September 11, 2013 by Lyn
Tuesday, August 16, 2004
“I don’t understand.”
“Are those your favorite words, or what?” Quint bit his tongue. “I’m sorry. That wasn’t…”
“Maybe they are. This school is full of stupid shit and everyone expects you to get it right away. And I don’t.” Llew shrugged. “So yeah. I’m stupid. I don’t get it. I don’t get a lot of it. And I don’t understand why you’re making me do this stupid shit.”
“I’m making you do this ‘stupid shit’ because a, you don’t understand it, and b, you deliberately circumvented my orders. Again. For the third time in a week.” Quintus stepped forward, knowing there was nothing intimidating about his far-too-short frame but putting himself in Llew’s comfort zone anyway. “So you’re going to do the stupid vocabulary lesson until you either understand the lesson or understand being Kept.”
“I understand being Kept just fine! I had a year under the collar the same as you did. You don’t have to get so high and mighty with me like you’re better than me. You’re just a…”
“I’d pick your next words with care, if I was you.” Quintus felt a chill setting in his stomach and spine. Llew and he had been friends. Now…
“…a self-righteous prick who’s interfering where he’s not wanted.”
The chill vanished, replaced with another flash of anger. “Sorry I saved your goddamned life. Sorry I gave a fuck about you.” He clenched his hands into fists. “So fucking sorry.”
Llew’s jaw set. “Like I said. Where you weren’t wanted. I was doing fine on my own.”
“You were killing yourself!”
“I was doing a pretty damn good job of it, yeah. And then you decided I wasn’t allowed to do that and now I’m not even allowed to shit without permission and why the fuck do you care, anyway? You don’t even like me!”
“You’re my friend, so don’t give me that ‘don’t like you’ bullshit!” Quint was right up in Llew’s face now, his hands bunched into fists.
“You have a pretty fucking twisted view of friendship!” Llew was looming, using all of his height to his advantage.
“Welcome to Addergoole! You think you would have gotten the idea after your-”
“ENOUGH!” Zeke’s roar made both of them take a step backwards. “If you two don’t cut it out RIGHT NOW, I am going to make both of you stand in the corner until you can act like adults.”
“I’d like to see you try.” Llew’s mutter might have been meant to be sotto voce, but it was loud enough for the other two to hear.
“No, you wouldn’t.” Quint grimaced. It hadn’t happened often, but…
“He’s not your Keeper anymore, boss. He can’t tell you what to do.”
“Tell…” Quint took a breath. “No, don’t tell him that. I mean. He can’t order me what to do, but he’s still bigger than both of us.”
“Combined.” Llew’s lips managed something like a smile.
“I’m not THAT big.” Zeke shook his head. “Are you two calm?”
“Yes, sir.” Quint elbowed Llew lightly.
“Yes, sir. I mean. Calm enough, I guess.”
“That’ll do. What was this about?”
“Homework.” Llew pushed at the papers on his desk. “It’s summer. I want to be doing summer shit. We’ve only got a couple weeks of vacation left.”
“Every time I punish him for going against my rules, he acts like it’s a capital case. Like this. It’s a little homework. It shouldn’t take all week.”
“Just the good part of the week.”
Zeke shook his head. “Quint, the next time you Keep someone, I’m not going to be here to referee.”
“I don’t know if I’m going to Keep someone ever again.” Quint put his face in his hands, equal parts angry and embarrassed. “I mean, seriously.”
“And that’s my fault, is it? Maybe I’m doing some poor fucker a favor, then, if you think twice about collaring someone.”
“I thought I told you to stop that.” Zeke snapped out the admonition with none of his usual patience.
“It’s not your job to stop me. And it’s not your job to stop him, either, or to play referee.” Llew jutted his chin out and glared at Zeke.
“Just because I’m not Keeping him anymore doesn’t mean I can’t help him out.”
“Enough.” Quint looked up at both of them. “We can handle this, Zeke.” He felt like a miserable traitor for saying that, but it needed to be said. “Llew. Do the next two pages of your homework, and then we can talk about the matter.”
“What good does it do to talk about it if you’re just going to lay down more orders?”
“I’m willing to be convinced not to. If you get through some of the work, first.”
