The Bargain (S2, E5)

Season Content notes: con noncon*, pain play, sexual contact, trauma reactions, verbal assault, mind control, reference to suicide attempt, coming to terms with kink (badly), avoidance as coping strategy, unintentional emotional harm, NOT a HFN ending, mind fuck

Mattin had a routine for readying Jahlene’s rooms in the evening. The hard part was guessing when to start filling the bath. Luckily, drawing the bath was easier than he would have imagined before coming here. There were pipes carrying water throughout the manor. Jahlene’s washroom had a copper boiler, where the water heated during the afternoon. In the evening, he opened the spigot, and her tub filled with hot water.

He laid out her nightdress, put a warming pan in the bed, laid a fire for the morning, and did everything but fill the bath. When he ran out of other things to do, he waited. He couldn’t say how he knew when to start filling the tub, but he’d become familiar with the lady over the past several weeks. Lately, he’d started developing a sense of what she’d want, when.

Given how angry Brit and the lady had appeared, he figured he could wait to fill the bath. He hadn’t seen the lady when she was in a temper, but he knew Brit. And he would not want to be in Parlen’s shoes at the moment.

So he had time to think.

The lady and Brit were angry with Parlen for some reason, but that didn’t concern him. He shoved his confusion aside to focus on what mattered.

Mistress.

The word still stuck in his throat, heavy with meaning. Why did it matter? As Parlen said, it was just a word.

He couldn’t say it.

If he could say it, he would be hurting her.

He didn’t understand that. Didn’t understand why his feelings affected the lady. He had heard her sorrow, but he didn’t understand…

Her voice echoed in his memory, “My people serve me willingly, Mattin Brenson. Each one came to me because they wished to enter my service. I did not seek them out nor do I use coercion or glamour on my family.”

My family, she had said. He had derided it at the time, yet hadn’t he been thinking the same earlier?

A flash of insight came to him. She wanted him as part of her family and saw his resentment and fear as rejection. He couldn’t explain to himself why they weren’t. Why he could hate the collar and her power over him so much and yet… love… his family here. Which included Lady Jahlene.

Some instinct interrupted his thoughts, and he started filling the bath just in time. She entered the suite as he turned the water off.

She started stripping off her clothes, not waiting for his assistance. Her hair, which had been neatly styled when he left, was a mess. He tried to pick out her hairpins without pulling. He didn’t think he succeeded–she winced several times–but she didn’t say anything. As he worked, he tried to turn his confused thoughts into words.

But the lady’s hair was down, Mattin got his first good look at her face. She was drawn and pale, her eyes glassy. Her smile, when she caught his eyes, seemed forced. He winced. Her sorrow earlier had been bad enough, but this? His chest grew tight—had he hurt her this badly?

“Are… are you alright, Lady?”

She tipped her hand back and forth.

Mattin bit his lip and plunged ahead, “Lady, I know I have not—I mean—”

She looked up, “Oh. Not you, Mattin. Yes, you cause problems at times but isn’t that part of being alive? Court and its protocol are annoyances. We’ll find a way to deal with them.”

“Will… will you tell me what upsets you?”

She shrugged, “I expect you can guess part of it. Parlen should have brought her concerns to me, in private or with Brit. Not ambushed both of us. She was trying to control me.”

Mattin led her to the bath and tried to absorb this sudden change in focus. He’d known Parlen had done something to displease the lady, but… “How could she expect to control you? You have all the power here.” His normal resentment of her power didn’t stand a chance against his astonishment—thankfully. The lady was hurting enough without his adding to it.

Jahlene laughed, “You put too much stock in legends, Mattin. Nobles have been controlled by humans in their households in the past. It will happen again. There is more than one form of power.”

“That doesn’t make sense.”

Jahlene stepped into the bath and stretched.

“To you. Don’t worry about it. She won’t try again.”

Mattin didn’t reply. Instead, he began soaping up her hair. For a few minutes, neither said anything.

Communal baths had been a part of Mattin’s life for as long as he could remember. Being around a naked female was nothing new or uncomfortable. But there was something especially intimate about helping the lady wash like this.

