Tuesday, April 24, 2001
Cya had learned that when Aviv did that, it seemed to mean he was buying her and Leo a little private time. Cya looked at what she was cooking and moved things to the slow cooker. It could sit indefinitely that way, and she could think about more important things than food, like her friends.
“I was wondering if I could borrow Cynara for a bit.”
Wait, what? She continued moving through the paces of putting the food in the cooker, but she had to struggle to keep her ears from pointing right at Aviv. Even if nobody could see her ears, they were still a dead giveaway.
“Borrow her? What do you want her for?” Dysmas sounded – he sounded bored. She struggled with the stab of indignation and hurt. She bored him, did she? He didn’t even really care what someone else wanted with her.
“Oh, I want some help on homework. She takes pretty good notes, and I thought we could go outside and go over things in the sun.”
Dysmas hated the sun. Aviv wanted help on homework? He was better in the one class they shared than she was!
“Don’t bother lying. If you want to fuck her, just be sure you don’t get her pregnant. I might still want to use her for that later.”
Now she had to struggle with a surge of nausea. She focused on cleaning up the kitchen, putting everything where it went. The spoons were spotless. The counter gleamed. She didn’t hear Aviv’s answer. She didn’t hear Dysmas’ retort.
But then Dysmas was in front of her, taking her chin in his hand. “Do what Aviv tells you to until he brings you back here tonight.”
“That’s a good girl.” He kissed her neck lightly. “You’re a good Kept.”
She wondered why he sounded disappointed. She wondered if he knew what a horribly loophole-prone and potentially mind-bending order he’d given her.
Everyone, Professor Drake had commented, ought to take one semester of Law, just so that they understand how logic worked.
Well, she would do what Aviv told her to.
“Get your bag with your calculus – book and notes, and a warm coat and shoes. We’re going outside.”
“Of course,” she repeated, and did as she was told. He really wanted her to go over calculus with her? Or perhaps he just wanted to stick to the excuse he’d given Dysmas.
If you want to fuck her, just be sure you don’t get her pregnant
She had, she was fairly certain, been absolutely in love with Dysmas at some point in time. It was getting hard to remember why.
She did remember, very clearly, why that didn’t matter. He Owned her. She had let herself forget that for a couple minutes, and it had been a brilliant, blissful time when she thought the four of them could actually escape.
She wasn’t going to make that mistake again. “I have my things, sir.”
“Just Aviv. Call me Aviv, if you can.”
If you can. She gave Aviv a small, polite smile, the sort that good Kept did. “Of course — Aviv.”
“This way. We’re going to take you outside for a bit,” he repeated, as if she hadn’t heard him the first two times.
Then again, he was Keeping Leo, and sometimes you had to say things a couple times with Leo, lately. She followed along obediently, wondering, despite herself, what the point of this exercise was. They met up with Leo, who was waiting for them in the hallway, and continued along to the place she knew a door probably was.
When he took her hand, she thought maybe Dysmas had been right. She closed her eyes, even though she could see the shape of the door in her mind and Find the handle without fail. And then they were through the door and the carpet under her feet turned to grass.
“All right, you can open your eyes.”
She didn’t, not right away, taking a moment just to breathe in the fresh air and feel the sunlight on her face. When she did, the sunlight and fresh air didn’t disappear; they were in a grassy meadow, with the orchard Dysmas had taken her to, once, off a ways to one side and what looked like a tiny tourist village to the other.
Leo was still on the other side of Aviv, watching his Keeper expectantly.
Aviv made a shooing gesture and Leo smiled – really smiled, at Aviv and at her, and for a brief moment she was back in September with that same smile, “my friends call me Leo, what’s your name?”
And then Leo ran away.
No, not away, she realized as he leapt over a particularly tall clump of grass. He was running just for the sake of it. Because he can.
“It helps him burn off stress,” Aviv told her as he started walking sedately after Leo, gesturing for her to follow.
All of the times Aviv had abruptly dragged Leo out of the suite suddenly made a lot more sense.
“Aaah.” She studied Aviv, knowing she was letting the mask slip a bit. ““So… it helps him release stress. Stress because…”
Aviv raised aristocratic eyebrows at her.
She held his gaze. “Zita is safe. Howard’s in a Keeping to a woman he loves who loves him.” The word sounded bitter on her lips, but she tried to ignore that.
“And he has three crew members,” Aviv answered, very quietly and very levelly.
Despite herself, she felt her eyebrows raise. “Kept aren’t in crews. First-years aren’t in crews.”
“That’s what we say. Even if it was true, I remember what it was like to be co-Kept with someone else. Carter,” he added. “Lydia’s boyfriend.”
Co-Kept. She considered that word for a moment. “He’s not Eriko’s anymore,” she says carefully.
“And I’m sorry I didn’t step in before the damage was done. Very sorry.” His whisper was strained and sincere.
They could see Leo in the distance, running in impulsive zigs and zags. He looked happy. He looked nearly normal.
“You’re not the one who needs to be sorry.” Cya knew she was breaking her own rules; she knew her voice sounded fierce and angry. She couldn’t bring herself to care.
Aviv shook his head. “Nevertheless, I’m sorry. Tell me,” he changed the subject agilely, “what do you most want to do right now?”
He hadn’t said tell me honestly, but it was still an order. Cya considered as long as she could resist the pressure of the order. “I want to lay down in the sun,” she told him slowly. “And soak up its rays until I’m all over freckles.”
“Then you have my permission to do just that.” He took off his jacket and murmured a Working, turning the jacket into a picnic blanket. “I’m going to run with Leo a bit. But you can do as you wish out here, while we’re here.”
She slid off her sweater, leaving herself in a tank top and her skirt, and laid down on the blanket he’d made. “Thank you.” She had no idea why he was suddenly treating her like a person, but Cya wasn’t going to argue with the respite. “Thank you,” she repeated, but he was already running off after Leo, whooping.