At the temple, Nehcor was more than happy to explain to me how to fix Gus’s problems, as well as to try and chat me up about how his wife was constantly tipping back and forth between shipping me with Roman and Derrick. Today was a Roman day, though, so Nehcor hinted that I should have a little more tea time with him, if I knew which he meant, which I insisted I didn’t before shutting him down before he made me pass out again.
Gus was waiting for me when I returned home, already use to me coming home from the temple exhausted and kept his hand on my wrist the entire time we were walking back to my room. It warmed me, even as I nod off every third step.
Roman woke me up sometime around dinner when he came to visit my room. I had somehow managed to fall asleep on the rug instead of my bed, and Gus had stayed nearby with a book.
He let Roman in with open displeasure on his face.
“Are you alright? I just heard from Sir Fairenson,” he said, expression bunched with concern when he saw me sleeping on the floor. “That can’t be comfortable.”
“She’s fine, your highness. She always comes back from the temple tired. It has to do with her divine magic,” said Gus.
I quietly applauded his ready excuse. That’s right. Magic. Everything is about the magic. Not the chatty older brother who happens to be a god sucking away at my energy as the toll for using the phone line—why couldn’t he spend his own damn energy?
“I’ll have dinner sent up here, and I’ll request my doctor to recommend foods that help with energy. Would you like some tea as well, Lillian?”
Gus’s eyebrows went high at the word ‘tea.’
I sat up wearily and rubbed at my eyes, thankful I had decided to wear my blue/green color-changing dress today which didn’t have the waistcoat, making it much more comfortable for naps.
“That sounds wonderful, but don’t go out of your way. I’m really fine.”
“No, this is my pleasure. If anything it’s just my investment towards having our regular teatime as soon as possible.”
Gus’s eyebrows went higher. “Regular tea time?”
I made sure not to meet his eye. It wasn’t that hard, as my face was all but in the carpet.
After being reassured that I was indeed just a tired chick weird enough to sleep on the floor, Roman left and I got to face Gus.
“Regular tea time?” he said, eyebrows lowered and expression flat.
“Just something we do before lunch while you’re exercising,” I said with a lazy flip of my hand. “While we wait on lunch, he and I will have tea together. Fifteen minutes tops. It’s not a big deal. He’s nice to talk to.”
The last thing was not the right thing to say. I could tell the moment I said it, even as Gus’s gaze darkened. Immediately, I hated the feeling of making excuses to a jealous lover, but was too tired to start up that can of worms.
Thankfully, Gus had matured enough not to react in a fight, but he didn’t bother saying anything to me the rest of the evening, which suited me just fine as I was sleepy as heck. He probably figured, correctly, that it was something unavoidable, seeing as I was now working and living with the guy.
I didn’t implement my newfound knowledge until I’d talked to the old knight who oversaw Gus’s conditioning and our shared tutor about getting a few days off for ‘master-apprentice’ time, aka, healer lessons between me and Gus. But it wasn’t I who would be needing the few days, but Gus.
Next step was to obtain a bottle of calcium carbonate pills, aka, tums without the cute fruity flavors.
“To supply your body with the extra calcium to build the bones,” I said, shaking the bottle when Gus gave me a curious look.
He’d gone all sparkly-eyed after that. “You’re making me taller?”
“Yep. I figured out how to give you all those years back you spent starving too much to grow.”
I couldn’t remember the last time I’d seen Gus so happy. He wanted to start that very night, but we’d have to wait until the weekend, because, well…it was going to hurt. And once the hurt was over, he’d be too weak to be doing any kind of running, for while I could stuff his stomach full of calcium carbonate, I couldn’t stuff it full of the proteins needed for muscle or nerves. Thankfully, a regular diet would be able to build those up over time, and I could heal the skin that stretched and rearrange the muscle to be thinner.
“What about the Inn?”
“I’ve already sent a letter ahead of time.”
Both Gus and I had already spent two weekends at the inn, to the watery-eyed Derrick’s and the regular’s delight. Thankfully, the bard had moved on, though he popped in on the last day to accost me with more songs. Apparently, he’d moved on to another inn with better drinks and less angry, overly-protective teenagers that liked to dump cheap ale over your head.