She preferred soaps scented with pine. Their crisp smell was a sharp contrast to her hair slipping through his hands. Most nights, Mattin hated himself for how much he enjoyed touching her. Tonight… tonight his fears and mistrust seemed small and foolish besides her pain.

Cautiously, he worked his hands down to her shoulders. She stiffened but didn’t say anything. He began rubbing at the muscles of her neck and shoulders, willing her to relax. Instead of pulling away as he feared, she leaned back into his hands. His shaft grew hard between his legs, but he ignored it and pushed aside his self-doubts. For a few minutes, he focused on her needs.

She relaxed a bit at a time. When Mattin finished, she reached up and touched his hand. “Thank you.” Her voice was strangely husky.

Several more minutes passed in silence before Jahlene said, “Parlen was given to me by a friend of my mother’s.”

Mattin froze. “You can do that? Give a person away?”

Jahlene shrugged and patted his hand in reassurance, “The human has to be willing to trade collars. It doesn’t happen often. She was happy enough to come. I have a reputation for coddling my people, and Erebeth is what you would expect from someone my mother liked.”

“Oh.” From the little Mattin had heard of Jahlene’s mother… He pushed the thought aside and stared hard at the back of the lady’s head.

“She had a hard time adjusting. She thought of fae as the enemy, but she loved the game of politics,” she sighed. “I thought I could win her over. I thought I had.”

She said nothing else as Mattin helped her rinse her hair and get into her night clothes.

As he bowed himself out, she said, “Good night Mattin. I hope… sleep well.”

The wistfulness in her voice stayed with him, and he fell asleep wondering what she had started to say.

The Bargain (S2, E4)

Season Content notes: con noncon*, pain play, sexual contact, trauma reactions, verbal assault, mind control, reference to suicide attempt, coming to terms with kink (badly), avoidance as coping strategy, unintentional emotional harm, NOT a HFN ending, mind fuck

Brit moved as soon as Mattin was out of the door. He grabbed Parlen by the front of her dress and slammed her back into the floor. “If you ever second guess my decisions in front of my trainee again, I’ll beat you within an inch of your life and leave you for the Mare to drag off.”

Jahlene was impressed. She hadn’t seen him lose his temper since Cook entered the manor. If anything, he was faster than she remembered. Tempting as it was, she couldn’t let him kill her secretary. Not yet, anyway. “Let her up, Brit, and take the tea to the kitchen. Now please.”

For a long moment, he didn’t move. Jahlene was about to repeat herself when he released the dress and stood up. Gathering the tea things, he left without acknowledging her. Hopefully, Cook would be able to sort him out. She had other problems to address.

When Jahlene didn’t say anything further, Parlen sat up and straightened her dress and hair. She continued to sit in silence. Once, she opened her mouth, but a glance at Jahlene’s face had it snapping shut again. Jahlene waited long enough Parlen started to fidget and pull at her skirts. Long enough that Jahlene tasted the tension, the fear, building in Parlen.

When she knew Parlen could not take one more moment, Jahlene spoke.

“If you ever try and trap me into doing things your way again, I may let him.” Brit wasn’t the only one who was angry. Jahlene had trusted Parlen. Brought her deeply in Jahlene’s plans and secrets. No one but Brit could do more harm to her entire household and all the people who depended on her.

Which meant that even if she were willing to, she could not sell the woman. Or let her ‘escape’. But she also could not afford for Parlen to be disloyal…

Jahlene pulled her anger back and let her hunger rise. Hunger Parlen had never seen in all the time she’d been Jahlene’s.

Parlen blanched, pale skin gone bone white in an instant. Slowly, her spine curved, her shoulders hunched, until she cowered in fear. Jahlene grinned. Her people rarely stepped out of line this badly. She might as well enjoy it…

She stood up and moved in front of Parlen, towering over the kneeling woman.

“How long have you been mine?”

“Five years, Mistress,” Parlen’s eyes met hers—terrified eyes, like an animal caught in the gaze of a snake. So nice of her to take her mistress seriously.

“Five years. You came as a gift from Lady Erebeth. She runs a strict household.”

The reminder—and the implied threat—spurred Parlen’s terror. It was delicious. A treat Jahlene rarely tasted.

“Did you think because I am gentle, I am soft?” she whispered, knowing the cowering human must strain to hear. “Did you think that because I prefer willing service, I would allow myself to be manipulated?”

