May 29, 2013 by Lyn
Friday, May 14, 2004
Start with a kiss.
Ciara had heard a song that started that way, back when she lived in a normal world and was, more or less, a normal girl.
In a cheerful pop song, that was an easy way to start. In a… whatever she had with Amadeus, it was never quite that simple.
That’s how she’d started rebuilding something with him, a month and a half ago. She’d started with a kiss.
From there, it was supposed to move on easily, right? Bases, or something; reasonable, predictable steps, following after each other in some sort of sequence. That was how her few, short, junior high and high school relationships had gone. Kiss, grope, tongue-kiss, some more groping, and so on.
Not that she’d ever gotten all the way to the and so on, but she still had a decent idea of how these things should go.
Amadeus, it turned out, had different ideas. More disturbing, Ellen and Shandar had different ideas, too. So did her Mentor. So, it seemed, did Valerian’s Mentor.
Start with a kiss had bothered nobody, except that she’d taken so long about it. Or, if you asked Margherita or Jaelie, she should have never gone that far; if you asked Amadeus, he wasn’t sure she should have done it at all.
“No, I’m not sleeping with him yet.” She glared at Professor Valerian, who had held her after class to ask her that, although the professor had at least couched it, slightly, in nicer terms.
“And I don’t see the rush. He has his two children, and I am in my first year.”
“You’re both healthy young adults with, I’d assume, natural urges. It has to be driving him a bit mad to be without any form of relief.”
Her own Mentor had, probably unwittingly, given Ciara the answer to that one. “I didn’t forbid him masturbation.” She snapped it, irritated with having to answer yet another question of her sex life. “Nor myself.” Although there had been a bit of a misunderstanding early on, due, it seemed, to his feelings on how a Keeping should work.
To her surprise, Professor Valerian smiled at that one. “Well, then, that should suffice him. Kept do still need physical contact, however.”
“I’m aware. And I’m not shorting him in that regard, I assure you.” Again, that had been one that she’d had to learn, like everything about Keeping someone. Amadeus himself hadn’t told her that one – Ellen and Shandar had. Once in a while, their interference was helpful.
“So he tells me. I believe his phrase was ‘oh, she pets me enough, but I wish she’d get it over with and fuck me.’“ A smirk crossed the older woman’s lips. It looked as if it belonged there; Ciara thought she probably spent a lot of time out of class smirking at things, or laughing quietly behind everyone’s back. “It’s interesting. He’s a much more forthcoming Student when frustrated; perhaps you ought to continue keeping him waiting.”
Ciara grimaced. “I’m not keeping him waiting to entertain you. Or to please my Mentor, or to irritate Amadeus, or to placate Ellen’s fears.” She’d been hearing far too much about this lately.
“Then why are you keeping him waiting, if I might ask?”
“Because he’s my first.” She snapped it out, though she’d managed to keep it to herself through all of the other inquisitions. Maybe it was because Professor Valerian was a bit more sympathetic-seeming, or maybe it was because she was tired of being poked at. “Or he will be, if we go through with this. And that’s kind of terrifying under normal circumstances.” She swallowed. “And with someone like Amadeus, who can be kind of… intimidating… and who has no real reason to like me…”
“I’d say he has plenty of reason to like you.” Valerian poured two glasses of water from a pitcher on her desk and passed one to Ciara. “He was interested in you before you challenged him-”
“I think it was a little more than that. Maybe the first time or two, sure, but by the time you made your challenge, I think he wanted to find out who you were.”
“Well.” Ciara smirked, although there wasn’t much amusing in it. “I guess he found out.”
“I think he probably did. And now – he feared the worst, you know, when you collared him.”
“I know. He was afraid I wanted some sort of turnabout.”
“Worse than that, even. He expected turnabout.”
“He expected turnabout.” Ciara repeated this, trying to get a feel for what the professor wasn’t saying. “…He feared some sort of revenge?”
“You looked like you were getting friendly with Margherita for a while there, and Jaelie.”
“I wanted to know what they knew about him. And I suppose I like Ghita, or I did, at least.” Ciara shrugged. “So he thought I was going to exact a revenge that they weren’t managing?”
“He did. And the rules had him spooked for quite a while.”
