December 10, 2012 by Lyn
Monday, October 28, 2003, just after Chapter 9: Ahouva
“I was hoping you’d be my girlfriend.”
Ahouva stared at Basalt. “You ripped out Kendon’s guts because you wanted a girlfriend? There’s got to be an easier way.”
“That was Jeremiah,” he demurred. “I beat them down until they yielded. To rescue you.” He sounded a bit funny about the last part.
“I didn’t need rescuing!” More quietly, quickly more quietly, she added, “I was doing fine. I’d finally gotten to the point where I could make Kendon happy, where he didn’t yell at me much at all.” Now she was going to have to do it all over again with this guy. She was getting nervous, and so she tried for a much more subdued sound, but she had to ask. “You’re not going to be like Thorburn, are you?”
“Like him how?” he asked carefully. His knees were still touching hers. She should pull away, but she didn’t really want to. She told herself it was because she didn’t want to offend him.
“I’ve seen Ceinwen crying, when she doesn’t think anyone was looking,” she muttered.
“I’ve seen you do the same thing,” he countered, and she winced.
“Sorry! I don’t mean for anyone to see me; I was just overreacting.”
“And you don’t think Ceinwen was?”
“Should I?” she asked nervously. “She seemed so level-headed, not a mess like me.”
He shook his head. “Damn. All right, this is going to tricky, isn’t it?”
“You could give me back?” she offered timidly.
He shook his head. “No. No, I’m not going to do that. After this, Kendon’s going to be worse than ever before.”
She winced, swallowing a comment. He’d just made things worse, no matter how you looked at it. “Then… tell me what you want from me?”
“Hold on, I’m still on your last question.” He smiled ruefully. “I’m kind of slow, so you have to be patient with me, okay?”
She nodded, not certain if the “hold on” meant to be quiet or not. That got her a real smile from him – he had a very nice smile, when he tried – and then a thoughtful sigh. “Okay. The short answer is, Thorburn and I took away different things from being under cy’Linden last year. I don’t know what he’s doing to make Ceinwen cry – I hadn’t known she was crying, though that explains some of the things Penny’s said – but I don’t want to do anything to make you cry.”
She stared at him. Kendon hadn’t liked her crying, either. “I can try not to cry…” she offered. Obviously she had to get better at hiding it.
He shook his head. “That’s not what I mean, Ahouva. I mean – you asked if I was going to be like Thorburn. And I’m telling you no, I don’t want to be like that. I don’t want to be like Kendon, either.”
He frowned, and she, wondering how she’d managed to upset him already, cringed. That just made him frown more deeply.
“Every evening, I’m going to ask you if I have done anything to upset you. I’m going to want – and order –to know everything, so if you have to write it down in a notebook to remember it at the end of the day, do that.”
“Okay?” This sounded like an excuse for punishment waiting to happen, but maybe she could change her definition of “upset?”
“If something bothers you badly enough that you want it to stop right away, tell me right away. Right then. Even if we’re in public.” He touched a finger to her nose. “I do not want to be upsetting you.”
She winced again, and nodded, because he seemed to want her to agree. “Okay? I mean, yes, sir.”
He sighed quietly. “Okay.” He seemed to be willing to let it go, at least. Maybe she’d be able to work around it. “On to your second question.”
She was getting lost. “Okay?”
“What I want from you.”
Oh, that one. She nodded, eyes down. “Yes, sir.”
“It’s Basalt,” he corrected gently. “I’m really not fancy enough to be sir for anyone.”
“Yes, Basalt.” She peeked up at him. “Not ‘master’ either?”
“Does it – be honest with me – make you happy to call someone master?”
Yes. No. Yes? “Maybe?” she offered carefully. “When I called Kendon master, sometimes it made him happy, and sometimes it made him angry.”
“But what about what you like?”
“I like having my owner happy with me!” Why did he keep asking what she liked? Why wouldn’t he tell her what he wanted out of her. “I like knowing what the right thing to do is!”
He sat back, lips closed tightly, and Ahouva quailed. Now she’d done it. Now he was going to be mad at her, and he was going to … what was he going to do? She peeked at him cautiously. She didn’t know what came next with him.
He had his face in both hands. “This… is going to be interesting.”
“You can still give me back.”
“No. I won’t.” He dropped his hands. “When you came here, you were a mouthy, bright, clever new kid. I liked you like that.”
“Nobody else did,” she muttered.
“Even if that’s true, which I doubt, they don’t matter, do they?”
Now he was on ground she understood. “No, master.” She smiled cautiously at him. “What you want is what matters.”
