Chapter 40: Shahin
Just take a fall
You're one of us

Meals were getting easier, if only through repetition. Shahin sat silently through dinner in Agatha, Dysmas, and Anatoliy’s suite, studying the other two slaves at the table. The boy seemed quietly miserable, in large part because the only attention Agatha paid him was to insult him, either directly, or through catty little jabs. The girl, on the other hand, though wan and listless, seemed content to nuzzle up to Dysmas, sometimes even eating from his hand. It was a strange dichotomy, and neither role was one she envied.

She smiled through the jabs Agatha sent in her direction; since they were indirect enough to not count as “being spoken to,” Emrys’ restriction didn’t allow her to retort. She only had to suffer through dinner, and then they’d be alone in his room again.

As she was finishing, however, Emrys addressed her.

“Some people are coming over to game tonight. You want in?”

There was no explanation, no elucidation; just that flat offer of inclusion, though in what she had no idea. Agatha arched one tiny, delicate brow and her lips quirked into a small smile, in that way she had when she experienced a particular schadenfreude.

Agatha expected her to hate this. But it would be with Emrys. But he was giving her a choice – and if she turned him down, that would give her time to spend with Ayla and Vi. Or upset him, and probably prove Agatha right about her. She flipped through the options rapidly, and slid a properly cool smile on her face. “Certainly,” she replied, as if he were inviting her to high tea. She wasn’t going to cower and simper like the other pets.

“Cool.” He smiled and rose from the table, clearing his dishes. The other Kept were giving odd, surreptitious looks to each other, her, their Keepers. Clearly they had no more idea than she did what was taking place, although they had no expectation to receive a similar offer.

She couldn’t very well ask, so she cleared her dishes as well. It didn’t bother her. Of course it didn’t. She might very well strangle him some day, but he didn’t bother her. She smiled, and wondered what, in this context, “gaming” was.

He walked to the living room and flopped down in the center of the couch, flipping on the TV. Although she’d been here before, it was the first time they were just “hanging out” at the suite, with no clearly planned activity.

She considered her seating choices carefully. He was meaner when they were around his friends, more likely to be pushy and dominant and assert his authority than he was when they were alone. She couldn’t pretend they were equals, not with Agatha looking on. If she was going to be a slave, she might as well own it.

She settled, in a graceful and artful tumble of skirt and petticoat, onto the floor by his feet.

He set a hand on her head, like a kitten, as Agatha and Dysmas disappeared into their rooms with their respective minions.

It felt nice enough that she didn’t object, just settled a little more comfortably against him. “Game?” she asked softly, mostly to his knee.

“D&D,” he explained. “Tolly, Anwell, Cassidy, Melchior, Dysmas and I play.”

“Really?” she asked, startled into a giggle. “Some of my friends in high school used to play...”

He smiled broadly, suppressing his own chuckle. “You know what you’re doing, then?”

“Hardly,” she admitted. “I’ve seen it played. Why did you invite me?”

“Decided to keep you here,” he said diffidently. She had the distinct impression that his true motive was less selfish, but he certainly wouldn’t admit to his friends that he wanted to include her. Even if the only one in sight still was Anatoliy, who was working in the kitchen and steadfastly ignoring them.

She didn’t mind. She leaned back against his legs and tilted her head back, resting it on his knees, so she could see his face. “That was nice of you.”

He brushed a stray wisp of hair from her face, smiling. “So what kind of person do you want to be?”

She discarded three answers quickly, before realizing what he was really asking. “A character, you mean?”

He chuckled and nodded, with a grin that said she might be asked for those other answers later. “Yeah.”

“How about…” she pondered for a moment, and then smirked at him, “a fighter?”

“Sure,” he smiled. “Tell me about her.”

“Difficult. Stubborn. Direct.” Direct would be nice. She wondered when she’d stopped even trying to be straightforward. “Tough.” Not the sort to swoon randomly. “Sharp.” Well, a few of those words weren’t such a stretch.

