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Funerary Rites 26: Owned

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Erramun shifted on his knees but didn’t stand.  He didn’t look at her, didn’t move to touch the ink.  He seemed to be staring off into space.

Senga walked around behind him and brushed a feather-light touch over his shoulders.  

He twitched and leaned forward, away from her touch.  She moved her hands and moved back around in front of him.

His hands had come to clasp behind his back.  His eyes looked blank. Senga frowned. “Errmun?”

“Yes, mistress?”  His voice was rough and very quiet.  He looked like he was holding himself forcibly still.

“Senga,” she corrected.  “Erramun, what’s wrong?”

“Everything is fine… mistress.”  His shoulders were tight. She wanted to touch him again, but it seemed like it was hurting him. Continue reading

Funerary Rites 25: Marked

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Senga showed Ezer the back staircase for his side of the rooms, made certain Allayne was doing something reasonable and not fighting with anyone, and then, after a couple deep breaths, headed back to what had been her grandmother’s suite with Erramun.

After a brief reconnaissance, Senga opened up the room next to her newly-redecorated bedroom.  “It’s not the biggest room, but I think it will hold your things and anything else you want to bring here.”  She gestured in. “All yours.”

She was not expecting Erramun to freeze, nor the very slow movement he made towards the room after searching her face for – for something she couldn’t quite guess at.  After a moment, he growled quietly. “Three exits.”

“Two.  And the windows.  That door is a closet…. no, three,” she corrected.  “The closet has a stairway up to the attics.”

“Four exits.”   He moved slowly into the room, as if trying to keep an eye on her, and opened the windows.  They opened – it made a little noise of protest, but her family had always been pretty good at Preserve Workings – as all the second-floor windows did, more than wide enough for his wide shoulders and lanky body.

He left the window open and went to the door on the far side of the room.  It opened into, as she had said, a closet. He found the stairway and left that door open as well.  Then he paced to the door to the hallway, opened that, and left it open. Continue reading

Funerary Rites 24: Arrangements

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When they left the master suite – Erramun had redecorated the bedroom into shades black and blue that made it feel much more like a space Senga lived in and had somehow made it smell fresh and aired-out and not at all musty – they found Chitter and Ezer arguing over the other wing of the upstairs.

“Senga!” Ezer called.  “Tell Chitter that I need this space to coordinate the three of you on your ridiculous death-defying missions!”

“Senga,” Chitter whined, “tell Ezer that I need all this space for my computers!”

“Guys…”  Senga looked between them.  “There’s literally two wings of residential space, not counting the servants’ quarters in the back.  There is literally room for each of you to have a floor of a wing to yourself. Why do you need this space?”

“The view” they answered as one.  Then Ezer added, a little sulkily, “Allayne got the wing below yours.  And that’s the next nicest.” Continue reading

Funerary Rites 23: Home

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Erramun stepped through the door, looked back at her, and looked back into the room.  “There is nothing particularly troubling, unless you count the decorating.” He wrinkled his nose.  “That, on the other hand, is fairly disturbing.”

Senga stepped in, grateful for the small humour.  “I don’t think my Grandmother did anything but renew the Preserve Working on things that her grandmother had chosen.  As far as I know, it’s not tied in to any legacy or anything…”

Her grandmother’s grandmother had preferred pink floral chintz and an everything-matches set-up that made the room look something like the inside of a pepto bismal bottle.  But everything was still intact: the bed with its pink chintz canopy and excessive decorative pillows, even with the hollow where her grandmother’s dogs had slept at the foot of the bed; the Queen Anne furnishings that had been painted just as pink as everything else, the wide windows with their matching curtains, valances, fringed… things…. Continue reading

Funerary Rites Twenty-Two: Baggage

First: Funeral
Previous: Home

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Senga looked around.  The place was not as bad as she’d expected.  It was dusty, but the broken furniture had been moved.  The grand ballroom stood open and bare of furniture, one of the two wide staircases blocked off.  There were no bloodstains, no place on the wall where – where – her grandmother’s portrait was gone, which was not surprising, but one of her mother had replaced it, which was far more startling.  She had never seen her mother looking so formal, so comfortably formal, even when the ballroom had been open with the giant parties her parents had thrown.

