Saturday, February 6, 2010

Mighty Mouse

Title: Mighty Mouse

Authors:  Ranger and Rolf
Pairings:  Jordan and Meric 


"Years ago- when I was an apprentice myself- I was much like many youngsters with magic. Full of myself and confident in my own abilities. So I sought out a sorcerer I knew by reputation and whom I looked up to like a hero. He was a mythical figure. A man who stood up for what he believed in despite all opposition and cared nothing at all for what people thought of him. To cut a long story short, Mr Attlewood, I found this poor man and made such a nuisance of myself, he finally agreed to take me as his apprentice and he trained me himself. And I admit I fell fairly hopelessly in love with him. It was hardly difficult. He was something of a rebel. Headstrong, foolhardy, very powerful. He needed someone with a level head who could earth him, we were the ideal pair. Then finally came the day when I was no longer his apprentice. You must understand, Mr Attlewood. This man was not popular with the ministry or the magical community. He did what was right, never what was wanted. As I came into my powers I had many offers to leave him, to join other sides. I was determined that when I reached the final investment of my powers I would join him and work with him. We would always stay together."
Meric steepled his hands, surveying them.

"The ceremony upon achieving a sorcerer's status was being held for myself. Those are powerful affairs, with strong magic flowing all around. My master was entrusted with the magic to anoint me with the final powers. It should be three men. Two to support the third, the energies involved are immense. The pressure from the ministry was such that only one man would stand with my master. He knew to be a member short would put this other man- his friend- in danger. Had he told me, we could have simply deferred the event to a less politically sensitive time. He naturally didn't. He attempted to do it alone, and by the time I realised, I was too late to stop him. Something-" Meric sighed. "Everything went wrong. I received the powers, but instead of sharing a small portion, somehow I got all of them. I can't give them back, he must take them."

"Jordan?" Mr Attlewood said in shock.

Meric shook his head. "I'm Jordan, Mr Attlewood. Ador Meric is unconscious on that bed and his cat is wishing you would get out of her chair."

Silence. Mr Attlewood swallowed.

"Do the Ministry know?"

"Things are a little more stable now. Yes." Meric sat back in his chair. "He was- IS- one of the most powerful Guardians this kingdom has. He can't be spared. Still less can we afford the rumour to get out that he has lost his powers. The simplest thing seemed to be for me to assume his identity and him to assume mine. Sorcerers look- more or less as they wish to look. They take on the form they carry in mind, it's to do with containing the magic they do. So long as he believes he is an apprentice he will continue to look sixteen. He has no memory of what happened and he accepts his - somewhat fluctuating skills- as natural for his apprenticeship. He doesn't yet realise how powerful he is. He vaguely remembered the name Jordan and the identity of an apprentice- it wasn't hard to persuade him he WAS Jordan. It's far safer for him. If it was generally known that the Guardian was helpless, he would be the target of every black magician on the border."

"I see." Mr Attlewood said, though he really didn't.

Meric saw the confusion but was too tired himself to try any more to help straighten it out. "I think it's time to turn in. The guest bedroom is that way."

Mr Attlewood headed towards his bedroom, and Meric to Jordan's. Esmerelda slowly followed Meric, sparkling clean after her bath.

"Can I help at all?" Mr Attlewood asked in the doorway of his room. Meric shook his head.

"He'll wake in a few hours and remember nothing."

"What will you do?" the civil servant couldn't help himself asking. Meric gave him one of his more sardonic looks.

"I shall carry on managing the guardianship, and my partner. We've managed in this way for approaching a year now."

"And that's all?"

Meric looked at him. How to explain the temptation- the temptation to drag Jordan into these complex magics at every chance, just to see a glimpse of him- and the dread knowing the stress and confusion it caused him every time.

"Apart from how much I miss him? Yes." Meric clicked his fingers to Esmerelda. "Good night Mr Attlewood."


"A wave of the wand, around the house, shrink this down to the size of a mouse!"

Esmerelda stood up, arching her back. She looked disdainfully at the teapot that had suddenly sprouted whiskers and a tail and jumped to the floor. She sauntered off, making a sound much like a snicker.

"Damnit!" Jordan said, stamping his foot. "This is NEVER going to work!"

Meric looked up from his desk and swallowed a smile at the sight of the teapot as well as the poetry Jordan seemed convinced he couldn't spell without.

"You are concentrating too hard on the mouse part. It's the SIZE of a mouse, not resembling a mouse."

