July 21, 2016 by Lyn
In the weeks and months after A Man’s Man.
The whoring was easy. If it was more complicated than it had been under his previous masters, it was almost more pleasant. He found the clients’ desire for conversation an entertaining novelty, and the one time he’d ended up with unwanted bruises, Luke had taken the client in question aside for a long conversation that had lead to a heartfelt, terrified apology and a couple very expensive gifts. The people that Regine was bringing to the Village were so different from those he’d grown up with, it was easy to believe they were a different species altogether.
The whoring was easy, and kind of fun. He knew what was expected of him when they sent someone to his cabin, or sent him to charm some uncertain new arrival into someone else’s bed. That role wasn’t a problem.
But the whoring only took up a little of his time, usually no more than two nights a week, and Regine rarely called for him outside of that. She had had given him no standing orders about his time between “engagements” (since he wasn’t supposed to call them clients, nor what he was doing whoring), except that he was to take care of himself physically, and, as long as he stayed in shape, eat as much as he wanted.
That had been gloriously fun for a couple days. Lady Maureen had been immensely happy to keep providing him with food; she’d sit behind her bar and watch him eat, giving off waves of contentment like a cat in a sunbeam. Making her happy was a nearly-addictive experience, and it had kept him coming back for food for days after the novelty of having enough to eat had worn off.
Even that could only take so much time, and it came with its own drawbacks. The tavern, where the food was most readily available and, more importantly, where Lady Maureen was, was the social heart of the tiny village. While all of the other “core people” seemed to have more of a job than Ambrus did, everyone had leisure time, and they all ended up at the tavern.
When he ran into his clients, life could get complicated. Never before had he found himself the focus of jealous, angry competition, several women – and a few men – wanting to be the center of his world all at the same time. It was heady and ego-boosting, but, at the same time, terrifying. How could he please all of them at once?
“You’re doing your job well,” Lady Maureen told him, when he finally worked up the nerve to ask for advice. “You made all of them feel like they were something special, and, what’s more, like there was nothing wrong with what they were doing. They just want more of that feeling.”
“You make it sound like therapy, or a drug,” he complained.
“Isn’t it?” She raised one perfect eyebrow. “They come to us, and when they leave, they feel better about themselves… but the sensation can’t last. Eventually, they need another visit. That sounds like therapeutic drugs to me.”
“It’s never been like that before.”
“The people who used you before were monsters.” A firm note of angry certainty ran through her normally-calm-and-happy demeanor. He blinked up at her, startled and a little apprehensive, and she gentled both her expression and her emotions. “That’s not a judgment call on you, Ambrus. You are not responsible for what your keepers did.”
“A lot of people seem to think I am.” There were people who just bled disapproval every time they came near him, who wouldn’t look him in the face and would talk around him rather than talking to him. He was used to being ignored, but he hadn’t expected the disapproval here, where everyone seemed so free and there wasn’t a church to be found.
She shook her head. “They don’t have a problem with you, honey. They just have a problem with the use to which Regine’s putting you.”
“Why should they?” Where had they been when Ian was putting him to much harder use? “I like what I’m doing. And what else am I good for?”
She patted his head lightly. “They don’t understand us, sweetie. Try not to let it bother you.”
Us. Feeling warm and content, he let it be for a few days, trying, as she’d advised, not to let it bother him.
Between the people trying to hump his leg and the ones trying to pretend he didn’t exist were the rest of Regine’s strange collection. Some of them, like Liv, Keaira, and Lady Maureen, seemed bound and determined to treat him like a kid brother, a sensation that was strange but not unpleasant. He spent his time around them as often as he felt he could get away with. They all had their own lives, though, their own agendas and jobs, and he didn’t want to overstay his welcome. And there were times…
“Hey, Ammie.” Liv tugged on his ponytail in a way only she could manage to make friendly. “We’re going to go play some volleyball, get a little sun. Want to come along?”
“Um,” he hedged, glancing around behind her to see who else was coming. Keaira, the down-to-earth carpenter Josue, a brightly vivacious blonde girl whose name he’d yet to learn, and Luke. He began crafting a polite denial, but Keaira grabbed his arm before he could voice it.
“Come on, pet, it will be fun. You’re too pale anyway.” Fun was not what he’d call watching the awkward dance between her and Luke, neither of them willing to acknowledge what was going on.
“I like being pale,” he mumbled, but it was no use. Ké had a good grip on him, and she was dragging him to the volleyball net.
Her over-enthusiasm – even with the sunburns and occasional scrapes and bruises that came with it, was still one of the best things about this strange place. No-one else was as genuinely friendly as they were, and some were outright malicious.
Some seemed to think of him as somewhere around the level of a pet dog with thumbs. Sang Ki, who looked far too ancient for the noises Ambrus had heard coming from his cabin, and who only rarely seemed to need the cane that was his constant accessory, had actually patted Ambrus and given him a cookie. He’d been on his hands and knees at the time, picking up a broken glass for Maureen, so he’d taken the cookie in his teeth. He thought he’d caught a glimmer of amusement, but by the time his mouth was empty enough to ask, the old man was gone.
Laurel Valerian was lively, vivacious, and frankly sexual enough to seriously intrigue Ambrus – but on the rare occasion she spoke directly to him, she spoke slowly and used small words. Considering that his mistress most often treated Laurel like a slow child, the condescension was more funny than insulting – but it really ruled out any real conversation.
The improbably-named Smokey, tall and strung together like a scarecrow, and his travelling companion, the sultry, sleepy-eyed Amika, were the worst offenders, bossing Ambrus around and sending him on frivolous errands, but sometimes they would take him to their bed afterwards, so he didn’t mind all that much.
Others, like Agmund, Aelfgar, and the sharp-clawed and forked-tongued Æoelind, seemed to distrust him, and watched him cautiously when he came near them. He tried not to be alone near any of them, but Æoelind caught him between cottages one day, and shoved him up against the wall of a garden shed. She was strong for her size, wiry, and he thudded painfully against the brick.
“I don’t know what you’re up to,” she hissed, while he was still trying to get his air back, “but I’m on to you, you nasty little worm.”
“Wha…” he gasped, and got slammed against the wall again for his trouble.
“I don’t know what your game is, but you’re transparent, and I’ll catch you in a mistake one of these days. When I do, there won’t be enough of you left to bury.”
“I’m not…” he tried, but she hit him against the wall again, hard enough to crack his head soundly on the brick. He fell woozily to the ground, seeing white spots; by the time he could pull himself to his feet again, she was gone.
That was the worst of it, though, and he managed, with some clever footwork and a bit of acting, to hide the bruises until they faded. Many of the rest of Regine’s collection just seemed to have no idea at all how to deal with him, as if the etiquette manual for almost-human creatures was missing the page for “Director’s Pet Whore.” He stayed out of their way, and they left him alone. It wasn’t comfortable, or easy, but neither was it painful.
“You need a hobby,” Liv declared, after watching a particularly awkward interaction between Ambrus and the angular, jittery Page.
“A hobby?” How would building miniature ships in bottles, or collecting bottle caps, help him deal with someone who got nervous asking him to pass the salt?
“Yeah. You need to find something to pass the time. Something to round out your personality, too, to give you more definition than just, well…”
“Than just the pretty boy-toy,” Keaira offered helpfully. “Come on, pet.”
“Where are we going?”
“To the library.”