Chapter 85: Shahin
I'm not afraid of dying
But I am afraid of losin' you
Maybe I'm addicted
I'm out of control
But you're the drug
That keeps me from dyin'

She woke from a dreamless sleep to find the world too bright, too loud, and too sharp, the rough sheets against her skin unbearable. Beyond the sharpness, though, she noticed that she felt no other pain, that her body didn’t hurt, that there were no chains weighing her down. Was it real? Had Ambrus rescued them? Them… oh, god, where was Emrys? Moving her head sent needles of pain through her skull, but she did it anyway. Where was he? “Shahin?” His voice was so loud, so harsh! Why was he yelling at her?

She whimpered softly, but the need to touch him, to see him, was strong enough that she rolled over to look at him.

He lay on a bed next to hers, a separate small bed. Everything was white, blindingly so, the sheets and walls glaring against her vision, and she was forced to squint. His concern, however, was evident even from that view, barely more than a silhouette.

“I need a pill,” she murmured softly. A pill would stop the sharpness. But she needed Emrys, too. To touch him. She struggled to sit up, to reach for him.

“Easy, easy,” he screamed at her, though she could see his lips were barely moving. “Don’t strain yourself.”

“Shhhh,” she pleaded. The world spun unpleasantly, but she managed to sit up and scoot closer to him. “Everything is... ow.”

He reached out and punched her. No, that wasn’t right, he just barely touched her arm. Everything was so intense! If only she could get a pill, turn the world down a few notches.

She flinched away and closed her eyes. There. With one sense gone, maybe she could make a little more sense of the rest of them. She reached for his hand. “I need a pill,” she murmured, trying to be as quiet as she could.”

He took her hand in his, very gently, though it felt like scraping against sandpaper. “No, you don’t,” he whispered, the sound echoing loudly in her ears.

“Yes, I do.” she asserted. “Everything is too bright. Too loud.” She winced at the sound of her own voice and then, guilty, remembered what he’d looked like the last time she’d seen him. “Emrys….” She opened her eyes slowly, squinting again against the glare. “Are you all right?”

“I’ll be fine. We’re home. Well, at Caitrin’s, but back at Addergoole.”

She chuckled blearily. “You sound like him,” she complained. “All hedging and sideways answers.”

“We’re going to be okay,” he said, sounding more like he was trying to convince himself than her.

She stumbled to her feet and leaned on the edge of his bed, running her free hand over his chest, his shoulders, down under the sheet. Touching hurt, but she had to know for sure he was all there. “We have each other,” she told him. “We survived. You survived. I’ll be okay if you’re okay.”

“I’ll be okay,” he said, his voice catching just slightly.

She wanted to know what was going on inside his mind, but she didn’t want to push him too far, not with what they’d both been through. She leaned heavily on the bed, shuddering, as flashes of memory imposed themselves on her. “Emrys,” she choked, “our son…?”

“Caitrin said he’ll be okay,” he murmured.

“Oh, oh good. I..” She gulped softly. “I thought I’d lost him. I thought I’d lost both of you.”

“We’re here. We’re here for you, Shahin.” He seemed far more worried about her than himself, now that she was getting used to the tone of his voice again.

She gulped softly. “Emrys… you almost died.” She was baring all of her emotions, laying all her cards on the table, but it seemed too important, right now, to go playing games. “I don’t think I could have stood it if that happened.”

“But I didn’t. I’m going to be okay, Sheen. Right now we only have to worry about you.”

“Me?” She ran her hands down her body, wondering if the brittle brightness was making her miss something important. “I’m…” The monster’s hands on her, forcing her legs apart, forcing pills down her throat. Its knife cutting into Emrys’ skin, and her, helpless, watching every drop of blood. She heaved, though there was nothing but bile in her stomach to lose. “I’m fine,” she protested.

“You’re not fine, not at all. I saw... everything it did to you. I couldn’t do anything...”

