The Bargain (S2, E10

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 season ending, mind fuck

By the time Brit reached Jahlene’s door, he was in a foul mood. Jaffrey and Crait’s revelations had pushed his temper to the breaking point. He barged in on Jahlene and Parlen without bothering to knock. Jahlene sat on the couch, knees drawn up under her chin—the girl was hurt and trying to hide it. Parlen sat on the floor beside Jahlene fiddling with her blasted skirts.

Jahlene jumped up and started towards him.

The lost little girl look on her face was too much. “What, by the Mare’s Mane, were you thinking?!” he bellowed.

Parlen cleared her throat.

Jahlene froze in her rush to greet him and stared at him. “What was I thinking? What was I thinking! That… that man practically attacked me, had Jaffrey in tears, you ran off to coddle him, and you want to know what I was thinking? How dare you!”

“Excuse me,” Parlen said.

Brit was close to slapping Jahlene. He couldn’t remember the last time he had been this angry, this betrayed. He stepped towards her, hands fisted, “You have a hell of a lot of nerve, Jahlene. Jaffrey is fine, as you’d know if you even bothered to listen to him for five seconds. He was afraid /for/ Mattin. And I am about to take you over my knee like a little brat. How dare you use glamour on that boy? How dare you endanger him like that?”

“Will you both shut up!” Parlen bellowed.

Brit and Jahlene both stared at her.

“It would be very nice,” she continued demurely, “if you could sit down and fill me in on what you are talking about.”

Brit and Jahlene looked at each other, looked back at Parlen. After a moment, they both sat down and started talking.

~~~

Parlen was rather a bit shocked that Jahlene and Brit had actually listened, but it worked. By getting them to tell her what happened, she also got each to hear what the other was saying. And she didn’t want to see Jahlene—or Brit—angry again anytime soon. That would be bad.

Of course, the sheer obliviousness staggered her. “You mean you both knew Mattin was developing an interest in glamourhai, and neither one of you expected him to have some minor problems. Problems like—oh, I don’t know—thinking he was going crazy?”

Brit sighed and rubbed his head, “Thank you, Madam Obvious. You are the third person to point out our oversight this evening. Though the other two were more respectful.”

Parlen found herself rolling her eye, but at least Brit understood. Jahlene, unfortunately, was staring at Parlen like she had two heads. “That makes no sense. What in the world does liking pain have to do with being crazy? The way he was acting this afternoon—that was crazy!”

Parlen opened her mouth, then stopped, “It’s a human thing, Mistress.”

“None of my toys ever did anything like this.”

She… Parlen tried not to think of it as pouting.

Brit sighed, “Actually, Crait and Jaffrey say they went through the same thing. It happened before they came here. Bad enough Jaffrey nearly killed himself. He knew Mattin was attacking himself earlier. If you’d bothered to listen to him when he tried to tell you—or pay attention to your own bloody senses—you’d have known it, too.”

“Alright Brit, I get it.” She hunched down and wrapped her arms around her knees. “I messed up. Can we please get back on the subject?”

“Which one? I count at least five.” Parlen felt compelled to point out.

“Five?” Brit asked.

“Mattin’s outburst, the mistress’ using glamour on him, your collective stupidity, what, if anything, will happen to Mattin now, and how this mess affects our trap for Oeloff.”

Jahlene threw her arms out, “How can anything happen to Mattin now—he’s gone. Probably heading back to his father’s inn and the ‘normal’ life he’s been pining for.”

Brit shook his head. “He’s passed out drunk in the hunting cabin. Even aside from the uisqe, he’s not in good shape and is definitely not going prancing anywhere come morning.”

“Why not? Why stay if he thinks I’m a monster no different from Oeloff?”

Brit sighed, “Lass, the last time I saw you act this bratty, your mother ruled the county. Since then, you’ve put up with me, this fool, the cook, and the disasters this place throws at you without breaking a sweat. I do not believe you are acting like a ninny because Mattin opened his mouth and shoved his foot down into his stomach. Are you falling in love with the boy?”

Jahlene jerked her head up. “Fae don’t love like humans do, you know that, Brit.”

“Uh-huh.” Brit rolled his eyes. “Fae also aren’t supposed to care about humans and certainly aren’t supposed to claim one for a brother. Cut the manure.”

“By Dannu, Brit, how should I know!” Jahlene hopped off the couch and began to pace—much like Brit normally did. “I don’t know what love is. I like him, I was hoping… I want him to be mine Brit! Really mine and none of this holding back and resentment.” She stopped, and her hands groped in front of her—reaching for a missed catch. “In the past few weeks, he’s become like another set of hands I didn’t know I was missing… I can’t have him close to me if I can’t trust him, Brit. I can’t.”

Parlen bit her lip. As if all the humans in the manor didn’t need to trust Jahlene, no matter how many mistakes she might make. But not a helpful thing to say. Let Brit handle it now that he had calmed down.

“But you did let him close, and he screwed up and hurt you. Well, you screwed up and hurt him, too. Would you let him back?”

“I… Into the household, yes. For the political advantages, if nothing else. But I can’t trust him, Brit. I can’t.” She seemed to sag around herself. Parlen got up and drew her back to the couch. Once Jahlene was seated, Parlen began braiding her hair. Slowly, Jahlene’s shoulders relaxed.

“Alright.” Brit rubbed the scar on his face. “I’ll talk with him in the morning. You’ll need to be careful of him—he’s blasted fragile right now.” He sighed. “And you’ll need to fix things with Jaffrey. He’s hurting too. I can’t deal with the rest of this mess tonight. But… damn it, girl.”

Jahlene spread her hands, “I’m sorry, Brit. You were right. I promised you I’d never use glamour to control my people. I just… he wasn’t one of mine, then. He hurt me, I thought he hurt Jaffrey, and I don’t let anyone hurt the people who are mine.”

Brit accepted this with a grudging nod, “Yeah, well, check your aim better next time. And for god’s sake, use your damned senses. Tasting emotions is the one part of your bloody glamour that’s more of a help than pain, so don’t ignore it!”

