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The Unsuitable Slave

Chapter Text


Jared was seven when the War began. Days of sunshine and innocence ceased with a sudden and calamitous sense of loss.

A seer was summoned to the Realm and he stood before the Queen and was told to speak the future. It was an unwise request, but the men with power and weapons insisted. The seer bowed his head and closed his eyes. He wrung his hands and dropped a tear as his voice shook and trembled. He said that the wild plains of De’ith would see the grimmest hours and herald the sacrifice of her second son. He told the Queen it would be Jared's gift that would return light to the Realm, and while Prince Jared would never return home, his sun would burn bright in the grace of love.


The seer did not see another dawn. The Queen kept these secrets safe and her son safer. The Palace was his playground, its walls were his world, his brother was his hero and his little sister was his greatest love.


Time passed, the Queen ailed, and Prince Jeffrey fought this war with Jeffrey, the Lord Morgan by his side.


Jared’s brother died on a hazy, hot day in the chaos of the Battle of Mount Burma and the young Prince Jared became reluctant heir to the throne of a Realm he barely knew.

Chapter Text


The Prince’s horse shifted beneath him and he leaned forward to rub her neck. 

Captain Christian Kane dropped the spyglass to his chest and spared a glance at his young charge.  “We have to move. It doesn’t look well Sire.” 

The Prince straightened on his horse and the crimson silk of his tunic shimmered in the afternoon sun. He was tall and awkward in his late teen growth but his eyes shone hazel over pink-flushed cheekbones and a proud jaw-line. His mouth was set in a wide pink grimace but Captain Kane knew the bright dimpled smile of better days. His thick brunette hair swept wild about his face as the wind whipped into him. His hands flexed about the reins then grasped at the ruby-handled hilt of the sword by his side. “Where are our troops Kane?”

Laid out on the plain below a battle raged. The sharp clang of metal, whinnying horses, yells and screams came floating in on bitter wind. It was hard to make out the colors on the field but there was no mistaking that on the Plain of De’ith on this day, the Queen’s forces were bending under a storm unleashed by the barbarian King of Adomisa.

The Captain surveyed the young Prince’s pale features, his cat-like eyes and serious expression. “Sire. It is no longer safe for you to stay. It helps nobody if you are killed.”

“That’s my people Chris. I should be fighting. He dug his heels into his bay mare, urging her forward.”

“No!” The Captain of the Queen’s Guard drew his horse level and grabbed at the Prince’s reins.   “You think you can make a difference down there my Prince? You, who are not yet seventeen, you who have barely left the palace in your few years? It is a battalion we need, not a single swordsman. You must survive this for six months Jared. Then you have the crown and the chance to make a difference. I have never been shy to tell your mother she sheltered you for too long but I am telling you, as a friend, that this is not the occasion for heroics. You are naïve but you are not a fool my dear Prince.”

Jared stopped and turned his head at that. “What do you think I can do that Lord Morgan has not achieved in seven years?”  He couldn’t voice what he really meant. I’m not ready for it. I was never raised to be King. My brother was meant to do this. He was strong and brave and perfect. I can’t be your King.  I am wrong in every way. 

The Captain looked around them and back at the soft eyed young man who was chewing his lip, deep in thought. Deep in doubt. He spoke carefully but low. “I am just advising that you are a bright young man and there may be other ways of looking at this conflict. You aren’t cut from the same cloth as your father or your brother and in that there may actually be advantage. Until then you need to take care. You should be very cautious indeed young Prince.”

Jared’s brows knotted, as the Captain looked away. Just recently Captain Kane had been acting oddly. He couldn’t put his finger on it but right now he was definitely alluding to something and that something was treacherous and unacceptable in nature.

“Lord Morgan has kept our Kingdom from the hordes. He has taken all measures to protect our land, our people. He has ensured the safety of our Queen, my mother, throughout her sickness and I am here through his protection. If you dare suggest anything other, then friend or no friend, I shall presume you traitor and have you clapped in chains. Are we clear Captain Kane?”

The boy’s Counsel gave a tight lipped smile. “We are clear Sire, be in no doubt my Prince, my loyalty to you is unshakeable.”

A courier rounded the muddy hillock, banner raised, horse slicked with sweat. A command of four of Lord Morgan’s own men followed close behind.

The courier handed the sealed paper to Captain Kane and nodded his departure. The Captain checked the seal, broke it and scanned the words rapidly, then spoke gravely, “Our troops are lost to a skirmish in the North. We are to drop back and regroup. There is a danger that we will be outflanked. It is Lord Morgan’s order that I proceed South with you, My Prince. We shall find shelter in the border villages. He has been generous to provide us with an escort from his own House. We must ride swiftly. There is to be no question of you staying here.”

“I came to learn. What shall I learn if I run away?”

“Do you want to learn how to die, young friend? For now you are my Prince and I am your Counsel but I will follow my Queen’s orders to protect you. When you are King you can question me, you can even choose to die. That would be your prerogative.”

The young Prince set his jaw and huffed but he dug his heels into the flanks of his mare and the small command wheeled to the right and rode off as one, making fast time toward the mountain passes of the South Borderlands.

The horses wearied as nightfall beckoned. They stopped in a fragrant glade with a fresh running brook. The young Prince politely acquainted himself with his guard while they ate a simple campfire stew. There were three of Morgan’s most experienced men. Grizzled and battle-scarred they boasted of old victories and female conquests. The other, a younger recruit sat back shyly to listen to their tales. He was handsome and tall with striking blue eyes. He could only be Jared’s age and Jared found himself drawn to his beauty in the firelight. Their eyes met briefly and the recruit colored and lowered his eyes. Jared smiled at him, genuine and reassuring. He moved closer as the night drew in and found the young soldier’s name was Jake. Jared asked him to talk and he lost his shyness and discussed songs and stars. Jake had a mellow voice and sang for them all.


Captain Kane moved closer with blankets and a warning look to Jared. They didn’t discuss where the Prince found beauty. Given time he would find himself a gentle girl, a suitable lady and there would be no consideration to any other desire or vice.  Kane had watched him blossom into tentative adulthood, seen him dance with ladies of nobility and joke with maids and tradeswomen but his eyes never sparked at them. He had seen him glance to the stable-boy’s form and pulled him away with dire warning. The Elders would not tolerate a Deviant King. In this crime there was no consideration of rank or heritage and death was the only sentence for the convicted.

They set out again at dawn aiming to be in the South Borderlands by noon.

It was hard to discern who was the most surprised as they rounded the corner of the pass, the Adomisan Patrol or the Queen’s Guard. There was no value or prize in the Southern Borderlands and it remained mostly untouched by the fierce fighting and political disarray. The Adomisan party was the lesser by one. There was no discourse. They barely looked at the small guard, no recognition of the Prince in their midst. Their greeting was unequivocal, rapid and brutal and they crashed into the guard, swords swinging, blades thrusting, with guttural yells and heavy breath.  

The Queen’s Guard fell in to surround the Prince, flanking him from all sides in a protective circle. Well, in any case that is what should have happened. Kane and Jake fell back to his side and drew swords. They glanced behind as they braced themselves only to find the rest of the guard missing, their Prince open to attack. There was no time to think on the matter. The battle was fierce, the best swordsmen in the land fighting for their lives and for the life of their future King. Jared was no mean swordsman himself. As a Misan fell bloody from his horse Jared saw a slight hesitation in the Barbarian riding toward him. He saw the calculating look in his eye as he reassessed the banner of the Queen’s Guard and the crest on his cloth. He understood the measured response as he tugged his horse to turn and gallop away leaving his fellow soldiers in fierce battle. The Prince pulled harsh on the reins and spurred his horse into fastest pace after him. A patrol meant a larger force was nearby. Jared was confident of their ability to defeat this small party but they would be under serious threat if news of his presence were to be communicated to the larger troop. The chase was long and the ground rough. The Prince’s mare threatened to stumble more than once and he reined her in to a slower pace, keeping sight of the fleeing Barbarian while staying alert for signs of ambush.

The chase came to a halt under the gnarled branches of a lightning-struck tree. The Misan’s horse fully stumbled with a crack of its leg and an agonized whinny. The Barbarian rolled as he fell and lurched to his feet to stand his ground. His long-stanced swing was effective as the Prince’s horse came close and Jared came in with sword low. The encounter was short and bloody for both. Jared felt a white hot pain and an ooze as his thigh was sliced but he carried through without hesitation, the wicked sharp steel of his blade cut effortlessly through the soft spot of the Misan’s neck and his adversary sank soundlessly to his knees, eyes fixed, bleeding out in crimson rivulets.

The young Prince dismounted clumsily, he was panting with exertion and perspiration damped his wayward hair. His brow knitted in pain as his foot found ground and he stopped himself falling with a clutch at his steady mare. “Good girl. Good girl” he murmured as she turned her soft brown eyes on him and blew hot breath on his neck. He was in no doubt that any battle Kane and Jake had been fighting would be over by now but he had faith in their abilities.  He stopped to apply a rudimentary dressing to his wounds. There were glancing blows to his shoulder and back as well as the deep gash in this thigh. The wounds on his back would have to wait. He braced himself and grimaced as he dragged the body of the Misan to a sheltered area of the tree and covered it with branches and stones. It wasn’t a burial, simply a ruse to prevent rapid discovery of the body which may give lie to his presence. He felt nothing for the man or his family. It was a simple equation. Kill or be killed and Jared wasn’t prepared to die yet.

He let his mare return at a canter, all the while alert for the enemy. He made his way back to the pass carefully, behind cover of trees and rocky outcrops. He checked his position twice before noting the red silk banner. Torn and muddied, it fluttered, in the snag of a branch. On the uneven road two pools of blood set sticky in the heat of the day. No horses champed nervously, no bodies were visible. His own men were gone. This couldn’t be good.  Adrenalin started to drain from him and he sank deeper into his saddle and rested his head against his mare’s neck. He felt weary, confused, far too young and very alone.  

After a few minutes Prince Jared raised his head, took a deep breath and gathered his nerves together.  He considered the route that led him back to De’ith and the other path winding deep into the villages of the South Borderlands. He pondered on Captain Kane’s warning and the disappearance of Lord Morgan’s men. He would need to warn Lord Morgan of the treachery in his ranks but surely they would be watching for his return to De’ith.  Maybe not, perhaps they lay in wait for him along the road to the rural villages that should care for his safety. Of course, in all probability they were simply deserters who presumed him dead already.  At last, with a dry hysterical laugh, he threw a coin. With a drop of his mother’s profile he faced his horse South, laid one hand on the hilt of his sword and set out at a fast walk for the nearest village.


The rain started down a few miles from the village, trickling cold onto his neck and over his cape. Jared had lost his supplies in the fracas, he was cold and hungry. It took a few moments to register the grey storm cloud on the horizon, to gaze at it as it curled and dissipated. Not cloud, smoke, he thought and spurred his horse to travel faster. He left the pass and approached the village in a crescent curve, stopping under cover to observe the chaos of a fierce fight. From his vantage point the odds seemed insurmountable. A substantial troop of Misan soldiers parried with steel blades at villagers with makeshift weapons.  Slave raid, surmised Jared with a rising fury in his belly. There was a rustle in the bushes below him and he gripped his sword in readiness as a young man in a blind panic ran headlong into him.

“Woah.” Jared dismounted and grabbed him firmly by the shoulders. The man struggled to escape then calmed as he noted the Prince’s crest. 

“Thank the stars. Our troops have come.”  The man panted heavily and leaned over with his hands on his knees, puffing for breath. “The school, it’s hidden behind the main village, they haven’t seen the school yet. The children…you must…”

“Is that what you were doing?” Jared looked behind the man but couldn’t see any children.

The man flushed guiltily and looked at his feet. “I, I have family, responsibilities. This isn’t my village, I, no, just me but you can rescue them." He looked behind Jared and confusion spread across his features.

“It’s just me” explained Jared a little impatiently, as he considered the man’s cowardice. The man didn’t recognize his Prince, Jared hadn’t expected him to and was grateful for the anonymity. He flicked his eyes to the small dwellings. The battle appeared to have calmed and soldiers were herding villagers toward a central location. The man was right; there was a singular lack of children among their prisoners.

“Tell me the layout. How many warriors?”

Jared let the sobbing man explain. There was no point in asking for his help, he was in no state to fight. “How do you know this?” The Prince asked.

“I’m Ryan Fleming. I just arrived; I was to be the new classroom assistant. Then they they…” he pointed to the village and broke down again. Jared tutted. As the streets cleared he formulated a plan. He looked Fleming up and down. “I’m rather conspicuous in crimson. You need to give me your shirt. 

“What will I wear?”

Jared drew his sword and held it steady at Ryan’s neck.

“What do I care? You want to run and hide? There’s only one way past me.”


The shirt was itchy and tight across the shoulders but Jared thought it was adequate. He left his mare grazing at the edge of the village and scouted the stand of trees that surrounded the small school building. It was quiet. He ran the last few meters to the school door and rattled on the handle. It was locked.

“Open up. We have to get you out of here.” He called softly. The door opened a fraction and he saw a slim young lady with dark eyes and a shock of black curly hair, wielding an axe.

“Who in the stars are you?”

“My name is,” Jared paused “I’m just a Queen’s man, Ryan Fleming told me you were here. There is a path to the North, if we skirt around while the others are processed in the Village Hall we may make it.”

“What if we get caught? They are so young, and what about their families?”

“There’s nothing we can do for them.”

A tiny hand slipped around the lady’s ankle and a wail started, followed by a series of whimpers.

“Sshh. Sshh.”

She opened the door to allow him access and he slid inside. Seven children looked up at him. Wide eyed and terrified, the youngest could only be five and the oldest, a lad of about thirteen held her tight in his arms, smoothing her hair as she sucked on her thumb.

“You OK? I’m going to need you to be brave.” Jared spoke to the lad.

“S’my sister.” He replied, nodding gravely, showing the stubby dagger held in his left hand.

Jared knelt to the level of the children. “OK. We need you all to be brave and very, very quiet.” He shushed a finger to his lips in demonstration. We’re going to hold hands and make a train. We’re going to open this door and run as fast as we can to the thicket over there.” He pointed in the general direction, hoping they knew their back yard well. “These two,” and he pointed at the smallest children will get a lift from me and, oh I never got your name.” he looked at the schoolteacher.

“Annie.” She hissed.

The young Prince hoisted a small boy onto his hip and held on to another by his hand. “One, two, three. Go!”

Annie opened the door and started to run. She faltered and skittered to a halt as two large warriors on horseback, closed in. A faint scream escaped her lips as they scooped up the children directly behind her and held her at sword-point.

Jared hardly had time to register as two more warriors, on foot, closed in on the eldest lad with his sister in his arms and himself with a child gripping his hip. He swung his sword from his side as the lad grabbed his dagger and they fell back side by side, with the school house yards behind them. Two, he could take,  ordinarily, but the crying child in his arms was grabbing his neck and pleading. One of the warriors lunged a blade at him, it was aimed away from the child, he could see that much and be grateful. He parried and twisted, almost disarming him, but the barbarian was strong and held. From the corner of his eye he saw the lad and his sister taken. Stupid he thought to himself, how did I believe he could defend himself with that ridiculous knife? For a moment the warrior fighting him was distracted, looking behind Jared, presumably at his kinsman’s victory. The Prince parried furiously and suddenly they were at an impasse, a blade at his own throat in exchange for the blade at his rival’s. The child in his own arms wailed uncontrollably and that was when he felt it, a solid mass behind him, smelling of horse oil, leather and sweat. Large hands reached around his shoulders firmly but not brutally. A blade remained at his neck, a hair away from death and there was a triumphant glint in the bearded warrior’s eye as a strong hand pushed Jared’s sword downwards. A clear voice shushed at him and at the child, like a rider calming his spooked horse.  A sharp pain assaulted his wrist and his sword clattered from his grip to the floor and again there was shushing and calming noises as the solid mass of chest, leather and furs moved further into him and hot breath tickled his neck.

Annie and her charges were fully secured, tied and held by one Misan. The other soldier left her side and closed in on Jared, taking the bearded warrior’s place. The bearded warrior spoke and it surprised Jared that he knew the language. Misans rarely bothered to learn the language of their slaves. It was reciprocal, his own people did not learn Misan. As Crown Prince it was a part of his education but there was a paltry number of citizens with such education.  The Barbarian was smiling at the child in Jared’s arms and speaking soothingly. His face seemed weathered and kindly. His language was flawless.

“Your mammy is missing you. We should go to find her. Will you come and find her with me?”

Jared held more tightly, only to be shushed again from behind. The pressure of the sword  at his throat now threatened to cut flesh and the bearded warrior moved forward to collect the child from his arms. He took him gently and curled the child into soft warm arms, wiping the tears from the small scrunched face. As Jared’s arm was released from the child a strong grip took him. Warm hands stroked down his arms and grasped at his wrists, pulling them to the small of his back and unbalancing him. He leaned into the firm chest behind him, the sword at his neck dropped and the soldier holding it backed off. For the briefest moment it felt like safety but his hands were being expertly tied and Jared was suddenly and blindingly aware of his own stupidity. He was the Crown Prince and in one foolish moment of impetuousness he had been taken by the enemy. He trembled and wriggled his hands in an attempt to free himself but the warrior behind him came close again, strong arms circled him tightly. Hot breath ghosted over his neck and he still did not cease in his struggles. A sharp tug to his arms and a knee to the small of his back had him downed on the ground and in another move his arms dug into the dirt behind him.

Jared found himself straddled by a young man, a few years his senior, of his own height, but broader and muscular. The warrior’s eyes flashed a deep emerald-gold and his skin was dappled with multiple freckles. His mouth was pursed into full pink bow and he  leaned in close,  making soothing noises, until he wasn’t, because his lips latched onto to Jared’s and kissed them. His lips were warm and insistent against the Prince’s and Jared stilled, his shocked hazel eyes stared at this strange proud warrior as he withdrew and pulled a temporarily pliant Jared to his feet. Jared found himself herded with Annie and the children, toward the Village Hall.

The bearded warrior followed with the green-eyed warrior. Everything about their stance and dress suggested that Green-Eyes was the senior officer of the group but it was the bearded man who spoke angrily in Misan. “What the hell was that?” he sniped at the warrior in leather and furs. Jared translated it in his head.

“He is courageous,” Green-Eyes grinned,  “and pretty too.”

Chapter Text

Jared let his gaze wander surreptitiously as he was forced to the village hall. Warriors were searching the village. Doors were flung open, barns left gaping. If this was a slave raid it was certainly a very thorough one. This was not a rag tag assortment of Barbarian raiders but an organized and efficient body of men reporting to Bearded Warrior and Green-Eyes. Jared was shoved into the hall where an entire village sat on the floor, guarded by well armed and fit soldiers.

He concentrated on trying to discern words. It was clear that everything was not well with the Misans. There were sharp glances and hurried words which Jared couldn’t catch. The old bearded warrior seemed to act as a go between for the ordinary soldiers and their imposing green-eyed commander. There was a heated exchange and suddenly Green-Eyes stood and spoke loudly in Misan. Everyone in the hall turned to look and a hush fell.

“I want to talk to every trader and farmer in this village. Take the young men and bury the dead. The Mayor, the Nobles and the educated get the choice as usual. Once the dead are at rest we set them the task.”  He nodded toward Annie and Jared. “Include them.” He had a sword in his hand which he was turning in his long fingers, caressing the crimson ruby on the hilt thoughtfully. Jared restrained himself from staring. It was his sword.

“Sire?” the bearded man looked confused.

“I am weary of all this. Somewhere there is an informant who will not keep his head. This is a set up and we know it. The question is, do they?” He jerked his head toward the villagers and moved to the body of the hall.

The bearded warrior cleared his throat and spoke to the entire village, enunciating the words in their own language. “I will be taking some of your young men. Do not panic. We must bury our dead. Do not try to fight or escape. We have no wish to bury more and nobody wishes for disease. Your men will return here. After that, it is up to you. This village has a baker, a trader, at least two farmers and a butcher. Of this we are sure. You will identify yourselves. We wish to speak with you. You will not be harmed unless you try to escape or fight us.”

A murmur passed through the huddles of civilians trembling on the floor. Several women clutched at their husbands or teenage boys but there was an air of acceptance and Jared watched several young lads kiss their mothers and stand shakily, waiting for instruction.

A thin man with receding hairline got to his feet and spoke “I trade in cloth and groceries”

A red-faced man with rounded belly joined him “I am the butcher.” he said nervously.

Gradually, groups of citizens were led away by heavily armed soldiers. Jared watched as the thirteen year old schoolboy prised his sister from his arms and moved to join the detail to bury the dead. The Prince forced himself to his feet to join him and was taken by a stern faced, sturdy warrior. A short knife sawed through his bonds but he had no weapon and no chance of a successful escape. He fought the urge to shake the man’s guiding grip on his arm. He was the future King, nobody had ever touched him without permission but here and now he had to blend in. He gritted his teeth and determined not to flinch noticeably. For now he would be Ryan Fleming, just until he formulated a plan or rescue arrived. 

The ground was hard and the digging difficult. The Prince’s battle injuries flared bright pain in protest and the sweat ran in rivulets down his spine. Others stripped their shirts and worked bare-chested in the drizzling rain but he couldn’t risk drawing attention to his injuries. He continued working, tears welled behind his eyelids and he wiped them away, streaking mud across his face. Jared was surprised to see some of the warriors strip to their waists and join them in the dig. One of them caught his eye and gestured to the body of one of his own countrymen in a silent explanation – It’s our dead too.  The actions of the Barbarians were confusing to him, right now they seemed far removed from those he had studied on paper and different from his childhood memories of the cruel Court he had visited, with his mother, in different times.

9 years earlier.


 “sshh Jared”

 *tugging at Mam’s sleeve* “Mammy, but mammy, why don’t they have clothes?” he was sneaking a peek through half closed eyes, horror and curiosity competing for dominance.

 “Jared. For the last time, sshh.”

 “They are slaves, stupid. Your boy will be whipped for that. Where is he? Mine’s over there. His name is Ethan. I don’t like him so much any more, so I can say what I like. They’ll just whip him. Can’t whip me. I’m a Prince and I’m already ten years old.”

  Jared turned to see a boy with messy golden brown hair and green eyes, his pale skin  covered with brown dots. He seemed huge to the seven year old Jared. He was dressed in fur and leather and sported a crystal topped dagger in his belt and a cocky swagger older than his form. Jared thought he was the most exciting boy he had ever seen. His mouth moved but no sound came out and the older boy threw back his head and chuckled.

 “Jensen!” the voice was harsh and booming. “What did we tell you about interrupting these talks?”

 The boy seemed to shrink before his eyes “I was not to, Your Highness.” Jensen bowed his knee and his head bent downwards as his father addressed him.

 “Ethan!” the boy that Jensen had indicated, walked warily to Adomisa’s King and bowed prostate before him.

 The King looked toward Jared’s mother and apologized “Excuse me. You must understand, spare the rod and ruin the boy.” He looked expectantly at the Queen who made no move to chastise Jared. He indicated toward one of the courtiers who came forward with a long cane. “Ethan!” the boy removed his pants before the entire court.

Jared saw Jensen pale, his bravado seeping from him. Jared had to turn away as the cane swung hard and hit with a wet thwack and a short cry, six times. He couldn’t understand what he was seeing but knew he should hold his tongue. He grabbed at his mother’s hand and she squeezed his reassuringly.

 When it was over Ethan backed away to join Jensen, raw stripes visible on his still-bare bottom. Jensen reached to the floor and snaked the boy’s pants away. He put his arm around Ethan’s shoulder and hugged him close.

 “Jensen. Take Jared and Ethan and go play in the gardens.”

 Jared looked up at his mother and she nodded agreement. “Be good.” she said.

 They played at war and Jensen showed Jared his fort and his new sword. Ethan joined in quietly.

“What did you do? Why did the man hit you?” asked Jared eventually, consumed by curiosity.

 “It’s what I’m for, Silly. It’s not like you can whip a Prince.” Ethan talked down at Jared as if he were a baby. “It’s OK. It’s better than the orphanage. I get to live here and be friends with Jensen and play. When he does something wrong I have to take his punishment but it doesn’t hurt for long. It’s cool.”

 Jared didn’t understand. When he misbehaved his mother or his nursemaid took him somewhere quiet, explained what he had done and he lost privileges. Sometimes he wasn’t allowed his hounds in his bedroom for a whole week and he hated that punishment. Nobody hit anybody in his Palace.

 Jensen laughed when Jared snapped his eyes shut as a naked slave, with jewels adorning his nipples offered them sweetmeats and drinks. “It’s not like they’re real people Jared. It’s perfectly warm in the Palace, they don’t need clothes and they’re nice to look at and touch. Jensen ran his hand over the slave’s shoulder and down his back. Jared peeked out at the slave. He was tall and well proportioned, his skin shone and he moved with grace. He didn’t react to Jensen’s touch, his eyes remained downturned and he did not seem embarrassed by his nudity. There was a wide leather collar at his neck. It reminded him of the ones his dogs wore.

 Jared played with Jensen all day and when his nursemaid came to collect him he was disappointed. She looked tired and her face was set. “We need to go.” she said tersely. Jared was only seven but he sensed that something was wrong. “Say good-bye to Jensen, Jared.”

 “We can play again another day.” said Jared determinedly.

 “No Jared, you really can’t. Say goodbye now.”

 Jensen bounced on his heels. “Daddy says if your mother doesn’t marry him we will have a war. When we  win you can come and be mine, then we can play every day."

 Jared’s mammy never remarried and he never saw Jensen again.


Jared was startled from his memories as a hand patted his back. The bearded warrior indicated that everyone was finished and the first bodies were being laid, side by side, in the trench. Jared must have shown his surprise as dead warriors were laid beside unfortunate villagers. Bearded warrior smiled at him sadly, “They shall find concord in death.”

Earth filled the trench, the Elders were brought from the hall and Green-Eyes lagged just behind.  The Mayor said prayers for the departed and everyone stood, heads bowed with respect. A command was given and the Barbarians gathered their prisoners to return to the hall. Jared spied Green-Eyes, silent and alone, with two roses in his hand. He laid the red one on the grave first and then threw a single yellow rose on the earth before hurrying back to join his men.

There was an air of anticipation among the villagers. He noted that the traders and farmers had been returned to the room and seemed unharmed. An oval banqueting table had been set up at one end of the hall with chairs about it. Annie sat there with several richly dressed villagers. The Elders and the stout  Mayor, were led to the table and asked to sit. Jared jumped as hands gripped his shoulders and Green -Eyes guided him to a chair and pushed him to sit. The bearded warrior took a chair at the vacant, far end of the table and put his booted feet up onto the surface. He fiddled with a dagger as he spoke. “Gentlemen and lady. As the senior representatives of this settlement you’re being offered a choice. You have an hour to decide your course of action.”

 The Mayor looked about the table and scowled. He interrupted, pointed at Jared and Annie. “They do not represent the Village, she is a mere teacher and, as for him, we’ve never seen him before, it’s just as likely he’s one of yours.”

 Jared thought he saw a brief non-verbal exchange between bearded man and Green-Eyes, as if Green-Eyes understood the words.

 Annie jumped to his defense and for a while he held his breath, wondering what she was going to say. “He’s my teaching assistant. He may be new, but he tried to save our children. He did more than you Mayor.” The Mayor was puffing and furious, he looked about ready to explode.

 Bearded-warrior spoke “You’re wasting precious time, we can take the entire village if it is your wish but that is tedious and we are willing to offer a deal to make things easier for our journey. We have chosen who we want to decide. You have no say in that matter.” He pointed his gleaming knife at the Mayor and the man settled reluctantly back into his seat.

Jared listened as Bearded Warrior spoke. From the corner of his eye he could see Green-Eyes moving purposefully among the groups of civilians. Every so often he stopped and tapped the shoulder of a Villager and soldiers moved in to forcefully separate them from the others. It occurred to him that the Villagers had settled themselves in peer groups within the hall. There were the well dressed families of the representatives at the table, the middle class families and traders, the laborers and then the poor, the obvious outcasts a single mother with her baby and a simple minded lad in his rags.

 “We have lost five of our comrades today. We will take ten of your people in compensation…”

Green-Eyes tapped the single mother on the shoulder and she was taken, in tears, with her baby, to join five strong teenage lads. He tapped the simple lad and the boy grinned, happy to be selected, uncomprehending of his fate.

 “..unless you decide that you will offer two from around this table. A voluntary offer to be enslaved by two of you would negate our choice. No-one else would be taken. You cannot offer another person. Two of you would have to willingly and graciously accept your own enslavement with full knowledge of what it would entail.  If any of you decide on this course of action then I am here to explain the commitment. Until then, you have sixty minutes.”  Bearded Warrior let his boots drop to the floor and he stood to take his leave.

Green-Eyes tapped a ragged laborer, his wife and two toddlers and they moved to one side. Bearded Warrior whistled and indicated another child, hiding behind a box. Green-Eyes nodded and scooped the child in his own arms, returning it to the mother.

 The Mayor blustered in fury. “That is more than ten.”

“The adults are slaves. Children remain free citizens.” Bearded Warrior’s eyes flashed with impatience. “None of them need to be taken if you would volunteer.”

“What idiot would do that? Would you?” the Mayor bitched.

 The Warrior spoke quietly, with ice in his voice “Yes. I would.” Jared glanced to the sleeve that was rolled up, saw the brand of numbers and letters on the Warrior’s wrist and suddenly made sense of the man’s perfect language. Jared seethed inside at the treachery of the whiskered soldier.

The Mayor bitched again “This isn’t the offer we should have been given. There are prisoners in our gaol. You were supposed to take them.” Green-Eyes stopped his slow movement between villagers and Bearded Warrior grinned in triumph. “Would you like to repeat that to your entire Village, Mayor, because it sounded to me like you knew we were coming and somebody made you promises we can’t keep.”

Green-Eyes nodded as two warriors dragged the Mayor out of the building. He spoke in Misan. “I want to know who misled us and why. Fiscal accounts show there was never a garrison or armory here. I’m not particular how you find out or what you do to him after he talks, as long as his head is no longer attached to his body. Check the gaol out. Take anyone worthwhile.”

 Jared felt his heart contract and a blackness consume him. They had been tricked into being here at the very same time he would have arrived with Kane and Jake. They would have been in battle dress and far outnumbered. Somebody wanted him dead badly enough to risk a whole community. This wasn't a random desertion of Morgan's men or a snap decision. Did the Mayor know who he was? He felt sick. His leg ached and he shut his eyes.  His breath came in short bursts and the blood drained from his face. He came-to with a sudden waft of lavender under his nose and Annie holding his hand.  “C’mon, we’ve got to stay strong for the children.” she was saying calmly.

 They argued for forty minutes. All the while the chosen citizens looked on. Annie argued that two of them should volunteer. The Elders and nobles callously accepted her offer but nobody would join her. The two Elders were in their seventies, their families established and Jared was angry that they didn’t offer. They argued back, indignant and assured of their Holy right to freedom, above the despicable wayward teens, the unworthy single mother, and the uneducated, lazy families. Jared’s mood blackened further. He didn’t understand these values of his own society, began to think he didn’t want to represent them. Then he looked at Annie, the brave thirteen year old lad that had stood with him and the laborer’s family who waited with fear and dignity. These were the citizens he chose to represent.

 After forty five minutes his mind started to turn on tactics and he wondered at the choices Green-Eyes had made.  His mind filtered the bare facts and he opened his mouth for one final argument. “The ones that they will be taking, they’ve been chosen for a reason. They’re your future, the ones who will fight to keep you safe, work to maintain the village and undertake the basic tasks. If you let Annie go, they take your future too. They take your education and your children’s prospects. You do understand that it is best for the whole Village that they take the ones who no longer have many years left or achievements to gain.” Jared couldn’t shake an uncomfortable feeling and he looked around to see Green-Eyes staring quizzically at him with an eyebrow raised.

 The Elders answered, stony faced, that there was no future in a wanton, faithless society, that they were needed for the Village’s spiritual well-being. The Nobles simply said no and it made him want to shout his Heritage and denounce them where they sat, but he didn't.

 At sixty minutes the bearded warrior asked for a decision and the Elders told them they were content with the ten that had been chosen. Annie started to cry and took Bearded Warrior’s hand. “Take me and give us our boys back.”