“I’ll be okay,” she answered sharply. “I don’t want to think about it, Emrys. I just need a pill, and a little time. And some clothes.” They were both naked, under the sheets, and her sheet had fallen to the ground. “Or at least some gloves.”

“The pills...” He sighs. “Do you remember when Caitrin gave them to us, to me? What she said?”

She didn’t want to. She didn’t want to be rational about this. But... “Yes,” she admitted quietly.

“We have a problem,” he murmured. Now, of all times, he thought they had a problem? After all that they’d been through in the past weeks, and then the past... however long that had been, he thought this was the problem?

“A problem,” she parroted back at him. “The pills?” God, she wanted another pill.

“Yeah... I don’t really know for sure how that works. I’ve only heard about it.”

“It feels like my skin is going to be peeled off of me slowly if I don’t take another pill,” she offered helpfully.

He winced. “We’ll take care of you, Sheen.”

“Maybe just one more pill?” she cajoled softly. “I’m not sure I can handle this cold-turkey.”

“I don’t know how to handle it at all; we’ll have to talk to Caitrin.”

A cough from behind Shahin made both of them jump. Ignoring the pain, Shahin turned around quickly, putting herself between the intruder and Emrys.

Dr. Caitrin smiled at her. “There’s nothing to fear here, Shahin. Relax. How are you feeling?”

She snorted softly at the Doctor’s comment. “There’s just a lot less here to fear than that monster. That’s not the same as nothing.” She took a breath and did a quick inventory. “I-” want another pill “aside from the razor-wire feeling of the world, which-” means I need another pill now, please “-is probably the withdrawal from your lovely pain pills, I think I feel okay. A little wobbly. Emrys says our son is all right?”

“Yes, you’ll all be fine. Your son is healthy and well.” She pursed her lips. “The addiction will be unpleasant. Your rate of consumption of the blues exceeded what we studied in laboratory trials.”

Without the pills I can barely taste you. Broken little mutt. “I didn’t have a lot of choice in the matter,” she snapped. Another pill would make her less… no. “How ‘unpleasant’ are we talking?”

“Well, I’m really not a hundred percent certain. As I said, even our overdose trials didn’t go that far.”

“Oh, good.” She shuddered against Emrys. “Is he okay? I mean… are we good enough to go home?”

“He can, yes. You may want to stay here for observation. You’re doing much better than I expected when I saw your bloodwork, but you may have problems interacting with normal situations.”

She reached blindly for Emrys’ hand, and barked out a laugh. “‘Have problems interacting with normal situations’ is the story of my life. We’ll get through it.”

“If you’re certain, then. But if you have any problems at all, come straight here. Stay away from energy drainers. And don’t take any kind of medication or drugs at all.”

She coughed softly. Without the pills I can barely taste you. “I, ah, don’t think energy drainers are a problem. But I’ll be good. And I’ll come here if I need anything.” Just please let us go home.

“Then you can go. But please, come back at the very first sign of trouble.”

“Yes, ma’am.” She stood to leave, holding out a hand, a bare hand, to Emrys. “Oh, ah. Clothes.”

“I can get some for you if you’d like. You weren’t wearing any when you came in.” Emrys took her hand, squeezing it reassuringly. Ow.

“I noticed. But I don’t think walking the halls naked is a brilliant idea for either of us. If you don’t mind…?” If she pretended everything was normal, she wouldn’t have to think about what that monster had done to them.

“Of course.” Caitrin nodded and departed, leaving them alone again. Shahin turned and wrapped her arms carefully around Emrys. She would worry about her objectivity tomorrow, or maybe next week.

He smelled like himself again, the tiniest hint of sulfur and brimstone around the edges of his tattoos. “Don’t ever leave me,” she murmured into his shoulder.

He slowly, carefully enfolded her in his arms. “I won’t, Sheen,” he whispered. “I promise.”


