First: Purchased: Negotiation
Leander woke to Sylviane crying as someone did something awful to him, pressing on him, strapping him-
“And then – then they were going to kill him if I didn’t go with them,” she sobbed. “Oh, shit, no. No, no straps, please, you’ll freak him out. He’s got, he’s got PTSD, you can’t -“
“Miss, we have to get him into the ambulance.”
“Just the belt and, and the feet then? I’ll help, I’ve done all the first aid classes, I’m certified.”
She was topless, smeared in his blood, wearing a little lace bra. At least Mr. MacDiarmad hadn’t told him to keep her safe from the press.
“Jacket,” he snarled weakly at the police officer. It took the man a moment, but before Leander’s vision went blurry again, someone had put something over Sylviane’s shoulders.
He forced himself awake until Sylviane took his hand again. “It’s okay, Leander. It’s okay. I’m here. Dad’ll meet us at the hospital. I’m here, and they’re only doing a couple straps and I’ll make them undo them as soon as possible, okay? I’m here.”
“I’m fine,” he managed, and then he lost consciousness.
He woke to a man staring at his face, shining a light in his eyes. “He’s going to be fine, he’s just lost a bunch of blood. You’re a hero, did you know that?” he told the man.
“Kidnappers,” he tried, but he was slurring his words something horrible.
Sylviane squeezed his hand. “I promised him I wouldn’t leave his side,” she told the man.
“I’m afraid you can’t be in the room while we operate.”
He couldn’t see her, but he could tell from her voice that she must have lifted her chin. “Is there a regulation to that effect and how much of the hospital do I have to buy to get it overturned?”
“Miss, it’s going to be bloody and gory, and he’ll be unconscious anyway.”
“Let me gown up and scrub in and I’ll stay out of everyone’s way and-” She dropped her voice into something that sounded like praying, unless you knew what she was doing.
The man slapped her. “None of that. You didn’t say it was a promise. Come on then, gown up.”
Leander snarled. “Slap her again and I’ll eat your hand.”
“Tell her not to use any of that shit on me and I won’t have to,” the man retorted. “Come on, time to prep you for surgery, Mister hero.”
He hated, hated, hated going under, the feeling he couldn’t control anything. He felt his heart rate rising; he struggled to sit up, to get out, to go anywhere else.
Sylviane squeezed his hand. “I told you,” she murmured. “I’ve got you. I’m here. I’ve got you. I’m here. I’ve-“
He let go of consciousness more easily than he’d thought possible.
“-the sort of threat I thought of, no. But it’s an equally good threat to keep in mind.” Mr. MacDiarmad had been talking for a while, Leander thought. He sounded tired, strained.
Shit. He pulled himself upwards, only to be pushed downwards by a firm hand.
“Easy,” Mr. MacDiarmad soothed. “It’s fine. Sylviane’s fine, she’s right here. And you’re fine, other than the new hole in you.”
Leander managed to open his eyes. There was Sylviane, there was Mr. MacDiarmad . “A trap,” he croaked. “I didn’t noticed it was a trap.” He braced himself for the punishment.
“You’re not paid to notice traps, you’re paid to get her out of them safely. And you did. You did, from what I’ve seen and been told, you did an amazing job of that.” Mr. MacDiarmad patted Leander’s head. “And in a little while, we’re all going to go home. You did good, Leander.”
He closed his eyes as the warmth went through him. “I nearly got her shot,” he muttered.
“No, I nearly got me shot, and I did get you shot. Leander, stop beating yourself up,” Sylviane complained. “You did exactly what you were supposed to do.”
“Doesn’t feel like it.” He closed his eyes. “Feels like I fucked up.”
He opened his eyes. Sylviane was leaning over him, looking him straight in the face. “Okay?” he croaked.
“So that’s how you feel. After-action report, soldier. Why does it feel that way?”
He made a noise that was half grunt and half whine. “What?” Report, he could handle that. But she remembered the soldier thing was a story, right? “Report? Okay. We were approached by a teenage girl in bad clothes who wanted to find, uh, Harriman. Harriman Hall. We – you led her towards the hall, into a narrow alley between two of the classroom buildings. Four of her companions boxed us in. They pulled guns and offered me money to leave. Obviously I didn’t take the offer, but I stalled them so that you could do a protection Working. The stalling failed and I stopped them from attacking you.”
He watched her face.
“You kicked their asses, you mean.”
“I should’ve noticed they were following us. I’ve gotten soft.”
She pinged his shoulder lightly with her fingers. “Stop that. You got soft in a slave camp?” she hissed. “You’ve totally had plenty of time to train, I’m sure,” she added in a dry drawl. “They were stopped, I’m fine, you’re going to be fine. You not only succeed, you rocked.”
He relaxed slowly. “I’m supposed to keep you safe,” he protested again, anyway, because it was still biting at him.
“And you kept her very safe.” Mr. MacDiarmed patted his arm gently. “You kept her safe. And I’m -” He cleared his throat. “I’m very pleased with you, Leander. You did exactly what I hoped you would.”
Leander struggled against the feelings, the warmth, the pleasure. He found his face was flushing. Damnit. He didn’t want, he didn’t-
His Master was pleased with him. He let himself relax. The complaint would come next, the things he should have known, and he’d have his feet under him again.
“Keep up the good work.” Mr. MacDiarmed patted him on the arm again. “Now. They said that you could come home with us once you woke up. It was a pretty clean wound.”
“The doctor,” he remembered. “The one who – who slapped-“
“Not fae,” Sylviane murmured softly, “but Faded, family. He’s good people, and he apologized for slapping me. Twice. And once to Dad. It’s okay, Leander. We can go home. We can – we can go home.”
He huffed softly and sat up. “Head’s – head’s funny,” he muttered. “Can’t-“
“I’ve got the protection detail for now, Leander. Your only responsibility for now is to take care of yourself. Understood?”
Leander blinked blearily. “You’re… not real,” he murmured.
“Afraid I am. Come on, we’re going to put you in the wheelchair. Sylviane, you’ll push him?”
“Oh, I love pushing him,” she teased, making Leander flush. “Come on, then, right here in the chair.”
He let them coax him into the chair. He let himself be pushed, feeling helpless, feeling useless, feeling…
Sylviane patted his shoulder. “My hero,” she murmured, and she sounded affectionate.
Feeling cared for. He blinked a couple times and let the fog of the drugs hold him until they got to the car.
Hey, it’s a chapter of this! As I’ve mentioned, I have had some issues writing in the last couple months (note to self reading this in the future: The Coronavirus Crisis, Lyn. And you were sick for all of February, too, remember?) and I’ve gone through almost all my buffer.
But one day late to post it for this week (I’m scheduling this on the 19th, Sunday), I finally finished a chapter!