First: A story featuring a male keeper and a female Kept.
Previous: What If?
Mélanie knew, in a sense, that a Kept could tell where, loosely, their Keeper was. That is: they could usually get a sense of “how far away” and “in what direction?”
She herself had used that ability to steal a few minutes of rest when her previous owners had left her alone, but it had never been a very strong connection. Once, in a peaceful moment when they hadn’t been ordered to silence, another Kept – an older one, and one that had worn thin with years of bad Owners – had told her that the stronger the connection between the Keeper and the Kept, the less the Kept fought the bond and the orders, the more that they would be able to tell where their Keeper was.
Jasper had only Owned her for a day and a half. He had been kind to her, yes, friendly and considerate, but that couldn’t had formed that strong of a Bond yet. She closed her eyes and hoped it would be enough.
The trick was to not be thinking of anything except your Keeper. That required not thinking about what had happened to him, or that she was out on her own for the first time in a very long time, or-
She shook herself. Jasper. The crooked smile he got when he talked about his previous Kept. The way he was careful to introduce her to the house. The way that it felt when he gave her an order. The way it felt when he was happy with her, or when he touched her. The way it felt when he’d left for the day.
She found herself smiling. He made warm feelings in her. Warm feelings that were very strange for a Keeper, unlike anyone else who’d ever collared her.
Her hand went up to her neck, her bare neck. And there was no collar. He’d bought her – bought her with stolen goods! – and brought her back here to this house that talked to itself and this chicken coop that sometimes got friends in it that were altogether not chickens.
There. She could feel his presence. He was not close, but she could walk to where he was. She started walking, thinking about his hand on the small of her back, about his eyes, about the time he had dropped his Mask for her.
She kept walking, thinking about the way he made sure the horses were stabled, about the way he talked to the house, about the way he spoke to her.
She kept walking, trying to imagine his body naked next to hers, trying to imagine what he was like after sex.
She might be jumping the gun at the moment, but that was okay. She could fee which way he was, and she was beginning to get a very clear sense of how far away he was.
She was going to need to walk for at least half an hour, more if she dawdled. She walked as briskly as she could stand, closing her eyes every hundred steps to pull up another image, another hope, another memory. She thought about sipping tea with him, about the way that he had insisted the slaver give her his coat, about the sort of person that it took to collect a room of loot – like a magpie more than a fox, she thought, amused.
Her sense of him, as she thought of fox, brought a keen feeling that he was very close by. She doused her light and moved to the side of the road, listening.
“Where do you think he’s from?” The voice was female but deep, curious-sounding.
“Does it matter?” The counter was another female voice, higher, sharp, impatient. “Eventually, he’ll give in. And then we won’t just have this nice wagon and these nice horses, we’ll have him, too.”
“He’s a pretty one. Clever, but not clever enough.” The deep one rumbled. “He might be fun. In the short run. Maybe in the long run.”
Mélanie whispered a Working to make herself invisible. She stood to the side of the road as the wagon rumbled along towards her, trying to remember the words for the Working that would make her lightweight. In the end, she did something closer to levitation, because she could remember the words for that. A little rush came over her; how long had it been since she had just decided to use a Working and then done it? How long since she’d decided-and-done anything at all without fear of retribution?
The horses, clearly not liking their current drivers, plodded slowly, taking as long as they could. One of them snuffled where Mélanie waited, floating invisibly a few inches off of the ground.
Shit. She hadn’t made herself in-scent-able. It hadn’t occurred to her that she might need to. Mélanie held her breath. If the horse gave her away… It was still snuffling at her. It was sad. She could tell that much. But it was sad, it was snuffling too near her, and it was going to give her away.Want more?