Cya reached over the table and tapped Manus on the top of the head. “Okay. Rule one. No pouty faces in public.”
“I thought rule one was ‘don’t attack you?’”
“That’s rule one for Kept. This is rule one for boyfriends.”
“Oh, so there’s a completely different – wait, what?”
Cya waited a moment for him to catch up, one eyebrow raised in her best teacher face. A moment later, he smirked slowly. He always had been one of her smarter Kept.
“So, does that mean pouty faces are fine in private?”
She grinned at him. “You’re clever. Yes. Look, the real rule is – if we’re going to consider dating, then we’re dating as adults.”
“So I can’t expect you to tell me what to do?” She thought he might look a little sad about that one.
So she gave him her best toothy grin, the one she’d been getting a lot of practice with lately. “Oh, I didn’t say that. But that’s for private. We date as adults, we can play as adults if that’s what you want, and once in a while I’ll probably tell you what to do. I mean, I am dictator – ah, Mayor – of a city-state. I can be pretty bossy when I want to be.”
He grinned at her, the sadness clearly gone. “I wouldn’t know anything at all about you being bossy, Miz Mayor. Nothing at all. So – you mean it?”
“I mean it. No sulking in public. It’s ridiculous.” She winked at him, because some part of her was still remembering him three decades ago and wearing her collar, and she wanted to make sure he knew she was teasing.
“No. Uh.” He shook his head, looking flustered. Some part of him might be remembering that, too. “I mean. Uh. Dating? You’re interested? I figured once you saw it was one of your former, um. ‘Kept du Jour’ that you’d be gone.”
“Look, you’re doing what? Being judge and ambassador for a nearby city-state? Look, that’s impressive. It’s impressive for people twice your age and, dead gods, I hope that didn’t sound as condescending to you as it sounded from here.” She ducked her head, realizing she was blushing and wishing she could in good conscience burrow through the floor and run away.
He chuckled. “Look, that’s kind of what I’m worried about.”
“…me being condescending? ‘Cause I don’t think I’m usually that bad to my peers.” Then again, her closest peers were a formerly-insane samurai, a currently-insane goblin, and a cowboy with a fidelity issue.
“No. No, ‘cause I mean, you remember the world Before. You’re got a lot more life experience than I do. Why would you have any interest in, well, me?”
Cya looked at him over her glass for a minute. Then she put her glass down and looked at him a little more. “Something I learned – well, far more recently than I ought to have, I think, is that people grow up at wildly different rates. From the sound of things, you grew up. Me, I grew up about when I finished this city. So… we’re pretty close to on par.
“Besides.” She gave him her brightest smile. “You already know all of my sensitive spots and I already know how to make you squirm.”
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