First: Purchased: Negotiation
“Really kidnapped?” Inka had said that, asked it, at least four times already, and they weren’t even to class yet.
Leander was beginning to think the big problem wasn’t going to be surviving classes, it was going to be surviving Inka.
“Well, I mean, obviously not actually kidnapped, because Leander stopped them.” Sylviane patted Leander on the arm with obvious affection and something like gratitude, which made sense, when he was pretending to be her boyfriend.
Just doing my job.
He couldn’t say that to Inka, who was looking at him with wide eyes.
“What was I going to do?” he asked, making a joke of it. “Be a jerk? Of course I was going to get in their way.”
“I mean, but – did they have weapons?”
“They didn’t just, you know, threaten me with mean looks,” Sylviane answered – or rather, didn’t – with a snort. “But they really weren’t any match for Leander.”
“I bet they didn’t bet on you having a kickass boyfriend. If it’d been that last jerk -“
She trailed off as they got to the classroom, which didn’t look nearly big enough to hide in. Leander tried not to frown. He’d agreed to this — well, he hadn’t really agreed, but he didn’t want to make Sylviane stop taking classes, and if he was going to watch her all the time…
They took their seats, which turned out to be as close to the middle of the room as Sylviane could find. Leander would’ve rather a side, or better yet, the back, but again. This was Sylviane’s show.
“I mean, think about it,” Inka continued. “Face him with someone big, scary, and wielding money…”
“Oh, yeah.” Sylviane made a face. “He’d have taken the money and run. Never even looked back. On a good day, he would’ve called the police when he was safe. But a lot of days —“
“A lot of days, he would’ve justified it as something that you owed him because your dad is rich and his isn’t,” Inka filled in.
“I’m glad I haven’t met this asshole.” Leander looked between the two women. “Am I going to have to, in one of these classes?”
“If he hasn’t flunked out, probably.” Inka made a face.
“He’s not that that bad, Inka just doesn’t like him.”
“Sylviane.” He tried to be patient as he looked at her. “You’re the one that said that he’d have taken the money and run.”
“Well, that’s self-preservation. He’s not, you know, obligated to take care of me or anything. I don’t expect my boyfriends to be some sort of white knight — no matter what my dad says.”
“You might not expect it,” Inka put in, “but it sounds like this one is. I’d take that and run with it.”
“White knight?” Leander made a face. “I don’t know if that’s me. I’m not all courtly love or, uh, jousts, or anything like that. Duels? Slapping people with gloves?”
Inka giggled. That was fine, but Sylviane giggled, too. “Not like that! I think you’re mixing eras, too,” Inka corrected him. “It’s more like—“
“All right, class. Welcome to Statistics in Modern Economics, Stats 419. If this is not the class you thought you were attending, please consult the schedule here and find the correct room and/or time. Unfortunately, time machines are Modern Engineering, not Economics, so you’ll have to check out their department if you were meant to be here earlier.”
A reedy woman wearing a tweed three-piece suit set a tablet down on the desk in front of her, facing the classroom, presumably where the schedule was supposed to be. Leander stole a glance at Sylviane.
“This is where we’re supposed to be,” she assured him. “But there’s always someone…”
Indeed, one boy who looked like he wasn’t old enough for a beard yet, much less for a 400-level Stats class (not that Leander thought he was ready or anything…) was already peering at the schedule.
“Anyone else? Very good. Anyone who is supposed to be here but would rather be someone else, please bring your add-drop forms up to the front of the room. If you’re not sure, I’d say give it one week. I can make this entertaining and educational, I assure you.”
A couple people walked up with their forms. Leander glanced over at Sylviane.
She smirked. “We’re staying. At least, I am. It took me three semesters to get into this; I’m sort of surprised anyone who managed to get in is bailing out.”
She said this all in a whisper, but Inka heard her anyway. “That’s cause you’re a giant nerd, Sylvie.” She said it with such affection that Leander didn’t even think about getting offended on Sylviane’s behalf, and it made Sylviane smirk, so it couldn’t have upset her, either.
“Pot, kettle, and all that,” she countered. “And besides, that’s why you love me.”
Yeah, I think it- He stopped himself. She was talking to Inka, not to him. Down boy. This wasn’t the time or place to fall in love; this wasn’t the time or place for any of that.
“All right. Anyone else want to leave before we get started? No? Good, now, let’s dive in.” The professor smiled at the classroom.
That was the last sentence Leander understood the entirety of.
He took notes, although he realized quickly he had no idea what he was supposed to be writing down. When was the last time he’d been in a class? When was the last time he’d been this lost?
When was the last time he’d been this completely out of his element?
What the hell was Sylviane going to do, was Mr. MacDiarmed going to do, when they realized exactly how stupid he was?
Was it too late to send him back?
Was it too late for him to ask to go back?
“-and that’s why the US Census is so useful for us. Any questions?”
Shit Shit, he’d completely lost track of what she was saying.
Someone had a question. Good. He tried to listen, but Sylviane was glancing at his notes and frowning.
Shit shit, SHIT.
“Shit,” she whispered, under a question about ethical use of census data. “You never did college, right?”
He nodded slowly. He wasn’t sure he could talk around the lump in his throat.
“Look, I’ll talk you through note-taking tonight. Or maybe on lunch, maybe both. And you can use my notes for now, too, until we figure out what works for you. You get this stuff, I’m sure of it, or you will, once you find – crap.”
The professor was talking again. Leander stopped trying to take notes and tried just listening instead.
He found he was understanding enough to have questions – but how was he even going to remember this stuff? Without an order…
Maybe he could get Mr. MacDiarmad to order him to remember enough to pass his tests. That would work, right?
Something was going to have to.
He finished the class with one last question, and nobody laughed at him, although that could have been because he was bigger than almost all the students and looked scary. He highlighted the reading on the syllabus – how did college kids do all this reading? – and tried not to look like his head was aching as they headed out of class.
“Okay, we’ve got forty-five minutes to our next class. Come on, let’s sit down and talk about note-taking. I’m sorry, Leander.” Sylviane ducked her head and peeked up at him through her lashes. It was way too adorable, even if there was no reason for her to be sorry.
“You’re forgiven – except there’s nothing for me to forgive.”
“Yeah.” Inka poked Sylviane in the arm. “What are you sorry for? I mean – ooh. You convinced him to take all the same classes as you, didn’t you? Ooooh.”
“Something like that,” Sylviane agreed. “But Leander, he hasn’t done school in – in a while. And uh. Nobody taught you how to take notes?”
“I didn’t know it was a thing people taught,” he muttered. He didn’t want to feel like an idiot. But on the other hand, Sylviane was talking about things like there was a whole world of stuff he’d never even touched.
“Yeah, it is.” She grabbed his hand. “Come on. The cafe under Plantagenet-Stone Hall is pretty awesome. They have these muffins. And also, they have a little supply shop there, so we can get you a little better set up once we figure out what works for you.”
“Lead on.” Leander had felt a little lost since Mr. MacDiarmad bought him, but nothing compared to the feeling washing over him now.