She waited. Parlen would—she must—bow to Jahlene’s rule now, or she was lost beyond recall.

For a moment, Parlen continued to meet Jahlene’s gaze, trying to convince herself that she had done nothing of the sort. But she couldn’t. She hung her head and clasped her hands behind her back, “Forgive me, Mistress.”

Relief swamped Jahlene, but she let none of it show. Parlen was still hers. But only barely. She grabbed Parlen’s hair and yanked her head back, “You are a manipulative woman, Parlen. That makes you useful to me.”

Not just fear but guilt and shame now bloomed. It wasn’t enough. As sweet as this feast was, it would pass too quickly. “But when you start manipulating me, you stop being useful. And then, what shall I do with you?” She had to ensure that Parlen remembered this night. That the fear and guilt would last—or, one day, they would be here again.

Besides, it was such a feast. Jahlene could see whites all around Parlen’s eyes. To Jahlene’s delight, sweat beaded on Parlen’s skin. She resisted the temptation to lean forward and lick it. “Did Brit ever tell you of my mother’s ‘special toys’?”

“N-no, Mistress.” And she didn’t want to know. Smart woman, but smarter if she had never pushed Jahlene this far.

“They lived in a cage in a special glamourhame. They came out to feed her pleasures. They had no purpose, no use, except to be tortured. It didn’t matter if they were crippled, or blinded, or broken. Sometimes she kept them alive for years, feeding on their despair and pain.

“I’ve never had a special toy. If you are no longer useful to me, you could be my first.”

Parlen opened her mouth, but no sound came out. Her uncertainty pierced Jahlene. She believed Jahlene might do it. Well, Jahlene could use that. Use Parlen’s doubt to reinforce the fear.

“The first thing I’d do is cut off your perfect hair and make a rope to hang you with. Each time we played, I’d finish by wrapping that golden rope around your neck. Watch your face purple and your feet kick against the air. Just for a minute or two. Until the day you wished, prayed, begged that I put an end to your misery. Because death would be nothing to fear but sweet freedom from a life of horror and agony.”

She let her voice caress each word. Let her hunger savor the possibility. Let the monster she truly was out for the woman to see.

“On that day, I would let you hang until you lost consciousness. Let you taste the blackness and believe I was finally ending it. Then I’d cut you down and drink in your despair when you woke and knew your torment wasn’t anywhere near over. And worse than the despair will be the knowledge that every minute of it, you. Brought. On. Your. Self.”

The thought roused Jahlene’s hunger further—a hunger she had been restraining since before Parlen had been born. Now she bent forward and licked Parlen’s neck, savoring the horror her words, her eager description, woke in the woman.

A single tear trickled down Parlen’s cheek.

Disgusted—with Parlen, with herself—Jahlene stood up and pushed Parlen over onto her back. Turning away, she wrestled with the hunger, choking it back into its cage. A long minute passed before she could speak, her voice a quiet rasp in the stillness of the room.

“Do you know why I bind myself in rules and restrictions when I could easily be as much a monster as Erebeth or that bastard Oeloff?”

“N-no, Mistress.” Parlen believed her. Believed she would do such a thing–but that she would only do it if Parlen didn’t learn to restrain herself. It was a bitter triumph.

“It’s because I scare myself more than I could ever scare that fool man drawing my bath.” She turned and looked Parlen in the eye. “How much do I scare you?”

Parlen scrambled to get off her back and threw herself flat on the floor before Jahlene. Her tear-streaked face pressed to the tiles, hands stretched out, pleading. “Mistress, I b—”

Jahlene cut her off. The words were meaningless. “Good. If you cannot give me willing service, then I will take fear. Now get out.”

She maintained her pose until Parlen took herself from the room. Then collapsed on the couch and wept out her own fear and self-hatred.

When Brit returned several minutes later, he didn’t need to ask what had happened. Just held her until the tears ran dry.