“What will you be doing all that time then?” asked Gus.
“Reading, naturally,” I said with a flip of my pigtail braids. I had used the excuse of master and apprentice exercises, which automatically assumed I’d be out. “Who knows how tired I’ll be after stretching you out and forcing your digestive system into overdrive to suck up all that calcium?”
His face sort of scrunched, flickered, then fell flat as though no thought had crossed his mind.
“What was that for?”
“Nothing. I just like the idea. You work too hard.”
“I do not. Now eat lots, you’re going to want lots of nutrients in your body.”
Dr. Mustache, one of the few people in the manor who knew about my healer talent, on learning what I needed the calcium carbonate pills for, lit up for the first time with interest and asked to watch. Gus gave me an ugly look before I’d even asked, so I shook my head and watched the poor doc deflate.
“You’ll get to see the end results though.”
That didn’t seem to help. Dr. Mustache had settled back into his bland, albeit pleasant enough, default demeanor.
Roman also was intrigued by my upcoming experiment, but he knew better than to ask if he could watch.
“Your boy doesn’t seem to like me at all, no matter what I do,” he said during one of our tea times. “Gifts make him suspicious, if I try to talk to him he glares at me when he can’t pretend I didn’t talk, and showing you any favor just seems to make it worse.”
I was appalled. After apologizing profusely, I made plans to give Gus all the lectures while he was immobile with growing pains at my hands.
And lecture I did.
Once I’d gone through and reactivated the parts of his growth plates that had fallen asleep after he’d hit a certain age. Then filled with magic towards grow, I sped up the digestion of his stomach full of calcium carbonate. I told Gus, before my planned lecture, that the browbeating about how he treated our patron was to distract him from the pain of his bones softening, stretching, and then rehardening with every other part of him growing to fit his new size.
“Liar,” he gasped only ten minutes in. “You’re annoyed with me.”
“Damn right I’m annoyed. That man is our host and employer AND a high noble and you’re treating him like dirt. If he had been anyone else, you’d be dead by now, you ungrateful little jerk.”
“I can’t—urgh—I can’t just force myself to like him—AUGH! You’re doing that on purpose!”
“You can act, can’t you? Learning to act civilly with the people you don’t like is part of being an adult.” And since a good bout of blunt would add a nice dash to this recipe. “Not to mention acting like a total turd to the guy isn’t going to make me like you more and him less.”
“STOP IT! I SAID I’M SORRY!”
“You said no such thing. And I told you it was going to hurt, didn’t I?”
“Not like—AUGH! FUCK YOU!”
“Oh my. I guess you don’t want to grow.”
I took my hands off. The magic came to an abrupt halt.
I jumped a foot off my chair when his hand instantly snapped onto my arm.
“No. No, I do want to grow. Just…can’t you do it gentler?”
“I’m being as gentle as I can be. This process hurts even when it’s going at its natural pace, as you know.”
“Then please shut up about the Dustave guy, I get it.”
“If you get it, clean up your act. If you don’t care about getting kicked out, then think about the trouble you’re going to cause me, who everyone considers responsible for your bad behavior.”
Gus stared hard at me, still breathing heavily and his forehead sprinkled with sweat.
“Fine. I get it.”
“YES! Can we get this over with?”
And so a long, long hour passed, in which Gus’s grew out, mostly vertically, but horizontally as well, mostly in the shoulders as his muscle mass shrank and every bit of precious fat he’d gathered until now burned up.
When I finally finished catching him up to the size his body should be, according to his genetics, I opened my eyes to find, to my horror, a return of the knobbly frown.
“Food!” I cried. “My baby needs food!” My mama nerves flailed like burning noodles.
It just went to show how exhausted and relieved Gus was to not be in pain anymore that he didn’t even retort to that.
Thankfully, he still had the strength to inhale four bowls of stew and an entire loaf of bread before falling into a deep slumber. I took it upon myself to wipe him down a bit before ruffling his hair and going to my room to read the pile of books I’d gathered for this day. They were mainly books on agriculture and animal care, but I’d managed to find a rare romance novel in a glass-door cupboard by a window. Muwahahaha.