First: Purchased: Negotiation
It was going to take a lot more than an hour to walk around campus.
It might take more than an hour to get around a single “quad,” the way Sylviane walked, which was to stop and point at something, tell him a story, and then move four feet to something else.
On the other hand, Leander really didn’t mind. He was learning about her more than the campus, sure, but she was, in the long run, a lot more important than just a bunch of buildings.
“Oh, here.” She flushed. He glanced at her curiously and waited. “Oh-” She noticed he was waiting. “Nothing, it’s just-“
“A bench.” He read the inscription on the brass plaque – it wasn’t her name, wasn’t anyone whose name he recognized, and they’d been class of 1920, so probably not someone she knew personally – well, not a human she knew personally, he corrected. Could be a fae. Could even be her mentor.
“I had my first kiss with – with someone I really liked for a while – right here on this bench.”
Or it could have nothing at all to do with the plaque. “First kisses are nice,” he agreed blandly. “Sounds like this one was really nice?”
“Yeah. Yeah, this was – this was a great kiss. And then some more great kisses. And then a few more. The kissing was always great.” She sighed. “If all you ever had to do dating someone was kiss them and maybe, you know, kiss them, well, that would have been a great relationship.”
“Just everything else that went south?” He’d had relationships like that, back when he’d had relationships.
She snorted. “Yeah. Yeah, the everything else. Man, I really liked kissing her. It sucks we couldn’t even talk for more than ten minutes without arguing, and not the fun sort of arguing.”
Leander snuck a glance at her to find that she was sneaking a glance at her. He winked at her, because it seemed like the things to do. “I hear you,” he agreed. “Sometimes the kissing – and so on – is amazing, but you just can’t talk.” He sighed a little. “Been a long time since I thought about dating,” he muttered. He cast around quickly for something to change the subject, because the last thing he wanted right now was to be mopey and depressed. “What’s that building that looks like a giant church?”
The look she shot him told Leander that he hadn’t fooled her at all, but that was okay, he supposed, as long as she changed the subject. “That one? Center of the Law school. It’s gorgeous inside, too. They had a reception there last semester – it was amazing. The best food, and you could look up into the rafters and feel like you’d been transported back centuries.” She shifted to telling him about the buildings, which actually upped their pace a little. Leander was finally starting to relax again when he head someone calling her name.
She seemed to hear it, too, and slowed down with a glance at him.
“Hey, they’re still you’re friends and we’re on campus.” He shrugged. “If you want me to make an excuse to get us out of something, just squeeze my fingers three times.”
“I am going to owe you so much.” She turned around before he could point out – again – that her father owned him and thus it was impossible for her to owe him anything.
Coming towards them, waving, were an average-heighted guy – so a couple inches shorter than Leander – and a very short girl. The guy was dark-skinned; his hair was in a single braid down to past his ass; he was grinning at Sylviane broadly. The woman was so fair, Leander wasn’t at all surprised by the parasol she was carrying, and her almost-pink blonde hair was twisted up on her head so he couldn’t see how long it was. Her smile was small and contained and didn’t look any less happy.
“Leander, these are my friends Ripley and Inka. Rip, Inka, this is Leander. My dad introduced us over summer break.” She caught Leander’s hand and laced her fingers with his, making sure her friends saw the gesture.
“Nice.” Ripley – he was pretty sure Ripley was the guy – just grinned wider. “I’m glad you ditched that jerk. Hi, Leander, hope you’re not a jerk, too.”
“Hey.” He risked a smile back that showed at least a little teeth. “I hope you aren’t, either.”
Ripley snorted but looked a little prickly; Inka giggled. “He’s got you there, Rip. He really is a jerk,” she confided to Leander, “but only in the best ways. What about you?”
“I’m only a jerk if Sylviane wants me to be,” he answered without thinking. Damnit, he was going to have to work on that.
Inka just giggled more. “That’s a safe bet. I mean, everyone can be a jerk sometimes – even you, Sylvie, you know it – but that’s within parameters. It’s the people that are jerks when nobody wants them to be and just keep jerking – I mean, well, no, that’s close enough, now I want to look up the etymology of jerk-“
Ripley was on his phone. “What she’s saying is that so far we like you. Um, but that says nothing for if you like us. Hi, I’m an engineering major with a minor in finding out ways to not get arrested and Inka’s stats with a minor in how much alcohol a person can drink without dying.”
“With her body mass?” Leander asked, again without thinking.
She grinned up at him. “Yep. With my body mass. Want to try to drink me under the table sometime?”
“I, uh. Don’t drink much, almost never.” He made a face and ad-libbed quickly. “Does bad things to my brain.”
“Leander was in the service. We don’t ask him to talk about it, because he was doing stuff we don’t have clearance for,” Sylviane explained, making a face that made it look like she really wanted to know.
He patted her shoulder. “You could go for the polygraph,” he teased.
“Oh, I wouldn’t pass question one. You know me, I want to tear the whole thing down and start from scratch.”
“So it might have come from ‘Jerkwater – petty, inferior, insignificant,'” Ripley cut in, “or from, ah, jerking off, either one it started from carnival slang and nobody’s really sure quite where, sorry, Inka. And nobody knows where ‘jerk’ in the sense of the movement comes from, either, they think it might be ‘echoic’… that means it’s an onomatopoeia.”
“A what now?” Leander was impressed by the smooth change of topic but that didn’t stop him from being completely lost about the direction. Something about where jerks had come from… He snorted. “I can tell you where jerks come from… but not the word.”
“Onomatopoeia is a word for things that describe a sound as it sounds – pop, bang, sizzle. Like that.” Inka’s smile didn’t suggest she thought he was an idiot, which was nice. “Where do jerks come from?”
Now he did feel like an idiot, because it was a dumb joke. “Mars.”