Meric looked toward the window at the sound of breaking glass.

A small black owl shook himself off and fluttered onto the desk, dropping an official looking envelope in front of Meric.

"I wish you'd stop it, Whoppit. I KNOW the glass is inconvenient for you, but it's a necessity against the temperatures and the bugs."

Whoppit hooted once, gently biting Meric's hand before flying back out to forage for dinner after his long flight.

"Why don't you head downstairs and get some sandwiches together for tea? You might be able to concentrate more after eating."

Jordan dropped his wand on the table and headed downstairs. He wasn't interested in eating necessarily, but he was definitely tired of practicing magic.

Meric watched him go and looked again at the teapot.


 The teapot returned to it's original form. Meric shook his head and returned to his work.

Jordan bounced downstairs, glad to shake the fidgets out of his legs. Meric believed in LONG study periods. Jordan didn't. Hot, sunny days were meant for other things. He wandered into the kitchen in search of something edible, picked up an apple from the bowl on the table and tossed it from hand to hand a few times. Then slipped outside into the garden.

 Meric unfolded the letter from the Ministry of Magic and read through the short post. The contents made him sigh. His presence and powers were needed immediately in a village not too far away. Seems that a few witches and warlocks had gotten together and gotten careless. If not seriously inebriated. The villagers were in a mild panic as everything in their town had changed colors. The grass was currently a fashionably bright fushia. The trees were mostly purple, though a few of the pines were a sick looking orange. The blacktopped roads were a blinding white. Dogs were varying shades of green, cats were blue. Villagers were mostly hysterical with the occasional case of eyestrain. It was going to take at LEAST 24 hours for Meric to cast the varying spells needed to change things to their normal colors as well as wipe the minds of the villages for that same time period. He let go of the letter which immediately filed itself in his official business file while he headed downstairs in search of Jordan.

Jordan, predictably, was in the garden. He and Esmerelda were side by side, face down on the grass, watching the stream which ran neatly around the side of the house. Meric cleared his throat and Jordan glanced up, hastily getting to his feet.

"I was just...."

"Thinking?" Meric suggested.

"Yes." Jordan agreed, thankfully. Meric nodded at the stream.

"Your apple is floating away. Jordan, I have a summons from the ministry, I need to go immediately. Can I trust you to see to your tea and get yourself to bed without burning the house down? And I AM serious?"

Jordan flushed. "I AM capable of being alone JUST fine!" He punctuated that sentence with a small stamp of frustration.

"Yes, it's just when Mr. Wheedon is around that you do the most damage," Meric said easily.
"Then let me go with you," Jordan said.

"It's not something you need to be involved in. You have some reading that can be done on transmutation, but as always, NO practicing without my presence. None, is that clear?"

"FINE," Jordan said before stomping off to collect his apple.

Meric clicked his fingers to the cat.

"Come on you, I'll need some help."

Esmerelda looked at him through large, brightly coloured eyes. Then yawned and washed her left paw with delicate precision.

"NOW." Meric said pointedly.

"She doesn't want to." Jordan explained on Esmerelda's behalf. Meric snorted.

"She's going to do it anyway. COME ON CAT."

Esmerelda made a retching sound, but got up and sauntered after the magician.

 Meric shook his head and headed back into the house. There, he shut the door to his study, went into the kitchen, scooped up the cat and gave her a stern look.

"You're on MY side, remember. We said we'd raise him together?"

Esmerelda blinked back at him, the image of a placid housecat. There never HAD been any doubt as to whose side she was on. Meric sighed and removed himself to the site of the accident, exiting via the kitchen fireplace. Outside, Jordan reflected going and doing his reading. And then lay full length on the grass again, to eat his now dripping apple. It took him a minute and a half to bore of that.

After looking around for any creatures or bugs to play with and finding none, he stood up and decided to head downstream, towards the gentle falls that lay in that direction. Before he got around the side of the house, Mr Wheedon's wheezy old voice interrupted him.

"Jordan?  Boy, where are you?"

Jordan stepped quickly to the side of the house, plastering himself to the wall, out of sight.  He held his breath, waiting to hear Mr. Wheedon's footsteps leave, when he felt a knock on his head.  He looked up to find Mr. Wheedon looking sternly back down at him.

"Meric asked that the living room be picked up.  I think you should get started?"