~~~

Mattin slept horribly, his dreams filled with Marta. She sat on the floor next to him with her head resting on her knees. “Did I mean so little to you?” she asked, tears running down her cheeks, “Why did you forget me?”

He wrapped his arms around her, “You’re my sister! I could never forget you.”

“But you did! You did, and now it’s too late.” Her back split under his hands, and blood poured down and pooled on the floor. “You forgot me, Mattin.” A gash opened across her face, and white skull showed between the edges. “You failed me, Mattin.” Her voice echoed and split. “I trusted you, and you failed me.” She stood, and then the lady was beside her. “You made me a promise,” they said. Marta’s arm twisted and bent, becoming scarred and useless. The lady’s power blazed about her like a star, blinding him. “I trusted you. You failed me.” The lady faded into nothingness, and Marta collapsed to the ground. “Why did you forget, Mattin?” Blood bubbled from her lips. She said no more.

~~~

Jahlene missed Mattin as she readied for bed. She was used to having him with her throughout the day. A steady presence she could rely on. She had let herself forget–he wasn’t like the rest of her people. She had watched his growing interest in the glamourhame, his growing comfort at her side. Somehow she had missed the pain, the fear, underneath.

She had seen what she wanted to see, and she’d hurt him as well as herself. She had broken a near-sacred promise made to Brit. She had hurt one of her cherished toys.

She didn’t know how to help Mattin. As the night crept by, she realized any attempt she made to help was likely to hurt him more. So her initial impulse would be best for him as well. Keep a distance. Divorce him from glamourhai as much as possible while still training him for glamourhame service in court. With enough distance between them, they wouldn’t hurt each other again.

When they returned from court, he could go back to the kitchen or perhaps the stables.

She would miss him by her side, but it would be better that way.

Surely it would be better that way.

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