Sal drove without chit-chat, at least at the beginning, but after three blocks, the glass between the two sections came down. “Boss. Your boy is shifting back and forth like someone’s sending him to the principal’s office.”
Ctirad froze. “Am not.”
“You were,” Sal countered. “You’re going out in public with the Boss for the first time. You have a pretty good idea what’s expected of you in private. but now you’re in public. What does wearing the Boss’ collar mean for you when you’re out there, in front of other fae? Other than us that work for him, I mean.”
“…Yeah…” Ctirad muttered. “I mean. I’m his bodyguard. Your bodyguard, sir. That happens to also be your boyfriend. It’s not like people don’t have bodyguard-lovers. I mean, Lex Luthor…” He trailed off.
“The trick that the Boss always forgets to mention is that the role you’re playing is yourself. So yeah. You’ve only been working for the boss, sleeping with the boss, and so on, for a couple days. Wouldn’t you be a little uncertain around his peers no matter what? ‘Sides, I heard you did absolutely fine when people came over.”
“I just – I don’t know – sat there and said things when I knew things.” He started to shift and then stopped himself. Like someone’s sending him to the principal’s office.
“And that was perfect.” Timaios studied him. “Sal is right, and I apologize. So. In public, the things that need to change are: my name is Tim, and we will act as if you are on my payroll and sleeping with me. Your job actually is to protect me, but you can do that while being as close as you want to me. And if you are uncertain around the people that I am meeting, that is fine.” He paused. “Around the fae, when it is clear that is who we are around – and it will be – you may call me Timaios, or sir, or as it suits you. But you are still my bodyguard and my lover – because that is what you are.”
Ctirad relaxed a little bit. “Thank you, sir.”
“Some of them may know that you used to – that you used to Belong to Ermenrich.” Ctriad wasn’t sure if he’d imagined the flinch in his Owner, but it was gone quickly. “But if they know that,” he gently tapped the collar Ctirad was wearing, “they know that you are Mine now.”
He made it sound like a caress, like a warm hug. Ctirad shivered and let himself smile. “I can cope with them knowing that I was Ermenrich’s bitch,” he answered honestly, “if they know that I’m yours now.”
The clench of Timaios’ fist surprised him. “You weren’t-”
He was more surprised at the way he put both hands over his Owner’s tight hand. “Sir. I hate to disagree with you, but Ermenrich’s bitch was exactly what I was. It isn’t what I am now. I’m not your bitch. But I was his. That’s all he wanted me to be and all he let me be, and he Owned me.” He released the hand and was pleased to find that it was slowly uncurling. “I am not your bitch,” he repeated. “And I know that. But that doesn’t change what he did to me.”
“You are-” Timaios turned his hands over and collected both of Ctirad’s in his. “You are coming along by leaps and bounds. I’m pleased with you, Ctirad. I hope you are pleased with yourself, too.”
The praise felt blissful. He closed his eyes to enjoy it for a moment before considering the question. “I don’t think I know myself well enough to be pleased or not yet, sir. But I’m happy. I can’t remember the last time that I was happy.”
He knew, of course, that some of that can’t remember was the mess that Ermenrich had made of his mind. He thought he might be okay with that. Not okay that Ermenrich had forced him to forget things, no, but accepting that there was going to be a time in his life he didn’t want to think about.
“I am glad you are happy.” Timaios didn’t seem to notice the conflict Ctirad was going through. Ctirad wondered if he was getting back to being able to hide his expressions.
He’d been able to do that?
He’d have to worry about that some other time. He smiled at his Owner. “Me, too,” he admitted. “So, what are we looking at today? In terms of the meeting purpose?”
“Well, the first thing on hand is some old business – some issues with a couple anti-fae groups in the city that don’t think we know about them. But the primary issue is going to be Ermenrich and what he’s doing with the old McCurdy building. I have a feeling there’s still more that we haven’t found out, and I worry that he’s making some sort of power play.”
Ctirad searched his memories and found mostly blanks and a few times where he had just ignored what his then-Owner was saying. “Is there, ah. Do the fae in an area have a leader?” He felt like a dunce for having to ask, but Timaios’ expression was thoughtful rather than sneering.
“Not usually, not per se. There’s the Council, but they are so far above every day people like you and I that they hardly count. For the most part, being the leader of a city is kind of like being the winner of a game of king of the hill – so you got to the top. Now what?”
Ctiard snorted. “I think I’d like to have that problem.”
“Some day,” Timaois allowed, in a voice that was far more thoughtful than Ctirad was comfortable with, “you just might.”