Jordan rolled his eyes, stepping away from the wall.  "Meric will be gone for 24 hours, I think that can wait.  I have somewhere to be."

"Meric will not appreciate that," Mr. Wheedon wheezed pointedly.

Jordan stomped around to the front of the house grumbling.  "That man is entirely too annoying.  If only....."

"You'd better pick the hall up while you're about it." Mr Wheedon added, pursuing him in through the front door. "You left bits of your last spell all over the carpet. I've been stepping over them all morning."
"YES Mr Wheedon."

"And did I hear the kettle boiling?"

Jordan turned and gave him a quelling look. Mr Wheedon straightened his glasses.

"Don't you be cheeky to me. I'll be speaking to Meric about you. I'm not paid to deal with insolent apprentices, I'm a government employee I am! Ministry of magic, FIRST CLASS civil servant. And DON'T walk away when I'm talking to you boy! I'M a fully qualified clerk and you'll treat me with a little respect no matter what Meric allows. He might be a soft touch- he's a closeted liberal at the best of times- I'D be a lot tougher on you given the chance young man-"

Jordan wished very hard that Mr. Wheedon would be quieter than a mouse.  When Mr. Wheedon all of a sudden stopped talking, Jordan risked a look, thinking how wonderful it was that his desire came true.  His looked turned to one of consternation when he didn't see Mr. Wheedon.  He had just started to smile in relief when he heard a quiet squeaking noise.  His eyes dropped to the floor and gasped in delight.  A mouse!  It would have been more fun with Esmerelda, but he could still play with the mouse on his own.  He walked carefully over in the mouse's direction, afraid of scaring it away.  He was amazed as the mouse didn't seem the least bit afraid of him.  The mouse, in fact, seemed to be cursing him soundly for being in the same room.  Jordan leaned down just far enough to catch the mouse, picking him up by his tail.

"Looks like you crawled into the wrong hou -"

Jordan dropped the mouse in surprise, unable to do anything but suck in air.

The mouse landed with a squeak, and the tinkle of small glasses.

 "Oh. My. God." Jordan said aloud. He looked down. The mouse was rushing around in tiny circles, squeaking furiously.

Meric was going to have kittens when he found out about this.

Jordan made a grab for the mouse and yelped as it bit him firmly in the thumb. Blood spurted. The mouse, stumbling, as the tiny glasses still lay on the rug, fled into the hallway with Jordan in hot pursuit, sucking his thumb and cursing in ways Meric would not have liked to hear.

"Come HERE you little beggar! Come HERE!!"

The mouse skidded on the hall tiles, shot behind the skirting boards and disappeared. Jordan flung himself down on his stomach and poked behind the boards.

"Come out! Come on and I'll fix you! I promise!"

The mouse didn't appear convinced.  The mouse just plain didn't appear.

Jordan sat down hard on the floor and screwed up his face.  A spell, he thought, was what was needed to made the wall, disappear?  Get soft?  See through?  He was just about to try something when the phone rang.

He waited for a moment for Mr. Wheedon to answer, then snorted and hopped up quickly when he remembered that was who he was TRYING to get out from behind the wall.  He grabbed the phone.  "Meric's place, the flunkey speaking."

"Excuse me?"

"Er.....hi M.. Meric."

"Where is Mr. Wheedon?  I'd thought he'd have jumped on the phone."

Jordan's knees shook as he thought about the mouse behind the skirting boards.  "I g..guess eating.  How are things there?"  Jordan asked, trying to get the subject changed quickly.

"The population in the town all think they're going crazy, but things are getting back to their normal colours.  I'll be able to start on the mind clearing first thing in the morning.  I need Mr. Wheedon, put him on, will you?"

Jordan was in the kitchen and grabbed the first thing to hand.  A piece of tin foil.  He started crinkling it.  "I'm sorry, didn't hear you.  Meric?  I'm getting static.  Meric?" After one more good crinkle, he hung up the phone.  Quickly he disconnected the line then ran back out to the hallway.  "Damnit Mr. Wheedon, come out so I can fix you!"

There was no evidence of a mouse. Jordan took a deep breath. He had no wand handy, but right now he had no time to look for one. And he had that queer voice at the back of his head that sometimes overwhelmed everything else, muttering fragments of thought and spells that vanished as soon as he concentrated on them- but the magic flowed through him so strong his fingers tingled. Obeying that inner instinct, Jordan raised his arms and let it go, wincing before the magic even darted from his fingers. There was a loud and shocking noise, and the wall disappeared. Rubble flew across the hallway, smothering Jordan and rolling up the stairs. The mouse gave a furious squeak of terror and indignation and shot upstairs. Jordan sat on the hall floor as the dust cleared, and looked, somewhat aghast, at the new doorway into the study.

Then he got up. First things first. Given the home improvements and his now rodentified secretary, Meric would be maddest about the mouse.

Upstairs, in Meric's OTHER study- the one Jordan was not supposed to be in, ever- there was a Book. And that Book held all kinds of useful spells. Most likely including Apparation.

If one had a mouse loose about the house, what one needed- badly- was an Apparating cat.

Meric hung up the phone. "Damnit Esmerelda, that boy is going to be the death of us. Something's happened and Jordan's right smack in the middle of it."

Esmerelda was sitting down, licking her front paw seductively. The only indication Meric had that she was even remotely paying attention was the left ear cocked in his direction.

"The spells have all been done to change the colors back to normal. Time is all that needs now. Why don't you head back and see what our boy is up to, since I need to finish things here. And please," Meric asked plaintatively, "help MY cause?"

Esmerelda looked up and cocked her head slowly, before sauntering off and disappearing into the wall.
Meric shook his head, having seen the smile before Esmerelda turned to go.

"Two against one is entirely unfair."

Meric had a terrible habit of locking this door.

He had a nastily suspicious mind; Jordan had never yet managed to find it unlocked, no matter how often he snuck up here.

This study was at the top of the house, two floors above the library, and Jordan had never been allowed in it. Ever. Nevertheless, this was the room that held the Books. Not the ones he was supposed to study- the ones Meric wouldn't even allow him to touch. But they would have the serious spells in, including Apparation. Jordan put his hands on the study door, and Felt the power within the wood. There was more than just a lock keeping the door shut. He ran his hands slowly over the wood, trying to find the source of the power. Just above the lock he felt a faint warmth that made him hesitate, blinking slightly. The warmth was- handshaped. Gradually he worked out the shape of the handprint and spread his fingers, testing it. His mouth opened in shock when the door swung silently open. If it was THAT easy.......

…..The study's power hit him in the face, like a fist. Jordan reeled a step, his head pounding. He took an involuntary step back, suddenly very scared, and for one, wild moment considered shutting that door and running. Then he saw the desk under the window and stepped slowly inside the room.

Esmerelda stepped out of the wall in the kitchen and shook herself. The house was abnormally quiet considering it contained Jordan and Mr Wheedon left alone together. She padded silently out into the hall and blinked at the disintegrated wall. Obviously Jordan had a - problem.

Which was minute, mouseshaped and wandering around the hallway, looking baffled, indignant and confused. Esmerelda sat down, wrapped her tail around her feet and bestowed upon the mouse a sinister smile.....

Mr. Wheedon was hunting around the floor for his glasses, as he couldn't see ANYTHING without them. Finally he found them and stuck them on his face.

As soon as that was done, he felt, rather than heard, a breath on his neck. He turned slowly around to find something large and fluffy in front of him. Sitting on the floor made everything seem extra large, so it took a moment for him to raise his eyes up far enough to see the top of the furry thing. He squeaked in pure terror and darted the right when his eyes met those of Esmerelda, licking her lips hungrily.

Esmerelda didn't let the mouse get very far before she batted his feet out from under him. Mr. Wheedon righted himself and tried a different direction but got the same result. His squeaks were irritating Esmerelda who tired of the game quickly. She bent down and lifted the mouse up in her strong jaws, careful to close them just enough to keep the mouse firmly held, and trotted up the stairs in search of Jordan.

There was no sign of him on the first floor. Puzzled, Esmerelda paused on the landing and listened. A door was shutting quietly on the top floor.

Esmerelda nearly dropped the mouse in shock as she realised where Jordan was, recovered with an effort, and bounded up the stairs to the study.

