For inventrix‘s commissioned prompt.
December, Year 8
“Porter needs a girlfriend,” Arundel told Sylvia. Not that’s she’d necessarily listen, but she sometimes would have a conversation with him if he couched it the right way. And this, this was starting to bother him.
“Girlfriends are hard things to come by here,” his Keeper answered, more in the tone of informing him of a fact than with any interest. Of course, that’s how she usually sounded. “He could find a Keeper with no trouble at all, but he has been resistant to the idea. We might find him a Kept, but that would be trickier.”
“He really just needs a girlfriend,” he tried again. “You know, someone to hang out with, and neck with a little bit, cuddle and watch TV and all that sort of thing?” He wasn’t sure she did. They certainly didn’t have that sort of relationship. Then again, he wasn’t sure that was the sort of thing she’d want.
“I’ve never had that,” she answered, possibly reading his mind. He wasn’t always sure she couldn’t. “It sounds… I think it sounds pleasant.”
Arundel gulped. It seemed like an opening. It seemed like his chance. “Would you like to?” he offered.
“Like to?” she looked intrigued. Intrigued was good, right?
Porter could wait. “Would you like to have a boyfriend?” And, because she could misinterpret the oddest things, “me, I mean?”
Late September, Year 9
“Porter needs a girlfriend,” Arundel told Sylvia. Not that she’d listen, but she was getting better about that, not that he wasn’t her Kept anymore. Now that she had a new Kept. He didn’t know what to think about that, though Gar seemed like a nice sort.
“Porter?” Timora whispered, and then wrote, quickly, on her whiteboard, “I didn’t think people down here did ‘dating.’”
Arundel laughed uncertainly. “They really don’t, not very often,” he agreed. “But I’ve heard it happens, and can you see Porter with a Kept?”
She smiled, and wrote, “Catnip mouse?”
“There’s Kendra, she graduated last year, she was a mouse,” he smirked. Timora was fun. More fun when they were alone together, but they couldn’t spend all their time locked in his room. He had his crew, after all; they had the crew.
“Mice?” Sylvia smiled. “Maybe another cat, instead?”
Arundel pictured that for a moment. He didn’t know any other cat-Changes, but he hadn’t met everyone yet. But Gar was chuckling.
“Oh, man, can you imagine the sound? No, thank you.” Sylvia shot him a disapproving glare, and Gar only smiled broader. The rocky Ninth-Cohort seemed to enjoy tweaking his Keeper, and didn’t seem to mind when she glared at him. Arundel didn’t get it. But then again, he’d never really gotten Sylvia, either.
“Right, right, not a cat,” Arundel interrupted. “And there’s no mice that I know of. Bird?”
But Timora, his Timora, was writing again, so he shut up and let her “talk.” Her hand flew over the white-board, and in a moment, she held up: “Why not just people? Just try different people until someone clicks.”
The others read the board a moment after Arundel. “Like speed dating?” Gar offered. “Addergoole speed dating seems hazardous to everyone’s health.” He tugged on the chain around his neck pointedly, making Arundel squirm.
“It’s not a bad idea,” Sylvia countered slowly. “Not speed dating, that’s silly. But just bring girls by for dinner, girls we know are single, and see if he make friends with any of them.”
Timora drew a smilie face, while Arundel nodded, feeling as if his plan had run away without him.
Timora, it turned out, had Opinions. Arundel hadn’t been expecting that, certainly not as many as she had. He knew she’d only acceded to being Kept by him to have someone to talk to, which left him feeling a little bit left-behind by the whole process – happy to have her, but totally uncertain what do do with her. And now!
“Her first,” she whispered to him, tilting her head at a girl in the lunch room. Arundel gulped.
“She’s a Sixth Cohort, Timora,” he murmured.
“She’s pretty. And smart. And you’re only asking her over for dinner, right?” She smiled at him sweetly, and he sighed.
“If I get my wings broken for asking, I’m going to be grumpy,” he told her.
“You’re fearless,” she scolded. Wasn’t he supposed to be doing the scolding?