 He shook his head and looked around the table. “No, two was the deal.”

 Jared bent his head to the table and breathed deep. He was as good as dead to his own people anyway. He never asked for responsibility, never wanted it. He lifted his head and turned his flecked hazel eyes toward Green-Eyes who viewed the spectacle with interest. The Prince spoke firmly. “Two. You have two. You have me. I volunteer.”


 “What will happen to us?” Annie trembled as they were taken into an office at the side of the hall.

 Bearded Warrior spoke without malice. “You will give up everything, your status, your name, your belongings, your clothes. You will be branded and collared and become property of the Kingdom of Adomisa to be sold or bartered as necessary. You will be used as your owner sees fit and you will be obedient and pleasant. After a period of five years and each year after, your owner will have the choice to end your tenure and give you the  freedom to become a citizen of the Kingdom. It is not usually granted to troublesome slaves. It isn’t easy and there is no guarantee. You have the right to back out of this deal at any moment before the brand is applied and we will take the ten that were already chosen. If you are troublesome, try to escape or are willful then we can return here to take the slaves we are owed. People vary. Many owners are fair. A few are cruel. Slaves have no rights.”

Annie squeaked “A brand, like cattle? That will hurt.”

Bearded Warrior nodded gravely “It is agony, but it will be tended and the pain will pass after several days. It is a measure of your commitment.”

 Jared spoke up “Is that what happened with you? Did you turn traitor while it still burned?”

“I served my tenure. I did not turn traitor. I am a citizen of the Kingdom. The Realm of my birthright would have me killed from the moment I was branded and you speak of treachery.” The warrior was angry but his voice quietened and became sympathetic as he continued. “You know that if you take this route you are disowned from the moment you are marked. You will feel betrayed by your own Queen. How you deal with that is up to you. I chose to support the people who accepted me, however unconventional that may seem.”

 Jared’s stomach knotted. There would be no going back from this. “The others, if we back out, will they be branded?”

“The adults will, the children remain with their families but they retain their freedom. There is a minimum ten year tenure on non-voluntary slaves.  They will be obliged to serve that, whatever the circumstances.”

 Annie fought to hide her tears and Bearded Warrior offered her a handkerchief. Jared gulped and stared at the floor.

 The sound of Green-Eyes arriving in the room diverted their attention. He spoke with Bearded Warrior and Jared continued to translate in his head.

 “Move it on. We get them deleted from the records, brands applied and move out. The rest can wait. The Mayor knew nothing. If this is a trap it’s a bad one but I want out of here soon. Oh and James, you need a slave for your kitchens. I know how you feel about slaves but you will take this girl or so help me I will clap you back in a collar and you will dig latrines for the rest of your life. Tie them well, it will be easier for them.” The freckled warrior swung confidently out of the room.

 “It’s best if we get this done quickly. We need your names. When we get out there we will scratch you from the Village records to make it official and then brand you. You will kneel before the Commander for that and it will be public. You’re lucky. You will keep your clothes until the end of our journey. Naked on horseback is simply not practical. Make trouble and we will strip you and have you slung over a mule. Understand?”

 The two prisoners nodded. “OK then. Turn around. Gonna loosen your clothes and secure you. It’s easier  if you don’t struggle. The rope cuts less.”

Jared felt numb, the warrior secured his arms behind him at the elbows and hobbled his feet. He thought of his dogs, how they bounced and whined when he had a treat hidden for them. He thought of his sister in her ball gown, of blue sky and green fields. He was dragged away from his daydreams and thrown to his knees on the dais of the village hall where rough hands tugged a handful of his hair, pulling his head back to look into the into stern face of the Misan Commander. To the side of him there was the sizzle of searing metal burning deep into the soft flesh of Annie’s wrist. There was a smell like roasting pork and Annie wailed in pain and pleaded incoherently before the next scorching identifier was applied. It was in vain. He heard the crackle and she cried out as her shoulder was indelibly marked.

 “Name?” Bearded Warrior translated for the Commander.

 “Ryan Fleming” lied Jared “but I’m not on record because I only just got here, like was said.”

Green-Eyes pored over the records and pointed to a short letter of engagement in the school file. He ripped it into small pieces and let it flutter to the floor. 

 “You have no name.” 

 The Commander reached to Jared’s shirt and pulled at it until his left breast was exposed. His hands caressed the flesh and he hmmed appreciatively. Jared caught a glance of a small pot of ointment hidden in the palm of the warrior’s left hand and felt coldness as his skin numbed. Green –Eyes looked straight into his face and mouthed “sshh” at him, then pushed Jared down until he could reach the hands tied behind his back.

The young Prince felt the cold balm against the skin of his wrist. He was surprised at the discovery of this small mercy and wondered at a ritual that had the Commander hiding his actions. He didn't wonder for long. His mind stuttered to a halt as searing heat met his flesh and he cried out at both applications of the white hot brand, the tears sliding shamefully down his cheeks. He had no concept of what the pain would be like without the balm and no wish to find out. He found himself pulled back to his knees, his neck exposed. Green–Eyes gently stroked tear-soaked hair from his face and away from his neck. He wrapped a thick brown leather collar carefully around Jared’s neck and buckled until it was taut but with room to slide one finger under. He secured it with the click of a small, inbuilt lock.  Jared winced at the sound, the very finality of the action. He was no longer a Prince. Not even a man. He was just a slave. He had thrown away his responsibilities, his opportunities and the chance to change his Realm. For the sake of ten citizens he had thrown everything away. There was no going back. What would Kane have said? He shook and he couldn’t stop the vibration from reaching every part of his body.

A warm hand stroked his back, soothing him . The Commander spoke to his troops “I claim this slave as my own, as is my right.”

 There was a shocked silence among the warriors and then a furious Bearded Warrior was in the Commander’s face, spitting fury in Misan. Jared remained kneeling at their feet, unable to move, dizzy and sick with pain, no idea of what was happening or what was expected from him.

 “What in the Stars? You said you never would.”

 “Sooner or later I was always going to have to. At least this way it is my selection. He’s young and beautiful, he has strength of character and it was his choice. He will adapt.”

 “Really? You think he should have to?”

 “It’s done. Leave it.”

 “No. Why would you do that? You can’t hide him in the kitchen like I can with Annie.”

 “I want him.” There was a cold warning in the man’s voice.

 “Can you do it Jen? What you will have to do? These are your father’s requirements  and he will enforce them. You know that don’t you?”

 “Enough!” There was a loud crack as Green-Eyes landed a heavy punch on Bearded Warrior’s cheek. “I should have you disciplined.Take the slaves, find them a horse. We move out quickly."

Chapter Text

The Prince noticed the two women almost immediately. He tensed and spat out an angry exclamation at Green-Eyes and  Bearded Warrior. “You said you wouldn’t take any others. You lied.”

An open handed slap clipped his face as he received an angry retort. “Nobody gave you permission to speak. I don’t have to explain my actions to you. They choose to take our shelter. In this place they are condemned for their love and that sickens me.” 

Jared scowled as his hands were tied in front and to the rein. Annie rode behind him, sniffing back her tears. The piebald farm horse was steady and gentle and attached by lead rein to the impressive black stallion that Green-Eyes sat comfortably atop. The Prince noted his own bay mare bridled to a covered carriage at the rear of the column. The journey would be long. He remembered all that he had been taught of the foreign land. He calculated a night to reach the border, another to the first major City and another if they were heading for a significant army camp or fort.

He thought about escape but the brands condemned him. Jared had no idea if the laws would be applied to him as any other citizen but there was no investigation or hesitation once a brand was spotted. There was no need for words, the mark spoke for itself. A history of traitorous ex-slaves with murderous intentions meant that the reaction was cursory, immediate and lethal. If he managed to cover the brands there was still the knowledge that others would suffer in his place. Add to that his chance of escape was more than slim. He was surrounded by efficient warriors, tied and carrying injuries.

The silence was deafening and he wanted to break it, he needed to know a little about the man who had taken him. He felt an urge to learn his role, start his new life, because if this was it and there was no rescue, then being in this limbo, this between lives, the fear of what was to come was overwhelming him. 

They traveled uneventfully through villages and Jared was shocked at the ease with which his people accepted the presence of this enemy force and allowed the column to pass unhindered. As the sun reached its peak they passed through another settlement and the innkeeper met them and greeted Green-Eyes with a smile and mead for the men. Jared’s face flushed red with anger but he bit his lip. An outburst would help no-one. He studied the innkeeper’s face with a glare and was met with a glance of idle curiosity. They didn’t stop at the Inn. They rode until nightfall when Green-Eyes called for camp to be made in the sparse cover of stunted trees and rocky caverns of the border mountains. Annie was limp with exhaustion and fell from the piebald into Bearded Warrior’s arms. He set her down by a camp fire and snapped a chain to her collar, holding it loosely in his hand.

Green-Eyes unfastened Jared from the horse and motioned him down. He clipped a similar chain to his collar. Jared stood before him silent and sullen. Green-Eyes leaned toward him and spoke calmly in Jared's own language “Traditionally, this is where the slave kneels before his Master. We’re going to go with tradition and, for your own sake, you will learn quickly.” The Commander pushed forcefully on the Prince’s shoulders, grazing a cut on his back and the younger man winced as he folded to his knees and dropped his head in submission.

Jared felt fingers softly caressing his hair as Green-Eyes spoke. “Perfect.”

The rest of the column moved away and started to set up camp but Green-Eyes stayed and Jared felt his stare as the fingers continued to card through his hair. He found the action surprisingly soothing and he unconsciously leaned in to it. “You didn’t think I understood your language but I’m fluent. It suits my purposes to pretend sometimes. It’s surprising what information can be gleaned and I hear the truth. I hear how people really are. I heard everything you said and I know it was no act. I was wishing for you to give yourself because I wanted you.”

Jared didn’t know how to react, whether he should answer or nod. He stayed still and silent. Elegant fingers reached to his face and chucked under his chin, lifting his face to look upwards. “You may look at me. You must have questions for me. I will allow you to walk. Learn to walk behind with the leash almost at full extension and that will be satisfactory. When we stop, you will kneel behind me and I will give further instruction. We’ll take dinner and I will answer your questions. Then you will answer my questions. Do you understand?”

“Yes, Sir.” Jared answered, his ears burning with humiliation.

 “The correct way to address me is Master, but Sir was a good enough guess. In future you will use Master or accept punishment. When we are in private you will use my name but it is important that you understand the distinction. The consequences of a slip are serious.”

Jared bit his lip and turned his eyes downward. The reality of his impulsive decision was harsh.  He had heard the stories of whippings and other cruel punishments for minor misdemeanors of slaves and he knew he hadn’t the courage to bear such things.

A thumb rubbed soothingly over Jared’s jaw and Green-Eyes crouched in front of him. “Sshh. You need to understand that in our society a slave has an important role. A good slave is valued by its Master. It is a different value from the one placed on a free citizen but, if you know your own place and please me there is no responsibility, no blame and no reason to feel shame. You have no control over your fate. That lies with your Master and the Kingdom itself. You have to trust me to make the right decisions. You can take pride in your service. I hope to be proud of you.  I am not saying that it is right or easy but it is the way it is and you must accept it and let go, or your suffering will be unbearable.”

Jared sniffed miserably and fingers lifted his chin again, in a silent cue, he sighed and his shoulders dropped as he responded to it “Yes, Master.”

“Good boy.” Fingers stroked his cheek affectionately.

Jared concentrated as Green-Eyes led him towards a fire on the outer edge of the camp. When the Commander stopped abruptly to talk to one of his men, Jared's feet kept moving and he found himself slipping into his Master’s back, knocking him off-balance. He caught his breath before kneeling in the stony ground, his heart pounding. I can’t even walk without messing up, he thought with terror.

 His Master didn’t look back at him. “Well that needs a little work” he said with a hint of a laugh before tugging at the leash and continuing.


Jared watched his Master. He sat beside him, as ordered, like a normal, free man, in a collar. His meal had been the same as every other person in the camp and he hadn’t been expecting that. He had imagined bread and water and maybe the scraps, but instead his stomach was comfortably full with warm beans, sausage and a hot coffee. The barbarian Commander finished his own meal and sat on the ground, hugging his knees into himself. In the firelight he looked tired, smaller and younger than Jared previously credited him. His features were fine, his cheekbones high and jaw proud. Jared noticed golden flecks in the deep green of his eyes and admired the curling long lashes that framed them.  In other circumstances he would call him beautiful. Somewhere in the back of his mind a memory of similar features scratched at the surface but he was tired and the burning hot agony of his brands and the flaring pain in his leg overtook all of his senses.

His Master was staring into the distance with a wistful expression and the Prince followed his gaze to the two women who had chosen to flee with them. They were pressed close in a passionate embrace, their mouths were locked together and their eyes were closed.  Their hands roamed over each others' bodies in an abandoned and joyful expression of lust. Jared had never seen anything like it. He averted his eyes, shocked at the criminal display.

 There was a faint snort of amusement next to him. “It makes you uncomfortable.”  The emerald gaze was upon him as fingers turned his face fully to his Master. “It’s love. It’s perfect and incredible. Don’t you want something like that for yourself one day?”

Jared shifted and shut his eyes. He was a slave. Love was no longer an option for him. He was thinking it made things easier. He had been confused since the age of thirteen when his voice lowered, his razor became useful and his wet dreams inevitably involved explicit visions of the Palace gardener and the blue-eyed stable-lad. He didn’t know what he was allowed to say and it scared him. He remained mute.

 “I’m sorry. That was unfair. You know, I’m new at this too.” There was an air of vulnerability in his Master's statement. “I want you to talk to me. I don’t want you to be scared of speaking when it’s just us, like this.” He sighed and chewed on his bottom lip as Jared nodded, still mute, then remembered and rushed a “Yes, Master.” from his mouth.

 “I’m going to check your brands and then you will ask me some questions. Do you think you can manage that?”

 “Yes, Master.”

“My name is Jensen. We’re alone Child.”

Jared’s mouth gaped open and he swung his head upwards to stare at his Master. “Prince Jensen?” he gasped, forgetting his submission. The warrior’s form was familiar to him now and Jared panicked, eyes wide open and muscles tensed for flight. This man knew, better than most, who he was and may recognize him at any moment. It took every fiber of his body to fight the urge to run.

Jensen chuckled and reached to his slave’s hand. Jared flinched, realizing his insubordination. “That’s me. Hey. It’s alright. If you weren’t a little shocked I would be worried.” He held the younger man’s hand, stroking it gently. The action  grounded Jared for the moment. He breathed out and let the fear subside. Whatever happened he had no control, there was nothing he could do.

Jensen spoke again. “You’ll get the hang of it and we’re not at Court yet.” He knelt beside Jared and lifted the hand. He carefully peeled away the dressing over the brand on his wrist. “It looks raw but it’s clean.” he stated softly. He rubbed balm into the livid red marks and Jared hissed in pain. “Talk to me, it will help,” Prince Jensen murmured as he replaced the dressing and moved to the brand on Jared’s chest.

Jared stuttered a little, trying hard to think of an opening line. “Do I call you Prince Jensen or Jensen?”

The warrior sat back on his heels and spoke with a wry grin, “I’m planning on us becoming a little too intimate to bother with the Prince part.”

 Jared’s whole body tensed and a single tear rolled from his eye. In the years after he met the ten year old Jensen and gazed in amazement at the Court of Adomisa he had come to understand the full meaning of the behavior there. The dawning of his own sexuality and the rapid absorption of his education had opened his eyes to the immoral life that the naked slaves led.  In this life Jared had chosen to become one of them, in his after-life he would be damned to pits of hellfire for all eternity.

 “All done. You’re doing well.” He felt soft lips on his neck just below the collar as Jensen placed a warm, dry kiss on him. He pulled away from the touch and Jensen firmed his hands on his slave’s shoulders and pulled him back. “No!” The Commander chastised, “This body belongs to me and I can do with it what I want.” He softened his tone and continued “I am in control. I will never permanently harm or scar you but I will have you and you will come to enjoy it. You have to trust me.” He leaned in and kissed his slave’s neck again. Jared trembled under his grasp but stayed still.  It wasn’t an awful sensation, it tickled in a pleasant way but he knew it was corrupt and deviant. He was wrong to allow it and evil for liking it. Jensen leaned in to nuzzle his neck and placed a series of dry kisses at the nape of his neck. An electric sensation coursed through Jared, his cock twitched in interest and he gasped. Jensen patted his shoulder and ceased.  “That’s better,” he said and settled behind Jared, drawing the boy in to lean against his chest. He held him lightly, a hand placed over his slave’s heart just alongside the aching brand. “What else will you ask me?”

 Jared fiddled with his fingers, he had so many conflicting questions and emotions but he didn’t feel safe expressing or exploring them. He sought a sensible question and steadied his voice.

“Why do you command these men? Your brother is Commander-in-Chief and you are second to the throne. Would you not be kept safe at Court when he is in battle?”

Jensen threw his head back and laughed “You will learn how very dull and suffocating Court is, Child. I have no interest in affectations of pretty suitors or in games of chance. The King lets me rebel in this small way, providing I have the best warriors and a physician by my side. This life suits me. There is an occasional skirmish and there is purpose in our incursions but that purpose is none of your concern. You have an interesting knowledge of politics. How is it that you are aware of a distant battle?”

Jared caught his breath and forcibly relaxed his muscles. “I am an educator. I take an interest in politics. Is there a battle? I was speaking in general terms.” He moved to change the subject. “Why do you call me Child, Jensen?”

The warrior’s arms encircled him completely and tightened around him. He whispered in Jared’s ear, “Because Ryan Fleming was captured not two miles from the village. He has twenty and two Summers, is almost certainly not a virgin and is a loose-lipped coward who told us he met a lone soldier who promised to rescue the school-children. On the other hand, while you are bursting with strange courage, you have certainly not yet reached nineteen Summers and I fear you are younger than your height suggests. You are but a child and have every indication of being a virgin too.”

“I am not a child.” Jared said indignantly before rushing to add, “Master.”

Jensen sniggered “but that tells me that you are indeed a virgin.”

Jared’s cheeks flushed cherry red.

“So beautiful and shy.” breathed Jensen. “If you don’t want me to call you Child you should give me your real name.”

Jared looked at the floor and remained silent.

“It is an interesting conundrum, just what you were doing alone there, Child.”

Jared fixed his eyes in a stare. His hands bunched into fists. “What will you do with me?”

“I thought we’d already established that. It is already done. Do you wish me to torture you for information? It would be boring and redundant for we have come to no harm on this sortie. Besides,” Jensen adopted a sly and unnerving tone “your older compatriot will give us that when he wakes, and the physician assures me, he will awaken. Jensen gestured toward the covered wagon and the bottom fell out of Jared’s world. “If you want to spare him, then feel free to explain yourself at any time.”

Jared’s mind swirled and he fought for breath. The green-eyed Prince held him tight and shushed him gently. “You think it matters any more what you were? You left that soldier behind when you accepted my brand. If you are a deserter or spy then you redeemed yourself with your courage before I could run you through. I think you are beginning to understand my feelings about deviants, there is no such crime in our society. You will tell me in your own time, because you will come to trust me. For now you will sleep. It has been a long day for me. I fear longer for you.”

There was the rattle of irons and Jared’s arms were pulled taut behind him and secured. He obeyed his Master’s command to lie down on his side. Jensen moved to his feet and fastened irons about his ankles and attached them to the wrist chain, folding his slave into a curled position. He apologized as he worked. “You must excuse me if I don’t trust a proven liar and possible spy not to try to escape in the night.”  

Jared stared into the golden embers of the fire and fought to ignore the pain and discomfort that assaulted every inch of his body. He was more than weary, but his brands burned in agonizing pain, his leg was hot, it was sore and itched. His bonds pulled at his muscles and his head ached. Jensen offered him a cup of cool water and he drank it in tentative sips. Jensen settled a warm fur over him. “Goodnight Child.”

“Goodnight, Jensen.”

“Good boy.”

Jensen took his leave and went to placate his warriors. Jared was aware of the harsh voices and stern glares with which the Commander was greeted by his own men but his eyelids began to droop and he fell into a fitful slumber.

Chapter Text

Jared woke from a vivid nightmare with heat radiating from his body and sweat glistening on his brow. He could no longer feel his arms and his shoulders ached in their sockets. His hands were still fixed behind him and his legs in irons, but he found he could stretch a little, the chain between his wrist and ankles had been removed. There was a solid weight beside him and he opened one hazy eye to see Jensen curled into him, his arm over Jared’s stomach. His face was relaxed, eyelashes resting softly on freckled cheeks, his lips were slightly parted and his breath even. His hair was mussed and spiked in all directions. Jared smiled slightly at the sight, in spite of himself. It was wrong in every way but he felt dizzy and weak and couldn’t muster any energy to protest or pull away from the man. He had never experienced such closeness from another person but sometimes his hounds flopped over him in his sleep. The contact felt good and he resolved to beat himself up about it later. He closed his eyes and returned to sleep but his nightmares still chased him.

In his dreams Christian shook him hard, shouting that he was evil. All around him his lands burned and bodies lay rotting. There was shouting but he couldn’t make out the words. The shaking increased and Jared woke with a start, to angry emerald eyes and a sharp tug bringing him to his feet. He swayed and realized he had no hands to steady him. He leaned in to the first support he could find and knocked it off balance. Through blurred vision he realized it was Jensen. His master. Oh stars! He had just knocked his Master over. There was a sharp pain as an open palm met his cheek. It stung and he opened his eyes, wide awake but dizzy. He felt sick and wondered what would happen if he threw up. He swallowed and held it back.

“Wake up, Child.”

“Master?” Jared decided he wasn’t able to stand. He fell to his knees and let his head bend to the cool ground in submission. In truth it was where his head wanted to be.

He heard a click as his Master attached the leash to his collar. He felt a steadying hand on him and then strong fingers lifted his gaze. “Not content with lying about your identity, your friend decided she could back out of our deal and tried to escape. Unfortunately for her she didn’t succeed. You will watch this.” The voice was raw with anger and the young slave blanched with fear. He watched as Annie was dragged before Jensen. She was hysterical and weeping, her face was bruised and she was chained and hobbled.  The more surprising thing was the arrival of Bearded Warrior, similarly chained and held firmly by two of his kinsmen. He was pushed to his knees and knelt before his Prince, head low.

“Sire. I recognize my errors. I beg forgiveness.”

Prince Jensen pursed his lips and stood tall, larger and more imposing in his anger. “Do you have anything to say in your defence?”

“No Sire.” Behind him Annie wailed and a soldier slapped her hard. She bit her lip and quietened.

“Captain Beaver, I understand you did not want this responsibility but it is yours nonetheless. There are reasons we secure our slaves. You are fortunate that the sentries apprehended her. If there had been a single death involved, if we had not found her, you would not be kneeling before me, at least, not with your head attached.” He nudged the man with his knee. “Get up, fool. You will take your punishment as a man.” He indicated to the soldiers guarding him. “Ten lashes. Don’t spare him.”

The irons were unlocked and the Bearded Warrior rubbed at his arms and removed his shirt. He knelt in front of his Commander and Jared saw him take a deep breath before another sturdy warrior stepped behind. He stared at the man’s bare back. There was a criss-cross of ancient scars marking him, a history of pain, clear for all to see.  The flogger was long and wicked thin. It whistled as wetted leather whipped through the air. There was an unnatural silence in Camp as it hit skin with the first ‘thwack’ and a red line bubbled up with traces of crimson blood. There was a grunt from the Captain but he did not flinch as the next stroke readied to land. Jared fought his urge to vomit as the whip landed time and again and the flesh turned bright and wet. He tried to look away but his Master gripped his chin and turned his head back to the gruesome scene. Bearded Warrior counted as each stroke landed and after the count of ten he looked up to his Commander and knelt up on one knee. “Thank you. Sire” 

 Jensen threw his Captain’s shirt at him. “You don’t get out of this. You know what you have to do. Do it properly.”

 “Sire.”  Captain Beaver rose and backed away, his head bowed.

 “Sergeant!” Another warrior hurried to the Commander’s side. “I don’t have time for this. We must break camp. Take this. Make sure it sees the consequences and return it to me before we leave.” Jared felt a tug on the leash as he was passed to the soldier. There was a warning in his Master’s voice as he finished his instructions “It will be prudent to remember that this is my property.”

“Come.” The soldier’s voice was impersonal. Jared tried to stand but his legs were jelly and folded beneath him. There was another tug at his leash. “Fine. You want to crawl, slut, you can crawl.” Jared was dragged on his knees as the leash was pulled, eventually he managed to struggle to his feet and stagger after him.

Annie sobbed and struggled as the soldiers stripped her bare. Jared kneeled wanting it to end, but the scene played out in front of him regardless. His only relief was that the soldier holding him did not speak to him or expect any reaction. Annie was secured by her wrists to the branch of a tree. She dangled helplessly, her toes just touching the ground. The Captain stepped beside her to speak quietly with her, before stripping the belt from his trousers. Ten solid lashes of the belt left her with raised welts and puffed eyes. Her Master threaded his belt back onto his trousers, took a cup of water and let her sip from it before heaving her naked body across a mule and securing it like a sack of grain. Jared could have sworn that the bearded Captain was crying but his own vision was blurred and the world was swaying. He idly wondered when the heated agony in his leg had surpassed the pain of his brands. He remembered the terms of their deal and worry hit him for the ten villagers they had left behind. He needed to speak with Jensen. He had to ask his Master not to return for them. Beg if necessary.

Jared wasn’t sure when the black fog fell, but it passed and then consumed him again.

“Get up you stupid bag of excrement.” Jared wondered how long the soldier had been tugging at him. His knees burned and he understood he was being dragged. His face hit the ground and there was a sticky wet sensation of dribbling on his chin. “Please I have to..”  The fog fell again.

“Get up Child!”

Jared opened a glassy eye to the man in front of him. “I don’t feel so well, Christian. We should take the hounds home.”

Prince Jensen crouched in front of Jared and studied his slave’s face. “What is wrong with you, Child?”

Jared’s eyes rolled. “M’going to Hell, Christian, but the kisses are heavenly.” He gave a delirious giggle, “I got kissed by a Prince. It was nice and m’gonna do it again. Mammy’s gonna kill me. Oh..” He leaned over and vomited on the ground. Jared felt the warmth of somebody holding him and a distant furious shout “What the moons did you do to him?” There was a flash of steel blades and a flurry of activity, a pleading whine and Jared snapped out of the fog for a brief moment to hear his Master’s command “Strip him.”

He flailed in panic. “I tried. Please don’t. I didn’t mean to disobey. I can’t.” Jared's voice was hoarse and dry. He closed his eyes and sighed then flashed them open in panic “M’sorry should say Master, forgot.” Darkness consumed him.


 Jared was lying in a boat. Waves lapped and rocked it gently. He must have fallen asleep in the sunshine. His eyes were heavy and would not open. He was hot and sweat was gathered on him.  A cooling cloth passed over his brow and wiped his breast. “mmm” he said, “We should swim.” He heard a faint snicker beside him.  “What? It would cool us. Did we catch any fish?”

The snicker became a full-blown snorting laugh and he sensed someone leaning over him, blowing in his face. “Ugh. Christian. Stop it.”

“You say the sweetest things to me.” This was not Christian’s voice. Jared’s eyes flew open to the vision of emerald and gold eyes inches away from his face and a pink mouth with lips slick wet and parted, settling firmly and insistently over his own mouth. His mouth parted in an ‘O’ of shock and a tongue darted in and licked the hot cavern of his mouth. Fingers tangled in his hair, holding his head in place while the lips slid deliciously against his own. With a nip to his lower lip and a soft smacking noise it was over, too quickly.

“You got kissed by a Prince and it was nice, and you’re going to do it again. Nobody is going to kill you and you’re not going to Hell, Child.”

The vision drew back and Jared found himself lying on furs straddled at the hips by a fully dressed green-eyed Prince. Jared blushed furiously when he noticed he was naked aside from a splint and dressings on his leg. Jensen's pants brushed lightly against his limp cock and he squirmed in embarrassment trying to edge away from the intense sensation it created.

There was stretched canvas in a dome above them and the gaps in his muddled mind started to fill. He was in a covered cart. It swayed and rattled as it moved. He had been captured. Jensen was sitting over him, with lust-dark eyes and a bright smile, Prince Jensen, his Master. His Master had kissed him. His eyes widened as memories returned. He had displeased Jensen, there had been shouting and they’d stripped him, the same as they’d stripped Annie.  He tried to sit up “M  Master. I should. M’sorry.”

A hand pushed him back down. “You have blood poisoning from the gash on your leg. You will live and your leg will be saved. It is a curious and severe injury and you had no right to keep such a secret from me. Maybe Christian will be able to tell me about it, do you think? In case you are wondering, he is awake and I have left him with a friend. Couldn’t have you cozy in here, comparing stories, could we? My friend has a pretty residence close to the border and a very persuasive nature. No mind. That is no longer your concern. He was before and I am after.” Jared was unsure what Jensen meant by that, though he thought he detected a hint of jealousy in his tone. “For now you need to concentrate on pleasing me. Your body is mine and you are not permitted to damage it. It disappoints me that you did not think to mention your sickness. In future you will report all discomfort or injuries. It is up to me to decide if it is significant. Do you understand that?”

Jared felt frustration and anger boiling in him. Prince Jensen was calmly talking about torturing his best friend, yet expected obedience. He had taken his freedom and burned his skin, chained him and committed an act of deviance with him. He had threatened children and ordered the whipping of an innocent woman. Yet, here he sat, atop of him, with gentle voice, a kindly smile and a pretense of care.  Jared clenched his fist and his jaw clenched with it.  His Master’s eyes flickered downwards as he caught the change in Jared’s mood. Jensen pounced on Jared’s wrists and held him down as he thrashed in anger.  The younger man was weak and his struggles died out quickly. He lay still and turned his face away from the Misan Prince in despair. He heard the click as cold chains encircled his wrists once more.

“I asked if you understood, Child.”

“I’m not a child,” spat Jared.

“Then what is this tantrum?”

Jared refused to answer. He ground his teeth together.

“It was to be expected. This is your life now. Let the old one go. Now, I asked if you understood who this body belongs to, who is responsible for your well-being?”  Jensen ran his fingers down his slave's chest and came to rest at the soft curls of his treasure trail. He paused expectantly and continued, inching slowly downward. Jared arched his body in an effort to escape but Jensen held his hip firmly with the other hand.

Jared whimpered and broke down “You, Master. You are responsible for me, Master.”

“Was it so hard to admit?”

“Yes, Master.”

Jensen looked sadly at Jared. “I was wrong too. I ignored protocol. I permitted you to keep your clothes. If I had taken them at your branding, looked properly, this never would have happened.  We shall talk later, we’re almost home and I have things to do. I may come back and kiss you.”  He pushed himself up carefully, without brushing against Jared’s wounds. “Rest now, my beautiful Child.”

“Yes, Master.” Jared’s voice was flat, defeated.

Jensen vaulted out of the cart while it bumped inexorably toward its destination.

Chapter Text

Jared slowly came to his senses when the clatter and sway of the cart ceased. A horse stamped as it rattled at its harness and the wind blew a dent into the canvas above him.

There were voices just beyond the canvas. Jensen was speaking to another, whose voice he didn’t recognize.

 “What is so urgent that you send a messenger to bring me here? You will surely be home by sundown.”

“I need you to perform a favor for me.”

 “And when does that ever end well?”

 “Please, Ethan.”

 “Tell me.” The voice was filled with exasperation.

“I need you to take something into my apartments as I return. I need you to tend to it for a time. I do not want anyone to see it. I especially cannot have The King see it.”

 “You have brought a present?”

 “Not exactly.”

 A corner of the canvas was rolled back and Jensen leaped in. He held out his hand and helped another man in. The man was slight with a shock of black hair and chocolate brown eyes in alabaster-white skin. He looked about the cart and Jensen pointed at Jared.

“It’s a slave, Jensen.”

Ethan. The look was distinctive, not of this Kingdom, not even of this region. It was the whipping boy of so long ago, and here they were again, the boys that had played carefree in the sunshine together. How could it be so far lost? Jared's heart hit the pit of his stomach, once more in fear of recognition, but Ethan looked at him blankly, as new.