“It’s summer.” Despite the grumbling, Llew turned back to his desk, and the stack of ‘homework’ Quint had assigned. Quint tilted his head at Zeke, and then at the door. They could have this conversation out in the hall; it would make everything easier.
The door closed behind them and Quint sagged against it. “Was I ever…?”
“Not usually. But you hadn’t been hurt like he has, either. Try to remember that, okay?” Zeke’s hand on Quint’s cheek was tender. He was always tender. “He’s bruised around the edges and he’s having trouble recovering. Don’t take it out on him too much… and don’t let it put you off of Keeping someone else.”
“As long as I don’t Keep someone equally bruised around the edges, I should be fine.” He thumped his head against the door. “Thanks, Zeke.”
“The boy has a point. I do fall into old habits. I keep telling you what to do.”
Quint found himself smiling a little bit. “He minds more than I do.”
“He’s wearing your collar. You two might not be an item, but he’s still got all the emotional attachments that come with being Kept. He’s probably feeling pretty unwanted, too.” Zeke’s expression wasn’t quite scolding, but it looked like it was holding-scolding-back.
Quint winced. “He doesn’t like guys.”
“I’m not saying take him to bed, lover. I’m saying act like you want him around for some other reason than keeping him alive.”
“Even if.” Zeke patted Quintus’ shoulder. “You’re going to do fine. You just have to remember he’s your friend, too. Even when he drives you nuts. And, Quint… don’t let this sour you on Keeping, okay?”
“Why?” He knew he sounded bitter. He felt bitter.
“Because the people who can and will Keep well ought to.” He put a tender kiss on Quint’s forehead. “Take a walk, cool down, give him time to cool down. Then go back and remember what it was like, when you were first under the collar.”
“We were lovers when I was first under the collar.”
“That part helps. But think about the rest of it. You’ll need two kids the same as everyone else, Quint. It might help for you to figure out something tender and intimate with people you’re not going to be sexual with.”
“That sounds really callous.”
“Welcome to Addergoole.” Zeke put both hands on Quint’s shoulders and steered him down the hall. “Go. While I still get to push you around a little bit, go. Take twenty, go swim or something, and get your head clear. It’ll look better once you have.”
“Thanks.” He wasn’t entirely sure he meant it, but he said it anyway. “And thanks for stepping in.”
“I love you, remember that. And that’s what people do when they care about each other.”
Tuesday, August 16, 2004 – later that evening
That’s what people do when they care about each other.
Quint stared at his own door for a few minutes. He took a steadying breath, and then another, and then a couple more for good measure.
He knocked, feeling silly, allowed three heartbeats to pass, and stepped in.
“It’s your room.”
“I know it is.” Level voice. Calm voice. Don’t start out angry. “But you deserve that much privacy.”
“Heidi never…” Llew stopped himself with a shake of his head. “Right. Not Heidi. For one, she has better hair.”
“Thanks.” Quint twisted his lips in something that he meant to be a smile. Calm voice. Don’t get angry. He sat down on the edge of his bed. “How’s the homework going”?
“I’ve got three pages done. Do you want to see it?”
“No… yeah. Bring it over here?” It was a learned skill, the particular lilt that made something a request instead of an order. Quint didn’t quite have it down yet. “In your own time.” Not quite as good, but it would have to do.
“Sure.” He closed the book he’d been looking at, picked up the notebook, and brought it over. “Can I ask, why this?”
“Because it engages your brain.” Quintus had given this some thought. “It gives you something to chew over, and I know you’re actually good at science when you put your mind to it.”
“You’re trying… what, to make me think?” Llew stood in front of Quint, shifting from foot to foot, the notebook held out in front of him like a shield.
“Yes. And to get you to stop thinking about certain things. Sit down… on the bed, on the bed.” He patted the bed next to him.
“You could just order me to stop thinking about them, couldn’t you?”
“That’s an awful idea.”
“I’m sorry.” His shoulders hunched forward. He sat down on the far edge of the bed, eyeing Quint. “It’s just, if I could…”
“Stop thinking about sex.”
“Stop… what?” Llew blinked, his cheeks turning colors, and then he twitched, looking away from Quint. “I’m sorry, it’s… what? I mean… it’s just, there’s the, what?” He put his head in his hands. “What’s wrong with my brain?”
