Word Count: 7621
Summary: Gerolt explains the new order.
part 7 of This Small Dark Place at AO3
This is where it starts getting really rough, folks.
The gray skies overhead suit Jensen's mood perfectly; morose...and as dreary in spirit as the ash-tinted clouds overhead, and this he laid at Jared's feet. Jared, who'd abandoned him for his father, as if Jensen wasn't feeling just as lost without Mistress as he was.
The sudden blast of wind driving icy claws twisting inside his collar did nothing at all to lighten his mood. There was no place he'd rather not be more than here, buffeted by the freezing wind that swept unhindered over the square—he'd rather be in the kitchen helping clean out the store rooms or scrape out the hearth than be here, waiting for Gerolt's little speech to take place.
Jensen guiltily pulled himself a little straighter. Proper posture helped to remind him who he was and to rein in the dangerous desire to roll his eyes. He watched the thick-set man in the long, black, wool coat briskly rub his hands together, peering around the little square and its surroundings with an appraising eye. The stiff breeze blew his hair about, unveiling a rather high forehead—Jensen thought it was the only thing that Jared and his father had in common. Otherwise, what were exotically slanted eyes in Jared, were tiny, cold slits in Gerolt. Jared's wide, smiling mouth was a long, thin-lipped frown in Gerolt. There was no trace of the warmth that was always in Jared's face and, Jensen thought uncharitably, nothing of the intelligence. Instead there was a sly, almost feral hint of canniness in Gerolt's icy, squinted eyes.
Jensen dropped his gaze from Gerolt to take in the rest of the square. It seemed the estate's entire staff was standing around the edges, in silent, orderly rows. There was Landsman, and there was Husbandman, along with the rest of Landsman's staff, and there standing towards the rear of the all those gathered, stood Eric, with a supporting hand under Michael's arm. Michael peered about with a bemused expression. How a man who lived and worked among thralls could be so...so...naive Jensen had no idea. He wiggled a few fingers low, and the masterTech saw him, gave him a tiny, sad smile before Jensen firmly looked away.
The wind tore through the square again, whipped a thin, broken branch from one of the recently planted maples, sent it cracking against one of the poles that dominated the far side of the square. Jensen flinched—he was not the only one to do so. Dried leaves danced on the wind, tumbling through the double set of posts set into the stone; they flitted and fluttered around the pile of chains at their bases.
Jensen couldn't stop darting little glances at the posts, the way they stood like stark black brushstrokes against the feathery gray sky. Of course the Master wanted to have his first meeting with the estate in this place, Jensen thought. He could have addressed them from the comfort of the study, and the speakers set near the thrall cottages would have conveyed Master's no doubt deathless prose...Jensen bit his lip.
Stop, he told himself. Building an attitude against the new master would only lead to trouble.
Field and household thrall alike studied the Master, the way he leaned a casual elbow on the pedestal that had once held the Punishment Book, where an Estate Recorder would have taken note of stripes dealt out, the number and the reason why….but the book was long gone, the Recorder given leave.
Master Gerolt was interrupted in his perusal of the square by masterHouseboy. Tilting his head to Jim as he spoke into his ear, that pale moon-face shifted from disinterest to annoyance. He nodded, once, sharply, and Jim motioned for braziers to be lit, the little fires providing some warmth to the toddlers hanging on to their mother's skirts.
Jared stood next to his father, arms crossed over his chest, as he waited for Gerolt's introduction to begin. He was wearing an identical black wool coat, topped with a bright red scarf Jensen knew was a gift from Jared's mother, brought back from her trip to Francia last winter. Jen smiled a bit and Jared caught him; winking at Jensen, he flashed a dimple. The tall, red-headed woman—someone Jensen hadn't seen before—standing a little behind and to Jared's left, dropped a hand on his shoulder. The move brought him upright and unsmiling. House gossip was that there was a new houseMaid—a rumor not confirmed by Mark or Jim as yet. Jensen assumed it must be this woman, dressed in a plain, dark-grey uniform. She looked even more spare and severe than Miss Amanda had.
Master Gerolt cut his eyes toward Jared, let a half-grin curve his mouth—his eyes roamed the ranks of thralls, lingering on the tiny group of toddlers who were crouched in the dry soil around the braziers, poking sticks into the dirt in some arcane toddler's game.
Gerolt coughed slightly, seeing to come back to himself, and began. "Estate. I'm the new Padalecki here and let me lay it out to you plainly—whatever went before is history."
A cold shiver rippled over Jensen at the Padalecki's words. That was not a promising beginning….
"There are new rules; it's a brand new game. I'll have none of the damned nonsense that your former mistress indulged." He looked pointedly at the spotless posts, the little weeds growing up between the joints of the stones, the iron rings driven into them flecked with rust, thick layers of leaves moldering in the heaps of chain. After thirteen year old Jensen's punishment, there had been few others; Jensen couldn't recall the last time a thrall had been punished in the same way.
