After Find Me a Boy, between Year 40 & 41 of the Addergoole School
“Come on, kid. You’re coming home with me for a while.”
It surprised Cya less than it ought to when the boy got up and grabbed his bags without question or argument, when he followed her to her car – the solar panels on the roof were mostly for show, but it ran pretty well, whatever the method – and got in, buckled himself in, even. It did surprise her how little luggage he had – one bag, and one small suitcase. And it surprised her when he started talking.
“So, you’ll take me away from here?”
He waited until she was buckled in to ask it. It sounded a bit strange, to her ear, like he was quoting a formula she didn’t know.
If he hadn’t already been in the car, she might have ducked in to ask her old Mentor. Since he was there, she went with honesty.
“If you agree to be mine, yes.”
This was not the script. This was not how things normally went. She hadn’t even lain down the first of the mind control Workings yet.
“So if I agree to Belong to you, you’ll take me home?”
“To my home.” He wasn’t running away. What the hell?
“Then I’m yours.” Okay, this was the weirdest thing yet. And he didn’t sound angry, more resigned.
“Yes, you are.” She flipped three levers and turned two dials, and got the car moving down the road. She could do this in her sleep, after all these years. Once, she’d been told afterwards, she had done a bit of it in her sleep.
She was falling into that long-drive trance, eyes on the long stretch of road and her mind running over the supplies at the Ranch, when he finally spoke again.
“Are you her?”
That could mean a lot of things. “Depends on who she is.”
“The Valkyrie. The chooser of the dead.”
“Oh.” She laughed a little bit. “No, that’s my niece.”
“Oh.” He didn’t sound relieved, maybe a little disappointed. She’d have to tell Ruki she had a reputation. “Then are you the other one?”
“Maybe. Who’s she?”
“They say every year, a pretty redhead shows up and chooses one guy, and takes him away from it all.”
“Oh. Well, that’s me.” She glanced over at him. “And you came anyway?”
“I lost it all.” His shoulders slumped forward a bit. “He challenged me, and he took it all.”
“Aah.” That explained some of it, then. She lapsed into silence, and so did he.
Her dash clock told her forty-five minutes had passed before he spoke again. “When you kill me… would you bury me somewhere warm? Cremate me, maybe?”
“When I… what?”
“That’s what they say. You take them, and then when you’re done with them, you kill them. Us.”
“And you came anyway?”
“I lost everything,” he repeated. She supposed it was a kind of answer.
“Sorry to disappoint.” What the hell were they saying about her? The last time someone had called her a serial killer, the world had still had large police forces. “But I’m not going to kill you.”
And he was, she thought, the first person to ever look unhappy when she told them she wasn’t going to kill them.
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