“Why don’t you ever get angry?”
It had been three days since Abrelle’s hair had started tinging blue, three days where both she and Kevin had tried to pretend that nothing had changed, three days where she desperately wished that his Change involved changing colors, or that she had any skill with Hugr, emotions. She knew what she was feeling. He knew what she was feeling; he could read it in her hair. But he hadn’t given her any clue what he was feeling, and that was driving her a little bonkers (which, it appeared, was a weird shade of chartreuse, in small stripes).
He’d picked another fight, and she was in the process of buckling him up in a series of straps, mummifying him with leather. She’d done it so many times already (and it was only November!) that she hardly had to think about it: grab collar, hook the apparatus into position, grab arms, start buckling. She hadn’t even been focusing on him; she was still halfway in the book she’d been reading for VanderLinden’s Lit class.
She blinked at him, finished the next strap, and considered the the question. “Thinking,” she told him, so he didn’t think she was ignoring him. She moved down him, smoothing his fingers against his sides with a gentle petting motion before buckling the strap around his upper thighs.
He usually took until she got to his knees to settle down, but this time he was calm already. “Take your time.”
“My Keeper,” she said slowly, as she buckled the strap above his knees… “Sit down, here, that’s good, thank you. My Keeper, he liked to bait me. And then he would tell me things like ‘no, a good ladylike Kept doesn’t lose her temper.'”
“Didn’t know you very well, did he?” He pressed his ankles together while she got the last strap buckled.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” She swung his legs up onto the bed and straightened him out, making sure everything was laying smoothly.
“I mean…” He wriggled against the straps, now that they were all in place. “You’re not exactly ladylike. That sounds like someone who drinks tea with their pinkie up and doesn’t want to break a nail. I’ve seen you in combat training. If you really wanted to, you wouldn’t need orders to hold me still. Or straps.” He wriggled a little more. “But, I mean, he’s gone. And you still don’t get mad, no matter what I do.”
“That’s… not exactly right.”
“Your hair doesn’t ever change, well, it does now, but still, you don’t ever really express anything, you just take it all and then you tie me up and… I calm down and you don’t do anything.” He paused. “Wait. Wait, are you saying you are mad at me? Shit, shit-shit, shit!” He started pulling more intently against the restraints, actually trying to get out.
He couldn’t. But Abrelle sat down and pulled him until his head was on her lap anyway. She stroked his hair and petted him until he stopped swearing.
He looked up at her, frowning, lip-bitten. “I don’t know what to think. If you’re mad and you don’t show it, how am I supposed to know anything you’re thinking. How’m I supposed to know if I do something wrong?”
Rather than answering the difficult question, Abrelle raised her eyebrows at him and smirked. “I think I’ve been pretty clear when you do something wrong.”
“Well, yeah, but if you showed anything, then I’d know before I hit the “go sit in the corner and be quiet” spot. Or, you know, know if you were angry instead of just wondering if you thought something was a bad habit you ought to nip in the bud.”
“Is there a – no, you’re right, of course there’s a difference.” She’d been Kept, after all.
“Yeah. See? So… why don’t you get angry? I mean, why don’t you show anything? Your hair doesn’t even flicker.”
“I…” Abrelle stroked his hair for a little while. “You cannot tell anyone. You cannot even hint at it, you can’t whisper about it, I’d rather you didn’t think about it much while you were out in classes but I won’t make that an order unless you want me to.” Thought orders had messed her up more than anything her Keeper had done to her; she tried very hard not to do those to Kevin. “Okay?”
He stilled and looked up at her, forehead furrowed. “It’s serious. And you don’t want – what, no, not other students. The staff to know.” He chewed on his lip. “Is it okay? Is it hurting you? If you’re in pain somehow or damaging yourself, you can’t tell me not to tell the staff, that’s horrid.”