“I rescind the order.” Quint winced. “I apologize. Do you see, though…?”
Llew didn’t even look up. “That… that sucked.”
“It does. Heidi never…?” He reached out for the other boy, but stopped himself before he made contact.
“Nah. Zeke did that?”
“Like I just did, to show what it’s like. The same way his Keeper did for him, I guess. So you know not to do it.”
“Ow.” Llew looked up at him. “How did you know that would work? I mean, that order?”
Quint couldn’t help but chuckle a little bit. “You’re a guy?”
“Well, but I mean, I’m not into you or anything, it’s just…”
Quint took pity on him. “You’re wearing my collar. It was easy, when it was Heidi, because she’s a hot girl and you’re straight. You could just put all the feelings in one box and it worked.”
“You were attracted to Heidi. Are, probably. And so the bond pressure from being Kept just got wrapped up in that, and you didn’t have to think about it.” He wasn’t explaining this very well.
“Hunh?” Not very well at all.
“I knew you were thinking about sex because the part of your brain that’s in charge of being Kept wants physical contact with me and I’m sitting on a bed.”
“…oh.” Llew’s cheeks colored again. “But I don’t want, I mean…” His Adam’s Apple bobbed up and down. “I mean, you’re my friend…”
“Yeah. Friends.” Quint shrugged. “I’m not going to have sex with you, Llew. You can stop worrying about that.”
“You’re not? I mean…” Another hard swallow. “Why not?”
If it weren’t so frustrating, Quint would have been amused. “Because you’re not into guys and I’m still sleeping with Zeke.”
“Well, I mean, until he leaves…” Llew frowned. “Sorry. “That was stupid.”
“Well.” Quint shrugged jerkily. “Accurate, at least.”
“Yeah, but it can’t be easy for you.”
“No.” It wasn’t easy at all. “It’s not that different from your situation, in the particulars. I knew he was in love with someone else when he put a collar on me. But I take what I can get.”
“You saying I shouldn’t have been such a mess?”
“No, not at all!” Quint shook his head quickly. “No, they’re only similar situations in the particulars, not in the nitty-gritty. And Heidi ditched out too soon after she took the collar off. Zeke’s staying most of the summer. They’re different relationships – and we’re different people.” He shrugged shortly. “But what I meant was, I’m not going to sleep with you because you don’t want to sleep with me.”
“But I’m your…”
“Yeah, and I’m not into rape.” Quint shook his head again. “I promise you, I will not abuse my position as your Keeper to get you to have sex with me. You like girls. That’s fine.”
“You’re sure, man…?”
“I’m sure.” Quint frowned. “I should just order you to believe me. Why is this so hard?”
“I’m sorry! It’s just… I mean, I’m going to end up under the collar over and over again to people who don’t want me. It sucks.”
“Even though you’re not into guys?”
“Yeah. I mean… yeah?” Llew shrugged. “I’d try. It’s driving me bonkers. You don’t like me, you don’t want me around – it’s like being Heidi’s Kept all over again.”
“Man.” What was he going to do about this? “Okay. I’m still not going to have sex with you, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want you. I mean, I collared you to save your life – I clearly care a little.” Stop talking and act. He could do this. “Could you come here?”
“Like… yeah. Sure.” Llew scooted across the bed until he was in arm’s reach of Quint. “What’s up?”
“Okay.” This shouldn’t be this hard. “Try not to tense up, okay?”
“Okay.” Llew smirked; good. “Okay okay?”
Quint had to smile. “Yeah, well, I’ve never planned on being an English major or anything. So.” He took another couple steadying breaths. “What do you know about the bond, about being Kept?”
“Um? I mean, I know I have to do what you tell me to and that it feels lousy if I don’t. I know it feels horrible when it breaks. I know that…” Llew took his own breath or three now. “…it messes with your mind. It fucks with your brain and makes you like the collar. So that I don’t want you to let me go even when I like you go.”
“Praise?” Quint swallowed. “Do you know about the praise?”
“Not from a lot of experience, but I know the general idea. Doing what your slavemaster – Keeper – wants you to feels good, the way doing what they don’t like feels bad.”
