Stamps Bonus Story
Just a bit after Plus ça change
The weather had finally begun to turn nice, a week after Dagny had brought Melchior home from the market. It was one of those rare stunning days, the sort that made you stop working just to enjoy it for a few hours, and Jamian was doing just that, leaning against a fence post and sunning himself. There were, he’d discovered, blessings to this world that he’d never noticed, back in the old days.
“Makes you think, doesn’t it?”
He’d felt Melchior coming, but kept his eyes closed, hoping for a few more minutes of peace. The three-way dance they’d been doing, him and Mel and Dagny, was exhausting, more for juggling his own conflicted emotions and his normally-calm daughter’s sudden explosions of drama.
The quietly hovering presence told him he wasn’t going to get away from the conversation, so he opened his eyes, noting that his old friend had placed himself to best block the sunlight. “I think a lot,” he answered dryly.
Even backlit, Mel couldn’t hide the flinch. There wasn’t much you could hide from a Daeva, anyway. “Sorry, that was lame. I meant, days like this, it’s like the world never ended.”
“Out here, there are people who barely noticed when it did. The Amish kept farming like they always had. The hippies had solar generators.” He was being snippy, and he knew it, but he couldn’t seem to stop himself. Damnit, life had been quiet.
Mel sank down to the ground next to him. “Sorry,” he muttered, “I’m being a moron.” Bad-stupid-wrong emotions washed off him; Jamian flinched and frowned, which just made the whole stew worse.
Returned gods be damned, he was going to have to stop moping and deal with this. “No,” he said, pitching his voice gently, “I’m the one being stupid. Sorry, Mel. C’mere.” He held an arm out, noting wryly the role-changing from their first times together.
The little goblin seemed to be thinking the same thing; his expression was embarrassed as he slunk into Jamian’s arms. “It’s stupid, I know,” he murmured against Jamian’s chest, wincing as he said it, “but I miss Jaya.”
Jamian tensed in surprise. “It’s all me,” he protested. After all this time, he really didn’t think of there being a difference, just a different pair of shoes. He was a cobbler; he knew all about wearing the shoes that fit you best.
“I missed you, too,” Melchior murmured. “But Jaya… I don’t know, I felt big and strong around Jaya. I never felt like that before.”
“Mmn.” He wanted to argue with it, some echo of his teenaged self protesting that he hadn’t needed someone big and strong, some grumble protesting that his lovers seemed to enjoy him better when he was helpless and weak. But he remembered what it had felt like, holding Arnbørg, feeling like he could protect her, like he should protect her. It had been like that with a couple others, too, since then, all girls, all when he was being Jamian (or some variation theof; the names changed over the decades), not Jaya. “I understand,” he answered quietly. “But right now, it’s my job to protect you.”
“It feels weird,” Melchior complained weakly.
“You’re the one that gave yourself to me.” Jamian tried not to sound exasperated, but he knew it was leaking through. “While, I might add, flirting with my daughter.”
“She’s…” The goblin hesitated, his feelings a conflicted stew. “If you don’t want me flirting with her, Jame’, all you have to do is tell me to stop. She might not be as easy to stop, though.” There were paragraphs of things he wasn’t saying, there, but Jamian had never managed mind-reading.
Instead, he just frowned. Dagny (and his other kids) called it his “dad frown,” but it, he’d found, worked just as well on Kept as it did on children, which was to say with variable efficacy depending on the mood. Right now, it seemed to only make Melchior more frustrated.
“Don’t look at me like that!” he complained. “Look, the only way to get around the Regine geasa is to be Owned. And I trust you. But she’s a nice girl, Jame’, and she’s not a kid.”
“She’s still my daughter,” he rumbled, and pulled Melchior closely. “And you’re still mine.”
“But… Oh.” The goblin blinked up at him. “I am,” he agreed. His voice cracked like a teenager’s as he added, “and how does my master want me?”
Should have thought about the consequences before you gave yourself to me. The thought was unkind and unfair, but Jamian still stood up and urged his Kept to do the same. “Naked, but not here,” he murmured. “There’s a cabin out by the edge of the property where we can be alone for a little while.”
The look on Melchior’s face was priceless, but the long gulp and his whispered “Yes, Master,” made Jamian feel like a heel. “What?” he teased, to cover his discomfort. “I thought you missed Jaya.”
It wasn’t like Dagny didn’t know Dad was jealous and annoyed. It wasn’t even that she didn’t understand why, or care why. She watched Melchior limp back from the cabin at the edge of the woods, a small, dazed smile on his face, and sighed in frustration.
“How can I compete with that?” It was rhetorical, but, since she and Cay were weaving baskets, her question had an audience.
“Compete?” The tall woman raised an eyebrow at her. “With your father? You mean for his slave?”
She winced. “Yeah,” she muttered. The way the willows worked in and out was very fascinating. Cay’s dyes were strong and long-lasting, and made brilliant colors that people at the market couldn’t get enough of. Between that and Dad’s boots, their little farm was pretty well off in trade goods. Dagny didn’t have a craft as tidy as either, or as Uncle Vi’s carving, but, then, she hadn’t had decades to perfect one, either.
She’d so thoroughly distracted herself that for a moment she didn’t know what Cay was talking about. “Don’t…?”
“What, just give up? I know he outclasses me, but that seems defeatist.” And she really wanted this. Really wanted Mel.
“It’s not defeatist to step away from a battle you can’t win.” The older woman flashed her a fierce smile. “Instead, fight the one you can win.”
Dagny blinked, and then smiled slowly. “This sounds like the fighting lessons you and Uncle Vi gave me.”
“Well, it’s just another sort of battle, right?” Cay smirked. “If you want the boy, you’re going to have to work for it. It’s not going to be easy; your dad and Mel have a history, after all. But you’re a smart girl. I’m sure you can come up with something.”
She focused on the baskets again for a few minutes, pondering strategy, worrying at the question in the back of her mind. “You’re Dad’s friend. Why would you want to help me over him?”
Cay smelled a bit proud, even as she, too, focused on her basket. “Always knew you were a smart kid. Jamian’s not very useful when he’s getting all soggy, and he’s never gotten soggier than over Mel. You, you could handle a love affair. You could probably use a good one.”
“I’ve been to Addergoole,” Dagny muttered, but Cay just laughed at her.
“I said a good one. And Mel’s not a bad guy. Better him than some kid from the village.”
“Your dad’s got skills, sure. But you’re a new and unknown quantity. Use that.” She grinned up at her. “I know both your parents, girl. Use what they gave you.”
She glanced over at the goblin she’d rescued from the slave market. Her goblin, damnit, never mind that he’d gotten stupid and bent knee to the wrong member of her family. “Yeah,” she nodded. “Thanks, Aunt Cay. I will.”
Copyright © 2009-2011 Lyn Thorne-Alder with Elasmo. All rights reserved.
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