“It is my slave,” nodded Jensen with a guilty smile. He reached to ruffle Jared’s hair and Jared glared at him.

 “It is a damaged slave.” Ethan put an emphasis on the word damaged. The small man was regarding him with a look of intense distaste and Jared burned with shame at his exposed body. He scooted backwards as far as his chains would allow.

“It will heal.”

Ethan huffed. “It should be possible to take it in, undercover, but surely it does not need my attention.” He crossed his arms and rolled his eyes at the freckled Prince. “I suppose your father should be grateful you have made any effort to meet him in this matter. We thought you were set in your refusal and you’re a stubborn man. You are right though, he would be after your hide for purchasing faulty goods and it certainly isn’t the dainty lass your brother would have in mind. I suggest you clean it up and set it to work in your rooms until it is recovered enough to be presented.”

“It is not trained, Ethan.”

“What do you mean it is not trained? You know you cannot bring it in. Where did you acquire it? Take it back and get another?”

“I found it on our sortie. I like it. I want to keep it.”  Jensen sounded like a petulant child.

“Your Highness, have you lost your mind? Ethan raised his eyes to the ceiling, calculating something  and then looked back at Jensen. “There has been no time for it to be broken. There are reasons why we cannot have an unbroken, untrained slave in Court. You will get us all killed.”

Jared didn’t like the sound of the word broken. He hoped his translation was flawed.

“Don’t call me that! It won’t need to be broken, it gave itself, willingly. Besides, it is just a child. It has a sweet temperament. We can train it. It is bright and learns quickly.”

“You have it in chains Jensen. It has your height and it does not look amicable to me.”

“It is hurting, and a little angry with me right now.”

Jared let his features relax. He was sure he didn’t want to be broken and he suspected that appearing angry with Jensen, or anybody in his Master’s presence was the wrong way to avoid it. He had spent his life tiptoeing around the Palace avoiding the Elders’ ire, his Uncle’s sharp tongue and the Nobles’ disappointment. He could do diplomacy, he’d been practising it his entire life.

 “Define, angry.”

“I may have hinted that we will have to extricate information from its boyfriend, in a confrontational manner. It will get over it.” Jensen chewed on his nails and threw a little-boy-lost expression at Ethan which was highly inappropriate for his rank and appeared to be a waste of time with the hard-nosed Ethan. It was, however, incredibly comical to Jared and he sniggered involuntarily, his lips curling into a smile.

“See. It has a nice smile,”  Jensen said triumphantly and grinned back at his slave.

“Its mirth is directed at you Jen. You cannot do this. What are you going to do while it is in training? You cannot keep it permanently chained to your bed.”

“Why not?”

“Your staff will think you have perversions.”

Jensen leaned in to Ethan and grabbed him close. He angled his mouth over the man’s lips and kissed him passionately and deep. Jared wanted to look away but somehow the display was mesmerizing. He recalled the heat and sensuality of Jensen's tongue sliding over his own tongue, teeth and gums. Jensen caught his eye and winked at him and Jared moved his gaze to one side.  “You know I do Ethan.”

Ethan shifted on his feet and shook his head. “You know, your escapades always end with me in hot water and this goes a long way beyond anything you have ever done.”

“This is serious Ethan. I can’t sell it.”

 ”So give it away.”

“I mean, I have to have it, here, with me.”


“I can’t explain it.”

“Oh. By the Moons! You are attached to it. Your Highness, please think about this. You cannot form a relationship with a slave. It is not fair on the slave, and will bring disgrace on you. Can you even imagine your father's ire? It had a boyfriend. Is it even a virgin?”

Jared opened his mouth to protest. He was not deviant. He most certainly did not have a boyfriend. Good sense took over and he snapped it closed in silence.

“Yes, it is a virgin.”

Jared was listening in earnest now. His stomach was starting to turn flips at the number of times different members of Prince Jensen’s entourage had suggested that something unfair was going to happen to Jared if Jensen brought him to Court This presumption, from a selection of people who generally appeared to care nothing for slaves, was starting a coil of terror in him that was wound tight by the thought of being permanently chained, like a dog. Added to that, being smuggled into Court seemed an inherently bad idea. If it ended badly for Jensen and Ethan, it could only be a hundred times worse for him.

Something must have shown in his expression. Jensen stopped in his arguments and sat by Jared’s side. He checked his brow for fever and frowned. “What is the matter, Child?” 

 For the first time Jensen’s words sounded genuine to him. There had been rumors that reached even the court of the Realm, of Prince Jensen, the wayward, deviant son. The one who cared little for structure or tradition. He had paid little heed, what did it matter to him, providing their hordes were crushed? Jared wondered how it must be to grow up second son to the tyrant who was his father, to not be the ideal of what that man wanted him to be. He could empathize but he had no idea what to say. He couldn’t admit to understanding their conversation. The truth tumbled from him in an inexplicable loss of control, “I’m frightened, Master.” 

Jensen bowed his head and shut his eyes. When he opened them again they were over-bright. He jangled a key in his pocket, thinking on it. He bent over his slave and kissed his cheek gently. “It is perfectly normal to be scared. I know you will make mistakes. It is my responsibility to make the best of you and there is no shame in giving pleasure. It is all with me. You are my property and nobody can touch you without my permission. Will you trust me?”

Jared shook his head, his tousled hair fell around his face and hazel eyes filled with the fears he could not express. “You do not understand.” He received a sharp look from Ethan and corrected himself, “Master.”

 Jensen looked down at him for a long moment and his brows dipped and met. “You know I really don’t, but I want to. If I make an effort to understand you, will you make a similar attempt to understand me?”

 It wasn’t the answer Jared had expected. It gave him hope to grasp at. He looked up at Jensen and nodded. He opened his mouth and Jensen placed a finger on it.  “Child, if I hear the word Master once more, I shall stuff my ears with wool. I am beginning to wonder how others bear such tiresomeness. It is my command that when we are in private, we make normal conversation. We shall review it if it becomes impracticable.”

Ethan threw up his hands in a gesture of hopelessness. “Jensen, you are making all sorts of complications for yourself and while I would like to ask if you know what you are getting into, I am sure that you do not.”

“I only need to know if you are with me Ethan.”

“Aren’t I always? Hasn’t it been my lifetime career to take care of the muddles you get yourself into?”

“You no longer have to Ethan. You are Chief of Household Staff, it is a respected position.”

 “True, but life in Court is dull without your adventures, and I hope I shall always be your friend.”

 Jensen turned back to Jared and held up the key to his chains. “I am giving this to Ethan and for now you will be in his care. I have known Ethan since we were small, I trust him with my household and I trust him with my life. I know with certainty he will look after my property and the people I care for. I care for you Child, I know he understands that. You will be pleasant and obedient for him. He has my permission to administer punishment but I am sure that will not be required.”

Jared’s heart lightened. In a small way Jensen had referred to him as a person and said he cared. Yes. Ma.., Yes sir.”

“You will remain restrained. You have seen the reason for that. It shall remove temptation to run and that is easier for you. Let one of us know if the binding starts to cut you. I do not want you further damaged.”

Jared nodded.

“And Child, it is your purpose to serve. Your first task is to find a way to prevent Ethan from getting over excited by our cloak and dagger ventures.” Jensen gave him a friendly smile.

 Ethan poked his friend in the ribs. “Don’t be cruel Jensen, you should start the boy with something he can hope to achieve.”

Jared observed their easy friendship through soft strands of hair that had fallen on his face. He felt a sudden sense of loss for his brother. They should have had this. He should be immersed in friendly banter back in his own Realm, with Christian and Jeff. Maybe Jensen knew the warrior who killed Jeff, perhaps he had patted the officer on the back and congratulated him on his fine tactics and swordsmanship. Jared could have done the same for the killer of one of Jensen’s family or friends. He wondered at Christian’s fate. Christian would die before giving Jared up and Jared would let him. Anything less would be a betrayal of his Counsel’s loyalty and a slight to his friend’s honor. He pushed the thoughts into a dark corner of his mind and resolved not to dwell on them.

Jensen’s soft touch pushed the hair from his eyes. He knelt over and kissed his slave lightly on the brow. His other hand caressed Jared’s shoulder, trailed across his chest and rested on the brand. Hot pain flared briefly and settled. “Mine.” murmured Jensen.

He was a long way from home with no friends, no allies and no reprieve. Jared let go. It felt like falling and only Jensen could catch him.

Chapter Text

The smell of mothballs was overpowering and there wasn’t enough air. Jared's limbs were unnaturally bent, his naked chest rose and fell too quickly, he was slick with cold sweat, his collar was too tight and the drool slid out around a ball that was jammed behind his teeth.

His bladder was full and his stomach cramped with the pain of holding it back. Jared stared at pinholes of light in his restricted prison and reminded himself that there was air. He closed his eyes and  tears slid from them. He was cowardly and pathetic, he had made a poor choice and his people would suffer for it.  A man had kissed him and he had enjoyed it. Jensen had lain close to him and Jared had not rejected him. In his heart he knew what he was. He understood the Gods’ wrath with him. He would accept this, he deserved it.

Jared didn’t know how long he was in the crate. His shoulders and knees bumped against raw wood as he was carried into the Palace, just another item of Prince Jensen’s belongings. The box settled and nobody came to release him. Footsteps hurried all around and there was the sound of crates being dragged and scuffed over the floor. There was a rustle and a crackling noise and the smell of a wood fire chased the scent of mothballs away. Hushed voices and louder commands accompanied the sounds of unpacking. There was a scrape and a lurch as his own crate was upended and his head bumped on the side. He whimpered in surprise. He heard Ethan speak, his tone agitated “I said leave that one.”

It seemed an eternity until the activity ceased. There was the thunk and creak of heavy doors being closed and a lock rattled. Then there was silence and he still remained a prisoner in his crate. Time passed in despair, and Jared could no longer hold the urge to urinate. A damp patch oozed under him, wet, strong smelling and acidic on his skin. Jared sobbed in humiliated misery. A crack of light appeared above him and the lid was tugged away. Ethan looked down on him, covering his nose from Jared’s stink. 

Jared stared up, into deep brown eyes. The small man was biting fingers and flicking his eyes over the twisted, naked and filthy form below him. Jared had struggled when they folded him into the crate and Ethan had enlisted the aid of two of Jensen’s command to achieve the current situation. Now Ethan was left to attend to Jensen’s slave alone and Jared could see the fear in his eyes. Ethan was scared of him and Jared had no way to make that right, to let him know that he would not harm him, he just wanted out of this coffin. He blinked his eyes and sighed.

Ethan fiddled tentatively with the cuffs. He didn’t speak, simply looked Jared and then did the same with his ankle restraints. Jared remained secured. The small man sat back on his haunches and wiped his brow on his sleeve. “I don’t know how.” he said, “It’s too squashed and I can’t lift you.” He spoke in Jared's tongue. Of course he does, thought Jared, he will have been educated with the Princes.

Jared bounced his hands behind him and tried to speak “Mmmf.’ He rolled his eyes and shook his head. Nimble fingers reached around to the back of his head and unclipped the strap. Jared held his mouth open and Ethan, scared of being bitten, grabbed quickly behind his teeth to remove it.”

Jared flexed his lips and wet his tongue. He remembered to speak in his own language. “Secure my hands in front of me and tip the crate on its side. I can crawl out. I promise not to harm you.”

Ethan’s eyes widened. He clipped a leash to Jared’s collar, fussed with the key, unclipped the wrist cuffs and pulled Jared’s arms in front. He massaged them a little and looked at his charge. He didn’t clip the cuffs back together “We pull you up?” he asked nervously and offered the naked slave his hand.

Jared fell out of the wooden box into a heap on the floor. He laid half on a cold stone floor and half on a sumptuous rug of warm skins. He remembered his revolting state and scrabbled fully onto the cold stones. He pulled his hobbled ankles about and managed to contort himself into an approximation of kneeling. He felt warmth in his hand and understood, with a jolt, that Ethan had not let it go. Ethan was looking at him, his head tipped with puzzlement and sympathy. Of all the expressions that Jared had faced this was the hardest to take. He looked away with tears in his eyes, and Ethan let go and busied himself at re-securing him. Jared blanked his mind and let himself be manipulated.

He sat with his knees folded into his chest. His wrist cuffs were secured in front of him and attached to his ankle restraints. His leash was fixed to an eye in the solid iron bed that graced the center of the room. It wasn’t the most comfortable position but it was bearable. Ethan had drawn water from a jug and let it stand by the large open fire before adding rosewater and taking a cloth to wipe Jared. He applied firm pressure and cool water over all of Jared’s body and the young slave squeezed his eyes shut and trembled as the man’s hands worked methodically over his groin, down to his sac, between his thighs and over his flaccid cock. There was nothing erotic in the actions, just a businesslike, firm swipe. 

A dry cloth massaged the dampness away. Lastly he felt fresh dressings being applied to his wounds and Jared reopened his swollen eyelids. “Thank you, Ethan. The mess,”  he indicated the box which reeked of his shame. “Will you punish me?”

 Ethan dried his hands and regarded him solemnly. “I'll take the box,” he said. “It was my mistake if you don't mention it to Jensen.”

 “No. Not at all. You have been good to me Ethan.”  Ethan gave him a sip of water, replaced the ball gag and secured the strap easily. He refreshed the wood on the fire and stoked it. He blew out the candles and left. The doors closed and locked behind him and Jared was left exhausted and uncomfortable, alone in the dark, on a cold stone floor, watching the dancing glow of orange flames.


Jared rested his head against the side of the bed and dozed. There was no hope of sleep like this. The night passed slowly and the fire died to an ember. A faint glow of purple dawn was visible through a bay window on the far side of the room when the door finally opened and Jensen strode in. He walked past Jared without acknowledgement, removed his outer clothes and boots and sank into his bed, pulling the covers over him. He fidgeted a little before he lay still and Jared heard his soft even breath. Jared couldn't explain the cold disappointment that enveloped him or give a reason why he shuffled to be beside the nearest part of the bed to his Master and laid his head on the feather mattress, to watch him sleep.


Something tickled at the back of his neck and Jared woke with aching limbs. He was sat on the floor with his neck lying awkwardly on a soft mattress. Jensen lay stomach flat to the mattress with his intense green eyes focused on Jared’s sticky hazel orbs. He was wriggling to keep his balance as his hands unbuckled the strap of the ball-gag. He pulled it away and rubbed a thumb over Jared's sore, swollen mouth. He pushed a thumb and forefinger into the back of Jared’s jaw and forced his mouth open before grasping the soft brunette hair and pulling his head up for better access. He slid his mouth over Jared’s with an urgent, harsh pressure and his tongue explored his mouth, it licked and darted inside.

Jared remained still, in shock, and Jensen tugged at his hair and pulled back slightly. He spoke harshly, “Time to learn, Child. You will kiss me,” then softer, “just copy me until it feels right.” Jared kept his mouth open and Jensen removed his fingers. “If you bite I will whip you.”

Jared nodded his understanding and Jensen moved in again. Jared licked his lips until they were slick and allowed Jensen to slide his own bow-pink lips over them. He closed his eyes and moved his tongue against his Master’s. Jensen gripped his hair and made a high pitched whine. They stayed like that for several minutes and Jared matched his Master’s movements, allowed their tongues to tangle together and ran his own tongue over Jensen’s teeth. Jensen sucked Jared’s lower lip into his mouth and nipped at it until he drew a round drop of blood which he forced back into Jared’s mouth, letting him taste the coppery tang. Jared was panting when they parted, his mind spinning with pleasure, pain and guilt. His hazel eyes opened to Jensen’s sparkling gaze. He sat as straight as he could manage and Jensen rested his elbows on the bed and his chin on his hands.

 “Have you ever kissed anyone before me, Child?”

 Jared flushed and lowered his eyes.

 “I will have an answer.” Jensen was firm.

 “There was a maid,” Jared said. “She put her lips on me but she didn’t kiss like that. She wanted me to feel her breasts, she opened her tunic and put my hands there.”


 “I didn’t want to, so I buttoned her tunic and sent her out.”

 Jensen giggled gleefully. “Did you kiss Christian?”

 “No!” Jared looked horrified at the thought. “He’s my friend.”

 “Ethan is my friend. We kiss.” Pointed out Jensen.

 Jared shook his head and lowered his gaze.

 “What? Tell me? You must be honest with me. I said I wanted to know.”

 “I can’t,” Jared said “You’ll be angry with me.”

 “Are you going to shout or be impolite? Or do you think I will disagree?”

 “It is not your belief.”

 “So it is like politics. We can debate. Tell me.”

 “It is wrong, to kiss another man, to lie with him. It is evil and deviant and debased, and the Gods will punish you. You should not love him like that.”

 “I do not love him in any romantic sense. It is pleasurable and relaxing. It is about enjoyment and affection. It is not negative like anger or vengeance or hate, and it is not wrong. How can it be?”

 “It says so in the scriptures.”

 “It says it in your scriptures, not in ours. I don’t suppose we can be simplistic about this and say that it is not wrong for us, here, because we do not read the same books?”

 Jared shook his head miserably.

 “Did you ever want to kiss Christian but didn’t, because the scriptures said you mustn’t?”

 “No. It wasn’t like that. He looked after me.”

 “Huh. When you have dreams; you know the ones,” Jensen smirked at him “Who do you dream of? If the scriptures did not give an opinion, would you rather lie with man or woman?”

 “Does it make a difference?”

 “I will take you whatever your preference, but I would like to get to know you.”

 Jared stayed silent.

 Jensen bit at his lip in frustration. “It is not wrong Child. There is nothing wrong with you. The scriptures are written by men and the Gods will not punish you.”

 “They already have.” Jared pulled at his chains and Jensen paled.

 “That looks uncomfortable. How long have you been like that?”

 “It’s not so bad.”

 Jensen rolled off his bed and stepped over to a tall dresser. He opened a drawer and withdrew a set of keys. “Ethan left them for me. I should have checked.” He lifted Jared’s wrists. “Will you be obedient if I remove these? It would be tiresome to have to return for ten slaves.”

Relief coursed through Jared and he smiled. His eyes shone, white teeth were bared and deep dimples showed. As the cuffs separated he flung his arms around the green-eyed Prince in a hug. “They are still safe. You didn’t go back? Thank you”

He remembered his place within seconds and removed his arms, as though scorched. “I apologize. I’m sorry Master. I don’t know…”

Jensen had a strange expression on his face. He pushed Jared’s knees down and straddled his legs. He leaned close, his groin pushing down against Jared’s. “I want you to hug me again.” Jared stiffly placed his arms back around him. “Relax, like just now.” Jared grasped his warm arms around the older man.

Jensen put his own arms around Jared’s neck and pulled him close. This time, when they kissed there was no hesitation. It was sweet, wet and erotic, the sensation shot through Jared until the heat pooled in the base of his stomach and he felt his cock swell. He moaned and pushed up into Jensen, chasing the friction. Jensen ground down. Jared could feel his Master’s smile as he kissed him and hear him murmur, “You have the most incredible smile.”

As they continued to rock together, Jared moaned and gave a whimper, his eyes darkened with desire, his cheeks flushed but his brow deepened in confusion and a tear slipped from him. Jensen wriggled out of the hug and moved back.  “Sshh it’s alright. Trust me.” Jared felt Jensen pulling on the wrist cuffs and snapped back in alarm as they were clipped above his head. Jensen kissed him again and trailed one hand down his body. He teased Jared’s nipple then sucked on it, swirling his tongue on the hard nub and nipping it until Jared arched his back and gasped. Another tear ran down his cheek and Jensen wiped it away. “Don’t you see Child? You cannot control this. You are mine. I take the responsibility and the blame. There should be no shame, but if there is, it is mine. Nobody can be angry with you. You are so beautiful like this, so young and eager. Let go.”

 He placed three fingers at Jared’s lips and pushed in. Jared suckled at the digits, eyes blown, hips pushing up. He felt the hard line of Jensen’s cock straining at his undergarments and saw the engorged head as Jensen reached down and took it out. Jared’s eyes widened, it was proud and erect. It didn’t disgust him in the way he knew it should and he wanted to reach out and touch it, feel it warm and pulsing in his hand.

Jensen pulled his hand from Jared’s mouth and reached down between them. He grasped the younger man's shaft in the spit slick hand and caressed it slowly from the base to the tip. He squeezed gently around the rim and his slave moaned and pushed into it. “That’s it, so good. Fuck my hand. So good, Child. You’re so good for me.”  Jensen continued caressing it, rubbing down along the vein, twisting at the tip to see Jared throw his head back in ecstasy, straining at his cuffs and arching his spine. Jensen kissed him again, his tongue twisting hard in his mouth. Jared fucked into the fist faster, his rhythm faltering and Jensen sucked on his tongue and pulled away with moan. He nipped Jared’s ear and whispered hoarsely to him “Come for me, Child.”  The brunette gave one last shout and pushed hard into Jensen’s hand, thick fluid spurted, coating his fingers and stomach. He collapsed back into the pull of the wrist cuffs, panting and boneless.

He felt a finger at his lips and heard the command to open, he parted them thoughtlessly and was repulsed when the salty tang hit his tongue. He tried to spit it out but found himself held. “Calm! It’s just you. It’s not dirty, it’s amazing.” Jared watched Jensen lick a stripe up his own come-spattered hand, back to his lips and grin. “You taste fantastic.”

He gagged desperately and Jensen slid the finger out. “We’ll try another way.” He licked the rest of his fingers clean then angled Jared’s face to him and kissed him, the salty tang on his tongue mixed with the heady pleasure of the kiss and the sated calm that was seeping into him. It wasn’t so terrible. He felt sleepy.

“I think you’ve forgotten something, Child. You are supposed to please me.” Jensen had reached to his own cock and was fisting it in his hand.

Jared looked mortified. He forced himself to waken but he was restrained. Hazel eyes pleaded under thick lashes “Forgive me. I don’t know how.” He wiggled his fingers above his head.

Jensen gave a breathy laugh.  “C’mere.” He grabbed at Jared’s head and twisting his hand in his hair, he nuzzled into his neck, licking along the line of the collar. He latched onto soft skin with a twist of his teeth and sucked a purple bruise into it “Mine!”

Jared gasped in surprise and Jensen continued teasing the skin with his tongue as he rocked faster on his lap “Going to come over you, Child.”  Jared tensed, he felt a spatter of warm fluid on his hip and Jensen collapsed into him with a long groan. “So good for me.”  

Jared wriggled uncomfortably under him and his face contorted with disgust. Jensen nuzzled in close to him and ran his hand through the come on his hip. He trailed it, with a wet slide over Jared’s stomach and returned to scoop more and paint it on his slave’s nipples and over his lips. “You look good coated in my come. You shall stay that way for now.”  He licked his fingers again and stared up through long curled lashes at his slave. “We will breakfast and we will bathe.  Will you be able to stay calm if I release you? You can keep the cuffs on if it helps. You would look sexy feeding from my hand.”

 Jared didn’t think he would be able to bear his repulsive and debauched state without restraint. “Keep the cuffs.” he said quietly.

 “Hmm. Do you have any preferences?”

 Jared blinked lazily at him.

 “You did not thank me or ask after my pleasure. I must always be your primary concern.  Believe me, your gratification was delicious but it must never come first, excuse the term. If you cannot learn this basic rule then you will suffer at every turn. How do you think I should discipline you?”

The younger man flinched and squeezed his fists. Jensen was watching him with a steady gazed interest. Jared knew it was a test. He gathered his thoughts and remembered all the words that had been spoken by his captor over the time since he had given himself. “I trust you to choose for me Jensen. I am yours and you will do what is best for me.”

 “Good Boy. I shall not be harsh this first time. I will think on it and let you know. You learn quickly. It will get easier.”


Jensen took a piece of the soft, yellow fruit and sucked it into his own mouth, chewed and swallowed. He took another piece from the plate, reached out and placed it at Jared’s lips. “Open.”

Jared took it delicately with his teeth and chewed politely. “Thank you.”

 “Don’t expect this each day.” He presented the next piece, the juice ran down his finger and across his hand. He left his fingers on the portion as Jared took it and batted his eyelashes at the young slave. Jared licked experimentally at the finger and Jensen nodded at him. He lapped at it and sucked it into his mouth before swirling his tongue around it and releasing the vacuum with a pop. “Stars! You learn well.” Jensen shared breakfast, piece by piece with his slave, relaxed and unhurried.

“Can you read, or form letters?” Jensen asked conversationally, as he tipped coffee to his slave's mouth.

Jared sipped the hot black fluid then answered, “I can.,” and added quickly, “of a form.”

 “Have you any math?”

“Yes, Jensen”

“Huh. Of a form?” Jensen toyed with the fruit knife and pointed it at him. “You have etiquette. It is ingrained.”

Jared tried not to react.

“Quiet too. I ride out today to meet my friend. I shall be seeing your friend. Is there any message this young soldier would like to send? Have you anything you would like to tell me about the day we met?”

 Jared stared, hazel eyes defiant into green. “No.”

“Have you no care to lessen his suffering?”

“He would not thank me for it.”

“Hmm. Loyalty. Do you think he would be as loyal to you?”

“He is my Captain. He taught me the meaning of the word.”

 “You are friends though.”

“Our Queen is our concern.”

“and the Prince Jared?”

 “Well of course, Master.”

“and the Lord Morgan.”

Jared hesitated a fraction and Jensen jumped on it. “Ha! Interesting!  No matter.” He tipped his head and green-gold eyes looked close into Jared’s face. “You have no Queen, Child. She no longer has want of you.” He peeled the dressing off the brand on Jared’s chest and tapped on the raised scar. “It would bear you well to remember that.”

The intense pain that Jared felt did not come from his brand.


There was a precise tap on the door and Jensen opened it a fraction and ushered the visitor in, securing the lock behind the tall, naked and willowy blonde girl. She approached with grace and fell to the floor in front of Jensen her head touching the ground. “I attend at your request, Your Highness.”

“You may rise. I have tasks for you. The most important of these is for you to draw me a bath.”

The girl got up with barely an effort of her lithe form. She stood upright in perfect stance. Her hair shimmered on her head but her body was smooth and perfectly hairless. Jewels sparkled on her pastel leather collar and in her ears, nose and navel. Her eyes did not meet the Prince’s but she looked toward Jared. She wrinkled her nose with an air of disgust.

Jensen laughed and looked to his slave. “It is not impressed with you Child. You are somewhat rumpled and I suspect it thinks you should be drawing my bath. It is perfectly correct and since you do not know how, it will show you.” he looked at the blonde slave as he spoke.

“As you wish, Your Highness,” she bowed to one knee.

“Girl, you can stop showing off and being tiresomely correct while you are in my rooms.” There was a momentary flicker of fear in her face and Jensen rubbed at the bridge of his nose. “I just want you to do what you are told and make no fuss.”

The girl hurried to one of the doors leading from the main room and Jensen knelt to release Jared’s chains. He took both wrist cuffs off and rubbed his slave’s arms to return the blood flow. He unclipped the ankle cuffs and placed a length of chain between them. Lastly he unlocked the leash and rested it on the dresser.

He looked at Jared. “You will need your hands but you will not be able to run. The slave belongs to Ethan. It is a stickler for protocol, which can be wearisome, but it is trustworthy and straightforward. Its name is Alona and it would be unfair to terrify it. Be gentle, it is extremely well trained and can help you learn. I expect you to be friendly and take its advice. I shall be in my study so you can talk together.” Jensen pointed to a door at the opposite side of the room. Knock if you need me.”


“I cannot believe he would take you like that. You are disgusting.” Alona sniffed at him with an air of superiority. “You should wash.”

Jared remembered his Master’s instructions. “I am not permitted.”

“Oh!” she said surveying the thick fluid crusting to his body. “Oh.”

 “Is that all you will say of it?”

“First rule. It is not permitted to speak of your Master’s business. Second rule, one slave must not touch another in lust.” Alona’s tone was purposeful, “and I will have you punished if you try.”

Jared was startled, he had not thought about it. Alona was aesthetically pleasing but he had not dwelt on it or stared.

She laughed and looked to Jared’s crotch. “Goodness, most men will at least show some interest and since you are untrained I don't know whether to be relieved or insulted. At least Prince Jensen will have no guilt in taking a deviant.”

“I am not deviant.” He narrowed his eyes.

“In that case I am insulted. The bathing room is this way.” She pushed on a door. The room was warm and incense burned by the side of a small grate. There was a large, round bath sunk into the center of the room and basins stood on shined marble surfaces with bottles of gaily colored liquid. There was one large door leading to an enclosed cubicle and several, smaller sliding doors at ground level. “It will be your task to keep all of this clean. There must not be a single spot or hair.”

This was nothing like the cold and practical room he had for his ablutions when he was in Court. In the time before, when he was a Prince. “How is it so warm?” He asked.

“I’ll show you.” She took a towel and carefully slid one of the low level doors. “It is hot,” she explained. In front of them was a pulley and a platform. Several floors below them an enormous fire-place roared with flame and pots hung warming over it. Beside the crackling furnace, a red faced slave, dressed in thick fabric and sporting leather gauntlets, attached a bucket to the pulley and Alona placed a towel about her own hands, wound it up, unhooked it and tipped the hot water into the bath. See, it’s easy. The furnace serves the entire palace and all of the family have this access. You continue. I will lay out mats and towels, they're kept on this grid, to warm.”

“Was that a slave, in clothes?” Jared asked doubtfully.

 “Of course, Silly. What else?”

I didn’t think..”

“You didn’t think slaves wore clothes?  Of course they do. They do not want their slaves burned, cut, grazed or sore. How would they get their crops in and make their industries work with miserable, inefficient slaves? Slaves wear what is appropriate to their task. We wear nothing because it is our task to bring beauty, comfort and pleasure. It should make you proud, to be chosen by Prince Jensen. It is quite an accolade for a scruffy, damaged and smelly youth.”

Jared glanced sideways at her but the edges of her mouth curled upward and he did not take offense.

They worked together and for a while neither of them spoke. As the bath neared completion Jared coughed and tried to restart the conversation. “Where are you from? How did you get here?”

It is not important. I am Ethan’s property. I stay by his side.”

Jared raised his voice in frustration. “But you must have had a life before. Don’t you miss it?”

She looked to him and shrugged. “The transition was difficult but once you understand the rules, it is easy. Most slaves are better treated by their Masters than by the Elders of the Queen’s Realm and I have never gone hungry here. Ethan is a good Master. Prince Jensen is confusing, it will be difficult with him but you must persevere. I think he means well.”

His cheeks reddened. “Does Ethan expect you to, you know, be carnal?”

“Of course! It is my place to please him and whoever he wishes me to please.”

Jared gaped and his eyes became rounder. “You mean?”

She giggled gaily at his face and then softened and became more serious “Oh you poor innocent. You really did not know? Has the Physician not seen you? But of course, you cannot be seen until you are trained and prepared. Oh my. I am sorry Child.”

“Sorry for what?”

 “Your Master will explain when he is ready.”


 “Pass me the blue oil. We shall have a measure of that and then we shall inform your Master that all is ready.”  She wouldn’t look at him.


Alona guided Jared as he undressed his Master. She showed him the soft cloths and fragrant soaps. Jensen slipped under the warm water with relish and a loud exhalation. “You can leave now, Girl. Child will stay.”

Alona backed away gracefully and bowed. “Will you wish me to return, Your Highness?”

“I will let Ethan know. I thank him for your service.”

Jensen dipped his head under the surface and playfully blew a spout of water. Jared knelt by the side and lifted the different cloths experimentally, wondering if each had a particular role.

“Child, there are keys on the dresser. Bring them to me.”

Jared rose and fetched them to his Master, he frowned as he passed them into Jensen’s wet hand and Jensen gave them back.

“It perturbs you,” Jensen chuckled. “You wonder why I sent you to fetch the key to your own restraints? But you already knew it was there. I took time to observe when you thought I was closeted in my study. It was an interesting experiment. I wondered what you would do and you surpassed my expectations. You keep doing that. Now unlock your ankle cuffs and take them off, then put your face close to mine.”

Jared did as he was told. Jensen snaked his hands from under the water and pulled him in with an enormous splash and a belly-laugh. He pulled the slave to his chest and growled in his ear. “You obeyed my order to stay covered in my come and you have no idea how sexy that was. If I did not have commitments I would play with you, but we are at war and I have duties, so we will wash. It shall be quicker and far more fun to do it together, so, I shall share a secret and you will wash my back and rinse my hair.”

