The Bargain (S2, E9)

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

Brit took Mattin to the old hunting cabin he’d turned into a private retreat. He didn’t know who had built it or why. It was too close to the manor to be worthwhile as a rest home for the nobles who owned the land. The huntmaster took the hounds up to it now and again for extra training. Otherwise, it was left empty.

Brit, with Jahlene’s permission, kept the place stocked with food and drink that wouldn’t go bad. It became his hideout when the memories got too bad. He hadn’t needed it in years, but he kept it ready, just in case. And the huntmaster never objected to finding good drink and fresh sheets.

Mattin settled down to drinking easily enough—trying to drown his sorrows if Brit was any judge. Neither of them said anything for the first half hour or so, but when Brit thought the boy had enough drink in him, he started asking questions. The rambling responses took a bit of work to piece together, but he was finally getting some actual information. Soon Brit had a clear picture of what happened. A damn horrifying picture, but a picture. What he couldn’t for the life of him figure out was why. Why had Mattin gone off that way? Why hadn’t Jahlene seen the boy’s pain? What by the Mare’s Blood and God’s Hammer had led her to break every promise she ever made him and use her hoof-damned glamour on the boy?

He really wanted an answer to that question.

Brit took the spirits away when Mattin stopped being able to speak in full sentences. He stuffed a half loaf of bread and a pitcher of water into the boy, got him out to the privy, and tucked him into bed. The boy would need a lot more than a night’s drunk to get through this mess, but damned if he could do anything else right now. He looked around for some way to leave a note but couldn’t find anything. He would have to be back before the boy woke in the morning. Shouldn’t be too hard. Mattin didn’t know how to hold hard liquor. He latched the door behind him and started back to the manor, praying nothing else had blown up in his absence.

~~~

An hour later, the steward was digging for the next set of answers.

The jog back gave Brit too much time to think. He wanted to go straight to Jahlene and find out what, by the Mare, she had been thinking. Damn it, even he could tell Mattin had lashed out from pain, and the girl was supposed to be able to taste emotions! But Brit remembered his responsibilities—even if a certain girl who thought she was too big to be put over his damned knee insisted on forgetting hers. So before he cornered Jahlene, he checked on Jaffrey.

He found the boy well enough, bandaged and resting with Crait and Joth keeping him company. “You’re looking better than I was afraid of.”

Jaffrey shrugged, “It’s… good to have time with her after, but not necessary. Not for me anyway.”

Crait snorted, “Not usually. Today was…”

“Time with the mistress was the last thing I needed after today,” Jaffrey said.

Brit winced. Jahlene would be a long time cleaning up the damage from this day’s work. Jaffrey took a deep breath and looked down at his feet. “If you can cover for Crait and Joth ditching work to sit with me, it would be good.”

“Done,” Brit promised. Relieved to see at least one part of the mess was in hand, he turned to go.

“How is Mattin?” Jaffrey asked.

Brit sighed and shook his head, “Not well. And that was before I poured a dram of uisqe down his throat.”

Crait winced. He’d had a taste of Brit’s special a time or two. “Why?”

“Only way I could think of to get him to open up, and I still don’t understand what set him off.” Brit paced the room as he spoke.

Jaffrey and Crait both laughed. Brit froze, then glared at them. “I don’t suppose either of you would care to share the joke?”

The two japesters tried to stop laughing, but every time they quieted, a glance or a snort would set them off again. Crait got control of himself enough to say. “It’s- Well, normally, it isn’t quite so bloody obvious you were raised among fae.”

Brit looked at Joth and found Joth looking back at him. Joth shrugged. He clearly didn’t understand any more than Brit did.

Brit took a deep breath and reminded himself that neither of them had done anything to deserve a black eye. Another deep breath. A third. “Explain.”

Crait stood, spreading his hands in front of him. “It’s a normal reaction for a human raised by humans. Especially one raised to see fae and glamourhai as evil. Jaffrey and I both went through something similar—though I think, ” he glanced at Jaffrey, “the Mountain Folk handle things a bit differently.”

Jaffrey snorted, “If I hadn’t come from a trading family, I’d have known better, but we spent so much time among you low-landers… Once I convinced myself to talk to someone, the Oracle straightened me out in a hurry.”

Brit shook his head, confused. If anyone knew the fae were evil, it was someone raised by them! What did that have to do with anything?

Crait tried again. “Glamourhai is a fae thing. Humans aren’t supposed to like hurting people. Humans aren’t supposed to like being hurt. A human who is interested in glamourhai is just as much of a monster as the fae.”

Brit’s jaw dropped.

“Enjoying fae pleasures among most humans wouldn’t be seen much differently than a fae using a child for their pleasures. It’s… that level of wrong.”

“Most humans who live around here,” Jaffrey put in. “The further you get from fae-controlled land, the more different things are from what any of you are used to.”

“Oh.” He needed to start picking Parlen’s brain. Life for humans outside the fae manors was even stranger than he’d thought. Hadn’t these boys heard of King Garel? Or the God’s ride on the Bloody Mare? He shoved the confusion aside. What he understood now threw the afternoon in a whole new light. And raised new questions. “But you came here anyway?”

“I had it easier.” Jaffrey met Brit’s eyes with a challenging look. “With the mistress wanting something from the Folk, I didn’t need to worry as much that she would be like most fae.” Brit nodded, understanding what Jaffrey couldn’t say—the Mountain Folk had their own reasons for wanting him here. The boy grinned and shrugged, “Plus, the warrior families… they call it—the desire for pain—the Mare’s Blessing. They took me in hand once I stopped hiding everything. By the time I came here, I knew there was nothing wrong with me.”

“It was a real risk,” Crait said, staring off into the distance. “I didn’t have the… support Jaffrey had. What if the mistress wasn’t different? What if the rumors were wrong? And even if they weren’t, did I want to do this? To be this crazy person? Give up everything in my life for this perversion? When my father found out, he disowned me. So I came here.”

Brit was stunned. He’d spent a lot of time with Jaffrey and Crait. Trained them the same as he’d trained Mattin and, hell, most of the household. “I never knew.”

Joth reached out and put a hand on Crait’s shoulder.

“Here, it was normal.” After all these years, Crait’s voice still held a hint of wonder, “That was the strange thing. Suddenly this horrible secret is out in the open, and no one cared.”

He turned to Joth. “Strangest thing in my life was watching you walk up to the mistress and say you wanted glamourhai the moment you were old enough. Like it was the most reasonable thing in the world.”

“But you and Jaffrey never broke the way Mattin is.” Brit started pacing again.

Crait and Jaffrey exchanged glances, “Not here, no. I came… Well, if I hadn’t heard of the mistress from a passing trader, I don’t know what I would have done when my father disowned me.”

Jaffrey held up his wrist. The scar was invisible from a distance, but Brit knew it was there now. How had he not noticed before?

“I nearly killed myself before I could admit my feelings to the Oracles. One way or another, Crait and I wouldn’t be here if we hadn’t already been through what he’s doing to himself and come out alive and heart-whole.”

Brit felt himself freeze. He’d seen Jaffrey’s scar, recognized how scared the boy had been, but hadn’t understood the fear. The thought of Mattin spending a night alone was suddenly a lot less reassuring.

“And Mattin?”

Jaffrey nodded, “I was worried. If… well, he’s not me, and you were able to find him.” He swallowed. “Is… will he be back?”

“I hope so.” Brit headed for the door. “I need to find the mistress. Thank you. You’ve helped a lot.”

He pretended he didn’t hear the murmur as the door closed behind him, “Yeah, find her and pound some sense into her.”

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