"My son an' I will guide this estate in a new direction." Gerolt lifted his head, winked as though he'd told the thralls a joke—the twist of a half-smile blooming wide. He reached up and looped an arm around Jared's shoulders, pulling him into his side. Jared pinked up, a pleased smile on his face, but Jensen saw the moment Gerolt realized Jared was taller than he was, and how he subtly eased Jared away.
"As long as you follow your orders, as long as you better the estate, it'll be smooth sailin' for all. Your lives are as good as you make them, and I have no doubt we will all prosper, even more than before. Beaver." Master Gerolt snapped his fingers and 'Housboy materialized at his side. "Before the day is over, Beaver, I want an accountin' from you of every single body on this estate, along with pedigrees for the born, schedules for the indentured—oh, and ages of all the born, you hear? Don't bring me the pedigree books; I absolutely hate readin' those dusty, dry old things, eh?" He snickered, sharply nudging Jared, who smiled weakly in response.
Jensen snorted, carefully quiet a mouse. How? How in the world had this...philistine...attracted Mistress for even a half-second?
Jensen doubted that anyone picked up on the flicker of disgust that swept Jim's face before he once again looked about with a perfect thrall blankness; he bowed, and kept his head down until Gerolt and Jared left the square, with Jared practically skipping, he was so thrilled to have time with his father.
When Jared's voice, and the sound of their footsteps had faded, Jim turned to the restless thralls.
"All right," Jim barked. "We know, those of us who have been on the estate nearly all our lives, just what we've fallen into. There are different times coming on now, maybe—probably—hard times. Make yourselves as useful and as irreproachable as possible. Come to us if need be. Mark and I will do what we can, with what we'll be granted, but…" He sighed heavily. "Just. Try not to draw attention to yourselves. And...put your trust only in the Four. Relieve yourself of pain in the mercy of the Four. May their honor and strength and bravery guide you. May their words afford you solace and instruction, may they buoy you up like a hawk in the wind."
There was a somewhat puzzled reaction to masterHouseboy's speech—to the rather odd moment of religion. After a bit of confused silence, they muttered some form of agreement to masterHouseboy's words, then raised their hands in the traditional end-of-prayer.
"What in the world…?" In all the years Jensen had been on the estate, Jim had never spoken to them this way...his beliefs, whatever they were, had always been private, and Mistress kept her beliefs to herself as well.
Jim was silent as the thralls milled about, his attention held by something off to the side of the square. Jensen's gaze slid sideways to see what captured Jim's attention—it was Mark, who was staring at the toddlers playing together in a place meant for punishment. He looked ill.
Jim left the square with his arm around Mark's shoulders, shocking Jen again. First an outburst of religion and now, a totally uncharacteristic show of affection...had some illness befallen old Jim, he wondered?
Jensen shrugged—Oddness upon oddness, he thought, and pulled his collar higher, shivering as another stiff blast of wind needled cold into his skin. He stepped off the stones, into the grass. A sudden memory flashed, stopping him in his tracks. He was shaking. He saw….
a toddler's alert bracelet—Jared's—flying through the air, glinting in the bright summer's sun as it turned lazily before dropping down, the master swooping a wildly giggling Jared onto his lap, holding him tightly, hands tugging on the hems of his shorts, fingers skimming his bared legs, his lips pressed to Jared's cheek and whispering into his ear—
Jensen took a step, and another, before being overwhelmed by another memory...the posts, and fear, gods, pain, so much pain, screaming—
He whipped around, staring at the little crowd of happily playing toddlers whose shrieks of laughter filled the air.
"Gods," Jared groaned, and rolled away from Jensen. "I think I'm getting better at that—I know you are."
Jensen giggled quietly, as he rose to his knees. He lifted Jared's nightshirt and tsked at the mess spread across his stomach and smeared on his thigh. "Let me take care of that," he said, and leaped off the bed. He shivered when his feet touched the ground—the fire in the stove had died down, and the chilled air in Jared's bedroom made goose flesh rise on Jen's bare skin as he padded quickly to the washroom. He wet a flannel and wrung the water out, dashing back to Jared's side so that it was still warm.
"Oh!" Jared groaned, "Jen...that feels so good." Jensen hmmed in agreement, and gently wiped Jared clean, then let Jared pull him down into a kiss; a deep, wet kiss that he slowly eased from a hard, sliding press of lips to gentle little pecks, until finally Jared sighed and let him go with a final press of lips to Jensen's cheek. Jen could feel the flush spread across his cheeks, felt a little tingles as his chest went warm and tight, the way it did whenever Jared was sweet with him. Jared took the now-cold cloth from Jen's hand and tossed it in the general direction of the washroom, then pulled Jensen back into his arms, arranging him so that their legs were tangled together and Jensen's head lay on Jared's shoulder. Jensen felt content, soaking up Jared's heat, listening to Jared's heart and to Jared softly humming—The Way You Look Tonight, if Jensen wasn't mistaken—he liked that song. It had often played on Mistress's audioscope when they'd had their midnight teas....
