Saturday, April 7, 2001
He woke next to Rafe.
He did, sometimes. More often these days than before. He’d looked at Rafe and said, more honestly than he’d really wanted to be, “I hate sleeping on the floor. It’s cold, and it’s hard, and the dog bed is even worse. Do you think I could sleep in the bed?”
It was a trade-off, because he got to be warm, and he got to have something soft under him where he could stretch out – Addergoole must either invest in quality mattresses, or have someone somewhere in a basement muttering “Meentik Unutu mattress” over and over again, and he wouldn’t put either of those by Regine. – but he got cuddled.
Rafe, it turned out, was a cuddler.
Rafe was a cuddler, and when he was asleep, he was affectionate, nuzzling against Abednego. “You need touch when you’re Kept, anyway. Even when you hate it,” he’d told Abednego, with that look that meant he wasn’t looking at Abednego at all, “you need it, or you start to go a little nuts.”
Even when you hate it sounded about right. He tried to go to sleep quite a bit after Rafe or quite a bit before him, but needing – or perhaps not needing but still being determined to ask – permission to do just about anything meant that that didn’t quite work. He went to bed when Rafe said he could, or when Rafe told him to, or when Rafe got distracted and forgot he was in the room.
Making that last one happen was harder than it seemed, and even on nights like that – like last night – he still woke up with Rafe pressed up against him, arm over him, leg over him, breath against his ear. I hate you. He tried the sentiment on for size. I hate being your Kept. That one had less guilt-spikes. He wrapped his hand, mentally, around the guilt, feeling the way it pressed into him. I hate you. I hate that you think you can do this shit to me. I hate that you raped me so I wouldn’t rape someone else. I hate that you made me think about my brothers every god-damned day this year.
THAT feeling came with no guilt at all. He cuddled it against himself the Rafe was holding him, pressed against his chest. I hate my brothers. You hate my brothers. If you’d bothered to ASK about it instead of assuming I was just like them…
He stretched out, slowly pressing against the way Rafe was holding him. One hand moved. Then Rafe’s leg shifted. He kept stretching until he wasn’t being held anymore.
He froze at the edge of the bed. He’d gotten enough lectures on not doing anything he wasn’t given permission to. On the other hand — on the other hand, he didn’t have any orders about that sort of thing.
He slipped silently out of bed and — no orders about using Workings on himself because he’d been under so many silence orders it had never come up — used a quiet Working to move silently. Workings still cam very hard to him. He hadn’t Changed.
Delaney never Changed and she stayed her. Your brother Kept her. Eris had told him that. Some people just… don’t. Like Kailani.
How anyone could look at Kailani and not see supernatural beauty, he didn’t know.
But that was beside the point. He had no supernatural beauty.
He snuck out of the room, took a moment to use the bathroom, muttering at his bladder until it was convinced this was halfway okay, and sat down in the living room.
He was going to get in trouble. He was going to get into so much trouble.
“I was just sitting.” The voice came from the walls. Abednego jumped.
“You’re going to get me in trouble,” he hissed. “Stop it.”
“Nobody said you could sit, did they? You were told to kneel. Good Kept kneel, don’t they?”
“But you weren’t here.”
“So you’re only good—
“-when I’m here?” Abednego was suddenly speaking. He tried to close his mouth; he kept speaking. “What kind of miserable Kept are you, if you only behave when I’m right here? Stop it!” The last was Abednego, but it was far louder than he’d meant to be. “You’re going to get me in trouble,” he whispered.
“I was just sitting,” he said, in a voice that wasn’t quite his. “I’ve been kneeling and standing and running and everything else you wanted for days and —”
“Shut up! Shut up!”
Eris was standing in the doorway of her room, her eyes wild. It looked as if she was trying not to leave her room but not succeeding. “Shut up!” she repeated.
“I shouldn’t have shut up,” Abednego informed — himself? Eris? “I shouldn’t have. But I didn’t have any choice in the matter, and I was tired, and angry, and hurt. And there was this long knife right here.” Abednego reached down and scooped up — there hadn’t just been a wooden knife sitting around the room, had there? It didn’t seem like the sort of thing you left around Eris.
“You’re worthless. You’ve been worthless since the first day I Kept you, and you’re—” Eris slapped both hands over her mouth, only to have them dragged away by invisible hands “-you’re not getting any better. Maybe I should just order you to start walking and not stop, what do you say to that?”
“There was nothing to say. Nothing I could say. But there was this knife. It was supposed to be a gift. A Gift for my Mentor. And I picked it up…”
Abednego tried to stop himself. He spat out a shaky abatu between lips that didn’t want to move, a huamu that was mostly vowels. The knife vanished into dust motes.
“Abed! Sit down!”
Oh, thank god. He sat down —
No. He was standing, like he was hung on marionette strings. He was picking up a knife — hadn’t he gotten rid of that?
He was going to piss his pants. If he pissed his pants, would it stop? If he — no, damnit. His bladder was empty.
“I picked it up,” if he didn’t know better, he’d think his own voice sounded annoyed.
“Oh, what’s that,” sneered Eris-that-wasn’t-Eris. “Some little toy?” She was trying to get back into her room. She was fighting her own body. She had broken one of her fingers.
His brother had flayed her and she had gotten back up. His brother had done more damage to her than he had to anyone, because there hadn’t been anyone to stop him. Meshach had probably been encouraging him. Cheering him on.
He couldn’t do that. He couldn’t — he was diving towards her, the knife in his hand. he was going to die.
It wasn’t even her he was angry at. It wasn’t even her he had a problem with. The thoughts flew through his mind in a quick flurry of frustration. He was almost to her. She was trying to fend him off.
He had to stop. He had to— something grabbed his ankles and he went tumbling. The knife fell to the floor and vanished.
Eris-not-Eris looked down at him sadly. “My last living thought was seriously? He always over-reacts. But he didn’t, did he? I’m not surprised he killed me, not anymore. I’m only surprised more Kept haven’t done the same.”
Joff was the first to move. “Better orders,” he whispered. Where had he come from? “They got more clever. ‘Don’t attack me’ is a standard first order now among black hats.”
Abednego was pretty sure that had been Rafe’s first order to him. He wasn’t to turn to look at his Keeper. He didn’t want to move at all. His whole body hurt. If he stayed right where he was, he wouldn’t have to find out if he was still being puppeted.
“They won’t be Kept forever,” Eris’s voice murmured. Was it Eris, or the ghost? “What have we been doing wrong, that ‘will they kill me when we’re out of here?’ is a question?”
It hung in the air. Abednego couldn’t talk to her still, couldn’t answer. He wasn’t sure where he’d start.
“He’s Changed! Abednego’s Changed!” Suddenly Rafe was next to him, kneeling next to him. “Oh, shit, that’s got to hurt. Come on, let’s get you to Caitrin’s. Come on.”
It was an order. He couldn’t obey it. Abednego fainted.