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Learning Lessons

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July 29, 2016 by Lyn

“Well.” Anise unbuckled the collar and let it fall slowly to the bed. Her neck felt weird without it, naked and a little itchy.

“Well.” Ty watched her awkwardly. He was fiddling, twiddling his thumbs, every bit as uncomfortable as she was. Somehow, that made it a little bit better. “So?”

“It wasn’t awful,” she allowed. “Strange, uncomfortable, and weird, but not awful. You are awfully bossy, but I never really noticed until you had the collar around my neck.”

“I’m bossy?” Residual feelings from the bond made her want to hide at the hurt expression Ty was wearing. “Really?”

She squelched the feelings. “Really. Sweetie, you are pushy, domineering, and flat-out bossy. You like getting your own way, and having a leash to tug means you don’t even have to think about it. You just plow ahead and don’t even notice objections.”

“Annie, I…”

“No,” she shook her head. “I listened for the last two weeks, Ty, it’s your turn.”

“Annie!” He’d gotten good use of that glower, the last couple weeks, but it wasn’t going to work now. She forced down the bad-girl guilt feelings.

“Ty-ie. Look, I love you, sweetie. I’ve loved you since I met you. You’re a wonderful friend, a great person, a sweetheart. You’re a lot of fun to be around. But you,” this wasn’t going to be easy, “you’re a lousy Keeper and kind of an iffy boyfriend.”

“An iffy boyfriend?” Now he really had the hurt-puppy thing going on. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Pretty much what I said, Ty.” She’d tried to ignore these thoughts before the experimental Keeping, and edged around them during the two weeks she wore his collar. “People don’t really want their boyfriend sleeping with his whole cy’ree.”

“But…!”

“And,” she continued relentlessly, “people want an S.O. who listens to them, Ty, who cares what they want and like.”

“I care!”

“I know you think you do, sweetie, but once you get off on your own thing, you plow ahead and everyone else better be playing along or get out of your way. It’s sort of endearing, in a two-year-old sort of way.”

“Have you been sitting on all of this for two weeks, just waiting for a chance to yell at me?”

“A little,” she admitted. “Stuff I never noticed before was really obvious when I couldn’t do anything about it.”

“So you really weren’t getting into the Kept thing, you were just sitting around being mad at me for Keeping you? So maybe it wasn’t me, it was just you not wanting to be there?”

And there was Ty in a nutshell. She sighed. “I wanted it, Ty. No-one ever walked into that collar as fully aware of what was going on as I did.”

“And now you don’t want it anymore.”

“And you still do.”

“Well… yeah. It was kind of hot. And I liked being in charge.” He had the grace to at least look a little embarrassed while he said that. “But I told you, if you didn’t like it, we could just go back to normal. I just wish you’d given it a bit more of a chance, you know?”

She sighed. “I gave it more of a chance than you’re willing to, so I wouldn’t throw too many stones, if I were you.”

He winced. “That’s not fair, Annie. I told you why I wouldn’t do it.”

“I know, and it was beautifully logical, dear. I’m not trying to change your mind.”

“You just wish I’d change it on my own.”

“Well, I can’t deny it would be fun to try the other side of things.” She was still trying to be reasonable, but Ty didn’t really seem in the mood to see any reason at all. “You would have been happier if I just loved the collar and wanted to stay under it forever, wouldn’t you have?”

“Well… yeah.” He blinked at her, clearly surprised at her tone of voice. “I told you I wanted to try Owning you to see if we liked it. And I liked it. It’s not my fault that you didn’t.”

It was, actually, at least fifty percent his fault she hadn’t liked it. But that really wasn’t going to get them anywhere, so she just sighed and hugged him. “I’m sorry I can’t be what you want, Ty.”

“So… what now?” She knew the naked, vulnerable look was an act. She’d seen him pull it on professors and cy’ree members to devastating advantage. It didn’t stop her from wanting to hug him.