A few quiet minutes passed before Jared asked, somewhat hesitantly, "What do you think of Father, Jen? You really haven't said...well, much of anything lately."
"He's fine, Jared. As long as you're happy. That's what's important."
Jared nodded. "Well, I don't see as much of him as I'd hoped I would. He's so busy and all. I know he went to the city yesterday. I—there wasn't time for me to get ready to go with."
Jared looked so sad that Jensen took his hand. "Well, I'm sure there's so much to attend to, what with your mother's work and all. Charities and schools, and...things."
Jared looked at Jensen's sturdy fingers clasped around his own long, musician's fingers, and smiled. "Yes...oh, has the masterMaid talked to you yet?"
"No...is there...have I done something wrong?"
"Oh no, " Jared laughed, dropping Jensen's hand and propping himself up on his elbows. "Not at all, it's just, well—you won't have to bother about all that school stuff now, Jen. Instead of having to attend classes with me, you'll be here at the house, learning, learning...I'm not sure what," Jared said, sounding slightly puzzled, "taking care of the books, maybe...?"
Jensen only half heard Jared speaking—a hot, unpleasant buzz swept through him, like a miniature lightening strike. No school? No school...but what of his coming apprenticeship with masterHouseboy? What of the tests he needed, and the lesson plans, and what of the certification he needed to become...how could he become an assistant without all that? He could, sure, he would help Jim, even without the certification. He could do the smaller jobs with no problem. But unless he had those papers...he could be made into anything, anywhere. He'd have no value beyond his body. Oh Gods, he'd be worth...nothing….
He blinked, and shivered—Jared was shaking his shoulder. "Jen, Jen did you hear me? I said, let's get dressed and go over to the stables, take the horses for a run?"
"Oh, I don't know, Jared, it's so cold—maybe we could pay Michael a visit instead—I mean Master Technician, please forgive me. But whatever you think would be best is what we'll do, of course."
Jared narrowed his eyes at him, staring at him for a long moment before the icy glare warmed, and he waved magnanimously. "It's okay—you need a little time to get used to the way things are now; I understand. We were all too familiar, Father said. We should never have let you call Michael by his name like a freeman. You just didn't know any better—and maybe you're right about it being too cold."
Jared rolled off the bed to rummage through his closet until he found a shirt that suited him. He stuffed his arms into the sleeves, saying, "Father says he's going to get you instructors to teach you things you're better suited for, whatever that means," Jared laughed, but it was forced, and his cheeks turned a deep pink. Jensen dressed himself as well, watched the flush pour from Jared's cheeks down his throat, the open collar of his shirt showcasing the mottled red his chest went. Jared turned his back on Jensen, stepping into a pair of pants, before he cast him a look over his shoulder. "I'm...I. Let's go, maybe the masterTech has something new to show us."
It really was a very interesting visit. Jensen was more than happy to throw his heart and soul into listening to masterTech—anything to drive ugly thoughts out of his head. It wasn't long before he was caught up, fascinated by the new Phon Mi—Master Technician had assembled. It was so small, Jen marveled, just a tiny, black box, sitting on the bench.
"We ordered it from a New York firm, Columbia Telegraph and Tela-phon—something like that. Isn't it brilliant? We're going to extend the Phon lines, and every part of the estate will have a state of the art tel-a-phon!"
"Telephone," Eric corrected quietly, and Michael nodded.
"Yes, tele-phone. I mean, we...well. Hopefully Master Padalecki wants to continue in that direction. It really would be—what's that word, Eric?" he asked, and Eric, not even looking up from the wires he held, muttered, "Copacetic" to Michael, who wiggled his eyebrows as he grinned at Jensen.
"Copacetic—we're quite the razzle-dazzlers, eh?" He blithely ignored Eric's amused little huff, going on to say, "At any rate, if the master agrees to proceed, we'll have the most up-to-date communication system in this part of the state. I mean—look at this! It's magic in a box!"
The square, black box under Michael's hand had a series of lumpy little buttons across the bottom, the top of it held a raised holder for what he assured Jensen was a combined speaker/microphone. It was fascinating, but the whole time Michael and Eric explained the new tele-phone, and showed what it could do, Jared simply sat in one of the thickly stuffed chairs, legs twined together, chin on his hand and several cups of half-finished tea around him. He was the very picture of disinterest and Jen couldn't understand—the shop, and tinkering away here, chatting with Michael, had always been a joyful place for Jared. Jensen tapped Jared's knee lightly, asked, "Master, would you like me to bring your tools, and the last clockwork you—"
"No, Jensen, I would not." Jared replied sharply, and jumped to his feet. "Those are toys for babies. Come along now, we've taken enough of Michael's time, I think."
