“Senga, I am going to hit your man, just so you know.” Chitter glanced over at Senga before going back to the far-more-interesting problem of how to get around Erramun to the fridge.
“Chitter, just so you know, if you hit him, I’m not going to stop him short of the point where he might put you in traction. Especially if you hit him for teasing you.” Senga set her hand on Erramun’s arm, and so she could feel the way his muscles had tensed, even though he showed nothing on his face. “He’s older than us, he’s probably smarter than us-”
“-Smarter than you, maybe. Come on, no old guy is smarter than me. You, on the other hand, you walked into a- errrk.”
Erramun had casually and easily picked Chitter up by her throat with one hand. She had both hands around his wrist, and she was kicking in the air, but she couldn’t get enough breath to complain – or to spit out a spell.
“I think you’ve made your point, Erramun. Please put Chitter down and let her get a soda.” Senga didn’t bother pretending that she wasn’t amused.
Erramun turned around and set Chitter down next to the fridge. “You might be smart, sa’Chitter,” he said, with a tone of humor in his own voice, “But sa’Senga is my sworn Owner, and I’m not going to listen to you insult her.”
Well, that was unexpected. Senga didn’t know what to think about it. “Erramun, we’re crew, Chitter and Allayne and I. And Ezer,” she added. “We’re crew. We mess around and insult each other all the time. Please, stand down. Haven’t you ever had anyone you played around with? What are you going to do when we start seriously horsing around? Throwing fake punches and tossing each other to the ground and that sort of thing?”
“Probably get popcorn,” Chitter put in unhelpfully. “When you and Allayne get going it’s like something on Skinamax. ‘Sunday! Two hot combat-ready chicks in skin-tight dresses! Now only Fifty-nine-ninety-nine!’” Chitter mimed a megaphone with her hands. “‘Watch as they tear each other’s clothes off, one strip at a time! Watch as-’”
Erramun’s growl silenced her. “Just joking,” she muttered, as she dropped her hands down to her lap.
“I understand ‘horsing around’,” Erramun snarled. “But I don’t understand this bitching about your combat skills when you’ve been shot.“
“Idiot,” Chitter complained, “that’s how I handle her and Allayne going into combat situations and leaving me behind. You think I like it? You think I like that the only thing that saved Senga was her instincts, not my leet hacking skills? Do you think I enjoy watching her get shot? No.” She stepped up to Erramun and glared upwards at him. “Haven’t you ever had friends? Haven’t you ever had to send someone into battle and bite your tongue and hope to whatever gods don’t really exist that they’re not going to hit a patch of bad luck or some set-up or someone trying to kill them because their great-aunt was insane? Geez.” She took a step back and shook her head. “We’re crew. Get used to it or sleep in the garage.”
“Chitter.” Senga was amused, but, still. “Don’t try to make Erramun sleep in the garage. He’ll get used to it, or he’ll figure out how to handle it, at least. Erramun?”
Erramun grumbled. “You are all insane. You’d better let me come on missions with you. I don’t know if you can survive without me.”
Senga studied him for a moment, deciding how angry to be. “You know that Chitter is my friend and you’re a stranger, right?”
He shifted backwards a step, noticing the change in tone, looking at her, noticing her body language, and then shifted backwards another half-step. “I know that your great-aunt wanted me to protect you.”
“And she must have wanted me to protect you, too, or she would have arranged things the other way.”
“Nobody who knows me would give me someone to keep under my collar, you know.”
“Great-Aunt Mirabella is not known for being kind about these things, just practical. So there was a reason.” She studied him for a moment. “Which we can discuss later.” He’d gotten tense again; when she said that, he relaxed.
“The Monmartin manor isn’t in bad shape. It’s going to take a little bit of cleaning up, but if you give me permission, I can do a lot of that myself.” He looked – strange. After a moment, she realized that he was acting nearly subservient.
“That’s right, you had a bunch of time to yourself. It went pretty fast for us,” she added, feeling apologetic.
“I got a lot done. I,” he coughed, “Tidied things, too.”
“Oh no!” Chitter ran into the dining room. “You didn’t… oh. Oh.” She sounded relieved; Senga didn’t bother to go check on her. Instead, she looked around the kitchen. “I think ‘tidied’ is an understatement.”
“It was a long day, and I didn’t have anything else to do.” He shifted again, looking – departed gods, he looked worried!
“It’s great,” she assured her. “We’re not so good at that sort of thing, as you – ah, as you did notice. Tell you what, you look a bit tired, and I’m exhausted. Why don’t we take a shower and hit the hay?”
He raised his eyebrows. “That sounds pleasant. And tomorrow…?”
“Tomorrow, we can all start moving into Monmartin Manor.” If nothing else, if the manor hadn’t been totally ransacked, it had some lovely defenses.
“Sounds good. There’s enough space there that I can get a soda without upsetting … sa’Chitter here.”
“He’s making fun of me! Sengaaaa!”
“No, Chitter, he’s being respectful, because he’s a Bound Servant and you’re not. Were you raised in a barn?” Allayne huffed from the doorway.
“Oh, good, you’re in mostly one piece. And as a matter of fact… yes, I was. As you damn well know.”
Senga took Erramun’s hand and led him upstairs before Allayne and Chitter could get truly into it.
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