First: Purchased: Negotiation
“When you put it like that,” Sylviane repeated, while Leander’s mouth was full, “I really want to… I don’t know, change the world. A lot.”
He blinked at her and wished he hadn’t filled his mouth up with sticky cheese.
“So everyone, I think… everyone ought to have good food, a warm and comfortable place to sleep, indoor plumbing, clothes that fit, comfortable shoes, and an education. Everyone. So if there are people not getting that – which obviously there are – then I want to fix that.”
He swallowed and gulped some soda. “Like… slave’s rights reform? Or like, uh. Um. Helping people in the inner cities, or on other continents, or -“
“All of it. Every bit of it. I mean, okay, that’s going to take a few years.” She ducked her head. “But maybe there’s a way. I mean, make money, figure out how to make it into more money, and then spend a large portion of it making sure people have a place to sleep and warm shoes on their feet. And then, on the side, working with other Shener…”
She trailed off and looked at Leander. His stomach suddenly felt leaden.
“The people who did this to you…”
“To be fair, I had a hand in making stupid decisions, too,” he pointed out.
“You’ve said. Still.” She dismissed that with a flap of her hand. “The people that did this to you…?”
“Fae,” he agreed, “at least some of them, though one I think was just a really strong Faded.” He winced. That term had been forbidden enough that it still hurt him to say it.
“Children of the Law or Children of the Gods?” she persisted.
“Does it matter?” He gulped his soda again. “Really. Does it? Doesn’t matter if they listen to the Law first or their own sense of right if they’re willing to torment other people. Should we be talking about this here?”
“College kids. We could be talking about just about anything and nobody would pay it any mind. It’s probably for a project for school,” she added, as if that would explain her talking about slavery and the Children of the Gods.
Maybe it would. He’d never been to college before, after all.
“Right so. I don’t know, I didn’t have a chance to ask their politics, but they never complained about me being a half-breed.” He rolled his shoulders. He hadn’t really wanted to say that, because saying that led to questions about-“
“What’s your Change?”
“Easier to show and I’d rather not show you in a restaurant,” he answered quickly, because he’d seen that coming.
“Hunh. I’ll show you mine if you show me yours. Later.”
He coughed. “You are determined to get me on my back, aren’t you?”
“Well…” She looked absolutely innocent for about a heartbeat. “…Yes,” she admitted. “At least, if you’re interested.”
Leander blinked. “That was… That was really straightforward. I’m not sure I’ve ever had a woman sound that straightforward when she wasn’t just, uh.” He cleared his throat and looked away.
Sylviane let the silence hang for a moment, and then another moment, until he glanced back and found her waiting, patiently but with a curious look to her face.
“…wasn’t just treating me like a walking dildo,” he muttered. “Don’t get me wrong… I don’t think you are, would be. That’s why it’s weird.”
“There’s something really shitty about the world,” she muttered, “but I can’t fix the whole world today. We were talking about getting you on your back…? If you’re interested…?”
It ended in such an obvious question mark that Leander would’ve had a hard time avoiding answering. “You’re gorgeous, clever, kind, and you speak Greek like it’s a weapon. Yeah, I’m interested. I mean, the trick is more or less how it works with, uh, everything going on, but I don’t think it’s gonna be a problem.” He looked at the gaudy art on the wall and tried to get his feet under him again. “And uh, if you’re interested.”
“You,” she responded, with such force that he looked back, “are gorgeous, clever, and strong. You’re thoughtful and you ask good questions and you sing Greek; it’s the most amazing thing. Also, you have the most kissable lips.”
He blinked a couple times. “I’m what?”
“Gorgeous, clever, strong, and your singing voice goes straight to the gonads,” she repeated.
“You’re making fun of me.” He found that he wanted to believe her, but he wasn’t sure that would be smart – or wise. Or clever.
“No.” She reached out to squeeze his hand; he found it made him want to look at her. She shook her head and looked at him with wide eyes and a sincere expression. “No, I’m not making fun of you, Leander. I won’t, not about important things.”
“Sex-” His mouth was dry; he took a long gulp of his soda. “Sex is an important thing?”
“I’d say so, yeah. Sex, and the way we interact, and all of that, yeah. It’s pretty important.”
“And you won’t make fun of me about important things,” he repeated slowly.
She’d said he was clever. He looked at Sylviane and took another long swallow of his soda, wishing it was something stronger.
He was in way over his head already and he wasn’t even a week in.
“Yes,” she agreed, her voice quiet. “I will not make fun of you over important things. Ever.”
He stared at her, “So. Uh.” He cleared his throat. “You want to – “
He snorted. “I don’t do guys.”
“Okay, fair, but haven’t you looked at yourself?”
“Not much,” he muttered. “Not much chance…” Shit. The last thing he wanted was her pitying him. “I’m not all that into, uh, my appearance?”
She pursed her lips and then, after a moment, nodded. “Okay. Well, anyway… wow, this got awkward.”
“Shit, I’m sorry.” He twisted his face up. “Thinking too much. Never thought that would be my problem,” he snorted. “But here we are.”
She smiled at him, warm and genuine-looking. “Here we are. So, your hour. Where do you want to go?”
Leander blinked. He’d – had he actually forgotten? He had. Where did he want to go?
He looked around the restaurant as if it would provide some sort of answer. Nothing came to mind; he glanced back at Sylviane. She was waiting patiently. Shit.
He’d never thought it would be that hard to come up with places he wanted to go. “How about campus?” he offered. “Wander around a bit, get a feel for the place so I know where we are tomorrow?”
“You don’t have to ask,” she reminded him, still looking amused. “It’s your time.”
“Yeah, well, you’re still the boss,” he countered, shifting back and forth and trying not to look like a worried puppy who’d been kicked too many times. “So, show me around campus some more? Place is huge.”
“It is,” she agreed. “It’s nearly a town on it’s own. Which is pretty awesome, but it can get to be a bit much sometimes. Anyway, sure. After this, then?”
“After this.” He ate some fries, just to give himself something to do with his hands, and tried to relax. This was not such a big deal. He could handle this. He could handle choices.