Jordan walked slowly across the floor, his heart thudding. There was something- HORRIBLE- about this room. It was cluttered. Far more than any other room in the house- far far more than Meric tolerated anywhere else under any circumstances. Tools- strange objects- books- piled every surface. Telescopes, microscopes, orbs, thick with dust as though untouched for months. Every object screamed at Jordan something he could sense if not hear- and not interpret. On a hook on the wall hung robes, of a style and colour Meric never wore. Meric liked sensible, serviceable black. These were a deep, forest green- sheer, soft, draping and looking almost liquid. Jordan touched them, ran a hesitant hand over them and felt the ripple of the material shake something loose inside him. His hand was trembling badly. He wanted nothing more than to scream for Meric, to run out of this room and find him there- large, cross, reassuring, ready to hug and scold and make this dreadful fear inside him subside. And yet his hand wouldn't let go of the robe. Somehow he lifted the robes down and draped them slowly around himself. The robe had a hidden catch and Jordan caught himself fastening it without understanding how he knew where to look for it. He tossed the robe over his shoulder, aware it was too long for him and dragging on the floor. And that it would not be a problem for long. There was a mirror hanging behind the desk and Jordan approached it slowly, unable not to, straining to hear that blurred voice inside his head- and yet so frightened now his knees were shaking. The face he saw in the mirror was not his own. He was growing taller- broader- older. The robe was no longer dragging on the floor. And a terrible pain inside his head was starting to awaken, a long long way away but moving swiftly towards him.

Esmerelda felt the power pulsing out of the room and quickly her step, her tail nearly passing her front as she skidded around the corner on the hardwood floor. She gasped in shock when she saw Jordan and Mr. Wheedon fell to the floor with an indignant squeak. Esmerelda recovered herself enough to whip a paw out to hold Mr. Wheedon's tail in place.

Jordan's head was pounding almost visibly. The sight that he was looking at in the mirror was so astonishing he wanted to look away but he couldn't make himself do it. He never saw Esmerelda arrive, nor see her close her eyes and make the tiny tremor she made when she was summoning Meric, her whiskers trembling.

If anyone had been passing by outside they would have thought the house was possessed. There was an eerie glow from the uppermost windows, and the window panes were cracking and breaking outward, one by one on the upstairs windows.

Meric appeared in the downstairs fireplace, letting loose a tremendous sneeze. When that explosion had quieted, Meric immediately became aware of the power pulsing through the room. He watched in fascination as one by one, books and other articles on the shelves and countertops rose upwards and began circling the room. Then he realised the walls were starting to move. And he was more than able to sense the power source- a source he knew as well as his own. His heart froze as he realised where it was emanating from. There was no time to lose, and he knew it. It took precious energy, but he translocated himself straight up to the top room.

It was in total chaos. And in the middle of it stood Jordan. In the body of a fully grown man, with the eyes the confused and terrified eyes of a boy. Every object in the room was flying. The fact none of them were hitting Jordan was purely because of Esmerelda sitting at his feet, her eyes incandescent with the effort of protecting him. Meric grabbed his wand from his robes, raised his arms and flung his own power out over the top of Jordan's.

It was always an effort. Jordan's power- his true power once awakened- was a mighty force and it was rogue. Wild. Meric battled with it for several long minutes, clamping down on it like a blanket cast over a fire until gradually he felt the magic sinking down through the house, settling each floating object down on the nearest surface as the magic drained through floor after floor down through the foundations of the house and into the ground below. Then he moved rapidly through the mayhem and caught Jordan's lanky, shaking body, hugging him tightly and trapping his head under his chin where he couldn't see the debris.

"Allright, it's okay. It's fine, it's allright."

Jordan had just a moment's awareness of his lover's arms around him before things faded to black.
Meric caught the weight of Jordan as he fell, all too aware of the man shrinking inside the robes. His throat and his face shut tight as he watched the man's powerful body slowly become lean and lanky, the rugged handsomeness changing back into the boyish cuteness. He snapped out of his reverie at the gentle nudge Esmerelda gave him.

When he looked down, he was surprised to see a mouse caught under Esmerelda's paw. "What's this?" he asked as he picked the mouse up by the tail and looked closely at him.

The mouse was squeaking at a furious pace. It took only a moment for Meric to realize it was Mr. Wheedon. He had to bite back his own smile at the sight Mr. Wheedon made. He laid Jordan on the floor and walked a few paces away, putting the mouse into a chair. It took only a moment for Meric to point the wand and mutter, and an instant later after a loud crack, Mr Wheedon appeared, in mid rant.
"- and I TOLD you, I don't know HOW many times, that boy is pure trouble. Can't be left alone for a minute, not a second even. Turned me into a mouse, I lost my glasses. That cat! I swear, if…"

Meric had turned and picked up Jordan, leaving the robes on the floor and Mr. Wheedon still yammering on. It was going to take a while for Jordan to come around.