“He talked to you about all of this?” He hadn’t talked to Ciara about any of it.
“He talked to me about very little, but I asked questions. His personality changed quite a bit when he went under the collar- “
Valerian nodded. “It would be hard not to. As his Mentor, it’s my duty to check up on him and catch any problems, nip them in the bud, as it were.”
“Aren’t you Jaelie’s Mentor, too?”
“I am.” Professor Valerian leaned forward. The smile that she was aiming at Ciara was unpleasant, almost animal. “And if you’re going to ask why I did nothing… well, there is something to be said for letting nature take its course.”
“Then why are you bothering me, if you want to let nature take its course?”
“Oh.” The smile only got sharper. “I didn’t say you should do anything differently. What you and he do is up to you. I just wanted to know what was going on. It’s very interesting to watch.”
“It’s…” Ciara sputtered. “Well.” She gathered herself together as best as she could. “Interesting.”
“Cy’Luca.” The professor said it like an affectionate taunt. “You’re a lot like your cy’ree brothers, you know that?”
“And how’s that, Professor?” She knew she was bristling, although her Change didn’t lend itself to theatrics like that.
“You’re very stiff-necked, very touchy, and often very literal. You’re also painfully honorable. I was pleased that you managed to Challenge Amadeus, by the way, and that you managed to win. I wouldn’t have expected that from a cy’Luca. Well done.”
“That’s a complicated sort of backhanded compliment.”
“I’m glad you noticed it as such. You’re going to do well. And I think Amadeus will, too.”
“Thank you.” She nodded, knowing she was being stiff-necked, touchy, and possibly painfully honorable. “Anything else, Professor?”
“That’s all for today. Ah, one more thing…” Her tone of voice softened. “If you do decide to go forward, sexually, with Amadeus, you might want to talk to Dr. Caitrin first. There’s no reason, here, with the magic we have available, for it to cause you any discomfort.”
Discomfort. Ciara had been a little worried about that. Nothing Ghita had said about sex with Amadeus had indicated that it would be anything but painful; Jaelie had suggested more “pain and then maybe pleasure later.” But if the doctor could help…
To Valerian, however, she just smiled. “I’m cy’Luca, remember? Pain comes with the territory.”
The professor patted her on the arm. “Some pain is helpful. Some, however, is not. Think about it, at least?”
“I’ll consider it.” She allowed herself to smile, at least. “Thank you, Professor.”
“Any time, Ciara.”
Monday, May 17, 2004
Dr. Caitrin had been able to provide both advice and Workings. Neither, however, could help the pit of nerves in Ciara’s stomach. She’d been less frightened, she thought, when she’d gone to challenge him.
“Something wrong?” Ellen always noticed things when Ciara didn’t want her to. And Amadeus always heard, no matter how quiet Ellen was trying to be.
“Nothing.” Ciara focused on the bread she was making. Turn, fold, knead, turn, fold, knead.
“You’re trying to kill that bread.”
“It needs kneading to develop gluten.”
“Mm-hrrrm. Key, what’s wrong?”
“Nothing.” Turn, fold, knead. Turn, fold, shove.
“You’re biting your lip, your shoulders are tense, and you won’t look near Amadeus. Is he being shitty again?”
Again? Ellen seemed to expect “shitty” behavior from him, but he’d been as good as he knew how to be, and then some.
“Hey.” Her Kept’s head popped up at that. “I’m cutting peppers. How shitty can I be, cutting peppers?”
“I am sure if anyone could come up with a way to be shitty cutting peppers, it would be you.” Ellen glared over the counter. “Look at your Keeper. She’s stressed out.”
“And that’s automatically my fault somehow?”
Turn, fold, knead. Turn, fold, knead. Maybe if they got into an argument, they’d forget to worry about why Ciara was stressed. Maybe. The bread was already over-kneaded.
“It might not have been your fault to start with, but it is now.”
“How do you figure?” Amadeus’ knife was hitting against the cutting board, whap, whap, whap. Ciara wanted to stop him, to soothe him, but she held off. Let him and Ellen get somewhere with this; when she stopped them, they just simmered at each other for hours.
“She’s your Keeper. Her well-being is your responsibility.”
