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“You’re having trouble with the concept of Belonging to someone else. I imagine your students often feel the same, don’t you think?” Cya buckled the harness on him, one strap at a time. “It’s not an easy concept. Your will, your actions, your body, all of it is the property of someone else to do with what they want. I was sixteen; I was used to my dad telling me what to do, teachers, other authority figures. Most of us were, at that point, one level or another. You… the only person that’s been telling you what to do for the last century’s been Regine, your crew… and she spent a lot of time pretending she wasn’t, didn’t she?”
“She covered a lot of it it.” He twitched his wings and ran into the straps. “So, yeah. I got used to thinking nobody was telling me what to do. So?”
“So you’ve had what, almost three centuries of being your own man, and now… you’re not. And it’s not an easy concept to internalize and it’s not an easy concept for me to hammer home, unless I want to seriously break you, which I don’t.”
He stared at her. “You put thought into that.”
“Of course I put thought into it! I mean, dead gods, Luke, you’re talking to me.” She glared at him. He spread his wings — tried to spread his wings — and pulled them close as they bounced against the harness. He was going to get worn spots if he didn’t learn to control his wing-twitches. “If you have figured out anything about me in all this time, it’s that I think about things.”
He knew she planned things. It wasn’t the same thing. He frowned at her. “You considered breaking me.”
“Of course I did.” She shook her head at him. “My children, my grandchildren, my great-grandchildren, Luke, all of them went to Addergoole. I watched Leo struggle with insanity for decades. Addergoole tainted everything in our lives. What would you do if you had in your hands the life that had set up the rape of your children? Your own rape?” She frowned at him. “I’d never been able to figure out how you managed, with your own children there. Then I saw what Regine had done to your brain.”
She swept away that conversation with a wide hand gesture before Luke could answer.
“I considered it. But Leo respects you… and so do I. So I’m going to teach you, instead. And maybe, eventually, you’ll figure out what it means to Belong to someone — to me — without me having to break you to get the point home.”
Luke considered, for a moment, asking what breaking him would look like, and if she thought she could really break him. Some small iota of self-preservation kicked in and he didn’t. “You’re the boss,” he said instead.
It may not have been the wisest answer. She smirked at him. “Yes, that’s the whole point. Tell me when you actually believe it.”
“I…” He fell silent. He couldn’t, not with that order.
“All right.” She touched her fingers to his collar and chanted a Working; Luke recognized the words as Transmute and earth, metal: she was changing his collar to steel. The weight seemed immediately more, the collar thicker, wider. “You’re going to try being a slave for a couple days. There’s a place down by the Alpha gate that needs a kitchen boy and you, Luca, are going to be a good boy for them until I come get you.”
“A kitchen boy.” He worked his jaw and clenched his fists. “You want me to be someone’s kitchen boy.”
“Not what I said, Luke. I said you’re going to be a kitchen boy.” She chanted another Working and a chain dripped off her hand, hooked the chain to his collar. “Come on. We don’t want to keep him waiting.”
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