There was always the moment on waking when Mélanie forgot she’d been captured.
It was a moment where she would think she was in her own bed, that she should get up soon to take care of chores, and then she could have a nice breakfast. Sometimes she’d start planning out what she could have – eggs from the chickens, had she bought bread from Mrs. Bittner across the street yet? Maybe some honey from the hives.
Inevitably, she’d notice that something about the bed was wrong, that it was too hard or too cold or she’d shift and a chain would clink, or the sun would be in her eyes in the wrong direction.
This morning, what she noticed was that there was an arm over her.
And a soft, comfortable bed, without the little lump she’d never managed to get rid of in her mattress at home.
And a warm blanket over her. And a nice scent, like coffee brewing. Coffee?
She twitched, trying to sit up.
Oh, yes. There was an arm over her. She shifted more slowly, looking. Jasper, sa’Fox-Crazy. He was still drowsing, and looked relaxed, content. He felt safe here. He felt safe with her cuddled against him.
With his Mask up, asleep, he looked younger than she’d guessed, younger than she assumed he truly was, mid-to-late twenties with a decently easy life. He looked kind of normal, a little foxish in the eyebrows and the hair that seemed to want to go every which way and the little pointed goatee, rather good-looking but not stunningly handsome, cute in what was probably a mischievous sort of way.
She tried to remember when the last time was that she’d thought someone – an adult – was cute or considered how good-looking they were. She thought it was probably before she’d been captured, but it might have been her first or second owner.
Owner. She touched her neck, careful not to wake him. She wasn’t collared. He’d mentioned piercing her naval but hadn’t done it yet. That meant, for the moment, she wore no mark at all of her slavery and had nothing chaining her down.
Nothing, of course, but the bond and her orders, but they felt light on her right now. And his arm, which was not so much chaining her down as cuddling her close. She ran a hand over the arm, not to wake him but just to feel him.
He felt, well. Human. Gentle, but muscle under the skin. Not a weak man, certainly not. He smelled – He smelled clean. She sniffed again. Clean, and slightly but not at all unpleasantly of loam.
The coffee smell reached her nose again and she looked around. He didn’t smell of coffee, she was pretty sure. And if not him, then –
A small french press waited on the side table next to two lovely coffee mugs.
Mélanie smiled. “Thank you,” she murmured. “That was very thoughtful of you. Perhaps I can scrub some siding for you later? Like scratching your back?”
Little twinkles lit up around the mugs. She thought was a clear enough sign. “I will do so,” she told the air solemnly. “Now, let’s see.” She shifted a little. Jasper had her very well pinned down, in a pleasant sort of way. But the coffee was right… there… and she had, she realized, no orders requiring her to stay. “Jasper,” she murmured, in a tone of voice that she hoped was just enough to work into his subconscious without waking him. “Time to roll over.”
Much to her surprise and relief, he did so, without appearing to wake up at all. She slipped very carefully out of bed, took one mug of the coffee, and slipped back into bed, just where she’d been only sitting up, to sip it.
She was unsurprised but pleased to find it at exactly the right temperature. And not very surprised when, when she was halfway through the mug, Jasper rolled over and smiled at her, beginning to wake up, from the looks of things, but not yet all the way there.
“I smell coffee. She must like you.”
“Well, I talk to her like a person.” She realized what she’d said and flushed, but Jasper’s eyes weren’t quite open yet. “That is…”
“That’s entirely reasonable,” he agreed calmly. “I’ve found that talking to most people like they are people does wonders for getting along in the world. Even house-shaped people … or Kept.”
“Or people you’re going to rip off in a moment?” Oh, gods, what was she saying?
He smiled at her, and now his eyes were open. “Indeed. I spent a lot of time ‘ripping off’ people, and I’m quite good at it. At least half of it is just talking to people, you’re right.” He patted her shoulder. “You’re fine. You can stop worrying that I’m going to bite your head off for having a personality, I assure you. But if you want to do something, uh, Kept-like, you could probably get me a mug of that coffee.”
She chuckled; she couldn’t help it. “Sir,” she teased, “you can’t rip me off.” It was just the way the sentence had gone right from talking to people to rip them off to the way he’d talked to her. “You own me, thus everything I own – if I had anything you hadn’t given me – belongs to you. Remember? But I’ll get you that coffee, because you made me smile, and because you are my master.”
“Well, if it gets me coffee, I suppose I won’t argue. Thank you.”