Amrit wasn’t entirely sure what he was doing. A couple hours ago, they’d been arguing. He’d been angry, fed up with her. She’d been angry, hurt that he didn’t give in enough.
She should have known, some part of him still wanted to point out. She should have had a pretty good idea that he wasn’t the sort to give him. He’d been gagged and chained when she bought him; it wasn’t like he’d come willingly.
Here they were. They’d eaten turkey leg and casserole for dinner, and the meat had tasted better than any turkey he could ever remember eating. They’d had cake for dessert — cake! Before he’d come here, Amrit couldn’t remember the last time he’d been anywhere that had the luxury of regular desserts.
And now they were sitting in front of the fire, her reading, him staring out the window at the night and ignoring a book, and he was thinking about what happened when they went to bed.
He’d told her he would stay until the winter was over. That should be enough. He didn’t need to go getting tangled up.
He looked at her over the book he was pretending to read and found himself growling.
Brilliant, asshole, that’s exactly the right thing to do.
“I’m sorry, did you say something?” She looked up from her book, looking for all the world like she hadn’t heard him.
He shook his head. “Just thinking…” He trailed off.
“Oh. Sorry.” She looked back at her book, and the moment where he could say something was lost.
Amrit stood up, far too abruptly. He was going to spook her. He didn’t want to spook her, and not just because she might gag and shackle him again. He moved more slowly, walking over to the window.
He could feel her eyes on him. Was she going to tell him to sit down?
Was he going to sit down if she told him to?
“I miss the world, most of the time,” she said, so quietly he wasn’t sure she was talking to him. “But the stars – it’s nice to be able to see them. As long as I don’t think too hard about why I can.”
Amrit thought about that for a minute. He stared out at the stars. “It’s so much darker now. When — so, the last place I was living, they, well, me and them didn’t get along that great. So I left. I was looking for another place when I got snatched. But I remember thinking, when I was a teenager, there was almost nowhere you could walk where it was truly dark. And I was trying to stay out of sight, and walking the roads at night was almost impossible.” He smiled crookedly. “Broke my ankle twice and my knee once.”
“Your healing power really is impressive.” She didn’t have any tone to her voice. What did she mean by that?
“I’d be dead without it.” He said it easily, but his heart pounded a bit anyway, remembering when he’d found out how fast he healed. “Spear through the heart tends to do that.”
“Spear through — oh, departed gods, that’s…” She stared at him, actually lifting out of her chair for a moment like she was going to rush over and hug him. Then she sat down slowly. “You really can heal anything.”
“So far? Nobody’s attacked me with hawthorn or rowan except the slavers, and that’s healing a lot slower.” He touched his neck, where the hawthorn had touched. “But I’m pretty durable, yeah.” He found himself smiling crookedly at her. “So, careful. If it’s cozy here in winter I might just tie myself to a tree and stay here until you knock me out.”
She raised her eyebrows and smirked back at him. “I don’t see how that follows, but I’ll take it under advisement.”
“Well, it’s just…” Amrit stalled. “I guess it doesn’t really follow. But I might do it anyway?”
What had he been thinking? …shit. He was flirting with her. Had she noticed? Why was he… Amrit looked back at the window and hoped he wasn’t blushing or anything else quite that stupid and childish.
“Well, if you’re going to tie yourself up, you might as well do it someone cozy, is all – since you would be doing it to get to stay nice and comfortable, right?”
“Nice and cozy…” Oh, departed gods, she was flirting back, wasn’t she? “Like that chair I was sitting in?”
Way to go, Amrit. Take a perfectly good opening and ruin it.
“Well, I know you haven’t tried it yet, but my bed is a lot more comfortable than that chair.”
Amrit turned slowly to stare at her. “You’re flirting with me.”
She looked nervous. “I’m making an offer,” she countered. “If you were making one.”
Amrit found his shoulders relaxing. “You’re not scared because you’re worried I’m going to hurt you, are you?”
“I wouldn’t be inviting you into my bed if I was scared you were going to hurt me,” she snapped. Oh, good, he was back to her yelling at him.
He took a step towards her, hands in front of him in as non-threatening a position as he could manage. “You’re not worried about me hurting you. So you’re worried…”
“Who said I was worried at all?”
“I’m not an idiot, you know. I can read body language well enough. Facial expression. Tone of voice. I’m saying you said you were worried.”
Shit, his voice was getting louder. That wasn’t helping at all. And he had actually moved closer to her again. He moved his hands back into a calming position and smiled crookedly. “I guess you being worried worries me,” he offered.
“And you’re not even Kept.” She stood up. Amrit did his best not to wince, but he couldn’t help thinking oh, shit, now what? “I think I’m beginning to grow on you. Either that or you’re scared of little old me.”
Amrit went for broke. “A little of both. You cheat,” he added without heat, even smirking a bit. “You can beat me in every fight, ‘cause you don’t have to have a fight at all. You don’t need the collar, you don’t need the gag, even.”
“When I’m awake and around you,” she pointed out. He thought she’d probably given that way too much thought.
“Hey, you stopped me from running away when you were on the other side of the clearing talking to your bees. Anyway, I just mean — I’m not Kept, but you’re, um. You’re still in charge.”
His hands went up to the collar. If this place had laws, they would probably say that the collar meant she was in charge legally. But she and he both knew that he could get this thing off without much effort. If he wanted to.
“I’m in charge.” She smiled at him. It was a more open expression than he’d seen on her, perhaps ever. “That’s the nicest thing you’ve said to me that didn’t start with ‘I promise.’”
Amrit shifted a little. Was that… good? Did he want her to think it was nice? “You’re welcome.”
He hadn’t noticed she’d stepped closer until she did it again. That put her right in front of him. “Thank you.”
She stood on her toes and kissed him.
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