Michael held his hand out, smiling as he said, "Oh, no, Jared…" but wound down to silence at the look Jared gave him. "Pardon me, sir. Of course, you know best."
They left shortly after that, Jared's long legs moving him ahead at a run.
"Jensen, things have to change—will change, and I have to change with them. My father has been explaining how things will roll out going forward. You see…" He stopped abruptly, and Jensen just managed not to stagger into him.
Jared took his elbow, and led him to the stables, dragging him inside towards the rear where they were quickly left alone.
"Jensen," he whispered, "everyone thinks my father is the one who's the Padalecki now, but he's not. I am. I inherited the estate. Well, right now it's mine in name only, you know, until I'm twenty, but...I need to know how to do this, to be this person. I can't disappoint him, Jensen, I just can't. He might...well darn it, he might just go back to the Sea House if I disappoint him. And I want him to stay. He's my father!"
Jensen could only nod, and murmur agreement to Jared. Of course, masterHouseboy and his assistant and probably the Landsman as well knew what the current situation was. So, Gerolt did have final word on everything. Until Jared turned twenty….
Jensen was sure that Gerolt was going to do his best to iron any vestige of Patricia right out of his master, had started already. He could see now, that this was the reason Mistress Patricia had worked so hard to create a bond between Jared and him; she'd been trying to make sure that no matter what happened in life, Jared always had a compass by his side, helping to steer him in the right direction and make sure Jared would always be Jared, and somehow, she'd selected Jensen for that. Gods knew he'd do anything to justify her trust in him. Only, Jensen was beginning to think they'd not had enough time….
Preparations for Thanksgiving Day were in full swing; the entire household was caught up in the whirlwind. Master Gerolt had decided that instead of a traditional show of mourning, Mistress's memory would best be served by opening the residence to guests, and the household was ordered to carry on as if it was any other Thanksgiving Day.
Jensen found himself deeply involved in the preparations in a way he hadn't been since he became Jared's official companion. His free time was drastically diminished, to the point where he rarely got the chance to visit the tech shop, or the stables. He saw less of Jared as well, and that concerned him. Jared, for his part, visited the tech shop less and less and instead spent more time at the stables. He rode often in the company of his father and his father's friends, spent more time in the kinds of activities they thought was proper for a young estate holder—which didn't include helping out in the care of his horse, the way he'd done while Mistress lived.
As Jared counted down the days before his school let out for the holidays, Jensen counted down as well, looking forward to having a bit of time to himself again. He was becoming expert at ignoring the sympathetic looks from those in the household who knew what had happened. All his days were so very different now. He woke early to leave Jared's room before the roomgirl came. He spent the hour or two before dawn in the kitchen; early mornings were spent helping a disgruntled 'Cook prepare breakfast. Disgruntled because, as she said frequently, kitchen work was a waste of Jensen's abilities. Jensen couldn't really disagree with her, but at least the kitchen crew were fun—friendly and generous, and kind to him. No one commented on his loss of status, and they invited Jensen into their circle like along-lost cousin returned home.
It had actually become a more or less comfortable routine for Jen—after the morning meals had been prepared and plated, Jensen would then make Jared a tray and take it back to his room. He'd spend the brief time it took Jared to eat his breakfast with him, then entertained Jared while Bethany, his roomgirl, helped him dress. After Jared was ready, Jensen gathered Jared's school work for him and walked with him to the house door, waiting until Jared's driver took him away. Then, it was a quick dash back up the stairs to help Bethany tidy and then….
Then he worked at whatever job 'Houseboy set for him. Most days he worked on the books, some days he worked with Mark. He enjoyed those days the most, because Mark's job took him all over the estate, from the fields to the stables, to the gardens and orchards. He assisted Mark as he sorted out the necessary Thanksgiving Day supplies and made arrangements for the upcoming Toddler's Holiday, which they'd canceled earlier out of respect for Mistress's passing. It had been decided to have it a bit before Thanksgiving. The fields would be more bare than usual, but 'Cook and 'houseboy had managed to squirrel away some bags of dried beans and potatoes for them. Jensen smiled, thinking of how thrilled the little ones would be ehen they found a few sticks of candy under the potatoes….
Jensen followed Mark everywhere, and if he wasn't with Mark, he was with Jim, and if he wasn't with Jim, he was with Harold, the Landsman...somehow a head member of the staff had need of his assistance nearly every minute until Jared came for him at the end of the day.