“I think we can handle that. Let’s throw her down on paper before everyone else gets here.”

“Okay?” she agreed. She was entirely out of her element, here, but he was there to guide her. “I’m in your hands.”

“Yes,” he smiled, setting them on her shoulders for a moment and squeezing gently as he pushed her forward slightly. He stood and walked over to the bookcase, pulling a few things out and bringing them over to the table - books, paper, and a drawstring pouch.

She eyed the collected paraphernalia cautiously. Dice, probably, funny-shaped dice in a rainbow of colors, if her friends were any indication. But these things seemed so banal and harmless, so homey, that she found herself wondering where the catch was.

He sat back down beside her, putting an arm around her and handing her the sheet of paper, covered with numbers.

She leaned into his arm, studying the numbers. Some of them she understood, but some were complete gibberish to her. Was this his idea of a test? And what would a passing grade be?

She pointed at one of the stranger headings on the sheet. “What does this mean?”

He explained it patiently, until she had at least a basic comprehension of what she was looking at, and there was a sudden knock on the door.

“C’mon in,” Tolly called from the kitchen, as Emrys pulled Shahin close on the couch.

She snuggled into his arms, content, her attention still half on the sheet in front of her. She hardly noticed Melchior and Anwell enter – the goblin-like boy was one of Vi’s best friends; the green-haired boy she’d seen around him more than once, and shared an Asian History class with. Both seemed more than a little surprised to see her there, and Anwell looked none too pleased.

“My pet’s going to be joining us tonight, hope you don’t mind.”

Emrys offered them a gleaming smile as he spoke, his hands on her moving a bit possessively.

Pet. Of all the things he called her, she hated that one the most, but she’d worry about that later. Later, when she wasn’t wearing this collar anymore. She leaned into her hands as if she liked being his possession, and watched Anwell’s face.

He swallowed a lump of something unpleasant – he seemed to like the word “pet” no better than she did – and mustered a thin smile. “Great, as long as she can keep up.”

“She’s a smart girl,” Emrys said confidently, in the tone one would use when praising an animal that’s done a trick.

She resisted the urge to bite him. He might like it.

“If you say so.” Anwell flopped down in a chair across from them. “What’s she playing?”

Melchior claimed another chair, between Anwell and Shahin, and smiled crookedly at her.

Emrys explained her character to them; apparently she would be a valuable addition to their party, or whatever. Tolly emerged from the kitchen with a bowl of popcorn, setting it on the table and sitting beside Emrys on the couch, as Dysmas’s door opened.

She smiled back at Melchior, and tried to pay attention to what Emrys was telling Anwell. But Dysmas was coming out of his room, a sated little smile on his face, and the shiver that went through her nearly knocked her over. She squeezed Emrys’ arm, just barely, a tiny, involuntary clench, and glanced back at the piece of paper that determined her character.

He patted her reassuringly, in counterpoint to his previous attitude, and looked to Dysmas. “So, fill her in on what’s happening?”

Dysmas smiled - was that blood on his teeth? - and took a seat, beginning to set the scene.

It was a lot more fun than she’d expected it to be, even more so because, as they got more into the game, Emrys relaxed and stopped treating her like a well-trained animal, and more like a girlfriend. The rest of the group seemed to take it as their cue to treat her like a person, cracking jokes and teasing her, and, once, even throwing popcorn at her.

Emrys put a stop to that when Anwell tried to land a kernel between her breasts, but the jokes continued. They couldn’t quite bring themselves to treat her like “one of the guys,” and she didn’t blame them – there was nothing about her façade that suggested tomboyishness – but they treated her like a friend. From Melchior, that made sense. From the rest of them, it was a little odd, but it wasn’t, she discovered, bad.

That is, until Agatha emerged from her room, perching on the arm of the couch and kibitzing while her slave did something in the kitchen for her. Shahin did her best to ignore her, engrossing herself in the game and in what her character was doing.

