"Have you tried just asking her?" Luke's face had the dyspeptic expression he reserved for his Students' relationship problems.
"Flat out, you mean? I couldn't do that. If the answer is no, she'll think I'm clinging and becoming too attached. If it's yes, she'll wonder why I didn't just ask the other question." Conrad shifted uncomfortably in his chair as he looked around his Mentor's office, at everything besides Luke's face. He needed the advice, though, uncomfortable as the conversation was.
"'The other question?'" Luke shook his head. "You're too clever for your own good, kid."
"You know, the Question."
"Pretend I'm from a different century," his Mentor answered dryly.
Conrad sighed. "Come on, I thought this originally came from all that chivalric stuff anyway. You should have seen the look on Kai's face when she talked about Emrys's proposal to Shahin. I just don't know..."
"…If you want to? Then don't propose."
"If she wants me to. If she'd be glad that I took the hint, or if she'd be freaked out that I was even thinking about that kind of thing."
Luke shook his head. "Okay. So you're not asking if she wants to marry you because then you'd have to ask if she wants to marry you, and you don't know if you should ask because you don't know if she wants you to ask? Are you cy'Luca or cy'Drake?"
A knock at the door to Luke's office saved Conrad from having to answer that; his Mentor looked just as relieved as he shouted "come in."
Reid Solomon stepped in, carrying a shopping bag. "Ah, good, I was hoping I'd find you here."
"Me?" Conrad blinked, after taking a moment to realize that he couldn't be talking about Luke.
"Yes." He shut the door firmly behind him and pushed his glasses further up on his nose. "I have something of a Christmas present for you."
"A... oh." For him? He hadn't thought to get presents for all the teachers. "Thank you."
"It's nothing big," the scholarly professor demurred, shoving his glasses up his face again. "But you'll need it when you Name your child." He paused, coughed into his elbow, and added, "Anatoliy's father can take care of it for him, if he's so minded." He pushed the bag towards Conrad.
Conrad took the bag and opened it, the professor's words going unheeded for a moment as he wondered what it could be.
The scents of cedar and lavender assaulted his nose as he unfolded it - a length of plaid wool cloth, the colors faded. A tartan? He unfolded it further, wanting to be sure. It was, and an old one, denoting a family line...
Anatoliy's father can take care of it for him.
Conrad's eyes widened as they swiveled back up to Solomon.
The professor coughed. "Ah. I'd say 'Luke, I am your father,' but it's not you I'm talking to, is it, Luca?"
"That's... that's not impossible, is it?" Conrad blinked. He hadn't known his father; logic said he had to be an Ellehemaei. He'd never thought, though...
"Well, perhaps improbable, but no, not impossible. Maybe I should have said something before, but you seem to be doing well by yourself so far…"
"I suppose I am, at that," he said wryly. "Well then, I suppose you could be a part of this discussion. What do you think about your potential daughter-in-law?"
He'd worry about the ramifications later, back in his room; go over everything that had been said, everything that had been done, looking for the clues he must have missed, and thinking about what might be different from now on. Everything might be different from now on. Here though, now, he still had a dilemma, and all else could be put aside for a moment.
"I think she's brilliant," the professor answered, as he claimed a seat on Luke's desk. "I think she's sharp, and stands a good chance of being very dangerous to those who would hurt her. But she's very, very naïve, and I'm afraid it's going to take her a long time to outgrow that naïveté." It was clear from his tone, if not his words, that he liked Kai, at least.
"But what does she want from me? You could tell, I know it. If you don't already know..." Here, he wrestled with himself, but under Luke's watchful eye, he finished: "Don't look for it, on my behalf. I don't want her privacy invaded like that. But do you know?"
"It's hard to tell," his father answered dryly. "She spends so much time worrying about what you want."
Copyright © 2009-2011 Lyn Thorne-Alder with Elasmo. All rights reserved.
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