Jensen strolled leisurely along, taking his time about pulling a trolley full of table linens slated to be bleached and starched for the Thanksgiving Day meal. It was his third load to drop at the laundry that morning. Not that he minded lugging them back and forth—no one bothered him, and it was pleasantly warm in the wide hallway separating the bathing hall and the laundry. It smelled faintly of bleach and lavender-scented soap; passing the archway that lead to the baths, he caught a whiff of all the different oils used there. It smelled good, warm, comforting...he took a deeper breath and smiled. Thanks to his master's love of them, a good, hot, bath was a comfort he could freely indulge in.
He hummed quietly to himself as he walked towards the laundry, paying no attention until a sharp grip stopped him in his tracks. He fell back against the person who'd stopped him, and glanced over his shoulder with a smile, expecting to see one of the laundry thralls playing a trick on him.
Gerolt smiled back.
"Well, well, haven't you grown since last I saw you, little one? Remember how pretty an' delicate you were, but now...you've become a beefy thing. All...wide, an'...thick, an' rough-skinned." He grimaced. "Still have those pretty eyes, though, that pretty mouth. Let me see if you're pretty down there as well."
Jensen dropped the trolley handle and tried to step away, angling himself away from Gerolt, raising his hands in shock. Gerolt slapped them down, and shoved his hand into the waist band of Jensen's pants. He yanked the pants down, taking Jen's boxer shorts down with them. Sharp nails scored Jensen's thighs, at his pained gasp, Gerolt chuckled. "Least you're not all grossly hairy, can't stand that...your prick is too big, too. But that's not a problem...."
Jensen's heart beat so hard it hurt; the blood rushing through him, pounding in his ears, made it difficult to hear what the man said. He desperately tried to still his violent shaking, not wanting to anger the master. His trembling mouth refused to pull in a breath and with each second that passed, the pressure in his chest grew—he was afraid that he'd die of lack of air, almost hoped for it—
There was movement up ahead, he could hear trolley wheels creaking and a voice, someone singing off-key. It was just so normal, the creaking trolley, the cheerful voice, the beat of a rapid step on the stone floor...the pressure in his chest released.
It was going to be okay, thank all Four, It was going to be okay—someone was coming. Gerolt would stop now that someone might see. He felt his body slowly thaw, and when he spied one of the laundry thralls coming his way he came close to smiling before he realized he was standing in a public place with his pants around his knees—the thrall's song cut off, their eyes went wide at the sight, and they turned on their heel so fast the trolley they pulled hit the wall, rattling and screeing as it struggled to stay up right.
Gerolt just smiled, never even turned his head as the thrall vanished in the other direction, and then it was Jensen realized that it was never going to be okay again. Gerolt could do whatever he wished, rape Jensen right there in the hall, and no one would say a word against it or move to stop the master. Jensen was helpless—they all were helpless. Jen started to cry quietly, tears welling up and running over his cheek.
Gerolt slapped him. "Stop actin' like the world's comin' to an end. It's not like this isn't something you do with my son every day, is it?"
Jensen swallowed, licked his lips—should he speak? Keep silent? Was he meant to answer that? It was true—to an extent. But Jared never forced him, or hurt him, or never meant to if he did….
Gerolt pushed him away. "Oh, for fuck's...go! Go back to work. I'll get you when I want you."
Jensen staggered—the clothing around his knees fell to his ankles. He nearly over-balanced with how quickly he tried to pull his underwear and pants back up. Gods, how he wanted to sprint down the hallway, away from Gerolt—just—away, but he adjusted his clothing and smoothed his hair, and took the trolley handle up again and walked slowly, sedately away. He heard Gerolt laughing, a nasty sound that slithered under his skin and made Jensen want to wash and wash and wash every bit of him. It wasn't until he was helping fold the clean linens later that afternoon that the significance of what happened occurred to him...Gerolt remembered him. Gerolt knew that Jared's supposed-to-be school companion had been the little twelve year old thrall he'd singled out for himself, only to have Mistress take him away. Jensen felt his mouth go dry at the same time his stomach lurched. What would that mean, he wondered? Was Gerolt planning on taking what was supposed to have been his personal property back?
There were only a few days before Thanksgiving Day, and Jensen considered himself fortunate not to be part of the kitchen staff. Right now, as far as he was concerned, the kitchen was a miniature version of hell and the staff were all possessed by cranky, mean-spirited demons. Instead, thank Eir and Skirnir, he'd been set to decorating—along with a toddler who'd come in with a small lot of thralls few days before. This day, they were working on the wide front porch, placing pumpkins and large pots of mums and asters on each step, dressing the railing with tall, dry cornstalks, tied together with woven ropes of ivy. The toddler chattering away at his side was as pretty as a china doll, her vibrant red hair set off beautifully by her brown skin. The sun made her green eyes glow; Jensen thought her eyes were much prettier than people claimed his were. Chocolate freckles dusted her cheekbones just the way cinnamon dusted his. She was a perfect, lovely, little thing, and Jensen worried about her. He'd have to put in a word with Mark, maybe 'Cook could see the way to making sure of her….
