A double-crack alternate universe in which Leo gets an army and then takes over the northwest.
She was sitting on the other side of a glass window that Luke couldn’t break — not that he’d tried all that hard. They were speaking through a telephone. The resemblance to a pre-war prison did not escape Luke.
“That’s a long time,” he stalled. It wasn’t, really. Not to creatures as old as they were. “You can’t send me to attack Addergoole.”
“I can,” she countered, “without your assent, without you agreeing to a collar. Regine has some pretty nice blocks on your mind — but I’m better than she is.”
The ache in his wings reminded him why he wasn’t flapping temperamentally. He pulled them close to his body. He should have been healed already. This place was getting to him. “You’re arrogant.”
“I know how good we are. I know how much we practice our skills. Ten years — and I will choose not to send you to attack your friends.”
Luke forced himself to keep his wings still. “I let you put me in here.”
“You didn’t make us fight to put you in here,” she agreed. Or didn’t agree. It was hard to tell with the damn cy’Drakes. “I won’t send you to fight Addergoole. I’m a bitch, but I’m not a monster. Ten years.” She ticked it off on her fingers. “You get four years to teach — under my collar, but under your own aegis and with no orders about your teaching — at Addergoole, but most of the summer and half of your weekends are mine.”
“That will make Mentoring hard.” At this point, he thought he might be arguing just so he didn’t give in. He thought about Leo. He thought about breaking Leo’s ribs and telling him “just stay down, damnit.”
He wasn’t ready to stay down.
“You can bring them with you. It might do both Doomsday and Addergoole kids good to mingle.”
“You mean that? Bring my students to weekends you said were yours?” He couldn’t help but sneer the words.
She smirked at him. “I’m not about to have a romance with you, Luke. And I’m not sure how sex would work out, but I suppose we’ll figure that out later. In case you hadn’t noticed, I already have a romance.”
“You already have Leo, you mean.”
There was a pause. She leveled a look at him. In a less vulnerable position, Luke might have found it interesting. Cya was cold. She was steady, she was emotionless.
Not this time.
“He is the love of my life,” she said, her voice calm but her expression anything but. Her eyes were half-lidded, one hand flat on the table and the other white-knuckling the phone. “And now would be an unwise time to suggest otherwise.”
Luke thought the expression on her face was familiar, but he could not place where he had seen it. What he could tell was that she was entirely sincere. He held up his hands in surrender. “You have Leo,” he agreed carefully. “I don’t expect to get in the way of that.” Truth be told, he had no idea what to expect.
“So bring your students here on the weekends, if you want. Cloverleaf is safe. The Kept ones will probably appreciate the break. If they don’t, then you know they either have a really good Keeper or you have to really look into their Keeping.”
Luke found himself startled at her stark assessment. She twisted her lips in something like a tired smile at his expression.
“We had a few get past us. Bad Keepers, sneaky bad Keepers.”
“It’s awful, isn’t it?” Luke thought back through the years. “The feeling when you were looking and missed it anyway?”
“It’s horrible.” She sat quietly for a minute. “I try to be a good Keeper. It will be weird, because it’s you, but I’ll do my best.”
“Ten years…” Luke considered. “You were very angry.”
“You and I both know it had to be long enough to make Regine think it was worth as much as her not attacking me.”
Luke considered that. He thought about the oaths he’d been freed from and raised his eyebrows at her. “You planned this.”
“I did not plan on you beating Leo nearly to death.” The fierceness was back. “That fucked up every single thing I had in place for dealing with this, ah, army. And everything that goes along with the army.”
“That’ll wait until you’re under my collar and my orders. You fucked up my plans considerably. But… of course I had back-up plans.” She smiled crookedly. “Even Addergoole should have figured that out by now.”
“You always have back-up plans.” He nodded slowly. “You didn’t plan on me attacking Leo. But you had a plan if I did. And…” he spoke slowly now. It almost didn’t seem real. “Your plan included getting me out of my promises to Regine.”
“Ten years sounds like a long enough break to decide if you want to go back, doesn’t it?” Her smile was sharp. “Maybe we ought to call it eleven.”
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