The slave listened expectantly.

“I have not a clue what each cloth is for. Undertake the task however you think it should be performed and I will be none the wiser.”

Jensen settled back and allowed Jared to soap him with careful concentration and a soft touch. No foam stung his eyes as the slave rinsed his hair and massaged his head.

He sighed contentedly. “You are a spy sent to distract me from my duties Child.” He cracked open one eye and reassured Jared “A joke, Child.”

Jensen washed Jared himself. He soaped him efficiently and fast and made sure his hair squeaked with cleanliness. After Jared had toweled them both dry, he placed his slave by one of the basins and Jared sat rigid still while his Master shaved him with an open razor. “One day you will perform this for me, though I think not right away. There are more considerations for you, but I must be away and they will wait.” He shaved himself and Jared helped to dress him.

Jensen fetched Jared’s leash and clipped it back to his collar. He fixed it once more to the eye on the end of the bed and threw the wrist and ankle cuffs to him. “Put them on and fasten your ankles.”

Jared’s expression was one of hurt. Jensen checked the cuffs before fastening his wrists in front of him with a short chain. He threw a fur on the floor for him to sit on. “You have to believe me, it is easier for you this way. I shall send someone in with meals and to allow you to toilet. You will have your punishment to occupy you.”  He produced rough parchment and several fine pencils. The first sheet had three phrases, written in Misan. ~Thank you Master~ How may I please you? ~I beg your forgiveness.~ Written underneath each phrase was its pronunciation and translation. Jensen pointed at each and enunciated it clearly for him. “You shall repeat these in neat lettering until the paper is filled. You will be able to say each when I return, at which time, you will beg my forgiveness. You may ask Ethan or Alona to repeat the words when they attend  you.”

He turned on his heel to leave and Jared said, in what he hoped sounded like poorly spoken Misan, “Thank you Master.” He added to it in his own tongue, almost as a whisper, “Be careful and return safe, Jensen.” He surprised himself that he meant it.

Jensen looked down on him with a soft expression and a small smile. “Be good, Child” He slammed the door to his rooms behind him and turned the key in the lock.

Chapter Text

He lay flat on his belly with the parchment and stuck his tongue out in concentration. It was a long time passed that he had been given lines to complete by his tutor. He formed the words neatly and roundly. He was not sure why he was eager for the script to be perfect, except he was bored. Jared was disappointed as he came to the bottom of the last parchment. He stacked it carefully then sat up and considered what he could do next.

He looked about Prince Jensen’s bedroom. It was basic but comfortable. The oversize iron bed dominated the space. It was unmade, its silken sheets were thrown back with a soft eiderdown crumpled atop of them. There were several large, soft chairs, a dressing room, a dresser, and shelves of heavy books. Useful size tables were dotted about with a peculiar assortment of carelessly abandoned items. He catalogued open books, quills and ink, a threaded needle, a maid’s hair clips, some half dead flowers, candles, combs, clean dressings (for his wounds)  and bundles of herbs. Paintings graced the walls, no squinting Lords or victorious battles here, instead there were calming landscapes and a portrait of excitable hounds that made him heartsick for his own dogs. There was a leather-topped, high, wooden bench in a dark corner of the room. As his eyes adjusted Jared could make out strong hooks jutting from it and he understood its purpose with fright. There were strongly forged iron loops at regular intervals and irregular heights, throughout the room.

A layer of dust stirred in gentle currents of air. It was not a neat area and Jared puzzled whether it was in its natural state or whether the cleaning had been postponed due to his presence. He felt an urge to tidy up. As a Prince he had never done so. It was considered demeaning and there were servants to undertake such work. He stood and tested the length of his leash. He shuffled to the first table but could not find a rag with which to wipe the dust. He returned to the side of the bed and smoothed the sheets as best he could, plumped the pillows and straightened the eiderdown with a shake and a flurry, sneezing as dust overtook him. He couldn’t reach the opposite side of the bed but he realized, as he leaned over it, that his leash allowed him to lie or sit on the bed. It would be more comfortable and he wondered if he should ask, but he didn’t honestly need to be told that he was not permitted on the furniture.

He sat back on the floor and pondered the bay window on the far side of the room. It was barred, to prevent slaves escaping or enemies intruding, he wasn’t sure which, probably both. It had a soft, cushioned window seat and he longed for the privilege of sitting cozily in its corner, taking its view. He could make out a blue sky with low scudding grey clouds and weak sunshine. The top of the Adomisa Royal Ensign fluttered easily in a breeze, and a falcon soared until it was just a dot in the distance. As the bird disappeared Jared’s eyes lighted back on the table and the clips and needle that rested there.


Jared’s tutor always said that idle hands make the devil’s tool. In retrospect he was probably right.

His fingers bled as he removed the last cuff. There was raw skin on his ankles and the heated pain in his wrist reminded him that he had chafed his brand. He examined the raised code curiously, an orderly death sentence, burned into his skin. He pictured homecoming, the joy of being in his own Realm coupled with the terror of possible discovery and the quick, brutal death of a probable traitor. He tried to remember when this had become the law, the normality that his people faced, but that history lesson evaded him. He shook off the thought and reached to the clip of the leash, shocked to find it had never been secured. It made a faint ‘snick’ as it released and Jared was free.

Therein lay the problem. At the beginning, when he had started this, with a dubious prod of a hairgrip in a lock, he had not considered it a realistic goal. There was anger, curiosity and an all consuming need to take some control back over his life. He worked through scenarios as he picked the locks. He pictured a daring escape or an adventure in espionage with a hero’s welcome. Those ideas faded with the reality of the penalty for deviancy and the unhappy knowledge in his heart, that Morgan didn’t want him back. He had imagined alternatives and continued to fiddle and poke. He could run and hide within the Kingdom but what then? He could choose a martyr’s death, one with fire, revenge and death-filled retribution. He stood by the window, no longer desperate for the comfort of its seat. Below him, organized soldiers, ordinary people and slaves went about their business. None of them were singly guilty for the atrocities against his Realm. He hadn’t a fixed plan for destruction. He watched children dodge and run as they played chase. Killing innocent civilians wasn’t an honorable act and he doubted it would result in a quick demise.

All of his daydreams ended with the enslavement of ten citizens he had promised to keep safe and none of them achieved a significant purpose. Furthermore, revenge is an abstract concept when you cannot find a focus for your anger. There wasn’t a single person involved in his predicament he honestly wished to suffer, not even his Master. It occurred to him that he probably relinquished control of his life a long time before Jensen found him, if he ever truly had any. There was a desolate clarity to his conclusion. There was no purpose in escape. He had nowhere and nobody to run to. Jensen and this room were his whole world and the only safety he knew. Except, he had screwed up, he couldn’t be trusted and there would be awful consequences. He grabbed at the cuffs, ready to reinstate them but the locks had been forced to an angle and would turn no further without a key.


Jared was searching through the contents of the dresser when Ethan entered carrying a tray of food. There were tear stains on the young slave’s cheeks and his eyes and nose were red. He startled and shrank back into the wall with terror, awaiting the moment Ethan raised the alarm and summoned guards.

Ethan set the tray on a nearby surface and locked the door behind him. He crossed his arms over his chest and looked at Jensen’s slave for explanation. Jared froze. He doubted kneeling would save him. Ethan approached him warily and stopped an arm’s length away. He held a set of keys for Jared to see. “Looking for these?”

“There was dust. I wanted to clean. What will happen to me?” sniffed Jared wearily and sank to the floor with his hands over his head.  It took a few moments to realize that he had replied in perfect, fluent, Misan. He waited for Ethan’s reaction, unable to breathe.

“Well it is a relief that we can all stop pretending, Child.  Do you honestly think we did not suspect?”

Jared’s eyes widened and Ethan continued. “To be a part of the Queen’s Guard, at such a young age, you had to be both privileged and exceptional, with not a little learning. There were moments I think too, on your journey, that you spoke in your delirium, but The Prince has not discussed it.”

“No! My Master set me learning this morning,” Jared spoke in Misan.

“Perhaps he was hoping for your honesty.”

Jared slumped further and rubbed his eyes. “I have made a mess of it all Ethan. He will never trust me. What will I do?”

“Stay there Child.” Ethan busied himself in the bathing room, returning with fresh water and a bottle of ointment. He rested them on one side of the window-seat and settled next to them.

“Sit by me. I want to tell you a story,” said Ethan. Jared shuffled apprehensively forward and knelt at his side. Ethan rested a hand to his hair. “It is the first time I have seen you clean. You are lovely and I think, very gentle. Jensen has a good eye. I wouldn’t want him to lose you.” He wet a cloth. “Give me your foot.” He cleaned and dressed Jared’s injuries as he spoke;

“I was five when soldiers came to my orphanage. I don’t remember it well. I have flashes of memory, the flames and sounds of battle. There was fighting all around me and I could not run from the fire. A soldier ran into the flames and pulled me away. I remember being carried, running and then quiet. I don’t know why the soldier kept me but I was young and I like to think he could not find a safe place to lay me down and would not leave me. He brought me all the way across the water and I stayed by his side for a year. He looked after me but it was not ideal. One day we met with many other troops, there were tents and fine horses and I met a child my own age. He was a cocky little boy, I suppose we both were. He traveled with a large man, he called Papa. He brought Papa over by the hand and said I want him. I laughed, but it was Jensen, his Papa was King, and he got me.”

Ethan rinsed his cloth and continued. “Of course, nothing that Jensen ever got has come without a price. We went everywhere together and our friendship was encouraged. We even slept in the same bed. When I was six, it was decided I was old enough to take a beating and Jensen loved me enough for it to be effective.”

“You were his whipping boy?” Jared encouraged.

“It sounds terrible but it wasn’t so bad. At that young age it seemed outrageous and I railed against it. When I was seven I took to fighting and screaming and declared I would run away. Jensen’s mother was still alive then. Each time, she would take a rope, bind my hands and feet together and lock me in a room alone.” Ethan smiled fondly, “Of course the knots were always just a little loose. I would work at the bindings, all the while plotting my escape, working out every little detail. It would chafe and burn while I thought and thought. When I finally got free, it was always with the same inevitable conclusion. It was for nothing, because I had nowhere to go. Even if I did, I didn’t want to go there without Jensen. Every time I panicked and tried to tie the rope back, but she always knew.”

“What happened then?”

“She would untie me and give me a kiss. Then I would get the beating of my life and Jensen would take me away and comfort me.” Ethan finished applying ointment, sat back and produced the keys. “Now, shall we get you comfortable and put those cuffs back on you?”

Jared sat meekly for Ethan to secure him. He ate his meal as instructed. Before Ethan left he knelt before him. “Thank you. Ethan. I beg your forgiveness.”

“It is not my forgiveness to give, Child.”

“Will you tell my Master?”

“But of course.”

The door locked behind Ethan.


Jared stared into space. The minutes became hours and each one was longer than he had ever imagined. As the day stretched he focused on a spot on the wall and stared at it, trying to disappear into the safety of his mind but the butterflies in his stomach fluttered and barged and refused to let him leave. When darkness fell he still saw the spot, in the flicker of the firelight. The next day was longer and the one after that interminable. He fidgeted in his chains and died a little inside and the spot on the wall never moved.

Jensen arrived in the cold, silent time of the next night. He blew in as a whirlwind with a dangerous glower and a smoke tinged presence. Jared sank to his knees with his head to the floor and barely uttered his plea for forgiveness before his leash was unclipped and he was dragged, by his collar, into candlelight.  There was a reflection on cold steel as his Master wielded a sword over his head. It whistled down, scything into the floor within a whisker of his face. It embedded itself, reverberating with the action.

A hand tightened in his hair and his head was yanked to stare into the hilt of the sword. Jared looked into the shining, crimson ruby of his own weapon.

“No lies. No clemency. You will tell me from where this blade came.”

Jared trembled but he had considered this question. He swallowed and pictured Christian. It seemed as if their friendship had been a whole other lifetime ago but Christian was his Ethan. The person who knew him best and the one Jared knew most.

“I took it with me from the field at De’ith, Master.”

“And its owner? What of the man who dropped the sword?”

“He would never have let it go of his own free will.”

Jensen swayed back, pale and drawn, and studied his slave’s face. “You saw him?”

“No, Master.”

Jensen roughly pushed Jared's head away. He stood for a moment and rubbed his hands through his windswept hair and over his face. He turned down the covers of his bed, the ones that Jared had smoothed, with good intention, all those days before. His voice was cold and harsh. “Crawl! Get out of my sight, Slave.”

Jared curled himself at the foot of the cold iron bedstead. The bed settled above him and soon after he heard the rattle and creak of the door. Ethan crossed the space. He placed a fur over Jared’s bare and shaking body before sitting beside Jensen. Jared heard faint whispers and Ethan lifted his feet and got into bed with Jensen.

Chapter Text

Jared woke to the sound of soft argument and the loud creak of the bed above him. “No.” Ethan was firm.

“Please.”  Jensen’s voice was child-like, pleading with Ethan.

“We have both outgrown this Jen. It is inappropriate and unhealthy.”

“I need you.”

“You have me, always, but this, this is dependence. You will always use me and I will always crave it.”

 Then give in, come back to bed Ethan.”

“I don’t want us to need it any more. I shouldn’t have come.”

“I can’t be alone. Not right now.”

 Jared heard heavy breath and the sound of gentle suction, the slide of their lips on each other, then Ethan again “How many dead?”

“They took all their prisoners and raided our hospitals, all our injured, in the night. They built a pyre, the size of a mountain. The flames lit the sky for miles. The screams of the dying ... the smell…. and we couldn't reach them, couldn't stop it.” There was a heavy pause, “There are no bodies to return, just lists to be made of the ones that cannot be found.” The Prince’s voice was cracked, broken. “It wasn’t the worst of it Eth. There is far worse.”

 "I know. Of course, I knew right away.”

 “Just stay with me until morning. I can order you to.”

 “No. You can’t and you won’t. You have Child now. You can put it in your bed and share some damn warmth with it, because what it has now is downright cruel and I never would have thought it of you.”

“I can't bear to look at it. You don’t understand.” Jensen sounded tearful. 

“No I don’t, and you will not let me in. So sort it out. Deal with it and sell it, or deal with it and make it presentable. My offer still stands.”

Jared squeezed his eyes shut and lay still as Ethan left. He feigned sleep even as the warm breath of his Master whispered over him and he felt an emerald stare burn into him.

Long after the presence had left him Jared lay with his eyes closed and the words that had been spoken haunted him “They built a pyre.” It could not be true, surely it was a trick, a ruse to draw him out, but the distress had been real and the smoky tinge of roasted meat lingered where Jensen’s clothes lay.


Sunrise found Jensen pacing at the bay window, not a glance to his dishevelled slave. Jared was at loss, his stomach roiled with fear of his Master’s mood and of the punishment he knew was due. He had no permission to speak, or even be seen. He had no clue what he could do to make things right.

The sounds of shouting, quick footsteps in the halls and an insistent, heavy hammering at the door relieved the problem. His Master took off at a run. He left Jared in chains, yet unleashed, and with the door ajar. Jared did not move from his position until the hours had passed, his throat was sore with thirst and his stomach contracted in pain. He crawled awkwardly to the bathing room to use the cubicle and draw a little water from one of the basins. He felt weak and it was exhausting. He rested in the room’s warmth before making his way back to his self-imposed place at the base of the iron bed. He couldn’t help feeling a sliver of hope that the Palace was under attack. That his army was here to rescue him, but he knew it was a pipe-dream. He wondered if he was allowed to look from the window but he was sure his unleashed state was an oversight and had no wish to incur further wrath.

He could see sky. The clouds drifted and made shapes. His mind floated with them, inventing worlds and stories. He remembered a time, far distant when his mother had been brought, in a bath chair, to the Palace Lawns. He had settled in her lap and they had looked to the blue and named the shapes on the horizon. She no longer left her bed. The Queen was but a ghost, resting on silk and lace, waited on by an anxious, grey nurse. Jared wondered if she was still alive. There would be nobody to bear the news to him when she died and no way to say the final farewell. He wondered if his young sister, the Princess Meghan would speak his goodbye for him. In his heart, he knew she would.

Jared gradually became aware of a deep silence settled over the entire fortress. No sound of footsteps, no distant child’s laughter or bustling crowd. The fluttering ensign dropped below his sight and a single bugle called a clear and slow lament. A human wail started in the grounds below the window and grew in force joined by sobs and subdued chatter. Hushed footsteps restarted in the hallways, He understood that shoes were not being worn and thought he understood why.

Jared waited for his Master to return.


A burly slave trailed behind Jensen with a large dog cage which he placed in the room. Jensen did not speak, simply flicked a hand in dismissal, locked the door after him and turned to Jared. Green eyes were tinged red and burned bright with emotion. His face was stone-grey, full of cold threat, lips drawn into a snarl. He bore down on the younger man and Jared scuttled backwards hitting his back on iron. He pleaded for forgiveness, repeating it in terror. Fingers gripped like steel and he was flung across the room to the leather-topped bench.

Jensen’s first sentence was like a blow to the gut. “We executed Captain Kane.”

“No!” Jared’s heart shattered.

“Shut up! Bend over and spread you legs.” Jared couldn’t move and Jensen kicked his legs apart, attaching his cuffs to the loops on the bench.

“No, no, no, no, please Master.” Jared was shaking. Jensen forced the slave over the bench at his waist and stretched his hands tight to the far end of it.

Prince Jensen's voice was barely controlled and menacing, “I can do whatever I like. Shall I burn you alive or chop off your hands? Is it fun? Your countrymen seem to think so.” 

“No, Master.” Jared fought to control his breath. He turned his head to the side but he could not see Jensen from his position.

Jensen stepped back and removed his belt. Jared sensed him pausing, “Did you learn anything, Child?” Jared closed his eyes and tried to calm himself, to find a suitable answer but he was not sure that Jensen was referring to his slave’s failure. There had been overheard conversation as well as the discovery that the Nation was in mourning. He was silent too long. There was a whistle of displaced air and the rigid leather belt hit him viciously on the back of his thighs. He gave a high pitched cry of surprise and hitched his breath with the sting. His hair was twisted in Jensen’s fist and his head raised painfully to look at the furious man. “Thank me” His Master hissed.

 “Th, thank you, M m master,” Jared stuttered.  His muscles tensed with the unconscious effort to escape the ties and strong fingers. “Please,” he begged, but he knew there would be no reprieve.

“What did you learn?”

Jared had no time to think. He could only answer honestly. “I learned I had nowhere to go. I learned my place is by your side. I learned that I am yours.”

“How many lashes should I give you?”

“I no longer have an opinion Master.” 

An open handed slap landed on his upturned cheek, clipping his lip and drawing blood. “Don’t disrespect me.”

 Jared faltered.

“So be it.” A ball was forced behind his teeth and the strap fixed on the back of his head. He felt the slide of leather against his back before Jensen raised his arm high and with muscles taut, began a relentless assault.

There was no mercy as the welts burned deep into his thighs and again on his bare ass, lashes rained down on his back and shoulders. As lashes criss-crossed his bare flesh, the sticky seep of blood dampened his skin and dripped. Tears and snot slid wet down the slave’s face and he whined his distress. Jared lost count in his head at twenty, the agony engulfed all of his senses and he felt his body give way, held only by the cuffs. He became silent.

Jensen hadn’t spoken again. There was the sound of panting as he unleashed his full force in each strike and a suggestion of a hitch and a whimper in his breath. Eventually the belt slipped to the ground with a sickening wet thump and Jensen leaned breathless beside his slave. He lifted his slave's head once more and looked into the traumatized, pale and tear stained face. Jared’s eyes were barely focused but he could see tears and wretchedness on his Master’s face. Jensen broke the silence. “Why are you still so beautiful to me?” Jared’s head fell limp and Jensen cradled it in his hands. He leaned in and licked at the blood around the gag. He kissed Jared's eyelids and his cheeks and then licked around his jaw and around his neck, above and below the collar. “Why do you do this to me?”

Jared drifted in and out of awareness. He felt the hot sting as Jensen ran his hands over the lashes on his back and the soothing wet slick of his tongue that followed in their wake. He felt a cool wet cloth and the slide of ointment over burning skin. His eyes snapped open in horror as he felt his wounded ass cheeks being parted and oiled fingers chasing the rim of his puckered hole. His body found a renewed vigor to strain and wriggle in his bonds and he mewed behind the gag.

“Ssh. You’re mine. You made the deal. You consented to this.” Two fingers rammed forcefully inside the tight rings of muscle and Jared tried to move his hips away from the violation that bruised and scraped the delicate flesh, but he found only the bench. His cock rubbed against the smooth, sweat slicked leather and unwelcome sensation coursed through him.

“Do you think my people consented to what they got?  Do you think they wanted it?” Jensen's tone was vengeful and bitter. Fingers withdrew and the blunt thickness of Jensen’s shaft was forced in. It felt huge, surely an impossible fit as it forced the clenching muscle, but it found a way and tore inside. The pain was unbearable and the young slave bit down on the ball in his mouth with a high pitched squeal. His most intimate passage was stretched and filled, hands grabbed harshly at his hips yanking him onto the unwelcome cock. There was the tiniest relief at finding Jensen had made an effort to slick his length with oil, but it was never going to be enough. It stuttered and stopped then scraped and burned its way deeper. As Jared felt he would split, Jensen withdrew, only to drive himself viciously deep, his balls slapping against Jared’s wounded globes with agonizing sting. Jensen fucked callously, claiming Jared in every stroke, grinding flares of pain into his tender, stinging flesh. He bit a necklace of purple rounds on his neck and when that was covered in bruises continued on the curve of his shoulders. He thrust into him, fucking him raw until it was over with an animal cry and a splash of wet warmth inside him. Jensen withdrew and come dripped, with the ooze of blood, down the inside of Jared’s thigh. He felt his gag and cuffs being released and fell limply to the floor.

In one last, humiliating gesture Jensen gathered his strength and dragged his slave to the dog cage. He pushed and kicked at him until Jared was trembling uncontrollably on the floor of the barred kennel, covered in sweat, bruises, blood and come. Jensen locked him in and staggered into the bathing room.


When Jared came-to he was curled in a tight ball on the floor of a metal cage. Searing pain tormented every inch of his flesh, his asshole was raw with agony, shooting pains sliced through his insides and up into his stomach. Every movement was an excruciating torture. There was an itchy crust on the inside of his legs and the sensitive skin of his crotch was chafed. Fingerprint bruises and purple bites decorated him.

The cage was closer to the fireplace than he remembered and he was at least warm enough, without being hot.  A cup of cordial had been placed through the bars. He reached to it and drank greedily, wincing as it touched his sensitive lips and then scrunching his face as he registered the bitter taste. He raised his head slowly, groaning at the ache.

“It will ease the pain.” the comment was whispered in a shaky voice.  

Jensen was sat on the floor by the fire. His knees were drawn to his chest and his arms circled his knees, drawing them tight and making him appear small. His face was pale, freckles standing starkly against them. His eyes were wide and red rimmed. His hair was messy but not mussed and Jared realized, with a start, that it had been cut, not neatly but in untidy clumps, as if it had been grabbed in a frenzy and shorn with a razor. His Master was rocking back and forth, agitated and nervous.

“My father loved your Queen. He would have done anything for her. She is so beautiful. She has the most incredible eyes.” Jensen bit his lip hard enough to make it bleed.

He squinted at his Master through blurred eyes and distracting pain. There was something bothering him about the way that Jensen was sitting, some warning sounding in his mind, but his senses were hazy. “I feel so tired,” Jared said. He thought Jensen looked sleepy too and wondered, why, after all he had done, he cared.

“I met her once. I wanted her to be my mother and I played with the Prince. I never wanted anything as much as I wanted Jared. I cried when he left. I cried every day for a week and I cried again when the Queen got ill and could not marry Papa.” Jensen’s breath was erratic, there was a stain pooling on the floor around his feet.

“Papa died today. Lord Morgan took his hands and sent him back bleeding. Said he shouldn’t have tried to take what wasn’t his. He couldn’t be saved. Maybe the Queen will join him soon. They can be together.”

Jared’s eyes filled with tears but they were not for his own pain.  

Jensen had stopped rocking and seemed instead, to be swaying.  We lost it all at De’ith. We lost our last hope and the one we counted on most.”  Jensen rubbed his face in his hands. “We lost Prince Jared. Killed at De’ith they said. Ruined him and returned a charred body, identified and neat. Lord Morgan will marry Princess Meghan and this will not stop until he has destroyed us. I couldn't stop any of it, I had the most potent weapon in my care and I didn't use it. Now it's worthless.”  Tears were sliding down freckled cheeks in rivulets.

The green-eyed Prince crawled unsteadily to the cage and reached in to touch Jared’s face with delicate fingers. He tipped his head and stared at him. “You know, you have your mother’s eyes.” A large drip of blood hit the floor of the cage. Jared registered the deep stains on the cloth of Jensen’s tunic and gripped his Master’s hand tight to prevent him retreating.

Jared yelled for help as loudly as his abused body would allow him. He clawed at the cage, rattling and banging and when it would not unlock and when Jensen was leaning on the other side of the bars, too weak to fight him, Jared reached through, tore at the fabric of his tunic and awkwardly applied makeshift tourniquets.

 The rattle in the door seemed to take an age. Then there were hands snatching Jensen from him “What did it do? Get it off him.” Angry eyes peered at him.

“Need help.” muttered Jared. He closed his eyes and let himself slip into the black.

Chapter Text

Jared was being watched. He lay inert on the thin mattress and stared at the pattern on the rough hewn stone wall.

He remembered Ethan carrying him away from Jensen, snatching him out of the cage, cradling him in his arms and taking him away from the loud, accusing voices to somewhere quiet and warm. When he  thought about it, the small man's strength surprised him. There had been blood, altogether too much blood, Jensen soaked in it, Jared dripping it from his own wounds, it was on the floor, soaked into the rugs, smeared over Ethan's skin and clothes. He had no memory of being cleaned and bandaged then brought to this room or cell, whatever it was, he hadn't asked and nobody offered the information.

Alona had visited, brief and formal, she had kneeled by his side to tell him that he had been exonerated of all wrong doing and that Jensen lived. The physician had examined him. Jared endured the shame of being rolled on his side and his cheeks pulled apart while fingers probed at the sore and puffed hole. There had been somebody watching them. The physician had displayed the intimate wounds and discussed the pity that this pretty slave was not a virgin and would not be suitable for Court. He had slathered ointment on his abused, puckered muscle and forced fingers inside to apply a thick layer on the most private damage. They talked about the slave’s reduced value like he was a slab of meat at market, and Jared cringed at the indignity.

Different slaves attended him. They brought his food, removed his pot, provided a wash cloth, rubbed ointment on him and turned him over to tend his internal wounds as he cringed in shame.

Nobody spoke to him.

A high barred window showed the progression of the days and it was now ten dawns since Jensen had whipped and taken him. The first days he had stayed belly to the mattress, unable to move. The physical pain eased but Jared was in Hell. He was hurt and wanted to be angry. He wanted to take his sword and run Jensen through but when he imagined the action it always ended with his Master’s desolate expression, the broken, rasped, words and the smell of charred meat.

He knew his welts marked him as a troublesome slave, one worthy of punishment. He understood why no other slave would speak to such a disgrace, one with matted hair and marked skin, but it stung more than any wound that Jensen had laid on him. In his loneliness he missed the cold familiarity of Jensen’s room. He missed his Master’s voice, any voice. He yearned for the touch of fingers in his hair with the comfort of the simple words “Good Boy.”

Jared thought maybe he had lost his mind. That none of it was real. He was back in the room of his own Palace and Meghan would come dashing in, without so much as a knock on his door and he would wake from this dream and growl at her to stop pestering him.

The other person in the room shifted and cleared their throat. Jared remained facing the cold stone wall. Let them speak for his attention. He needed the comfort of a voice, any voice, be it angry or sad or mellow. Anything to prove that he lived, that he still was.

“Come here, Child.”

A heavenly voice, sweet music of speech and yet; It was Jensen and it was not. 

Jared uncurled and rose stiffly, only to fall to his knees before the man. No slave this, a man of his own height who reached his manicured fingers to lift the slave’s face to look into curious deep green eyes. It was Jensen and yet, it was not. “What is the magic that you weave, Child?”

“I beg forgiveness Master, I do not understand the question.” Jared’s voice was hoarse with disuse.

“You are in every way unsuitable, and yet…” the eyes searched his face, gentle fingers cupped his chin, and a thumb rubbed the scratchy line of his jaw. “Are you recovering from your wounds, Child?”

“Yes Master.”

“You may call me Your Majesty. You have no Master.”

Jared bit back the sounds of his disappointment. His only purpose was to bring comfort, beauty and pleasure. Maybe there had been another agenda but he remembered the word, worthless. He had failed in all ways and was disowned. It was much as he had suspected but the confirmation crushed him nevertheless.  He dropped his eyes in shame. “Yes, Your Majesty.”

“Look at me, Child.” Jared reluctantly returned his gaze. “There are no laws, but mistreatment of slaves, within these walls, will not be tolerated. Your Master has not removed you from his service. His ownership was revoked.”

Jared frowned and shook his head. There had never been any sugar-coating to his deal, slaves had no rights and owners could do what they wished. “I don’t understand. I was disobedient. I took off my cuffs. Why? Your Majesty.”

“The punishment was not just. You should not have to look upon him or bear his touch. He asked to offer you this small mercy.”

“Please, Your Majesty. What will happen to me?”

“You are an attractive and healthy young slave. You shall fetch a fair price at a fair market.”

Jensen would sell him? Offer him to the highest bidder? He had taken everything and everyone that he knew, condemned him to an afterlife of Hell and now he would withdraw the only familiarity he had? Jared couldn’t stop to consider the depth of fucked-up implied by the sudden realization that he favored a cold and brutal familiarity within castle walls, over a lonely, unknown fate elsewhere, he just knew that his Master’s rejection plunged him into a deeper despair than he had yet known.

He gathered what inner strength he still possessed, it wasn’t a time for tears or silent submission, he had learned that they got him nowhere. Jared reassessed his visitor. “May I ask another question, Your Majesty?”

The King watched him with unnatural interest, “You may, Child.”

“Why is it you who bears this news to a mere slave? Is there anyone to listen to my plea?”

“You are a bright thing, you are a slave and according to rules and precedent there is nobody to listen to your words. Perhaps I came for you to listen to mine. Maybe a new King can trade pleas with a slave because there is no-one to correct him.”

“You would ask something of me, Your Majesty?”

“I would ask you to reject your Master’s mercy. I would have you return to him. I would ask that you return his spirit to me because I fear that you are the only one who can.”

Jared did not care, he was certain he could not fret for the man and yet he needed to know. “What ails him? Surely there is Ethan?”

Joshua took his hand from Jared’s face and sat on the floor, cross legged in front of the slave. “I shall be direct with you, Child. It is a bold thing for a King to put his brother’s life into the hands of a slave, who was an enemy but a moon ago, but I am quite desperate in this and am assured of your extraordinary nature. You will understand that a betrayal of this strange trust will result in more pain than you have ever experienced.”

“I understand, Your Majesty.

“Physically, Jensen is recovered, spiritually we cannot mend him. Ethan believes you have chance where we do not succeed and he has an unerring sense in affairs concerning Jensen. It baffles me that you did not take revenge when you had the opportunity to see Jensen die slow, that in fact you put yourself at risk to prevent it. You should hate me and everything I stand for, yet even now you are gentle mannered.” Joshua paused.

Why exactly did he save Jensen? It wasn’t something that Jared had allowed himself to dwell on.  He hadn’t been angry, not when it was raw and fresh. He had simply acted. There had been overwhelming pain, fear and anxiety, maybe pity and something more that was elusive and unnameable.

 Jared allowed him to continue.

“ In this one thing you have no obligation to accept, you may choose to go to market this day and never speak of it. I cannot erase what my brother has done to you and the path is difficult if you stay. There will be no suggestion or rumor of Jensen’s melancholy and you will be presented as an ordinary Court slave. Our enemies cannot become aware of our temporary loss and our own Lords must not lose their morale. You may think on it before you reply.”

