Saturday, May 12, 2001
Every time Abednego thought things had settled in to something like normalcy, they shifted again. He thought he’d stopped getting comfortable with things, just to find that he was dumped on his tail all over again.
Rafe couldn’t settle on what he wanted. He would pet Abednego for a few minutes, then shift away guiltily, give him an order and then tell him it wasn’t an order.
Saturdays and Sundays were the worst, and this time Rafe had gone through the cycle five times in less than an hour. When Abednego found himself wishing for his corner and rules that, if horrible, at least made sense, he sat up straight, shaking off another cycle of petting.
“I Belong to you, yeah? You held the knife, I said the words. So I’m yours.”
Rafe’s hands fell to his lap and he stared at Abednego. “Yes…? Yes.” He shifted, sniffed the air a little, his head tilting slightly to one side. “You—”
“I’m yours. That’s what you wanted. You wanted to be sure,” he swallowed, because he wasn’t sure he could get through this part without shouting, and plowed on. “-be sure that I wouldn’t turn out to be a monster like my brothers. I think. I think you almost made me a different sort of monster, but you didn’t ever have to worry about me being a raping, manipulating, torturing bastard like those two. I’d decided that a long time before I met you.”
“I kind of figured that out,” Rafe muttered.
“I was hoping maybe you had, but I had to say it anyway. So look. That’s what you wanted. But the year isn’t over yet and you have to decide. I mean. Goal accomplished. You got what you wanted. So now—”
Some good-dog part of his brain was pushing at him. He dropped down to the floor on his knees, because he wasn’t sure he could manage to keep sitting next to Rafe, talking to him like an equal, while he said things like this.
“Now?” Rafe asked quietly.
“It’s a question of what you want. I mean, different people want Kept for different things, right? Joff and Zeke vs. Eris and Zita vs., I don’t know…” It’s not like he actually got to talk to people. “Um. That asshole and the poor girl he got that he clearly just wants to fuck and she wants none of it?”
“Rand and Lily.” Rafe made a face. “I don’t— I mean…”
“So,” Abednego plowed on in the small space provided. “You have to figure out if you want me at all or, uh. Let —”
Someone pounded on the door.
Abednego swallowed something that wanted to be either a curse or a sigh of relief. “May I, sir?”
“What? Yeah, of course. You don’t have to – don’t have to ask permission for everything you, know.”
“Yes, sir.” Abednego stood as smoothly as he could and hurried to the door.
He opened it to a tall angry blonde woman, a cute girl with horns, an irritable cat-girl – Sheba, she’d “rescued” Zita – Zita herself, and a smug-looking guy in a trenchcoat that seemed to be leaking shadows.
“Can we come in?” asked the girl with horns.
Abednego looked at Rafe. Rafe looked, he thought, a little worried and a lot surprised. “Yeah, uh. Yeah, sure. Come on in. Abednego, come here.”
Finally, an order. Abednego crouched down next to Rafe and leaned into the hand his Keeper put on his beck. He still didn’t like liking it, but it still felt good.
“We think you should release Abednego.” Sheba had sashayed to the front of the group and was staring down Rafe.
Abednego tensed. What? Now? When everything was better? He glanced up at the crowd of people suddenly invading their suite – and his life – but their faces gave him no indication of what they were thinking.
Rafe snorted. “Trying to start a collection? Going to go after Zeke next? Sheba, your suite is crowded enough already. What are you going to do with Abednego? Didn’t you already grab Eriko’s Kept?”
That wasn’t the answer he wanted. He wanted to know that Rafe wanted to keep him for some reason, or that he’d let go of him because he ought to, not – well, not this.
He didn’t say anything. He barely moved.
“I didn’t say ‘give him to me.’ I said ‘let him-’” Suddenly Sheba was flying across the room into the – no, through the wall.
A voice in mid-air – not Abednego’s voice, some male he only knew from these spectral visits – whispered. “You have to figure out if you want me at all. Or let me go.”
The spectral female voice replied. “I don’t want to let you go. I like having you around. I like having you.”
That wasn’t the answer he wanted, either.
“That’s not the same as liking me,” replied the ghostly Kept. “If you liked me, you’d think about what I wanted. If you liked me, you’d think about what you’d done to me. Hell, if you weren’t a monster-”
“Enough,” Abednego grumbled. “There’s company here. They don’t have to hear this.”
Rafe twitched as if shoved, twitched again, and got to his feet.
Sheba was standing on the other side of the open door. The rest of her crew, they were staring in confusion.
“We’re haunted,” Abednego explained.
“You can come in, Sheba,” Rafe offered. He looked at Abednego, then back at Sheba. “Why do you think I ought to let him go?”
“Sucks, doesn’t it?” said the ghost female. Rafe tensed. Abednego didn’t bother. She was going to play his secrets out whether he wanted her to or not, it seemed. “Having orders that don’t make sense. Having orders that run into each other until your brain twists up in knots. It sucks not understanding what’s going on.”
“I was…” Rafe sighed. “I was showing him the bad parts.” He was arguing with the air. Nobody even looked like they thought this was strange.
“Those are shitty orders. I hated them when I was Kept. Now you know what they feel like, don’t you?” the voice asked, the ghost’s voice, Rafe’s words. “Tell me what they feel like.”
“You know what else sucks about being Kept?” Abednego raised his voice up, shouting at the air, hoping he could stop or drown out the next lines. “No privacy! Everybody knows what’s going on, everyone has opinions on it, and there’s nothing you can do to stop it. Not. One. Bit. of privacy. No room to just be yourself, no room to think. And here you are, spreading my dirty laundry all over the place. Do you think I want them to hear it? Didn’t you hear everyone? I’m Meshach and Shadrach’s brother! They probably want to kill me too.”
“Nobody wants to kill you.” The blonde girl with the horns stepped forward. “Although the ghost or whatever can shut up now.”
“Actually,” Shadow Guy offered, “someone probably does want to kill him, with that family line.”
“See? You’re not helping.” Abednego glared at the ghost. “He’s not-”
“I treated you like shit.” Rafe’s voice was thick and raw. “I didn’t use knives on you, but I didn’t. I was taking out my revenge on your brothers on you.” He dropped to the floor on his knees.
“Get up.” Abednego took a step back. “Don’t- don’t kneel.” He stepped back again, nearly running into the girl with the horns. “Don’t.”
“I can’t make it up to you. Not what I did. But. But I shouldn’t be Keeping you.”
Panic rose up in Abednego’s chest. He let himself run into the horned girl and, well, the other girl with horns, letting their arms wrap around him. “Don’t-”
“You said we needed help. You were right. We need a lot of help. But you need help, too. They didn’t come here to fuck with me. They came here because you’re hurting.”
“Promise me one thing?”
Kept couldn’t promise. “Sure.”
“Promise me you’ll get help, too? I don’t want – I don’t want to have done the opposite of what I was trying to do.”
“You can order me to. You know you can. Just be like ‘go be honest with Dr. Mendosa’. It’s easy. I did it to Eris and I’m not even Keeping her. Just tell me to. See? Easy.”
Why was he arguing with this?
“Abednego, I release you.”
Why was he falling down? Why was he crying?
Was the ghost screaming? No… sighing. Why?