Esmerelda sat on the end of Jordan's bed, upright, unblinking, her two front paws placed primly together. Meric sat quietly on the edge of the bed, watching his partner's sleeping face. It was one of the hardest parts of their situation for him personally- that they slept in separate rooms. Jordan frequently crawled into bed with him before dawn-for comfort, for companionship, for someone to talk to, and he never seemed to find that at all odd. It just came instinctively, particularly when he was upset. Meric thought at times that some part of Jordan was aware of what was happening to him, and especially at night that voice surfaced with all it's fear and panic and got loud enough to make Jordan confused and miserable. He put out a hand and shook Jordan's hair gently back into place. His lover of a year ago would have turned Mr Wheedon into a mouse- or a frog- or a pencil- without a second thought. And found it hilarious. And would have cheerfully withstood his apprentice's pleading, exhortations and remonstrations until such time as he felt like turning him back. And hidden in his study when things got too much to bear. Meric's face sobered a little. Jordan had not set foot in his study since the accident. Whether it would bring back any memories or whether the magic within the room would trigger anything, remained to be seen. And if any memories did return to him, it was going to take away the little peace Jordan had found in his safe disguise as a young apprentice.

Jordan stirred under his hand, blinked a few times and opened his eyes. The first thing Meric saw there was total exhaustion. The second was distress. Without thinking he reached out, gathered up his partner and held him tight, rocking the body that used to be larger and stronger than his.

"Hey. It's allright. I've got you, you're safe with me, nothing's going to hurt you here."

"I'm so sorry. I did-"

"Shhhhhhh. You're exhausted, just rest. We'll talk about this later. Shhhhhhh."

Jordan didn't have the strength to argue. He snuggled deeper into the arms that surrounded him and fell back to sleep.

Meric waited several minutes to assure himself that Jordan was indeed asleep before laying him back down on the pillow and pulling the covers up. "You'll sit with him?" he asked Esmerelda.

She barely nodded her head in response.

"I'll work on repairing the damage and settling Mr. Wheedon down before he has a heart attack." Meric got up and strode out, but not before hearing Esmerelda snicker quietly. He turned at the door.

"Two to one. It won't ever change, will it?"

He walked off, not expecting an answer. Esmerelda got up, stretched, then padded silently down the bed to the crook of Jordan's arm where she carefully settled herself, her warm chin on his chest.

Jordan woke out of vaguely horrible dreams to find the room still dark, and Esmerelda purring softly and soothingly under his chin. He dragged himself out of the dream, wrapped both arms around her and hugged her tight, needing her warmth badly. He could barely remember the dream and it faded as he tried to think about it. Something about a fire- chanting, a sudden wave of bright blue light and someone screaming. And more dreams- the ones that reoccurred over and over again- where there was something vital that he knew he'd forgotten. Something terrible. Esmerelda swiped her head against his cheek, then slipped out of his arms to the floor and waited. Jordan knew what she was suggesting, and it was an idea he liked a lot. He slipped out of bed after her and padded, barefoot, out of the door and into the wooden floored corridor. The fourth door down stood open, and Meric was asleep on one side of the double bed. Always he slept on one side, never in the middle like most single people. One brawny arm was behind his head, his face was turned towards the door as if he was listening. Jordan lifted the covers and carefully slid in beside him, shifting over until he was against Meric's chest, cuddling close and wrapping an arm over him. Almost instinctively Meric's arm came down over him and pulled him closer still, and a sleepy kiss found his hair. Comforted, Jordan shut his eyes and settled back into sleep.

Esmerelda took her usual spot on the majority of the pillow that Jordan never used and went back to sleep as well.

Jordan awakened to the smells of breakfast cooking downstairs. He sat up, disoriented at first, then realized he had slept with Meric again. He walked down the hall and found his socks, pulling them on as he walked to the stairs.

Esmerelda heard Jordan stir and went upstairs, waiting on the first step to greet him. Jordan scooped her up as he passed, kissed her head and wandered into the kitchen. Meric glanced up and smiled from the stove.


"Hi." Jordan stumbled across to him and leaned, hard. Meric hooked an arm around his waist and kissed his forehead. Jordan shut his eyes, wondering again if all apprentices could depend on their masters for a cuddle when they were feeling wobbly, but it never really seemed that important. Meric tipped eggs onto a plate, added bacon and handed the plate to him.

"Sit down. I'll get you some milk."

