He didn’t want to deal with Manira. She was, all things considered, the last person he wanted to see, and he’d put it off as long as he felt was reasonable, and then put it off longer after that.
He wanted to deal with the raw spots in his memories, now that he had some leisure time with which to do so. He wanted to sit with Regine and sort through his emotions towards her, the soup of tangled resentment and affection and confusion that fought the bond every time he got near her.
She’d been giving him space since he came back. He knew she was trying to be helpful because she’d told him so, over dinner last night. He’d been waiting for the hammer to fall – he stood by what he’d done, but it had been patently outside of expected and allowed behavior. She’d looked up from her plate, and his heart had caught in his throat.
“In the future,” she’d said, in her crisp, expressionless voice, “inform me when you plan to leave the premises.” With his heightened awareness of his own mind, he felt the way the order clicked in, and hoped, with quiet despair, that he never got to the point where he needed to fight her on this one. Emrys wasn’t his only son…
“If it involves your children,” she continued, “you have my word that I will not stop you. I will give you whatever support I can to do what needs to be done. But I would rather know where you are. I worry.”
He was still, after everything that had been done to him, too well-trained to do anything but murmur a polite and expressionless “yes, my lady, thank you.” But the implications of that, on top of everything else, were still seething around his mind.
His mind, which was more his now than it had ever been, Kept or no. His mind, with memories he’d never known were gone now haunting the edges of his consciousness. His mind, which Manira had tried to destroy. He didn’t want to deal with her.
What Regine had given him, though, was far too precious to turn down. Never mind that when he thought about Manira, he couldn’t get much further than humiliated rage, to be given the chance to set the terms of his own reparations was a luxury that Kept were almost never afforded. So he knocked.
She opened the door angry and impatient, her mouth open, but no words came out. He wondered what his face must look like, to get a shift that quick.
“I’m here to discuss your punishment.” Punishment hadn’t been the word he’d wanted to use, but it had been the one that presented itself, and, being honest with himself, he wanted to punish her. He wanted to hurt her. “May I come in?”
The promises she’d made Regine didn’t really allow her to turn him down, but she seemed reluctant as she agreed. He couldn’t fault her for that, as much as he wanted to fault her for everything – if she was really a Daeva under there, she was a full-fledged empath, and she had to know how angry he was. “Come in.” Was the quaver in her voice real or affected? Was anything about her real at all?
He waited until he’d shut the door behind him to ask that.
“Is anything you say real? Is there a single genuine thing about you?”
“I…” The entirely taken-aback look on her face was, he considered, probably unfeigned. He’d taken her by surprise. If he could keep taking her by surprise, could he continue to get real reactions out of her? He plowed forward.
“I mean, I can guess when you’re geased to within an inch of your life, you’re probably telling the truth, but what about the rest of the time? The desire? The innocent help-me? The noises you make in bed? Your fear now? I know what a manipulative little bitch looks like, Manira, or whatever I’m supposed to call you now. I own a mirror.”
“Yes, if you’d been what you appeared to be, I could see you being infatuated. I’m good at making people like me. But this whole thing is an act, a lie, a cover you used to fuck up my life and infiltrate my lady’s school. And, if you hadn’t guessed it by now, that pisses me off, girl-who-calls-herself-Manira. It makes me livid.”
She took a step back, uncertainly. “I didn’t mean to hurt you,” she stammered.
“Oh, don’t lie to me.” He threw out the command, knowing that she couldn’t disobey it, and wondered at the surge of pleasure that control sent through him. Was this what it was like to Own someone? “You tried to destroy my brain.”
“I had to. My oaths… you figured me out!” She was indignant about it, even now.
“You didn’t expect a half-breed lapdog to see through your pretty little façade?” he sneered. If she’d succeeded, would anyone have rescued Emrys and Shahin?
“I thought I was believable. I thought, I mean, I was being Manira, living her. Feeling her emotions.”
“Not well enough.” He couldn’t maintain this level of disdain. It felt dirty. “You’re going to have to get better.”
“Better?” She was trying to get control of herself, and he didn’t want that, not yet.
“Better. You’re pretending to be a teenaged student. Act like it. No more succubus powers. Nothing that a young half-breed student who hadn’t Changed yet could access.”
“You want me to…” She blinked, startled enough to be indignant. “To cripple myself. To bring myself down to their level.”
“I don’t ‘want you to,’ I’m ordering you to.” He wondered where this sudden strength of purpose came from. It was novel, and a bit uncomfortable, and more than a bit tasty.
“Three reasons. One, you obviously can’t be trusted to use your powers properly, so you won’t use them at all outside of class. Two, and this is more important right now, I said so, and, at the moment, it pleases me to see you be what you’ve been playing at.” He sounded, he was mildly chagrined to realize, like Lee, his first owner.
“And three?” She was pulling herself back together, piece by piece. Putting all her pretty facades up. He talked as if she hadn’t, holding on to his rage so he didn’t give in.
“Three. You’re going to go find some nice boy and make him a very happy man. You’re going to date him, like the Manira you’re pretending to be would have. Like a normal girl would. You’re going to put aside, when you’re with him, everything you know about the Law, and, if it comes to it, you’re going to let him Keep you if what he’s saying would have fooled the original Manira. And, no matter what else, you’re absolutely not going to Keep him.”
She blanched, and tried to recover. “Who?”
“Anyone currently single. Preferably not a Fifth Cohort.”
“I can pick?”
“As long as you’re not using any of your powers to influence their end of the decision, yes. But, Manira?”
She shivered nervously. “Yes?”
“You’re going to be good to this boy for the rest of this school year. And if I don’t think you are, then this is going seem like the light fluffy option.”
She smiled nervously at him, and he knew he’d finally gotten through to her. The spike of lust that punctuated the nervousness, that he could accept as a necessary side effect. “Yes, sir.”
Copyright © 2009-2011 Lyn Thorne-Alder with Elasmo. All rights reserved.
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