July 21, 2016 by Lyn
This story takes place the day after “Into the Labyrinth.”
He had a house now. It was a cottage, smaller than any house he’d ever seen – smaller even than the place he’d stayed in with Regine last night – but it was his, a whole house. The door didn’t even have a lock on it, much less one designed to keep him in.
He had a wardrobe, too, a closet full of clothes he hadn’t picked out that seemed tailored for him, and hand-picked to costume him for several different roles. He had a kitchen cupboard & refrigerator with food in it – and a wine rack stocked with seduction wines, and candles on the tiny dinner-for-two table.
Regine had left him here after a brief tour of the village. “I have a great deal of work to do, and cannot afford to spend any more time with you right now. Keaira and Maureen will stop by later in the day to help you get settled in.” At his lost expression, she had added, “You may go wherever you want within the village. The only caveat is that you may not enter other people’s homes without their permission – and they will not enter yours without your consent.” He’d nodded numbly, too overwhelmed to fully appreciate that luxury. “I will let you know when I will be sending people to you. Until then, your time is your own.”
Looking around the tiny house, he had a pretty good idea why she would be sending people to him. “I intend to use your ‘tricks’ to their fullest extent,” she’d said, on the car ride in, and this place was set up for seduction. He refused to acknowledge the tiny lump of disappointment in his throat. He had no right to expect anything better.
The knock at the door startled him out of his self-pitying mope. He glanced out the small window – standing in the center of the living room, he could see almost the entire cottage – and saw the winged warrior – Luke, he’d said his name was – obscuring the view.
It didn’t seem like a good idea to keep him waiting. Ambrus hurried to open the door, not allowing himself to think beyond the moment. “Hello, sir.” He could do this. There wasn’t so much anger coming off of the warrior today, for one. For another, he’d been in worse situations. This was just another scene. So his voice was smooth, well-modulated, not too subservient, but definitely deferential, and he kept his head down. He didn’t think this guy would appreciate fear – but he didn’t think he wanted to be treated like an equal, either.
He was rewarded with a soft, uncomfortable snort. “Call me Luke. ‘Sir’ is for the Army, and you sure ain’t Army, son.”
“Nosir.” He gulped at the misstep. “I mean, no, I’m not.”
“Relax,” he frowned. “I’m not going to hurt you. I’m sure as hell not going to hurt you over calling me sir!”
“Thank you,” he murmured, wondering how he’d lost this conversation so quickly.
“It’s okay.” His voice, and his body language, gentled. His wings folded against his back, as if he was trying to look smaller. “Could I come in?”
“Oh! Yes, sure.” He stepped back to let him in. Better than doing this on the front porch. He’d thought he’d been beyond embarrassment until Ian had tied him over the porch railing.
“Thank you.” He closed the door behind him, leaving them alone in privacy – the windows, unsurprisingly, had both blinds and curtains.
Before the silence that fell could begin to feel awkward, Ambrus began unbuttoning his shirt. He dared a glance up at Luke’s face, wanting to see his expression, and surprised a quickly-swallowed look of panicked horror. “Keep your clothes on, kid,” he snapped out, “I’m just here to talk.” As if to punctuate the point, he sat, rather uncomfortably, in the nearest chair.
If that was how he wanted to play the scene, Ambrus could handle that. He left his shift half-open, and nodded politely, swallowing the yes, sir that wanted to come out, and waiting for Luke to make the next move.
For his part, Luke shifted uncomfortably for a moment, and then, as if diving into an ice-cold lake, began all at once. “By rights, Regine should be having this conversation with you. Or Mike – Michelle. Mike’s shameless. But Regine doesn’t trust her around you, and she’s lousy with people herself, so I got nominated.”
He was tense and uncomfortable, so Ambrus slipped behind him and began rubbing his shoulders and neck. He started relaxing – Ambrus could feel the tension slipping from him, both through his “knack” and in his muscles – and then, suddenly, he tensed up again.
“Damnit, would you stop touching me,” he snapped, anger shooting off of him like fireworks.
