This came out of Education and Collars and is entirely in an alternate universe(henceforth AU). For one, the bet made would not come out with Luke losing. For another… Meep. WWIV.
(The assumption here is that Regine, for some reason, skewed the data, probably by using a very specific subset of years, to show that Cya’s former Kept had a slightly LOWER survival rate than their classmates. About the only way this could happen.)
Luke had vacation time coming, and Regine had no reason to deny him a sabbatical, unlike the last time he’d asked – times, every year from 2011 through 2025. He got one of his surviving former students to cover his classes for a year, worked with his current students to place them with new mentors, and elicited a promise from Mike to not come looking for him for at least a year.
Then he flew to Cloverleaf and presented himself to Cynara Red Doomsday, in possibly the most awkward situation he had found himself in since he was a teenager, centuries and worlds ago.
The dictator of a small nation was knitting on her front porch when he arrived. He dropped down to one knee and lowered his head, which meant that he didn’t need to watch her expression, which looked amused.
“I had a deal with Apollo.”
“You did.” She didn’t sound amused at all.
“So, for the next year, Cya Red Doomsday, I Belong to you.”
“For the next year, Luca Hunting Hawk, you belong to me.” She set her hands on his shoulders. “Is your crew going to kill me?”
“They don’t know.” His head was swimming. He stayed still and focused on keeping his wings as motionless as possible.
“You didn’t tell them, you mean.”
“I made Mike promise not to come looking for me.”
“Then they know something is up. I repeat: are they going to kill me?”
“They can’t.” Something caught in his throat. He made himself look at her and found her face solemn. “You have me.”
“I’m sure it occurred to you that you have just made Boom utterly unstoppable for the next year.”
He cleared his throat. “Yes. It had occurred to me.”
Her hands dropped to her sides. “Please stand up.”
She might have said please, but Luke found himself jerked to his feet like a marionette nonetheless. He mantled, regaining his balance. She didn’t seem to notice.
She looked him in the eye. Like most women of her generation, she had no trouble doing so. “All right. This isn’t about Boom Keeping Addergoole. This is about a bet you made with a teenage kid I was Keeping.”
She paused. Luke didn’t know whether to be relieved or more worried, so he waited.
“I don’t normally Keep grown men. Men, yes, adults, but 20 year olds, not to put too fine a point on it, are not you, Luke. But this was about you being able to stand what you set Apollo up for so that, my dear, is what we’re going to do.”
Luke blinked at her. He hadn’t been sure what to expect. He’d been more than a bit worried. He hadn’t had any space in his mind for what do I do when being called ‘dear’ by Cya Doomsday feels good?
This was going to be an interesting year.
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