Chapter 85b: Shahin
My tears hold no weight
If my commitment is only failure
Repeat yesterday

They weren’t the clothes she would have picked for herself, but they’d suffice to get them home. She didn’t want to let go of Emrys’ hand as they walked through the hall, but she found that was all she cared about. She couldn’t focus too clearly on other people anyway; they were bright flares in her vision, or dim shadows. Emrys was a warm, solid presence next to her, the only person she was absolutely certain was real.

She gulped as that thought crossed her mind. “This isn’t going to be easy, is it?” she whispered.

“It’s not,” he said softly. “This is new territory for me, too. I really don’t know what we can expect, what we should hope for.”

She edged closer to him, although that was nearly impossible. Weren’t they home yet? “This is not how I wanted to see you out of your element.” She tried to make it a joke, but it really wasn’t.

“We’re almost back to your room. You can change into your own clothes, maybe feel a little better.”

She smiled shakily. “You know me so well.” She opened the door to her room, hoping it was actually her room; everything was still so unclear. The threshold didn’t bounce her; it was either her room, then, or some poor Kept’s.

Her feet were a little hesitant by the time she made it to her bed. She stripped off the borrowed clothes, leaving them in a pile on the floor, and staggered to her dresser. “So… do we just go back to our lives? Just pretend nothing happened?”

“Can we?” he asked quietly, sitting on the bed. “Can you?”

She thought about Kailani and Anatoliy, about Agatha and Dysmas’s wan-looking Kept. “You can’t tell me it’s the first time in this school someone’s been… been raped.”

“Well... no,” he sighed. “It happens. Maybe a lot, although are some philosophical questions involved there too, regarding Kept.”

“Philosophical questions?” She slipped on her favorite fingerless gloves and headed back to the bed.

“Some people say Kept can’t be raped, because they can be ordered to consent. Others say it’s always rape, since they can’t say no.”

She thought about that for a moment. “I don’t think anything that’s ever happened between you and I could be called rape.”

“I’m glad you agree,” he smiled. “I don’t see it quite as black-and-white as some people.”

“Somehow, that doesn’t surprise me.” She curled up around him on the bed, her head pillowed on his lap. “So a lot of horrible stuff happens here. Having met your crew’s Kept, I’m not surprised about that.”

“It kind of trickles down,” he nods. “Dysmas was owned by Delaney his first year here.”

“Delaney.” She shuddered a little, thinking of the girl in her English Lit class. “That girl is… not right.”

“I don’t know the details, but I hear rumor someone really bad got her when she showed up, a First Cohort. And she is the youngest Second Cohort, too.”

“Oh.” She shuddered softly. “And so she passed it all on to Dysmas. Who passes it along to Nydia.” Although Nydia had never looked quite as bad-off as Bowen, as far as being treated like furniture had levels of bad.

He nods. “It was Rowan, last year. Although Dysmas isn’t actually that bad. They don’t really have any free will, but he makes sure they enjoy it.”

She shuddered softly. “You were pulling your punches,” she said quietly, rather than think about… that’s not how you thank me… rather than allow herself to understand what the creature had been trying to do to her.

“I wasn’t punching at all,” he replied. “But I got you interested enough to get you into a position where you were safe.”

Safe. She twitched softly, and pulled herself back on track. “I meant when you Kept me.” Did he think he was good enough to have manipulated her? Had he been manipulating her? How did she feel about that?

“If I’d wanted a broken toy, like some of them, I would’ve tried for easier prey.”

“So you wanted to see if I’d break easily. But you didn’t try that hard.” She wasn’t sure she understood. She wasn’t sure she was comfortable knowing he’d had purer motives than she had. “You wanted to keep me safe?”

“You saw the way Rozen looked at you, that one night. We only got away because he thought you were mine. You wouldn’t enjoy being Kept by someone like him. And he could break... well. I would’ve thought he could break anyone. I also would’ve thought anyone would break at what that monster did to you.” He sighed. “In the end, I still failed.”