“I know you didn’t learn that shit under Rory’s collar.” He set the knife down and began pushing the pepper chunks into a bowl. Ciara kept kneading the bread dough. “I’m her responsibility.”
“And you’re supposed to make her happy. Isn’t that what you told Ghita? Jaelie?”
“I didn’t tell Jaelie anything like that.”
“But you did say something like that to Ghita?”
“I had to say something!” It turned into a roar as he stood, scattering piece of pepper everywhere. Ellen took a step backwards, and another one. “She was angry and miserable and she wouldn’t stop complaining and, goddamnit, she was mine. She was mine, my possession. The Law says that, too.”
“And now the Law says that you’re Ciara’s. So why aren’t you doing something about her misery?” Ellen looked unbearably smug with herself. “Or are you every bit the bad Kept you convinced Ghita she was?”
“She was a bad Kept! And if I am, it’s nobody’s fucking business but my Keeper’s.”
“I am in your Keeper’s crew.”
“So?” Amadeus snarled. “I never shared Ghita or Jaelie, if that’s what you’re implying. You’re kind of a sick fuck, for having been Kept by one of the good guys.”
“Who are you calling a sick fuck? You’ve never been Kept at all-”
“Excuse me?” He yanked hard on his collar. “What would you call this?”
“-until now, and not by someone stronger than you-”
“Excuse me?” Ciara had had enough. “Ellen, it’s not Amadeus’ job to fix my mood. Amadeus… you know better.” She rolled the bread dough into a loaf shape and plopped it in a pan. “Could you clean up those peppers? We still need them for dinner.”
“Key…” Ellen frowned at her. “He shouldn’t be making you unhappy.”
“He’s not. And it’s not his job to fix problems he didn’t start. Ellen, why are you so focused on this being Amadeus’ problem?”
“Because he’s your Kept.“
“And, like he said, that’s not how it works.” She frowned at the bread dough. “Weren’t you the one lecturing me on how to be a better Keeper?”
“I was. But you’re not being a bad Keeper at all. And there’s something to be said for him being a good Kept, too.” She kicked out in the direction of Amadeus; he, sweeping up pepper bits, ignored her. “And you’ve been moping around miserably since you got it in your head to Be A Better Keeper.”
“It hasn’t been that long.” Amadeus stood up with his double handful of peppers. “It’s just been the last two weeks.”
“See? Even he… what?”
“She started talking about being a different sort of Keeper maybe six weeks ago.” He dumped all the peppers into a bin. “She started getting tetchy and moody two weeks ago. And every time I asked, she shut me down. So it’s not like I’ve been ignoring the problem.” He glared down at Ellen. “I just don’t know what it is, she won’t tell me, and I can’t very well make her tell me.”
Ciara sighed. “Okay, can we stop talking about my dirty laundry as if I’m not even here? Please?”
“Sorry.” Amadeus hunched his shoulders forward, looking like a kicked dog.
“Sorry.” Ellen looked a lot less sorry. “I just think that you need help remembering how to do this, sometimes. You’ve never been Kept-”
“And you’ve never collared anyone. It’s been months and months, Ellen. I might not be doing it the way you’d Keep someone, or Rory would, or Amadeus, but I’m content I’m doing a decent job, and I wish everyone would just let us work stuff out between ourselves.”
“I Belong to you, you know.” Amadeus’ voice was soft and careful. “You can tell them that it’s none of their business. Because it’s not.”
“I just want you to be happy!”
“Then let me figure this out!” Ciara slammed her fist on the counter. “Damnit, Ellen, this isn’t something you can help with. This is between Amadeus and I.”
“It is?” He looked worried. “What did I do?”
“Nothing.” She reached over the counter to pat his arm. “It’s all right. But now that dinner is a mess…”
“I’ve got it.” Now Ellen looked apologetic. “I’ll finish dinner. You two go hash this out, okay?”
“Thanks, Ell.” For this, at least, she could be grateful. “Come on.” She held a hand out to Amadeus. “It’s all right. I’m not mad at you. At all.”
“Even for the peppers?”
“Well, maybe a little for the peppers.” She smiled up at him. “And a little for yelling at Ellen.”