Jared nodded. He closed his eyes and thought of his mother. In the ten dawns he had slept in this room, her face had been close in his mind, her wisdom closer.  “Jared, your birthright is not only a privilege, but a responsibility. Royal Heritage is given to bear both the joys and the sins of The Realm.”

 “..cut off his hands….They built a pyre….he will not stop… have your mother’s eyes”

All Jared's blood could not wash away the sins of his Realm, the penance Jensen had taken from him seemed paltry for the enormity of the crimes Jensen had described, but maybe Jared could find a way to stand firm against the Sinful. In this Palace, in Prince Jensen, he retained the faintest hope of influence. It was a reason to remain though maybe not the only one.

“I should like to exchange my plea, Your Majesty.”

“You are a forward young thing,” King Joshua laughed. “Go ahead.”

“I have already lost everything, I have nothing to achieve with anger. Without your brother, I have no place. I gave myself as a slave and I understood the nature of the gift. The pain has been hard to bear but it is no less than the pain that Jensen feels. Your Majesty, I wish to be returned to my Master’s care.”

And how did that work? he wondered. Why make such a reckless decision? He wouldn’t be able to bear such treatment again, didn’t even know how he would look in his Master’s eyes or remain still with his touch, and yet it was a touch he somehow craved. Not the vengeful grasp, but the soft kisses on his neck and the solid warmth of his Master’s chest to lean upon.

King Joshua stood and paced the small room. “A slave is defenceless. It is never acceptable to use it in anger. I give Jensen this one last chance but I will not let him repeat his action. For now, you will accept direction, not only from Jensen, but from Ethan, and The Princess Mackenzie. There may be occasion when we will require you to go against your Master’s will and that will be a test for you.” He gave a slight chuckle “and we shall try to be consistent. You may use the term Master or Mistress, for all, as appropriate.”

“As you wish, Master.”

 The new King tapped at the door for his exit. “Oh and Child, you will not attend Jensen until you have bathed and prepared. Ethan will ensure that such matters are your first lesson.”

“Master?” The word felt good on his tongue

The King tutted with impatience.

“I am truly sorry for the loss of your father and for the deaths of your countrymen.”


Jared held himself with poise and folded neatly to his knees atop the stool that Ethan had placed near the bed. There was a shimmer of oil on his shaved body. His carefully styled, silky locks fell softly over his collar. He carried the faint perfume of zest of lime and sandalwood.  Ethan took his leash and placed it on Jensen’s hand, folding The Prince’s fingers around it in a loose hold.

“Your stubborn slave would not leave you, Jensen. It has insisted that it tend you and we are going to let it. If you want to complain or change the arrangement then you will at least need to speak.”

Jensen was still, the covers neatly pulled to his breast and his eyes staring upward with an infrequent blink of his thick lashes.

Ethan bowed out of the room and locked the door. Jared wondered if he was locking them in, or the rest of the Palace out. He reached to Jensen’s face and stroked his cheek lightly. The action was easier than he imagined, it did not invoke fear or disgust. Jensen was pale, warm and vulnerable. Jared wore the collar but he was in control of the moment.  “I know it is not my right, but I forgive you.”

Jensen turned his face away from Jared.

“You must think me naïve. I suppose I am. Well that ends. I am yours, I am not equal but I am no mannequin. We once agreed we would try to understand each other. Well, this is me, here, learning. I need you to keep your side of the deal, Jensen.” He took Jensen’s hand in his own and lapsed into silence. They sat while the sun rose to its peak and began its descent beyond hills that Jared had never visited.  When Jensen would not sip at his drink Jared soaked a sponge and dripped it in his mouth, stroking the newly styled short hair and whispering reassurance.

Jared sat with him through that day and the next. Hushed consultations with Ethan and Alona had Cookie providing honey rich liquid, broths, custards and sieved fruit. He studied the books on Jensen’s shelves and picked out several volumes of well thumbed poetry, he found the most dog eared pages and read them aloud. It wasn’t a chore, he found Jensen’s taste in literature oddly similar to his own and some of the pieces he read were old favorites. He kept up a one sided conversation while he washed and soothed the fading red slashes that savagely marred Jensen’s arms. He didn’t keep track of his insignificant chatter, simply allowed himself to meander through descriptions of the day, as viewed through the bay window, and memories of childhood, family and hounds. During most of this attention Jensen lay mute, with an unfixed gaze, but every now and again Jared would catch a sly glance in his direction and on one occasion, as he described an unfortunate event involving his hounds, a loud bugle and a manure ridden byre, there was a suggestion of a smile and a rare glint in Jensen's eyes.


Candles burned, firelight that danced in the grate lit the man’s frail beauty and Jared could not reconcile it with the one who had wrought such fury on him. He saw the man who had nestled close by the camp fire, the one who had kissed him so sweetly when he was in doubt.

He reached for a bottle of oil and massaged the fingers soothingly and extended it to the rest of his hand. He took Jensen’s other hand and did the same. He traced his fingers lightly over the scabbed skin of his Master’s scarred arms and pressed feather light kisses over them, upward, over his shoulder and neck to the beautiful plump lips, dry and cracked now. He felt a slight tremor beneath his touch and the faintest whimper from the pink bow as he leaned within a breath of the mouth that had once kissed him so sweetly. “You can tell me, no,” whispered Jared. Jensen’s hand firmed around his leash, shortened it and jerked his slave’s head back from his face. He rasped his first word since Jared had returned. “No!” 

Jared waited, his head held still by the leash but Jensen didn’t slacken it or speak again, he simply stared up into his slave’s eyes as if they contained some dark secret.

A cold draft blew in with a bustle of fabric. Moss-green eyes appraised the scene. “Jensen that’s not polite. How can your slave kneel before me when you hold so tightly.”

She was a pretty girl, not yet twenty, with sparkling bright eyes and fair skin. She leaned over the bed and forced Jensen’s fingers open. She took the leash from him and Jared moved to the floor and kneeled, head bent low. She tugged at his leash “Move for me Child. I want you here.” Her toe pointed a little to the left and he could not understand why she would ask such a thing. He hesitated. “Here, now!” Her voice was full of warning. He scrabbled to move, a half walk and half crawl.  

“Stand! Down! Side!”  She clicked her fingers with a circular movement.

Jared tried to keep up but faltered at the command side, struggling to guess its  precise meaning.”

She looked to the bed. “Jensen your slave is pathetic. It is to be presented within this moon cycle and it will be eaten alive.”

Jared’s eyelashes parted wide.

“Not literally, Child.” She rolled her eyes.

His cheeks reddened, he was already disappointing the lady he assumed to be his Mistress.

 “It is clueless and somewhat clumsy.”

“I beg forgiveness, Mistress.”

“I did not give you permission to speak.” She was sharp with Jared.

Jensen shifted a fraction in his bed. Jared realized that this position afforded his Master with the best view of Jared with what must be his sister, the Princess Mackenzie.


Jared stood and with her hands on his hips, she manipulated him to face Jensen. She tugged his head back roughly and he jumped as he felt her hands slide downward over his groin. “Have to get used to this Slave.” She stood on tiptoes and licked his ear, “Everyone is going to want a piece of you. Flinch once more and I will have you punished.” Fingers trailed up to his chest and tugged at his nipple and he bit his lip. He had imagined doing these things with somebody, dreamed about them through his puberty and he had pictured it as beautiful and erotic. This felt dirty and every muscle tensed and trembled, fighting to run while his mind demanded that he stay. Her hand reached between his thighs “Open them!” His leaden feet reluctantly obeyed. He felt his eyes well with tears and fought to contain them. “You are one, worthless, inept and stupid slave, Child. But your body does make up for it.” As her fingers gripped his cock tightly he whimpered and a single tear slid over his lashes.


Jared almost overbalanced as the pressure on his collar was released and fingers fell from his skin. “Don’t ever do that to my property again Mac. Or I swear..”

Jared looked on helplessly as Jensen pinned his sister to the wall by her neck. Was this one of the moments he was supposed to intervene in contradiction of his Master? Mackenzie lowered her head “Ow, no, no, Jensen please, I’m sorry.” She wriggled theatrically and Jensen responded by releasing his hand. “Gah, Mac, I’m, I didn’t mean it. I’m sorry. Are you hurt?” Mackenzie hugged into her brother’s shoulder making little hurt noises in her throat. She raised her head and looked directly at Jared. She gave a half grin and winked at him before turning to face her brother with a sad, childlike expression. “I am bruised.”

“Child! Fetch cold water, a cloth and some arnica.” Jared was quick to obey. “What on earth has got into you Mackenzie?”

“What has got into me? That is rich, dear brother. I was curious to see if you could manage a care about anything. It will recover, I will recover and you shall have to mend too.”

“What I did to you Mackenzie. I am so sorry. Everything I do just now is wrong.”

Jensen looked pale and worn from the brief activity. Mackenzie guided him to an armchair and sat him down. She sat too. “You look just terrible, you can start with eating. I brought fruit.”

Jared looked to Jensen for approval and he nodded wearily. “Mistress, will you allow me to tend to you?”

“Of course, Child.” She smiled warmly at him.

This, at least, was familiar. He had tended to Meghan’s wounds on countless occasions when she came running in, tears streaming, afraid to admit to their nursemaid that she had been climbing a tree or jumping on walls. Her big brother would wipe her tears away, sit her on a chair and tell a nursery rhyme as he dabbed at the inevitable results of her waywardness. His mind jumped to the present and he tried not to think of Jensen’s suggestion that she would marry Morgan. Meghan was too full of vibrancy and fun to be saddled with a stern and pious old man but there was a political expediency to it. Meghan was impulsive and cheery but she also had a strong sense of duty.

“Your mind is elsewhere, Child. We need to work on that. Your full attention must always be with your owner and his desire.” Mackenzie was matter of fact rather than harsh in her tone. “Do not bore me with apology for I fear there will be a lot of correction in the days to come.”

“Mackenzie, it is not your slave to correct.” Jensen spoke from the comfort of his chair, where he had curled his legs under him and rested his head on the arm of the huge squashy piece of furniture.

She ignored her brother and waved Jared away. “There is fruit for your Master. You shall ensure he eats it.” He considered the command for a moment, collected the plate and knelt to one side of the chair where Jensen sat. He concentrated on trying to be graceful but instead he wobbled and dropped a soft chunk of food to the floor.” He drew his breath and squeezed his eyes together, awaiting the inevitable censure. Instead he heard a quiet chuckle from his side and a titter from Mackenzie. “Oh Moons!  It is perfectly adorable and yet a ridiculously unsuitable selection. It is so, absolutely, yours.”

“Did you come here for any other reason than to insult my choice of slave Mackenzie?”

“I came to cheer you up,” She smiled brightly, “though if I had Child, I doubt I would require such a service and I would not want you to distract me from my bed.”

“No. You didn’t Mackenzie.”

“Well there was something else Jensen.” She took a serious stance. “I want you to try harder with Joshua. He believes you are not well enough to Campaign any time soon and thinks you do not wish to participate in the direction of it. I disagree. We are all we have now and it is time we worked together. I see value in your approach and I know that Joshua does as well.”

Jensen started to speak and Mackenzie shushed him. Jared placed a chunk of juicy red fruit on his lips and Jensen took it and chewed. “Joshua would never criticize Papa’s approach while he was alive but I know he has doubts. He will be amenable to constructing a fresh plan but only if he believes you are healthy in mind and body, to take your part. Selling this to our allies and our Lords will be difficult. To that end there will be a Banquet, a Summit if you will. It will honor Joshua’s accession to the throne, it will demonstrate our united front and it will reassure them that life in Court goes on, as normal, with traditions intact. To that end you will attend in good form and Child will be presented in the accustomed manner. The old King’s rebellious son will be seen to have clipped his wings and taken life seriously at last.”

“I cannot present Child.” Jensen was distressed. “What I have done. It is too soon.”

“You would worry about a slave, with the Kingdom in tatters? What do you think Morgan’s men will do to it when we are overrun? Believe me, I concur that it is too soon but I see no other way.”

Jared concentrated on lifting Jensen’s food to him. Jensen sighed and rubbed his brow.

“You are tired Jensen. I should go. Joshua is not expecting you to leave your apartments for seven dawns and I think that is wise. It will give you time to relax, regain your vigor and think on your Campaign. Oh, and you should attempt to smile. I lied when I said your slave is stupid. It is intelligent and pliant. You should accept its care and amusement with some enthusiasm.” She kissed her brother’s cheek. “Good night, Jensen.” The door banged and clicked behind her.

Jared felt suction on his fingers and a tongue licked at the fruit juice on his palm. Jensen took his hand and placed a kiss on the end of each of his slave’s fingers then guided them to rest on the scars of his right arm. “What I did, I thought I’d lost you” he whispered “and I needed to feel a greater pain, but it wasn’t. Losing you still hurt more.”

“You didn’t lose me Master. I am here. My place is with you.”

“Come lie with me. Just lie. No more.”

Jared allowed himself to be taken to bed and Jensen settled the eiderdown over them both. They lay shoulder to shoulder and Jared sank into the luxury of the soft bed beside his Master’s solid presence. It didn’t seem wrong or frightening when Jensen turned on his side to rest his head on Jared’s shoulder and rest his arm over his chest. He closed his eyes and let himself pretend he could always have this. He drifted to sleep.

Chapter Text

Jared woke in the downy softness of his bed. There was the warmth of a heavy shape by his side and a soft touch on his back.

“Get off me!” he moaned. He couldn’t tell if it was Harley or Sadie but, whichever it was, it would leave a trail of fur on the covers. The hound wasn’t moving. “Off!” he said with more conviction, and pushed at the warm body beside him. His hand touched firm, smooth skin and for a moment he was confused. As his mind awoke, a sick sensation rose in him. His hazel eyes shot open and he scrabbled into a sitting position. Backed up against the head of the bed, with his knees against his chest and his arms around his knees he held the sheet to him and waited for Jensen’s rage. “M’sorry, sorry, sorry.”

Jensen sat too. The hand that had been caressing Jared’s back was still held in midair and he stared back at his slave. A momentary look of shock crossed his features and then he moved.

Jared flinched and tried to inch further away, but there was nowhere to go. He needed to calm himself. He was sure he should act with dignity but his body reacted with the memory of pain. Jared tried to slow his breathing and watched as his Master sat upright in the bed and studied him. Jensen lifted the covers and slid off the mattress. He padded across the room to his study and the door banged shut behind him.

Jared stared at the door, waiting for Jensen’s return. His stomach was turning loops, wondering what Jensen had gone into the room for. He shivered as he climbed from under the warmth of the cover. He wished he had some idea of what to expect and what was expected of him, he didn’t want to make his mistake any worse. Should he go into the study after Jensen? He’d never been in there and perhaps it would be another huge error. Should he try to undertake some tasks, make the bed, prepare a bath, or would that be too forward without instruction? Could it be any worse than telling your Master to get off you?  He thought a book would be good, an instruction manual for slaves but there wasn’t one and he was so screwed.

Jared settled on his knees by the bed and waited for his Master to return, it would be another long wait. He was still there when Ethan strode in. He bowed his head to the floor. A pair of shined boots appeared in his vision.  There was no movement for a few minutes and Jared’s heart was hammering again. “Look up, Child. Where is Jensen?”

Ethan was standing over him with his arms crossed, an impatient expression on his face.

“He is in his study.” The words came out unsteadily.

“Why are you not with him?”

“I do not know what to do.”

“What did Jensen tell you to do?”

“He did not. At least, I did not hear an instruction.”

Ethan huffed, “You have been taught to present yourself, you are a mess Child, tidy yourself up.”  He walked away and the door to the study slammed behind him.

Jared washed his body and combed his hair. He applied a thin layer of oil all over. When he appeared as he had been taught he drew breath and looked about him. He set about ensuring there was not a speck of dirt in the bathing room and then moved to the bedroom. He smoothed the bed-sheets and shook the eiderdown.

Ethan returned to the room, shaking his head and muttering under his breath.  He stopped still and stared at Jared. Jared lowered his eyes and waited for the inevitable outburst but Ethan simply gestured to him. “Come here, Child.” He laid his hands on Jared’s shoulders and smoothed them down his back. Jared fought with himself not to squirm. “Relax. Nobody is going to hurt you. The marks are fading, I can barely feel them. You know, you are quite breathtaking and it is natural to want to touch you. You should be pleased. It is a good quality.” The chocolate-eyed man settled in a soft armchair. “Sit.” He indicated the floor by his side and Jared did.

Ethan nodded. “You are improving but it has to be said that you have unsuitably frigid character and poor knowledge of your place. It is not your error. Jensen made a mistake in taking you, and if it were not for his frail state and his unusual attachment the remedy would be to send you for auction. There are many other tasks you would be excellent for. Boys of your nationality and nature are often excellent in industry. No matter, you chose to return to your Master, so it is time to understand that your Master is a loving man. What he needs, in private, are warm words, an affectionate touch and a slave who is not afraid to think for itself and lead in small matters. What his position requires in public, is a devoted slave who is perfectly presented and correct but above all, relaxed and attentive to his needs and the desires of his guests. Can you do this, Child? Or will we need to intervene? I do not wish Joshua to take you from Jensen but we cannot continue this way.”

Jared's eyes filled briefly with tears but he swallowed back the sob “I want to do this. I did not mean to reject him. I was mostly asleep and confused. I forgot where I was, what I am.”

“You what?”

“I was dreaming, I was elsewhere.”

He felt brown eyes burn into him “You rejected him? Today?”

“I told him to get off me. I, I thought he was my hound. I had two, Harley and Sadie, they would often..” Jared was gibbering and didn’t seem to be able to stop his mouth.

“Ssh. Just stop now. Did you tell him this?”

Jared shook his head, “He went away. I thought he would collect a whip. He has not punished me yet.” His voice became quieter “I would not have minded the touch, not really, it was gentle and I am already damned.”

“Do you think you should be punished?”

“I know I cannot be allowed to reject my Master.”

Ethan ran his hands through his wayward black hair. “Have you ever given massage, Child?”

“Yes, my mother was ill, sometimes it would help.” He stopped short, realizing he was saying too much, there must be others with family who took sick but he should not take chances.

“Massage will be a good way to start and then I think I should send Alona to you. My girl is precious to me, ensure you do not waste its time. Oh, and Child, I think it would be nice to talk about your dogs and maybe other cheery topics, your face is pretty when you find something fond to think on.” Ethan carefully ran his hand over Jared’s shoulder and up into his hair. Jared let himself relax into the touch. “Good Boy.”


There was the sound of argument and the clattering of an item striking a wall, then silence. Jensen followed Ethan from the room with a defiant stance and a pout on his lips. Jared’s attention caught on the full, pink and kissable lips. Jensen looked down at his clean and tidied slave and ran his tongue over them, then bit down on his lower lip. Jared stared. Ethan looked between them and laughed. “Well, honestly, I’m finding it difficult to see a problem here.” Ethan took Jensen’s hand and placed it on Jared’s head. “I have insisted that your slave explain its actions. I am away to cajole some baking from the kitchens. Should I take the liberty of ordering single portions? I expect you will be punishing Child with a fast today.”

Jensen’s body relaxed, and, as he breathed out, he directed the tiniest, relieved smile at Ethan. “Yes. I expect that will prove appropriate.” 

Ethan stepped into the space in front of Jensen and pulled the green-eyed Prince to him. He flashed a look at Jared as he planted a slippery wet kiss on his friend’s lips and they melted in each others’ arms. Jared watched as Ethan’s hand slid over Jensen’s back and cupped his ass. Jensen pulled him closer, almost off his feet, and they continued the kiss, tongues deep in the other’s mouth, as if in battle. Jensen made a little high-pitched whine and there was the noise of suction and the smack of their lips as they parted, panting slightly. “Stop stressing Jen.” Ethan gave an affectionate squeeze to Jensen’s ass before removing his hands and leaving. They both looked content and flushed.


Jensen settled in the armchair to eat his breakfast. Jared kneeled by him and thought back on Ethan’s advice. His words were hesitant “The picture you have of the hounds is colorful and lively. Are they your dogs?”

“I had them from puppies, they went everywhere with Ethan and I. Some nights the bed would be a tangle of all of us and our nursemaid would despair.” Jensen smiled at the memory. “They had a good long life, then suddenly I was grown up and that’s the thing about responsibilities, they leave no time for such things as puppy training. We have plenty of dogs and I can have them whenever I like, it would just take a word with the hunt master. It’s not the same though.” Jensen looked wistfully at the painting. “You had dogs, Harley and Sadie. They slept in your room, would have defended you if necessary. You must miss them.”

Jared was shocked. “How do you know? Did Ethan tell you?”

 “Do you really think we did not consider the possibility of taking you? A Royal bargaining chip? Your Palace was secure but there were small chances to breach it.”

 “Why didn’t you?”

 “Papa believed in the honor of battlefield warfare. Such covert dealings were beneath his dignity. In any case it would not have worked.”


 There was pain in Jensen’s eyes as he replied “Oh Child! Do you really not know the answer to that? Were you so closeted and apart from your people?”

Jared’s brows furrowed and he replied indignantly. “I was kept safe, I could not be permitted to roam far, but I was educated, I read and I studied every aspect of my people and my culture, I took lessons from the finest soldiers in our army.”

Jensen interrupted him, “And Lord Morgan was your Mentor and the Elders tutored you.” He left the comment hanging in the air.

 The slave forced himself to calm. He was sure he was not permitted to argue with his Master.  “Please, I need to know what you mean by that comment.”

 “No! That was before, you are no longer that person, Child.”

 Why didn’t you take the opportunity you were given to have me as a Prince, to use me that way?”

 “You have to keep asking don’t you? You offered yourself as a slave.”

 “You knew me right away, didn’t you?”

 “Prince Jared had a reputation among his people as a spoilt and uncaring child with no interest to improve his citizens’ lot. He would not have considered anyone over his own safety. I wanted to see what you would do, and you were not expected to do that. It put me in an awkward position and I could not renege on my agreement. I can see the vile lies now and you are not the Puppet Prince you were made out to be. That is why Morgan could not have you survive to take the throne. He would have been found out.”

Jared was slack jawed and pale. His own suspicions had been easy to push away, but Prince Jensen's were untainted by warm childhood memories.“You think he betrayed me?”

 “Don’t you? There had to be a reason we were given false information. You were supposed to die at my hand. He must suspect you could have survived, or at least some of your men, because Prince Jared is rumoured to have been deviant. He apparently died at De’ith after giving orders that had so many of the Realm’s captured men slaughtered that Morgan had to intervene. Prince Jared took a fury and ordered the atrocities on the injured of the Kingdom. It was one of the struggling men who unexpectedly bested him. He died from a wound to the heart, no chance of recovery and was consumed by his own pyre, until little was left of him. Apparently, he was a cold and heartless young man, and it is an efficient propaganda machine that broadcasts it. There is, of course, an official period of mourning. I do not see the evidence of tears on either side of the border.”

Jared tried to process the information, his brain felt woolly and his mouth dry “I didn’t, I would never, couldn’t ever do that. Not any of it.”

 “I know, Child. I am the one who can be sure you were not there, but it is too little, too late. Prince Jared never stood a chance. He had my tears but he is gone and you are what is left. You are an honorable slave and I am a hapless Master, but for you, I will try to be better.”

 Jared squeezed his eyes and steeled himself to ask one last question, “Captain Kane? Did he wish me dead?”

 “No. The Captain and young Jake, they are loyal to their Prince, to the end.”

 “Why should I trust you?”

 “Only you can decide who to trust, Child. I know I started badly but I hope to earn it from you.”

The room remained silent for a long while. Jensen deposited his plate and curled his legs under himself. He rested his head on his arms. “You’re tired,” commented Jared.

 “I never meant to tell you, but you would find out, and I did not want it to be at Court where there was no opportunity to recover from the hurt. You should have time to mourn the Prince Jared, in private.”

 “He was a fool. I am over him.”

 “He was sweet, pure-hearted and courageous.” Jensen yawned, “How can I be so weary when I have not long arisen?”

 “You have lost much these last weeks, and not a little blood, Master.” Jared reached a hand to the older man. “Come and lie down, I can help.”

 “What did I say about Master?”

 “I was hoping that you would let me affirm my loyalty.” Jared spoke uncertainly. It felt like their conversation had been honest and open, and he hoped Jensen would not be offended. In this he wanted to lead. Right now, belonging to Jensen felt like the only safety he had and he needed to acknowledge it. Jensen swayed into Jared. They stood, their faces a breath away from each other. Jensen reached to Jared’s collar and slowly traced its shape around the younger man’s neck. “You are mine. I am proud you wish to affirm it.” His lips stopped a moment from Jared’s and his eyes looked into the wide hazel eyes, seeing the pupils rapidly dilating. He stepped back. “What will you do for me, Child?”

Jared pulled him to sit on the bed. “Stay there.” He collected heated bowls of finest almond oil and a blend of essences. He laid warm towels on the bed, his confidence growing. “Can I ask to undress you? Is it correct?”

 “Of course, this would seem the right circumstances but I think I can manage to undress myself.”  Jensen lifted his tunic over his head, revealing his pale, firm chest and well-defined hips.

Jared watched. Jensen’s nipples were as pink as his lips and raised into firm nubs. For a crazy moment he wanted to suck them into his mouth and nip at them, he wanted to lick the shape of his hips and put his hands all over the firm, freckled body. He bit back the wrongful desire and lifted a towel to cover Jensen’s crotch as he undressed.

Jensen reached and pulled the towel down. “Child, we hold nothing back from each other. You are naked to me always.”  Jared glanced at the already half erect shaft and looked away quickly. For a moment he was back over the bench and that thing was pushing in, filling and ripping him, and the pain was merciless. He couldn't resolve the conflict of his feelings for this man, in this moment so reasonable and vulnerable, and yet capable of such violence and cruelty. Jared suddenly wanted to run, he should have taken mercy, he would be away from this man, his anger, the deviancy in him, the wrong it inspired in Jared, and the way it hurt. His breath caught, perhaps there was no safety to be found for a gullible Prince. Jensen noticed his distress. “It’s alright. You wanted me to lie down?”

His Master lay down on his front and Jared’s panic faded.He coated his hands in fragrant oil and thought only of his touch on the warm, silky skin. He worked methodically from toes to head. His hands buffed, kneaded and pummeled at the firm torso. He lost himself in the rhythm and sensation of smooth skin and solid muscle.

“Oh my stars,” Jensen groaned, “this is the best thing ever.”

Jared laughed and bent to his ear, “But we’re only half way. I need you to turn over now.”

Jensen turned and there was no mistaking his erect cock curling proudly to his stomach. Jared blushed, but his eyes were drawn to it. The purple head was oozing pre-come from its slit and the vein throbbed purple.  His heart was pounding and his thoughts were warring once again. With a horrified gasp he felt his own cock twitch and the blood surged and pooled and filled it. 

 “I know I hurt you. I won’t do that again. Not ever like that. It can be different.” Jensen’s voice was rasping but his guilt was written in clouded green eyes and the pained lines on his face. He lifted a towel to his crotch and covered it, the fabric tenting around his erection. “Please finish.” Jared avoided any glance at his Master's erection, found an empty place in his mind and continued the massage, his long fingers trailed over Jensen’s body, they were firm, even and healing. Jensen was lulled into a trance, he closed his eyes and breathed slow, deep and even. When Jared stopped he continued to relax. The slave fetched fresh warm towels and placed them over his Master. He sat on the edge of the bed and watched the rise and fall of Jensen’s chest and the slightest flutter of his eyelashes on his cheeks. He noted the shape of his ears and the proud nose and jaw-line. He wanted to run his hands through the soft spikes of mussed golden-brown hair.

Jared's hand reached to his own throbbing erection and he palmed at it with sweet sensation coursing through him as his young body chased a release. There was a quiet voice of command by his side, “I can’t let you do that.” Jensen had one eye open and spoke sleepily, “Convention and etiquette. It is not yours to take pleasure from.” Jared stopped abruptly. He felt frustration and desperation building in him.  

Jensen pushed himself up on one elbow and captured Jared’s face “We can come to an arrangement. Let me have the oil. He dipped his hand and coated his fingers liberally.

Jared tensed. He didn’t want this but his body appeared to have other ideas. However wrong it was, he couldn't will his erection away.

“Sshh. You're young. You need this. You’ll like it, I promise.” Jensen dipped in for a short, sweet kiss then reached both hands to Jared’s waist, “Just sit over me, where I put you. Remember, I am responsible, I am in control but I will not hold you against your will, you can move away. I’m not going to fuck you unless you ask. I can’t. Let go and enjoy it.”

Hormones and desire overtook caution and Jared straddled him, their shafts pressed against each other. Jensen reached to Jared’s face and caressed it, his voice was needy and cracked, “Thank you for trusting me. You can touch me, lick or kiss me but you don’t have to. You can stop at any moment without fear of my anger.” The younger man moaned and thrust up against him. The friction was incredible, the thrill shot up and down his spine.

Jensen laughed and took both cocks in his slick hand. “Give me your hand, Child.” He took it in his own and guided his fingers around the throbbing erections. Jared felt Jensen’s soft, silken skin and the beat of his heart in the vein. He looked down on darkened desire-filled green eyes and sex flushed cheeks and understood this was the effect he had on his Master. It was at once, exhilarating and wonderful. They stroked in time together and Jensen took his fingers and showed him the sensitive spots. He twisted as he reached the ridge of the head and Jared gasped and emulated it on the next stroke. He had never experienced such pleasure in the hurried moments of masturbation that he denied to the Elders. Together they stroked and explored. Jensen encouraged Jared to rub the sensitive head of his shaft, to dip into the wet slit and collect the pre-come on his fingers before sliding them again. They picked up speed and Jared sat upright, his head thrown back in pleasure, his collar clearly exposed around his neck. He reached his other hand to Jensen’s chest and toyed with the nipples and Jensen shouted obscenities and begged him to squeeze and stroke and rub. Jared screamed out as his balls tightened and Jensen released his grip then tightened his hand around the base of his cock, denying his gathering orgasm, “Nuh.” The need for release was dizzying and Jared was begging and pleading, Jensen placed his hand over Jared’s hand and guided him back to his own need. He fucked Jared’s hand till his pace was ragged and screamed as he came over his slave’s fingers. Jared’s eyes were blown and he was whining with need. Jensen released his grip and gave one final stroke “Come for me.”

Jared came with a shout of “Jen-sen!” and a rope of thick fluid over his Master’s stomach.  His sluggish mind was working just enough to ensure that when he collapsed, boneless, it was by the side of his Master.

 They were panting and coated with sweat. Jensen reached to ruffle Jared’s hair. “That was amazing.”

“Mmm.” agreed the brunette.

 “You have to thank me,” Jensen reminded helpfully.

 “Oh right. Mm. Thank you, thank you, truly, thank you.”

 “Good boy.”

 “Can I kiss you?”

 “Thought you’d never ask,” murmured Jensen

 “I don’t get this,” muttered Jared. It wasn’t just the rules and etiquette that confused him, he shouldn’t want this and he frowned in confusion.

 “Stop thinking then.”  Their lips met in a clash and a slide and their tongues followed, dipping and licking, twisting and sucking. Jensen ran his fingers through Jared’s hair and pulled on his collar. He nipped at Jared's lip as he stopped for air, then kissed his neck and sucked a small purple mark into his shoulder. “Mine,” Jensen said and fell back into the comfort of his cushions.  “Mm, tired.” His eyes fluttered shut and his breath evened.

 Jensen’s slave recalled the original purpose of the massage. He reached for a cloth and wiped Jensen carefully. He pulled the eiderdown over him and tucked it under his chin. He smoothed his Master's hair and touched his face lightly.

 He tidied away the oils and towels then splashed cold water on his own face. He forced himself to stay awake before taking the time to make himself presentable once more.

Jared didn’t feel damned and he couldn't feel the flames of Hell's fire licking at his soul. In this moment he felt calm and even if he hated to admit it to himself, happy. Perhaps there was something else too, hope.

Chapter Text

Alona was silent on her feet. “Aw. He’s absolutely fast asleep. What did you do?”

Jared blushed.

“Oh! That! That’s good. Fantastic. Everyone was starting to wonder.”