“Yeah. It can be almost addictive. It’s why I don’t overdo it on the praise.”
“That and you’re always pissed at me.”
“That and I get frustrated with you, yeah. Sorry. But…”
“Hey, I fight it. I know I do. I don’t like being a slave. And I don’t like being a slave because I couldn’t, you know, keep my own damn head above water.”
“You were messed up.”
“I was a fucked up pile of misery.” Llew shrugged. “Might as well be honest. Yeah. I was such a mess one of my best friends enslaved me for my own damn good. It doesn’t really help, you know?”
“I know.” It wouldn’t be for that much longer, but that wouldn’t help. “Okay. I’m going to touch you.”
“…what?” Llew froze.
“Your shoulders, dumbass.” Quint grimaced. “I mean…”
“Dumbass is fine. I mean. Um. Why?”
“Because the bond wants touch, and since I’m not going to fuck you…”
“The… I’m in slavery that makes me want to cuddle up to you. This keeps getting more and more fucked up, Quint.”
“I know. And I’d be sorry, but it’s not like I can change the way the bond goes.” He frowned. “Maybe we should talk to Doug. I mean…”
“I am not a Nedetakaei!” The assistant PE teacher, or whatever he was, was keeping Lemon’s boyfriend the Nedetakaei. Quint hadn’t really figured it out – but that wasn’t the important part here.
“No. You’re not a Ned. But Doug’s probably straight and I can’t – okay, I’ve heard stories about Hyl but only a whisper here and there. Doug, on the other hand…”
“Yeah, okay.” Llew shrugged. “So touch but not, uh, gay touch?”
“I’m gay, I’m touching you. I’m pretty sure even magical fairy gayness isn’t catching though.” Smile, come on, smile, it was a joke…
Llew’s smile was mostly abashed looking. He ducked his head. “Sorry.”
“No biggie. You’re not bad about it, not like some.”
“Still being stupid.”
“Yeah. Come here, dumbass.”
“I won’t fit in your lap, you’re a midget.”
“I know. We’re going to watch TV.”
“I was thinking hockey. Manly enough for you?” Quint scooted to the head of the bed and rearranged the pillows into backrests. “Over here, big guy.”
“Dude.” Llew scooted into position despite the protest. “Could you be a little less… all right, sorry.” He held up his hands before Quint had even thought of complaining. “That was out of line. This is just weird, you know?”
“I know. It’s weird for me, too.” He studied Llew for a minute. His Kept – his friend – was nearly a foot taller that Quint, blonde and broad-shouldered in a way that probably got him tagged as football player most of the time, with a fashion sense that probably had gotten him gay jokes back out in the world. He was handsome, in a square-jawed Prince Charming sort of way.
“You’re not going to need to trap someone into a collar.” Quint smirked at Llew to take the edge – and the attraction – out of the words. “Just walk up to the girls and they’ll swoon.”
Llew flushed. “I wasn’t planning on collaring anyone.”
“Neither was I. But I was thinking maybe we should.”
“I’m collared right now, remember? Can’t Keep when you’re Kept.”
“But you won’t be collared forever. Even if I was that much of an ass, I don’t think the school would stand for it.”
“I don’t think they care.” Llew shrugged and then shrugged again. “That’s next year or something, or when you get sick of me.”
“Yeah.” Quint let it drop. “Later, at least. So, tv.” He handed Llew the remote. “Find something you like.”
“Is that an order, boss?”
He really had to get better at that. “Good question. No, it’s a request.”
“Right. And what are you going to do?”
“Figure out something.”
“Something.” He sat back against the pillows and leaned, cautiously, against Llew’s shoulder.
At first, the other guy tensed. “Qu…” He stopped himself. “Right. Finding something I like on TV. Any more impossible requests?”
“As a request? Relax.”
“Right, that counts as another impossible one.” He shifted his weight back and forth a couple times, and exhaled noisily. “TV.” He flipped through the channels, and then again. “DVD, maybe?”
“I’ve got a decent collection on the shelf there.” Quint pointed. Llew hadn’t moved away from his touch, at least, and he was beginning to relax. Of course, if he moved to get a movie…
“Let’s see what you’ve… Hey. Rambo. Seriously?”
