August 25, 2015 by Lyn
And I need you like a heartbeat,
But y’know you’ve got a mean streak
Shahin sat on the floor of Emrys’s room, her back against his bed and her knees to her chest, crying silently. Her nightmares had gotten better since coming here, better still since she started spending the night with Emrys, but these dreams… these were unbearable. She couldn’t stand to lie warm and comfortable in bed while her friend was cold and miserable.
If the dreams were real. She was still uncertain where those lines were, how much of what she saw was real, how much was her brain interpreting things she’d seen.
Emrys stirred, above and behind her, a faint questioning noise drifting down from the bed.
She stilled, trying to stay quiet, hoping he’d fall back asleep.
“Sheen?” he asked quietly, barely audible above the rustle of sheets.
“I’m here,” she answered, hoping her voice was quiet enough that he couldn’t hear the tears still clogging her throat.
A faint susurrus of murmuring rose above that of the sliding sheet, and a pulse of soft blue light rose above the bed. “Why aren’t you in bed?”
She ducked her head away from the light, hating the pose of submissiveness but wanting the privacy her hair falling forward across face allowed her. “I had a bad dream.”
“A bad dream?” His tone was skeptical, even derisive. “Come up here.”
She didn’t want to. She wanted to deal with her confusion and distress on her own, out of his uncomprehending view. She struggled against the order, not moving. “Could I have a moment?”
“What?” His surprise was almost palpable. “No, come here.”
The more he repeated the order, the harder it was to fight. She stood, slowly, brushing her hair back out of her face, wiping her eyes with the back of her hand, her back still to him. She could fight it a little longer, perhaps, but she was running out of stalling techniques.
“Shahin.” There was no cute moniker now as his tone hardened. “Turn around.”
Her back stiffened, a little bit of pride warring with annoyance. Could the man not give her a moment of privacy? She didn’t turn around, a little surprised to find that she could still fight his command, too irritated now to give in easily.
“The hell…” he muttered quietly, an edge of surprise creeping into his voice.
She smiled a little bit, allowing her pride to distract her just a bit from her concerns for Ayla. She took a step away from the bed, finding it the most exhausting step she’d ever taken.
“How the hell are you doing that? Come to bed. Now.”
“I would really prefer not to quite yet,” she answered levelly. He was getting angry, and there would be hell to pay for that, but at the moment, she didn’t care. She was going to push this as far as she could. She took another exhausting step forward.
“You’ll do it now… Tempero Tlacatl Shahin oro’Emrys,“ he intoned, the Words echoing through the small room.
She stumbled, her body moving against her volition as he took control of her limbs, turning her back to the bed. She kept her face calm and haughty, refusing to let him see how terrifying it was to lose control of her own body, instead showing a little bit of amusement – he’d had to resort to magic to win. She didn’t speak, though, not trusting her voice.
“Now just what is going on here?”
It wasn’t a command; she didn’t have to answer. But fighting him had taken more energy than she’d expected, and she didn’t want to answer on his terms, so she answered on hers.
“I told you,” she said calmly, “I had a bad dream. I wanted to think about it for a while; I’m not certain if it was a dream or a vision.”
She stood easily, not bothering to try to cover herself. He’d seen it already.
He was sitting upright on the bed, regarding her with a steady, hot flame in his eyes. She thought for a moment to be worried, but the game was still on and she was still angry. “And what was this dream, that made it so important that you’d defy me over it?”
“Aelgifu,” she answered simply. “She’s hurting.” She’s falling into a long, dark trap, and I may never see my friend again.
“Someone hurt her?” He was too aggravated to sound concerned, but he was curious at least, which was a mild improvement.
“A long time ago, I think. This place is only making it all worse.” I’m making it worse, too. Standing like this was getting chilly, but he hadn’t forced her to come to bed yet, and she wasn’t going to crawl into the comfort of his arms.
“Such an urgent thing, then, to take you from your place at my side.” The sarcasm was back in full force, his momentary concern dismissed.
“She’s my friend.” She snapped the words out angrily. The arrogance of him, to think that this stupid game mattered more than her friends!
“And what am I, then?” He rose up on his knees, looking down at her.
“My master,” she answered levelly, staring at his chest. “My owner. My Keeper… until Saturday night.”