“How do we do this then? Is there any way we have to be? I mean I don’t really know the rules. Do I call you something?”

Alona’s laugh was delicate and pretty. It matched her looks. “You and I are equals. When we are alone we can relax and be ourselves. What is your real name, Child?”

He ignored the question. “How can we be equals? You are, well,” he pointed his finger up and down at her. “It doesn’t feel that way.”

“Child, the only difference between you and I is training, and, I suppose, temperament. It is unusual for one slave to train another, but then it is unheard of to take a new slave in these circumstances, especially a boy from the Realm. Such boys are uptight and have ingrained views of sex.”

Jared opened his mouth to protest and she shot a sharp look his way. He closed it again.

I have heard this life has been difficult for you to accept.” She gestured for him to sit and they kneeled together on a rug in his Master’s room. She put her hand on his knee and rubbed his thigh. He startled and tensed.

“Hmm. See?”

“How do you cope with it, the touches and the requirements?”

There was that tuneful giggle again. “How do I cope with the appreciation and the sex? What is there to cope with? I enjoy it. Who would not want to be admired, cared for and touched. Sex can be a revelation and I am lucky to belong to Ethan. Even with others, the sensations, the feeling of connection and belonging is amazing. The moment you give someone that high, the look on their face and the satisfaction afterwards. The knowledge you fulfilled your Master’s wishes and he is pleased with you. There is nothing like it.”

Jared could not disguise his shock.

“You think I’m a slut.”

“No. Of course not,” he said, overly fast “I’ve just never met anyone like you.”

“Well, Child. The like can be said of you. You know, the intimacy will prove to be a small part of your life. It is exciting at first, with much to learn of each other, but it settles.”

“How did you come to be here?”

“It is where I always wanted to be. My mother was a general slave in a Lord’s House.”

“I thought that children could not be slaves?”

“Hush! You have to learn to listen without interrupting. It will prove important. You should practice with me.”

Jared let her continue.

“When I was young I would watch the Lords and Ladies arrive. Sometimes there would be a Court Slave with its Master or Mistress. I would serve at banquets to assist my mother, I was never required to do so, but I adored the etiquette and the fuss. The Court Slaves, the way they were with their Masters, it was something else. The relationship seemed so very proper and glamorous, yet the interaction was affectionate and tender, it was so romantic. I wanted that from the age of ten. I observed all the training I could and I yearned for more. When my mother’s tenure was complete, I was sixteen. Her Master offered freedom which she wished to take, but it is costly to find a home. Of course, everyone knew I had ambition to be a Court Slave and I am lucky her Master thought I had potential. A good price was paid to my mother and I was sent for training until I was ready to be presented.  My mother has her freedom. I have a life at the Palace.”

“Are you happy?”

“Yes.”  She could see the doubt in his expression. “I’m not unusual. Many aspire to this. It is an accolade. This is not the only Land in the region which keeps or deals in slaves. It is a way of life for many and nothing to be ashamed of. It is one of the few nations which values its slaves and offers the chance of freedom. There are many who would wish to be here. Some will cross into Adomisa to sell themselves into slavery rather than wait to be taken in their homeland.”

Jared’s stomach growled loudly, “Excuse me.”

“You should eat.”

“I am to fast, it is a punishment.” He dropped his eyes with the shame.

“Oh, Child! You are lost in this strange way of life. The expectations are onerous. My training was extensive, yet I knew the basic rules and commands before I was twelve. I have never taught another, but I will try my best. I am instructed to train you to walk on leash and without leash and have you familiar with all the basic commands, especially the wordless ones because Master will never use a voice command at a Royal function.

There will be other tasks to show you, but it will become clear what you need as we work. For this to succeed, you shall need to ask questions and make sure you absorb the answers. You will haver to continue to practise when you are alone. Do you understand all that?”

“Yes, of course,” He grimaced, “I may not be very good at it. I tried to walk on leash once and I almost knocked Jensen over.” 

Alona laughed, “Ethan warned that you may need a training leash, he left it here, hang on.” She pushed herself up without effort and reached to the dresser. She showed him the chain and rubbed the solid wooden insert. “It cannot slacken too far, while you get used to distances and stopping.” She gave a cheesy white-toothed grin. So we’ll start with the basic positions and a bit of walking then. Up you get.”


Jared held his head high and placed his feet delicately on the imaginary line. He took paces, not too short, not too long. He remembered to keep his eyes in line with the leash and his face relaxed with a slight upturn on his lips. He wasn’t faking the smile, he was doing better than he had all afternoon, and for the first time he felt poised. Then Alona stepped left and stopped abruptly, he continued forward, the stiff leash poked into his neck, his feet tangled and he crashed to the ground.

A quiet snigger started and grew until it became a snorting laugh and Jared turned to see Jensen folded over with laughter. Alona had dropped the leash to prevent harm and Jared untangled himself and curled miserably on the floor. Alona crouched by him and rubbed his back. “You did great. You’re just tired and hungry. We should stop.”

Jensen’s face sobered. “You have improved so much, Child. I’m sorry I laughed, but truly, you had to see your swan dive from here.”

 Jared wondered at the shocked expression that flitted briefly over Alona’s face. Jensen saw it and rubbed his hands over his eyes. “and now Ethan’s perfectly correct Girl has caught me in incorrect behavior and I am going to have to beg her not to tell.”

 “Jensen.” She dropped to one knee and bowed her head, “If my Master does not ask, then I shall not offer the information.”

“Good Girl, but do not make things awkward for yourself. It is no more than everyone expects of me.” He looked over at the crumpled shape on the floor. “An owner must not make apologies to its slave. It weakens his position and sets a precedent. You see, it shouldn’t matter if I am wrong, it is my issue alone. It is important you know that.” His tone had an appeal and urgency to it.

Jared moved gracefully to his Master’s side and placed his hand over Jensen’s. Alona nodded her approval at his movement and position. He took a breath for confidence and looked up directly into his eyes. “I understand. I think I already understood even that day.”

Jensen’s eyes closed briefly and then opened, fresh and wet. “Good. That’s good.” He patted the bed and Jared moved swiftly to sit there. “I was awake awhile. Both of you worked hard, I can see the progress. I think Alona should return to her own Master and we shall have some time together. I would thank the sweet Girl, alas, that would flout convention as well.”

“Alona smiled as she closed the door. “Thank you, Jensen. Be comfortable.”

Prince Jensen eyed his slave thoughtfully, “Do you play chess?” He didn’t wait for an answer, “Of course you do.”


“So come in.”

The study was larger than Jared had imagined. In fact it was huge. There were cases of leather bound tomes and maps, tables of scaled models and an enormous oak desk with space for eight heavy oak chairs about it. There was a large open space, off to one side, with a timber rail separating it from the main space. Aside a gap in the rail an assortment of blades were held firm in a purpose-built sheath.

The hearth was proportionally large but there was no fire lit. Jared shivered in the chill air as his gaze returned to the openly stored swords. Jensen followed his stare and crossed the room. He unsheathed a shining blade with a swish through the air. “Come here, Child.” He flicked the fingers of his other hand, walk straight ahead.

Jared tried to remember the day’s training as he approached, but ice green eyes turned on him and the weapon was held directly toward him. He swallowed as he attempted to contain his fear.

“Do you trust me? Keep walking.” Jensen’s face was unreadable. His slave slowed and worked to overcome his body’s overwhelming desire to run, to stop or step to one side.

Jensen made a faint movement with his other hand, palm out and Jared halted, without hesitation, on the ball of his foot and with his body straight, a mere hands length from the tip. His Master nodded appreciatively but the sword remained poised. “So, now you know where I keep my favorite blades. It would be easy for you to reach them, to touch them, to take them.”

The older man circled with the cold steel, the fragile distance to Jared’s flesh was unwavering. “Would it feel good to run me through, to have your revenge? Where would you go? How far do you think you would get? How warm would your welcome home be?” He reached full rotation and reached back to the rack. With a smooth action he retrieved another blade and Jared had seconds to register its arc through the air. He caught it reflexively by its hilt, testing its familiar weight and gripping over its sparkling ruby. Jensen withdrew his own gleaming metal. He retreated two paces, bent his head and turned his back to slide his own weapon into the holder. Jared drew breath. His hand shook as he lifted his trusted steel.

“It would be swift justice,” Jensen spoke calmly and remained with his back to Jared.

Jared swallowed and found his voice, “So, turn around. I don’t stab anyone in the back.”

The Adomisan Prince turned to face him, a reverse of their previous situation. There was something dead in his expression. Jared lifted his arm and tensed but could not meet the green-eyes. His gaze fell instead, on the model by their side, a scale model of the Plains of De’ith. He looked back to the man before him who was closing his eyes, his Adam’s apple bobbing as he held his head high. Jared relaxed his grip and lowered his arm as he spoke, “I am not going to do that for you Jensen.”  He held the ruby studded handle out to his Master “This belongs to you.”

There was an audible release of breath as Jensen accepted his offering and replaced it in the stand. “You will never touch these without my permission.”

“Of course not.”

“Good Boy.”

Jared’s eyes were drawn, yet again, to the model of De’ith. Jensen watched with interest as he ran his fingers over the contours and lifted a cavalryman. “What?”

“It is wrong.” Jared was perplexed.

“You would give your version of events?” Jensen regarded him, curiously.

“I did not say that. Would it shock you? Would you even trust it?”

“I would listen, but this is accurate.”

“There was a skirmish to the North. We were defeated there and we retreated on the Plains. You were to outflank us.” Jared moved pieces on the reconstruction.

Jensen picked up the pieces and returned them. He spoke gently, “There was no skirmish to the North. There was only a battalion hidden in wait. Your forces lost good men while they delayed. It was a mystery why you should have done that.”  He didn’t comment any further but he was thoughtful as he studied the reconstruction. His next question was unexpected. “Child, when precisely did your mother first ail?”

Jared’s brow knitted as he calculated the answer, “I would have been seven or eight. It was not long after we met.”

There was no more said on the topic.


Two armchairs stood beside a chequered table, at the side of the hearth. Pieces carved in rose quartz and onyx stood to attention in neat files. His Master flicked three fingers and Jared sank to the floor by the nearest armchair. The floor was cold and his teeth chattered. Jensen reached out to him as he sat in the comfort of his chair. “You’re frozen, Child. We should light this fire.”

Jared moved toward the hearth. He was startled as Jensen removed a fur from his shoulders and placed it on him. “Let me help.” His Master crouched by his side with the bellows.

“I should do this,” protested his slave.

“Honestly, who do you think did all these tasks before I brought you home?”

“You have slaves to undertake these things.”

“Is this how it was at your Palace?”

“There were no slaves, I had servants, a maid. It was not permitted to take their tasks.”

“To have others frequently poking in my rooms is annoying. Maybe I am not regal enough for you?”

“I am here now. You can let me help.”

Jensen gave a wry smile. “You have a skill with tact, Child.”


Jensen ate a light meal as they played. Jared’s belly ached and grumbled but he looked away from the food and reminded himself that this was not a hardship. There were many who did not get proper nutrition in days, sometimes weeks. This much he had observed since Captain Kane had first taken him outside his Palace walls.

Jared’s skin glowed in the firelight, his hair shone and his eyes were multi-coloured with reflection. He chewed his lip in concentration as he considered the board and Jensen let his eyes roam over the view. Jared’s rook took Jensen’s bishop and his Master's hand dropped to his slave's shoulders shucking the borrowed fur from him. Fingers massaged the top of his spine and the bishop dropped from Jared's grasp and clattered to the floor.

 “I frighten you.” Jensen stilled for a moment, then his fingers tightened around the back of Jared’s collar and pulled on it. “You are young, alone and horny.  You are easily aroused and desperate for release. You let me touch you because you have no other option and it feels good in that moment. You don’t even like me, do you? My beautiful slave would have used that blade if there had been a true opportunity.”

The collar pulled against his throat and Jared fought for air and struggled for reason. “I hardly know you Master. I want to know you. I think I could, if you let me, I could care for you.” I already care too much, want too much.

“And if I wanted you to love me?”

“It was my decision to return to you.” I’m not sure what love is but sometimes when I look at you my emotions overwhelm me. 


The green-eyed Prince inclined his head pensively. “You can leave me now. Put your cuffs on and secure yourself.”

Jared backed out of his Master's presence in the appropriate manner. He banged his fists against the feather mattress of Jensen's bed in frustration before he crumpled to the floor at the end of the iron bedstead and clicked the locks shut between his ankles and wrists. In one final fit of temper he lobbed the keys against the main door and they bounced back to the floor with a noisy metallic echo.

Chapter Text

Jared had to admit, Mackenzie’s timing was impeccable, it could not have looked worse. He struggled to his knees as she looked him over. She swung into the study and Jared waited. He wondered if he would ever get used to the waiting, to the not knowing, the lack of control that had him free-falling and anxious at every turn.

There was the, now familiar, sound of raised voices and then a hush and the Princess held the door open and tapped her foot as they re-entered the room. Jensen followed her meekly and Jared almost laughed at the peculiar notion, but it forced a comparison to his relationship with Meghan and he was, all of a sudden, homesick and missing his little sister with all his heart.

“Josh sent you because he knew I’d beat his ass.” Jensen crossed his arms and glared at her.

“Well you catch more flies with honey than vinegar, darling. This is ridiculous and if you were thinking even half straight you would know it too.”

“We’re giving these people hope when there will only be death.”

“We are giving them respect Jensen, and I for one, refuse to give up. There has to be a way. We will find one. Do you remember the child’s tale about the three pigs and the wolf? Well our forts are made of stone and I am boiling the water as we speak.”

Jensen smirked but there was little light in his eyes “You just called yourself a little pig.”

“I believe I included you and Josh.” Mackenzie imitated his smirk, then frowned, “Jensen. Why is your slave in chains, again? If it cannot be trusted get rid of it.”

Jensen’s brows knotted and for a moment he appeared surprised to see him there, as if he had forgotten about him.”

“Oh, yes. No. I mean, I just got annoyed because it was winning at chess.” It was an obvious lie but she did not call him out on it.

“So unlock it.” 

Jared’s heart pounded and a small bead of sweat formed on his upper lip. The keys lay carelessly abandoned, on the floor, where he had thrown them. Jensen’s eyes followed his slave’s guilty gaze. “I was planning something, with him, in chains.” he said raising his eyebrows suggestively at her.

“Oh stars! I did not need to know that Jensen Ross.” She moved toward the exit but spoke directly to Jared. “Your Master will be attending a ceremony at noon tomorrow. You will ensure he is bathed and dressed in a timely fashion. You will be at his heel. Ensure you do not disgrace him.” She looked to her brother once more. “In the event that you do not attend, Joshua will assume that your slave is at fault and it will be punished accordingly.” She switched her gaze once more, “Do not disappoint us, Child.”

Jared’s lips parted, as if to speak, but no words would form. The command was not reasonable. If Jensen wished not to do something, he would simply keep Jared chained.

 Jensen was woken from his daze, fists clenched and furious, “What the moons sort of threat was that Mack? Am I to be a child with a whipping boy again? I thought I had proven I do not care for this one.”

“Indeed,” She purred as she stooped to retrieve the clinking loop of metal “and that will be why you did not wish me to notice these?” she threw them in the air as she slammed the door and Jensen caught them easily, in the fingers of one hand.

Jared’s heart was jack-rabbiting through his ribs. He miserably folded his body into itself and could not bring himself to look into the face of his Master.

It was too quiet and his Master too still. He could hear Jensen breathing, feel his intense stare,then there was the sound of retreating steps and the swing of the study door. Jared rested his head on his knees and closed his eyes. He wouldn’t cry, he had no reason to cry, it was degrading and he had no way to wipe the tears or catch his sniffs. The resolve did not prevent the tears from silently falling and his chest heaving with the effort of restraining his gulped breath.

He wasn’t aware of falling asleep but the embers of a fire were dying in the hearth when he awoke and Jensen was thrashing restlessly in his slumber, his eiderdown tangling into an impossible twist. He stared into the hynotizing glow of flickering ash and his eyelids became heavy again. He considered how quickly his body had adjusted to the unforgiving cold floor and confines of shackles that anchored him to his new life, he let himself drift.

He woke again in the thick dark and stillness of pre-dawn. There was a rustling and a golden flickering of candlelight. Jared did not make a sound.

Jensen was laying a fire. His bare chest was pale, muscular and smooth with a smattering of tan dots and glint of fine hair. Eyes that were fixed in concentration reflected the warm glow of light. His impossibly long lashes curled upwards from red-rimmed, emerald eyes. His freckles seemed to dance over the handsome profile of his face and his lips were parted a fraction, revealing his tongue, caught between his teeth. The faintest sliver of yellow flame licked through the tinder, Jensen leaned to it and his plush lips formed an O as he blew gently. The glow spread and evolved with rich oranges and red eating at the kindling and reaching upwards about thick logs, toward the flue, bathing his Master with its light. Jared could not tear his gaze away. He bit back a whimper on the inside of his cheek. If this were the only beauty he was allowed to look upon, for the rest of his life, he thought it might not be a curse.

His Master finished and sat back in the honey illumination of his endeavor and watched it with a blank-eyed stare. “It was never supposed to be like this. I don’t know if I can and if I’m wrong, we’re all damned. ” He spoke the words into the flare, let the sparks burn into them and carry them up the chimney on shimmering air. “Show us hope, give me strength.”  It was a private prayer to an unknown deity. He sighed, uncurled and padded back to his bed.

Jared heard the covers being ruffled, then a sharp intake of breath. The bed rattled and the mattress puffed air as Jensen bounced and shuffled to the end and peered at his slave over the edge. “Jared! Oh No! Wait. Hang on. Keys, keys” He vaulted to the floor and in a few long strides had retrieved what he needed and sat back, on the floor, beside him. “You should have said something. Why didn’t you say anything? How could I forget? How could I forget you? Why did you let me?” The cuffs fell to the floor and Jared remained frozen in his confusion. It wasn’t as if he hadn’t been left in this precise manner, for days on end. Jensen had called him by his name. Why would he do that? He had forgotten him? His brain couldn’t formulate an answer and his tongue wouldn’t loosen.

Hands cupped his jaw and stroked the hair from his face. “You’ve been crying. C’mon, let’s get you over by the fire.”  His muscles were stiff and his legs were bent and creaky, he stumbled as he tried to stand and Jensen steadied him with a hand around his waist. “Take it easy. Just a moment,” Jensen grabbed at his plump pillows and threw them to the floor by the hearth. “all right, now sit on those and stretch your legs out. Circle your hands to get them moving.” There was a swish and a drag as the bedding was tugged to the floor and wrapped around him.

 Jared finally got his mouth working, his voice rasping “It’s not too bad. You don’t have to Jensen.”

“We have to get you something permanent. A mat and some blankets. When did you last take a drink? Wait here.”  He fetched a pitcher of water and waited as Jared drank thirstily. “There’s something I used to do, let me see.” He lifted the lid of a trunk and there was clattering. “He returned, triumphant, with a bronze pot and a sealed cloth bag. “ Coffee.” he announced as he filled the pot and hung it over the fire. 

Jared snuggled into the soft cover, even if he was hallucinating, he was going to enjoy it. Strong hands reached to his leg and then stopped “You should probably massage them. May I?”  Jensen looked directly to his face.

Jared’s face scrunched in total confusion. “Why ask?”

“I don’t want to scare you. Whenever I touch you, it may as well be a scorpion creeping on your flesh.” He looked sad and a little frustrated “I’m not going to hurt you. I know I don’t deserve your trust but I won’t do anything like that again. I will not force you. It didn’t, Hell! It didn’t feel good for me either.”

“I know.” Jared was soft and reassuring in his reply. Jensen’s fingers rubbed firmly over his calves, stroking circles to his ankles and flexing his feet. Jared moaned. “Uh mmm, that is, oh!” 

“See you are not the only one with skills.” The edges of his mouth were upturned and the tension in his jaw was released.  Jared relaxed into the touch until the jangle of a vibrating pot disturbed them. The rich scent of coffee filled the air. “Ha! A ‘Jensen special’ coming up. He poured thick black liquid into rough camp mugs and handed one to the brunette “Don’t burn yourself.”  He blew across the top of his own cup and tendrils of steam rose and curled, capturing colors from the fire.

 Jared tapped on the side of his mug and picked at his thumbnail. He glanced at the enigma who was settled on the floor by him and averted his eyes as the look was returned.


That alone had his attention back on the freckled face.

“I want to start over.”

“You want to give me my freedom?” he looked ruefully at the brand on his wrist.

“I cannot do that. Regardless, it may not be long until you have it.”

“Then it isn’t starting over. You truly think I can even start over, with everything that I have done, everything I have become?”

“I said I want to start over.”

Jared shook his head and scrunched his nose “In what way?”

“I know how it looks. I treat you badly, then, the moment it looks as if the wolf is at the door, I’m apologetic. I’m not after your mercy. If I wanted that I would grant your freedom right now. I am too selfish to do that.”

“Am I allowed to tell you that you are making no sense to me?”

Jensen made a noise that strongly resembled a growl “That is precisely my point. You shouldn’t have to ask, you should tell me. In no uncertain terms you should let me know I’m an incoherent idiot.”

Jared blinked and shook his head.

“If this is to be the end, if there is little time before we are overrun and Morgan does with us what he will, I want to dispense with the formality between us. I spent half my life wanting you Jared and now that I have you here, everything about it feels wrong. It was never supposed to be like this. You should not fear me.” He hunched his shoulders over and his face twisted into a frown. “I cannot remove the collar. I cannot even dispense with the formal requirements of public behavior, but damn, if Joshua wants me to ‘man-up’ and use the rebel in me, then I will be that man in my own home.”

“What do you mean there is little time until we are overrun?”

Jensen was open-mouthed. “You really don’t know?”

“I would not ask if I did?” he huffed.

“We threw everything we had at De’ith. We have no more left. Our men are on retreat across the whole border. Our forts are falling. You will be home in no time.”

Jared paled in horror. “What are you talking about?  I cannot go home.” He grabbed at Jensen’s arm. “Have you any idea what they will do? To me?  To the deviants? All your slaves? I cannot go back. I do not want to go back.”

“But you are their future King.”

“No. Their future King is dead and Morgan will not have him resurrected. Perhaps my Queen, or even Jeffrey could have granted clemency but it will not happen now.”

“The Queen?”  Jensen couldn’t hide his sarcasm.

Jared pushed him angrily. “She is still Monarch, if it weren’t for her sickness, yes. It was always her will to have reform and reduce the power of the Elders.”

Jensen reeled and raised his hands, palm out in defense. “Woah.”

Jared remembered his place and sank back a few inches, curling his legs to be on his knees. “M’sorry.” He lowered his eyes.

“Do not! Just do not apologize! It is a difference in political opinion. Damn, if an inability to communicate isn’t why we’re all where we are in the first place.”

“But you have allies who would supply weapons and support.” It was a statement of fact. There were countries who would not defend or supply the Queen’s Realm. They did not display outright aggression but it was well known that they supplied the Kingdom They were honest and mildly apologetic about it in talks they had with Kane, Jared and Morgan.

“It is men we need. Jared. Why do you think we take slaves? Why do you think children are encouraged as free citizens and we offer their parents citizenship after their tenure? People are the one vital resource the Kingdom has always been scarce of. We have no riches to entice them with paid employment. Meals and a roof is all we can supply.  To watch your executions, the scant regard your people have for life, it is sickening.”

“You think it is a good excuse to barter people as property? You think you are any better?” Jared spoke with passion.

“No. I don’t. I never did and I vowed I never would, I never wanted a slave and then you came along and pulled my world to pieces. I could not return you to the Realm, you would not have survived another moon. I wouldn't have you exposed and made an example by my father, nor could I let you go and lose track of where you went.” Jensen looked shattered. “Not even Joshua thinks slavery is just, but what would you have us do in the midst of losing a war?”

 Jared drew the eiderdown tighter around himself. “You must not lose.”

Jensen’s eyes widened as he looked at the boy huddled beside him. “You cannot mean that.”

“I did not say I wanted you to win. I did not even say I would help. I just wish there was a way to force negotiation.”

“Jared, in the past seven years we have offered negotiation seven times, and the Realm would not consider it.”

“Which is why I said it has to be forced.” Jared shrugged, “I did not say I knew how to force it without Morgan at the end of your blade.”

“Hey!” Jensen nudged Jared lightly. “Look!”  He pointed to the bay window. A faint glow of distant light painted the horizon in purples, green and blue. “A new day. Come sit with me. Please.”

Jared shrugged the eiderdown off his shoulders and Jensen pulled it back up. “Keep it. It is cold by the window.”

He shuffled behind Jensen and folded to the floor by his knees. “Sit on the seat, Jared.”

“Oh Right.” He leaned in close to Jensen. All around them stone and tiles interlaced and formed a complication of towers, halls and defenses. Directly below was an open street or market area. It was already busy with traders, maids with milk churns and travelers. The fortress stood at the peak of an impressive hill with a ravine to the side. It did not surprise him. He had studied its defenses from books and intelligence. The ensign fluttered at half mast over a red tiled roof. In the distance a flock of crows wheeled up as one, blackening the horizon and breaking the silence with raucous chatter. Jared could feel the raised bumps on Jensen’s arms and lifted the eiderdown from his own shoulder to share it. His hot thigh pressed against the cool fabric of Jensen’s night pants. His bare chest shared warmth with the cool flesh of Jensen’s. “It’s the first time I’ve sat close to stare,” he remarked.

“You never looked?”

“A little, from afar. I did not think I was allowed here.”

“Honestly, you’re not an unsuitable slave at all. You just have a hopeless Master.”

“Am I your first slave?”

“That was all my own? Yes, and I think it best I never take another.”

Jared was looking into his Master's eyes, enchanted by them. His face was close and he could feel the warm exhale of the older man’s breath ghosting over the fine hair on his cheek. “Does that mean you are going to keep me? I want you to keep me.” Jared's voice was husky and his lips brushed tentatively against the full pink bow of Jensen’s mouth, “Can I kiss you?”

Jensen didn’t reply. He reached a hand onto the back of his neck and pulled him into his lips. He tangled his fingers in the soft brunette hair and moaned as Jared crushed his lips with bruising force and his tongue slid into his mouth, searching and thrusting. Then Jared was sucking on his tongue with a hunger, and his hands, with those fine long fingers, were finally exploring the hard planes of his chest, pulling on his nipples and caressing his neck.  Their tongues continued to twist and push, their lips slid slick against each other and Jared pulled away with a nip to Jensen’s chin, enough to be felt, not enough to mark. He could see the dazed surprise in the green eyes and he smiled at Jensen as he spoke, “Thank you, that was incredible.”

The pleasure died in Jensen’s face. “You don’t have to thank me any more, Jared.”

“I wanted to.” Jared pulled him close and leaned in for a chaste kiss on his lips. “I do not dislike you Jensen. Please smile again.”

Jensen pulled him in and kissed him, deep, slow and passionate. “Thank you Jared,” he said with a smile. They both turned to the window as a swallow dipped and dived on air currents before them.

“Umm” Jared was tangling his hands together and taking short glances at Jensen from under the hair that fell silken over his face. Hidden beneath the eiderdown his eager erection started to fade.

“What is it? Do you need something?” Jensen looked at him with concern.

“I think I may have lied, I did not know, not really, not had much of a chance what with everything and of course I would have to choose it, but I did not, I promise I did not, I have no idea how, I just know I do. I think I am, at least with you and perhaps there was a little with the gardener and Jake and the stable lad but it could have been normal right? It’s just, I shouldn’t be that. I shouldn't be wrong. I didn't ask for it, somehow, I really think I just am.” The words came quickly and stumbled over each other, and he sounded like the seven year old child Jensen had played with, all those years ago.

Jensen took a moment to interpret the jumbled selection of words that his slave had spoken and then replied with a sad shake of his head, “Jared, nobody chooses to be deviant! You just are what you are. Moons, you have me saying that word, it is an awful word. You do not choose your sexuality. It is it what it is, and it is amazing. You aren't wrong, you are amazing. I don’t know how I will ever convince you, but I am telling the truth. Wait! Is that why you wish to stay with me? Do you think you it makes you less, that you deserve to be a slave, to be treated badly?” Hurt flashed across Jensen's features.

“No. Yes. Maybe.” Jared was picking at his fingernails again, and Jensen slapped his hand to stop him. Jared stared at his fingers and continued, “The collar, your collar, makes it alright to be what I am because everyone knows you want me that way. I mean, you chose me, without knowing, or asking what I was. You didn’t care and you’ve kept me. It offers me a life, the protection of these walls and a meal every day. I know how many do not get that. I’m not saying I want to be hurt, it’s just easier this way and some of it feels good. It is nice to be embraced. I like to be touched, by you, not badly, not like the one time, but the others, and I know sometimes, when it is unexpected, I jump. It's just that I never had that, nobody ever touched me or held me. It surprises me, and my body just does that stuff, I don’t want you to stop if I’m startled.”

“You mean nobody has hugged you since you grew up?”

“Never, not a touch, not since Mother sickened,” his voice was barely a whisper, “and you see me, when you look at me. I mean, when you don’t forget about me, you see me. Everybody here sees me and wants to look at me. Sometimes it's uncomfortable but mostly it's as if no-one notices that I am nude, just that I am here. Even the Princess Mackenzie, she actually looks at me. Does that sound vain? I like being seen. I don’t think anyone except Christian knew what I looked like. I was just the spare wheel, the stand-in but I was judged the Queen’s spoiled favorite, and nobody dared stare or know me.”

“Jared you don’t have to be a slave to want all that, to get that.”

“I’m not sure that is true, but it’s not all.” Jared bit down hard on the inside of his cheek and stared down at the floor. “I like it. The way it feels, not being left alone, not the cold floor, or being it, or the cuffs, well, sometimes I like the cuffs; when they let me do the things I want. I like that I only have one responsibility and the rest is taken from me. I want that one responsibility because when I get it right, it feels, I don’t know, it just gives me something warm, like I never had before. It’s the only responsibility I ever craved.”

Jensen reached his hand out to stroke the hair from his slave's eyes.  “When you get what right?”

“Making you happy.”

Jensen pulled back and scrutinized him carefully. “You’re not lying.”

“No. Why would I do that? I cannot explain it. I know it makes no sense, it just,” Jared wrinkled his brow and fought for an explanation “It is what it is.” He felt a strong, warm arm around his waist and felt the pull to lean against Jensen’s shoulder and he melted into it.

“I don’t deserve you Jared. I do not know if I am capable of keeping anybody safe any more. I should send you away. There are nations who would shelter you at my request.” His voice was low and gravelly.

“You would not come with me. I have seen you, you think you have given up, but you will not. Mackenzie is right. You should not be considering me. It is my place to care for you, so you can find a way. That way we can all be safe. They can be safe,” Jared gestured to the scene below the window, where crowds were starting to gather.

Jensen rubbed circles on Jared’s back and watched the bustle below. “I try hard to be like Joshua and Mackenzie. I can do it for a while, pretend I fit in. Play the polite Prince at Court. In the end I always blow it. I never was cut out for this life. Maybe I never grew up, but I dislike formality and propriety, I keep it bottled until it explodes and spills over. Not generally violently, but dramatic words and gestures with Joshua and not a few with Ethan. I fall into myself and forget others. Ethan would make a far better Prince than me. It is a lot for a slave to put up with, especially one with more wisdom than I.”

Jared didn’t speak. He simply placed his hand on Jensen’s chest, feeling the rhythm of his heart. They sat in silence, watching the intricacies of everyday life unfold beyond the window.

Chapter Text

“Just shush and come.” Jensen tugged Jared by his hand into the wide, stone hallway.

You want me to accompany you, outside your room? I’m naked”

 “Of course! How else would a Court Slave be?”

 “Anyone can see me. All of me.” Jared was blushing a deep shade of rose.

 “I thought you wanted to be seen.” Jensen was still holding his hand, pulling him across cool slabs and past burning torches. “ If you want to make me happy you will have to know this route, and learn to play Cookie and you will be doing it naked, just like any other Court Slave. I want to show you off. You’re beautiful. Do you blame me?”

