Man and Boy

K. Ryan, 2010 – for Rockstar With A Vendetta


"I never expected—" said one man to another, "—For it to be so cold."

His words, muffled though they were by the coastal susurrus of wind and gulls that surrounded Numair's keep, had the housekeeper clicking her tongue and looking to the fires, muttering on the trials of living with a mage who did not stoop to hearth magic. Numair Salmalin, knowing that battle long lost, laid a hand against his window, and sighed.

Lindhall looked up, sharply. "Oh, dear boy, it isn't complaint so much as statement. I had, you see, entirely forgotten what it is to not live in a place of warm rains and lorikeets."

"You hated lorikeets."

The older teacher smiled ruefully at his former student who did not seem to remember he had stuck a pencil behind his ear. Then again, as he looked, Lindhall realised that he was actually wearing boots of slightly different browns. "That's a little strong, isn't it?" Closing his eyes, he could hear clamorous shrieks and rapid wing-flaps, incongruous as their colours would be in this landscape of rain and sand and shale. "They were certainly emblematic," he said, now. Shivering a little, he pulled one of the rugs off the back of the sprawling, slightly patched couch Numair had set him up on, and pulled it around himself. It was warm, patchworked in sea blues, and Numair was looking at it with an odd, fixed expression.

"You know, I had no idea I owned that."

"Lindhall laughed. "You are even worse to your housekeeper than I ever was to you."

"I was not—"

"—there was a degree of housekeeping involved." Lindhall pushed fine, flyaway hair off his face, twisting it back into a tie the other man wordlessly provided. "Thank you, dear boy" he said. "And I am right—all that making me eat and so on, and occasional gifts of new plates when we couldn't find the old ones."

Numair grinned, boyish, and Lindhall shook his head. "I've been doing my best to keep myself together in Corus," he said, and it was almost mournful. "But so many more people are prone to walking in."

"But sir," Another smile, now, deep and serious despite the slip into an older cadence of younger voice. "You are the best of teachers. Here or in Carthak. Probably the richest prize Daine stole from Ozorne."

Lindhall groaned. "Stop trying to be charming, Arram. It's very odd—ah." He paused. The name did not sit heavily in the air, and Numair did not flinch, but the older man found himself blushing. "Well, even now that letting that slip isn't going to kill you, it still doesn't fit any more, does it?"

"Do you miss it so much?" Numair's voice, back in its steady, light baritone it had settled into long after Arram Draper had fled Carthak's university, was barely audible over the wind, snatching at the tower and slowly turning its bluestone walls to sand.

Lindhall smiled, soft. "I miss the boy, whom I knew very well," he said, voice light, but pitched above the weather. "Better than most, perhaps."

"You always—"

"—but," The slight professor held up a pale hand, as foxed and ragged around the edges as any of the books in the room. "I do not, as yet, quite know this man before me. Arram chose a flashy name, but you have grown into it, and I'm learning what that means, and how you show yourself." He cleared his throat as Numair blinked, and reached out to clasp the other man's wrist. "Do not fear," he said. "It is quite an enjoyable experience. I never expected, at my age, to have truly new things to learn."

Numair. "You always told me there was plethora."

"Dear boy," said one man to another. "I was giving you enthusiasm so as to alight myself."