“Just a little?”
“Well, you did really ask for it.”
“I guess I did. Sorry, Ammie.”
“Rrrg.” He winced. “Do you have to… fine. It’s fine. Ciara, can we-”
“Yeah.” She tugged him into her room and shut the door behind them. “Damnit.” She allowed herself an exasperated groan.
“I’m sorry.” Out of Ellen’s sight, he seemed to shrink, looking all kicked-puppy and no angry dog. “I try not to fight with her-”
“I know, I know.” She patted his shoulder. “It’s okay. She’s nervous around you, and so she kicks out at you, to see if you really won’t bite.”
“I’m not really a dog, you know.”
“I know.” She ran her finger over his collar. “But you’re big, and fierce, and leashed.” “So the metaphor fits.”
“I don’t bite.”
“Don’t you?” She smirked up at him. “Ever?”
“Well…” He flushed, and couldn’t quite meet her eyes. “Okay, sometimes I bite. But I’m not rabid or anything. I’m not going to attack your crew. I just wish…” He trailed off, but Ciara could guess.
“You want her to stop playing this game. You want her to stop dancing around you and poking you for not being… something.”
“I’m not a bad Kept. Am I?”
“No, Amadeus. You are not – currently – a bad Kept. Not at all.”
“Currently.” She kissed his chest.
“Then why are you so upset? You’ve been twitchy for weeks.”
Ciara grumbled. Back to that. “You’re more observant than you let on.”
“You are my Keeper.” His hand hovered near her shoulder, as if he wanted to touch her. “I’m supposed to notice when I’m upsetting you, and things.”
“You’re not upsetting me.” She caught his hand and set it where he seemed to want it, resting on her shoulder bone.
“Then who is? I’m supposed to help you. Somehow. Something.” There was frustration – pain? Something like pain, at least – in his voice.
“Ama…” She frowned. “Okay, here.” She sat down on the bed, and patted the bed next to herself. When he’d sat, she scooted until their thighs were touching. “It’s not you, it’s not anyone else, it’s just the situation.”
He frowned. “The situation. You Keeping me?” He swallowed a noise that sounded worried. Scared. “You don’t have to let me go. I’ve been – we’ve been better, lately.” He ran the pad of his thumb over his collar. “I know everyone keeps bothering you, but, really, what happens between us is your choice. All they can do is grumble.”
“I’m not planning on letting you go.” She found his hand and squeezed it, trying to be reassuring. “St – there’s no need to worry. It’s just… sex.”
“Sex?” Amadeus blinked. “We’re not having sex.”
“No, we’re not.”
“Unless you’re having sex with someone else…”
“No. No-one else.” She squeezed his hand again. “It’s… Ama. Amadeus. We’re not having sex. And maybe I want us to be.”
“Oh.” That gave him pause. “You’re my Keeper. All you have to do is tell me.”
She wrinkled her nose in frustration. “That’s, A, wrong, and B, not the problem.”
“Sorry?” He slouched, managing to pull a bit away from her at the same time. “I didn’t mean… well.” He pulled back up, back-straight. “It’s wrong it if’s rape. And it’s rape if I don’t want it. Right?”
“Right…” She watched him carefully. It was like working through a primer of morals with someone who didn’t speak the same language as she did.
“And if I want it, and you tell me you want it, all you’re telling me is that you want it. Right?”
“Right.” The light began to dawn.
“So the problem isn’t whether or not I want it, I imagine.” He let his hand hover near her shoulder again. “If it is, I could clear that up right away.”
“Ah.” Ciara looked away for a moment. “I haven’t given you any orders about that…”
“To want sex? No. You don’t need to. I wanted you before you Kept me. I still wanted you after you collared me. Wanting you is not the problem. You wanting me – you trusting me, is.”
“That’s not the problem.” She had to force the words out. She felt as if her throat was closing up.
“No?” His hand was still hanging out there in mid-air.
“You can touch me.” That was easier to say than what she had to say.
His hand landed on her shoulder and then, very slowly, slid down to the center of her back. “The problem isn’t that you don’t want me.” His words were as slow and careful as his movements.”
Ciara nodded. She couldn’t quite speak.
