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Haunted House 43: Buying & Selling

First: A story featuring a male keeper and a female Kept.
Previous:  Thieves

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A job.  No matter the discussions, she knew what Jasper was offering Kearney.

Mélanie wanted to protest – this is a kid we’re talking about! –  but no matter how young Kearney looked, they were clearly already getting comfortable with being on their own. She smiled instead, like she thought this was a great idea.

Kearney looked between them, coughed a couple times, and seemed to decide.  “Sure. I can do that. But only because the lady here is nice.”

“She is nice,” Jasper agreed.  “She’s quite nice, and I would suggest you remember that as you deal with her.  Because I’m not the nice one.”

Kearney didn’t shudder, didn’t even look all that impressed, but there was a slight change in their manner as they looked at the booth Jasper had been setting up.  “So, where do I put this? What can I do?” Continue reading

Haunted House 42: Thieves, Thick As

First: A story featuring a male keeper and a female Kept.
Previous:  Market

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Mélanie stepped closer to Jasper and surveyed the area.  There were people everywhere. More than half of them hadn’t seemed to notice the shouting at all.  A few of them were looking across the market. A few more were looking at Jasper.

Was she going to have to do Workings again?  Was she even allowed to?

Jasper waved enthusiastically with one arm, balancing the packages with the other.  “George Ridges! I haven’t seen you in forever!” Continue reading

Haunted House 41: The Market

First: A story featuring a male keeper and a female Kept.
Previous:  Wants and Desires

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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. Continue reading

Haunted House 40: Wants and Desires

First: A story featuring a male keeper and a female Kept.
Previous:  Honest

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Jasper was still laughing. Mélanie was staring at him with something between horror and worry.  Had she broken him?  Was he going a little mad?  Was this what happened right before he finally got angry with her?  

“Easy, easy,” Jasper managed through a chuckle.  “Oh, my dear, easy. Telling me that you think I’m doing something wrong.  Being a little difficult? I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have laughed at you.” He draped his arm around her shoulders and pulled her close to him.  “I do apologize. I know you were serious. And I take it seriously — I do!  — that you feel strongly enough about this that you’d tell me you thought I was doing something wrong.  I know that’s hard for you.” He squeezed her a little more firmly. “It’s just that if that’s what it takes to get you to give me your opinions more often, it’s tempting to go find the nicest little old couple I can find and bilk them out of their life savings.”

“Don’t do that!”  Mélanie twisted in his hold to stare at him.  “No, don’t — please, I mean —” Continue reading

Haunted House 39: Honest

First: A story featuring a male keeper and a female Kept.
Previous:  Upset

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Once again, Mélanie was in the wagon, this time back in the front. Once again, she was leaving the House behind. She waved as they left; two of the shutters on the second floor clacked back at her in what she was going to assume was a wave.

The horses seemed to like the trip to town. Their ears were pointed forward and their clip-clopping hooves seemed happy, like they were going someplace they knew and liked.

Jasper caught Mélanie looking more than once.  “You can still talk to them if you want,” he encouraged her, the third time he’d smiled at her as she’d turned away blushing.  “They like the apples the carter in town feeds them, I think, but I don’t really talk well to them.”

“I can?”  She leaned forward happily and muttered a Working, slipping into their contented minds. They liked going this way.  This way came with happy places. They was way easy, and the Human was happy when he left here.

She chuckled. “Aw.  They like you, I think.  They like you being happy.”

Continue reading

Haunted House 38: Upset

First: A story featuring a male keeper and a female Kept.
Previous:  Preparations

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“It’s weird,” Mélanie mused, as they settled boxes of goods into the back of the wagon, the sunlight coming down through the trees in dappled waves.

“Leaving? Seeing the house in the daylight?” Jasper guessed.

“Something like that, yeah. Leaving and just- well, just thinking about just leaving to go to town, I guess.”

Continue reading

Haunted House 37: Preparations

First: A story featuring a male keeper and a female Kept.
Previous:  
Understanding

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“I still think you should take the silk dresses to sell.”

Mélanie had been losing this argument for three days, but she was still determined, if not to win it, to lose it having fought her battle very well.

“And I think they look delicious on you, or will with a little taking in.”

Continue reading

Haunted House 36: Understanding

First: A story featuring a male keeper and a female Kept.
Previous:  
Owned

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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. Continue reading

Haunted House 35: Owned

First: A story featuring a male keeper and a female Kept.
Previous:  Friends

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The towel dropped down and the house shook for a second.  Mélanie jumped; Jasper reached over and put a hand on her arm.

“That’s a laugh.  It’s okay, it just means your joke worked. I mean, I hope it was a joke.  And… you’re right and wrong.”

“Sir?” Mélanie found that that worried her more than the house shaking.

“It’s to your credit, not mine, that you get along with the house.  I’m just really glad that I found you. We’ve had a few, ah. There’s been a few false hopes and a few that were obvious bad fits from the first day, but you — I think you will be happy here with us.”

Happy here with us.  Not well-behaved or even well-suited.  Mélanie found she wanted to smile, so she did, slowly but genuinely.