"Actually I'm not that hungry?" Jordan said tentatively. Meric shook his head.

"Sit down and try anyway."

Jordan walked over to his place at the table and put the plate down, pulling the chair out and settling into it. He was starved, but he was also nervous about the disasters that occurred while Meric was away, after having been told that no magic was allowed.

He ate slowly, occasionally slipping a piece of egg or bacon off the plate to Esmerelda, who waited patiently at his right side for the scraps.

Meric turned his head, having put more on Jordan's plate for that reason. He was relieved that Jordan ate at all. These episodes often left him shaken, exhausted and fragile for several days afterwards. Jordan's memory was also usually fragmented about such incidents; he wasn't at all sure what Jordan would remember and Jordan was too busy eating to give him any clues. When the breakfast things were cleared, Meric put another glass of milk down on the table in front of him and took a seat, watching his eyes carefully.

"Want to tell me what happened yesterday?"

"Uh, no?" Jordan said honestly. 

Meric shook his head, relieved to see no sign of distress or confusion.  "Yes please."

Jordan sighed. "I sort of had an accident with the wall."

"So I saw. What were you trying to do?"

"Esmerelda was chasing a mouse and it went behind -"

"Esmerelda was with me." Meric reminded him gently. "Are you covering her duties in her absence?"

Jordan flushed darkly as he realized his error. He thought about concocting another lie, but realized Meric already saw straight through him.

"Mr. Wheedon. He was just going on and on and on, driving me absolutely crazy. You know how he is."

Meric knew all too well how Mr. Wheedon was, and exactly what the older Jordan thought about him as well. But it wasn't appropriate to speak of it now. "That isn't very nice you know."

Jordan looked down. "I know." He looked up quickly, the words falling over one another. "I just shut my eyes, trying to block him out. I didn't DO any magic, I swear I didn't. I just wished he were small, like a mouse, so I wouldn't have to listen to him and the next thing I knew he WAS a mouse!"

Meric had to stifle a smile, remembering the past, where Jordan did things like that on a regular basis. "So he was a mouse. And how did you plan on fixing it?"

"I don't know! I didn't even do any chants!"

Meric gave him a tolerant look. Jordan appeared to feel for his own comfort the need to SAY something when he did magic- usually rhyme, which Meric found endlessly charming- without realising he was quite as capable of using his mind alone.

"What did you do, Jordan?"

"I tried to look in the mousehole-" Jordan said, getting flustered, "And the whole WALL moved.."

"What did you do to make that happen?"

"I don't know." Jordan's voice was getting unsteady. Meric put a hand over his, squeezing comfortingly.

"And then?"

"I went upstairs-" Jordan trailed.

"To the study where you KNOW you shouldn't be." Meric finished for him.

"I'm sorry." Jordan mumbled. "I wanted the books- something for Apparation? To get Esmerelda. The mouse- I mean Mr Wheedon- kept running away-"

"He obviously had less faith in your skills than you have." Meric said dryly.

Jordan had the grace to blush and drop his eyes. He risked a look up a moment later. "Is he mad at me?"

Meric coughed to cover up the laugh that bubbled up. "He's never exactly happy, but we know this."
Jordan's eyes twinkled and a small smile crept across his lips.

Meric coughed again. "But we have the matter at hand to discuss. What should you have done when you found Mr. Wheedon as a mouse?"

Jordan wanted to say put him in a box with no holes in it, but thought better of it. "Call you. Except you were busy!"

"So you should have?"

"Left things alone and waited for you?" Jordan hazarded. Meric nodded.

"That would have been good."

"I did the next best thing- I tried to call Esmerelda!"

"By going into the study- where you KNOW you are not allowed." Meric said sternly. "WHY aren't you allowed in there Jordan?"

Jordan hesitated. Meric watched him with some anxiety, wondering if memories were nudging at him. Jordan frowned as though not sure of something, then the familiar blankness crossed his face, followed by vague distress.

"Because I don't know anything. I can't do anything."

"You will one day." Meric said quietly. "And that isn't the point, is it? Why aren't you allowed in there?"
Jordan coughed and looked at the floor, still sad faced.

"Because until I know how to do things and I understand it, it's dangerous."

"That's right." Meric sat back, too attuned to that unhappiness to keep his voice stern. "Come here Little."