“Exactly. Good girl,” he added, saying the words very carefully. She shivered at the good feelings his words sent through her, as condescending as they were. He was happy with her?
He patted her shoulder gently. “What I want is you to be yourself. And I think that’s going to be trickier than I originally thought.”
She nodded, biting her lip. “How will I know what you like, then?”
“Mm. If you really bug me, I’ll let you know. But look, Ahouva, I’m really not that bright, and you are.”
“I’m not that clever. Kendon had to correct me all the time.”
“That’s because Kendon is an asshole, not because you’re not smart. When you came here, you thought you were pretty bright, didn’t you?”
She dropped her head. “I was stupid. I didn’t know how the world really was.”
“You were smart – are smart. You just didn’t know how to handle this place.”
“Kendon was teaching me.”
“Kendon was teaching you how to be a good little pet.”
“Isn’t that what being Kept is?”
“Only if that’s what your owner wants. What I want, as I said, is a girlfriend. You. Smart, mouthy, and clever.”
“Oh.” She blinked at him uncertainly. “What if I can’t be that anymore?”
He sighed, and, before she could say anything else, pulled her into his lap and cuddled her against him. “Then we’ll have to figure that out together.”
Friday, November 1, 2003
Basalt was, Ahouva was learning, not as hard to work around as she’d feared. He didn’t appear to have a temper, certainly not one along the lines of Kendon’s, and he had a great deal of patience with her while she fumbled around, trying to figure out how to make him happy.
She was not sure she liked this list that he insisted on – “write down everything that makes you really happy, and everything that makes you unhappy” – but it had become a kind of meditative exercise, a minute after each class where she let herself just think about herself, and how she felt. Sharing it with him every evening – that was less comfortable. It never failed to get a frown, and it never failed to get a “good girl,” until she was finally, today after her magic class, adding “talking about this list” to her list of things that made her unhappy.
Thoughtfully, and because she didn’t like him frowning, she added “Kissing Basalt” to the list of things that made her happy. It was honest – he’d insisted on honesty but, thankfully, not complete honesty – and it would make him smile. She liked it when he smiled.
She closed her notebook and headed out into the hall. He’d be waiting for her; he always waited for her after her last class. As almost kind of romantic, like he was some 1950’s boyfriend. She liked thinking it was because he liked her, and not because he was afraid Kendon might get his hands on her. That… She paused in the doorway, and wrote “thinking about Kendon” on the list of things that made her unhappy. Thinking about Kendon terrified her.
“So you have Kendon’s little toy now, ‘Salt?” She paused in the doorway. Kendon’s toy. That was her. Not anymore… but that was her. What would Basalt say?
“I Own Ahouva,” he confirmed, slowly. “Why, Calvin?”
Calvin! She knew him! He’d been all over Timora for the first couple weeks, and then… nothing. And Timora had come out of Hell Night with Arundel, and not speaking.
“Getting kind of bored, thought you might want to exchange… favors. She’s a cute little thing.”
“You don’t have anything I want.”
“Are you sure?” Calvin’s voice dropped to a whisper, and Ahouva’s heart dropped. Slowly, she slunk back into the classroom. She could hide. She could… something. Run away? She could run away. Somewhere. Slowly, she sidled out the back door.
Out the back door of the classroom, down a side hallway. If she turned left here she could make it to the place where they went outside for Kaana lessons. She planned out her route, even as she examined Basalt’s orders – and not just the very few he made orders directly, but all the other things he said that didn’t force obedience, just tested it.
She didn’t have any direct rules about where she should be after class, but he had said “I’ll meet you after your class.” That could just be courtesy, but it was probably a test. Probably a test she was in the process of failing. Just because Calvin creeped her out. Bad girl.
She knew better. She didn’t need a Keeper to chastise her; she knew the words by heart. She was being difficult, when she knew she shouldn’t be. She knew to do what she was told. If she did what she was told, Basalt would at least have less reason to be unhappy with her, to punish her. He hadn’t punished her yet, except these lists, but that just meant it would be horrid when he finally did.
She slowed herself down and, forcing her feet to keep going, turned around. She had to go back. It was the only chance she had at understanding what he wanted of her. It was her only chance of minimizing her punishm-
“Ow! You bastard!” Ahouva stopped inside the doorway again, trying to stay hidden and still listen. That was Calvin, wasn’t it?
“If you ever,” Basalt’s voice was low and menacing, a rumble like a volcano about to erupt, “say anything like that where Ahouva can hear you, I will break more than your nose, you pissant little piece of shit. You leave my Kept alone.”