The Bargain (S2, E3)

Season Content notes: con noncon*, pain play, sexual contact, trauma reactions, verbal assault, mind control, reference to suicide attempt, coming to terms with kink (badly), avoidance as coping strategy, unintentional emotional harm, NOT a HFN ending

As long as Mattin didn’t think of the glamourhame, the next week went… well. He started getting up early and helping Cook with the day’s baking. The old half-fae was becoming a real friend. So, to Mattin’s surprise, was Jahlene. Brit had always shown him a strange kindness. And, whenever he had time to himself, Jaffrey or Elose welcomed his company. It was as if he had gained a new family to replace the one he had lost.

Jahlene was surprisingly fun, and interesting to be around. He often forgot for hours at a time that he was her property. She treated him more like a possible advisor, someone she wanted to rely on. He, in turn, did his best to be someone she could trust.

Yet he could never get comfortable. Something always unbalanced him—like the issue of titles Parlen brought up one night.

~~~

Mattin was pouring tea for the three friends after dinner. Jahlene told him to go prepare her bath when he finished, and Mattin replied, “Yes, Lady.”

Parlen winced, “That is going to be a problem.”

Brit sighed and rubbed the scar on his face. “I told you not to bring it up.” Mattin finished pouring tea for Brit and took a discrete look around. He had no idea what Parlen was referring to.

“Which problem is this,” Jahlene asked, “and do you have a solution?”

“No,” Brit said. He waved off the tea and stood up, beginning to pace.

Parlen smoothed her skirts, “Mattin has been here over a month, Mistress, but still calls you ‘Lady’. It’s obvious neither you nor Brit has said anything to him, and you know the problems it will cause in court.”

Mattin froze, then carefully set the teapot down without pouring the last cup.

“No,” Brit growled. Mattin winced–Cook would be sporting new bruises by morning. “We hadn’t mentioned it. For a reason, by the Mare!”

Jahlene held up a hand, stopping Parlen’s retort. “Mattin, sit down, please.”

Mattin sat, on a chair rather than on the floor. His insides clenched as he waited to find out what was going on.

“Parlen, you’ve forced the issue. Which is what you planned. We will discuss this later.”

Parlen bowed her head, “Yes, Mistress.”

Brit rubbed his face, then looked at Mattin, “You’re not a fool, lad. Ride, boy, half your trouble comes from too much thinking.”

Mattin couldn’t think of anything to say, so he said nothing. He forced his hands to relax, not clench into fists.

“You know well and good that all of us call Jahlene ‘Mistress’—even me who spanked her bottom as a girl! You don’t. Here, as long Jahlene doesn’t care—”

Jahlene shrugged, “It’s complicated, but for this discussion, no, I don’t care.”

“—but at court, it’s a problem.”

About to demand why it mattered, Mattin stopped himself. He took a deep breath and ignored the way his stomach churned. They didn’t have time to waste with pointless questions. “You’re saying I need to call the lady—you—Mistress.” He choked on the word.

“Yes,” Parlen said. “Frankly, I don’t see why it’s such a big deal.”

“You’re a fool.” Brit shook his head and stopped pacing. “Boy, you tell me what calling Jahlene ‘Mistress’ means.”

Mattin swallowed and fumbled to find words. “I… it means that the lady is your owner… but you say it the way my father would say ‘my wife.’ Like she is…” He ran out of words, unable to find a way to say what he sensed so clearly.

Brit rescued him, “Like she belongs to me as much as I belong to her. She is my Mistress, and I am proud of my place in her life.”

Mattin nodded. “Yes. I can’t understand that. I don’t want to understand.” He turned to Jahlene. “Lady, you own me. I made that bargain.” The collar felt tight on his neck. “I… damn it, I like you, and I never expected to. I… when I can forget the collar, I think of you as a friend. But…” Her face was a rigid mask, and he stumbled to a stop.

When Jahlene spoke, her voice was cold and distant. “But first, you must forget you wear my collar. You cannot understand how Brit wears my collar without resenting me for the loss of his freedom.”

Mattin met her eyes, resisting the urge to drop his gaze to stare at the floor. “No, Lady.” It hurt, that coldness.

Parlen shook her head “It’s a word. You use it. Or at least, you had better.”

Brit smacked the back of Parlen’s head.

“What!”

Jahlene’s mask broke, and, for a moment, her eyes pleaded with him. “I hoped that your feelings might change in time. Brit and I haven’t discussed this, but I suspect he has been avoiding the issue for the same reason.”

Mattin looked away, not wanting to see her pain. Was that why she acted so distant? “I’m sorry.” He swallowed, facing her again. “So I need to call you,” he braced himself, “Mistress at court?”

“If you don’t, it’s a slap in the face.” Parlen put in, “Lady and lord are for nobles you aren’t bound to. Call the Mistress ‘Lady’ at court, and you announce to the world that she has no authority over you.”

Mattin barely kept from wincing. Each time he did it, he was also rejecting her.

