“MDom Not Asshole” continues, now with a name
First: A story featuring a male keeper and a female Kept.
“So.” Jasper considered Melanie as if measuring her for a gown. “Mask Down?”
He made it a request. She was so surprised that she dropped her Mask like it had been an order. It had been so long that she’d almost forgotten what she looked like with her fae side showing. Namesake skin, dark like the shadows. Eyes blue like stars, or so one or two suitors had said, back when she was free. Ears that pointed upwards and hair a shade between midnight and ebony.
Of course, she was clean, but she was still underfed and hawthorn-tainted. She probably looked more like a dirty chalkboard than a midnight sky right now.
He dropped his own Mask to reveal ears even more pointed than hers, skin the color of a forest where the light never quite made it, and wings that were something between bat wings and the flapping of dead branches high in a tree.
“Not a fox.” She reached out towards him, but let her hand hang in the air between them.
“Not a fox. And you are lovely.” He stepped closer, so her fingers could brush against his skin, and in turn he ran his hand over her hair. “So. Let’s see. If I wanted something that you knew marked you as under my protection, but only you and I would see, it would be, I think for your navel.”
She put her hand on her belly. “My navel? Like a piercing?”
“Like a piercing. Can you handle that?”
“That’s…” Her hands fluttered and finally made their way back up to her neck. “That’s a little weird. But I think I like it. If that’s okay?”
He put his hands on her shoulders and smiled at her. Something deep inside her twisted and warmed in ways she had forgotten. “That’s fine. Better than fine, it’s good. Now. you’ve been fed, you’ve cleaned yourself, and I’ve given you clothing. Let’s introduce you to a bit more of the house, shall we?”
“Yes? Yes, sir, all right.”
He dropped his hands from her shoulders and offered her one to hold; she took it at the implied order.
“Now, it’s a big house. And sometimes, well, it’s been lived in by people with magic for a long time, as far as I can tell. It gets… opinions on things.”
“Your… house… gets opinions on things?” Mélanie thought about people she’d known who named their wagons and nodded. “All right. It’s opinionated.”
“First, the front room. This is the room we’ve agreed will never be redone, because if someone tries to break in, this is the room they’d see first.”
He was holding her hand rather firmly. Mélanie noted but decided not to say anything about it. It was his hand, after all. If he wanted to squeeze it, he could.
He pushed aside a curtain that was very sturdy on the dining room side and very ratty on the front room side. They stepped onto a creaking floor halfway covered in a mouse-eaten carpet.
The wallpaper – some antique floral pattern – was peeling and curling. The piano in one corner looked like it had seen better centuries. The furniture, some sort of mish-mash of pre-war styles, was at the best unstable. It had been, she thought, probably very prissy but rather nice at some point, maybe long before the End of Things.
The piano played four chords, sort of a flourish.
Mélanie jumped despite herself. She turned to look at Jasper accusingly; rather than looking like he’d done something clever or silly he looked worried and a bit guilty.
“I didn’t expect her to do that quite this soon. The house. Ah.” He cleared his throat. “I honestly don’t know which it is, haunted or something like possessed or… something else. But it – she – definitely has a personality. That sounded welcoming, at least. House, this is Mélanie; Mélanie, welcome to my house and to my household.”
The house – the piano at least – played another set of chords, cheerful and spritely. Mélanie, in turn, curtseyed to the piano as the representative of the house. “Thank you for the welcome,” she said to the air. It ought to feel strange, but she had already known she was in some sort of haunted woods. If the house was also playing the piano… well, at least it seemed to like her.
“This room, we have an agreement on, that I don’t touch it. It helps, for one, with the illusion that the place is uninhabited. So we can go on to the foyer.” He gestured through a doorway; Mélanie moved forward but let him step through first.
The foyer was in much nicer shape – all of the wallpaper, while still ancient, looked well-preserved, almost new. The furniture, likewise, looked liked it came from a long-past era. There was a silver tea set on a small table that looked like it was ready to serve some society matrons. “It looks – well, ready to accept company.”
“She likes it here. So I leave the curtains hanging over the walls and nobody who visits uninvited gets that far. It’s the way this place is.” His smile was a little nervous-looking. “You’re taking this all quite well.”
“Your yard literally eats people’s minds. I think I can handle a house that plays me songs.”
“Its,” he coughed. “It’s all the same thing. The house, the property. It’s like some sort of sanctity that got really carried away.” He shrugged at her look. “I don’t know. I walked in here and it was like ‘hello, person.’ Not in words, but there was a definite feeling. And then things got, well, we worked together on the reputation and such. It’s not my power, not something I’m doing, it just… likes me, I guess.”
“You,” Mélanie indulged herself in pointing out, “are a very strange man. What comes next?”
“Well, ahem. Next is, I’d guess, the dining room and the other rooms that aren’t facing the road. And then the side porch? I usually go to the solarium next but I had one – ah. But I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
Mélanie eyed him, but she’d been pushing her luck enough lately. “So… on to the dining room then. Lead on?”