 "It’s just difficult. ”

 “It’s normal. Remember they see you, not your nakedness. You’d get more glances if you were dressed. There is nobody, within these walls, who would dare to leer at the Prince’s property. Besides, it’s too early to come across many folk and you need to get used to it.” Jensen shook his head and continued under his breath, “Preferably before Noon.”

Jared’s hearing was sharp. “Jensen. Why before Noon?” He had stopped following, despite the pressure on his hand, and was looking wide-eyed at his Master.

 “Can we not do this here?”

 “Do what, Jensen?”

There was the heavy footfall of booted feet. Jensen swung Jared about and pushed him against the wall, crowding into his side, fixing Jared's arms above his head and kicking his legs apart, creating a vulnerable and open tableau. He nipped on the flesh just below his collar and growled into his ear. “Create a scene.”

The footfall lost rhythm for a moment and resumed again as a sentry passed them by, with no more than an uncomplicated smile and an acknowledgement. “Fine morning, Sire.”

 “Indeed Hawkins. Beautiful weather.” Jensen smiled against Jared’s flesh and leaned his forehead to the younger man’s brow. “See, normal!”

Jared’s breath had quickened, the cold stone chilled his back, the grip on his wrists was bruising and he could feel the bitten flesh of his neck. He felt exposed and yet his flesh was reacting with a thrill of blood to his groin. His cock twitched and began to swell.  Shame burned within him and he squirmed.  “Please” he begged.

Jensen glanced downward and licked his lips.

“Oh, so, that is unexpected.” He raised his eyebrows and pushed away from the brunette. “I forget your youthful hormones.” Jensen's voice continued in low tone, “We shall need to address some of those issues.” He grabbed at Jared's hand and resumed his rapid pace along hallways and down steep, spiraling stairways, dragging the bewildered slave in his wake.


The kitchens bustled with activity. A gigantic fire roared and spat in a smooth-worn hearth. Servants and slaves chopped, stirred and scrubbed without a single glance to their visitors.

 “Jensen! Oh my! What is it you bring with you?” Jared felt the loss of his Master’s hand as the Prince was enveloped by a petite but enthusiastic woman. Her dark hair was pulled into a bun and she wore a flour-dusty overall upon a grey gown. Her brown eyes sparkled as she hugged the green-eyed Prince.

Jensen patted his tunic as they parted, and puffs of the white dust became airborne. “Cookie, this is Child.” He gestured to the woman and kissed her lightly on the cheek. “Child, this is Cookie. She has the most important task of the entire Kingdom. She directs our kitchens and ensures that our stomachs never go empty.”

His slave hung back, motionless and silent.

 “You are allowed to say hello,” prompted Jensen.

 “Sorry.” Jared remembered his place, bowed his head and sunk to his knees, “I beg forgiveness, Ma’am.” It occurred to him that he had not asked how he should greet servants and nobody had suggested he may need to. Familiar butterflies danced in his, decidedly empty, belly. It growled with hunger and he bowed his head lower with embarrassment.

 “Well that is quite the strangest hello I have ever had. Jensen, have it off its knees, it looks quite weak with hunger. I do not recall sending additional portions to your rooms. Have you been feeding it? Boy, you are not too old to be refused dessert if you have been starving it.”

 He flicked his fingers and Jared stood again but did not raise his eyes. “Cookie, would I do that? But you are right, we are ravenous and we are growing lads. Surely you would not have us wait for a little nutrition.” Jensen's voice was honey and his face, gentle persuasion.

Cookie's fingers chucked Jared under the chin. Her expression was gentle and compassionate. “Well, there was a rumor. It is certainly different, Jensen. It has beautiful coloring and eyes. Has it been taught anything?”

Jensen shrugged sheepishly and she narrowed her eyes at him and then turned back to his slave, “Child. Rules of the kitchen; Please do not kneel, nobody wishes to spill a full dish or kettle tripping over you. My name is Cookie and I will not be fawned over or bowed to, but I should like it if you would relax and speak with me. I will have respect and cleanliness in my kitchen and you will not take anything without my permission.” She leaned sideways to whack a spoon against Jensen’s hand as it strayed toward a bowl of fruit. “My rules apply equally to your Master. I suspect he will attempt to use your sweetness to charm me into parting with food not meant for his table. Take my word for it, he will not succeed.” Her lips made a thin line but the lines around her eyes crinkled and the faint impression of dimples showed. “There is a pot to the left of the fire which is always bubbling. It is provided to ensure no slave is hungry. In the morning there is oatmeal and throughout the day it is filled with soup. You are welcome to help yourself, at any time, assuming your Master is agreeable. It is not for his use.” She leaned in to speak to Jared, a smile playing on her lips, laughter in her voice. “Shockingly, it is not unknown for Master Jensen to be witnessed stealing from the pot. Of course, I am sure you will never knowingly connive to take a portion for him.”

 Jared was certain she was teasing but remained unsure how to react to her words.

“Come now Cookie! Child cares for me. It would be rude of me to refuse if he wished to share with me.” Jensen snaked a hand around her waist. “Now, you can see how weak we are from hunger and Child has never witnessed your brilliance with bacon, eggs and pancakes. It would be criminal if he did not get the chance to taste such a thing when he is new and lost in this place. Of course it would make him uncomfortable to eat on his own, so I should accompany him.” He batted his eyelashes and pouted prettily.

She put her hands on her hips and sighed heavily, “Prince Jensen you are an irredeemable rascal.” She herded them to a cool corner where a rough wooden table was surrounded with stools. “Child, fetch two bowls of oatmeal. There are cups on that counter and juice beside them. That should suffice while you wait.”

Jared placed the bowls and cups on the table and remembering the rule of not kneeling in the kitchen he sat timidly on one of the stools. Jensen pushed a bowl and cup to him. “It is for you. It must have been hard not to eat for so long. You didn’t mention it at all, even when your stomach was noisy in complaint. You did well.”

“Do you often eat like this?” Jared was amazed at the informality.

Jensen emptied his spoonful, swallowed and grinned, “If I could, I would do it all the time. There is a good class of company to be had and the food is so much fresher without the fuss of a set table. Besides, this hour of dawn is too early for most. Surely you are used to sneaking to the kitchen to eat? It is the center of any household.”

Jared was a little lost, “Only servants entered the kitchens. Our mealtimes were set, with prayers in the main dining hall.” He changed the subject. “What game is it that I must play with Cookie?”

Jensen choked on his juice, “Sh. Keep your voice down. I said play Cookie, you know, to get the best from her, as I just have.”

“It’s funny,” Jared started, then fell silent.

 “What is?”

 “All of this, your lifestyle, it’s nothing like I imagined.”

 “Whatever did you imagine? Banqueting tables with babies for dinner? An entertaining beheading during an entrée of slave’s toes?” A voice boomed behind him and Jared almost fell from his perch with surprise. He looked to Jensen for instruction but found none.

 Jensen was grinning at his brother, “Joshua. Surely you are not here to steal pancakes and bacon.”

 “I surely am.” The King slid onto a stool beside Jared, who looked again to his Master but he was launching into a litany of reasons why Joshua should not be entitled to the same perks as himself. Jared decided to busy himself and fetch oatmeal and juice for the King.  He placed it in front of him and sat again, attempting to be invisible in his deed.

 “Jensen. Your slave just served me oatmeal from the pot. Whatever have you been teaching it?”

 Jensen beamed around his spoon. “Don’t pretend you don’t love it, Josh.” 

Joshua dug his spoon in and ate enthusiastically.

Cookie leaned across with three plates, piled high with pancakes, syrup, bacon and scrambled eggs.  She spoke to the King “I knew you couldn’t stay away.”

He grabbed her waist in the same way as Jensen had, “What would we do without you, Cookie?”

“Starve, or banquet on babies,” she quipped, unhanding herself to hurry back to her tasks.

Jared stared at his plate and glanced again to Jensen, but he was busy chasing egg onto his pancake and savoring the combination.  Joshua unexpectedly came to his aid, “If your Master has acquired food for you Child, it would be rude of you not to enjoy it.”

“Thank you, Your Majesty, it looks delicious.” He didn’t waste any time in wielding his cutlery to take a bite.”

“Jensen, I hope you will be ready for the memorial ceremony in plenty of time. You should get your slave a black collar. Not a formal collar yet, but a black one for now. I have placed you with Mackenzie and Ethan, their slaves should be able to keep this one straight without it being too obvious.”

 “I do not need him to accompany me Joshua.”


“I said ‘him’ Joshua. I may have given in to pressure and acquired a slave but I have decided I will not use the term ‘it’. He is a person and I refuse.”

“You will set a precedent.”

“What would be so terrible about that?”

Jared kept his gaze on the table and continued eating.

“We cannot flout tradition right now. We need all the support we can get.”

“That includes the support of our slaves Joshua. It is such a small concession, who is going to notice? Nobody expects any more from me. As you say, you need me to think differently, so suck it up and let me.”

Joshua wiped the syrup from his lips and rubbed his stomach. “Alright little brother, but he will accompany you today. It is advantageous for the crowds to witness a former soldier of the Realm, subdued, at your heel. It sends the right message.”

Jared was glad he had almost finished his food. It fell heavily to the base of his stomach and mixed with the bile that was trying to fight its way back up his throat.


 He dropped the bottle of oil and flailed as he grabbed a cloth to wipe it. He dropped the cloth and fumbled as he tried to put the stopper back into the vial. Jensen observed him from the comfort of his bath. “Jared, what the devil has got into you?”

He turned too quickly and slipped on the oily patch, bumping uncomfortably to the floor. “Sorry. M’sorry.”

 “Stop saying that. Come here. Are you hurt?”

 “M’fine, Jensen. Thank you.”

 “Get in the bath with me Jared. Need to wash that oil off, ease the bruises. Maybe we both need to relax a little.” Jensen spoke in a deep drawl as he let his eyes wander over every part of his slave’s body.

Jensen spread his legs wide and had the younger man slide into the water between his muscular thighs, his back pressed against him. The water surged and rippled, then settled, covering them with its warmth and zesty fragrance. Jared felt strong fingers reach into his hair and stroke through it. Another hand reached under his arm and secured him while tracing fingers over his breast and toying with his nipples. Jared’s breath hitched and his head fell back to Jensen’s shoulder. There was a puff of hot breath on his ear as the older man started to speak, “You are panicking like a fox who has scented hounds. Is this about the memorial? Are you planning an escape?”

Jared’s heart started to hammer at an unruly pace. He couldn’t pretend he hadn’t thought on it. From the moment Joshua mentioned the event and his purpose in forcing Jared to attend, he had been an emotional mess. He wanted to run away, get as far from this place as possible. Images of massed crowds clawed memories, screeching and vivid, from another time and place. He had seen crowds of hate, knew their savagery and had watched for his education, with hidden horror, as they stoned convicted deviants to their death. What would the mourning throng want to do to a soldier of the Realm who had been at De’ith?  “Will you keep me with you, on my leash?” he murmured.

“It is a formal occasion. The purpose is to see you submit willingly and gracefully, with nothing to hide from the Kingdom and your Master. You will recall your training and do it properly, without ties.”

Jared was devastated. It was too much to be seen in that way, an enemy, despised, naked and leered at in his enforced obedience. Without firm restraint he could not imagine a way in which he would have the courage to stand and not run. Every scenario he played out in his mind ended badly, he would run, he would be caught and punished, or torn apart in the mass by a multitude of hands.

The hand ceased its game with his nipple and stilled, steady and flat over his drumming heart.  “You know I will not let you run. I will not allow you to destroy yourself and take us with you. Even if you found a way to escape and they welcomed you home, do you think you could spend a lifetime hiding what you are, dying inside over time? I would rather have you die quick at my own hand.”

 “I know nothing.”

 Jensen's laugh was bitter. “You do not deny it. I should expect it, but I hoped for more. Your own words and deeds made me think there was a chance for us but inside that quiet boy you have been a firebrand from the very start.” His voice quietened and he sounded sad, “You know more than you understand, Child. Do not force my actions. I think it might break my heart.”

Jared closed his eyes and forced breath. He did not reply. Jensen’s hand resumed a steady motion over his chest and his lips peppered kisses to the back of his neck as he whispered into his slave's ear, “Can we at least have this?”

Every kiss, each touch, sensitized Jared's skin, sent a flare and a crackle through his nerves, thrummed through the flow of his blood and he moaned. There was a sharp nip and suck to his earlobe and his hips snapped upwards involuntarily, sending waves of water slapping against the marble edge. As he sank back into the firm body that supported him, he felt the thick, hard warmth of Jensen’s swollen member pushing into the base of his spine. “Mmm. I’m going to take that as yes. Is it a yes?” Jensen asked.

There was no reply. The man had been frank about the extent of his care for him. There was no loyalty to his slave aside from promise of a fast demise. Jared’s body was betraying him. Slick, plump lips were there again, pressing hot onto his ear and Jared fought not to squirm. He didn't want to admit it, even to himself, but he needed his Master to believe in him. He was on the edge of a precipice, staring at a void and he knew he would step into it, fall into him. “Yes.” he said “Yes,” he repeated on the exhalation of his heated breath.

 “Have you ever tasted a man? Taken his dick in your mouth, licked and sucked on him, swallowed him down and savored him?”

Brunette hair swished in the rippling water as Jared shook his head and his hips ground uselessly through smooth liquid. His erection curled to his stomach and his hand sliced water to reach it. Quick reaction pushed it away as his Master snarled at him,“Not yours. Didn’t say you could. Have to earn it.” Then it was back to honey drawl and sinful words, “So pure, so innocent, have you even thought on it? Stroked yourself and imagined the feel of forbidden skin on the tip of that thick, wet tongue? Did you ever think that a man could fuck into your throat and you would be as accommodating, as hot and tight as any slut’s cunt?”

Jared had not. He had never imagined such vice. He had looked at men, eyed their form and jerked off hastily in his bed to the image of hard lines, firm thighs and firm dick but he could not have envisaged the veniality of actions that could be performed. Until Jensen had taken him by force he had no concept that such deviant coupling was even possible. It simultaneously horrified and excited him. He was pushed forward as Jensen flipped himself onto the side of the sunken tub. Jared made to follow him, aware that he should be providing warm towels.

 “No!”  The older man spread his legs into a wide vee and beckoned him forward with the crook of his finger until he knelt upright in the swaying waves, his face level with the thick length of his Master’s upright sex. Jensen took his hands in his own and placed them on his hips. “Hold onto me. Now, just use that beautiful mouth.” Hands tangled into his damp hair and pulled him forward. His eyelids fluttered closed and the hands tugged and pulled his face upwards. “No. I want you to look at me. I want you to see what you do to me.” He stared into the chiseled face, opened his lips and wet them nervously before extending his tongue and licking a tentative stripe up the length of the magnificent cock in front of him. It was soft and warm, it smelled of lime and Jensen.

 Droplets of  water tickled his tongue as they slid into his mouth. He felt the length twitch and throb as he took another swipe and ended in a circular motion about the tip. It wasn’t unpleasant and he felt the sensation in his mouth travel to the very curl of his toes and pulse in his groin. “Now suck on the tip. I will whip you if you bite.” There it was, the jarring evidence of mistrust, and Jared knew it wasn’t right, he should not continue but he could not stop in his lust. His lips closed around the bulbous head and he stared upward, an image of lost innocence, the hazel of his eyes blackening as his pupils grew. His tongue swiped across the tip and swirled into the slit. A burst of unexpected taste exploded on his tongue as pre-come seeped onto him.

Jensen threw his head back and moaned. “Now take it all. Suck it down.” Jared felt pressure on his scalp as his head was manipulated. He wet his lips and slid down the length. His cheeks hollowed as he sucked. He gagged as the tip met the roof of his throat and the pressure eased as he rolled his lips back up, trailing a sloppy tongue in its wake, dipping back in for another taste of clear fluid.  Hips ground into him as Jared watched green eyes disappear under the flutter of long lashes. A red flush blossomed below tan freckles and lips formed soundless words and explosive groans.  Fingers tugged sharply at his skull and forced an ever deepening rhythm. Jared gagged and choked as the cock rammed deep into the tightness of his throat, stretching and burning the soft tissue, but even as he fought to breathe, water slapped at his skin in time with the fruitless, thrilled, grinding of his own hips. Jensen's eyes opened to stare down at him and they seemed to glitter with strange excitement as Jared struggled. His Master came undone with unprecedented fervour, a shout of Jared's name and a final deep thrust, spilling hot liquid down the confines of his throat and thrusting raggedly to drain evey drop.  Jensen finally gave in to the panicking fingers bruising his hips, his slave gripping in his struggle for air as darkness threatened to consume him.  He pulled out, panting and flushed and his slave screwed his face up and gagged on the lingering bitter saltiness and musk.

Jared rasped air into his lungs, wiped the tears of his breathlessness into the fresh bathwater, swallowed saliva over his hoarse throat and mused on the mistrust. He remembered his place, “Thank you, Master.”

Gentle hands cradled his face, smoothed his cheek and forced his attention “You don’t have to thank me.”

Jared blinked and remained quiet.

Jensen considered the hazel orbs that could not look him straight in the face. “You are an expert at speaking with silence, Child.” He slipped back into the cooling water and manhandled Jared to his former position at the side of the tub.  “Are we still adversaries, Jared? Will you trust me any better?”

Jared shivered as he felt the air on his skin and gravity forced water from him in rivulets. The shivers were replaced with warm tremors of piercing sensation as the slick, velvet heat of Jensen’s mouth swallowed his cock and sucked expertly. Hands kneaded the inside of his thighs and rubbed into the crack of his ass, parting the globes and caressing them as a long tongue licked and slurped wetly along his length. His nails scraped on the hard floor as his fingertips clenched and scrabbled for purchase.  All sensibility and self consciousness left him as he gave into erotic heat. He whimpered, purred and screamed as he carelessly fucked into the soft, willing cavern . The orgasm that burst and filled Jensen’s mouth, ripped through Jared’s lungs, his heart, his every fiber and he collapsed senseless into the Master he could neither trust nor resist.

Jensen pulled him back into the water with an enthusiastic splash and water spilled and crept across the floor in shiny streams. He licked white flecks of fluid from his lips and smirked. “So you hated that then.” He grasped at the damp collar and pulled Jared’s lips to his own. He kissed him deep, sharing his seed with him and licking into every corner of his mouth, as if he were trying to reach in to his very soul. When they finally parted with a wet smack of their lips it was Jared that chased Jensen’s mouth in regret of it ending.

“We should probably get clean and then you can dress me.”  Jensen switched to practical matters in a moment while his slave’s head swam in the aftermath of discovery, guilt and uncertainty.

A crash and bang at the door signaled the tempestuous arrival of Jensen’s disheveled Captain. He was swearing at a boy who he encouraged to follow him with a tug to his richly decorated, silk shirt. James Beaver kicked the door shut behind him as he called out to his Commander, “A little help here, Genius.” The boy wriggled and his shirt tore, Jensen startled into action. With a quick sidestep, he had the lad, panting and defiant, in his grip.

“You’d think we’d get some gratitude. Little git bit me.”  Captain Beaver extended his hand to demonstrate the bloody, round, mark on his palm.

Jensen looked between the frail-looking dark haired boy and the stocky, grizzled Captain. His eyes sparkled and he started to laugh, his body shaking with mirth. “Have you seen the state of you James?” He knelt by the child and his laughter stopped. “I’m assuming this huge monster of a warrior bested my most fearsome soldier. He must be very brave.” 

The boy sniffed and Jensen touched his cheek gently. Jared could see the lad’s eyes were rubbed sore and tear tracks stained his cheeks. 

The Commander looked to his Captain, he narrowed his gaze, al at once, he became dangerous authority and angry seniority,  “Why the moons are you here? Why is he here? You had your orders Captain.”

Captain Beaver flushed deep red and looked about to explode with fury. He strode across the room with purpose, pulled the boy from Jensen’s arms and threw him at Jared. “Hold him, Child. Do not let him go. You don’t speak to him.”  He glared at the boy and pointed to Jared. “There’s no point in harming him, he’s just a slave. YOU don’t speak to him.” The whiskered man was inches from Jensen now, chest to chest, fists rising. He unclenched them long enough to push his Commander forcefully toward the study. “We talk NOW.”

The lad was quiet and compliant in his arms until the moment the study door slammed, then his boot found Jared’s bare foot with a vicious downward stamp and he ran for the exit. Jared was faster. He caught him in a long armed hug, fell to the floor with him and hung on until the struggles ceased and tears fell. The boy curled into his arms, his chest heaving and nose snotty. He finally risked a glance at his strange, naked captor. “You haven’t got any clothes on, did you sin?” The boy said with a curious tilt of his head.

Jared nodded his reply to the first part before he listened to the question. He wasn’t sure how to answer that, he simply nodded again. He thought it was probably true. He had instructions not to speak but he didn’t think nodding was included. For that matter, the instruction hadn’t been given by his Master so he wasn’t sure it counted at all.

The boy straightened a little, looked to him and considered him further as he spoke, “Are you really a slave?” and Jared's world jolted sideways once more. Not by the question, but by the language of the Realm, tripping so easily from the youngster’s tongue and the familiarity of face. Jared thought the boy would be ten now. He would have been a mere toddler when they met, but the faint Northern accent, the manner of dress and the predisposition to his father’s features made Jared sure of his assessment.

He had to ask, “Colin of  Ford?”

Wide hazel eyes turned to stare up at him. “You know my name. Are you a kidnapper too? Can slaves be kidnappers?”

“I’m not a kidnapper. I’m not going to hurt you.”

 “We can escape together,” the boy stated hopefully.

 “We wouldn’t get very far. Have they hurt you? I don’t think they’d harm you.”

The boy screwed his nose up and considered the question. “No, I’m not surprised they are running from Pa’s army, they’re not fierce at all. The whiskery one is funny. They’re not like the magistrate’s men who came to get me. Pa was real mad with them.” He changed the subject abruptly, “We shouldn’t talk. Disobedience is a sin.” His eyes started to fill with tears and he trembled, “I don’t want too be taught bad sin again.”

They stayed on the floor. The small, tousled head rested against his chest and Earl Ford’s son closed his eyes. He looked exhausted. When the Prince and his Captain emerged from the study the boy was asleep. Captain Beaver lifted him without an interruption to his snores.

 “Make sure you are prepared, I will return before eleven.” Jensen studied his slave’s face, “Keep your judgement to yourself and have your cuffs on but not secured.”


Jared tried not to dwell on the implications of a Captain of the Kingdom being there with the offspring of one of the most powerful men in the Realm. Taking Colin Ford would not force negotiation. It would bring down fire and retribution of the worst kind, and Jensen deserved it because, however critical a battle, the kidnap of a child was the lowest act. Jared sighed. Every time he thought he understood his Master, may even grow to care for him, there came another revelation, a facet that threw him off guard again.

Jared had barely placed the cuffs when Jensen returned.  “Get on the bed.” The words were brusque and he didn’t look at his slave.

Jared was confused. “Jensen, the memorial is at Noon.”

“Don’t tell me my business. We can do this with you secured to the bench or you can lie on the damn bed.”

He flinched. He never wanted to feel the bench beneath him again. He knew better than to ask what he had done or refuse a command. He sat on the bed.

 “Lie down, on your back. Hands to the corners.” Jared wriggled to the center of the bed, he heard the rattle of chains being attached to the iron bedposts. Jensen kneeled over him and secured his wrists tightly. “Stop panicking. We don't have the time for you to make a fuss. Now your ankles,” He spread them wide and heard the click of the lock. “Try to move.” The chain rattled as he tried to wriggle from his spread-eagle position but he was fixed tightly. “Good boy.”

 There was the scrape of the door opening, the click of claws on the floor and the eager yip of a hound. He twisted his head as a middle-aged man came into view with a tall hunting dog by his side. The dog drooled and snarled, revealing healthy teeth. Jared tugged on his chains but he knew they wouldn’t give. He was beginning to sweat. He knew the dog would smell his fear, but he couldn’t prevent it.

Jensen spoke sternly to him from a distance. “Hey. Stay still. Relax. I thought you liked dogs. He’s just getting to know you.” The dog handler pulled on its lead, gave a command and a cold nose snuffled over his arm. Jared left his hands open as it licked at his fingers then stood two legged against the bed to drool, sniff and lick at his face, his body, his crotch and his toes. Jensen moved in, he placed a hand on his slave's chest and another brushed softly on his hair “Not going to hurt you. Just let him.” It didn’t stop Jared's nerves jangling and his chest tightening.

When the dog was pulled away, Jensen’s hands reached to the back of Jared's neck and stroked his hair from the still damp collar. He heard the snick of the lock opening and Jensen eased it from his neck, massaging the skin where it had lain. His Master passed it to the dog handler who placed it into a canvas bag on his belt. “That should be sufficient, yes?”

 “It will be plenty.”

The handler bowed as he exited with his hound and then Jensen was straddled atop of him, hand soft on his cheek, lips sliding wet against his mouth, tongue licking into him. Jared obediently let him in, but anger still coursed in him and he would not respond. His Master stilled and drew back. “You’re angry with me. Do you know the child? Answer me.”

Jared nodded, sparks of ire in his eyes. “He is the Earl of Ford’s son.”

 “Does he know you?”


 “Good. Understand that it is not something I will discuss with you. I am not in the mood for your temper. One child is quite enough to deal with for the day. Now listen very, very, carefully Jared. Nobody is to find out the boy was here. Not Mackenzie, not Ethan, not even Joshua, and certainly not Alona. I will not hesitate to put you back on the bench if you betray me in this.”

Jared’s mouth was dry and his head was starting to ache. He remembered Joshua’s words and he did not want to consider the consequences of being caught between the brothers. Jensen drew his legs up and got off the bed. “I have little time to ready you for public. You said that cuffs or a leash might help. I can't do that for you, but there are distractions we can use. I will not hurt you, but you are going to have to trust me and do what you’re told. I don’t want this any more than you do, but together we will do it right.”

Jensen brought bowls of warm water from the bathing room and set them on a table with clean cloths and a jar of thick oil. He reached to the dresser and pulled down several boxes. He opened the first to reveal a strip of shining black leather, set with jet. His hands were gentle and he caressed the soft skin of his slave’s throat as he positioned the collar carefully and locked it in place. “There. Your old collar is with the hounds. The dog that scented you is the best of the pack and the rest are well trained. If you run, they will be set after you. Have you seen a pack take down a stag, Jared?” 

 Jared swallowed, wide eyed.

“Good. I don’t want to lose you, and I don’t think you want to die like that.” He leaned down and kissed Jared’s brow before producing the gag with the ball and forcing his mouth apart with finger and thumb. He slipped the ball behind his teeth and secured the strap efficiently.  “This is not going to hurt. I promise. Try not to panic or cry, relaxed is far easier. You look beautiful Child. I don’t want you to have teary eyes and tangled hair."

 He opened a smaller box and withdrew a tapered metal rod of about four inches with rounded bumps on its length and a jeweled ring at the top which fixed to a tiny jeweled cuff. He showed it to the brunette. “Decorative and functional,” he quipped.  

It was an exquisite piece but Jared had never seen anything like it. He was still trying to make out its function when he felt the cold slide of oil on the head of his cock. “Sshh.” Jensen took his flaccid penis carefully between his fingers working oil into the hole and, with sickening realization, Jared knew how the jewellery would be worn. He whined behind the gag and clenched all his muscles against the chains that held him.

 “Hey.” An oily hand reached to massage his chest and stomach. “It’s safe. Don’t think about it. It’s going to be fine. You know one day, when we have more time, we’ll get to play with this. You’ll be begging me for it.” His lips quirked suggestively but his focus stayed on the task, “for now its best if you’re not enjoying it.” He oiled the rod and gently drew the hole of his penis apart. Jared felt a cold metal push and a burn as Jensen worked it in. “Breathe deep, in…now out, think of clouds or puppies or something.”

His flesh gave way and he felt the slide of cold intrusion, an uncomfortable friction and impossible fullness inside his cock. Just when he thought it was over Jensen adjusted the angle and gravity forced the metal further, Jared’s hands bunched and strained, the pain and discomfort of being filled so intimately, was almost unbearable. Then his hands flexed and his whole body strained off the mattress, as a spasm of pure arousal shivered all the way up his body and burst brightly into his consciousness.  He squeaked into the ball as his body tried to thrash against his ties. He felt blood rush as his dick twitched and hardened.

“Oh no, not all the way Child, half way is about right.”

He drew breath and held it as Jensen’s fingers nimbly secured the cuff around the base of his glans and Jared discovered the agony of needle sharp extrusions that clutched into the soft flesh as it swelled. His erection subsided with the pain but the plug kept it from its natural state, he breathed in only for the sweet sensation of arousal to hit the base of his brain once more and there it was again, a needles sharp shock. It was unspeakably wonderful and yet the worst pain imaginable. Jared had been a quiet child but he had never learned to sit still. At that moment he wanted to be a statue, to be made of stone, both motionless and emotionless.

“You’ll learn to control it. For now, you have to cope, just for a while.” Jensen licked his lips and when he spoke again it was with a thick, lusty voice, “So sexy. You’ll have to think of a way for me to reward you for this. For now you’re killing me.” He pushed himself away and Jared could see the telltale bulge of in his pants. Jensen adjusted them, shook his head and opened another box. “This is simple enough.”  He held up a decorative ankle cuff with a chain and toe ring. Tiny keys locked both cuffs. Embedded within the toe ring was a short jagged blade. Jensen took his foot and fitted it carefully, adjusting the ring and chain with precision. Jared was surprised that he felt no pain. He listened as he was given explanation. “While you walk correctly, the pin is simply a distraction. You will barely feel it. Try to place full weight on your foot, as you would when running, it will produce a nasty gash and ensure the cut stays open every step you take. It is not enough to do great harm but it will slow you down and provide a blood trail to follow.  Are you with me?”

 Jared blinked his understanding through teary eyes and Jensen pressed a cloth to them. “There. I knew you wouldn’t cry. Good boy.” He unstrapped the gag and pulled the ball out with a gentle kiss to the side of Jared’s mouth. Jared turned his face away and Jensen did not censure him.

 “Alright. Let me give you a hand up. It may be a little uncomfortable at first.” The cuffs were stacked on the dresser and Jensen took one hand and the other supported his slave's back, rubbing gentle circles between his shoulders. A jolt of pleasure-pain climbed under Jared’s skin and crawled there. He winced and hissed. Jensen was putting pressure on his back, “Now get up. You have to do better than this Jared. I know you can.”

The slave grabbed at Jensen’s shirt. He felt as if he might crack open and apart at any moment. Every pore, every fiber of him was tingling and his flesh was trying to crawl out of his skin. “Please, please don’t make me do this Jensen. I can’t. You have to take it away. I can’t go out there.” He was begging. It was degrading and cowardly and he didn’t know what mercy he was most needy for.

There was a fleeting moment when Jensen’s face softened with a hint of regret or concern but his Master's features soon smoothed and hardened. “Sort yourself out and stand upright. There are far worse things on the battlefield. You’ll not be the only decorated slave and I won’t have you let yourself down."

 He put his hands on Jared’s waist and pulled him to his chest. There was the faintest touch of fabric against his plugged cock and Jared threw back his neck and moaned before biting at his lip with a faint groan of pain. Jensen cupped his slave’s face and rubbed his thumb slowly over his cheek,  finally his lips turned down and wavered, the lines on his face deepened and his eyes watered. “I don’t know how to do this for them Jared, I need you and this is the way it’s done. This is the way it’s always been done.” He tugged his hand and pulled him to the bay window. Jared followed without thought and stepped back, in shock, at the sight. 

Thousands crowded the street and square below. A sea of silent mourners stood patiently. They were black clad, with flowers pinned or sewn as decoration, on their dark attire, sometimes just the one, others two or three. All colors and varieties, wild flowers and lilies, scented and unscented. All made a blaze of color on a black background.  Jensen’s voice rasped as he explained “Each flower represents the life of a person who was lost and the hope that their spirit can bring us a brighter future.”

 There were so many flowers, so much hope represented in them. The urgency of Jared’s own anguish diminished as he started to comprehend the scale of loss and need for assurance.

“Why are those people separated from the rest of the crowd?” Jared pointed to a sizeable area of the square that was cordoned off with rope.

 “They have come from the Realm to mourn their own, or mourn with us. We do not require answers of them, only respect.”

“How can you do that? That has to be madness. There will be bloodshed.”

