Here’s two of three chapters of Beauty-Beast thanks to Anke’s commission!
There was a moment of silence. Not the whole lounge, thank whoever might be listening, just their little corner. Signy was staring at Ctirad in obvious horror. Timaios squeezed him tighter to his side, a quick gesture and still clearly affectionate. Sara Florentia was looking at him as if he’d just gotten interesting.
“Ermenrich liked to make sure I wasn’t going to slip and say anything,” he explained to Signy’s horrified look. “Because I – because he didn’t think I was that bright.” It took effort to phrase it that way, to put it in Ermenrich’s court and not on his own shoulders, but he knew it would make Timaios happy that he hadn’t put himself down, and he thought it might explain things better to Signy.
And maybe, he was forced to admit to himself, he didn’t really believe he was stupid anymore, not when faced with the memories of Ermenrich.
“So he,” he tried again, “He’d take me places, because he wanted a bodyguard and I was – well, I don’t know if I was his best, but I’m a good bodyguard, and he would do things that – probably things he doesn’t want you or sa’Slingshot knowing about. I don’t think, I don’t think even without erasing my memories, he thought that I’d really understand any of it.” That admission burned.
“I thought – I believed – that’s horrible.” Signy reached out towards him, froze, and leaned back in her chair. Her face was white.
Ctirad frowned at her. “You – you saw me with him.” He tried to make it a question and not an accusation. “You were there, in meetings, when I was beside him.” Kneeling. Silent. Ignored. Pretty. “This isn’t – um.” He trailed off. He couldn’t come up with any way to say the rest that didn’t sound rude, pushy, or insulting.
“I thought – I thought it was – you know. A -” She looked to Timaios for help.
“I think it’s likely he doesn’t know, no.” Timaios’ voice rumbled gently. Ctirad took that as a cue that they were meant to be kind to Signy’s rather painful ignorance. “Ctirad, to help her out a little here, you know that some people willingly engage in relationships where one is in control and the other is submissive.”
“Yes?” He blinked, looked at his master, looked at Signy, looked back at his master. “It’s -” He considered his phrasing and matched Timaios’ tone. “It’s generally sexual in nature and often confined to the bedroom, or, ah, to a private room.”
“And are you aware that some people who are Kept – some pairs of Keeper and Kept – engage in that sort of relationship willingly, and letting it carry over into their public lives?”
“I -” He found himself blushing hotly, not quite able to look at Signy anymore. “No, sir. I didn’t know people did that while Keeper and Kept.”
“Indeed, there is a whole industry which engages in connecting people who wish to be completely Owned sexually, socially, and emotionally. I think this is what Signy thought was going on with you and Ermenrich.”
“I-” His first response was to say ew, but that in no way encapsulated anything that he was feeling. He cleared his throat and tried again. “No. Ah. I agreed to Belong to Ermenrich because I had no idea what I was getting into, and the rest of it – the rest of it was nothing like that. I just did what I was told to, and what I was told to do was mostly sit there, be quiet, and be ready to hit someone if needed.”
There was also be pretty, but he didn’t want to talk about that anymore. Certainly not in front of strangers. Definitely not in front of Timaios.
“That’s – Ah.” Signy shifted. “That’s not an awful order on its own. I mean – that is a lot of what I did, when I was under my Mentor, when I was learning. I sat and learned. But to be ordered to forget when it was done, that’s horrible. It’s awful! It’s disgusting.”
Ctirad stared at her. He wanted to talk to her about some of the other things he’d been ordered to do. About some of the ways he’d been treated. About the way he’d felt. Instead, he thought about the part she’d said wasn’t so bad.
“When I sit here, with Timaios, I know what I am meant to be doing. I understand my purpose. And I know that If I make a mistake -” He paused. “I don’t even think that’s right, is it? No. I think that-” He struggled against the feeling he was walking on ice so thin it was already mostly cracks. “-I think I mean, if I do something that wasn’t what he expected, or maybe something that isn’t ideal for the situation he’s in – I know he’s not going to call me an idiot. He’s not going to beat me.” He was surprised to find that, yes, he knew that. “He won’t starve me. I have faith that if I do do something that’s wrong, or that requires punishment -” He tensed up at the very thought of that. “-if I do, when I do, I suppose, that he’ll explain what I did wrong.”
He let out a breath. “That’s all. That’s all there in sitting there, you know? I’m sitting here, listening, because he wants me here. But there’s all that difference even if I kneel at his side. Can you – can you see that?”
Shit, he realized, he’d said all this, not just in front of Timaios but in the middle of talking about something far more important in front of all these other free Adult fae. He glanced at his Owner in quiet apology.
Much to his surprise, Timaios gave him a one-armed hug and kissed his cheek. “Well said, Ctirad.” His voice was a quiet murmur, but even as the praise washed over him, Ctirad thought it might be more aimed at Signy.
She, in turn, huffed quietly. “People are complicated.” It sounded something like a complaint – but it also sounded something like an apology.
“They are. Ah, if Timaios is fine with it, at some other time, I’d be glad to sit down with you and talk about the differences? You said you had Kept someone from Ermenrich’s stable? I think – Is this the first time you’ve actually Kept someone?”
Shit. He winced. That hadn’t been how he’d meant to make that sound.
Signy winced a little, too. “Yeah, it is. And – would you?” She looked at him first, then looked over to Timaios. “Could he?”
“He certainly can, if he wants to, of course. And I think it’s a good idea, too.”
“Me, too,” Signy agreed. “There’s a lot I don’t know.”
“Well, then, we’re in the same boat,” Ctirad joked, “because there’s a lot I don’t know, too.”