“But there’s still a problem.”
She nodded again. His hand felt nice on her back. She should have allowed this months ago.
Except the part where he’d broken most of her bones and been willing to break every piece of her to win the Challenge. She twitched, but did not allow herself to pull away.
“You’re scared.” His hand stilled. “You’re still scared of me.”
“Not of you.” It came out as a croak, but at least she got it out. “Not of you, Amadeus.”
“But you are scared.” He studied her, frowning. “You’re in charge, and you know it. Like you said, I’m on your leash. I can’t hurt you. I can’t, even if I wanted to, which I don’t.“
He couldn’t lie to her, either. She wondered if he’d noticed what he’d said; she wondered when that had changed.
She nodded, instead of asking. “I know.”
“But you’re still scared.”
“Nervous.” She licked her lips. “Not scared of you. I’m just nervous. It’s… I’m just nervous, okay?”
“Oh.” His hand fell to the bed, and he stared. “It’s your first time. You… Ciara.” He sounded a bit choked up, and a bit worried. “You don’t have to…”
“I know. If I had to, that would be different. Not good. But I want to, Amadeus.”
“Because everyone keeps hassling you about it?”
“No. Because… well, because I can choose it.”
“Hunh.” He cautiously lifted his hand again, this time to her hair. “So, you want this?”
“I want it.”
“And you trust me?”
That, she thought, could be a trap. “I trust you not to hurt me.”
“Mmm.” He noticed the hedging, she was sure of it. “But you’re still nervous.”
“Yeah.” She frowned at him. “Ellen isn’t right, you know. It’s not your job to make me happy.”
“I know.” He shrugged one shoulder. “But I like making you happy. and, well… you don’t let me protect you, not out there.” He gestured vaguely at the door. “But in here, at home, maybe I can help a little?”
Ciara studied his face. He looked stressed, but earnest. “I think that could be okay.”
“I hate it when you’re unhappy.” He clenched his free hand. “I really do. It leaves me feeling… ugh.”
“Ugh.” She tried not to laugh at him, but a little smile made its way to her lips. “Is it being Kept, do you think? The Belonging?”
“Some of it, probably? I mean, I’ve never been Kept before. I could ask Jaelie.” He smirked, but it didn’t look like he was completely joking. “But right now… this, I can help with, I think. Being nervous, being nervous about sex… If you trust me, I can help.”
Ciara looked into his pale eyes. She couldn’t read his emotions, not without a lot of effort, but she could guess from his expression that he was not only sincere, but almost pleading. She took a deep breath. “I asked Dr. Caitrin for a bit of help, on the advice of your Mentor.”
“My…. Valerian was giving you advice?” His expression went from pleading to worried in a heartbeat.
“She seemed to think that it was fun watching you squirm, but maybe not all that nice.”
“That sounds like her. And what do you think?” He’d relaxed again, almost smiling.
“I think that it’s not that nice, and not really what I wanted.” She half-stood so she could kiss him on the cheek. “It was never my intent to watch you squirm.”
“Not even a little?” He turned his head so his lips were almost touching hers; she leaned forward the half-inch it took to turn it into a proper kiss.
“Maybe a little. You were having such fun trying to get me to squirm.”
“I was.” This time, he closed the distance for the next kiss. “You intrigued me. You kept saying no. Politely.”
“I’m not saying no now.”
“Ah, but are you not doing so politely?”
“Now you’re just being silly.” She kissed him again. His lips were warm, and more eager with every time they touched hers.
“I thought you liked me that way.” He put a hand on her hip, and waited for a moment, obviously making sure she wouldn’t stop him, before putting his other hand on her other hip.
“I like you… I just like you.” She kissed his nose, just to watch his eyes cross.
“Yeah?” His hands inched up her hips towards her waist.
“Yes.” This time, she planted the kiss on his lips. “Surprised me, too. But I do. And I like having you.” She ran her fingers over his collar again.
“I…” He thought about it for a moment. “I like being had by you. Maybe not Kept, but I like… you.”
Ciara hid her smile by kissing the T-shirt over his chest. The hedging might have been rude in another guy, but in Amadeus, she was pretty sure it was just the way he worked around his orders. “I’m glad. It’s nice to have you like me.”
