First: A story featuring a male keeper and a female Kept.
Guilt washed over Mélanie in waves. She dropped down to her knees from the chair and dropped her head to the floor but none of it helped. She’d yelled at her master. She’d yelled at him, and, and, and she’d made him feel horrible, and he’d apologized, which was not what was supposed to happen, and everything was cockeyed in the world and it was all her fault. “I’m sorry,” she gasped. She felt as like even that was too much speaking, as if she should simply melt into the floor. Would the House let her do that? Would it open up and accept her? And why hadn’t it interfered? “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have—”
“Oh, shit.” Jasper hit the ground next to her. Mélanie tried to curl up more on herself. No, no, he wasn’t supposed to kneel, that was wrong. “Mélanie, please. Ow, hey. Mélanie… look at me.”
That was an order. She could follow orders. She looked at him.
“Mélanie, I’ve had… well, I’ve lost count of the number of Kept I’ve had, but I’ve never… I’ve never had one who had gotten used to being a slave before. And… well, I can’t use that as an excuse, because I’ve bungled almost every Keeping I’ve managed. Maybe I should be the one in the collar… maybe then I wouldn’t screw stuff up so badly.”
This time, finally, the towel hit him in the face. He put up his hands and huffed. “Okay. Yeah, that was a little self-pitying. Mélanie. You are not a thing. I tell you that with all the force I can manage which, well, I’ll admit that I am not the most forceful person in the world, but. You are not an object and you are… well. Stupid language. You are mine… I knew I should have bothered to learn some Old Tongue… but you you are mine the way a spouse is, the way a partner is my partner. Not the way, say, the wagon is my wagon, although I stole the wagon, so that might not be the best example. I am never going to stop thinking of you as a person, and that means I will ask your opinion and – and this is the important part – I am never going to, I promise you Mélanie, I will never punish you for stating an opinion. Even if you think my taste in clothes is awful and I smell funny and you really don’t want breakfast. Okay? Even if you think that I’m an awful Keeper and that I ought to be thrown to the wolves – well, I’m pretty sure you didn’t save me from those cretins just to throw me to wolves, but…”
He had promised. The air vibrated with it. Mélanie swallowed and nodded. She didn’t trust herself to say much of anything at the moment. There were a lot of things that kept flying around her mind., though, and it was like her mouth demanded that something should be said, anything.
“I wouldn’t throw you to the wolves,” she managed, although she thought her voice was creaking. “I think – do I have to keep looking at you? – I think you’re, uh, you’re expecting things. Understanding. Beliefs. Things that aren’t there. You say that I’m a person. But nobody has treated me as a person, slaves aren’t people, I’m a slave, and you, and you…”
“You don’t have to keep looking at me if you don’t want, Mélanie. Or even if you do want,” he added quietly. “You are a person. You are not a slave. You aren’t. I don’t -”
“Then what-” oh, no, she was interrupting him “what am I? I am not my own person! I may not be a wagon but that’s a long way from being a – a- a person, you know it, I know it, the horse isn’t a wagon either! And yet, and yet you want me to be both! And I don’t know how to be both! Both your slav – whatever. Yours. yours and a person. Yours and not a wagon. It’s easier, you know, being a wagon.”
“Even when it comes to what we should eat for breakfast?”
Mélanie studied his face, trying to determine if she’d upset him. Did it matter? She had to answer. “So breakfast… I should be grateful for whatever my master wants to give me and sometimes I can’t eat something, just cannot stand to eat, but that’s being ungrateful and do you see the problem? Sir, there aren’t any easy questions when you’re a possession.”
Jasper watched her. She thought he looked sad, but she was flying on so much frustration she could barely feel the Keeping-Bond pushing at her. He’d wanted to know! He wanted to know what was going on. He kept telling her she was-
“Mélanie, I release you.”
“What? What, no.” She glared at him. “That’s a stupid answer. I mean, sir. Jasper. YOu want me here, obviously you wanted a Kept, that’s a stupid thing, to kick me out just because I don’t want to have opinions. I wasn’t complaining about you! I’m happy here. I don’t want to go anywhere! I was just trying to explain to you why having opinions is hard.”
“Except – ” He looked a little worried. “Except, it seems, when I want to release you?”
“Well, that’s…” She flailed Then the enormity of what she’d said sank in and she put both hands over her face. “I just-“
“You just told me no to releasing you, yse. Do you want me to do it again?”
“I just called you stupid! Twice!”
“Well, that’s all right. You’re allowed, and I don’t mind, when you think I’m being stupid. It seems a fair assessment. But you really don’t want me to release you?”
“I want to stay here!”
“Mélanie. Mélanie, you can stay here whether you Belong to me or not. I’m not going to kick you out. I honestly enjoy your company and your time.” He held out his hands in her direction. After a moment, Mélanie put her hands in his. She didn’t trust her voice – she had yelled at him! She had called him stupid! She shouldn’t ever talk again.
He squeezed her hands gently. “I won’t release you, then. But I want you to understand that I am not going to punish you for opinions. I like opinions. And if your opinion happens to be that I’m stupid – well, I might get a little cranky, but I probably deserved it.”
She swallowed and didn’t rebut. That was, until the towel hit him in the face again.
“Ow! What did I say this time?”
Mélanie was mortified to find herself giggling. “Cranky,” she managed to explain, stealing a peek up at his perplexed face. “Cranky… when your Owner is ‘cranky’, it’s scary. And the bond…”
“… How does the House know all this and I don’t?”
“I think,” she cleared her throat. “I think maybe…”
“Yes?” His voice was so gentle. She didn’t know how he could be so calm.
“I think maybe the House is good at paying attention? And if you’ve had a lot of slaves, err, people who Belonged to you in here? Perhaps she’s noticed trends. Perhaps some of them talked to her, too.”
“I think I should be very grateful to both the House and to you. All right. How about you sit here, right next to me, and I reheat breakfast and then we eat it? After that, you can show me what you’ve done, and then we will talk about what we want to do next. Okay?”
Mélanie snuggled against him. “Okay, sir.” Some snide part of her mind said he can be taught. She thought, perhaps, that wasn’t the worst thing to know about your Owner.Want more?