She pet his hair soothingly. He had the softest hair. He’d changed shampoos a week into being Kept, when it’d started to be clear how much time she’d spend running her hands through his hair. She definitely liked the feel of the new stuff better, and was very pleased that he’d made the change, presumably for her.
She took a minute to find her words. “It’s not something that’s damaging me. It’s not hurting me. But it might cause problems with some of the staff, and I don’t want… I’m not ready to deal with that.”
He looked thoughtful. “How about… you tell me, and if I think it’s something to worry about, then you come up with a time when you’re ready to deal with it and the staff-problems?” He wriggled cutely in her lap and gave her a wide-eyed and innocent expression. “I want to know, I really do. But I don’t want to be stuck not being able to help you.”
“I’m surprised you care.”
“I Belong to you,” he pointed out. “That comes with a bit of caring.”
“Oh.” She thought she might be disappointed. She wasn’t sure what that said.
“Hey. Hey.” He wriggled in her lap until she looked at him. “Hey, your hair’s doing a thing. Come on, I was teasing, or, you know, not being entirely honest. I, uh. We butt heads, but I like you, okay? I mean… really like you.”
“Like you said, you Belong to me.”
“No, no. I mean, yes. Yours. But come on.” He squirmed demonstratively. “You get me. And, uh. I like it when we just sit around and talk and stuff. And there’s stuff. I like that, too.”
She wanted to say you’re not making any sense but he was. And he was smiling. Oh, her hair must be doing something.
“I’m pretty sure that’s a good color. So… you like me and I like you and if that involves a lot of bondage, well, I’m actually not complaining about that… .but you’re going to tell me your secret now?” He gave her the hopeful wide-eyed look again.
She sighed. “Okay. I need one of my arms back, though.” She slid her left arm out from under him and fished out the necklace living down in her cleavage. “So. My Keeper. He didn’t like displays of emotion, didn’t really like emotion, especially not negative emotions. And I was… very emotional. I was very unhappy in the collar and I really didn’t like him. I still don’t like him.”
“Urgh.” He wrinkled his nose. “Sounds like an asshole.”
Abrelle snorted. “YOu’ll get no argument from me on that point. Except maybe that you’re not using a strong enough word. ANyway… he didn’t like emotions, and, well. You might have noticed the Keeping makes emotions, and… being ‘human’ makes emotions, and being pregnant….” she sighed and waited for him to stop the whole-body nose-wrinkle sort of disgust expression he always made when kids came up. “THat makes emotions, too. And being in trouble for having emotions…”
“Just makes things worse. Is he still here?”
“No. No, he graduated last year. Besides,” she tapped his nose gently, “he’s not your revenge, dear. He’s mine. So… I had, have, a friend who is very good with magical items, and I had her made something — because I wasn’t allowed to do WOrkings, and, even if I was, I’m awful at the Emotions word — something to shift my emotions. Not destroy them, just take the emotions and offe them as a shift to vision, a color, like my hair. THen I could decide if I wanted to feel them or not.”
“Hunh.” He considered. “So… the blue?”
“Well, at first it was supposed to be just negative emotions. But what we did was slide the thing in my bra for a week and have it read everything I was feeling, and then extrapolate from there what it should block and what colors it should show. Love… I wasn’t feeling any love at the time, let’s say that. ” She stroked his hair, waiting for the horror or disgust or confusion.
You are feeling worried, suggested the greenish-blue haze over her vision. Suppress? Allow?
Allow she decided. The trinket would probably not last much longer anyway. She was going to have to get used to her emotions before they all came flooding back.
“Your hair’s a funny… a couple funny colors.” He twitched in his bonds. “So… your friend made you a magical item that, uh, it shuts off your emotions? You get to decide what you’re going to feel and what you’re not?”
“Do you, um. Do you want me to be like that?”
She didn’t need his hair to turn colors to tell her he was worried, too. “Do I look like a giant asshole?” she asked, possibly more sharply than she’d intended. Having the emotions back did strange things to her speaking.
