First: A beginning of a story which obnoxiously cuts off just before the description,
Previous: In Which Amrit Makes Sense.
Every night, she sent Amrit to his bed, in his bedroom, and even though she wasn’t chaining him to his bed anymore, she still locked him in.
He wasn’t gagged and he wasn’t chained. It was a useless move, and she knew it. And yet, there she went, every night, and then slipped into her own bigger, more comfortable, softer bed.
He wasn’t swearing at her recently; he wasn’t arguing (much) with the chores she gave him, and even without the motivation of losing the gag for a couple hours, he was still cooperating and doing he work she set in front of him.
She lingered by his doorway this time. His leg was paining him less; she could tell by the way that he swung it when he moved, and by the way he wasn’t gritting his teeth as much when he didn’t know she was looking. He’d said five days; it’d been four. Pretty soon he’d have the splint off.
And then? She still had his promise, that was good for a few more days. And there was no reason to chain him up if she had all those promises. So why was she nervous?
“Something you need?” His eyes were closed, but he could hear her, of course, and the fact that the door hadn’t closed yet.
“No… no. Good night, Amrit.” What she needed was someone to grab her by the back of the neck and shake her, and even if he was going to volunteer for that, she didn’t think she wanted him to.
She closed the door, locked it, and went back to her bed. It had been warmer and more pleasant with Jerome there — but he’d left without a good-bye or a backwards glance when she’d freed him. Every other slave or Kept had done the same — except the one that had attacked her. She was better off keeping Amrit locked in his room and she in hers.
She stared at the ceiling for a while, the shadows dancing in the dark, before she managed to fall asleep, no matter how tired her body insisted she was.
“You know I can haul water,” he was insisting, early enough the next morning that the sun was still tinting the trees instead of hanging in the sky. “Come on, you don’t have to do all the hard labor around here. Isn’t that why you brought me here?”
“You’re still injured,” Mieve argued. “And it’s not easy to keep your balance while hauling buckets of water, much less while limping.”
“There’s only so much I can do about anything while I’m injured, and it’s driving me bonkers. Come on,” he wheedled. “There’s only so much firewood a guy can chop. There’s only so many seeds I can stand sowing.”
“There’s a lot to be done,” she countered, but her heart wasn’t in it. “All right. Watering the garden is fine.”
“Maybe you can talk your bees into a little honey for the bread?” he offered, with a playful smile she’d never seen from him before. “That was really tasty the other day. You don’t sell all of it, do you? Your honey?”
“A lot of it. But no, I keep some.” She couldn’t help but smile in response to his look. “We can have toast and honey with lunch today.”
“You’re the best.” He graced her with yet another smile. “Show me everything that needs watering? I want to be sure I don’t water your weeds.”
She pointed out the beds of dirt and tiny seedlings that held plants, and he nodded and repeated it back to her. “Buckets, well, watering can. I can do that.” He glanced at her, then seemed to make a decision. “Do you sell your honey very often? You haven’t gone anywhere since you, uh, brought me here, and I didn’t see you bring back anything but me, then.”
Mieve frowned. “That could be useful information, couldn’t it?”
He held his hands up. “I’m just saying, if you need to make a run, I could help — or you could tie me up with chains and promises.” He huffed quietly. “I want to run, okay? I’m not going to lie. But in the meantime, I don’t want to screw up your whole routine.”
“Why not?” She twisted her lips; that hadn’t been the smartest thing to say. She followed it up with… well, she hoped it was an explanation. “You weren’t exactly happy to be here. What changed?”
I broke his leg.
That was not a reasonable thing to change someone’s entire attitude towards the positive.
“I, uh…” He frowned, and seemed to be arguing silently with himself. “Well, it’s like this. You could’ve done a lot of things when I broke the chain and ran — tried to run. You could’ve enjoyed the chance to punish me. I mean, you weren’t even all that bad before, even when I was being rude and miserable. You still fed me, you kept all your bargains.”