She turned in a slow circle.  She remembered the way that corner had seemed so small, so cozy and hidden, even if you could see right into it from the front door.  She’d sat there when there were parties, long past her bedtime.  And over there, they’d laid out vast spreads of food, back when this house had bragged a staff second to none.  

Behind her, the rest of her crew had opened the grand front double doors but were waiting.  She understood. “Enter Monmartin Manor, and make it yours.  As Crew, this house is every bit as much your home as it is mine.  As family, you can hold this home with me.”

Chitter gasped softly.  Allayne  squeezed Senga’s hand.  “You know you didn’t have to go that far.” Continue reading

Funerary Rites Twenty-One: Home

First: Funeral
Previous: Family

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“Well,” Chitter commented dryly, “that was entertaining.  And entirely unexpected.  Senga, do you have any nice family?”

“No,” Erramun answered for her.  “Mirabella eliminated all the members of Senga’s family that might be considered nice.  Except Senga, who she chose to leave alive and actually protected.”

“Well, Senga’s not nice, she’s ruthless, sweet, and staring at me like I mean murder.  Why’d her aunt leave her alive?”


“Mirabella always has her reasons but she almost never shares them.  Shared.”  Erramun frowned.  “Someone killed her.  I want to know who.”

“I do, too.  And not just because they beat me to it.” Senga frowned.  “I don’t know, but I feel like Eaven is too obsessed with this place.  I feel like everyone is too obsessed with this place.”

“Well, move in, make it your own.  That’s the first step.”  Erramun gave her a gentle push.

“Hey, Bound guy, let the lady move on her own.” Chitter glared at him.  “You’re not supposed to be pushy, you’re supposed to be pushed.”

“And you are supposed to be moving in and being a supportive crew member,” he retorted.  “So support.  The sooner the threshold recognizes her, the safer we will all be – and that includes you, little programmer.”

Senga took a step forward while they argued, and then another.  Home.  She got her feet moving and managed to push herself through the half-open gate and beyond it, down the long, wide driveway.

“Aren’t we bringing the moving van?” Ezer asked behind her.

“In a moment.”  Erramun followed her slowly down the driveway.

The grand front garden had gone to weeds and thorns.  Well, it had always been more than  a little thorny.  The circled drive between the two flanking wings was cracked.  She muttered a Repair Working at the worst of the cracks and watched it seal up under her feet.  The doors were closed, at least, and the shutters on all the windows latched.

“Clean up later?” Erramun suggested.  “Let’s get in the front door and remind the house that it’s yours.”  He rested a hand on her shoulder.  “We’re right here.”

Allayne took the cue, as she was so good at.  “We’re right here with you.”  She put her hand in Senga’s left.  “Come on.  Do you know what parties we could throw here?  How much fun we could have here?  Ooh, and I bet we could set up-  but that’s for later, come on.”

“I want to have a whole room for my computers,” Chitter – well, chittered.  There was a reason that was her name.  “A whole wing.”

“Hey,” Ezer scolded, “save some for the rest of us, eh?  It’s a big place and all, but -”

“But there are two residential wings.”  Senga started walking. “Not counting the servants’ wing.  “And there are two and a half floors each on each of those wings.  Chitter can have a floor of a wing.  We can all have a floor of a wing.  And then when we’re settled, we can decide what to do about the rest.”

Her hand was on the doorknob.  She held her breath.  She half-expected the house to reject her, the threshold to bar her entrance.

Erramun had gotten in, and by the rules of the fae, he was her.  “I’m home,” she murmured softly.  She opened the door and stepped very carefully inside.

Next: http://www.lynthornealder.com/2018/01/10/22baggage/

 
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Funerary Rites Twenty: Family

First: Funeral
Previous: Naked, Dead People, Etc.