Jahlene nodded, oblivious to his thoughts. “Unfortunately, she’s right. At best, I would be shamed before the other nobles and my position damaged. At worst, the Emperor might decide to take offense.”

“Forcing yourself to say it won’t work, though. Not really.” Brit rubbed his nose as he spoke, “It’s too obvious that it’s forced. Which at court is a sign the slave hasn’t been properly trained and would also shame the Mistress.”

Mattin clenched his hands, “What if… Court is two months away. If I start … by the time we go, it will be a habit.” He swallowed and looked up at the lady. “I don’t want to—” don’t want to hurt you, he couldn’t make himself say.

“I would rather not feel your resentment and despair grow stronger every time you speak with me.” The tart amusement in her words didn’t match the shuttered look in her eyes. “They are heavy enough now,”

Mattin did wince this time. “Lady, I…”

Jahlene shook her head, “It is who you are, Mattin Brenson, and you told me as much when you took my collar. Now we cope.” She stretched her mouth into a feeble copy of her bright grins, “I know you don’t mean to hurt me, Mattin. We will find a way through this.” Mattin managed to return her smile, though he suspected his was as weak as hers.

Parlen groaned and rubbed at her skirts, “You are all being ridiculous.”

Jahlene ignored Parlen and returned to the politics of the situation. “Older protocols exist. I had planned to ask Cook for his thoughts in a week or so.”

“Cook?” Mattin blinked.

“He grew up in court; his father was on the Emperor’s council.”

“Oh.” The idea of the plain-spoken half-fae growing up in the center of the Empire’s politics made his head hurt.

They sat in silence. Parlen seemed to be sulking, Brit thoughtful. Mattin didn’t even try to figure out Jahlene’s mood. She was usually free with her feelings, but often it seemed what he saw was only the surface of a deep pool. That sorrow…

Jahlene broke the moment, “Enough for now. Mattin, go lay out my things for the night. And try not to worry. We have two months to figure this out.”

Mattin stood and bowed, “Yes… Lady.” When he gathered up the tea things, Brit stopped him.

“Leave it. I can bring it down later.”

So Mattin left the tea, with a wince of sympathy for Cook, and went to get the lady’s bath ready.

The Bargain (S2, E2)

Season Content notes: con noncon*, pain play, sexual contact, trauma reactions, verbal assault, mind control, reference to suicide attempt, coming to terms with kink (badly), avoidance as coping strategy, unintentional emotional harm, NOT a HFN ending


Mattin spent the first few days of the following week running errands and occasionally taking notes on the lady’s meetings. The fourth afternoon, the lady ordered him to accompany her in the glamourhame.

Jaffrey met them there. The stablehand winked at Mattin and bowed to the lady, an eager smile on his face. He opened the door for the lady and followed her and Mattin into the room.

Mattin braced himself as they entered. He was careful to look anywhere but at the cross. The cross Crait had been tied to when Mattin whipped him… The memories crowded his mind, filling him with longing and disgust.

He got control of himself and turned his attention to the lady and Jaffrey. Jaffrey had stripped and knelt before Jahlene, hands clasped behind his back.

Jahlene’s face was transformed. Mattin had seen hints of hunger in her eyes since he first met her. For the first time, that hunger was fully revealed. She devoured Jaffrey with her eyes like he was a tasty treat she wanted to swallow whole.

She crouched down before Jaffrey and put a hand on his cheek. The tenderness of the gesture, combined with the naked hunger in the lady’s face, was disturbing… and arousing. Mattin tried to ignore the tightening in his shaft.

“Mattin needs to learn to serve in the glamourhame,” Jahlene said to Jaffrey, “Do you have any problem with his presence?”

Jaffrey glanced over at Mattin and hesitated for a moment. Mattin allowed himself to hope… but Jaffrey shook his head, “No, Mistress.”

Jahlene turned towards Mattin without looking at him. “Pick up Jaffrey’s clothes, then strap him to the rack.”

Mattin nodded, unable to make his voice work. He picked up the clothes and took his time folding them, then put them on an empty spot on the shelves that held the lady’s… tools. When he turned around, Jaffrey had stretched himself out on the rack.

The rack seemed complicated but was rather simple. Closing the pillory board over Jaffrey’s ankles and bolting it in place took only a moment. The cuffs, connected by a one-inch rope to a sturdy crank, encased the entire forearm. Mattin couldn’t look at Jaffrey as he started strapping the first cuff on.

With his free hand, Jaffrey reached over and grabbed Mattin’s arm. “Try and relax. I want this.”

Jaffrey’s face held an eagerness that nearly matched the lady’s hunger. Mattin shuddered and looked away. Jaffrey chuckled. Flushing, Mattin finished fastening the cuffs.

When he was done, he stepped back, keeping his gaze on the floor. Jahlene checked the cuffs and nodded her approval. Mattin’s stomach roiled, and he fought to remain still. He tried to become furniture but couldn’t.

“Fetch me the maiden’s teeth,” he heard Jahlene say.

