May 16, 2016 by Lyn
My tears hold no weight
If my commitment is only failure
They weren’t the clothes she would have picked for herself, but they’d suffice to get them home. She didn’t want to let go of Emrys’ hand as they walked through the hall, but she found that was all she cared about. She couldn’t focus too clearly on other people anyway; they were bright flares in her vision, or dim shadows. Emrys was a warm, solid presence next to her, the only person she was absolutely certain was real.
She gulped as that thought crossed her mind. “This isn’t going to be easy, is it?” she whispered.
“It’s not,” he said softly. “This is new territory for me, too. I really don’t know what we can expect, what we should hope for.”
She edged closer to him, although that was nearly impossible. Weren’t they home yet? “This is not how I wanted to see you out of your element.” She tried to make it a joke, but it really wasn’t.
“We’re almost back to your room. You can change into your own clothes, maybe feel a little better.”
She smiled shakily. “You know me so well.” She opened the door to her room, hoping it was actually her room; everything was still so unclear. The threshold didn’t bounce her; it was either her room, then, or some poor Kept’s.
Her feet were a little hesitant by the time she made it to her bed. She stripped off the borrowed clothes, leaving them in a pile on the floor, and staggered to her dresser. “So… do we just go back to our lives? Just pretend nothing happened?”
“Can we?” he asked quietly, sitting on the bed. “Can you?”
She thought about Kailani and Anatoliy, about Agatha and Dysmas’s wan-looking Kept. “You can’t tell me it’s the first time in this school someone’s been… been raped.”
“Well… no,” he sighed. “It happens. Maybe a lot, although are some philosophical questions involved there too, regarding Kept.”
“Philosophical questions?” She slipped on her favorite fingerless gloves and headed back to the bed.
“Some people say Kept can’t be raped, because they can be ordered to consent. Others say it’s always rape, since they can’t say no.”
She thought about that for a moment. “I don’t think anything that’s ever happened between you and I could be called rape.”
“I’m glad you agree,” he smiled. “I don’t see it quite as black-and-white as some people.”
“Somehow, that doesn’t surprise me.” She curled up around him on the bed, her head pillowed on his lap. “So a lot of horrible stuff happens here. Having met your crew’s Kept, I’m not surprised about that.”
“It kind of trickles down,” he nods. “Dysmas was owned by Delaney his first year here.”
“Delaney.” She shuddered a little, thinking of the girl in her English Lit class. “That girl is… not right.”
“I don’t know the details, but I hear rumor someone really bad got her when she showed up, a First Cohort. And she is the youngest Second Cohort, too.”
“Oh.” She shuddered softly. “And so she passed it all on to Dysmas. Who passes it along to Nydia.” Although Nydia had never looked quite as bad-off as Bowen, as far as being treated like furniture had levels of bad.
He nods. “It was Rowan, last year. Although Dysmas isn’t actually that bad. They don’t really have any free will, but he makes sure they enjoy it.”
She shuddered softly. “You were pulling your punches,” she said quietly, rather than think about… that’s not how you thank me… rather than allow herself to understand what the creature had been trying to do to her.
“I wasn’t punching at all,” he replied. “But I got you interested enough to get you into a position where you were safe.”
Safe. She twitched softly, and pulled herself back on track. “I meant when you Kept me.” Did he think he was good enough to have manipulated her? Had he been manipulating her? How did she feel about that?
“If I’d wanted a broken toy, like some of them, I would’ve tried for easier prey.”
“So you wanted to see if I’d break easily. But you didn’t try that hard.” She wasn’t sure she understood. She wasn’t sure she was comfortable knowing he’d had purer motives than she had. “You wanted to keep me safe?”
“You saw the way Rozen looked at you, that one night. We only got away because he thought you were mine. You wouldn’t enjoy being Kept by someone like him. And he could break… well. I would’ve thought he could break anyone. I also would’ve thought anyone would break at what that monster did to you.” He sighed. “In the end, I still failed.”
“I’m… I’m not entirely certain I didn’t crack,” she admitted quietly. “But you didn’t fail, Emrys. If you hadn’t been there, I would have cracked.” It stuck in her craw to admit it, but… “I don’t like being this naked in front of anyone. But I think it’s past the point of trying to hide weaknesses.” She wiggled closer to him. “I wouldn’t have made it without you.”
He set an arm gently around her shoulders. “Neither of us would have.”
She smiled weakly up at him. “I guess ‘together for the foreseeable future’ isn’t such a bad thing.”
“Not at all,” he murmured. “Not at all.”
She wanted to kiss him. Her lips were only inches from his. But… she tensed, and set her head on his shoulder again. “So other people have survived rape and torture here… and gone on with their lives.” She chuckled bitterly. “You kept trying to tell me I wasn’t a freak.”
“Not for any of the reasons you thought, at least.”
“I’ll admit, being a defective slave is not something I ever thought about before I came here.”
“It’s more useful than you would have thought, huh?”
“Rather.” Talking was tiring her out and, more than that, she worried it was stressing him out. He seemed as fragile as she was right now, and trying so badly to hide it. She took off his shirt, rather than talk more.
“Mmm. We’re supposed to be taking it easy, remember.” His smile belied his words of caution.
“This is easy,” she countered, smiling. And she wanted to see for himself that he was all healed.
Dr. Caitrin did remarkable work, now that she was looking at it directly. His skin was smooth and unmarred, where she’d seen him cut, seen him bleed. It made her want to look at her own body, but, no, she wasn’t ready for that yet. Was she ready for… She tried for a kiss again, and froze. “Kiss me,” she whispered.
He leaned in close, lightly brushing his lips against hers. She didn’t move, couldn’t move, but she could hold still and let him do it. It was a start… though she didn’t know what she’d do, come Saturday afternoon. She blinked at him, trying to figure out if he thought this was a good idea or not.
He kissed her gently, briefly, before pulling away. “Too soon?”
“No… just.” She gulped, biting her lip ruefully. “It’s fine if I don’t have to take the lead.”
“Are you sure? I don’t want you to feel… like that.”
She didn’t want to feel like that either. “I don’t know if this would be easier or harder if it was your week to be in charge,” she answered softly.
“I don’t think it would be good for you right now to lose any part of your freedom.”
She chewed on her lip. It would be easier to go to that soft, numb place, if she was under his control. It would be easier to let him do all the thinking for a while.
And if she did that, would she ever step back out from under his collar again?
“Should I release you?” she asked instead.
“If you want to?” He tilted his head, considering her.
“I don’t ever want to let go of you,” she told him slowly, “but is it any better for you, to not have your freedom right now?”
“I’m not sure… I like being connected to you, still.”
“I… the things I wanted out of you Belonging to me, I’m not sure I want anymore. But…” She hugged him tighter. “I like us being connected, too.”
“There is another way,” he said slowly, hesitantly.
“Yeah?” She wondered how bad it was, for him to be that hesitant.
“Do you know Mabina&Cassidy?”
“In passing. Well, in accidentally feuding with their crew, mostly.”
“It doesn’t happen very often, but it is possible, for two people to belong to each other. I think I mentioned it to you once before, actually.”
“Oh. Oh yeah.” She blinked. “That was Monday. After we talked to professor Pelletier.” A lifetime ago. “I… let’s talk with them next week?” There was a certain safety in having him collared. She… might as well tell him. “I’m not sure… I think, if you can stand the co…” there was no collar, and that word would never mean the same thing again. “… to Belong to me through Saturday, it would probably be better.”
“I think that’ll be fine,” he agreed.
“Thank you.” She could do this. As long as nothing could happen that she didn’t want, she could do this. “Kiss me again.”