“Seriously.” Quint shrugged. This could go so badly wrong, he didn’t want to push any of Llew’s other buttons. “I am a guy. Also the Die Hard flicks. But I think The Prophecy is a good call, too.”
“Hunh, never seen that one.” He pulled it off of the shelf and slid it in the DVD player. “You’re the boss.”
“Yep.” He didn’t tell Llew to come back. This wasn’t going to work it he forced it; it was just going to make the guy more skittish and miserable.
“Christopher Walken, hunh? This oughta be good.” He sat back down on the bed and queued the movie up. “Oh, right.” He glanced at Quint, glanced at the back of the bed, and scooted himself back to where he’d been. “Hrrm… you’re smaller than the last girlfriend I had. Before coming here, I mean.”
He was smaller than Adelheid, too. “Mm?” It was his turn to hold very still.
“Well, you’re kind of tiny. I mean. Short. Something. C’mere.” Llew draped an arm over Quint’s shoulders. “You wanted contact, right?”
“…yeah…” It felt weird for it to be not-Zeke’s arm there.
“Is this okay?” Llew twisted to look at him. “I mean, I can move. But you said touch… and, um.”
“And it sort of calms you down?” Quint hazarded.
“Yeah.” He shifted a bit, moving his hand down to Quint’s arm. “But if you don’t like it…”
“It’s fine. You just startled me.”
“Well.” He shifted his weight around a little, until he found a position where Quint’s head rested on his shoulder. “You’re my friend. And, uh. You’re my Keeper. I don’t really want to fight you over everything. This is harmless enough, right?”
“Right.” It wasn’t Zeke. But that was all right; he wasn’t Joff. And this wasn’t a romance. Relax. Right. He could do that. He settled his head more comfortably on Llew’s shoulder and let his attention drift to the movie.
Thursday, August 18, 2004
Talking to Doug had seemed like a much more reasonable idea before they’d been knocking on his door – even when Zeke had agreed that it was a good idea, even when Llew had brought it up again. Now, Quint swallowed hard, and rapped lightly. Maybe he wouldn’t answer. Maybe he…
Quint didn’t let himself look back at Llew. He was a big boy; he could open a door.
He pushed it open cautiously. Big boy. Right. Nothing to be scared of.
“Mm?” Doug looked up from his spot on the couch.
That was all the greeting he was going to get, Quint realized. “Ah.” He coughed. “I was wondering if… oh. Hi.” As he took in the rest of the living room, he realized Doug was most definitely not alone. “Uh. Hi.”
“Hi.” Llew, echoing Quint, sounded even more uncomfortable. “Woah.”
“Hello.” One person unfolded from a chair and stood, offering Quint a long-fingered hand. “You must be Quintus, yes? And Llew.”
“Uh…” The person – man, definitely man – was the sort of fragile-looking startlingly-beautiful sort you expected out of a fairy school and, until now, Quint had not seen. No, he’d seen him in the halls, in passing. He shook the hand as he glanced around the room. Four of the other people in the room were Basement People; the fifth was Hylakaros.
“How did you know?” Llew asked the question Quint hadn’t quite been able to vocalize yet.
The wine-haired woman on the couch laughed. “He’s pretending to be psychic. Don’t pay any attention to Caiside; he does it to be dramatic.”
The man next to her spoke up. “So do you, Mel.” He turned to look at Quint. “I’m Langhorne. This is Melantha, Arlyn-and-Tilda, and the pretty boy whose hand you’re shaking is Caiside. We know who you are because there aren’t that many students left over the summer, and we’ve been asking questions.”
“Aah.” He realized he’d labelled them man and woman – although he wasn’t so clear on Caiside – and on looking at them again, they didn’t look like teenagers. “You’re, what, the Zeroth Cohort?” Not all the basement people looked that put-together. Or that pretty. Damn.
“Very good.” Caiside bowed over his hand and brushed his lips to Quint’s knuckles.
“What gave us away?”
Quint didn’t pull away, half because he thought Caiside was going for that, and half because it was a very nice touch. Behind him, Llew made a sound that was only barely vocalized, something like a growl and something like a grumble.
“You don’t hold yourself like kids. You don’t look like kids.”