It took him a minute to remember what she was referring to. The ‘maiden’s teeth’ was a strap of leather as long and wide as his hand that could be buckled into a narrow cuff. Small metal tacks lined the inside. Mattin had been afraid to ask what it was for. He found the device on a shelf with a collection of other, similarly incomprehensible tools. He bowed as he handed it to the lady, using protocol to avoid looking at her.

She took the maiden’s teeth from him and said, “Now turn the crank, five notches.”

The crank turned easily under Mattin’s hand. Five notches took in all the rope’s slack. When he finished, Jaffrey’s arms were stretched taut above his head.

Jaffrey gasped. Mattin looked down and froze. The lady had strapped the maiden’s teeth around Jaffrey’s cock. It sat loosely on him, and Mattin cringed as he realized why. If Jaffrey started to become hard, his shaft would fill the cuff. The tacks would cut into his flesh.

Mattin’s own shaft hardened at the thought. Horrified, he stepped back, bumping into the wall.

“Turn the crank another two notches,” the lady commanded.

Mattin wiped his sweating palms on his pants and took a firm grip on the handle of the craft. Click. The crank didn’t want to turn. With all the slack gone, he was pulling against Jaffrey’s weight. Stretching his body. Click. Jaffrey gasped, and Mattin froze.

Something touched Mattin’s arm.

He jumped. The lady stood beside him. “Wait by the door. I will call when I need you.”

Mattin bowed and backed away.

Later, he never recalled more than bits and pieces. It was surreal and yet the most intense thing he had ever witnessed. The warm glow of the oil lamps reflected off the room’s dark wood paneling, surrounding the lady and Jaffrey in a golden aura. She tightened the rack again, and Jaffrey’s moans filled the room. She played with his nipples, making his shaft harden. Then he’d gasp and pull against his bonds as the maiden’s teeth began to bite.

From across the room, the torture was invisible. The stretch of the rack as the lady released or tightened the crank must have been excruciating. Yet the only visible change was the movement of the crank handle around its circle. The maiden’s teeth looked like a simple piece of leather. Yet as Mattin watched, the lady reached down to fondle Jaffrey’s sack. His shaft jumped, instantly erect, and he cried out in pain.

Mattin swallowed and tried hard to ignore the tightening in his own groin.

The lady played with Jaffrey. Played him, his body an instrument under her hands. She knew exactly how to draw forth the reaction she desired.

Jaffrey’s skin gleamed as sweat beaded and ran down his sides. Sometimes he would cry out or beg. His cries cut through Mattin. Mattin tried to look away, but it was better to watch. To see. To know. Than to listen helplessly and blindly.

After an eternity, Jahlene stopped. She rested a hand on Jaffrey’s cheek and said, “Enough for today, I think, dear one.”

Mattin breathed a sigh of relief. He was shocked to hear Jaffrey’s hoarse plea, “Please, Mistress… not yet…I can take… more…”

Mattin bit his lip, praying that the lady would hold to her decision.

“I don’t think… Come here, Mattin.”

He tensed as she called him over. When he reached her side, she pointed him to the crank. “Release that, but slowly! One notch at a time and pause between them.”

He obeyed, slowly releasing the strain on the ropes—and Jaffrey’s body. As he worked, Jahlene removed the maiden’s teeth. Mattin couldn’t help watching, a cruel fascination driving him. Tiny scratches covered Jaffrey’s shaft, standing out bright red against his dark skin. The lady took his shaft in her hand, and he cried out. “Shall I stop?”

“No! No, please.”

The lady began stroking him. Blood from the scratches smeared Jaffrey’s shaft. He arched against the rack, eyes squeezed shut, mouth gaping in a silent cry.

Mattin tore his eyes away from the tableau and focused on his task. When the ropes lay loose on the table he began unstrapping the cuffs from Jaffrey’s arms. Mattin was unlatching the board holding Jaffrey’s feet when the other man shuddered and cried out.

Then it was over. Jaffrey lay, still stretched out across the rack, covered with sweat and cum and blood. Mattin released the footboard and stepped back, unsure what to do.

“Did Brit show you the after box?” Jahlene asked.

“Yes, Lady.”

“Fetch it for me.”

Relieved to have a task, Mattin went to get the wooden box. While he did that, Jahlene helped Jaffrey to bring his arms down and slowly sit up. With the supplies in the box Jahlene cleaned and cared for Jaffrey’s wounds. Mattin, following Brit’s training, cleaned and reset the rack.

Mattin focused on his work so he wouldn’t think. The room was scented with bodily fluids, overwhelming the usual scent of lamp oil and wood polish. When he finished tending to the rack, the maiden’s teeth had to be taken down to the laundress to be cleaned.

When he returned, he found Jahlene sitting in the room’s sole chair. Jaffrey knelt beside her, his head on her lap. Her hand stroked his hair. Tears, glinting in the lamp light, trickled down his cheeks.

“Go take a break, Mattin,” she told him, “or see if Cook could use a hand.”

He fled the room. But not without looking back.