“But not stupid. Not that stupid, at least.” He wanted to make her happy, though, and he wanted Porter to have a girlfriend, and he didn’t want to make Sylvia frown at him. So he found Cynara cy’Drake in a quiet moment between classes – when her insane crew were nowhere around – and invited her to dinner in their suite.
Five minutes and a half-dozen promises later, he’d managed to get her to agree to dinner. Porter, he feared, was more likely to vanish through the floor than hit on her, but maybe then Timora would trust his judgment.
Cya was, in person and away from her crew (a group of Sixth Cohorts so crazy they not only embraced but fully lived up to their crew name of Boom!), less intimidating, enough that everyone (even Gar) seemed to enjoy dinner.
But Porter was still ears-down whiskers-twitching by the time she left. “That’s the sort of woman who alphabetizes her sock drawer,” he claimed. “I am terrified if I spend too long near her, she’s going to sort my stripes.”
Despite this, Timora seemed unswayed from her plan, and Arundel, a little confused as to how he managed to always lose control of everything, found himself looking through the lunchroom with her again, picking out more potential dinner dates for his friend.
“You said he needed a girlfriend,” Timora pointed out when he protested.
“Yeah, but, maybe he can find his own?”
“He helped me out a lot on Hell Night. I just want to help him, too. What about her?”
“Heidi?” The pretty blonde girl had deep-swooping ram’s horns and a sweet smile. “I’m not sure she’s into guys, but I’ll ask.” She was, at the very least, less imposing than Cynara, and only a year ahead of him.
She accepted the invitation with far less song-and-dance than his first attempt – she was, after all, cy’Valerian – and dinner was relaxed, fun, and with all the romantic spark of two aged nuns taking tea. “She’s fun,” Porter commented. “We should have her and her girlfriend over more often.”
Timora was still not stoppable.
Next, she pointed out a student in Arundel and Porter’s cohort, a studious blond girl named Sofia. Knowing by now that it wouldn’t work to argue with her, short of an order, Arundel sighed, and politely invited Sofia to dinner.
Sylvia, he noticed, was getting increasingly impatient with these diners, which made Gar all the more snarky, but, on the other hand, seemed to make Timora happier and happier. The whole thing made Arundel more than a little confused, and not exactly happy.
“If this one doesn’t work out…”
“If this doesn’t work out, one more, and then I’m done, and we can let Porter find his own girlfriend,” she assured him. “Besides, she seems like a nice girl.”
She was, indeed, nice, proper; she and Sylvia got along very well. Porter, on the other hand, seemed, while not unimpressed, kind of lost around the very sleek, class-president-type girl. “She needs like a future presidential candidate,” he complained woefully. “Not a guy who opens doors.”
“One more,” Timora reminded Arundel. “You said I could try one more.” And then she smiled at him, a wicked smile he wasn’t used to seeing from her. “Do you think they’re softened up enough yet?”
“Well, Sylvia wasn’t going to let just anyone into her suite. She puts up with me because she doesn’t know what to do with me. But nobody else will have my power. And Porter is kind of skittish around girls, but by now, he’s relaxing enough to crack jokes.”
HE stared at his Kept. “You planned this?”
“Well… I liked Sofia for him. But I have a better idea.” Her grin was growing wider. “So let’s invite Belfreja to dinner.”
“Bel… the girl with the…”
“Beautiful assets.” Timora’s smile was gone now. “There are so many boys after her that no one has managed to Keep her yet for the crowd around her.”
“And you want to add Porter to the list?”
“No.” She looked deadly serious. “I want to cut through all that and have Porter Keep her, before someone like Calvin wins the race-for-Bel’s-collaring.”
“You’ve been thinking about this a lot, haven’t you?” he asked slowly.
“I got lucky. You and Porter – and my power – and I didn’t get it bad at all. But I’ve seen some of the others in my Cohort – and even Gar isn’t really happy with Sylvia. I think Porter and Belfreja could really get along,” she added. “They both have that noir feel to them.”
He thought past the girl’s assets to her personality and, slowly, nodded. “I think you’re right, Timora. Good idea,” he added, knowing the Bond would roll over her with the praise, and, while she was smiling in the giddy aftereffects, stole a kiss.
“You know,” he continued, “I don’t think Porter’s the only one who needs a girlfriend.”
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