Ctirad had been sure he’d be okay with shopping.
He was doing it for Timaios, after all, and he actually liked his current owner – so far. He had to keep repeating so far to himself. If he forgot it could all go bad, it would hurt so much more when it did.
He was doing it for “the boss,” the way Shel kept saying. But still, he walked into the first place and he wanted to turn around and flee.
“I.” he coughed. “This…” He picked up a handkerchief. “It costs more than my first year of college.”
“You went to college?”
“ROTC. Yeah.” One of those things he didn’t think about much. “But seriously. This is-”
“Think about it this way. It pleases the boss to have you dress like this. And you’re gonna look like a million dollars when we’re done.”
“I’m going to be wearing a million dollars! Maybe twice that.” He was whispering. Still, they drew the attention of the sales maven.
“Can I help you gentle- ah, Mr. Brown. Does Mr. Kaprinsky need some more shirts?”
“Not at the moment, no, Tammy. No, this is Ctirad. He’s a new… employee of Mr. Kaprinsky, and we need to outfit him properly.”
He managed to make significant pause “employee” sound less like whore and more like we don’t talk about the real relationship, but it’s important. Ctirad took his cue from that and shifted into a rest position, raising his eyebrows at “Tammy” as she looked him up and down.
“Well, there’s plenty to work with. He has a perfect body. Come on then, Ctirad,” like Shel, she managed to pronounce the name correctly on the first try, “let’s get you measured and fitted out. I have some ideas already. Plenty of room to move, I assume? Oh, don’t look at me like that. I can see it from your stance and the way you cased the room. It’s important your clothes fit you as much as it’s important that you look the way Mister Kaprinsky likes. And lucky for you, I can handle body. Now, we’re tailoring around the… choker… right? Lucky for you, the suitcoat with a t-shirt is in currently, and I have some lovely silk t-shirts. This way, this way.”
He was fussed into a room more than he was led. He moved along with it, feeling strangely like he was being sized up for clothing by his second-grade teacher.
And he hadn’t thought about her in ages, either, hadn’t thought about childhood. He shook himself a little bit.
“Easy, easy. I’m not going to do anything too weird. See, no weapons.” She held up her arms.
Ctirad looked her up and down as she was inviting him to. “No weapons,” he agreed. “You work with a lot of… ex-military?”
“I do. Not just in this little city, oh, no. Here and there and everywhere, but I keep my office here for Mr. Kaprinsky. He goes through those shirts…” She winked cheerfully at him.
“You should have a weapon, then.” What? He didn’t tell people should, that wasn’t his job. That was very distinctly not his job. The opposite of job. It had been explained… oh. “Shel?” he asked weakly.
“Go ahead and have bodyguard opinions. Tammy isn’t going to mind and neither is the boss.”
So Shel, although out of line of sight, was definitely staying in earshot. Good to know. Ctirad wondered if that was for his comfort or for Tammy’s.
“I’m not exactly helpless, it’s just that everything I have is defensive.” She winked at him. “And yes, son, you can have all the bodyguard opinions you want. It makes me feel safer, let me tell you. Now let’s see, I’m going to have to measure all of you. Any places you want to hold the tape instead of me holding it?”
That was, Ctirad was pretty certain, a little unusual. On the other hand, he’d never been fitted for a suit that cost this much money before “No, but I wouldn’t mind, uh, a warning?”
“I can definitely give you a warning. All right, here we go, here we go.” True to her word, she warned him before each measurement, doing it as a steady prattle of “and now I’m going to -” interspersed with gossip about a niece of hers that, for all Ctirad knew, might be entirely fictional.
It didn’t matter. She was talking to him – like a person, or at the very least like a customer, which might be a subset of person but still meant she thought he needed to be catered to. Ctirad smiled at the appropriate points, put in a nice chuckle a time or two, and answered her are-you-paying-attention questions with just enough of his mind to not be rude. The rest of him was casing the place and the woman.
She might be fae; he couldn’t tell. Knowing those things might be something else his education had been lacking. She moved with a great deal of extraneous gestures that covered over very nicely how smooth and efficient her core body movement was. She smiled a lot but rarely showed her teeth, and she touched him in such a way that she would know immediately if his shoulders tensed.
He thought about trying it, but she was being so nice, he didn’t want to ruin the moment. Instead he waited patiently until she patted him on the shoulder.
“And there you go. I’ll get you some off-the-rack things for today; I imagine you have some more shopping to do, mmm? Can’t wander around like that all the time. And then I’ll have the rest to you in a week. Two weeks for the tux, three for white tie.” That last bit was to Shel, who, it seemed, was assumed to be Ctirad’s handler. “He’ll need to come in for one more fitting.”
Shel saluted. “As you say, ma’am. Come on, Ctirad, get off your feet for a few. There’s coffee and tea, and even Tammy will take at least two or three minutes to get you some clothes.”