First: A story featuring a male keeper and a female Kept.
Previous: Wants and Desires
In retrospect, Mélanie thought perhaps she ought to have expected a question like that. Dressing her in silk, treating her like a partner – she shouldn’t have been surprised that he asked her if she wanted anything. Wanting her to want things, wanting to get her things, seemed on par with everything else that he’d done so far.
That it took her completely by surprise was a sign she wasn’t paying attention.
She blinked at him.
“Chocolate,” she joked. Nobody had chocolate anymore. She wasn’t sure it was available anywhere in North America, except in stale supplies stashed in bunkers somewhere.
He chuckled. “Anything that I have a chance of trading for?”
“Cheese.” She licked her lips. “An aged cheese would be the best, but cheese and vinegar. I miss those-”
“That’s actually quite easy. Anything else?”
“If someone has a sourdough starter or some yeast? I’d like to make some bread.”
“You are easy to please, chocolate aside. We can do that. Ah, here.” The horses stopped on their own as they reached a wood-and-metal gate in a high brick-and-stone wall. “Hello!” he called in a bright, cheerful, and carrying voice. “It’s Jasper Fox; I’ve got some things for the market.”
A head appeared over the top of the wall wearing a football helmet that had been spray-painted black. “Jasper? Hello, Mr. Fox. Getting the gate now. And a new lady friend.” A gloved hand appeared and waved, and then the whole person vanished. A moment later, the gate creaked open, and the same person – in football helmet, a bulky-looking jacket to mid-hip, and very tall boots – grinned at them. “Come on in. Hi, miss.”
“Connor, right? Mélanie, this is Connor; he’s one of the people that rotates through gate duty here. Mélanie’s my new assistant, Connor. I think she’ll be around long enough for you to learn her favorite color, at least.”
“I already like her better than the last one. Come on through, Mr. Fox.”
“Thank you very much, Connor.” The horses had already started moving of their own accord. Jasper let them do their thing; they seemed to have a particular place they were headed directly for.
“I helped them a couple times,” Jasper continued in a much softer voice. “I was here trading or doing – well, this and that – and they hit a spot of trouble. The first time, it was some sort of monster. I don’t think it was fae, but one of those things that came through with them or that they made. So I did my best swashbuckling impression and muttered a few Workings under my breath that made everything work a little bit better. Then, nearly a year later, a gang came by, the sort that just want to take from everyone else and make nothing themselves – hush, you,” he teased, although Mélanie hadn’t been about to say anything. “And they were scaling the wall. It was a bit shorter then. So I helped fend them off and then I came back later and helped them build up the wall and – what?”
Now Mélanie was grinning. “See?” She kept her voice as quiet as his. “I told you that you were a good guy.”
“Hey, making friends with people is good business practice. And helping them with things makes them feel nicer about fae, even if they aren’t really sure that I’m fae. And it’s good all around for me to have a place where they like me to trade wares.”
“Mm-hmm.” She was still grinning and didn’t mind at all. “So, where exactly are we going to go trade those wares?”
“Once the horses get themselves into the stable, there’s a market in the middle of town. We’ll take the boxes – I think we can take it in two trips – and Jennifer the Red usually has a table for me.”
“There’s seven Jennifers in this town alone. Turns out she had a thing for red when she was in elementary school, and now it’s her de facto name. Here.” The horses had walked right up to a stable. “That’s some good beasts, mmm. I think the House has made them smarter,” he confided. “Give me a hand with the harness?”
A few minutes later, Mélanie and Jasper walked into the most bustling place she could remember being since the collapse. Stalls, tents, and tables lined both sides of a wide main street and people moved between them. Everywhere was conversation. “All these people got let in through the gate?”
“This town has a lot of people – more than half of the people here probably live here. This isn’t where I ran into our, ah, enthusiastic friends,” he reassured her. “I generally get along with people here.”
“Jasper Fox, you old cheat!” The shout seemed to rip across the crowd.Want more?