“You can’t get away with this shit.”
“Watch me. Bring your useless little friends, and I’ll bring my friends, and we’ll see how that goes.” He was terrifying. She pressed herself against the doorway and tried to become invisible. “Get out of here. I don’t want her to have to deal with you.”
“Not now, you aren’t. Get out of here.” Ahouva heard someone walking away, hurrying away, what a wonderful idea. She should…
No, she shouldn’t. She made herself smile faintly as Basalt rounded the corner, and stopped, frowning.
Frowning. Frowning was bad. She took an involuntary step backwards. “I’m sorry?”
“I didn’t want you to hear that.” He wiped his hand on his jeans, leaving a wet streak on the black denim. Ahouva gulped, and stepped back again, cursing herself as Basalt’s frown deepened. “‘Hoo, I’m sorry. Believe me, I didn’t want you to hear that.”
“I believe you,” she answered dully.
“Oh, balls, honey, come here,” he grumbled, holding out a hand. Unwillingly, she reached out for his hand, putting her fingers over his fingers. “Ahouva, Calvin is a grade-A asshole. I don’t want him bothering you. What are you…?”
“This stupid list,” she muttered, scribbling in it. “It’s still after class and…”
He peered over her shoulder. “Oh. Well. Let’s go talk about that, okay?” I don’t like being scared of my Keeper. He shouldn’t have seen that. She shouldn’t have written that.
She shouldn’t have even thought it; it was okay to be frightened of your Keeper. He was in charge of her, after all. He had the power of life or death over her, that’s what Kendon had said. That was frightening, very reasonably frightening.
But it made Basalt unhappy, and the last thing she wanted to do was… “Where are we going?” Stupid, dumb, stupid, questioning him. Keeper knew what he was doing. That’s why he was in charge, not her.
“Outside. It’s still nice enough out, and I thought you might like the open air.”
“…Oh.” She blinked, not sure what to think about that. “Thank you?”
He smiled down at her. “You’re welcome. So.” He opened the door. “You don’t like the list?”
“I…” she quailed. “I didn’t say that!”
“I know. And if you really disliked it, it would end up on the list, wouldn’t it?”
It had taken some twisty thinking to keep it off of there. “Yes?” She muttered it guiltily, not able to meet his eyes.
“Ah.” He paused, the sun shining down on them. “I want to know what’s really going on, not what you think I want to hear.”
“But then…” she stopped herself, but not in time. He shook his head.
“Finish that sentence the way you originally planned to. Please.”
The please didn’t make it any less of an order. “But then you’d be angry with me. I’m not very grateful. I’m not very good at being Kept.”
“Oh, Ahouva.” He hugged her very carefully. “You’re very good at being Kept. But you’re not very good at helping me be a good Keeper to you.”
“I’m sorry?” she squeaked. It felt nice to be held in his arms. And safe. Kendon’s arms had never felt safe.
His breath was warm across her hair as he sighed. “I asked you to write the list because I want to know what’s going on in your head – and because I want you to think about your wants and dislikes, instead of just mine.”
“But why?” she muttered into his shoulder. “It’s easier to be a good Kept if I just think about what you want.”
“I know, honey.” He pressed her a little closer to herself. “But what I really, really want is for you to be the best Ahouva you can be. Sorry,” he added ruefully. “I know the other thing is probably easier. Over here, let’s take a load off.”
Basalt sat down under the shade of an apple tree, at the edge of a beautiful little orchard, and patted the ground next to him. “So, that list. Let’s talk about it, okay?”
Ahouva sat down where he indicated, smoothing her skirt under her. A little dirt would come out in the wash, and she didn’t want to make him any unhappier. “Okay?” She wished she could just burn it. She wished he’d never ordered her to write the stupid thing.
“Let’s start with that last one.”
She winced, and pulled her knees to her chest. “I’m sorry! It’s…” It wasn’t fair, forcing her to be honest like that. She could do so much better if he let her keep things to herself.
“It’s fear. It’s a natural emotion, but it’s not exactly a fun one. And I can’t blame you for not liking it.” He took her notebook from her and looked at that last item again. “‘I don’t like being scared of my Keeper.’ I wouldn’t, either, Ahouva.”
She peeked up at him. He didn’t look angry. Yet. “I can’t imagine you scared of anything.”
“I was scared when I was Kept. I wasn’t scared of Brydan, but I was scared of not having any control over anything. I get angry when I’m scared, though.”
She nodded, gulping a little bit. “I just get worried.” That was almost true, at least. She could remember, Before, getting angry about it. But that was another world.