~~~

That night, Mattin dreamed he was on the cross as Crait had been, the flogger laying lines of fire across his back. He looked down as a mouth closed on his erect shaft, and Jahlene grinned up at him.

He stood again at the head of the rack, tightening the crank to take up the extra rope. It was not Jaffrey who lay, bound and naked, but his sister, Marta. And Lord Oeloff stood beside him, gloating.

The Bargain (S2, E1)

(I made a mistake, so early post y’all. Enjoy!)

Welcome back! We left Mattin a bit shaken but ready for forge on. Let’s see what trouble he and Jahlene can make for themselves this season.

*Glances as content notes*

Yeah. This season is a humdinger.

If you missed it (or just need a refresher), you can read Season 1 here.

Season Content notes: con noncon*, pain play, trauma reactions, verbal assault, mind control, reference to suicide attempt, coming to terms with kink (badly), avoidance as coping strategy, unintentional emotional harm, NOT a HFN ending

Mattin Brenson had been a slave to Countess Jahlene for less than a month when he began to serve her directly. He had barely a week of training before Brit directed him to report to the lady. Mattin would assist her in the evenings, from dinner until she went to bed. Brit would still be in charge of his training during the day.

Before reporting to the lady, Mattin cleaned up and stopped in the kitchen to grab an early dinner. He hadn’t been to the kitchen in nearly a week, and when he breathed in the herb-scented air, he immediately relaxed.

Cook greeted him with a smile and a pastry. “Sit, eat. I hear rumors everywhere, but no news. Tell me everything.”

Mattin laughed and filled Cook in on what he had been doing between bites of meat pie. He tried to make light of what happened the day before — when Brit had brought him to the lady’s ‘glamourhame’ and made him whip his friend, Crait. Brit had wanted him to see that Crait enjoyed the pain — which Crait very clearly had, but…

“It bothers you. And you didn’t tell Brit or Jahlene. That’s not good, lad.”

