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
Mattin woke up and wanted to die. He wasn’t sure which was worse, the memories or the pain. After a long moment, he opened his eyes. The pain won.
Looking around, he saw a pitcher of water and a loaf of bread next to the pallet. With a whisper of thanks to Brit, he grabbed for the water. The sound of his own voice set his head ringing, and he swore he would never touch uisqe bache again.
Where the hell had Brit gotten the stuff?
He got up slowly, trying to avoid setting off any more wracking pain.
For a while, he sat, not thinking. Whenever the pain subsided a bit, he’d take a drink of water or a bite of the bread. By the time the bread was gone and half the water inside him, he felt nearly human.
Which meant he had to face how badly he had screwed up.
His dreams haunted him. Marta was right—he had forgotten her, forgotten everything he did here was for her. He’d let his own fears take over, and…
And managed to destroy everything in one moment of stupidity.
His hand came up and rubbed his neck. He wanted for yesterday to have never happened. To be up in the manor helping Cook with the bread or bringing the lady her breakfast. He felt… naked without the collar.
Mattin had nothing now. He had failed Marta and had no other chance, no other way of saving her. Couldn’t go back to his father’s inn, had destroyed his place with the lady… maybe she would give him another chance? Bloody Mare, why would she? She’d accepted his bargain in the first place as a way to hurt Oeloff. How could he be anything but a menace to her at court if he couldn’t control himself? He was useless to the lady and Marta both.
Not knowing what else to do but unable to bear his thoughts, he drank the rest of the water and started cleaning the cabin. He couldn’t stay, but as long as he delayed, he didn’t need to figure out where to go.
Mattin had just finished making up the bed when the cabin door opened. “Still here?” Mattin spun around. Brit stood in the doorway. “Good. Meant to be back earlier.”
“I wasn’t going to leave a mess for you to clean up.” His voice shook.
Brit nodded and leaned against the door frame. “Can’t say I don’t appreciate it.” When he didn’t say anything else, Mattin went back to cleaning. He couldn’t look at the older man and had no idea what to say. “So, you’ve a chance to start fresh. What do you want to do with it? You could go back to your inn, could find work in town. Lots of options if you’re willing to take them.”
“Fresh start?” Mattin surprised himself with a bitter laugh. “I failed Marta, betrayed the lady, and lost…” He picked up the broom and jabbed at the floor, blinking away the blurriness of his vision.
“Mayhap.” Brit rubbed his chin and nodded. “If all that’s true, then nothing matters but what you want.”
“I’ll figure something out.” Mattin stopped trying to sweep and propped the broom against a wall. His hands shook without the broom handle to steady his grip. “I’ll get out of your way.”
“Boy, if I wanted you to take off, I wouldn’t be standing here blocking the doorway. Now answer the damn question.”
The old man’s growl stopped Mattin in his tracks. This had the feel of another of Brit’s lessons — no explanations, just leading questions until Mattin gave him the answer he wanted. And that made no sense. “Why?” Mattin demanded, “In case you forgot, I’m not your problem anymore.”
Brit walked over and smacked Mattin on the back of his head.
Mattin tried to glare at him, but… the world blurred again, and he turned away. “You’re wrong, Brit,” he finally said, “what I want doesn’t matter.”
Brit snorted and shook his head, “Then I suppose you might as well come with me.”
“What?” Mattin shook his head.
“You gone deaf, too, boy?” Brit went through the door at a fast walk. “Hope your legs still work. I won’t be carrying you.”
Confused, hungover, and for the first time daring to hope, Mattin jogged after him, wincing with every step.
Brit spoke only once more as they jogged to the manor– when Mattin threw up a few hundred feet out from the cabin. “Alright, boy?” he asked and pulled out a clean rag to wipe Mattin’s face.
“Do I look alright?” Mattin gasped.
Brit chuckled, helped him to his feet, and they continued on.
Brit’s silence gave Mattin far too much time to think, which only added to the churning in his stomach. He was (please, Lady) going to get a chance. He had to make things right. Somehow.
When they reached the manor, Mattin had to brace himself to walk up the steps. For a moment, he was afraid the lady’s glamour would block him from entering, but it didn’t. Joth was on door guard and he patted Mattin’s shoulder awkwardly as he passed. Mattin was grateful for the support, even if he couldn’t imagine why it was offered.
Brit led him through the manor to Jahlene’s office. He remembered clearly the first time he had followed Brit down this hall, the last time he came to ask Lady Jahlene for her collar. He’d been terrified then because he had no idea what to expect, but hoping desperately she’d accept him.
He knew what to expect now, and that made both the terror and the hope worse.
The lady sat at her desk, hair bound up in a severe and intricate style. Her eyes were cold, her lips tight. Under her pitiless gaze, hope shriveled to a faint spark. Only the presence of Brit behind him kept Mattin from turning and running again.