Two weeks after Christmas
Xaviera liked to go to the cy’Linden parties. Ofir was pretty sure by now that it was something to do with her memories of Ardell. He’d treated her like a thing, like an object.
Ofir wasn’t going to do that, at least. She was a person. When she wasn’t ignoring him, he was actually kind of fond of her. She wasn’t all that bright, but that was fine. He could steer her easier if she didn’t notice exactly what he was doing.
There were a lot of things that were easier if she didn’t notice quite what he was doing.
In that – in everything, except her tendency to ignore him – Xaviera was a far better Keeper than Agatha had ever been. She wasn’t cruel, she wasn’t rough with him, and she could actually be quite affectionate when the mood hit her.
Right now, she had him on a leash. Or, at least, there was a leash hooked to his collar and she was holding the other end of that. She always did that when they went to cy’Linden parties. It made people ask inappropriate things sometimes – ask to “borrow” him, or just flat out take him right there in the living room – but Ofir was pretty sure she usually did it to keep him from wandering off.
Today he was going to keep her from wandering off.
He couldn’t do anything “interesting” with his powers, she’d said, but that was because he kept his “interesting” powers under wraps. He knew what Aggie did with inconvenient powers, after all. And Xaviera was a hundred times better than Aggie – but she’d still trapped him into a collar and wasn’t going to let him go, she still ignored him, and she still inherently believed that Kept weren’t actually people.
Ofir was done being not-a-person. He wandered into the party, dressed the way his Keeper wanted him to be – or the way she thought he wanted him to be, and he looked enough like her tastes that nobody was going to raise an eyebrow – snug T-shirt, fitted jeans, no shoes, collar and leash – and smiling, because Good Kept Were Happy, and because he actually was happy.
She wandered towards one of the upperclassmen and he just, subtly, didn’t move. He didn’t like some of the older students. They had this habit of thinking they were better than him.
She tugged once on the least but, when that didn’t work, seemed to decide she’d rather go somewhere else. Ofir thought that was a fine idea, and followed along obediently.
He got her a drink, got himself a drink, and sat back to enjoy a party where he didn’t have to go anywhere he didn’t have to.
The voice was right behind his ear, why was someone talking to him? Who was talking to him? He turned, realized he was running out of leash, and flushed.
“Oh. Jaya. I didn’t think you came to these.”
“We’re trying something out.” On the Daeva’s arm was a lovely, tall girl – Arm something, Ofir thought. He hadn’t been in a position to hunt this year. She wasn’t smiling, but her expression actually looked more worrisome. She looked like she was hunting. She couldn’t be hunting. She was wearing a collar.
“Trying…” No, she wasn’t going to do anything to him. She couldn’t do any worse to him than she – he – than it already had.
“Arna, you’ve met Ofir, right? He’s the one who was Keeping Kendra last year, and I, well, it turns out my magic has some unexpected side effects. Now, as you can see, he’s being Kept by Xaviera.”
“That’s one hell of a side effect.” Arna’s eyes seemed to follow the leash over to Xaviera, who was being unwittingly brought back towards Ofir as he leaned ever so slightly on the leash, tugging her closer. He really had’t had to do anything, that was the beauty. Ardell had left all the groundwork there. He’d just repurposed the foundations, as it were.
“Oh, no, that was all Shahin – and Xaviera, of course. It worked out nicely, though, I think. Don’t you think, Ofir?”
He thought he would rip her horns off and feed them to her before the year was over. “I like it,” he agreed mildly.