He looked her over for a minute, almost as if he hadn’t seen her before.  Then he closed his eyes and went still.  “Daughter of Claudia, the lawyer said.  In the fae style.  But that’s not what you said, is it?  Daughter of Aonghus, himself the son of Sláine.  I was distracted at the time.  That’s the only excuse.  That’s an interesting lineage you have there.”  He opened his eyes again.  “Claudia, Named simply The Free, who was that and more, wild and calm, and absolutely deadly when crossed.  Aonghus. The White Wolf.  Oh, did he cause trouble in the winter.”  His lips curled.  “Yes.  I know about your family.  I knew Sláine, too, Life-or-Death.  You come by your violent tendencies honestly, Senga Monmartin.  And what do they call you?”

Senga had not heard her family’s Names spoken in decades, and she hadn’t heard them spoken like that – with cautious reverence – since they’d died.  “They call me Monmartin,” she answered dryly, and waved her hand before he could complain that that hadn’t been what he meant.  “It’s not actually my last name.  They call me War,  but the full name is Swallow on the Mountain of War.”

“Mon-martin,” he murmured.  “That’s quite a mouthful of a Name.”

“My Mentor had – has – a leaning towards the poetic and a flair for the dramatic.  It was supposed to be Swallow of  War, but she couldn’t resist the chance to get the Mon part in there.” Continue reading

Funeral: Mutual Interest

First: Funeral
Previous: Funeral: Shower Negotiations

There was an ancient fae assassin in Senga’s bathroom, and she had her hands in his pants.

“I’m capable of taking care of myself,” he pointed out.

“Yes. But you’re my responsibility now.” She peeled his pants slowly off. He went commando; she was going to get the full show all in one go.

“You have other responsibilities. Besides, you gave me something to do.” He stretched back a little bit, consciously or unconsciously showing off. Flat stomach, muscular chest and arms: he didn’t work out so much as he kept his body in perfect fighting condition. Senga didn’t try to stop herself from licking her lips. He was kind of scrumptious, in a way that wasn’t normally her style.

“You liked it?” She looked up to his face, to find his eyes half-lidded like he wasn’t sure he wanted to see her reaction. “Being given something to do?”

“Yeah. I.” He shifted into something she thought was close to a parade rest and studied her. “Yeah.” He swallowed and considered that. “I didn’t think I would,” he admitted. “I don’t like orders.”

“That is going to make things difficult,” she admitted, a little amused despite herself. “Suggestions are easy enough for most things, though. And, ah, nudges. As long as you don’t actually attack Chitter.”

He snorted. “Nah. She’s … I get her. She makes sense. So. Shower?” He took a step back and reached for the tap but stopped short of turning the water on.

“A shower is why we’re in here, after all,” she agreed, or at least suggested agreement, in part to see what he did with something that sideways.

“It is. Unless it’s to show off your really expensive pumps.” He turned on the water. “And my – well, whatever I’m showing off.”

“Most men would say their abs.” He had very nice abs.

“I’m not most men.” He sounded almost prickly.

“No, that’s obvious.” She tested the water and stepped in. “Better-looking, for one.”

She’d had her back to him for a moment and turned around just in time to catch an uncomfortable expression on his face. “Not many people say that.”

“I’m not most people.” It was too easy a line to ignore. “Besides, you really are quite attractive.”
“… Thanks.” He rolled his shoulders. “So uh.”

“So this is where you wash my back.” She turned so her back was facing him. “And then, if we’re sticking with the old adage, then I wash yours.”

She waited and tried not to be nervous. She didn’t spend a lot of time pointing her back at someone, especially not a stranger.

He can’t attack you, she reminded herself, but the logical part of her brain pointed out that someone named Silent Death who her Great-Aunt had threatened her to take into her home on pain of certain murder if she didn’t could probably work around something as simple as just a Bound Servant bond.

The washcloth brushed across her shoulders so lightly she barely felt it. Then a little more firmly, as he gained confidence in himself, and then a little bit more firmly, just enough to actually wash her back while still being rather gentle. “There’s blood back here,” he pointed out. “The bullets went through you.”

“You saw the holes in the dress,” she countered uncomfortably. She didn’t like to think about the sensation, being pierced through, how close one of the bullets had come to her heart.