“I don’t blame you. So…. how can I help you not be scared?”
“You could order me not to?” she offered in a tiny voice. The don’t-feel-this-way orders were the worst. But it would stop the problem, right?
“No, honey.” He was frowning, but it was gentle somehow. “I mean, why do I frighten you?”
“Oh.” She quailed, but the truth bubbled out. “Because you’re scary!” When he didn’t yell at her or even frown, she hurried on. “You’re big and you’re stronger than anyone I know and I have no idea what you’re going to do or when this kid-gloves thing is going to be over and Basalt, I don’t know what you want!”
As soon as it had been said, she regretted it, slapping both hands over her mouth and flinching back. But he, he was smiling.
“Okay, that’s fair. I’m kind of big and rock-headed, I know that. Hunh. If I promise that I will tell you if you are doing something wrong, and give you a chance to fix it, before grumbling, will that help?”
She moved her hands away from her mouth, peeking at him. “You’d do that?”
“Honey, it will help you relax, I’d promise a lot more than that.” He patted her shoulder. “I don’t like making you scared either.”
She relaxed a little, feeling as if she’d managed another hurdle. “Okay. Okay… yes? Yes, please?”
“I promise,” he smiles. “I’ll tell you and give you a chance to fix it if you’re doing something wrong, before I get angry with you. Okay?”
She blinked at him, feeling as if a giant weight was lifted off of her chest. “No secret mistakes? No tests?”
“None. I’m not bright enough for that.” He offered her an arm and, relieved, she cuddled into it, pressing against him, thinking her new master might be a lot brighter than he thought he was.
She relaxed, there, snuggled against his warmth for a bit, thinking maybe he’d stop there. And for the nicest five minutes she’d had in weeks, maybe months, he did. And then…
“So, the rest of the list.”
“Um?” She peeked up at him. “I’m fine.”
“I know you don’t like talking about it. Can you tell me why?”
“Because you don’t like it,” she answered quietly. “You’re always frowning.”
“Oh.” He frowned, and then, catching himself, made a gruesome grimace, and then another, before settling on something like a smile. Catching sight of her expression – she couldn’t tell whether to laugh or be terrified – the smile turned real. “That’s the face I make when I’m thinking, Ahouva, that’s all. And you make me think, a lot.” He pressed a finger to her lips. “That’s a good thing.”
She nodded, blushing. “So…” she offered, as he moved his finger away, “you aren’t angry when
you do that?”
“No,” he shook his head. “No, not at all. I’m trying to figure out how to get to a place where we’re both happy.”
“Oh.” She blinked at him. “You could tell me what you want. That would make me happy.”
He laughed. “I want you to be my girlfriend, Ahouva. I don’t want you to just do what I want all the time.”
“Then let me go.” She slapped her hands over her mouth, but it was too late, the words were already out. And he… She peeked over her hands. He was smiling. Grinning.
“Atta girl,” he laughed. “That’s my Ahouva back. C’mon, let it out.”
Let it out was a very vague order, so, since he was smiling, and since he’d promised to warn her before punishing her, she poked him in the chest. “If you want me to act like myself, you can’t order it. Ordering is all about being a good pet. Being an obedient Kept. Ordering me to think about myself is counter-productive and it’s confusing.”
He looked startled, but he didn’t tell her to stop, so she didn’t.
“If you want me to be myself, Basalt, stop worrying about being a good Owner and just be a good person around me. You want to date your Kept… date me. Or something. Talk to me like a person and not a project. I’m not a broken window.” She wrinkled her nose, as her brain caught up with her mouth. “Or just Keep me,” she added, flinching a little bit, “but not like… ordering me to be honest. It sucks.”
He blinked. “Brydan…” He shook his head. “Right. That was different. And you… all right, Ahouva. I’ll try. May I kiss you?”
That seemed like a nice start. “Can I stop letting it out?” she countered, feeling more like herself than she had in a long time.
“Can you… shit. Yes.”
Shit? But he wasn’t looking all that angry, so she thought it might be safe. “Kiss?” she prompted carefully. She thought she wanted a kiss, but she didn’t want to get pushy. And she didn’t want to ask for something she turned out not to want.
“Kiss.” He nodded, and then didn’t do anything. She thought he’d changed his mind, and then one big meaty hand came up, slowly, so she could see it coming, and circled her, until he was resting his hand on the back of her neck, his fingers just under the necklace-collar. Then, still moving really slowly, he leaned down towards her.
He was going to take a decade to get to her at this point. “Glaciers move faster.” She muttered it, but then, when he didn’t glare at her, she said it again. “Glaciers move quicker, Basalt-master. Basalt moves faster.”