Footsteps in gravel and raucous voices drowned out the toddler's voice—Gerolt and the new masterMaid, along with a person Jen didn't recognize, were coming up through the visitors' paths. Jen whispered into the tiny girl's ear, "Run back to the kitchen, tell 'Cook I sent you, and that Master Gerolt is home with a guest. Here, don't forget your basket and broom," he said.
She took them and gave him a serious nod, then dashed off in the direction Jen sent her. Jensen sighed, hoping that Eir was watching out for the little one.
"Ah. Look here, little one. Follow me, now."
Jensen jerked with the wave of panic that struck him—until he realized Gerolt hadn't meant the little girl—Trixy, Trinny, something—he'd meant Jensen. Even with the relief Jensen felt that Gerolt hadn't wanted the girl, nerves made his knees wobble as Gerolt walked past, snapping his fingers at Jensen as he did. Jensen stupidly watched him walk away, until his wits caught up with him and he ran frantically after Gerolt, the masterMaid and the guest.
He followed Master Gerolt into the house, trailing silently behind him until they came to a familiar room made ugly and strange—Mistress's redecorated study, now filled with a wide bar covered with decanters along one wall, fat club chairs and squat side tables sprouting here and there, topped with even more decanters filled with various shades of gold and brown that glimmered in the low light. Everything was dark red or gold or forest-green, except for a few yellow doors that were set into the far wall. The room looked somehow narrower; the doors were new, and Jensen wondered if Gerolt had installed closets, though why there'd be a need of that Jensen couldn't imagine. Outside of the bright doors, the color scheme was oppressive, as were the dark, heavy pieces of furniture, and no doubt the whole thing was meant to be imposing, but to Jensen it was just...trite. Unoriginal, and actually painful to see all the light, fresh, modern touches Mistress Patricia's study had had wiped away. There was nothing in this room now that she would have approved of. Nothing remained of her except...her rosewood desk, where Gerolt sat, like a poisonous toad on a lily pad.
"Come over here, Jensen," Gerolt said. He kicked a pillow onto the floor by the desk. The masterMaid and Gerolt's guest took seats as well. The 'Maid's gaze was flat, expressionless as a doll's
, but the other...hot, greedy eyes locked on Jensen.
Jensen walked slowly to Gerolt's side, ready to drop down...Gerolt stopped him.
"Jensen, Jensen, Jensen...what did Patty do with you, eh? What did old Pats have you doin? Goin' to school and hanging around Jared. Playin' at being something better than what you are—what you were supposed to be. Why'd you think you were bought from that old man? Wastin' you, he was." He stopped took a sip from the glass he rolled in his hands. The guest leaned forward, the lamplight picking up beads of sweat dotting what was left of his hairline, shining off of the thin hook of his nose.
"Come on, Gerry. What are you coddlin' it for? Let's—"
"Shut up, Kurt." The master turned his attention back to Jensen. "Strip. Then kneel, here."
Jensen jerked back as if he'd been slapped. Fear crushed the breath out of him. Skadi, he was going to pass out, gods—and then, no doubt, die at the posts like a field worker.
Strip. Strip echoed in his head. He was an apprentice houseboy. He was a pinned school companion, he—he wasn't a body thrall, not for Jared and certainly not for a stranger.
"Don't make me repeat myself," Gerolt hissed, and Jensen's lungs unlocked enough to inhale a shaky breath. The posts loomed in his mind. His shoulders burned with phantom pain...he toed his shoes off and shoved them slowly to the side. The tiled floor was cold under his feet. The thin, silk socks were next...he slowly balled them up and tucked one precisely into the toe of each shoe.
"Jensen…." Gerolt snarled.
Unbuttoned his collar, trembling fingers working the jacket snaps open before he let it drop to the floor. He glanced at Gerolt, who nodded his head and flapped his hand in a 'hurry-up' signal.
Suspenders slid off his shoulders; the snaps of his pants made a sound like breaking bones as he opened them, one after the other. Tears pricked his eyes. He stepped out of the fine wool, nudged the pants aside. He could hear thick, gulping sounds coming from the guest, Kurt.
Gerolt huffed impatiently, and snapped his fingers again. "Kneel, you, and take presentation form."
Jensen had started towards him, but stopped, confused. "I'm so sorry, Master, but I'm not sure what...that means?" He had a vague idea of course—who didn't hear stories? But the precise thing the master wanted was a mystery to him.
