Wednesday, March 7, 2001
He felt like someone had cut his strings.
Worse. He felt like someone had shown him that he had a bunch of strings and a video of him being pulled around, and then dropped all the handles on the ground.
Worse still, Joff was mad at Rafe – no, furious – and had been alternately yelling at him and ignoring him for days, which made Eris on edge which meant half the furniture in the common room was broken and meant that Rafe was spending most of his time wandering around looking like a kicked puppy.
And now Joff was at it again, this time with a lecture, explaining to Rafe how it was a horrible idea to just strip orders away, that didn’t work, Rafe should have-
“Enough!” Abednego bellowed.
There were three people in the room besides him, and all three twitched. Eris actually slid down under the table and started laughing, high-pitched sounds that probably had nothing to do with humor. Rafe looked around, seeming startled and horrified to see Abednego there. And Joff froze.
“Look.” He knew what was going on. He hated himself for using it. But damnit, right now they were actually looking at him. “Yelling at Rafe does not make my life better. It doesn’t make your life better. And it’s not making Eris’ life any stabler. Someone take that girl to Mendosa and sit on her until she doesn’t think that accidentally breaking her girlfriend’s arm is funny.”
They were staring at him. He didn’t sound that much like Meshach. He really didn’t. But they had the same accent, the same general look, and he’d deepened his voice a bit for impact.
“Well?” He looked between them. He was so going to pay for this later. “Come on, Joff. She’s flipping out. You three have had a year to get over what they did and you are in no way over it. Go. Take her to Mendosa right now.”
The spell was going to break any minute now. Someone was going to tell him to be shut up and he was going to be fucked.
But right now he was going to see if he could do some good.
“And while we’re at it, did anyone make sure the two of you got therapy? Because you know all three of you need it. Go on, Joff. I’ll take him later.”
He didn’t want to say Rafe, didn’t want to break the spell. It worked. Joff took Eris hand and coaxed her out from under the table, and somehow got her out the door.
Abednego slid down to the floor and put his head on his knees. “Fuck,” he muttered. “Fuck, that shouldn’t have worked, fuck, I hate my brothers!” He shouted it to the room, letting it echo across the space that normally seemed very resistant to echoing. “I hate them, fuck them, fuck Meshach and his smug self, fuck Shadrach and his miserable follow-after pussy-boy bullshit and that temper he never bothered to control because it made him more like Meesh and fuck both of them and broken arms and broken legs and – what?!”
Oh, fuck, he’d just snapped at Rafe. At Sir. At his owner. He scrambled onto his knees and pressed his head against the rug and made himself as small and silent as he could.
“You…” Rafe was coming closer. Sir. It had better be Sir; this was going to hurt enough as it was. “You know what just happened?”
Abednego made the tiniest nod he could.
“Tell me. Answer me.”
He cleared his throat. “When I get angry, I sound like Meesh. Sort of a combination of them, actually. I sound like their dad.”
Abednego nodded, a little more firmly this time, feeling his forehead bump against the floor.
He risked looking up. “Their dad. Not mine. Not as far as I know, at least. I haven’t, uh, looked into genealogy, though they tell me they have those things here gods please let me shut up.”
“You can stop. You… you sounded like them and you pushed our buttons.”
“…Yes, sir. I’m sorry, sir.”
“Don’t be. I mean. Fuck. I mean – that wasn’t an order, I suppose. “
“Good.” What? Abednego swallowed. “I mean. I feel bad about it, sir, and I’d rather stay feeling bad about it. It wasn’t a nice thing to do.”
“Yeah. It wasn’t, and I hate that it worked, I really do.” Sir’s voice was growing closer. His hand was a sudden warm presence on the back of Abednego’s neck, above the collar. Abednego would have frozen, if he could have gotten any more still than he already was. “But what did you do with it? You bullied Eris into going to therapy. Nobody’s been able to do that in two years without using force. You got her to walk to Mendosa’s, and you got Joff to go with her. It was shitty,” Sir agreed, the warmth in his voice at odds with the words. “But it was far less shitty than you could have been. Will you sit up?”
