Chapter 38. Author's note - just as far as updates go, there will be one more chapter of Inamorata after this, plus an epilogue. And then it will be over!
Robin did not let Nightingale sit for very long, brooding after David had left, before he whisked her out of Headquarters.
"Where are we going, Robin?" asked Nightingale as he towed her out of the building, past the lofty atrium, all the way to the hangar where they'd left the hovercraft.
"Where do you think, Miss Nightingale?" he asked as he opened her door for her, letting her into the passenger side as Nightingale knew from her conditioned knowledge a perfect gentleman would do.
Nightingale arched her eyebrows at him as he climbed in next to her. "Home, I supposed. Unless you'd like to go somewhere else."
Nightingale gave a sigh as Robin manoeuvred the controls, taking them into the air.
"The problem is, Robin, I don't know where my home is," she said. She laid her head down on her arms and stared out over the city as they flew.
Robin smiled. "Well, Nightingale, my home is your home for as long as you wish it," he said, his tone almost shy in its bashfulness. Taking his attention away from flying for just a moment, Robin paused to throw a winsome, lopsided smile her way.
"That's very sweet of you, Robin, but I-" she began.
He immediately cut her off with a musical laugh, the kind of laugh that only his melodious voice could produce, the kind of laugh that made Nightingale's voice sound like a rasping shriek.
"I know what you're going to say," he said. "Allow me to prove my uncanny judge of character and my powers of deduction. You're about to tell me, Nightingale, that while my gesture is certainly extremely generous, you can't possibly live simply depending on me for the rest of your life."
As he spoke, Robin turned his head to send her a daring glance, as if challenging her to deny the truth of his words.
Despite her poor temper over Rose's actions and David's anger, Nightingale smiled, a wispy grin curling its way over her face. "I'm not sure whether to be alarmed or amused, Robin," she told him. "That was uncannily accurate. Now go on. Tell me my reasons for what you just so cleverly deduced."
Robin chuckled. "Because you have determined that you are going to be independent. You don't need anyone, least of all a man, to provide for you. That's the way you've always done things and that's the way you'll continue to do things."
Nightingale shook her head in wonder. "You never cease to amaze me, darling," she told him, and kissed his cheek.
She was rewarded for her affection with a pink blush. "Hardly. But to get back to the point, will you at least consent to live in my house? Do what you want after you start making a wage and getting your government bursary-"
"My what?" asked Nightingale, eyebrows arching with curiosity.
"Government bursary. In order to avoid lawsuits by the Inamoratas against the bordellos - all of which have been abolished, by the way - or against the government, they're taking a proactive course of action. Each Inamorata or Inamorato will receive a monthly payment from the government for the first five years of their liberation, or until they find work that can pay their way. It's not a huge amount of money, but it's enough to live on until they educate themselves about society and how to make a wage," explained Robin.
Nightingale nodded, though she could not bring herself to love the government, even for that kindness.
"Caroline pioneered that, you know," added Robin with a sly glance.
"Perhaps it's best not mention Caroline in front of me right now," she suggested, gritting her teeth. "Considering her blatant rudeness to me and then her arrest of Rose, she's not exactly my favourite person in the world."
Robin chuckled. "Exactly why I told you that, my dear."
Nightingale could not help but smile. As if sensing the need to distract her from her anger, Robin began to chatter, detailing the process through which the Inamoratas (and Inamoratos, for Robin did not forget to mention Steel) were to be introduced to society.
According to him, they'd be kept in government custody for a year, being gradually acclimatized to the outside world unitl, having been hardened to society, they'd be let loose on the city.
"And what about me?" asked Nightingale. She'd seen the tell-tale shape of Robin's building and was now looking out as they circled it.