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It was telling, humiliating, and sensible. Do you know what you like to do for fun?
He ought to. He ought to know things that were enjoyable. Everyone did, right?
Ctirad swallowed around a keening sound that refused to quiet itself. He wanted to bow until his forehead was on the floor, but he’d been told to lean back, so he stayed leaning back.
“Hey, hey.” Timaios stroked his shoulders gently. “Hey. Ctirad. Come on, kitten, come on.”
Kitten? The nickname drew him out of his panic for a moment. “Kitten?”
“Sounds better than ‘puppy’ and I don’t think you’d like ‘pet’,” Timaios admitted. “So you’re my kitten.”
“Yes… yes sir. I’m your kitten.”
“So, kitten. Do you like team sports?”
“I’m good at soccer, sir. And okay at volleyball.” He could remember that. Playing volleyball on the beach at sunset. With… With… no. No, those memories weren’t allowed.
“But not enjoyable. Hrm… Weapons?”
“I’m proficient at any number of weapons, sir. At least fifty, depending on how you count.”
“But do you enjoy any of them?”
Knives. It was an image, a feeling, rather than a word. Tossing a knife up in the air and catching it. The way it felt when he threw it. The way it felt cutting into skin. “Knives, sir.”
“Good. Very good, kitten, thank you.” Timaios leaned down and kissed the back of Ctiard’s neck.
Ctirad tilted his head forward, baring more neck, finding he wanted more of that contact.
“When Ermenrich left you alone, what did you do?”
“When,” Ctirad asked very carefully, “he left me and didn’t cage me or restrain me?”
“Did that happen? That is, were you given time to yourself?”
“Sometimes.” More in the last few months.
“Then yes. What did you do?”
“Sometimes I just walked. Whatever my um. My leash was, the distance I was allowed to go, I walked that. Usually just laps of the house or the office. Sometimes I read, if there was anything around to read. A lot of times I just did push-ups or sit-ups until I couldn’t anymore. I don’t like being idle for too long. I like having something to do.”
The last surprised him, but he found it was true. “I liked reading the best,” he admitted more quietly. “A couple times I managed to jog on the treadmill while reading, and that was very good.”
“Good.” Timaios kissed the top of his head. “Very good, kitten.”
Ctirad moaned very quietly at the praise. “Thank you… um. Thanks, Tim.” He glanced up at Timaios nervously.
“It’s good to have some idea what you like to do when you’ve got idle time. I don’t need you for household chores, but I might need you to be out of the way of the people doing that work. So it’s good to have things you want to do during that time.” He looked down at Ctirad thoughtfully. “Did you like being caged or restrained?”
Ctirad found himself blushing. He looked away, because he could, and struggled with an answer. “I didn’t like it when he left me alone that way.”
“I see.” Timaios’ voice was a soft rumble too close to Ctirad’s ear. “Interesting. Well. I’m going to have to make sure we draw some lines before we get to that point, but I won’t ever leave you caged or restrained alone for more than… half an hour, okay?”
“Even – even when I’m being punished, sir?”
“Things that are done for fun should not be used for punishment,” Timaios replied firmly. “So yes, I won’t do that as a punishment.”
“Sir?” A tall man stuck his head into the living room. He was tall, although maybe not as tall as Timaios, with his curly blue-black hair pulled back into a tight ponytail. “Mr. Talbot and Ms. Tansure are here to see you?”
“Of course they are.” Timaios’ tone was dry. “Send them in, and bring in the Chateau Kamine ‘92, if you would, the Riesling, and have Danny whip up a cheese platter.”
“Of course, sir.” The man bowed deeply and departed.
“Well, I guess we’ll see how you fare with company.” Timaios patted Ctirad’s hair. “Please don’t be too concerned; you can consider this a practice run. That’s Tristin, by the way. My… butler, I suppose.”
“Ah.” The man looked intimidating. He moved in a way that was a lot more common for a hired killer than a butler. “Do you want…” What was he supposed to even ask?
“You can be yourself, but remember to call me Tim. Ah, here they are.” He patted Ctirad’s head and rose to his feet.
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