February 14, 2013 by Lyn
It was as if, every time Lee thought his life couldn’t get any weirder Addergoole went out of its way to prove him wrong.
First there’d been the blue thing, and then the Tess-and-Lucian thing, whatever that was. Then there was the snake lady and the horned girl in the basement with the yeti. That had been pretty weird.
Weirder was how they wanted to talk to him. They’d gotten pretty insistent on that one, actually. Lee and nobody else. The horned girl was only allowed down there to take notes, though they didn’t seem to mind that she prompted Lee when he forgot what he was supposed to say.
Even weirder was the Coach talking to Tess and Lucian. Lee was pretty sure he wasn’t supposed to overhear that conversation, but he had, anyway.
“You two are allowed to keep on the way you do, providing that you do not cross the line, and you do not interfere with anyone else’s schooling. You’re coming close to both with Illian. What’s more, we need him.”
“Challenge us.” That had to be the single most stupid thing he’d ever heard the master say. Lee had had a really, really hard time not saying anything when he heard that.
Luke had laughed. It hadn’t sounded like he thought any of it was at all funny, though. “If you push me, I will. For now… here are the things Addergoole requires of your Kept. You will make sure he’s capable of all of those. Regardless of how much it gets in the way of your fun.”
“Besides.” He’d called the last over his shoulder, while Lee was trying to figure out how much this was going to hurt. “I would have to challenge your Mentor. I wouldn’t tempt me, if I were you.”
Okay, so that had been pretty weird. Luke talking about challenging Professor VanderLinden. Luke talking about what Tess and Lucian could or couldn’t do with Lee.
Could he evendo that? Lee had no idea who he’d ask a question like that. Obviously not his Mistress and Master. Just as obviously not the Coach. Bel, maybe, except that she didn’t appear to know much more than he did. She didn’t even know she was Owned!
And this whole thing with the snake-hair girl. He still didn’t know quite what she wanted. Repairs, or treaties, or something. She asked questions that didn’t make any sense and then got mad at his answers, or the yeti would get mad, or like the walls would start shouting. It was all pretty surreal. The Master and Mistress wandering around randomly rescinding orders – Lee hadn’t even known they could do that – made everything even odder.
And now there was a squirrel standing there, hands behind its back, stinking of magic and looking like it was going for innocent and mostly succeeding in looking worried.
“I can’t give you anything. Well, I can, but then it would be theirs. Which would sort of ruin the whole point of the matter of giving you a thing, I think. Which would be that I want to give you things, and not them. I’d rather take things from them. Uh. You, that is, take you, but you’re not a thing.”
Lee had to interrupt. This guy – girl – squirrel talked more than he did.
“It’s okay, I get that I’m a thing right now. And uh, you don’t have to give me things.”
Or take things from the Master and Mistress, what was that about?
“But I want to.”
“Well, you could, you know, give me a slice of pizza? That would be cool.”
The squirrel hopped a little bit. Oh, good. Angry squirrel. “You’re teasing me. That’s not fair.”
“No, look, I’m not. It’s just.” He tugged on his collar. Usually, that made people stop.
The squirrel squinted at Lee. “I could make you tell me.”
“No! Look, please, don’t do that. Do you know what that feels like?” Like his brain was coming out of his ears, mostly.
The squirrel furrowed its brow. “… hunh. Yeah. I do.”
“Damn. Sorry. That sucks.”
“Eenh. Efro didn’t mean to. Look…” The squirrel flapped both hands at Lee. “Is it because of the squirrel thing or the herm thing?”
“It’s both, isn’t it?”
Lee stared. “What’s what?”
“Why you don’t want me?”
“Why I don’t…” Something shut off in Lee’s brain. He couldn’t tell if that was just confusion – Oh. The squirrel is… hitting on me? or if he was running into orders he couldn’t remember anymore. He sat down, holding his head, and hoped it would stay on.
