“So Pas, what do you think of the assignment from Professor Michelmass?” The speaker was one of Cerberus Pas’ tutorial group for Euroethnic Pre-Christian Mythology and Spiritual Practices, a girl called Martinez. She had chestnut hair in short curls all over her head and no publicly admitted-to given name.
“It’s probably easier if you read Greek,” he replied. “There’s this series of papers from someone at the University of Athens in the 1930s that covers the subject and has some sources in the bibliography back to 960AD or CE. Although you need Turkish or Arabic for some of those,” he added.
She looked at him oddly. “How many languages do you speak?”
“Five or six,” he replied offhandedly. “Plus bits.”
“And read?” Martinez still had an odd look on her face.
“About twelve? My Chinese is patchy and because I only read it, I’m never sure whether I should count it as one, seven, ten or twenty.” He smiled sweetly at her.
Martinez demanded, “Are you some sort of languages genius?” She flumped herself into the seat opposite him in exasperation. “If you are, what are you doing in this course? Why not linguistics?”
“Not a genius,” he answered seriously. “I just have a…unique perspective on human languages. Besides, my scholarship is in this field and this is where my interests are.”
Martinez looked exasperated. “My family’s just been asking, again, how this degree is going to get me a job that’ll pay back my loans. They’re not impressed by my plan to become a professor and live on campus forever.”
“Our professors seem to have managed it,” pointed out Cerberus, “so why not you?”
She nodded vigorously, “Yes, exactly! You get it, so why not them?”
“I think of it as anthropology in my home culture,” he shrugged. “I’m interested in what we are and how we got here. As it happens, I’m also learning about our culture’s buttons are, and there are jobs where that’s useful – things like marketing, public relations or even politics.”
“You’ve actually thought about it,” Martinez looked impressed. “There’s no way I can persuade you that you need a girlfriend, is there?”
“I already have a girlfriend,” he replied primly.
“Anyone I know?” Martinez arranged herself more neatly on the chair.
“Probably not. She’s still in high school,” Cerberus admitted. “We go for a lot of long walks and stuff.”
“That sounds almost culturally appropriate,” observed Martinez. “You can negotiate the minefield of those social dynamics then – I’m glad it’s not me. Do you know that Angela says you must be gay because you’ve never tried to hit on her?”
He shrugged again. “She goes around too highly scented for my taste. Just not my thing. At least she means to smell nice, unlike certain other people.”
“Darren.” Martinez wasn’t afraid to supply a name. “Those cigarettes are going to kill him someday. Obviously starting with his sense of smell, because it’s already gone.”
“I’m happy with Gin, so I don’t pay much attention to that whole complex of things in other people,” admitted Cerberus. “What about you?”
“Neat sidestep,” admired Martinez. “I left myself open for that, didn’t I? Colby and Drew would rather hang out on their own and this third year engineer I was seeing wanted someone who would pick up his housekeeping deficits and leave him to do what he wants.”
Cerberus asked curiously, “What did he think was in it for you?”
“The opportunity to pick up after him,” she answered drily.
“Even I know relationships shouldn’t work like that,” commented Cerberus.
“Even you?” Martineez gave him another odd look. “You don’t strike me as being badly adjusted, not like Nott or Wang. Do you know that Nott was saying that she'd never seen you before two weeks ago? I mean, you two did that group assignment, what was your subject? Cthonic cults? Together.” She spread her hands and half turned her head in a ‘how weird is that expression’.
“Cthonic cults and the mysterious stranger,” supplied Cerberus. “Nott’s very observant and has very few filters. She’s not as misadjusted as she sometimes presents.”
“You almost sound like you’re agreeing with her,” observed Martinez.
“Do I?” Cerberus gave her a charming smile. “I think it would help if more people were friendly to and with Nott. She’s really quite nice. Kind to small animals.”
“And you already have a girlfriend,” added Martinez.
“Yes,” agreed Cerberus happily. “Perhaps the two of you should get dogs?”
Diverted, Martinez said, “They’d be more reliable than boyfriends, but what if we’re cat people?”
“Then picking the right dog might be tricky,” admitted Cerberus. “Particularly if you already have a cat.”