He coughed and shifted most of his weight to his good leg. “So, you know. You kept your word. I knew what that meant; I knew that if I ran, you’d keep your word again, you’d break my leg. Right? I knew I couldn’t get caught, I knew what I was getting into. I mean, yeah, I hoped if you caught me you wouldn’t…” He flapped both his hands at her in frustration. “You’re getting that expression again. Don’t, please don’t, okay?”
Mieve cleared her throat. “What, uh. What expression.”
“The one that says I’m a horrible person, I tortured him. You’re not – I think, I mean, I don’t know you that well yet, and you didn’t. You kept your word, which is what I expected. But you let me do it myself when I explained, so you weren’t, uh. You didn’t need to hurt me, you didn’t need to damage me, you just had to keep your word, no matter how much you hated it.”
“I’m not a monster.” The words went out of her mouth without consulting her first. She ducked her head, knowing she was flushing, feeling the heat in her cheeks, and sighed.
“And someone said you were, didn’t they? The humans, they all think all of us are monsters, and, you know, I see why. If you first experience with the fae is, like, the bastard calling himself Zeus or that bitch Hera that took over New York City, or some Nedetakaei monster that took advantage of the chaos, yeah. They’re gonna hate every fae they see for a while after that. But that’s nothing to do with us.”
She cleared her throat. He was trying so hard to be kind, and it was doing anything but helping. She didn’t want to stop him, but she just couldn’t listen. “It wasn’t a human,” she whispered. “Wasn’t even one person.”
“You’re not hiding out here because nobody spooked you,” he pointed out dryly.
“No. No, I mean. There’s always humans saying things like ‘the only good fae is a dead fae.’ I mean, I don’t know, they could be fae saying it, just to fit in. I knew I couldn’t risk being out in public too much, and I’m not strong enough to take on a whole hunting pack of Nedetakaei or anything. But that’s…” She shrugged. “Like you said. They’re scared, and they’re lashing out. That’s different.”
“Then who… shit.” She looked up in time to see Amrit lean against the wood behind him and sigh. “Shit. Your former Kept? Shit. Because, what, you buy slaves?”
“Well, you weren’t exactly happy with me for that,” she pointed out.
“Yeah, well, I suppose an argument could be made that you’re supplying the demand so they’re supplying the slaves, but it’s not like, uh. Well, you’re not that bad, you’re not bad at all.” He shrugged. “You’re not a monster. You’re right. And, you know, that’s why I don’t want to screw up your life here. I’ll stay through winter, okay? I’ll make sure I’m doing my share, because I don’t want to just be mooching off of you and then leaving. And you can have all that in a promise, if you want… and, yeah. Yeah,” he sighed. “I was pissed. I was really pissed. I’d been stupid enough to sleep where I could be grabbed, because I can’t be attacked all that well unless you cut off my head— hell, for all I know, I’d grow a new body, but let’s not try that, okay?” He grinned suddenly at Mieve; she smiled back, although less enthusiastic than his wide, open expression.
“I…” He shrugged and his smile twisted a bit. “I was pissed. And, uh, like I said. I don’t take orders well. And I really, really hated that gag. The one they put on me,” he added hurriedly. “The one you put on me was, well, pretty good, for a gag.”
“That was the idea,” she admitted. Hesitantly, because they were getting along so well and she didn’t want to ruin it, but she needed to know, she asked, “why are you telling me all this?”
“In a blatant and probably-futile attempt to get you to trust me a little bit,” he admitted. “And, uh. Well, I can talk to you.” He worked his jaw. “I can talk. So I’m feeling talkative? I figure sooner or later my promises will run out and you’ll put the gag back in, and then we’ll be back to where we were.”
The thought filled Mieve with disappointment. She frowned, puzzling over it. “Maybe?” she offered. “I mean…” She shook her head. Like he said, he was trying to get her to trust him. He was just playing all the cards he had at his disposal for that, and guilt was probably one of those. “Nah. Forget it.” She shrugged. “You’ve got a couple days left in your promises. If you want to go hunt, the bows are in the garage.”
She stomped away, doing her damnedest not to examine the emotions roiling around in her.
I just want you to trust me. She’d certainly heard that before. She had even believed it a few times. And, to be fair, the people she’d believed it from had wanted her to trust them. She still had some of the scars.
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