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Luke tried to still his body, but his wings kept moving without consulting him first, twitching at the tips and unfolding just to tense up again. He closed his eyes and focused on his breathing, in-two-three-four, out-two-three four. He hadn’t been this agitated in…
“Damnit, Regine, those are my students out there. I have to go. I have to help them!” He’d just gotten a report of another one dead, and a whole team of former cy’Lucas was about to go into the most active war zone on the planet.
“No.” Regine’s voice was icy, beyond calm and into inhuman. “You need to protect Addergoole. That’s what you agreed to, and that is what you are going to do. Tempero Intinn Luka Hunting Hawk…” The Working had taken over his mind, and he’d lost both volition and memory of the scene.
He hadn’t remembered any of that until a week ago, not the time he’d actually been standing by the door with his weapons in hand. He’d remembered being angry — but he hadn’t remembered being stopped, turned around. She hadn’t wanted him to remember.
Cya’s hand was on his shoulder. “Hard getting used to the memories?” She sounded sympathetic. “It’s always tricky, when your brain’s been telling you the wrong thing.”
Luke bit back a comment that would’ve been both unkind and stupid. He was pretty sure that, yes, she did know.
“I can’t… no, the problem is, I can believe she did that. I can’t believe I let her.”
“People can be pretty blind when it comes to their crew. We’re supposed to be, I think, but sometimes I wonder if there isn’t some lost Law that helps with that.” Cya shook her head. “We may never know. The elders don’t exactly like talking to me. Not that it isn’t mutual.”
Luke cleared his throat. “I can’t imagine you’re fun for anyone to talk to that you don’t like.”
“Not really, no, not unless it behooves me to be fun for them to talk to for a while. How bad was the memory, this time?”
She’d pulled the conversation back on track so quickly that Luke thought he might have whiplash. He cleared his throat. “Not… not the worst one I have right now, but a bad one. During the war. Did you look at them, when you untangled them all?”
“Some of them. I’m holding off on some to let you choose what you want to do with them, because they’re…” she cleared her throat. “There are some places in your brain I don’t want to intrude without an invitation.”
That startled him. His wings twitched, and Cya’s lips twisted up. “You’re mine, yes, but you’re also an adult with lots of experience, and when this is done, I’d like you to still be our ally.”
“Still?” Regine had been ready to go to war with Cloverleaf.
“Still.” She nodded firmly. “You have not stopped being our ally. Leo holds you in immensely high regard, and I respect you far more than I respect most people.”
A warm feeling slide through him at the praise, no matter how slim it was. “I’m glad you consider me an ally,” he tried, “but Regine–“
“Is another matter entirely, yes. And right now, you are more than an ally.” She smiled crookedly at him. “So, I believe we were talking about being Kept.”
He shifted his weight backwards and met her eyes. “You were, yeah.”
She snorted, not missing that clarification. “You have to know the basics of being Kept; I can’t imagine even Regine would let you skip those. So you understand that you have to do what I say, that you feel badly if you disobey an order — and that that ‘bad feeling’ intensifies the more you try to ignore orders — and that you feel pleasure if I’m pleased with you. I won’t presume to instruct you on the basics of the Law where Kept are involved, or on the basics of ‘do what your Keeper says’. After all, you were my teacher for four years.”
He winced. He felt like she’d slapped him, even though there was nothing insulting at all in what she’d said. “I know the concepts,” he offered.
“Which is good. But you don’t know the reality yet, and you’re going to have to.”
He shifted position and looked at her as calmly as he could. “Am I in trouble?” The last time he could remember asking that, he’d been a teenager, insouciant and disobedient to his commander in the field. He’d done the right thing, that time. He envied that boy’s certainty.
“No.” The smile she gave him seemed to say that she knew exactly how relieved that made Luke feel. He folded his wings tightly and tried not to think too hard about it. “But that doesn’t mean this next part isn’t going to suck a bit anyway.”
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