She frowned, directing an accusing glare at Emrys, but departed shortly, returning to her bedroom with the poor boy, who looked longingly at the group as they departed.

Once she was gone, the door shut behind her, Shahin shot a questioning glance at Emrys. She didn’t really expect an answer - but she was curious what he’d done to earn Agatha’s wrath.

He gave her no answer, however, until later that night, when they were alone in his room again. The game had been interesting, and Melchior suggested she join them regularly; she said she’d think about it. Emrys began to speak as he tossed his shirt negligently to the corner.

“Agatha isn’t used to being ignored like that.” He sounded more amused than annoyed.

Shahin couldn’t help but chuckle. “I’m not there to make her happy,” she pointed out, more cheerfully than, perhaps, she ought to be. She recovered his shirt and tossed it into his hamper before she began undoing her own buttons.

“No... you’re there to make me happy,” he purred, stepping up to her and sliding her dress off her shoulders.

She smiled warmly at him, not minding that idea at all. “Exactly.”


Chapter 40.5: Shahin
Lost in this moment with you
I am completely consumed

Some warm, sweaty, pleasurable time later, she lay in bed, as close to him as she could, twisted to face him while she traced his tattoos with a finger.

“I don’t want to be your pet.” The words were out before she’d had a chance to filter them.

He lay still for a moment - had she offended him? How bad would this be? He moved then, slightly, looking into her eyes with his own fathomless smoldering furnaces.

“What do you want to be?”

She’d outmaneuvered herself; they were back to those answers she hadn’t given him that afternoon. It was a horribly soul-baring question, and one she which she wasn’t entirely certain of the answer.

“In relation to you, or in general?” she hedged.

“In whatever context you meant that.”

That... should be easier to answer.

“Good question,” she asked, talking to give herself room to think about it. “I know that I agreed to be your slave for a week.” The word came off her lips more easily than it should have. “That was the deal, and I can live with that. I’m not complaining about it, at least.”

“You could always ask me to let you go... but that aside. Go on.”

She laughed shortly. “And give up my turn? No, I’m doing fine. It’s just...” she frowned, spurred on by his command to go on and still trying to make the words tidy and proper, “there’s a difference between being a slave and being a toy, a pet. I’m not like Agatha’s little lapdog. I don’t think I’m capable of being that.” I’m too proud, she didn’t say.

“You don’t think I could make you that, if that was what I really wanted?” His words held a slight edge as he traced a finger around her jawline.

“I think you could destroy me, if you really wanted to,” she answered honestly, and, it surprised her, without fear. “And if you destroyed me - you could make me a lapdog.”

“Fortunately, I’m not interested in a lapdog.” He smiled sharply, his hand rising to her cheek. “There are plenty of those available, and I’ve never felt the need.”

“I’m glad.” She leaned into his hand, allowing a little tension to slide from her shoulders. “I prefer to not be destroyed.”

“So - the rest of the question? What do you want to be, in relation to me?”

“Yours.” She frowned as the answer came out unwanted. “I mean...” But she really did want to be his. “Your lover. More than that.” She looked into his eyes, acceding, for the moment, to being naked in front of him. “I want to be the woman you would fight for, as you did in my vision. I want...” a strange thought, since she’d never been what would be called a fighter, “to fight at your side. Um.” She blushed. “That may be a metaphor.”

He nodded slowly, taking that all in without taking his hands off her. “Well. For now, at least, you’re mine. We’ll see where this goes, for the rest of that.”

“I’m yours, for now,” she repeated, liking the sound of it. She kissed him, lightly, trying to discern exactly what it was he was feeling about the rest of it.

He certainly wasn’t displeased, if his kiss was any indication, but he offered no actual words of illumination as he pulled the sheets over them. “Good night, Shahin.” She sighed, snuggling against his warmth - his room was colder than hers, but he was warm enough that it didn’t matter much . “What do you want me to be, to you?” she asked. It wasn’t quite the question she wanted to ask, but it was a start.