His Adam’s apple bobbed. “No. No, ma’am. It’s just… uh. You haven’t been Kept in ages, years, right?”
“Since my first year,” she agreed.
“And you’re still wearing it. I mean, it looks like you’re starting to let stuff through? But if you’re still wearing it, when you obviously don’t have to care what your Keeper thinks anymore…” He looked away and struggled at the straps a little bit. “I just thought,” he muttered to her knee, “maybe you preferred things that way? Quiet? Calm.”
She stroked his hair and considered his words. “I like you the way you are. I like… well.” She ducked her head and found herself smiling, “the excuse to tie you up.”
“But you’re…” He was flushed but a smile was creeping in at his lips, “you’re still wearing it? So you like me, uh, excitable?”
“I like you the way you are,” she repeated. “And I really do like this.” She tugged on the strap around his arms.
His flush darkened and he looked away. “I like it too,” he muttered, “but I’d like it better if, uh. If you responded.”
“If I respond,” Abrelle picked her way through the words carefully, “it’s going to get loud. And I might say things I don’t mean.”
“I say things I don’t mean all the time! And sometimes I say things I do mean but wouldn’t say if I wasn’t shouting.”
“I know.” She stroked his hair. She could tell from the way he was struggling that tying him up wasn’t going to do it this time, or, at least, it wasn’t going to be enough on its own. “I’m just warning you. It’s going to get pretty shouty in here.”
“Well, then, so I won’t be alone shouting.” He hesitated. “And, uh. So I’ll know I got a reaction, maybe I won’t have to shout quite so much, too.”
“Hrrm.” She smiled crookedly at him and caught his hand, squeezing his fingers. “But I’m still going to tie you up, you know.”
“Well, yeah. I mean. That part’s fun, although…”
“I mean,” He shrugged jerkily against the straps. “You’ve got me all tied up, but, I mean, I…” He shook his head.
“Tell me,” Abrell ordered. Her vision suggested guilt, and she tolt it she didn’t want to bother with that right now. She could indulge in guilt later, when she’d figured out if something was going wrong with her Kept.
“Urgh,” he complained, and then, quickly, ‘I just wondered why you kept my clothes on all the time? I mean,” he spoke a little more slowly, the pressure of the order clearly off, “you get me all tied up, you could do anything you wanted to me. I Belong to you, you can do anything you want to me. And it’s not like you’re afraid I’m not gonna say if I don’t like something.”
Abrelle shut her mouth. That had been almost exactly what she’d been going to say.
He could tell, too. “Look, you’re not… your Keeper, and I trust you.” He twitched at the straps. “When I ask you — like, okay, the once I asked you to untie me, you, well, you untied me. I trust you,” he repeated. “I wish, you know, I could tell when you were angry, ‘cause then the bond gets all loud in my head making up options, but, uh, really, I wish if you were gonna tie me up so much, maybe you would do something with me once you’d gotten me tied up?” He wriggled in what Abrelle thought was supposed to be an enticing manner but mostly looked adorable.
Abrelle let the affectionate amusement wash through her and chuckled at him. “All right. But I’m going to warn you…”
“It’s going to be wild?” He smirked playfully. “You warned me about that already. Shouting, oh no. However will I survive?”
She rolled him onto his side so that he was off of her lap, catching him before he could roll too far away, and leaned down, very deliberately, and bit his earlobe. “My temper isn’t the only thing that’s gotten repressed over the last couple years,” she murmured into his ear, “and it’s not just going to be shouting that’s going to get wild.”
His cheeks turned pink — and his thin pants did nothing to hide the other signs of his sudden interest. “Oh no,” he repeated, but his voice was shaky and almost eager. “Wild, oh, no. However will I survive?”
Abrelle caught sight of her hair, which was turning deep blue and purple in vivid stripes. She slid the emotion-catcher out of her bra and left it on the nightstand timer. “Let’s find out, hrrm?”
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