“What, what, what are you doing?” The squirrel sat down next to him and chittered off what had to be some sort of spell. Lee couldn’t hear him properly. His head was pounding. What the hell had the squirrel done to him? “…ooh. Oooh. Here, here.” The squirrel chittered something else. “And close your eyes.”
That sounded like a really good idea. Lee closed his eyes… and slept.
Somewhere over him, Reese frowned. Reese was not, by nature, a white knight sort. It liked being a trickster. It liked playing around. It wasn’t sure that the responsibility of a Kept was a good idea.
Reese chewed on a fingernail. There had to be someone around here that could give some advice on suddenly turning into a Prince/ess in shining armor.
“I’m saying it’s different. Guys do those things – flowers, jewelry, out to dinner – because they need to hold on to the girl. It’s not actually about ‘showing you love her.’ And neither of you need any help holding onto the girl. You already put a collar on them.”
Curry was helping.
Basalt wasn’t sure if his friend was deliberately trying to screw things up for them, or if this was just a good demonstration of why Basalt and Thorburn had girlfriends – Kept – and Curry didn’t.
Of course, they’d both gotten their Kept through brute force, which sort of turned that theory on its head.
He looked at his piney buddy. “Look. You deal with your Valentine’s Day in your way, and I’m going to deal with it in mine. And Thorburn will deal with it in his. Right, T?”
Thorburn was staring off into space. Thinking about roses and girlfriends? “Hunh? Oh, yeah. Curry, you’re a moron. We don’t have to be cave men.”
“Dude, Thorburn, you practically dragged Ceinwen back to your cave by her hair. And I’m the caveman?”
Thorburn muttered something incoherent and punched Curry in the arm. Basalt, shaking his head, decided he had to talk to someone else about the whole thing. Preferably someone less Neanderthal.
He wanted this to be good. He wanted Ahouva to smile, for real, the expression she did when she forgot to pay attention to what he wanted for a few minutes. He wanted her to feel special, and wanted, and loved. Because she was special, and wanted, and loved.
If only he didn’t have friends even more rock-headed than he was.
He paced through the halls. They’d left their girlfriends – Kept, whatever – hanging out with Fafnir’s Kept, Æowyn. It wasn’t the best crew, but they liked Æo, and he wasn’t about to start picking Ahouva’s friends for her.
He had about an hour until he’d told her he’d come get her. There had to be someone he could talk to about this. Someone, somewhere, who could tell him how to do the right thing for Valentine’s day.
They did not collide. Neither of them was quite that clumsy. But they were wandering, lost in frustrated thought, down the same hall, and then did turn the corner at the same time.
Reese pulled itself to a stop inches from the big rocky guy’s chest. “Shining armor.” The mutter was under-breath, a way of fixing the memory for a moment. “Shining hooves?”
“You’re going to need a farrier for that.” Basalt grinned down at Reese, but the smile was short-lived. “Flowers. Not flowers. Why is this so hard?”
“You’d think challenging would be the hard part. Or catching them. But no.” Reese plotted under-breath, until the rock-guy’s words made it into the one-sided conversation. “ Flowers? What about like, theater tickets?”
“We live in a bunker.” The big man was on to frowns. His frowns were intimidating. Reese was too distracted to be too intimidated.
“Well, maybe the Village ought to have theater. It would be good for it. Theater! Or, I know, dinner…”
“Dinner. I can’t cook. Not well, at least.” Still glowering. Reese couldn’t cook either, though. He wasn’t even sure Lee ate.
“That’s what the Village is for. The Village can cook. Didn’t your Keeper ever take you out to dinner?”
“Uh. No.” That hadn’t really been her thing. “Yours did?”
“When I was good.” Reese grinned. “Not very often. But dinner. Very nice.” Wouldn’t work for Lee, of course. That whole Belonging to someone else. And that whole might-not-eat thing. “Hrrm, you said flowers?”
“Seems very first-date.”
“Well, I want a first date.” Reese felt the smile stretching wider. “Flowers. I can totally do that. Thanks!”
Art by Inventrix
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