“So…” His hands were lingering, one pinching the edges of her shirt. “Do you want to…”
“I think I do.” She caught the bottom of his T-shirt. “But I’m really nervous.”
“That’s okay.” He got his arms out of the way so she could remove his shirt. “Ah, I’m… I’m nervous too.”
She pulled the shirt over his head, then peeked at his face. He was looking at her, but he did that a lot. “Yeah?”
“Well, it’s not something I want to screw up. If you’re nervous and I make things worse…”
“That makes sense.” She decided to start, again, with a kiss. “I trust you not to screw up.”
“Thanks.” He tugged on her shirt again. “Can I?”
“Yes.” She could… she should. “As you need to, to do this properly, you don’t need to ask for permission. Tonight.”
He made something like a smile. “Tonight. Okay.”
He took her shirt off carefully, and then stood, letting her remove his pants, before he did the same for her. There was still caution in his movements; if she was a little more full of herself, she might have called it reverence.
When his lips brushed across her navel, she thought it might be affection, instead. When he kissed lower still, she decided she didn’t need words to describe it at all.
Thursday, May 20, 2004
“Very good. Hemlock, you do that thing with your head still. Stop it, and bring hair tie to next session. Penny, watch your left. Fafnir, the trick is not using your claws. Nilam…”
Professor Fridmar paused to look Nilam up and down. “You are not strengthening.”
Nilam looked down at the mat. “I’m sorry, Professor.” There was no point in trying to explain why. Explanations didn’t help.
“Mmm. And you are still sulking.” He stepped back to look over the group as a whole. “You, too, Fafnir, Kheper. Sulking.”
“Sir-” Penny began; the Professor talked right over her. “This is what we do. We begin weak, we learn to be strong. We begin on the bottom, and learn to be on top. We serve.” He lashed out with the long pointer he used during training sessions, tapping at the side of Kheper’s collar. “And then we are served.”
“Not everybody serves.” Nilam tried to mutter it under his breath, but it obviously wasn’t quiet enough.
“Most serve.” Their Mentor didn’t quite roar it. “Those who do not… Mmn. Penny paid her price, and learned from it.”
“This is learning?” He stared at the professor. “Being a slave?”
Good Kept did not complain. He wasn’t complaining. He was asking a question. “What do I learn from being a slave?”
“How to be a Keeper.” Basalt’s answer was quiet. The big rock was quiet a lot of the time.
“Good answer, Basalt.” Fridmar nodded. “The rest of you? What do you learn from being under collar?”
Fran had never been under the collar, but it didn’t stop her from commenting dryly, “Sometimes it teaches you how not to be Keeper.” She paused as she exchanged feints and blows with her kali stick-fighting partner, but when she could afford to look away, she glanced at the others with a curious expression. One fuzzy ear stayed trained on her sparring partner at all times, of course.
Her partner, Thorburn, seemed to have nothing to add to the conversation.
“Good, Fran. Good. Watch your grip.” Fridmar looked down the line. “You, Penny?”
“It’s a big responsibility, and one I’m not sure I ever want. I certainly didn’t want it this year on top of being responsible for my children.”
“Dah. Some people are not set out to be Keepers. Some, not to be Kept. Llew?”
“I don’t mind that much.” The tall elf-boy tugged on his collar. “It’s a thing, and then it’ll be over.”
Kheper laughed shortly, and barely dodged a strike from Hemlock. “That’s one way to put it.”
“It’s probably different for you. You’re Kept by Cynara.” Fafnir sneered it. Nilam didn’t know why he had such a problem with the mink-girl.
“And Nilam is Kept by Margherita. Everyone Kept by someone, dah. Judith?”
“You can learn just how much the Law can be bent. And how much you can bend it before you – or it – breaks.” There was a snarl in the wolf-girl’s voice.
“Dah. Yes, that, too, you can learn.”
Before you break. Nilam felt a chill run down his spine. He bowed to his partner, and to the professor.
“Thank you for the instruction.”
“You will learn a great deal before you graduate.”
That, Nilam though bitterly, was what he was worried about. Before you break. Judith’s words chased him into his dreams that evening.
Art by Kuroseishin
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