“If this morning’s performance is any indication, you may not make it that long,” he noted. “Ready to throw in the towel?”
That, of everything he’d said, elicited a real smile. “No,” she answered simply, filled with amused affection for him. “I do believe I can make it through Saturday.”
“I won’t have a Kept that won’t obey. I could just trade you off, even if it is only a few more days. Did you know that?”
“I’m sure you wouldn’t lie to me,” she answered, lifting her chin to look at him. “What would you have me do, Master?”
“Come to bed. And be grateful that you belong to me and not, say, Agatha, or Ardell.”
Her lips twitched in a little smile, and this time, she didn’t fight him, sliding into bed next to him. “I am eternally grateful,” she said, needing no coercion, “that it is you that owns me and no other.”
“Maybe you need a little reminder.” He fell back to the bed with her, taking her wrists in his hands.
“As you wish,” she smiled, not struggling against his hold, falling limply to the bed.
He pinned her hands above her head, lowering his face to hers and kissing her roughly. She let him, wiggling a little, just for show, and suffered his roughness with a private smile.
“Stay,” he murmured, as he drew his hands back down her arms to her torso and planted a knee between her thighs. She stayed, enjoying his touch more than she really wanted to admit.
She lay under him, some time later, catching her breath, still smiling. “I am… very glad,” she told him, or, rather, told his shoulder, “that it is you I Belong to.”
He rose slowly, talking to her as he prepared for the day. “Then why do you resist my commands? More to the point, how?”
She sprawled, thinking about it, watching his body move, watching the tattoos move across that body. “I don’t know how,” she admitted after a moment. “Maybe simply because I really didn’t want to obey. That hadn’t come up before.”
“Hmm,” he answered noncommittally; a bit too easily, she thought, as he changed the subject. “Almost time for breakfast, you might want to get up.”
“I’m not particularly hungry;” she said, just as easily, though she did stand and start looking for her clothes. It wasn’t a lie; her stomach was twisted in knots that had nothing to do with her emotional state.
“Not feeling well?” He turned sharply to look her over, a bit hastily even, as if he were looking for something in particular.
“Not really, no.” She saw no reason to hide the fact, despite his searching expression. Hadn’t he sworn to take care of her?
“Maybe we should take you to Caitrin’s. After breakfast.”
It sounded too much like “take you to the vets” for her liking; she frowned at him as she pulled her tights on. “It’s just a stomach-ache,” she countered.
“Maybe so,” he nodded. “But it doesn’t hurt to be careful, and she can give you a once-over without even touching you.”
She sighed, wondering where this sudden concern had come from. “If you insist,” she said glumly, and finished getting dressed.
He had finished as well, and walked back over to her, setting a hand on her shoulder. “Is there a reason why not?”
She looked at him, still wondering what was going on with him, searching for some clue in his face, trying to come up with a reasonable answer that he wouldn’t dismiss as easily as he’d dismissed her bad dreams. “Caitrin isn’t bad,” she finally admitted, “but doctors leave a bad taste in my mouth.” She thought about stopping there, but decided, for no good reason, to continue: “Too much time being over-diagnosed incorrectly and having medicine shoved down my throat to make me a good girl.”
“All this time I’ve been shoving the wrong thing down your throat to make you a good girl?” His hand circled around her neck as he grinned, but he also began whispering under his breath, keeping his fingers on her skin.
She laughed briefly at the joke, as flimsy as it was. “Oh, they never succeeded.” His hands around her neck didn’t make her nervous, but his chanting did; she refused to give him the pleasure of knowing that.
He paused a moment, then nodded, and smiled again, the whole exchange maddeningly enigmatic. “You’re fine.”
His flippancy annoyed her; she frowned at him, knowing it wouldn’t do any good. “Let see if you’re still saying that when I puke on your shoes.”
“You’ll still be fine,” he smiled, his mood apparently improved. “Let’s go to breakfast.”
The thought of breakfast made her stomach twist. “If I have to deal with Agatha,” she pointed out, “I will puke. Probably on her ridiculous shoes.”
“Not a good idea,” was his only comment.
She swallowed her sigh and turned her back on him to change her gloves. “As you wish,” she replied, keeping the dryness of her voice mostly in check.
“That’s right. Let’s go.”
