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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *