Senga smiled crookedly at Erramun. “We fix problems. Sometimes we end things, sometimes we start them, but mostly people just pay us to solve situations they need solved.”
“That sounds really, really vague.”
“It’s meant to be really, really vague.”
“So which side of the law are you on?”
“We’re a legal organization. Most of the time, we stay on the proper side of the police and of the law. Sometimes we fudge things a bit,” she admitted. “Those moments where the Ellehemaei in us has to be more important than the law-abiding citizen.”
“And in those times?”
“We clean up after ourselves. So, back to advice.”
“It’s advice you want when you run a cleaning service and you’ve just been handed someone named Death Comes Silently.” He sounded bitter rather than dubious. “You want advice.“
“Well, I don’t want you for wetwork, although if you fade away without something to kill, I’m sure I can come up with someone who needs ending.” She looked him in the eye and watched his responses.
There was a little twitch of surprise and then a tiny smirk that barely touched his lips. “I can live without killing. I’m not one of those. But if I was-?”
“If you were, we’d have to shift our business model a bit, but I’d keep you fed.”
“…Generous. So you don’t have a problem with killing, but you don’t want me for wetwork. So…”
“So I don’t mind killing generally, but I don’t like it in the specific. It’s messy, it gets to be too easy, and it’s really hard to be sure someone’s evil enough to deserve killing. So. Death Comes Silently. What do you do that isn’t death?”
“Come Silently?” He smirked a little bit.
“I think that was actually a joke. Or at least a pun. So, ah. You’re the world’s quietest at orgasms or you sneak?”
“I do a lot of things very quietly. I’m pretty good at B&E, actually.” His smile had vanished and he was really looking at her again. “You really want me to advise you?”
“I’ve just been handed an Ellehemaei several times older than me, at a guess. You know things I don’t. You’ve have had to have been living in a box to not know more than I do.”
She didn’t miss his twitch, but she didn’t think he wanted her to see it, so she ignored it.
“You’re not gonna lose face, having your Bond Servant tell you want to do?” He was holding himself very still in his chair. Not like he was afraid, she thought, but maybe like he didn’t know if he moved, if he could stop moving.
“There’s a difference between telling me what to do and advising me. And mostly, we’re family, my crew. The good sort, not like my cousins. If I have you giving me advice, they’re going to think it’s cool.” She set her hand on his knee and watched how he went even more still.“Okay,” she said, more quietly. She stood up and locked her door, then throw up a complex Working that meant that nothing short of a bomb was getting into her room – or out of it. “I think we need to have a more important conversation first.”
“More important than what you want to do with me? I’d like to know what I’m going to be doing for the next six years.” He stood up, then, as she closed the distance between them, sat back down again.
“What’ve you been doing for the last six years?” Damnit, no, she was letting him distract her. Well, maybe he needed to say it.
His face shut down.
“You going to order me to tell you?”
“Not yet. So. I don’t get to know what you did for the last six years and you want to know what you’re going to be doing for the next six. So. Advice and back-up, until I know more.”
“So… rather than ordering me into telling you, you’re going to blackmail me into telling you?”
She found herself smiling. “Seems fitting for me. You think being advice and back-up is a punishment?”
“I’m not so old I need to be the grumpy old sensei in the back of the room just yet.”
“Well, I’ll keep that in mind. Now that we’ve decided we don’t agree on that in the least,” she sat back down on her bed, “more important things.”
“-than what you’re going to do with me?”
“Well,” she smirked at him, unable to resist the straight line, “I thought we’d talk about what I’m going to do with you.”
He glowered. “Make sense, woman.”
“Telling me what to do already?” she teased, and then almost regretted it as his face underwent contortions trying to deal with a guilt-surge. “Easy, easy. I’m not mad at you.”
“I don’t care if-” He trailed off, grumbling. “Fine. You’ve got me by the short and curlies. What are you going to do with me?”
“Now that’s an image. And maybe I’ll think about that later,” she admitted. He was a handsome man. “You’ve been under a collar before.”
“I’ve been Owned before.” He touched his bare neck and shifted his shoulders. “The last one didn’t survive.”
“I don’t think you’re going to kill me. If you were, I think you would’ve done it in the funeral home. Would have been easy; you wouldn’t have even had to get your hands dirty if you didn’t feel like it, you could just say ‘no.’” Senga shrugged. “So. So’ve I. I know how it gets weird in your head. I can’t stop that, it’s the way the natural law works for fae.”
“I know that,” he snarled.
“You know it, but you’re twitchy and fighting it and making yourself feel like shit, if I’m any good at people – and I’m pretty good at people, and it’s just gonna get worse, and you know that too. The bond’s pushing at you, it does that. It’s magic.”
“I know that!”
This time it was a shout.
“Then why are you acting like a nervous virgin in his first collar?” She didn’t shout back, but she snapped it out.
“Who are you to tell me anything about how I’m acting or what I’m doing or how I’m feeling?” he bellowed back at her.
“The person who’s responsible for it,” she retorted. “Remember? I just agreed to take you as my Bond Servant, which means that I agreed to be responsible for you, body, mind, and heart, for the next six years. This, I have a vested interest in what you’re doing.”
“You don’t know anything!”
“Then maybe you should tell me.”
“I-” He cut himself off and glared at her. “All right.” He looked far too angry for the concession she heard in his voice – or maybe, she supposed, he was angry because he was conceding. “I will tell you one thing. But then I’m going to ask you a question.”
“I welcome it.” She folded her hands in her lap and waited.
“I don’t like the collar.”
When it became clear that he wasn’t going to elaborate, Senga tried her best raised-eyebrow look at him. He looked back at her implacably for several minutes before finally sighing.
Senga was fairly certain she’d only won that staring contest with him because he was currently her Bond servant. She made a mental note not to be in a position where she had to try that otherwise.
“I don’t like the physical collar. The sign of it. The way it feels. The restriction.”
“Aah.” She studied his neck for a minute. “That makes me wonder what sort of collars your previous owners put on you. That being said…” She considered her words for a minute. The collar, within fae society, was the sign that he was hers, sworn to her. If he wasn’t wearing one, it suggested that he wasn’t under her control.
Considering she was pretty sure everyone was going to think that anyway – she was definitely going to think it! – she had to play this one carefully.
Her thoughts were either a lot more transparent than she’d meant them to be, or he was having the same thoughts. “You can’t afford to look weak, or everyone will assume I’m in charge.” He shifted a little. “I’m not an in-charge sort. I don’t want that.”
“I don’t want it either. It’s the feel you hate?” She looked at him again and thought about a strip of leather like a dog collar around his neck. She thought about pulling on the d-ring in front and watching him resist it. She thought about him wearing nothing but the collar…
…this was not helping her have calm conversations. On the other hand, if those thoughts were transparent, he hadn’t picked up on them. He looked nervous.
“I’m not a dog,” he muttered. “I don’t like being treated like an animal on a leash.”
“…Aaah. Well then.” She reached out and touched the side of his neck. “That, I can work with.”
He leaned his weight ever so slightly into her hand, as if pretending he didn’t want to feel the touch. “You can? What are you going to do?”
“I can’t afford to look weak,” she reminded him slowly. “You’re going to have to wait until I do it. Until then-”
Her phone buzzed, interrupting her thoughts. She forced down a curse while she glanced at the screen.
“Well. Job calls. You can make yourself at home, or you can go check out Monmartin Manor and see how much we’ll have to do.” She tossed him her car keys. “I assume you know where it is.”
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