Thursday, May 3, 2001
Leofric watched the pool in the grotto, the water’s surface rippling as Aviv swum around below. It was usually peaceful, spending time there, and this time was fortunately not an exception, which he was very much appreciating. (Even more than the view through the water, which he was also appreciating. It had taken weeks for Aviv to stop making self-deprecating comments about skinny dipping and traumatizing Leo. Weeks. It was like the man never looked in a mirror before!)
Theoretically, he could be swimming too, but swimming was not really his strong point. Electricity and water just don’t mix – you don’t throw a pikachu into a pond, not unless you hate the pikachu and are a jerk. So instead, most of the time he sat on the rocks near the pool in his swim trunks, watched, and did Idu Workings on the plants (which he was not allowed to eat, despite his Keeper clearly having a lot of experience doing exactly that).
The plant he was studying today, Aviv had described as a stimulant, “like speed, but not as strong”. Stronger than caffeine, though, or so he was led to believe. It didn’t look anything like coffee in the Working, that was for sure. Idu wasn’t his best word, but he was good at it and with all the practice he was getting this year, visualizing the information was getting to be almost second-nature. He could analyze the characteristics of the plant and how they looked in his mind and watch Aviv swim at the same time. That, plus Aviv preferring to swim in the grotto than the gym, meant he was getting really good at analyzing drugs – because, quitting or not, that was most of the plants Aviv showed him.
Leofric twisted the leaf absently around in his fingers. If it wasn’t for that – the quitting – he might’ve asked to try one. Probably not a stimulant, or a psychedelic, or most of the things he’d looked at, but something that could make things just… not hurt. Like those blue pills the doctor prescribed for Changing, except just for your feelings, burying all the pain and fear and guilt under a warm fuzzy blanket. Like how it felt when Aviv said nice things about him.
He could just Work them away himself, while he was here or outside or in Aviv’s room and still had choices outside the Story. He could, except he couldn’t. Aviv had made it very clear he did not want Leofric to Work his own emotions like that. More importantly, his Keeper had told him not to.
Aviv surfaced abruptly, water cascading off to the sides, and Leofric couldn’t help a smile. He did like Aviv. Aviv, and Boyfriend-Aviv, and even Captor-Ally-Aviv.
“Good swim?” he called over.
“Yeah, it is.” Aviv smiled back at him and drifted lazily across the pool. “Thanks for letting me.”
Tell a man once you don’t want to accidentally electrocute him, Leofric thought in affectionate exasperation and rolled his eyes. “Of course.”
“Ready to go back in?”
“Sure.” He never really was, but they both knew it; here and in the meadow, he could pretend for a little that things were normal, that he wasn’t trapped inside a horrible magical dungeon school, that he was a normal magical teenage boy with a normal magical boyfriend. Going inside meant going back to the main story, back into the prison.
But they couldn’t stay here forever. He’d asked Aviv once what would happen if they didn’t go back in – “nothing, until classes, but I’m not all that fond of sleeping on the grass”, which Leofric couldn’t really argue with.
“All right.” Aviv waded out of the water and got dressed – just a little faster than Leofric would’ve liked, but he was still torn between enjoying watching and being embarrassed, honestly – and held out his hand.
Leofric took it, hiding a sigh of reluctance, and followed his Keeper to the exit. As it came back into view, he mentally stepped back as the world shifted – like switching channels in slow motion – and the carpet softened their footsteps into near-nothing.
The walk back to the suite was in a companionable silence, Aviv’s arm around his shoulders in what Leofric had marked early on as a “keep off, he’s mine” gesture and which had long stopped feeling weird. If he had to be stuck with someone’s collar for the rest of the year, it didn’t hurt to be Aviv. At least Aviv was a closet good guy; he not only let Leo try to help his other captive friends, he actually helped.
They’d finally taken Cya outside, which he thought had helped a little. Aviv fielded Dysmas’ conversation so he could talk to Cya sometimes, which he could see helped, except on the really bad days he couldn’t really see Cya at all. And Aviv helped keep Leo from pissing Dysmas off more, because that just made things harder for Cya when he did.
It was just frustrating how he couldn’t do anything else. Not that Leofric hadn’t thought through the options a million times, how do you take someone else’s Kept? Buying her, but he had a feeling that being sold might hurt Cya even more than surviving another couple of months as vampire food. A challenge, but there’s no way Dysmas would take the bait for a challenge. Beating him up until he gave in, but he was sure Aviv wouldn’t do it, Dysmas never went outside, he didn’t think Luke would let it go far enough for Dysmas to cave.
Planning wasn’t his strong suit, anyway, so he just kept his ideas to himself and did what he could.
Aviv gave his shoulders a squeeze and Leofric took a slow breath, trying to let go of the tension he hadn’t noticed building as they walked back. If he was on edge, he was more likely to do something stupid, like break that fucking blood-sucking monster’s teeth.
“Thanks,” he murmured.
“Any time. Ready?”
Leofric nodded and they went into the suite.