follows immediately after the last one, here: http://aldersprig.dreamwidth.org/1200388.html
Cya – his owner – his… she directed Luke upstairs, making cracks about Mike at his back. Luke held his wings as still as he could — the stairwell wasn’t that wide — as she teased him about Mike.
“I’m not…” He pressed his wings a little tighter to his back as he reached the top of the stairwell. “I didn’t…”
“You didn’t sign up to be Kept at all, so of course I don’t think you engineered this to get in my bed. That doesn’t mean you might not end up there.” She chuckled, and once again Luke struggled to keep his wings under control. “To the left, first door on your left. I think you’re going to find being Kept very educational, and I think that it might even be good for you.”
This time, he flapped. “You knew that already. The oaths. The twelve years.” The first door on his left opened into a spartan bedroom: giant bed, three wooden chests, two deep-silled windows with thick curtains. “You’ve already helped me out.”
“The situation helped you out. I’m talking about the actual Keeping.”
Luke turned slowly so he could look at her. She was serious, he thought, although he had a hard time getting a good read on her. “You think… being under the collar… will be good for me?”
“It often is. One, it narrows the scope of concerns. Two, it gives you a different set of feedbacks. Three, of course, it’s educational. And four, you can find yourself trying on different roles.” She gave him a somewhat sad-seeming smile. “I’ve done this a few times. I have some experience making sure I’m not the only one who gets something out of it.”
Luke narrowed his eyes at her. “And what, exactly, do you get out of it?”
He wasn’t expecting her to laugh; he certainly wasn’t expecting the delighted sound she made. “Do you really have to ask? Oh, you do, don’t you?” She giggled quietly. “I get a man in my bed, Hunting Hawk, and someone to help with the chores, help raise my children when I have them in the house, someone to help me run this city… this nation.”
“You might have noticed I stopped taking Kept a few years ago.”
Luke glanced away. “Yes.” And now he didn’t know how to feel at all. Something like guilt was gnawing at him, which was ridiculous. She had maneuvered him into this Keeping. She had maneuvered all of them into this – might have even manipulated Leo into the godhead he was currently enjoying. So why did he feel like he was messing up one of her plans?
He stretched his wings cautiously. There was enough room in here for them; there was enough room in her bed for him to lay with his wings spread and leave room for her.
Somehow, he imagined she’d planned that, even if it hadn’t been his wings she’d been thinking of. She had to have Kept someone with wings before him…. right?
She sat down cross-legged at the head of her bed. “Lay down – take your time, get comfy – and put your head in my lap.”
Luke was moving before he really considered where he was going, and, despite her “take your time” order, was as comfortable as he was going to be in just a couple moments. His head was pillowed on her calf. It felt… intimate.
He shifted, spreading his wings out as much as he could. Part of him wanted to protest that he shouldn’t be in a bed with a student, but the rest of him shut that down as the stupidity it was. “What do you want me to do?”
It was a sign of how badly off-kilter she had him that he was just grateful his voice didn’t squeak.
“Close your eyes,” she ordered, and Luke closed his eyes. “Now, this is not an order, but try to relax, let your body sink into the bed. We’re safe here. Nobody’s going to attack us. Nobody is in trouble. You can let go for a few minutes.”
His shoulders tensed; he didn’t want to believe her. That was fine. Cya kept going. “Picture a place in your mind, a peaceful place. A clearing in the forest, with the sun filtering down through the pine trees. The air is crisp, but not uncomfortable. Just out of sight, you can hear a stream trickling.” She kept going, her voice mellow, the tone working as much good as the words, until his shoulders relaxed and the pinch in his forehead smoothed.
She didn’t normally need relaxation techniques when she was reading someone’s mind, but she didn’t normally have targets who were quite this tense, either.
When his breathing evened out, she slipped the Working in between phrases, fluffy clouds and meandering paths. She saw the scene in his mind, a place it looked like he’d been before. She saw him sitting on a big boulder, his wings spread, his face up to the sun and his eyes closed.
She had never seen him this peaceful. She murmured a Working to remember this, so that she could bring him back here again.
But she had work to do. First, she wanted to find the places Regine had touched. She didn’t doubt they were there; if she were Regine, and had an alarming habit of seeing people as pieces on a board, it was what she would do: ensure loyalty with oaths, and then enforce it with mind control.
Luke’s thoughts were a mess. He kept looping back to oaths he had made and been freed from: I’ll keep you safe. I’ll follow the school’s rules. He had an unfortunate habit, it seemed, of impetuous oaths… now where had she see that before? He kept poking at things she could not see — the way he’d feel guilty over something she said, or the way the orders made him feel like a puppet. The Bond was making him second-guess his thoughts and his feelings, and the thought kept popping up: should he look at this with a Working? Was that okay?
She left the chaos alone. He was going to have to adjust to being Kept eventually, and it would go better for him in the long run if he did that without her interference.
Not for the first or even the millionth time, Cya wished she could see emotions. But she wasn’t going to loop Leo in to help her with this, and Luke probably wasn’t ready to do the Working on himself for her.
Now she had to go deeper. His conscious mind showed her the way — paths he was avoiding, things he would consider and then forget before he thought too hard about them, things that seemed to hurt him when he thought about them.
His sons. She did not want to interfere if she didn’t have to with his children, so she brushed over that area of his memories gently. There were orders there from Regine, reminders of his oaths — and there was something twisted under lock and key.
She had seen Regine’s work on minds. The woman had a certain arrogance about her work. Cya brushed over that area and moved on to other parts of Luke’s memories for the moment.
The areas of locked-off memories were everywhere — anything having to do with the students, anything having to do with the Collapse, anything having to do with Mike, with Luke’s descendants, with a student he’d once looked at with affection.
Regine had been tying his brain up in knots for decades. Cya indulged in a little mental cursing and then went to work.
This entry was originally posted at http://aldersprig.dreamwidth.org/1201555.html. You can comment here or there.