"Damn it," Gerolt shouted and strode over to Jensen. Gerolt drew his foot back, kicked Jen's shin so that he dropped to his knees, biting his lip to keep from shouting in pain. Gerolt kicked him again, one sharp blow to the inside of each thigh that forced Jensen's knees wide apart, shattering any illusions he had left.
"That's it, that's more like it," Gerolt mumbled as he grabbed Jen's jaw, forcing his lips apart, staring into Jensen's eyes as he did—searching for something, it seemed. A few heavy seconds passed before he snorted, and then shoved a couple of fingers into Jen's open mouth, roughly jerking them back and forth until it felt like his mouth was on fire. Gerolt smirked, withdrew his fingers and wiped them on Jensen's cheek. "Yes, that's it, red and swollen and wet—they should always look like that. Say yes, little one.
Jensen blinked rapidly to quash tears, afraid to touch his sore mouth, afraid to move at all, "Yes, mas—" he managed before Gerolt leaned over and forced his tongue into Jensen's mouth.
Jensen's first instinct was to bite down, but self-preservation made him freeze instead. He let Gerolt maul him; endured him licking the inside of his mouth, chew at his lips, dig his nails into his face, until finally Gerolt pushed him away. Jensen took a small, hesitant breath, hoping that now he'd be able to move—to leave the room, but Gerolt chuckled, and slowly, button by button, opened his pants.
"Now we're getting somewhere," Jensen heard the master's guest moan, and wanted to scream. He wanted to scream until he couldn't...but what would it matter if he did? Jensen wasn't a fool. No one would—could—help, and no one was foolish enough to misunderstand Gerolt's meaning when he'd held the Introduction in the punishment square.
The first push inside made him grunt with pain, which seemed to goad Gerolt into pulling out and slamming back inside, completely unconcerned whether Jensen could swallow, or breathe, or remain upright. Jensen fought off vomiting as he struggled to work the cock that Gerolt seemed determined to shove down his throat into his gut.
Jensen felt a presence behind him, and nearly lost his battle not to vomit when he felt Master's guest behind him, felt his sticky belly and cock rubbing against his bare back. A shudder rippled through the man and Jensen felt it; his skin crawled in horror and if he could have moved...he was distracted by the man's fingers digging into Jensen's shoulders. He was almost grateful for the nails biting into his skin. Moments later, a blurt of thick, viscous heat spat between his shoulder blades, dribbled down his spine. Jensen gulped frantically, swallowing down bile, spit, come...blood from his torn lips…he prayed that Eir would help him to keep his tears hidden.
After, Gerolt leaned back in one of the club chairs, looking pleased with himself. 'masterMaid handed him a full glass, and lit the cigar he twirled in his thick fingers. Inhaling slowly, he looked Jensen up and down, tilting his head as he assessed him, the way he barely kept his form. Jensen tried, he did, but he couldn't stop himself weaving from side to side. His knees screamed with pain, his mouth was bloody and swollen. Gerolt idly blew a few rings of smoke towards the ceiling. He flicked ash vaguely in the direction of a tiny cloisonne ashtray on Mistress's desk.
"Y'know, I quite like this one, Kurt," he said. "He's old, but still pretty. Jus' he's got these monstrously ugly bowed legs, and now you're the estate physic, I want you to fix them. Can't you break his knees and reset them, or, say, take the deformed bones out and replace them with, I don't know, metal or somethin'? I mean, how hard can it be?"
"Well, rather hard actually. I don't know that it's ever been done before...almost certain it hasn't. But if you don't mind possibly losing him, I can try. So many things can go wrong," the man murmured, but to Jensen's increasing horror, he actually looked excited at the prospect. "Say, if I can correct his deformity, but it leaves him unable to move…"
"Well in that case, he'd be no good to me, would he? Then it'd the Renderers, eh?"
The Renderers, the knick knack man….Jensen felt as if he were made of paper, as if a breeze could tip him, or blow him far way. The edges of his vision wavered. He tightened his control, standing in one of the old-fashioned postures Gerolt demanded. His fingers cramped as he held onto his elbows, and tried to keep his stance even and open. He ignored the tacky feeling on his back and hands, the pulsating, painful throb in his mouth.
"If that happens to be the case, if the operation in any way fails, but he lives…." The physic licked his lips with a thin, pale tongue. "I'd like him. I'd waive my fee, of course; oh, and I don't think there should be any price for him, a thrall in that condition. Just, an even trade, eh?"
Gerolt laughed. "You want a cripple? You are an interestin' one, aren't you?" He smiled warmly at the physic. "All right. That sounds like a decent deal to me, Kurt. Fine. If he doesn't come out of this with flying colors, he's yours. Even trade...but. I will expect the standard thrallprice for his loss of services, so..."
