They had lunch in a small place that did three dishes to a plate for a fixed price from a bain-marie. Most of the shop’s trade was takeaway and there was a brisk turnover. They both paid their money, made their selections and with unspoken consent picked a table against the wall that gave both seats a view of the entrance.
“So,” Mayin commenced the conversation as they added condiments to their food, “why a different solution and what are you suggesting?”
“You are my luck witch, that is now obvious to me,” he drank some of his water.
“I thought being someone’s luck witch was something that happened by arrangement.” She emphasised what she said next with her fork, “We do not have an arrangement or a contract.”
“It usually happens that way, by negotiation and confirmed with a contract,” he was starting on the meat and vegetable dish in a brown sauce, “but it can happen by accident as it did with us. Usually the protected person gives the luck witch something of theirs to maintain the connection. In our case the blast from your booby trap I walked into must have made the transfer for us.”
“And you think I’ve got your…,” her voice trailed off and she almost blushed, then she rallied. “That’s a little embarrassing for both of us, isn’t it?”
“Potentially,” he agreed. “The reason I do not wish to break that arrangement is that you are a very good luck witch. Since you blew me up, my luck has been excellent: a specialist surgical team was visiting the frontline hospital I was taken to and saved my leg and my liver; the ship I should have been on, except I was in hospital, was lost with all hands; I was refused a posting on another ship that was lost with all hands because of my injuries; I was in rehabilitation when they rolled out the new generation of cybernetic replacements; and I’ve been promoted twice,” he held his gleaming hand up for her inspection. “Most recently, of course, I wasn’t in the home system when our sun blew up.”
“That’s a very comprehensive list,” Mayin agreed quietly, a forkful of food suspended in mid-air. “If you don’t want to break this ‘arrangement’ of ours, what do you want to do?”
“If you’re the only woman I can do it with,” he said practically, “then perhaps you should be the only woman I should do it with. It is my intention to conduct a formal courtship with the aim of persuading you to become my wife.”
“That’s very direct of you,” her face and tone were a little stunned.
“If you were one of my people, I would have sent a go-between, a match-maker, to the head of your family to express my interest. My intent would have been perfectly clear by custom and social implication.” He smiled at her. “You would have gotten better words to express my intentions.”
“I see.” Her voice indicated that she hadn’t quite recovered her balance yet.
“You might say that I know nothing about you,” he went on calmly, “but I do know that you could and would put a knife between my ribs if you thought it was necessary and that you’ve a deft hand with explosives. These are things one should not learn the hard way about a spouse after the wedding.”
She smiled faintly.
He went on, “Also, if you’ve read any of our historical novels please don’t be concerned. The custom of conducting a courtship by killing off one’s rivals is at least four generations out of date.”