He was lingering on that blood spot, too. “It’s one thing to see the dress and another to see the blood. No scar – she does good healing work.”

“She gets enough practice.” It was so the wrong thing to say, but she’d already said it.
“Mmm.” Much to her surprise, he wrapped his arms around her and pulled her against him. He was quite a bit taller than her, enough so that his chin rested easily on top of her head. “I find,” he murmured, so quietly that she could barely hear him over the water, “that I do not like that. I suppose I will help you find jobs that cause you to have fewer holes in your dresses, mmm? And perhaps come along to protect you.”

She didn’t really want to discourage this, she really didn’t, but, “it’s going to be hard to do a honeypot sort of thing with you standing protectively behind me,” she sighed.

“Oh, I can be very, very un-noticable. Even by cameras.” Something in his voice was wild and amused. “But that…” He stepped back and tugged on her shoulder. She took the implied cue and turned to look at him.

He looked serious, a look somewhat ruined by the water pouring over his shoulders. Hopefully Monmartin Manor had a taller shower somewhere. This one was really too short for him. “I am not sure I could stand by quietly while someone attacked you.” He cleared his throat. “You invite intimacy. My previous — That hasn’t happened before.”

“You could probably stand by quietly if you had an order holding your there.” She ran her hands over his chest, following the trails the water was leaving. “I suppose we could test it on an unimportant mission. Then if I’m being set up, I’ll be protected. More protected,” she corrected. “I’m not a helpless flower, you know.”

“I’m getting that impression. You four, you wade right into trouble, don’t you?” He was watching her hands, as much as he could, instead of her face. “It’s interesting. I’d like to see more of it.”

“How about you work on seeing more of me right now and worry about my job later?” Senga suggested. “I’d like to focus on you for a bit.” She picked up a washcloth and lathered up his chest, watching the way his heart pounded as she moved her hands down towards his hip bones.

“You—” He coughed and tried again. “You want to focus on me? I am — that is — I am not very interesting.”

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Funeral: Shower Negotiations

First: Funeral
Previous: Funeral: Kitchen Negotiations

“They’ll be at it all night,” she whispered as she led him upstairs. “Or at least a few hours. They always are. It’s how they handle… being them. All right, here’s the shower. You’re not body-shy, are you?”

“What?” He stared at her, and then at the bathroom – so suburban, with its pastel decorations clashing with the Human Anatomy shower curtain Chitter had insisted on.

“Your body? Can I see it naked?”

“…you Own me. You were there for that part, right? The part where you agreed to own me as your Bound Servant?”

“I was there.” If she was the sort of owner he thought she was, she might slap him for that tone, but she was pretty sure that wasn’t where she wanted to go with this and even more sure that it wouldn’t change his behavior in any helpful way. “And I’m asking. Can I see you naked?”

“…You really are young,” he muttered again, not quite looking at her.

“Can we hold off on references to my age except in cases where I’m missing a pop culture reference or didn’t actually see Lincoln assassinated, please? I’m young. Yes. I want to not steamroll over you, yes. I don’t think those are necessarily the same thing.”

“You’ve got to have a reason, then.” He looked uncomfortable, possibly because she was snapping at him but just as likely because they were standing in a pastel bathroom that was not really designed for two adults at once.

“Of course. I have to own an assassin Named Death Comes Silently for five years. I’d like to survive my sixth and seventh years from now. In addition, I like to think I’m not a screaming bitch, unlike most of my family.”

He smiled crookedly. “White sheep.”

“At your service. Or, ah, you’re at my service, I suppose. So are you going to take your clothes off, or am I going to shower while you watch?”

He blinked. “You’d do that?”

“Listen. That is….” Senga shook her head. “Have you noticed what I do?”

“Something like femme fatale with a side order of honeypot traps and a whole lot of kicking ass. Explains why you clean up so nicely.”

“…Thanks. There’s a story behind that comment that you will tell me someday, but today is not that day. Yes. I’m more uncomfortable with someone seeming me unarmed than undressed. Why don’t you help me with these buckles?” She turned her back on him and presented him the buckles.