Kurt frowned, but nodded in agreement. Gerolt snapped his finger at Jensen. "Here, you. Top up Physic Fuller's glass."
Jensen froze when he was directly addressed—thought he was actually in danger of wetting himself, he was so terrified. He managed to keep the tremors racking him from showing as he limped, naked and soiled, over to the small bar near Gerolt. He hissed quietly to himself, tried to stop his hands shaking as he lifted the heavy decanter of scotch. He nearly dropped it when the door flew open, hitting the wall with a bang.
"Jensen!" Jared shouted. "Here, immediately!" He pointed at a spot at his side, and Jensen was so overwhelmed between fear and shock, he dashed to Jared and—something he'd never done before—dropped to his knees at his master's side, curled over to bare the back of his neck.
"What the hel do you think you're doing, Jared?"
What the hel do you think you're doing?" Jared shouted back, his eyes gone green with fury. "This is my thrall. How dare you make any decisions concerning him? He belongs to me."
Gerolt stood, his pale face was mottled red with anger. "Listen here, boy, when your dam passed—" Jensen swallowed a horrified gasp at the way Master Gerolt referred to Mistress, as if she'd been a thrall—"all her property became mine, you know that—"
"Jensen is not part of the estate. He's mine personally. My mother gave him to me—only to me. He. Is. Mine. Don't ever try to make decisions concerning him unless you have my express permission, ever, ever again." He turned to Jensen. "Stand up."
Jensen hung his head in shame as he stood, knowing what a disgusting sight he must be. How could Jared even look at him—he stank, he was covered in Gerolt and the physic's spend, their saliva, his blood...he wanted to cry, more so when he actually caught a glimpse of the disgusted shock on Jared's face.
Jared took a deep breath, and reached out to Jensen, about to grasp his shoulder, but snatching his hand back before the touch landed. His mouth twisted, and Jensen wasn't sure if he was about to frown or spit. A moment passed and Jared managed to soften his expression, the look he gave Jensen was warmer, sympathetic..."Go to my room. I'll be right behind you, Jen."
Jensen walked—naked since Jared didn't hand him his clothes—out of the room but the moment the door shut, he ran as fast as he could push himself to Jared's suite.
Thanking all gods he managed not to run into anyone in the hall, he let himself into the suite and sank to the pile of pillows that was his, wrapping his arms around his knees in a desperate try to stop shaking. The Jared in that room had been a stranger. There was barely a trace of the fourteen year old boy he loved. That had been a man in that room, an estate holder...a thrall holder. And, Jensen shuddered, Gerolt's son. They'd destroyed any lingering sense of safety in that room. He'd treasured the time he'd spent in Mistress's study, and now…Jensen was beginning to suspect he had no safe space at all.
When he was sure he could stand without falling over, he shuffled into Jared's washroom, ran water into the sink and quickly washed off the traces of Gerolt and the physic, and wished he could run to the bathing hall to soak it all away. But Jared would be there momentarily and Jensen had to be clean, he had to be. He dried himself, pulled on a night shirt, and sat in the pillows to wait for his master.
Shortly after, Jared came in, face red, his eyes wet, but snapping with anger. The smell of Gerolt's scotch overrode the usual woodsy scent
in the air.
"Get on the bed," he growled, and tore his clothes off. Jensen undressed without a command and threw himself on the bed, praying to the four gods for guidance, for forgiveness...or maybe he was praying to Jared.
Jared didn't look Jensen in the face, just threw his legs wide, spit on his hole and drove in. Jensen bit on his tongue to keep a shout of shock and pain in. Jared pumped his hips viciously, teeth bared—it had to be nearly as unpleasant for him as for Jensen. It wasn't more than a minute or two before Jared came, the shout he let loose sounded nothing at all like pleasure—he pulled out midway through orgasm and finished on Jensen's belly. He grimaced, staring at the semen spattered on Jensen's chest. He growled, smacked his hand down in the mess and smeared it viciously across Jen's chest, grinding the heel of his hand over and over into the skin.
"You never forget that you're mine. Don't let anyone else touch you, do you hear me Jensen?"
Jensen nodded to this stranger, this person who had Jared's face but a stranger's eyes. Jared glared down into Jensen's face, and slowly, little by little, he eased up, his eyes went from a dark, stormy grey-green to his usual hazel, red-rimmed and glassy with tears. He dropped down onto Jensen, wrapping himself around him, his cheek pressed tightly to Jensen's, so tight Jared's tears wet Jensen's cheek.
"No one touches you from now on, no one ever," he muttered. Jensen shivered, muscles wound tight enough to break finally began to relax…"Not ever again without my permission…"
Jensen's heart froze. He swallowed against the thick feeling in his throat, hoping against hope that he'd misunderstood his master's words.</lj>