Well, there was no harm in hugging him, was there? They’d been lovers for a year; they shared a child and some wonderful experiences. And maybe in a few years, he’d be grown up enough that they could share more. She wrapped her arms around his shoulders and hugged him fiercely. “Now… we plan for next year.”

“Next year?” His eyes trailed hopefully to the collar on the bed, and then back to her, realizing quickly that wasn’t what she meant. “This is the Addergoole equivalent of ‘let’s just be friends,’ isn’t it?”

“You can’t tell me you’ve ever encountered that line, down in the Village.”

“I watch TV! And, well, once.” He grinned, suddenly cheerful again. “She was twice my age, so that probably doesn’t count. One of, you know, Regine’s special visitors.”

She laughed. “You would, wouldn’t you? Was Regine mad?”

“Are you kidding? She said I was a prodigy!” He laughed shortly. “Only thing I’ve ever done that’s impressed that woman.”

“Give it time. It’s only your first year.” She patted his back, feeling, once again, like she was his mother and not his girlfriend. Mother or whore, was that it, dear? Departed gods help the first boy Tya dated!

“Thanks.” He twisted a little-lost-boy smile her direction. “So. Friends?” He managed to make it sound like a dirty word.

“Friends,” she said, more gently. “Best of friends. Even lovers, if you want, while we’re still single.”

“Still single?” She saw when it hit him. “There’s someone else you want to date, isn’t there?”

“Not exactly…” She waited a moment, but that one wasn’t going to sink in as easily. It didn’t suit his worldview. “There’s someone I want to Own, though.”

“So this is about me not wanting to wear your collar.”

“Exactly as much as it is about me not wanting to wear yours. We both want to Own people, sweetie, and neither of us wants to be Owned. So…” She paused, hoping she could catch his interest enough to sell this. “You help me hook the guy I want, and I’ll help you hook someone who’ll be comfortable in your collar.”

She’d managed to startle him. She liked when that happened; it was kind of rare, and it threw him off his game. “You want me to…”

“Yeah.” She smiled mischievously at him. “What’s so bad about that? It’s not like people don’t get sort of sneaky about these things, right?”

“Well, I guess. And you’ll really help me Keep someone? Why?”

“Because I like you, you dork. I love you.”

“You’re breaking up with me and hooking me up with someone else because you love me. You’re aware that sounds crazy, right?”

“I’m breaking up with you because I don’t want to be your property, and helping you find someone else because I love you. What’s crazy about that?”

“You could stay with me.”

“You could wear my collar.”

“No, I couldn’t.”

“Exactly.”

“It’s totally not the same.”

“Except the part where it totally is.” She sighed. “Arguing about it won’t change anything, Ty. Take my offer. We can stay friends, good friends, a lot easier if you’re not trying to Keep me.”

“Okay,” he acquiesced with poor grace. “So, you’ll help me find a girl, a Third Cohort, and rope her in to being Mine?”

“I will. I don’t think you’re a bad Keeper, per sé, and I think you’ll get better with practice.”

“Gee, thanks. So… who, then? I mean, you have someone in mind, don’t you?” That deepened his frown. “You were thinking about some other guy…”

“…while you were fucking VanderLinden and Magnolia and Ardell. Do you really want to make an issue of that?”

“I guess not. So… who?”

“Absalom.”

“Him? Really? He’s so… I don’t know. Boring.”

“Yeah.” Polite, a bit reserved, unlikely to go sleeping with the rest of his cy’ree, and not really all that much of a dominant personality; she could see how Ty thought he was boring. “Cute, though.”

“Mmm. Ardell’s cute, too.”

“I want to Own someone, remember? I don’t want a rabid badger on a short leash.”

He chuckled. “Okay, okay. So if I help you get Mr. Boring, you’ll help me get a Kept who isn’t, say, a rabid badger.”

“Mm-hrmm.”

“Pinky swear?”

She grinned at him, glad he was back to normal, and solemnly held out her right pinky. “Pinky swear.”


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