“The dress has three bullet holes in it.” Still, he began unbuckling the dress. He had giant hands, but they seemed more than deft enough as he worked the buttons and buckles. “You could just step out of the holes.”

“Not quite. It’s a surprisingly durable dress, other than a couple holes. I just need to get better at mending these things. Ezer gets all swoony and silly when I ask him to fix up bullet holes. Ah, thank you.” Erramun peeled the dress down off her hips and pushed it to the floor and she stepped out of it. That left her in heels and stockings with a long run.

And then he started rolling her stockings down off her legs, his touch somehow far less intimate and far more careful and almost-clinical than she’d have imagined possible. Still, his breath was trailing down her back as he pulled off first one stocking and then the other and Senga found herself shivering.

“No holes in the stockings,” he commented quietly. “So the only bullets you took were body shots and somehow you managed not to run your stockings while fleeing from gunmen.”

“Really expensive pumps,” Senga answered, or tried to. Somewhere in the middle she gasped a little, as his breath hit the back of her knee. “I can run like the wind in them and they still look pretty damn sexy.”

“Yes, they do.” He lifted her foot to pull one of those shoes off. “But I imagine you don’t want to shower in them.”

“You know,” she managed, almost conversationally, “when I met you, you didn’t seem to be the sort of man who was skilled at, ah, playing valet.”

“I have quite a bit of skill undressing women, thank you.” His voice held a bit of a chuckle in it. “But this, no, I haven’t done this in a long time.” He reached up for her lace panties and both hands stopped, resting on her hip bones. “Do you like it?”

It should’ve sounded needy. Instead it sounded like a challenge.

Senga thought about turning around to see his face, but with him now kneeling behind her, that would put his face – “I do like it,” she answered quietly. “Do you?”

He didn’t answer for a moment. Senga didn’t give in to the urge to turn around.

“I believe I do.” He hesitated again. “I didn’t think I would, you know. Being yours. Serving you.”

“I didn’t think you would, either.” Now she turned around. “Here, stand up so I can return the favor?”

She managed to catch a glimpse of a strange look – somewhere between surprise, shock and discomfort – on his face before he stood up. “Of course. You didn’t think I’d like it?”

“It’s not like we really had a good choice in the matter… I should’ve gotten your shirt off before you stood up.”

He pulled his t-shirt off and dropped it on the toilet. “Let’s just assume you meant my pants.” He gave her a small but genuine-looking smile.

Senga returned it with her own, a little broader. “I did not mean to wander off for a whole day when you were still adjusting to the Bond and all that comes with it.”

She unbuttoned his pants and slid her hand between the zipper and his skin. His stomach was flat, with just a bit of fuzz.

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Funeral: Kitchen Negotiations

First: Funeral
Previous: Funeral: Debrief

“Senga, I am going to hit your man, just so you know.” Chitter glanced over at Senga before going back to the far-more-interesting problem of how to get around Erramun to the fridge.

“Chitter, just so you know, if you hit him, I’m not going to stop him short of the point where he might put you in traction. Especially if you hit him for teasing you.” Senga set her hand on Erramun’s arm, and so she could feel the way his muscles had tensed, even though he showed nothing on his face. “He’s older than us, he’s probably smarter than us-”

“-Smarter than you, maybe. Come on, no old guy is smarter than me. You, on the other hand, you walked into a- errrk.”

Erramun had casually and easily picked Chitter up by her throat with one hand. She had both hands around his wrist, and she was kicking in the air, but she couldn’t get enough breath to complain – or to spit out a spell.

“I think you’ve made your point, Erramun. Please put Chitter down and let her get a soda.” Senga didn’t bother pretending that she wasn’t amused.

Erramun turned around and set Chitter down next to the fridge. “You might be smart, sa’Chitter,” he said, with a tone of humor in his own voice, “But sa’Senga is my sworn Owner, and I’m not going to listen to you insult her.”

