to keep up with him while dragging along the luggage wasn't easy. Keeping up with his flow of chatter was even harder.

"Now, you're in Dorm B, lucky you, I'm there too. I'm sure we'll be great friends, I'm Sky by the way, and your name appears to be...appears to be unpronounceable ...can you give me a hint?"

"You can just call me Min, most people do."

"Thanks, Min it is. Um, let's see here..."

Sky scanned down through the papers, pausing here and there.

"Race-mixed? Phooka? "

"Um, yeah, along with Chinese, Japanese and a few other eastern bits in the background."

"Hmm, and let's see,...sexual preference?"

Min came to a halt and set the suitcases down with a thud.

"Why the hell does that matter?"

"Shoot me, I'm a latent rice queen and you're damn cute. Is there any hope for me?"

Here he threw his arms wide and cast an imploring look at the astonished boy.

"Um, maybe? What are you majoring in?"

Sky smiled widely.

"Drama. Couldn't you guess?"

-

Sky continued to chatter all the way to the dorm, letting the bemused Min tag along and pick up what information he could from the stream of words.

According to Sky, who was a sophomore,the school held about equal numbers of fine arts and performing arts students, also a fairly even mix of fey and humans. The school was one of the few where this was the norm and it certainly added to it's charm in Mins' view. Although, as Sky put it, the goal of a harmonious blending of the myriad groups had, as yet, failed to reach utopian proportions.

In short, people, even here, were still people.

And there was also, as in any group, various cliques on different social levels. Sky promised to point these out to Min and introduce him around to his own small circle. He emphasized 'small' and Min had to ask:

"Small? I would have thought you would know everyone. I mean, you seem like a friendly person."

"Well put, points for tact. Well, I do know everyone. The number of people who will actually put up with me on a regular basis is a different matter entirely. Although, I have to say, I have far more friends here than in high school. Or at least, no one tries to beat me up and take my lunch money. Of course, I don't have lunch money so it's a moot point."

Min laughed.

"I'm in the same boat, not a lot of cash. I was hoping I could find a part time job in town or something. Any prospects there?"

"Possibly. We could check that out once you're settled in with your schedule."

"Thanks, I'd appreciate that."

"No trouble. I may be driven to gainful employment myself soon. Oh, here's home."

They had arrived at the dorm, it was a venerable looking stone building with large windows and a welcoming air about it. Sky led Min down the halls and up the stairs to his room.

Min was pleasantly surprised by the size of the room. He looked around briefly and noticed that his absent roommate seemed to have been in residence some time. Half the room was sumptuously furnished with elegant furniture, plants and objects d'art .Actually, more than half, now that he looked more intently. The empty portion consisted of a bare third and that included a utilitarian looking bed and dresser with a desk beside it, all crammed against one wall. There were also some empty wooden shelves that just fit between the head of the bed and the corner. All in all, he got the distinct feeling that he wasn't being welcomed with open arms.

The room was a suite like affair and there was a small kitchenette off to one side and a bath off of that. Both of these also gave the appearance of being lived in with scant space set aside for Min. Sky had followed Min in and when Min turned to question him he gave a wry smile.

"Your roommate is also a sophomore. He's had the place to himself up to now. Or, at least, he's never had to share it on any kind of permanent basis. Just drop your stuff and we'll get you fed before you face the task of carving a few square feet out to call your own."

-

Sky led Min to his room and introduced him to his roommate,Gray. Gray, a quiet young man with a mop of black hair and a shy grin seemed happy to have company and insisted on cooking them up a quick snack and some tea.

The meal was simple but tasty and Gray let them eat in relative silence. All silence was relative where Sky was concerned but Gray seemed genuinely fond of his gregarious roommate and kept his plate and cup filled while he rattled on about this and that.

When Gray could get a word in edgewise he asked who Min was rooming with. Sky grinned at his room mate.

"Who but the Ice King?"

"You can't be serious."

Here Min had to break in.

"The Ice King? That doesn't sound too promising, I may regret asking this but could you give me more details? Like a name?"

Sky nodded.

"Sure, he is one of the lordlings of the school, full sidhe and full of himself. Also drop dead gorgeous if you like the type."

Gray laughed.

" If he so much as gave you a second glance you'd be stripping where you stood and you know it."

Sky shrugged.

"Sad but true and I'd have to be treated for frostbite afterwards. And besides, he seems to be depressingly immune to the joys of male companionship. Just as well, the girls need someone to pine over besides Gray here."

"I'm hardly pining material. And besides, I haven't noticed any of them gazing wistfully in my direction. Or gazing at me in any way at all."

"That's because you won't let me dress you. Give me a gold card and a one day shopping spree with you and they'll beat a path to your door."

"Only to borrow my clothes."

Sky rolled his eyes.

"See how he is. Still, he's dear to me."

"That's because I can cook."

"Nonsense, you also have interesting sums of money to lend to the deserving poor."

"Thanks. I like you too."

"Who wouldn't?"

Min tried to steer the conversation back to his mysterious roommate.

"So he's cold? Anything else I should know?"

Sky began counting points off on his fingers,

"He's arrogant, stand offish, rude,sarcastic and straight. He's got just as many friends as you would imagine with all those things to recommend him. He's also loaded with money, maybe you can get him to bribe you to find another room. He has always roomed alone as far as I know, although women do tend to grace the place but only for short periods of time."

He leaned closer and lowered his voice to a conspiratorial tone.

"If rumor is correct, his performance is worth putting up with his personality. At least for a night. He's also rumored to be a knight of the seelie court, but who knows. I can't imagine it's true, but still, it would account for the arrogance. They've not much use for humans and less for mixes so it seems unlikely one of them would come here."