Training and habit took over. Ambrus tucked his hands behind his back, bowed, and moved where Luke could see him – not coincidentally, also moving himself out of the warrior’s reach. “I apologize for my error,” he murmured, keeping his head bowed, holding himself so that he didn’t look as braced for impact as he was.
“Shit,” the warrior swore, and as quickly as it had come, the anger vanished. “Come here, kid.”
He didn’t want to. He was terrified to. The man was solid muscle. But he had no choice. He tried to be graceful about it, and not look too much like a beaten child. Ian had disapproved of looking beaten, even while being beaten.
“Sit down.” He sounded commanding, but Ambrus could tell that he was nervous, a little bit uncertain, and that the uncertainty made him angry. He was indicating the floor between his feet, strange, considering his twitchiness about having Ambrus close to him, but it was not his to reason why…
Mine not to make reply,
Mine not to reason why,
Mine but to do and die,
he thought gloomily. Luke’s legs weren’t exactly the Valley of Death, but there was only him, not six hundred, too.
He sat stiffly, trying not to touch him, his back to him now, his neck feeling horribly exposed.
Luke exhaled loudly, his breath brushing against Ambrus’ bare, vulnerable neck. “Okay, I deserved that. Look, kid, I’m not a monster. Relax a little, would ya?” As if Ambrus were a doll, he grabbed him by the shoulders and moved him until he was sitting sideways, leaning against Luke’s inner thigh. Far more gently, the warrior stroked a hand over Ambrus’ hair.
“I shouldn’t have yelled at you. I’m sorry. But I’m not into guys, okay? And I don’t have sex with children.” As he talked, he continued to pet Ambrus, his touch somehow completely without sexual overtone but still soothing.
“I’m not a child,” Ambrus couldn’t help but complain.
“Yeah, I’m sure you’re legal to drink and be drafted and vote. But I have grandkids old enough to be your grandfather, which makes you a kid in my book.”
Ambrus twisted to look up at him, accidentally nuzzling against his hand as he did so. Luke barked out a little laugh.
“Yeah, don’t think about that one too much. If you’re still trying to process the wings and Foxglove’s foxtails, you probably don’t want to deal with the age thing.”
Ambrus blinked, and decided to take him at his word. “Yes, si… okay, Luke,” he agreed. The petting was kind of nice, once he got past waiting for the inevitable slap or pinch or grab. This wasn’t Ian, and, while he had thought with every new owner and handler that this one will be different, well, none of the old masters or mistresses had wings.
“So I don’t sleep with kids. And I sure as hell don’t sleep with people who aren’t giving willing consent.”
Ambrus frowned at him, too relaxed to worry about propriety. “I’m willing.”
“Because you were trained to be, not because you have any interest in the act, or in me. Look, let’s just settle on ‘I’m not into guys,’ okay?”
“Okay,” he answered meekly, not wanting the petting to stop. “Then what do…” he caught himself quickly, “I mean, what can I do for you?”
“Nothing, right now.” His thumbs on Ambrus shoulders were strong but not painful. “Like I said, I got drafted to explain things to you.”
“Okay,” he repeated, wondering what needed to be explained. Wasn’t whoring the same everywhere – shut up, look pretty, and make your partner happy?
Luke cleared his throat, his discomfort returning in waves. He stopped petting Ambrus – and then started again, although, to Ambrus’ “knack,” it was clear made him unhappy to do so.
His hands grew more tender as his emotions grew more strained, as if he were focusing all that stress into not hurting Ambrus. It was a weird sensation, but reassuring.
“Regine wants you to seduce the women she sends to you,” he began.
“Mmm-hrmm,” Ambrus replied absently. Of course she did. The spike of surprise from Luke was unexpected, but his hands didn’t change, so it couldn’t be that bad.
“…and impregnate them,” he continued.
“What?” Ambrus whipped his head around to stare at Luke in quickly-rising panic. “Luke, I can’t take care of kids! I can barely take care of myself!” The humiliating admission spewed out of his mouth before he could stop it, and he looked back down at his feet, his face flushing in embarrassment. Kids!
Luke’s hands never stopped petting. “Don’t worry about it. No-one’s expecting you to raise children. Regine has the finances to handle all of this. All you have to do is seed them.”