First: Purchased: Negotiation
“Finally getting the hang of it, you think?”
Sylviane and Leander headed out of the fifth of the five classes she was – they were – taking this semester.
Leander pinched the top of his nose. “I’m getting there,” he admitted. “Uh. Office hours. Is that really a thing people do? I mean, like, do you-“
Dead gods help him. He was starting to sound like Inka.
“I do. Not every one, but generally at least one a week. We can do more if you think you need it.”
“I mean-” He dropped his voice down. “I more or less just have to not fail, right? It’s not like I have to get As in everything. And I’m not going to be bringing your grade down or anything if I don’t do stellar.”
“No, I mean, you just have to be there, but.” She bit her lip. “Why not, I mean, why not try to do well? It might be more fun if you understood the material a little better…?”
Leander stared at her for a moment.
Then he realized that he was staring and shifted to at least trying not to stare, which ended up with him sort of look at her shoulder.
He wasn’t doing a great job of walking while not staring, and three people bumped into him before he managed to get going again.
“You know…” No, he couldn’t say that. He’d just sound like an idiot.
“I know what?” She glanced at him, and it was her turn to get run into.
The guy who ran into her, though, seemed to stop and size her up, which did nothing at all to help Leander’s mood.
“Nothing,” he muttered. “Don’t worry about it.”
“Oh, come on, you can’t do that to me. Come on,” she repeated, sulking. “What issss it?”
Leander coughed over a laugh. “You don’t sound like that,” he protested.
“Well, I am saying this, and thus I must sound like this,” she argued.
He snorted at her. “That’s not good logic, I don’t think.”
“Bah. It’s my logic, therefore it’s at least decent. So what were you saying?”
“You aren’t going to just drop it, are you?”
“Well, I could, but I’d sulk. Sort of like this.”
She pouted at him. It probably would’ve been a very good pout if she hadn’t warned him it was coming; as it was, it was still a pretty decent pout.
“… It’s stupid, though,” he warned her, already knowing that he was going to give in.
“Honestly? I doubt that. But even it it is, that’s fine. It’s okay to say stupid things once in a while. It’s part of being human… oid.”
“Humanoid,” he muttered. “It’s just, you really find learning fun, don’t you? I can’t remember the last time- I don’t think there ever was a time it was really just fun. I said it was stupid,” he added as quietly as he could. “I was right.”
“It’s not stupid! It’s just… I’m spoiled,” she admitted. “I mean, you know that already, you’ve met my father. But if I’m going to – no, if you’re going to – if we’re doing this, I want you to be happy…”. Or, I mean, at least not miserable.”
“It’s…” He trailed off. There were people everywhere. Most of them seemed fairly well engrossed in their own matters, but that was seeming, not actually being. That was the difference that could cause any number of troubles, if the wrong person heard. “Look, this is already tons better than I thought it would be,” he managed. “It is. I just didn’t think about it being.. .well, fun.”
“Well… okay.” She bit her lip. “I know it hasn’t been too many days, but how’s it been so far?”
“Mostly… weird.” He rolled his shoulders. “I mean, there’s the part where I have to work to keep up with everything, because I haven’t been to school in ages, and that isn’t surprising, it’s not, uh. It’s not bad, either. But the part where everyone treats me like just another person, or gets all, um.” He fished for the word. “Deferential. That part is definitely a bit odd. I’m not used to – to that,” he trailed off again. He was doing great at talking today. Real college material here.
“They can tell you’re older than them. Us. You’re older than us.” She shot him an apologetic look “And you look – not just grown-up, I mean, you do look grown up, but you look experienced. And kind of scary, if I didn’t know you. Maybe, considering what I’ve seen you do, scarier knowing you.”
She was watching him like she was waiting for him to be angry, or offended, or just upset, but as he chewed over it, he couldn’t come up with any reason to be any of those things. “I am scary,” he offered. “I mean, that’s why -” that’s why your father bought me. “That’s why,” he repeated. There were a lot of things he didn’t want to say in public, but your father bought me might have been the very first thing. “I mean.”
“Yeah, I know. I’m not scared of you, because I know you, uh.” She looked thoughtful. “You’re the sort of guy that saves kittens.”
He wondered if that was just a generalization or if her father had told her. “Well, you’re not exactly a kitten.” He winked at her. How had they ended up in this conversation. “And neither are the rest of the kids here.”
“Hence deferential. I think you’re doing good in classes, honestly. And I think office hours could really help you do even better. When you got in that argument with Dr. VanDyne – that was great. Did you see the kid two rows over taking notes?”
Leander rolled his shoulders. “I didn’t mean to get in an argument. I didn’t. It was just, he was being an idiot, talking about things he had no idea about. I thought professors were supposed to be smart, you know?”
She laughed. Then she looked around, lowered her voice, still sounding amused. “So, here’s the thing you learn eventually. Professors are generally very smart in a very narrow zone. Like, they’re – ever have a friend who was obsessed with a certain thing? Like Mandalorian Bounty Hunters or, urm, French military commanders?”
Leander gave the matter some thought, ignoring his own childhood obsessions with Greek warriors and a brief stint learning everything about Greek clothing. “Buddy of mine, when we were kids. He could tell you everything there was to know about Paris. Never been there, not sure he ever made it. But he knew everything. His room, his whole room, it was a handmade map of Paris. Like that?”
“Exactly like that. A lot of professors, they’re just people like that, but they figured out how to get paid and not just paid but called sir or ma’am just to know everything there is about their little interest area. So yeah, when someone like Dr. VanDyne wanders outside of their expertise – sometimes they really do sound like an idiot.”
“I was worried he was going to kick me out of his class,” Leander admitted.
“For a little thing like that? Nah. I could get you kicked back in, if he tried.” The smile she gave him was far too charming. “I’m just that good. Now. Let’s see which office hours we can work into our schedule while we devour one of those burritos, how’s that sound?”
It sounded to Leander like he was, inexplicably and far too late in life, suddenly having a normal life. He wasn’t sure what he was supposed to do with that. “Lead on.”
That, at least, was probably a safe bet.