First: Purchased: Negotiation
“It’s gonna be a blast. Right.” Leander snorted. “All right.” Leander looked at himself in a mirror. “I don’t look stupid.”
“You look – may I?”
He was not going to get used to the way she asked permission before touching him, but he nodded. She ran her hands over his face, over his shoulders, looked at him again. “There. You look like a college kid. Kinda nervous, new school, meeting your girlfriend’s friends, that’s fine. Try not to punch too many of them, okay?”
“I’m only gonna punch someone if you ask me to, if they grab me some way I don’t like, or if they’re gonna hurt you.” He grimaced. It came out sounding half street thug and half military. “Damnit, I can look like a college kid all I want -“
“Doesn’t matter.” She patted his shoulder. “Works, actually. So. You went straight into the military, can’t tell people what you were doing, classified, you’d have to kill them. I have a guess that there’s more truth in that than you’ll want me to know, so that works out pretty well. Less lies to keep straight.”
There was the big, giant lie of being her boyfriend still to contend with, but – well, they were going to have one of those lies no matter what. He was pretty sure her friends wouldn’t be all that cool with “my dad bought him to protect me.”
“Okay. Military.” He rolled his shoulders. “This is nuts.”
“So you’ve said.” She stretched up and kissed his cheek. “Repeatedly. And so I’ve agreed, repeatedly. But this is what we’ve got at the moment, so this is what we’re doing.”
The day before had been – weird. He’d spent two hours in the home gym while Sylviane – well, did some stuff that shouldn’t have impressed him nearby. Weights, running, and then some gymnastic stuff that was truly amazing. He’d spent an hour sitting on the couch against Mr. MacDiarmad’s side while the man did things with his business, keeping up a running commentary that had mostly gone right in one ear and out the other. Every so often, someone would ask him a question about his paperwork and he’d defer to either MacDiarmad, whoever was there at the moment.
There’d been three meals and a mid-day snack, all of them delicious and a little too much, and there’d been an hour just before the mid-day snack where he and Sylviane and Mr. MacDiarmad — and that hadn’t been awkward at all – had worked their way through an old leather-bound book that held a side-by-side translation of a still older book, a text written in Greek that was something like “A Primer on Meet Use of Words” and turned out to be piles and piles of magic exercises.
All together, that hour was more magic than Leander had done in at least as long as he’d been Kept, excluding really specific Workings he’d been ordered to do, given the words for, and then done over and over again until his mind felt as if it was bleeding.
“Turning big rocks into little rocks” hadn’t been that far off from what he’d been doing in a couple places.
This, this had been different, different enough that he felt like he was being Mentored all over again – and he’d said so.
“Me, too,” Mr. MacDiarmad had admitted. “A friend of mine suggested this book, and let me tell you, there are things in here that my Mentor never even mentioned. And I want – really want – all three of us to be as proficient as possible in any Word we can say in all combinations.”
Leander had a feeling his college homework wasn’t going to be what ended up being the challenge.
“I mean,” he offered now, to a Sylviane who looked far too cute in her outfit for school, which appeared to consist of someone’s wet dream – there was even plaid. “I mean, I could just be your bodyguard. You are the daughter of a rich man.”
She made a face. “You could. But… I like this better, okay?”
“Okay, I can’t really argue with that. Don’t like the ‘flaunting the conspicuous wealth’ thing or don’t like the ‘being pegged as vulnerable enough to need a bodyguard’?”
She blinked at him and then giggled. “Both. And I really have to remember that you’re really smart.”
“Just observant,” he objected. “I know people, and uh – don’t take this the wrong way – I’ve been Owned by a lot of rich people.”
She made yet another face, this one looking like she couldn’t tell if her feelings ought to be hurt. “Ow,” she complained. “I mean, okay, not taking it the wrong way – you have experience. You know – you know most of my friends and most of the staff here don’t know about Fae things, right?”
“I got that feeling. No talking about being a possession around your friends,” he teased, “got it. But if classes don’t start until tomorrow -“
“One seminar and one professor I want you to meet first, because she might get a little shirty about the add. It’s a higher-level class and normally she independently signs of on everyone joining the class. I mean -” she hesitated. “It’ll be fine, I just want you to meet her, okay?”
“You’re the boss,” he told her cheerfully. “And if all else fails, I really don’t mind waiting outside your classroom-” Like a dog that wasn’t allowed in. He squashed that thought quickly. “Just give me a-” bowl of water and a long enough leash… “book to read or something and I’ll be fine.”
“We’ll get you into the class.” She patted his shoulder. “Right, if you’re ready to go, I am.” She looked down at his feet. “Oh, new shoes. Sec.” She waved her hands in a complicated set of gestures and did a Working that involved, if Leander got it, the Word for Animals, for Worked things, something about Shaping, and the greek word for feet.
“There, that ought to help out a bit with the whole breaking-in thing. My mother taught me that one,” she added very quietly.
“Thank you.” He looked down at the shoes, which looked the same, but already felt a little more comfortable. “So – we’re going?”