“Not without permission, sir.” He knew that one. That wasn’t even a trap, that was more like asking him to recite his ABC’s.
“Please sit up. You have my permission.”
There was a hand on the back of his neck. That seemed to go against permission. But that had been an order, even if there’d been a please attached to it. Abednego sat up slowly. “Sir?” He wasn’t looking at Sir, but on the other hand, he wasn’t not looking, either. He’d settled his gaze somewhere in the midview. Not seeing. Not seeing was very useful sometimes.
“Tell me honestly, if I took away all of your orders, what would you do?”
“Run.” Abednego might not have hesitated even if he’d had a choice in the matter. As it was, the word was out practically before Rafe had finished. “I can’t get out of the school but I’d run and do my best not to see you or Joff or Eris – or even Zeke – for the rest of the year.”
“Being away from your Keeper makes you miserable, I’m told.” Sir was eyeing him speculatively.
“Being with my Keeper makes me miserable.” Shit, no, that was the wrong thing to say. He froze, because he didn’t think he was allowed to kowtow again.
Rafe huffed. “I know the feeling. But. Well, uh, that’s what your brothers were like.”
“That’s what they’re always like. Could you please order me to shut up? Or something? I can’t seem to stop talking. You didn’t order me to be quiet, did you?”
Rafe snorted in something that might have actually been amusement. “Look. I wanted you to know what it was like. Having a Keeper who didn’t give you any wiggle room. Having to watch everything you said and everything you did. I didn’t want to – to be a monster. I didn’t want to starve you, or torture you, or – or any of that.”
“…Having a Keeper who hates you…” This time, Abednego managed to close his mouth.
It didn’t matter. Rafe could fill that one in easily enough. “Having a Keeper who hates you hurts. Yeah. I know. I wasn’t Liza’s choice; I was what she took so Shad and Meesh could get Eris and Joff. I didn’t even think about that. I just, I saw you, and…”
“And you wanted revenge. Yeah, me, too.”
Damnit, why couldn’t he shut up?
Rafe looked startled. “Against me?” he hazarded. “I – I guess I wouldn’t blame you, if what you said about, about…” He leaned back, his hands sliding away from Abednego, and looked off away from him. “When I took away the feelings orders. I guess revenge would make sense.”
“If…” Abednego spoke slowly. He found he almost wanted that hand back on his neck again. “If I was planning revenge against you, I wouldn’t tell you unless you forced me to. That would be, well, suicidal.”
“Did you hear – well, That first year, Eriko’s Kept? Talking about a Kept murdering their Keeper? Did it seem to you like – uh. Like the…”
They’d been in the lunchroom together. How could Rafe think he hadn’t heard? “It sounded like the demon. Except the demon never actually spoke inside me. It let me – I think I broke an order once, when it made me really mad.”
“People yelling at me makes you angry.” Rafe said it like he was trying out some novel piece of information.
“Well, yeah. I mean, when they yell at you, YOU get angry, and when you’re angry, my life is harder. I don’t like people yelling. It just makes everything worse. It’s easier to just – just bear with it and know it won’t be forever. Easier when you tell me it’s okay, tell me not to mind it,” he added in a mutter. “Then I don’t have to think about what’s happening.”
There was silence. He looked up to find Rafe staring at him. He swallowed, but he didn’t think that was going to help the lump in his throat.
“Do you- No.” Rafe shook his head. “I’m not going to ask that. Come here, Abednego…. Abe? Do you like Abe?”
“There’s already an Abe.” He slunk over to his Owner, because what else was he going to do?
Rafe patted his lap, and, cautiously, Abednego put his head down where his owner had patted.
“Abed, then. I’m…” he trailed off, as if lost, but his hand found Abednego’s hair and stroked lightly. He didn’t say anything else, so neither did Abednego, but his hand was gentle as he petted.
He’d like to kill his brothers, he thought, but that could wait until Rafe was having a bad day again. Right now, he thought he could stay like this until June.