First: A story featuring a male keeper and a female Kept.
Previous: Assignments and Plans
“Ah, Mélanie.” It was as if Jasper had read her mind. “It will all make sense to you eventually, I hope. Either that or you will start throwing dishes at me and demanding that you go somewhere else, which is also a possibility.” He shifted like he was going to stand up and then sat back down. “Please, at your leisure, finish your meal.”
She looked at her food and, slowly, began eating. It did taste good, certainly better than anything she’d been eating before she came here. Of course, she’d made it, but she’d made it with fresh ingredients and the help of a cooperative kitchen. Very fresh ingredients… “Do you steal food as well?”
Now, why had she asked that?
“Well, I have chickens, and I might have had to go out and steal some, but they came with the house, so I didn’t have to. The rest, generally, I trade stolen goods for. I try to be more like Robin Hood and less like some evil taxman; for one thing, if I steal from the poor, the house gets very cranky with me. For another, I get really cranky with myself.”
“That’s…” she considered her answers. The house got cranky with him. What did the house look like cranky? Well, she knew what the front yard did to people. “That’s good. I’d be uncomfortable eating food you stole from farmers.”
“I can imagine you would be, considering your background. I can take you to the closest-to-local market in a day or two. It’s generally got everything we can’t trap or grow ourselves.”
“That would be nice.” That would be nice? She hadn’t been out to something like shopping in longer than she could remember. “Do you use currency or barter or-?”
“The closest market, the one I frequent most often, uses a combination of their own currency and barter. I tend to have things to barter, and they don’t ask too many questions about where I got it, whereas currency is a bit harder to get one’s hands on. Once you’ve gone there a couple times, you’ll probably have a good sense for the sort of things that they are interested in trading for, and what sort of things they turn away.”
His smile grew. “The trading isn’t, for me, the part I really enjoy. It’s more the part where I convince someone to give me their things— and that isn’t the best idea at a market I plan to frequent. The rest of it, trading and sorting and all that – well, let’s just say, there is definitely ‘work’ that I bought you for. And that is – ow!” A spoon had rapped his knuckles. “Well, I did buy her. She was there! She saw the transaction! Ow, ow! Okay!” He cleared his throat and rubbed his hands. “There’s a reason I brought you here; I’m lazy. And the house is right. I’m sorry for talking about buying you. No, I brought you here because there are things that I just don’t like doing.”
Mélanie found herself relaxing. That made sense. “I look forward to serving you and the house.”
He chuckled. “Okay, okay. I’ll let you go on ‘serving’ for now. And the house isn’t going to rap your knuckles for – hey! Hey, she said it! Ow! Well, we can see what the house needs and what I need today. But I’m serious. You don’t need to work too hard and I don’t want you to. This is supposed to be fun.”
“You have… interesting ideas about life,” Mélanie admitted. “But I don’t think I dislike them.” She took another couple bites of her food. “And I think I might actually have fun here,” she added slowly. There was always the risk that he was just trying to get her to be comfortable so that he could hurt her better. There was always the chance that this was all a test that she was failing horribly. There was always the chance that he just liked the novelty of new people, that the reason all his other Kept had decided to be elsewhere was because he got nasty after a week or two.
There was the definite possibility that his house just ate his Kept.