Interlude: Solomon and VanderLindenDiscuss
Monday night found Reid and VanderLinden sipping brandy in Mike’s office, gossiping about their students and generally avoiding the topics that would set each other off. If they were careful, they could relax and pretend to be good friends until they were both happily buzzed. Reid had a feeling tonight was not going to be a “careful” night.
Mike started it, which was almost a relief. ”I got a new Student today,” he offered.
“Another one? Gods, Mike, do you plan on sleeping with half the school?”
Mike managed a look of wounded dignity with an almost-straight face. “I don’t sleep with all my Students, Reid.”
“Oh year? Name one.” He’d obviously had more to drink than he’d intended; he wasn’t normally this belligerent. What did he care who Mike slept with?
Just not Kailani. Keep something pure and innocent and untainted, please gods.
“Agatha,” the Daeva answered smugly. ”Of course, she’s a poisonous bitch, so I’m not sure you’d count her. Ardell.”
“Yeah, you do collect the nasty ones, don’t you?” He was a little out of control. He set down his brandy and sipped some water. Mike and he might not see eye-to-eye on everything, but they were still friends and colleagues.
Mike raised an eyebrow, but didn’t seem upset or taken aback by Reid’s venom. Knowing Mike, the Daeva could be encouraging it, and Reid would never be able to tell without violating Mike’s mind.
“One or two of them are nasty,” Mike agreed easily, “but I do try to guide them to a path more within the spirit of the Law.”
That was Reid’s perfect opening, but Mike kept talking. ”And this one is different, Reid.”
Shit. It couldn’t be Kailani – she was safely (more or less) Regine’s already, but, still… shit.
“I,” Mike actually looked flustered. Reid hadn’t known that was an emotion the Daeva even knew how to fake. Was Manira getting under his skin the way she was under Ambrus’s? ”I’m not going to touch this one. I don’t think my child would forgive me.”
He was trying to say something deep and meaningful there, but, sadly, he was only digging himself a deeper pit, and the poison was still running thick in Reid’s mind. ”You’re not limiting things a whole lot, Mike. Which child?”
“Ty.” VanderLinden glowered. “It’s not like I’m the only one here with a lot of offspring, you know. Hell, Aelfgar has more kids than I do.”
“I know. It was a low blow, Mike.” He tried to bring the conversation back on track. “So you’re not sleeping with your kids’ dates now?”
“It’s probably not a blanket policy,” the Daeva smirked, relaxing again, “whether or not blankets are involved. But Jamian…”
Jamian. That was the shy boy he’d seen puppy-dogging around Ty. They shy boy with tiny little goat-kid horns and a tail he sometimes tripped over. “Aah, the Daeva. I suppose that makes sense.”
“I’m glad you approve,” he said dryly. “What’s the issue with my students all of a sudden, Reid?”
There was no use trying to dance around Mike; the Daeva had invented dissembling. “Manira.” Something about her name, spoken in a room buffered from the worst of his wards, set off red flags in Reid’s mind. It could just be the brandy and the irritation, the panic Ambrus was feeling pissing him off, but it seemed far more wrong than that. After this, maybe he’d visit Shira.
“Manira?” Mike looked entirely perplexed. “The adorable little Daeva half-blood? The Girl Scout?”
“I believe it’s 4-H,” Reid said dryly. “But yes, that ‘adorable Daeva half-blood.’”
Mike winced. “No offense intended, Reid.”
“None taken. We have bigger issues at hand than my pride, Meckil.”
That caught his attention. “What issues are those, Ruadhán?”
“Why did you pick up Manira as your Student? It can’t just be her blood, or you, Luke, and Regine would split three-quarters of the students between the three of you.”
“Closer to half, actually, but you knew that. What attracted me to her?” He frowned. “Poor choice of words, I suppose. I caught her feeding off the emotions of Hell Night, wandering around the halls with a cat-in-the-cream expression on her face. I figured I should take her under my wing before she got herself into trouble.”
“And you’ve been tutoring her, then, in the right and wrong way to use the fascination powers she seems to have developed?” Reid asked dryly. The expression on Mike’s face told him easily that the answer was no.
Because Mike couldn’t be bothered to talk about the ethical use of powers, Ambrus was a miserable mess, shaking like a junkie going through withdrawal. And he was only the most recent victim.
“You can’t keep going around teaching these kids ‘do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law,’ Mike. It’s not, and you’re old enough to know better.” Centuries older than Reid, for all that he looked more like a son than an ancestor, and still acted like a child half the time.
Mike glared at him. “Are you seriously suggesting that I’m not teaching my Students as I should, Reid? Are you really trying to interfere in a Mentor-Student bond?”
Reid almost laughed in his face. “You work here, Mike, here, you helped found this place, and you’re talking to me about the sanctity of Mentor-student relationships? What did you put in this brandy, because at least one of us is completely off their rocker right now.”
Mike just glared at him, for a heartbeat, another, and another. Reid thought he’d finally crossed some line, poked too deeply at the part of Meckil that was still a pure, aristocratic Daeva, that he’d pushed too far, finally, after all these years, and the demon that pretended to be his friend would fry his brain. He braced for a fight –
- and Mike laughed ruefully, finally shaking his head. “You’re right, Ruadhán. My house is too glass to throw stones.” He downed a long gulp of brandy and refilled both their glasses, sloshing just a little bit. “You’re not here because of what any of my delinquents have done, Student or Child. You’ve never come here before for any of that; you’ve let Shira and Luke handle the hollering. So what is it that breaks your silence, Reid?”
He hesitated. “Your word that this goes no further than you and I until we figure out what we’re facing.”
Mike frowned deeply. “I promise you, Ruadhán of the Red-Handed Wisdom, that I will tell no-one of what we speak tonight without your consent.” The air shivered with his oath. “Now what in hell requires this sort of secrecy?”
Reid told him.
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