Well, that was unexpected. Senga didn’t know what to think about it. “Erramun, we’re crew, Chitter and Allayne and I. And Ezer,” she added. “We’re crew. We mess around and insult each other all the time. Please, stand down. Haven’t you ever had anyone you played around with? What are you going to do when we start seriously horsing around? Throwing fake punches and tossing each other to the ground and that sort of thing?”

“Probably get popcorn,” Chitter put in unhelpfully. “When you and Allayne get going it’s like something on Skinamax. ‘Sunday! Two hot combat-ready chicks in skin-tight dresses! Now only Fifty-nine-ninety-nine!’” Chitter mimed a megaphone with her hands. “‘Watch as they tear each other’s clothes off, one strip at a time! Watch as-’”

Erramun’s growl silenced her. “Just joking,” she muttered, as she dropped her hands down to her lap.

“I understand ‘horsing around’,” Erramun snarled. “But I don’t understand this bitching about your combat skills when you’ve been shot.

“Idiot,” Chitter complained, “that’s how I handle her and Allayne going into combat situations and leaving me behind. You think I like it? You think I like that the only thing that saved Senga was her instincts, not my leet hacking skills? Do you think I enjoy watching her get shot? No.” She stepped up to Erramun and glared upwards at him. “Haven’t you ever had friends? Haven’t you ever had to send someone into battle and bite your tongue and hope to whatever gods don’t really exist that they’re not going to hit a patch of bad luck or some set-up or someone trying to kill them because their great-aunt was insane? Geez.” She took a step back and shook her head. “We’re crew. Get used to it or sleep in the garage.”

“Chitter.” Senga was amused, but, still. “Don’t try to make Erramun sleep in the garage. He’ll get used to it, or he’ll figure out how to handle it, at least. Erramun?”

Erramun grumbled. “You are all insane. You’d better let me come on missions with you. I don’t know if you can survive without me.”

Senga studied him for a moment, deciding how angry to be. “You know that Chitter is my friend and you’re a stranger, right?”

He shifted backwards a step, noticing the change in tone, looking at her, noticing her body language, and then shifted backwards another half-step. “I know that your great-aunt wanted me to protect you.”

“And she must have wanted me to protect you, too, or she would have arranged things the other way.”

“Nobody who knows me would give me someone to keep under my collar, you know.”

“Great-Aunt Mirabella is not known for being kind about these things, just practical. So there was a reason.” She studied him for a moment. “Which we can discuss later.” He’d gotten tense again; when she said that, he relaxed.

“The Monmartin manor isn’t in bad shape. It’s going to take a little bit of cleaning up, but if you give me permission, I can do a lot of that myself.” He looked – strange. After a moment, she realized that he was acting nearly subservient.

“That’s right, you had a bunch of time to yourself. It went pretty fast for us,” she added, feeling apologetic.

“I got a lot done. I,” he coughed, “Tidied things, too.”

“Oh no!” Chitter ran into the dining room. “You didn’t… oh. Oh.” She sounded relieved; Senga didn’t bother to go check on her. Instead, she looked around the kitchen. “I think ‘tidied’ is an understatement.”

“It was a long day, and I didn’t have anything else to do.” He shifted again, looking – departed gods, he looked worried!

“It’s great,” she assured her. “We’re not so good at that sort of thing, as you – ah, as you did notice. Tell you what, you look a bit tired, and I’m exhausted. Why don’t we take a shower and hit the hay?”

He raised his eyebrows. “That sounds pleasant. And tomorrow…?”

“Tomorrow, we can all start moving into Monmartin Manor.” If nothing else, if the manor hadn’t been totally ransacked, it had some lovely defenses.

“Sounds good. There’s enough space there that I can get a soda without upsetting … sa’Chitter here.”

“He’s making fun of me! Sengaaaa!”

“No, Chitter, he’s being respectful, because he’s a Bound Servant and you’re not. Were you raised in a barn?” Allayne huffed from the doorway.

“Oh, good, you’re in mostly one piece. And as a matter of fact… yes, I was. As you damn well know.”

Senga took Erramun’s hand and led him upstairs before Allayne and Chitter could get truly into it.

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