“I think I probably will be too, sir.  Jasper. And House… Does House have a name?” Continue reading

Haunted House 34: Friends

First: A story featuring a male keeper and a female Kept.
Previous:  Thank You

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Mélanie woke next to Jasper and found herself smiling before she had even come fully awake.  He was warm next to her, his arm thrown over her to hold her close in a gesture that seemed less possessive and more cuddly.

She looked up at the ceiling and the very nice light fixture.  “Why?” she asked, very quietly. Jasper was still asleep. She wanted him to get as much rest as he needed.  “Why did you try to stop me?”

There was silence in the house.  This house, she realized, was never completely silent.  It made little groans and squeaks, the branches brushing too close along the outside, the wind moving an old foundation.

Right now, it was making absolutely no noise.

After a moment, a voice barely a breath came to her.  “I wanted to keep you safe.”

Mélanie froze.  The house – the house didn’t like talking.  It had said – written – as much!

But the house was talking to her.  Or, at least, had talked to her.

“Thank you.”  She kept her reply as quiet as she could.  “I’m still glad I saved him.”

Again, silence.  And then, in the same whispered breath, “Me, too.”

She wasn’t going to push the house any more than that.  Mélanie snuggled against Jasper and enjoyed his warmth. If he was going to cuddle her in his sleep, perhaps she’d sleep a little longer.

~

His waking woke her, and she nuzzled against his neck, murmuring things that made no sense against his skin.  He seemed to understand anyway, and nuzzled her back. THe lights dimmed, the curtains thickened, and they had privacy to enjoy each other’s company.

~

Mélanie snugged the robe around her.  Having baths whenever she wanted was a luxury she could get used to very quickly.

She looked at the bathroom mirror. “You don’t have to answer, but I wanted to say thank you again.  I understand, or at least, I think I do. I’ll try to stay a good enough friend to deserve that treatment.”

A moment went by, and then, in the steam in the mirror, a word was written: Friend.

A smiley face came soon afterwards, just beneath it.

“Friends,” Mélanie agreed.  She added her own smiley next to the house’s.

There was a warm feeling in her chest.  She found that she was grinning. After a moment, she said, hoping the house wouldn’t take offense – and that was a sentence that would never been part of her life 2 weeks ago – “this – you’re the first friend I’ve made in, well, since a while before I was captured, and well, it’s kind of funny that my first friend is a house.”

There was a pause.  Then a crude house shape was drawn under the smilies.

“House-shaped person,” Melanie guessed.  “And a very good friend.”

The smilie was traced over, becoming clearer.

Melanie giggled.

“I should-  I should go out and see what Jasper…”  She rolled her shoulders. “Is this for real?  Is he – is he going to get all beastlie now that we’ve, now that-“

In the mirror, the words were written slowly:

He is a good person with some bad habits.

This is for real.

A moment later, the mirror was cleaned very thoroughly.  Melanie combed through her hair until it looked presentable and turned to leave.

A very cute dress appeared in front of her – along with the required underthings.  Melanie giggled.

“All right, all right.  But I’m going to work today.  I hope you know that. There’s a lot I can still do, you know.  There’s a lot I could do to make you more comfortable, too. So let me, okay?  Unless he says I can’t work, and I hope he doesn’t.” She dressed herself and checked again in the mirror.  She looked very 1940’s, and, aside from the bare feet, rather sharp.

“You have good taste in dresses,” she told the house. “Or he does and you pick stuff out well.  Thank you.”

She tried to pretend that her heart wasn’t in her throat – the house had told her this was for real, after all; the house had told her it was okay – as she bounced down the stairs into the kitchen.

Jasper looked up from the table, where he was  – oh, no, he was reading her notes on the slavers.  Melanie’s heart sank, but the smile Jasper gave her lifted it slightly.

“Good morning, beautiful.”

The blush creeping across her face distracted Mélanie from her trepidation for a moment.  Just for a moment, though. She cleared her throat.

“Good morning,” she wasn’t so much feeling daring as not having any idea what one was supposed to do in this case, “handsome.”  After all, he was.

His eyebrows went up and for a moment, before the smile on his face seemed to match the blush on hers, she thought she’d done something awful.  “I could get used to this,” he admitted. “Here, there’s some breakfast and some coffee. You know, the house likes you a lot.”

“I know.”  She sat, noting that he’d gestured at a seat but not said sit, and noting that the fare included steaming-hot cinnamon buns.  Cinnamon buns!  She couldn’t remember the last time she’d had something so rich and sugary – very possibly before the world had fallen apart. “We’re friends.  I like her too.”

“You’re-”  He took a long sip of coffee that was clearly too hot for that and sputtered around the heat while a glass of water appeared at his hand.  He gulped that down and looked at her. “I’m glad. I’m really glad. I clearly chose well at-“

A towel hit him in the face.

“What?”  He looked less irritated and more confused.  “What did I say this time? I’m happy. She’s friends with you.  Friends.  That’s a lot better than the last one!”

Melanie could guess, but it wasn’t her place to say anything, especially not with the towel buffeting Jasper from all sides.

“What? WHAT? You didn’t pick her?  Come on, you have to admit that you like her! You already said it!  Well, implied it!”

Mélanie chuckled. “Come on, House, legally, he’s right.  Me being impressive and you getting along with me is all about him.”  Feeling a little wicked, she added, “after all, isn’t everything about him?”

 

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