Silently vowing a thousand painful tortures on him the week after next, she let him lead her to breakfast.
They sat with his crew, as usual, and it didn’t take long before Agatha asked him what the little smirk on his face was about.
“It seems my pet has learned a trick,” he answered her.
“Oh? Do tell?” Agatha had the garden-party voice down pat, but Shahin wasn’t so easily put in her place. She smiled sweetly while planning ways to murder Emrys in his sleep.
“It seems she can disobey, to an extent I’ve never seen before.”
“Are you sure you did it right?” Agatha asked sweetly. Tie his intestines in knots, with a burning coal in each knot. Not only would it be slow and horrid, but it would roughly emulate how her innards felt right now.
“Oh, yes… would you like a demonstration?” he replied with equal saccharine.
Perhaps she wouldn’t wait. Perhaps she would kill him right now.
“Shahin, stand up and take all your clothes off for us. Here, right now.”
She stared at him for a moment, not so much surprised as shocked, appalled, and furious, angry enough that she didn’t think to take in the reactions of the others at the table. Was she some sort of trained animal to him… no. She studied his expression and remained sitting. “I’d rather not, if you don’t mind.” It was an effort, harder this time than it had been last time, but she could still defy him.
“You see?” he said to Agatha, before turning to face Shahin more squarely. “Do it.” His expression remained a neutral mask though, not the frustration she’d seen earlier.
“It doesn’t count,” Agatha countered, “if she knows you really don’t want her to do it.”
Shahin wasn’t so certain. She stared at Emrys, struggling to keep her face blank and still stay in her seat. Naked. Exposed. Did he mean all her clothes? Even her gloves?
He offered no explanation, only a smirk as he discussed her with his friends. “Isn’t that something?” With some of his attention away from her, she could relax a little. She was not going to take her clothes off in public, not unless…
…not unless she had to repudiate his ownership to stay clothed. She was going to last out the week, whatever he did to her.
But he hadn’t pushed it yet.
“She’s seriously just ignoring a direct order?” Dysmas sounded incredulous. “How is she doing that?”
“I don’t know. I’ve never seen anything like it.” He turned to Agatha, arching a brow. “What says the expert?”
“I still think you did it wrong.” Agatha no longer sounded amused, which amused Shahin. “She shouldn’t be able to form that much independent thought.”
“I know she Belongs to me. Is there some trick to giving an order, then? Something’s off, here.”
“I think your Kept is defective.” Shahin pondered a slow and painful death for Agatha; it kept her mind of the pressing urge to stand up and strip off her clothing. Her gloves.
Agatha snapped her fingers, distracting Shahin again just as her will was breaking. “Bowen. Shirt.”
Bowen whimpered – but he did so as he stripped his shirt off. His chest, Shahin noted, was covered with small bruises. Hickies?
“Christ, Aggie,” Anatoliy complained. “Is that necessary?”
“See?” Aggie smirked. “Yours is broken.”
“Call it what you will, it’s weird.” He regarded Shahin with calm, patient interest, waiting for her to move.
“Of course I’m weird,” she answered. Talking was good. It distracted her mind from the pulsing need to stand up. She pressed her hips a little more firmly in her seat. “I do believe it says that on the tin.”
“Does it?” he smirked. “Shouldn’t you be showing us where?”
“I think the point of the exercise,” she retorted, although it was taking more and more effort to speak, “was to show by not revealing, no?” Her stomach twisted convulsively, and the three bites of food she’d managed before he started this stupid game began instituting evacuation procedures. “Oh, dear. Emrys. Shoes.” She clamped her mouth shut, covering it with both hands. She was not going to puke on his shoes. She was not going to puke on his shoes.
“Oh, gods, don’t vomit, Sheen…” He thrust his chair back away from the table.
That was an order she’d be glad to obey, if only her stomach would accommodate her. She forced it down, glad that at least she wasn’t going to hit his shoes, and, destroying her wounded pride utterly, found herself standing. Goddamnit, there was no grace to this! She swallowed her tears and tried very hard not to vomit.
He looked up sharply as she stood. “Keep your clothes on, Sheen, we’ve pushed this far enough.”
She didn’t know whether she wanted to kill him or kiss him. She settled for turning her back on him, fleeing the Dining Hall with unseemly haste.