If this was supposed to be making him feel better, Leander mused dryly, it was doing a lousy job. He was feeling differently, sure, but mostly he was feeling confused. His owner — there were other words for it, but Leander didn’t use Master even in his own head if he could avoid it and Keeper was the sort of word people used who though Fae was its own society instead of just leeched on to humanity. — His owner was making fun of himself, inviting Leander to do the same, and telling him it’s okay to have negative opinions about himself.
Leander twitched and tried not to think about hos this could go sideways, but his lips did something, he was sure, something like yeah, right.
His owner laughed dryly. His hand slid to Leander’s shoulder. “All right. So — The sex shop, then, the slave shop where I bought you. The first time I went, I went there looking for a unicorn. I came back with, mmm, a pony with painted-on stripes. This metaphor is, I’m afraid, getting rather weird. But the truth is, this pony, they had no interest in being a sex slave; they had signed up for like, three years as a professional butler, and they had barely any training at that. Which told me two things about that place that were very important — they didn’t vet the training of their slaves, and they didn’t vet the willingness of their slaves.” He made a face. “Since they’re – well, very entrenched, shutting them down will take a long time, but in the meantime,” he gestured at Leander.
That left him with more questions than answers.
“What about your unicorn?” he finally settled on, because you know, if you shut this place down, three more will come to take its place did not sound like the sort of thing you said to your master.
“After some discussion, I got him the training he wanted as a butler and, well, had him work as such for five years. As a bonus, there, he helped me find a willing, ah, cuddle partner for a few years, too.”
Him. He. “So I might not do guys, but you do.”
Mr. MacDiarmid was startled into a laugh. “Yeah. I’m sort of an equal-opportunity hedonist. I don’t do unwilling or uninterested partners, however, so you are completely safe from me in that regards.”
“Not hard to make someone who Belongs to you willing and interested.” Leander snapped his mouth shut on the words. Now why had he said something that stupid?
Mr. MacDiarmid paused. He shifted both hands back until they were just touching Leander’s fingertips. “Doing that is still rape.” His voice was firm. “And I have no interest in that. Would you like my promise?”
His voice was far, far too gentle. He ought to be either laughing or yelling. Leander looked down at his fingertips. “You don’t need to promise anything to me, sir.” He considered everything and added, a little surprised at himself, “I believe you, for one. You’re trying — and maybe your daughter was right and I am broken.”
“I don’t think you are, or, to be blunt, I wouldn’t — well, I wouldn’t have bought you for this job. I might have given you something easier while you got back on your feet, since you clearly didn’t belong there.”
Leander snorted. “Don’t belong anywhere. Your daughter’s gonna have me going to college, and that’s gonna be, uh. Never done that.”
“That’s her plan, mmm? Well, if you need documentation to get you in, I know someone who does very well at that sort of thing. I’ll get him working on it — considering the state you were in, I don’t imagine you have any of your own paperwork.”
Leander’s hand went up to his collar and he rubbed his neck. “Last owner used to say the only paperwork any slave needed was a collar. Any place he went,they’d know what he was.” He snorted. “Humans don’t think like that. Collar’s just a fashion accessory to them.”
“Your last owner sounds like, if you’ll pardon me for saying so, a real idiot.”
“Oh, he was that and a right asshole and a jerk, a shithead and a moron and a sadistic bastard,” Leander agreed easily. He looked down at the way his fingers were touching Mr. MacDiarmid’s. “That is, if you’ll pardon me for saying so,” he parroted.
“Heh. Look, I’ll pardon you saying anything at all about your previous owners, with one caveat.”
Leander tried not to stiffen, but he failed, tensing up, his fingers curling just slightly away from his Owner’s. It made his hands feel chilly; it made his shoulders feel cold.
Mr. MacDiarmid collected his hands gently, one of his hands between Leander’s and one below them. “If you think I’m acting in a way that, later, would make you say I was a bastard or an idiot or a sadistic jerk or an asshole — if you’d tell me, and no, that is not an order — so I don’t run the risk of– that’s a stupid idea, is it?”
Leander had started laughing and couldn’t seem to stop.
“I mean, if you want me to tell you you’re being an asshole, then just, uh, just know I’m going to remind you of that when you have me beaten for calling you an asshole, sir. I mean — I mean, well. Sure. I’ll tell you.” He found he was smiling.
He glanced at his owner, who looked both a little amused and a little worried. “What have I gotten myself into?” Mr. MacDiamid’s murmur was not to Leander, not really, but he had a feeling he was supposed to hear it, too.
“Well, sir, it looks like you got yourself into going to a sex shop and buying a bodyguard who was a little bit damaged goods, and then you told him to be honest with you.” Leander let himself grin. “But on the plus side, no painted-on stripes or glued-on horn here.”
Mr. MacDiarmid snorted. “You have a very good point. All right, Leander. Any other questions, any other clarifications you want?”
How’s classes supposed to work? What am I supposed to do about her bringing home boys? What the hell do you think I have to protect her from?
“Did you mean it, I have permission to manhandle her if she pushes me? Seriously?”
“Or slap her, yes. No broken bones. But I will not have her treating you like a thing, or -“
“Or,” Leander couldn’t help himself, or maybe he just didn’t want to, “or a slave?”
Mr. MacDirmid fell silent for a moment. Leander froze. Shit. He’d done it now.
“Or a slave,” he agreed quietly. “And Leander? If you catch me doing the same – that is, treating you like a slave or a thing, tell me. You can wait until an opportune moment, i.e., get me alone, but tell me. And you have my word–“
Leander put his hand over his owner’s mouth before he could stop himself. “Don’t promise things to me. Please. I can’t tell you not to do that but – but please don’t.”
He moved his hand before he could get in even worse trouble, and Mr. MacDiarmid nodded slowly. “Then I’ll tell you: if you tell me I’m treating you like a thing, like a slave, Leander, I’ll change what I’m doing.”