“What difference does it make?” Mattin hunched in his shoulders and focused on his food. “I need to do what they tell me whether I like it or not.” They sat in silence while Mattin’s thoughts went round in circles. Finally, he burst. “Bloody Mare, I came here expecting to spend the rest of my life as a whipping boy for the fae. So why is it… why is it…”

Cook checked the meat on the spit and told Toerff to turn it a bit slower. “Why is it so hard? Maybe because what you thought you could endure from someone you hated is harder to take from someone you like. Harder to understand why someone who likes you would do it.”

Mattin grimaced but couldn’t disagree.

“And maybe—just maybe—it’s hard to understand why you find it intriguing.”

Mattin’s head shot up, and he glared at Cook. “I’m not—”

“You need to talk to Brit,” Cook said, for once rolling right over him. “You need to talk to Brit, and you need to take a good hard look at what you are feeling before you get yourself in trouble.”

“I can’t. You’re wrong.” He had to be wrong. Didn’t he?

“Lad…” Cook sighed and started pulling vegetables from roasting in the coals. “If you can’t forget what you know and learn something new, you’re going to get hurt.”

Mattin shook his head and focused on his food.

~~~~

Mattin reported to Lady Jahlene’s office before the dinner bell. He bowed as he entered, and she gestured for him to take a position behind her desk. Falling into the habit of standing—of being furniture—again was a relief.

An undercook arrived with a tray of dinner. The lady began clearing her desk. She didn’t give Mattin any instruction, so he watched. She ate quickly, neatly, and silently. When she was done, she reached for a bellpull behind her desk. A few minutes later, a maid arrived and took the tray away. He wished he knew what (if anything) he was supposed to be doing…

~~~

Jahlene was intensely aware of Mattin standing at her shoulder. It was damned awkward. The last time she’d had anyone acting as an assistant, it was Brit. She never had to tell Brit to do anything. Half the time, he’d take care of it before she thought to ask. Which made sense—the man had practically raised her—but didn’t help with the strange man standing behind her.

She spent half of dinner deciding how to handle the situation and wondering why she didn’t anticipate it. When Berta took the dinner tray she thought she was ready.

Moving over to the couch in her reading nook, she gestured to the chairs and floor, “Sit, try to be comfortable.”

After a moment, he settled himself on the edge of an armchair.

“Did Brit explain anything of what you will be doing?”

“Ah… no, Lady.” He paused a moment, then added, “He… doesn’t explain much of anything.”

Jahlene rolled her eyes. “Never does.” Damn the man. “The short version is you’ll be following me, doing what you can to make my day easier. That could be running around the manor rounding up people I need to talk with. It might mean laying out clothes for a formal dinner. What I’ve been doing, as you saw, is pulling someone from another part of the manor away from their usual duties whenever I need something.”

She stopped and waited to see how he’d respond. “That sounds… disruptive, Lady.”

She circled a hand over her head, “Everywhere. Mostly for Housekeeper, but yes. And you don’t have to say ‘Lady’ every time you speak.”

“Yes, L—ah…” A blush spread across his face, and his throat bobbed as he swallowed. She grinned.

“I’ve got a few more letters to deal with before I can quit for the day. Go find Brit and Parlen: tell them to entertain themselves this evening. We’ll save the strategy session for tomorrow, then find Housekeeper. Ask her to have Berta show you around my rooms, how to get my bath drawn and all.”

He bowed and left. Jahlene enjoyed the view as he walked away, then returned to her desk and started on her next letter.

~~~

A week later, Mattin showed up at Jahlene’s door with a dinner tray. He carried the tray to a table by her couch and arranged the food for her.

Grinning, Jahlene got up and walked over to the couch, shaking a finger at him. “You are going to go too far one day.”

His smile was a bit sheepish, but he didn’t back down. “You told me to use my own judgment if you hadn’t given instruction, Lady. My judgment is you need a break.”

Jahlene shook her head and sat down to eat. While she ate, Mattin straightened her desk. The evening continued in a pattern that had almost become routine. Mattin carried messages for her, making arrangements for the night and the morning.

The next day, Mattin started coming to her quarters in mid-afternoon. They developed an interesting relationship. Mattin, once he was comfortable, slipped easily into the relaxed informality she preferred. But only so long as he was able to forget. If anything reminded him of his collar, his sister, or her pleasures, he would withdraw into quiet invisibility.

Jahlene wasn’t sure what to make of it.