“I don’t want to spook you.” He looked a little hurt, but mostly worried. She didn’t want him hurt or worried. She wanted him happy, and kissing her.
“I’m not spooked.” His hand wasn’t holding her in place, was it? Just sort of cradling her. She darted forward and up and, feeling braver than she had in months, placed a peck of a kiss on his lips.
“Ack!” He almost flinched, and then, before she had time to really start getting worried, grinned at her. “Okay, okay. So I was a bit spooked. Face it, Ahouva, the only way a guy like me gets a girl like you is by… well, pretty much what I did. Which doesn’t, historically, lead to girls that like the guy that got them.”
“You rescued me.” She kissed his cheek, because she wasn’t feeling brave enough to kiss his lips.
“You didn’t think you needed it, at the time.”
“I didn’t think being Kept by anyone would be any different than being Kept by Kendon.”
“You thought I…” He closed his mouth and shook his head. “Okay. You heard the stories, didn’t you?”
She nodded mutely, beginning to think that being honest was a really, really bad idea.
“And you saw Ceinwen with Thorburn – I swear to you, I didn’t know she was crying, but I don’t know if that makes a difference. I knew she wasn’t – I know she’s not happy. Maybe I’ll hit him a few times, too.”
“In a friendly way.” He sounded like he was trying to reassure her.
“Um!” Friendly was not supposed to go along with hitting. Was it?
“Hey… it’s guy stuff. Thorburn’s kind of thick, I’m kind of thick. Sometimes we need to be a little rough-and-tumble to get through each other’s thick skulls. That doesn’t mean that I’m going to hit you, okay? Friendly or not.”
“Can we get back to the kissing?”
“Can we…” He laughed shortly. “I’m horrible at this, aren’t I?”
“Maybe a little?” She was smiling. It felt amazingly nice to smile again. She was smiling, and she was teasing her Keeper, and he seemed to like it. This had potential to be really cool.
“I can handle being horrible if it makes you smile like that. Okay. Kissing.” His hand was back on the back of her neck, but this time he didn’t take an eon to get to her lips.
Horrible or not, Basalt kissed very nicely, she decided. His lips were firm, his tongue nice but not trying to clean out her throat. The hand against her back was warm, and felt like he was hugging her. And, when she opened her eyes, she found his eyes were open, too, watching her with an expression she really didn’t recognize.
“Idu Hugr.” There was a moment when he pulled back, just a little, and she slipped the Words in before his lips touched hers again. She didn’t try to hide it; that would have been stupid. But she did try to distract him right away with the nicest kissing she knew how to do.
Surprise, first. She knew that emotion well, the way it swirled, smelling like cayenne pepper. She paused, froze really, but there was no complaint, no order to stop, and he leaned in for another kiss. Under the surprise, trailing like a thick cloud of nutmeg, was something warmer, something she’d only sensed in very faint traces from Professor VanderLinden and Akaterina, and never at all from Kendon.
“Oh.” She leaned back against his hand, so she could see the look on his face, memorize it. “Oh.”
He wasn’t frowning, which was a nice change. “Yeah. I shoulda had you do that days ago.” His smile got crooked, and she could smell something citric, like rue and regret. “I told you that you were smarter than me.”
She couldn’t help it. She should help it, she knew better. But she said it anyway. “Maybe a little bit.”
She was surprised to find she wasn’t waiting for the reprimand. Basalt hadn’t hit her yet. He wasn’t going to hit her for that, and he probably wasn’t going to yell at her. “A lot.”
“You were smart enough to rescue me. I didn’t even know I needed rescue.”
Now, he frowned, but only for a moment. “Kendon is poisonous. I should have hurt him worse than I did.”
“Any worse than that and he’d have been dead.” She found the idea didn’t upset her all that much.
“And then I’d have been expelled, and I wouldn’t get to spend time with you.”
“That’s how you get expelled?” She’d been wondering.
“Yeah. At least, that’s the rumor.” He shook his head. “I’d like to go back to the kissing, if you’re okay with that.”
And, unlike Kendon, who she supposed she was glad wasn’t dead, he meant it. “I don’t mind at all.” And that was the coolest feeling yet.
This outtake was written in response to Rix’s donation and request for Basalt & Ahouva’s conversation. Portions of this were posted originally on my livejournal as partial stories.
For every $5US donated, I will write 300 words on the character or situation of your choice. In addition, every donation will bring you to a small snippet of story – a new snippet every Wednesday! Want more?