That was a pet name Jordan had used to him before, in the old days. And it slipped out naturally. Jordan slipped off his chair, eyes on the floor, and came silently to his outstretched hands. Meric pulled his apprentice down on his lap, wrapped both arms around him and held him tight.

Jordan snuggled into the embrace, not even thinking that it might seem strange to anyone else. The embrace was just the most safe, most wonderful place in all of the world.

Meric held him for several minutes, enjoying the connection, yet longing for the full grown man he adored. It took him time to accept- yet again- that he was somehow the guardian and keeper of this child. With responsibilities he couldn't evade. He sighed and let Jordan go with a last kiss to his forehead.
"Hop down Jordan. Let's go get this over with."

Jordan turned large eyes to Meric, but slid off obediently. He preceded Meric up the stairs to the study, hearing Meric shut the door behind them.

Meric went over to the large chair and sat down, beckoning Jordan to him.

Jordan kept his head lowered, his feet sliding across the floor slowly. He stopped in front of Meric and fidgeted with the hem of his shirt. His face grew slowly hotter as Meric's hands expertly undid the button of his pants and pushed them below his knees, the shorts following more quickly. He bit his lip as he was pulled face down across the lap that had just been so comforting. Meric adjusted his grip and rested his palm across the bare bottom upturned over his knees.

"We've been over this more than a few times Jordan. Until your magic is under control and SAFE you go only where I say and you do only what I say- where I'm around to make things safe for you."
"I know." Jordan said miserably. Meric patted.

"And no still MEANS no."

Yeah, okay, whatever, just GET ON WITH IT..... Jordan shut his eyes and braced himself as Meric's hand lifted. It always hurt a lot more than he remembered.

The slap that resounded when Meric's hand met Jordan's bottom was loud enough to wake the dead, Jordan thought, until the pain registered. Jordan squirmed when the second spank landed, and kicked on the third. It didn't take long at all for the pain to build to blazing proportions.

Meric kept up a steady pace, making sure every inch of skin was punished thoroughly.

Jordan's eyes filled up with tears almost immediately and the cries came soon after. The first of those cries were usually because Jordan was usually sorry for himself, but they didn't last long. Meric made sure of that.

Jordan tried a few half hearted attempts at apology, but as usual, they fell on deaf ears. It wasn't long before he could care less if Mr. Wheedon was standing right outside the door, his cries built in volume and intensity.

When Meric was certain his message was delivered and would be remembered at least for the next week, he stopped. He held the still struggling Jordan for several minutes, letting his young apprentice settle down. When he realised Meric had no intention of letting him go, Jordan subsided over his lap, limp and exhausted, and concentrated on crying. When he was still, Meric pulled up his shorts and jeans, dressing him gently and efficiently. Jordan slid down to his knees and knelt there, sniffling. Meric pushed his hair out of his eyes and thumbed the tears from under his eyes.

"Stand up Jordan."

Jordan stumbled to his feet, leaning hard on him for support. Meric got up too, pulled his apprentice close and gave him a strong hug.

"Back to bed young man. Go on."

Jordan trailed him, holding onto his hand. Meric steered him across the corridor to his own room, where Esmerelda was sprawled in the sunshine, both paws blissfully stretched out towards the warmth. Meric turned him and helped him undress, handling him gently and unhurriedly. Still hiccoughing and unsteady, Jordan slid under the covers and curled up on his side around the cat. Meric sat down on the edge of the bed beside him and stroked his hair, tousling it gently.

"It's going to be allright Jordan. You'll see. It'll be fine."

Jordan seriously doubted that at this point in time. He was certain his backside would never again be fit to sit on.

Meric waited a moment, but when Jordan said nothing, he stood up and left the room, leaving the door opened a crack.

Esmerelda hooked a claw into the sheet and pulled herself up directly under Jordan's chin and began purring.

Jordan laid his arm around Esmerelda and snuggled her, feeling like she was his only friend in the world. He was certain there was no chance of sleep in the near future thanks to the throbbing behind him, but within a few minutes he was lightly dozing.

When Esmerelda felt the breathing change, she got and hopped down from the bed and went in search of Meric. She found him, sitting silently in the chair downstairs, staring at nothing. She jumped effortlessly onto the arm of the chair and sat down, staring at Meric until she had his attention. When she did, she patted him gently on the arm.

Meric's eyes twinkled, but the smile didn't make it to his lips. "It will, won't it? Be alright?"

Esmerelda slowly blinked in response.
~The End~

Copyright Rolf and Ranger 2010

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