Hvs.tCF 81:1/Text

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Parson drained his tea, more to avoid saying anything for a few moments than out of thirst. Janis simply watched him in silence, giving him all the time he needed to come to terms with the idea that Maggie loved him.

"That's really unfortunate and complicated," he said at last, trying to smile. He held the still-warm porcelain teacup in his lap, gripping it with both hands. "I was hoping I was misreading that from her."

"What makes it complicated?" asked Janis. "Take her to bed. Make her happy"

Parson felt a little flash of annoyance at the directness of that.

"Well, um, two things," he said, still struggling to straighten out his thoughts. "The biggest one being the fact that I'm her Chief Warlord. She's a unit under my command. You know?" Janis stared at him, giving him the same kind of look that he'd seen when he was describing aspects of Earth life. "I'm not comfortable with that," he added for clarification.

Janis nodded, as if she understood now. "You're afraid she'd be using it to manipulate you."

"What? No."

The Hippiemancer cocked her head. "Then…?"

Parson made a small noise of exasperation. "I dunno, maybe it's only a thing in my world. We didn't do that. Or… no, we did it all the time. But it was like… you weren't supposed to." He frowned. Did she really not get it?

"I just—okay the Archons, right? When we still had the Archons, Maggie said they'd do anything I ordered them to, whether they wanted to or not. I could've been building naked pyramids of Archons every night. Jell-o wrestling. Naked relay races down Whopper Avenue. I've thought about this, okay?" He had, in fact, thought about it way too much. The loss of the Archons at [[|Jetstone (city)|Jetstone]] had relieved him of a growing collection of truly sad but very entertaining fantasies, and the temptation to make them come true. He shook his head. "But I didn't do it. It's just… wrong'."

Janis gave him a sudden, bright smile of comprehension. "Oh. Because of free will!"

"Yeah," said Parson.

And you care about that, even among your subordinates. Even your non-commanders."

So far, Parson had found he didn't really like giving orders. He got why it was necessary, but it felt like too much power to have. Ordering Bogroll to his death to try and win the battle was one thing. But ordering units around without a good strategic reason? No. Uh-uh.

"They're people, too," he said. And almost added, I'm pretty sure.

Janis shook her head in wonderment. "Well yes, they are. And that's very sweet, Parson Gotti." She reached out and touched his hand. "You'll need that, I think. To bring peace.

"But you know, it doesn't really complicate the matter with Maggie. I mean, I'm a Date-a-mancer. And I'm telling you, as a neutral party: she wants you of her own will. There'd be no coercion."

Parson frowned a bit. He poked at the threads on the carpet in front of him, saying nothing.

"If you don't believe me, you could test it," said Janis slyly. "Take her to your tent and order her to do whatever she most desires. I think she'd tear off your raiment so fast your Dollamancer would need all next turn to repair it!"

Janis laughed, light and musical. But Parson only grimaced.

"What's wrong?" she asked.

Parson looked up from the rug. "It's just I don't… actually feel the same way about her," he said.

"Yes, I can see that," Janis nodded. "You're not in love. But you're entangled with her in other ways. You are already quite attached to this person. I see nothing wrong with bedding her. It'll do you both some good."

His brow crinkled. "But I'm not attracted to her," he admitted, with some difficulty.