“I’m… I’m not entirely certain I didn’t crack,” she admitted quietly. “But you didn’t fail, Emrys. If you hadn’t been there, I would have cracked.” It stuck in her craw to admit it, but… “I don’t like being this naked in front of anyone. But I think it’s past the point of trying to hide weaknesses.” She wiggled closer to him. “I wouldn’t have made it without you.”

He set an arm gently around her shoulders. “Neither of us would have.”

She smiled weakly up at him. “I guess ‘together for the foreseeable future’ isn’t such a bad thing.”

“Not at all,” he murmured. “Not at all.”

She wanted to kiss him. Her lips were only inches from his. But… she tensed, and set her head on his shoulder again. “So other people have survived rape and torture here… and gone on with their lives.” She chuckled bitterly. “You kept trying to tell me I wasn’t a freak.”

“Not for any of the reasons you thought, at least.”

“I’ll admit, being a defective slave is not something I ever thought about before I came here.”

“It’s more useful than you would have thought, huh?”

“Rather.” Talking was tiring her out and, more than that, she worried it was stressing him out. He seemed as fragile as she was right now, and trying so badly to hide it. She took off his shirt, rather than talk more.

“Mmm. We’re supposed to be taking it easy, remember.” His smile belied his words of caution.

“This is easy,” she countered, smiling. And she wanted to see for himself that he was all healed.

Dr. Caitrin did remarkable work, now that she was looking at it directly. His skin was smooth and unmarred, where she’d seen him cut, seen him bleed. It made her want to look at her own body, but, no, she wasn’t ready for that yet. Was she ready for… She tried for a kiss again, and froze. “Kiss me,” she whispered.

He leaned in close, lightly brushing his lips against hers. She didn’t move, couldn’t move, but she could hold still and let him do it. It was a start… though she didn’t know what she’d do, come Saturday afternoon. She blinked at him, trying to figure out if he thought this was a good idea or not.

He kissed her gently, briefly, before pulling away. “Too soon?”

“No… just.” She gulped, biting her lip ruefully. “It’s fine if I don’t have to take the lead.”

“Are you sure? I don’t want you to feel... like that.”

She didn’t want to feel like that either. “I don’t know if this would be easier or harder if it was your week to be in charge,” she answered softly.

“I don’t think it would be good for you right now to lose any part of your freedom.”

She chewed on her lip. It would be easier to go to that soft, numb place, if she was under his control. It would be easier to let him do all the thinking for a while.

And if she did that, would she ever step back out from under his collar again?

“Should I release you?” she asked instead.

“If you want to?” He tilted his head, considering her.

“I don’t ever want to let go of you,” she told him slowly, “but is it any better for you, to not have your freedom right now?”

“I’m not sure... I like being connected to you, still.”

“I… the things I wanted out of you Belonging to me, I’m not sure I want anymore. But…” She hugged him tighter. “I like us being connected, too.”

“There is another way,” he said slowly, hesitantly.

“Yeah?” She wondered how bad it was, for him to be that hesitant.

“Do you know Mabina&Cassidy?”

“In passing. Well, in accidentally feuding with their crew, mostly.”

“It doesn’t happen very often, but it is possible, for two people to belong to each other. I think I mentioned it to you once before, actually.”

“Oh. Oh yeah.” She blinked. “That was Monday. After we talked to professor Pelletier.” A lifetime ago. “I… let’s talk with them next week?” There was a certain safety in having him collared. She… might as well tell him. “I’m not sure… I think, if you can stand the co…” there was no collar, and that word would never mean the same thing again. “… to Belong to me through Saturday, it would probably be better.”

“I think that’ll be fine,” he agreed.

“Thank you.” She could do this. As long as nothing could happen that she didn’t want, she could do this. “Kiss me again.”


Copyright © 2009-2011 Lyn Thorne-Alder with Elasmo. All rights reserved.
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