"Sounds great, just what I need. Oh, well, maybe he's not all bad."

"That's the spirit! The gods love an optimist! They're so much fun to toy with. Well, I hope the two of you manage to get on, he's also one hell of a fighter, just to let you know that settling matters with your fists is inadvisable. Maybe you can kill him with kindness."

"I'll try my best."

"Good, I'm sure it'll drive Nadir crazy, if he isn't 's been rumored too."

"Nadir? Are you sure?"

"Are you okay? You look a little peaked suddenly."

-

Min was stunned, the gods couldn't hate him this badly. What had he ever done to deserve this? Perhaps it was a curse, odd curses seemed to run in the family, look at Cousin Tsins sweaters. *

With Gray and Sky he made his way back to his three boys took advantage of Nadirs absence to move the furniture around enough to give Min some room. They also consolidated some of Nadirs stuff in the bath and kitchen to even the space out. When it was finished it didn't seem half bad to the three.

Nadirs' opinion differed on this point.

"What the hell do you think you're doing?"

Min froze, he and his two helpers had just finished placing the last of Mins' books in the bookcase that was now a comfortable distance from the bed.

The other two boys began to edge their way out of the room, leaving the flustered Min to deal with the roommate from hell.

Nadir let them go with only a slight sneer to help them along and turned his full attention to Min.

Min shrugged and answered weakly.

"Moving in?"

Nadirs eyes flicked around the room, taking in the changes.

"You can't be serious. You're my new roommate? "

He strode past Min, kicking a few of Mins possessions in passing, and cast himself on the bed in an attitude of complete dejection.

Min waited to hear more insults but apparently Nadir was beyond words. Min wasn't.

"It's nice to see you again too."

"Go to hell."

Nadir waited a few moments in silence and then took his hands from his eyes.

"You're still here? Get out! I need to do some work."

"I can't get out, I live here."

"Well, go live elsewhere."

Min shook his head.

"Nope, why don't you put in for a room transfer?"

"It's my room, I was here first."

Min almost laughed, Nadir was sounding like one of his brattier younger cousins,

"We'll draw an imaginary line down the middle and you stay on your side and I'll stay on mine...okay?"

This was said in the wheedling tone most often heard employed with cranky preschoolers and Nadirs head snapped up and he glared in Mins direction.

"How dare you speak to me like that? You owe me your life, little as that's worth!"

"And you owe me a private lap dance, little as that's worth!"

Nadirs eyes shot to the open door.

"Keep you voice down!"

Min noticed the look and grinned.

"What's the matter, you're not majoring in strip tease? Your friends haven't seen the show?"

"That was a cover, you know that!"

"It looked pretty uncovered to me."

Nadir was beside himself with rage. Min was standing there, in his room, grinning like a hyena. This was monstrous, it had to be a dream.

If there was one thing he didn't need it was having word of his adventures in Paris spread around, with the worst possible spin put on them too. Life here was bad enough, now Min was going to make it that much more difficult. His face burned when he thought about having to face everyone, seeing the knowing smirks, hearing the laughter.

It wasn't as if it should matter what these idiots thought of him, it wasn't as if he had any friends in any case. Or cared to. But on some level, it mattered. If he couldn't keep anything else at least let him keep some shred of dignity, was that too much to ask?

One quick glance at Mins smiling face told him it probably was.

"I forbid you to talk about that!"

Mins' eyes widened at the command.

"I'll talk about it if I like. I'll write up articles for the school paper, I'll rent billboards. I'll make speeches on the green with a bull horn. Who do you think you are to dictate to me? I'd watch it, I could make your life hell if I cared to."

"Am I to understand you would stoop to blackmail?"

"I'd stoop so low snakes could pass over me and never notice. So perhaps we should start this whole conversation over. Hi, I'm Min, your new roommate. You're going to be real nice to me, I can tell."

Nadir rose from the bed and walked over to stand two feet in front of him.

"Hi, I'm Nadir. And if you push me too far I'll rip your lungs out and make you eat them."

"I can see we're going to have to work on this relationship."

-

The first evening passed in sullen silence. Nadir sprawled on his bed, books spread out around him and seemed engrossed in scanning them all in no apparent order and then scribbling furiously in a large notepad. He seemed to have decided that if he ignored Min perhaps he would go away.

Min didn't. He tried to get interested in a book and failed, tried to work up the energy to take a shower and failed, tried to think of something to do and came up blank. It was too damn quiet, that was the had grown up in a house with a constant stream of people wandering through, all debating,chatting, laughing or even downright arguing. He felt a pang of homesickness which surprised him. He rolled over and fixed his gaze on Nadir. Nadir seemed immersed in his studies and Min sighed in exasperation.

Nadir clutched his pencil tighter. That annoying sigh repeated itself. And now he was doing it again,louder. The pencil snapped and he flung the splinters to the floor and turned his head in Mins direction.

"What the hell is wrong with you? You sound like a faulty tea kettle!"

"Sorry. I'm bored."

"Take a walk or something."

"I don't know my way around yet."

Another sigh followed.

Nadir shoved his books around restlessly for a few moments before shoving them into a heap on the floor.

"Come on."

Min blinked in surprise as the blond grabbed a jacket and put it on.

"Me? Where?"

"Out for a walk. Maybe it'll tire you out enough that you'll give me some peace and quiet."

"Okay."

* Mins cousin Tsin has the unfortunate trait that no matter how beautiful a sweater is, with in five minutes of his putting it on it morphs into a shapeless mass of indeterminate color with one unraveled sleeve and a slipped neck line.