“They’re not.” Doug finally spoke up. “What do you need?”
“Um. I can come back some other time. We can come back some other time.”
“Sit.” He pointed at a free love seat. “Talk.”
“Um.” Quint sat down, because that was not a face or a tone of voice you argued with. “Sir. Um, I’d really rather not talk about this in front of… other people.”
“We don’t bite.” Melantha giggled. “It’ll be fine.”
“Mel.” The other woman – Tilda? Quint was pretty sure that’s what they’d said – glared. “Come on. We’re not kids, remember? Maybe we should stop acting like it. Maybe we should put on our big girl boots and be nice to the rest of the school.”
“In front of everyone, Tilda?” Langhorne grimaced.
“Well, she was doing it in front of ‘everyone.’ And really, it’s not a secret that Mel likes to play around and I don’t.” The blonde woman shrugged, a sharp motion that was more defensive than a response. “I don’t see the problem.”
“Um.” Llew sat down slowly next to Quint. “Seriously, we can leave. It’s not that big a deal. We can come back some other time or something.”
“I’m sorry.” Caiside bowed his head in Quint’s direction. “We weren’t always like this.”
“I’m not sure that’s an improvement.” And he wasn’t sure what they were going to do, stuck in a room with the Zeroth.
Saturday, August 20, 2004
“I want to do something. I want to offer something to do.” Fafnir’s shoulders were hunched and his face was down.
“That sounds ominous.” Æowyn hadn’t been planning on talking to him today; they met on Tuesdays and Fridays to hang out and talk over Pandra’s adorable head. But here he was, waiting in the hallway for her.
“I hope not. I mean, I’m not trying to be ominous or anything. I just want to-”
“To try something. You said. What sort of something, Fafnir?”
To her surprise, he flushed. His shoulders hunched forward even more and he toed at the carpet. Clawed at the carpet, she reminded herself. Under his Mask, those weren’t shoes. “Can we talk about it somewhere private?”
“It’s neither Tuesday nor Friday.”
“I know, but if I wait until our next meetup, I’m going to lose my nerve. Please?”
Now that was intriguing. “All right. My room, then.” They were almost there anyway. “You may come in,” she opened her door, “if you mean me and mine no harm.”
“That’s not going to change from the last time I saw you. Is Pandra with Lady Maureen?”
“She is. I just got back from a workout. Something you don’t want to say in front of our daughter?”
“Yeeah.” He flopped into her desk chair. “So. I was thinking. I was thinking you make a lot of cracks about the sex. And you want to try being … you want to Keep someone, next. And you want to be on top.”
“That’s part of the point of Keeping someone, no?”
“Yeah. So I thought… you might be interested in practicing on me.”
“On you.” The thought had its immediate appeal and its just-as-immediate flags of bad-idea.
“Yeah.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a pair of handcuffs.
“No. Oh, no. No way, buster.” She took a step backwards and then another one. “You’ve gone nuts. That’s all there is to it.”
“They’re not for you, Æo.” He put his hands – and the cuffs – in his lap. “They’re for me.” He coughed. “There’s a gag, too. And my promise to do as you tell me to – if you agree.”
She stepped a bit closer again. “You’re offering to willingly submit to a gag and handcuffs?” She popped her jaw, thinking about the thing he’d put her in. “To willingly submit to me?” The thought had even more appeal when she put it that way. “Why?”
“Well.” He shrugged. “Well, you want to Keep someone, don’t you? And I was thinking… I don’t really like being on the bottom that much. Well, at all. But I like you. And if that was what it took, well, I could handle it. And I really do want to help you learn.”
“So this is to get in my pants?” The sex hadn’t really been the problem. It was just that he was always on top… always in control. Like with everything.
“Well, a bit.” He smirked; a familiar expression and one she found a bit reassuring. “You’re hot, and I like you. So?”
“I have two hours until I have to pick Pandra up from daycare.” She tilts her head at him. “Are you serious about this? About the whole thing?”
He dropped to his knees and put his hands behind his back. The smirk, growing into almost a grin, rather ruined the effect. “I promise to do as you say for the next hour and a half.”
Her tongue darted out over her lips. “This could be fun.”
Addergoole: Year Nine updates every Wednesday evening EST. Want more?