A long, quiet moment followed, nothing but his warm breath against her, then: “For now, this is enough.”

It was a nice answer. Being enough was a peaceful, non-challenging state, a restful place. “Now,” however, was a very short and transient time.

“And later?” she pressed him.

“Later... is not your concern, while you are mine,” he smiled, pulling her tightly against him. “I’ll handle everything.”

She wiggled in his hold, enjoying it, but unable to let go of the thought. “Why don’t you want to talk about it?”

“I’m not the precog, remember? But don’t worry about it. I’ll take care of your future.”

“Cheater,” she murmured, “but I’m not worried, just curious. And my future is only yours to take care of for five more days.”

“Maybe,” he smiled. “A week later... we’ll see.”

“Mmm,” she twisted to smile at him with a little bit of glee. “I imagine that we will.”

“Meanwhile, there was another facet of that question. You differentiated the question about what you want to be into ‘in general’, and ‘in relation to me’, and only answered the latter.”

She frowned, conceding the point. “I did,” she agreed. “Were you wanting the answer to the first half?”

“You seem to want to talk still,” he smiled. “So sure.”

She harrumphed quietly. “I don’t know,” she admitted softly. “I’ve never thought too much about what I’d do after school, and that was before I learned that I have magical powers.” She lifted her fingers to make an icicle, and frowned when she realized his earlier restriction forbade that. Nonplussed, she dropped her hand and let her thoughts die unspoken.

“Yeah... well, I wouldn’t worry about it too much. Everything will change in the next four years anyway.”

She frowned. “Then why ask?” She was certain, now, that he was hiding things. “How much… how much more can four years change me?”

“Plenty. I’m not at liberty to explain it all though.”

She blinked at him, too surprised to dissemble. He was, as far as she could tell, completely serious. “O…kay,” she answered hesitantly. “So, if it won’t matter in four years, why should it matter now?”

“Just curious, really. And it’s better if you didn’t have some kind of grand plan for the future.”

“I only gave you a week,” she snapped, beginning to panic. The gaping maw of an endless hole was open before her, and... why did it feel as if Emrys was the only thing holding her back from the pit, when it sounded as if he was throwing her in himself?

“Gave me a week. You gave the school four years, minimum. Seriously though, there’s nothing you can do about it, so don’t worry about it.”

She frowned at him, even as the worry bled away. “I,” she murmured softly, “am going to kick my mother so hard the next time I see her.” Still, she was relieved. He wasn’t the problem, wasn’t the abyss, the school was. And if the school was the abyss, then maybe it wasn’t insane to think he could save her from it.

He kissed her forehead softly, smiling. “Yeah, family issues are pretty common here.”

“You, too?” she asked lightly. His arms were so warm and comforting, as if he could protect her from everything...

“Almost everyone,” he answered noncommittally.

“Mmm,” she murmured, worn with fighting against his vagueness. “You don’t like to talk about yourself, do you?”

“I don’t like to talk about my family.”

“Plans for the future, then, my master?” she tried the words out, liking the way they tasted on her tongue.

He smiled broadly, shaking his head. “I try not to plan too far ahead. I’ve got a couple years left here myself.”

“Live in the moment, is that it?” It didn’t sound that bad. In the moment, no-one was dying. In the moment, she was in his arms.

“Not quite so simple, but close enough. A lot will happen in the next year that you just weren’t planning for. Just let me take care of everything.”

“Mmm… for a little while,” she agreed softly. His arms were the safest place in the world, and she didn’t have a thing to worry about while he was taking care of her.

“Okay, then. We’ll talk more tomorrow if you want.” He held her tightly against him, warm and secure, and closed his eyes.

“Thank you.” She rested in his arms, staring off into the dark of his room. He would protect her. He would keep her from the abyss.

Careful, a tiny little voice whispered. That’s its own abyss. She could only surrender so far before there was nothing left, before she forgot this was a challenge, a game she was trying to win.

But his hands were around her and no-one would hurt her while she was here. Hadn’t she already won?


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