 Jensen shrugged, “It has always been that way. There are many with family in tenure or who choose to stay as free citizens. The Realm may have closed its border but we have never closed ours to any. Many of your former kinsmen have been lost. Their families need to grieve and you do your own people a disservice by doubting them. The ordinary citizens are good people. They have never treated our kindness with disrespect or conflict.” 

It was as if Jared was seeing Jensen for the first time. Here was a man who had stood and watched family, friends and kinsmen die brutally at the hands of the Realm, who was on the brink of seeing everything he knew and loved wiped out, but had somehow never forgotten that everyone a nation represents is an individual, capable of their own thoughts, love and actions. He had probably made mistakes. He had certainly killed and maimed, kidnapped and stolen but even now, when all sense suggested he would be bitter and malicious, he saw the best in the citizens of a Realm that would destroy him.

Jared forced himself to calm. He had military training and he should use it. He visualized his sensations, he put his pain and fear in a bottle and he saw himself capping it. (and if that wasn’t a hell of an analogy, he thought wryly) He remembered the blade beneath his toe and he stepped, with poise, into Jensen’s space. He cautiously reached his hand to the freckled face and rubbed his finger on the plump, pink lips. There are freckles even here, thought Jared. He loved that there were freckles everywhere. “Can I kiss you?” The only reply was the urgent mash of wet lips against his and the swipe of a tongue. The kiss was harsh and needy and over too quickly. Jared kept his body apart, scared to jolt any part of the jewellery that tortured him. He spoke while he still had his resolve. “We should go now. We don’t want to be late.”

“Hang on. I thought if I wore a long cape, well, I know it looks affected but it will give you some cover.” Jensen swung a long formal cape across his shoulders and fixed the strap with a scowl.  “I look like a Dandy, so we can be mortified together. When we stop and you kneel, I want you to take position behind me and only just to the left. You may rest your forehead on the back of my leg if you wish contact.”

 “Is that what you wish? Do you need contact?” Jared asked quietly.

“Yes. More than anything.” Jensen reached for his hand and Jared took it and squeezed reassuringly.

“Then of course I shall, Master.” He smiled shyly to indicate the deliberate use of the affectation. Jared ran his hands through his hair and made sure his collar was straight. He focused on every instruction Alona had given him and placed his feet correctly. He relaxed his hands and fixed his gaze just below his Master’s.  “Ready.”

 “Good boy.” Jensen opened the door to the hallway circled his hand to indicate left heel. Jared took the position with a self-conscious grace. If there was the occasional wince or hiss of pain he ensured it was not obvious. 

Chapter Text

They stepped into the room and all conversations halted, eyes followed his hesitant progress and Jared wanted to flee and hide until he could be alone again.

He stalled at the side of the door, it’s like being the new kid at school, he thought, but he’d never been to school, perhaps if he had he wouldn’t resemble a rabbit caught in torchlight.

Steady hands grabbed him as Jensen followed, “Hey.” Jared was pushed against the wall and warm lips pressed against his neck. A wet tongue licked a stripe from his throat, over his chin and up to his mouth to dip in for a brief kiss. Jensen growled as he nipped a line to his slave's ear “You are the only one I ever wanted and they’ll just have to get over it.” Jensen pushed himself away but there was one last comment as he left. It was barely audible, even with Jensen's lips hot against his lobe, “I love you, Jared,” and Jared thought he must have misheard. Nevertheless, it was enough to distract him awhile from the throbbing, chaotic neediness of his body.

Jared stayed by the wall, pink-flushed and anxious until Alona wove through the room of shining, naked bodies and took him by the hand. “Child! You look wonderful.”

There were nine perfect-skinned slaves in the room, all exhaustively prepared and exquisitely decorated. A dark, slim girl tittered unkindly. Her hair was slicked into a shining ponytail with a jewel encrusted clip and her pert nipples were pierced with golden rings. “Well, goodness, yes. It is reassuring to know that the Prince is setting a thrifty example to his Kingdom, by choosing his property from the reject cage.” 

There were sniggers from all about the room and Jared pressed his back more firmly to the wall and sighed. He had hoped for friendly words or witty banter to settle his nerves. He supposed it was no more than he endured throughout his childhood, as that weird little boy that nobody is allowed to talk to. He pretended not to hear as the redhead replied in a disdainful voice “It is damaged goods. Look at the scars on it. So inappropriate, and my stars, is that restraint decoration? What sort of a disaster requires that? Well, what can you expect from the Realm?”

It seemed that all eyes were directed at the tortuous device fixed in his member and he fought a desire to cover himself with his hands, because that would certainly bring more ridicule. Alona eased him from the wall by his hand and shot a dark look at the red-head, “I’m sure Danneel doesn’t mean that Child.”

A lower tone cut in, as a striking blonde man with piercing blue eyes and a huge sapphire piercing in one ear, spoke up. He had the look of one from the Northern Territories, a cold region of pale people, “Oh, I am absolutely sure she did. You see she is a raging, spiteful bitch when she’s jealous and, by all that is air, you are something to be envious of.” He stuck his hand out in greeting and Jared shook it, surprised at the gesture. “I’m Chad. They don’t like me either. They’re jealous as fuck of me.” 

Alona rolled her eyes. “Chad, nobody likes you because you are an annoying, sarcastic low-life.”

“And you’re jealous. You love me really.”

Alona giggled. “Yeah, I’m jealous because, oh hang on, why am I jealous?”

“You have the hots for my Master and Mistress. Everyone desires Lord and Lady Collins.” He spared a look at Jared, raised his eyebrows and licked his lips suggestively. “Not that we don’t have a burning desire for Prince Jensen but y’know, my owners, whoohoo, scorching.”

There were an assortment of comments thrown at the spiky haired blond slave including “Get over yourself,” and, “Yeah, but what you wouldn’t give for a foursome.”

Chad stuck his middle finger up at them and grinned mischievously at Jared. “Believe me. I would have no objection to a fivesome.” Laughter filled the room, dissipating the tension among the slaves, which just left the tension thrumming through Jared’s body.

Alona subtly gave the sign for Jared to straighten. He hadn’t realized he was hunching his shoulders so he nodded thanks and regained his poise. “Well then. It appears you may, unfortunately have found an ally in Chad here. If you like I can ask Mackenzie if she’ll swap places with Lord Collins so you can be together. Mackenzie’s slave is lovely but he’s not particularly cuddly.”

“Unfortunately! Al, I’m not just cuddly, I’m awesome and you know it. Child, you have to know, just by looking at me that I’m awesome.”

Jared’s dimples appeared, his teeth shone white and he full-on chuckled. He struggled to remember when he had last done that “Please, Al.  That would be good.”

 Chad grinned at him. “Damn boy. That smile is criminal! If you smile like that around my Master, I’ll tape your mouth shut. I don’t need that sort of competition.”

There was a derogatory sniff from the slave with the pony tail but nobody was paying any attention to her.

It was an orderly formation of the Royal Household and Lords that filed onto the raised platform in the square. Slaves followed at precisely the correct distance and one after another bowed to their knees at heel, while their owners stood and acknowledged the crowd. Jared felt the cold air on his skin and the pain in his crotch as his penis tried to shrink, then aroused once more with a shifting of the rod. He bit his lip and concentrated on the deliberate flicks of Jensen’s hand to ensure his every movement was correct. He kept his poise and set his feet carefully but somehow he could not keep his gaze low. Jensen was pale, strain was etched on every feature, his steps were heavy on the bouncing wood and when he halted, his shoulders dropped, Jared sank to his heel swiftly and, desperate to demonstrate his support, his head bowed quickly to  rest against his Master’s warm leg. Jensen flicked at his cloak, as if it were an unconscious action but he flicked it again until it almost fully covered his slave from the biting wind.

It was only when Jared heard a collective sigh of “Aw!” from somewhere to the front that he became aware of the crowd. Jared felt a hand tangle in his hair as Jensen risked a moment’s comfort. There was another “Aw” from the masses. 

To the side of him Lord Collins leaned toward Jensen and murmured, “I think they need to see that.”  

Jared risked a sideways glance as Lord Collins made a similar action, stroking Chad’s face appreciatively. There was clapping from the citizens who could see them. On the other side of him, Ethan placed a steady hand on Alona’s head. The unprecedented show of public affection for their slaves spread across the stage and when the King followed suit the crowd broke into a roaring applause. Jensen’s features relaxed with the suggestion of an upturn to his mouth and Jared felt the knot in his stomach unfurl a fraction.

If it weren’t for the complicated attention to an unknown flower ritual, Jared could almost have forgotten his naked submission. Terror rapidly morphed into discomfort and boredom. In the moments that he forgot his place and glanced into the crowd, he saw only grief and a rapt attention to the King's activities.  Royal ceremony, pompous bugling and long, rousing speeches were horribly familiar to him. He considered it ironic that the most important Royal ceremony he had attended, to date, should be as a captive slave in another Household.

 It was the Royal family’s first appearance since their father’s funeral and Joshua’s first speech as King. It was mourning for brutal loss and affirmation of commitment to their people. The King was unequivocal in his closing words. It was a declaration to the Realm. The Kingdom would not surrender. It would not give up on any of its citizens or potential citizens (and that raised some eyebrows on the dais as the euphemism for slaves sank in). It would not accept a closing of minds or a closing of its borders. The only way these things would be lost was if they were taken and that was not an option. They would stand together.

 The crowd were deafening in their support and Joshua gestured for Jensen and Mackenzie to join him. Jensen palmed wait here and stepped to bury himself in a bear hug with his brother and sister. He whispered something in their ears and they all flicked their hands, heel. Jared crossed the space self-consciously, his ears burned with his exposed state but Jensen was quick to give him cover of his cloak. He reached for Jared’s hand and grasped it firmly and obviously. Joshua nodded at Jensen and clutched at his own slave’s hand as he added to the speech with an unplanned finale.

“We stand together, for everyone in the Kingdom. Let’s be clear, we stand for citizens of every background and religion. We stand for love to be accepted in every form. We stand for our slaves and for the refugees who have requested our shelter. We stand for our children and the stability of this entire region. What I ask is that ALL of you stand with us.”

They left the platform to a rapturous ovation. Jared’s gaze strayed upward and he watched families, friends and strangers hold each other in hugs, a mixture of hope, grief, despair and love expressed in such a simple action. For a moment Jared’s eyes caught on a man squeezing through the crowd. In the time that he blinked he was gone from view. He shook his head at the fleeting hallucination of Christian Kane. He was under a lot of stress, it wasn’t surprising he was conjuring up false images of his dead friend.

They retired to a brightly lit hall with warm fires blazing in the hearth, homey rugs over the stone floor and large squashy armchairs. Jensen took time to greet every Noble and ask after their family and health. If it weren’t for the incessant agony below his waist, Jared would have smirked. However reasonable the need for such conversation, he knew how tedious and wearing it could be.

There were tables laid out with cold snacks and drinks. It was basic but wholesome fare, and Jared wondered if it was always that way or if the recent defeats had forced constraints. He left his Master’s heel without waiting for instruction and collected a tankard of sweet smelling liquid and an assortment of meats, bread and fruit.Jensen took the tankard from Jared and sank the liquid back without a pause, then looked down at the slave at his foot. “Oh moons. Child how long is it since you had a drink?”

Jared didn’t have a chance to answer before Lord Collins was at Jensen’s elbow. “You sly campaigner. You know how to work the crowd don’t you?”

“I seem to recall it was your suggestion.”

“But you started it. Nice move, and as for bringing out your same sex slave from the Realm, I mean WOW. You know how to make a statement.” The Lord reached to caress the back of Jared’s neck.

Jensen frowned and was short with him, “Misha, You should know it wasn’t a statement.  It is what I wanted.” He stepped possessively between his slave and Chad’s Master.

Lord Collins wasn’t taking the hint. “Mackenzie tells me it is to be presented at the next function. I’m looking forward to that. Perhaps I can be one of the first to have the honor of his mouth.”

Jensen’s lips twitched and his eyes became cold. Chad made a face at Jared. It seemed to be a cross between, look how hot my master is and oh good grief, look how stupid my master is. “I’m not sure I can be making any promises for the future my friend. Besides, you know you would break the heart of that beautiful blue-eyed boy of yours.”

“It’s just a slave,” Misha laughed.

Jensen tipped his head to one side in a grimace and dropped his good manners. “Chad is a person, Misha and Mother Earth help anyone who might try to take him from you, because I have seen that you care. Child is a person. I care for him. As I said earlier, we shouldn’t make promises for the future. We may not be able to keep any of them, especially if we don’t have the support of all of our people, citizens or not. You saw the crowd. Surely it’s not hard to work out their feelings.”

“I’m not sure Joshua will approve of your opinions, Jensen.”

Jensen twitched his hand and Jared readied himself to follow him from the Hall. “When has Joshua ever approved of my opinions Misha? As I said before, this isn’t a statement, it is simply what I want and in the circumstances I truly do not care what anybody else thinks on the matter.” He smirked in triumph at Misha as he stalked deliberately out of the room with his slave following him in perfect time and poise.

They made it up one flight of stone stairs and through a corridor before Jensen crowded Jared into a shadowy recess. “Give me your foot.” Jared’s brows knitted in confusion. “Need to get the toe ring off.”

“Oh.” He hopped on one foot as his Master slipped the tiny key in and released the digit.

 Jensen balled up the chain with a clink and threw it into the corner of the recess. “Now. Where was I?”  He forced the brunette’s hands above his head and held them in one of his own. His other palm pushed flat against the brand on his chest “Mine.” He backed him flat to the wall and gave a lust filled growl.  “I’m going to take my hand from your wrists. Don’t you dare move.”

 Jared’s breath quickened as green eyes locked onto him in a heated haze. He held his arms above his head as a delicious tingle spread and ended in sharp agony of blades in his cock, tears filled his eyes and he wailed. “Nooo, ah.”

“Ah, Hell! Sorry, sorry.” One of Jensen’s hands wiped the tears from his cheek while the other fumbled at his cock. “Just a moment, Child.” There was a barely audible click as the ring around his glans was released, then Jensen’s mouth was on his lips, all wet heat and lusty desire. “So fucking perfect for me. Just fucking perfect. Gonna get you in that room and give you so much. Gonna make you come so hard for me and you don’t have to wait for me and you won’t have to say thank you because,”

Jared grabbed at his neck and pulled him onto his mouth “Shut up and do it then.” He groaned, thick and wanting, with a high pitched whine as the cock plug shifted and the blood ran unhindered to engorge his needy prick. “Mmm Jen.” All thought left him and he gave in to sensation as Jensen’s tongue plundered his mouth. He tasted of honey-mead, smoked ham and something else that was entirely Jensen and Jared was ravenous for him.

Jensen’s eyes widened in surprise as Jared sucked hard on his tongue then forced his own pink muscle inside. He had to know, needed to taste it all. Jensen was mewling and grinding his hips against the slave’s naked body. His cock strained at his pants, leaking a wet patch into the fabric and it was a wondrous sight to his slave. Jared gave another suck to Jensen’s tongue then pulled off with a wet smack. He kissed a trail down Jensen’s neck, he wanted more of his flesh to kiss and to bite, more to feel and taste. He fought with the buttons on the shirt but his fingers were unco-operative as his hips bucked hard against the firm contours of Jensen’s body and Jensen pushed back creating unearthly friction and a sweet moons, stars, freakin’ comets, sensation that coursed through Jared and burst in fireworks at the base of his brain. His balls pulled up but there was no means of release and he gave a squeaking whine and growling moan, together and apart. Sweat slicked at his chest and he panted. “Jen. Pleeeaaase. Oh stars, pleeeeease, can’t.”

Jensen gulped breath and slowed his grind, he looked down at Jared’s pulsing cock and grasped it in his hand. Jared flung his head back, knocking the wall, it was a sharp knock, it was painful and yet dismissed as unworthy of attention. His body only cared for one thing. He gave a hissing, panted breath. “No, uh, uh mmm.”

Jensen wheezed as he spoke, “Shouldn’t take it out like this, and not without oil, hot water.”

Jared bucked his hips again, Jensen let the silky hot skin rub up through his grasping fist and his slave moaned with tears of frustration. He’d never needed so much, not ever, he might just die without the release his body sought “Just do it! Just get it out.”

“Hey. Alright.” Jensen spoke gently, then growled again. “Keep your goddamned hands up. Want to see you exposed and needy for me, where anyone can see you, see how much you want it.”  Jared’s brain felt like it would explode, the words crept under his flesh and his hips rolled with wanton abandon. The plug rolled with it and he felt like his balls would rip in two with need. He didn’t think it could get any worse but then Jensen was gone, suddenly on his knees below him, looking up at him, all sex and softly slurping tongue around the metal of the plug, his teeth clicking against it and Jared didn’t know if it was noise or vibration or electric lightning that struck his length. Gentle fingers tugged the rod out carefully, inch by inch on a tongue-slicked exit with jolts of screeching friction and the chase of his orgasm.  As the plug finally ripped from his slit Jensen’s mouth closed around the length of his shaft and he hollowed his cheeks as he swallowed the bursting seed.  Jared’s world turned lightning white with joyous, screaming, brain scorching pleasure, his eyes were blown, pure black, and his muscles strained and contracted.

He laughed, adrenalin-high and hysterical, as his muscles turned to jelly. “What sort of Master takes two drinks when his slave has had none?”

Jensen practically choked with laughter, on the last of the come, he licked his lips and stood up, rubbing all the way against Jared. He pulled his slave's arms down and took him into a hug.

“The sort of Master who lets his slave have an orgasm without him.” He supported Jared in his arms. “You can collapse when we get in our room. Then you can have a drink and believe me honey, you can drink as much of me as you like.”

 Jared smiled, a full dimpled arc “Is that a promise?”

“I am so hard , it’s a guarantee Child.”

Jared let himself be manipulated back to their room and sported a contented, smug smile when they met staff in the hallways who pretended not to stare at the unsuitable slave who walked, with his Master’s arm curled around his waist, in the most incorrect manner. He was satisfied and fuzzy.Right now, in this moment, everything was perfect, if he was already condemned to Hell, he was going with Jensen and they were going to make it one heck of a ride.

Chapter Text

The slick length softened and slid slowly over Jared’s tongue. As his throat fluttered desperately around it one last time he retched, gasped for breath and reared up against the cuffs that held him tight.

“No. Clean me. I want you to lick every last drop from me.”

The swift return to his Master’s dominance had him chained with his head beneath Jensen’s thighs, his face fucked like a cheap whore, cock so deep that when it shot there was no taste, just hot liquid intrusion, sinking to his belly and yet….

“You can do better than that.”

He grimaced and swirled his tongue around the hairy softness of the balls at his lips. He kept his eyes open, he wanted approval, ached for it and he had been instructed not to close them.

“I thought so.”

Jared whimpered. The taste was not sweet but there was an odor and after-taste that was all Jensen. He retched again but it wasn’t violent, wouldn’t lead to sickness so he stretched his tongue out and licked a stripe from balls to tip and this time his stomach stayed quiet but there was no ignoring the thrumming need of his own sacs and the hot ache of his erect dick that leaked pre-come from its bobbing purple head.

There was a sultry moan above him and the thighs aside of him quivered and shifted away. There was the snick and clink of chains being removed and his Master landed beside him with a whump and a bright smile and pulled him in for a messy, salty kiss. “Look at you. Fuck, Jared! So very needy. What damage has been done with twisted words of hate?”

Jared turned his face away, he remembered begging for it, asking to give this to Jensen, then pleading for the chains because he wanted to, goddamn he had really wanted and needed, but then the voices had started in his head, the Elders, the scriptures, Morgan and Kane, all with condemnation and damnation. Doubt flew in on the accusations and he had frozen, overcome with wrongful desire, yet unable to continue.

“No! It’s alright, downright hot even. Jared, look at me, really, it’s okay.” Gentle hands manipulated his tearful face until he was inches from his Master’s and then they moved to his shoulders, pulling him in close, for a hug. “It isn’t wrong. It is beautiful. You are beautiful, and I take it, I take it all, the responsibility and the blame but I’m not taking shame and nor are you. There is no shame in this,” Jensen soothed him. Jared let go of a shudder as his shoulders relaxed into the hug. Soft lips nuzzled his neck. “Do you want to come Jared?”

“Yes,” he breathed, his voice cracked and hoarse, “Yes, Master.” He did. More than anything. He was wound tight and so desperate for release he thought he might explode with it. Jensen reached a sweat-moist hand to release the cock ring he had placed there, so much earlier, before his own orgasms. Jared jumped at the touch, it was too much and not enough, all at once. The hand grasped firm, slipped lazily along his length and twisted with a tug at the swollen head.

“Tell me,” Jensen urged him, lusty and sinful in his ear.

“Want to come. Please. Ungh. Please. Need to come.” Jared's hips snapped upwards and his head rolled back, hair damp and sticking curled to the shining black collar around his sweat-sheened neck.

“Join me. You set the pace.” Jensen took his hand and wrapped it around his thrumming cock with his own.

Jared groaned as he set a fast pace, he stripped his cock with steady pressure and the erotic touch of Jensen’s fingers. Sharp teeth nipped at his shoulder and a tongue worried at the wounds with a suck that marked him as Jensen’s in a trail of purple bruises. It didn’t matter, he wanted it, needed it, welcomed it and the pain translated into inexplicable pleasure that traveled every nerve to his tightening balls. He came with delicious, overwhelming sensation and a delirious, incoherent shout, the fluid shooting, squishy, wet and warm over his sweat soaked stomach. He flopped against the bed sated and exhausted, his lips turned up in a smile and his dimples deepened as his eyes fluttered shut.

A soft mouth pressed kisses all over his heaving, shaking, chest. His eyes flashed open and with panicked memory he croaked, “Thank you, Master,” but even as he spoke his mind ordered his thoughts, and he recalled Jensen’s later instructions.

“Sshh. Good Boy. Sleep now.”

His Master curled close to him, sticky with sweat on heated flesh Jensen lay his head on Jared's chest, over his rapid-beating heart, atop of his brand, and settled with one arm flexed over his slave's stomach, tickling him with his fingers drawing lazy patterns in the semen setting sticky there. Jared heard the lick and suck as Jensen lifted his own fingers to his mouth and sucked on his slave’s seed. Sweat and come mixed and cooled itchy on his skin, his wrists ached from restraint, there was a sting in his bruises and Jensen’s weight was not light but Jared felt himself drift. The words hadn’t been spoken again but he was sure of it now, he felt it in his core, he was loved. Jensen cared, and in his eyes Jared wasn’t deviant or wrong. Right now, it was all that mattered. He succumbed to a satisfied, dreamless slumber.


Jared startled awake to the noise of a door opening, he shifted and forced his head up and eyes open. Jensen was sprawled heavy on him and snoring softly. His arm and leg tangled over him and his face nestled into the slave’s shoulder. The main door to Jensen’s room remained locked, shut with the key in place. Jared frowned, he was sure he had heard it. He pushed at Jensen’s limbs and sat up. Jensen shifted and muttered in his sleep then settled. The study door swished and clunked as a small gap closed. What in Moons?

He leaped from the bed. He crossed the space with bare-footed, slave-silent steps. His eyes searched for something to use as a weapon, but found nothing. Of course not, not in a room where a Master kept his unsuitable and untrustworthy slave. He pushed the study door tentatively and it gave way without sound, a dark gap appearing in its wake. He looked to the bed where Jensen’s supine form continued to snuffle in easy sleep and he opened the door further and stepped into the study.

There was a stony scrape, a dull thump and what sounded like footsteps on a staircase. His eyes adjusted to the darker room and he scanned it. The desk stood, neatly piled with parchment and feather quills. The fireplace was unlit but stacked ready for flame, and swords waited at attention, for firm-handed action. Jared eyed warily about him as he stepped over to the holder and unsheathed the ruby-hilt blade. He stayed still and listened as he flicked his eyes over every surface. There were faint muffled thuds from elsewhere in the building but silence was thick within this space. He didn’t understand it. He was so sure. He moved again and peered under tables and chairs, arm tensed, sword raised in readiness. There was nothing out of place, except, his eyes honed in on a dust cloud dancing in beams of faint afternoon light from the far window. He traced the edge of the disturbance and found a mixture of mud and grit at the front of the bookcases.

He walked to the shelves and bent to examine the strange phenomenon, but it was all coming clear to him, something that had been said to Captain Beaver, the hours that Jensen left him alone and sulked in this study. He had given his Captain a command. His Captain had returned with Colin Ford and no-one was to know, yet he hadn’t left his rooms to give any orders since the day of his Father’s death. The Prince had been sick and confined by his siblings, given orders to stay and recover. He could not have commanded his unit. Or could he?

Jared relaxed his sword by his side and smoothed the surfaces of the shelves with probing fingers. He examined the pattern of dust on the volumes of parchment and found a gap of finger-polished wood. There was a cough and the swish of a sword being unsheathed. Jared swung around in alarm, unconsciously adopting the natural stance of a swordsman, ready to attack. Jensen stood readied, wearing just pants, he held his own blade in hand. He shook his head and disappointment seemed to drip from his sad eyes. “I thought we were past this Jared. I thought that just maybe, what we had was real. I’m an idiot.” He raised the shining metal rigid, in front of his own face and lowered it slowly, a symbol of duel and respect. “Should we end this as we should have, at very start, Prince Jared?”

The brunette looked to his own stance in horror. He opened his hand and crimson reflection shimmered as his blade twirled to the floor and landed with a metallic clang. He sank to his knees amongst the sharp grit on the floor. “I, I thought I heard something. I didn’t want to wake you, because it wasn’t reasonable. I didn’t mean it. I wouldn’t hurt you Jensen. I wouldn’t. There was someone in here, I was so sure.”

Jensen continued to grasp at his own steel as he crossed to Jared and stood over him. “You stole a weapon,” he snarled.

Jared took a gasping breath as he understood the gravity of the statement.

“You took a weapon and you were looking for a way out.”

He forced himself to be calm. He would not beg but he would state his case. He squeezed his eyes together and reopened them. He adjusted his posture so he felt dignified in his submission. “I ask that you to listen to me Master. I know I was wrong and I accept punishment that is due but I will not fight you and did not wish to run from you. I feared for your safety.”

Jensen relaxed and the sharp point of his blade settled at the floor. He twisted the hilt and it span in a lazy coil. “Why would you fear for me?”

“I heard a door open but it was this one, which isn’t possible, right? So I thought to investigate. Anyone hiding here, they could only wish harm, so I took the sword and I didn’t consider it, and I remember now, it was a rule but it is what came naturally, only…” he faltered and his voice became quieter, “there were just the sounds of retreat and I was curious because, all the time you hide in here, the orders you couldn’t have given.” He trailed off. Jensen’s face was unreadable and Jared’s explanation only dug him further into blame.

“But why would you fear for me?”

“There was somebody here. I know there was Jensen, and I can see that you have a hidden door. I’m not sure how you use it but there is mud and grit. It has been opened.”

“Why would you fear for me?” The question was repeated quietly.

“Isn’t it obvious Jensen? I care for you. Not because I’m your slave and it is required, but because I genuinely …like you.” Jared wasn’t ready to utter the other word that hid in his heart. Not yet. Maybe not ever.

Jensen continued to stare down at him. He toed at the mud and looked thoughtful. “You took a weapon. Go and put your cuffs on. Fasten them together and wait for me, by the bed. Do not speak a word until I say you can.”

Jared did as he was bidden. Jensen followed him. He checked Jared's chains, he fastened wrist cuffs to ankle cuffs at the front, then dragged him to a ring in the wall and locked his leash to it. He did not look his slave in the eyes or speak to him once. He took a little time in the bathing room and dressed himself. He looked back at his slave in silence as he entered the study and banged the door behind him. Jared rested his head on his knees in familiar position and wondered if the dark spot on the wall had changed at all.


Mackenzie flounced in after dark. The room was black and cold. She lit a candle and glared at Jared. “Cookie did not receive a request for meals. What did you do, Child? What did he do?” Jared shook his head then bowed it back to his knee. “Not allowed to speak, huh?” He nodded again. “Do you know where he is Child?” Jared shook his head. She huffed and approached him. “Oh, look at the state of you. When he returns let him know I want to speak with him. Write it in the dust if you have to. I shall ask Ethan to send Alona to set a fire, or you will be blue with chill.”

In the end it wasn’t Alona who came to lay the fire. Chad breezed in with a cheeky grin and cheerful chatter. “Oh man! Alona told me about you and she’s busy with all the guests. Lord and Lady Collins are in the process of sucking each others' face with no regard to how it makes me feel, so I asked and here I am. Am I your hero? Tell me I’m your hero?” The blue-eyed slave did a pirouette and ended with a bow.

Jared couldn’t help the trace of a smile that tugged at his lips.

“You’re not allowed to speak then. That stinks. I hate that punishment. Never mind I shall have to speak instead, or sing or something.”

Jared’s lips parted into a grin and he shook his head animatedly, in mock horror.

“What I don’t get is that when I last saw you I would have put bets on you two staying holed up for sex till tomorrow at least. That is if I had anything to wager, which I don’t of course, being a slave n’all. There’s my body of course, because that is priceless, well if it was mine.” Chad lit the tinder with a blaze of bright flame. He sat back on his heels to fan at it and gave Jared a full head to toe survey while he did. “Oh, I see I wasn’t very far wrong. So what happened, is he bad at sex? Are you?”

Jared pulled a face that, he hoped, showed disapproval for the questions.

Chad giggled. “I had to ask. I mean, aren’t you ever curious about, say, Ethan and Alona? They must be HOT together, but in public, tch, stick up both their asses.” He put his head to one side and considered the silent slave. “I reckon you’re just so sexy Prince Jensen can’t handle it. They say the quiet ones are the worst.”

Jared giggled and shook his head in wonder. He hadn’t been told he couldn’t laugh so he didn’t feel bad about it. Jensen would have to be more specific in future.

The fire took hold and blazed up toward the chimney. Chad put a steady hand on Jared’s shoulder, “I have to go, I don’t want to get us both into trouble. Look, try not to despair. I remember what it was like, the first few weeks, but it does get better and, under all that temper and confusion, Prince Jensen is a good man. Hey, don’t thank me, because you can’t.” He blew a kiss at Jared and danced back out of the room.

Jared watched the colors and patterns in the flames. His skin itched and his muscles ached in confinement, the floor was cold under his ass and the minutes stretched, but for some reason it no longer seemed hard to bear. He deserved this, and more, but he wasn’t completely alone and he knew, despite the setback, Jensen cared.

It wasn’t long after Chad left that Jared heard a commotion. Jensen flung the study door wide and stomped in, swearing under his breath. He stopped in his tracks as he noted the fire blazing in the grate. He looked to Jared and saw he was still chained. “Who the hell did that?” He yelled.

Jared looked at him in silence.

“I said who the hell….oh right.” Jensen rubbed at his chin and winced in pain. A red trickle extended over his hand and he wiped it on his waistcoat. He grabbed for a handkerchief and spat red into it. Jared’s eyes widened as the flickering light revealed his Master’s bruised and bloody face. He strained at his chains, reached out to Jensen.

“I should probably let you speak again then. You can speak Jared.”

“You’re hurt. I should see to that. What happened? Who did that? Are you hurt anywhere else? You should sit.”

Jensen gave a wry smile. “It’s nothing. I deserve it. Jared, I asked about the fire?”

“Chad did it. Lord Collins’ slave. Mackenzie asked Alona who asked him. Mackenzie was here by the way. She says she needs to speak to you.” Jared drew breath and continued, “Did he get his ass kicked? Nobody can be allowed to do that to you. You need a cold compress, some arnica, a little salt water to rinse your mouth and for the cuts. Jensen, please sit down, you look awful.”

“Whoa.” Jensen spat more blood and wobbled a tooth in curiosity. “Were you always this verbose? Or is it just unwise to stop you speaking for a few hours.”

“You’re hurt.” Jared didn’t feel the need for any more explanation.

“I said, I deserve it.” Jensen didn’t elaborate.

“It doesn’t mean you have to continue to suffer, Jensen.”

“This is just a ploy to get you out of those chains isn’t it Jared?” Jensen grabbed at the keys on the dresser, snapped the cuffs off and loosened the leash. His knuckles were bruised. Jared sniffed curiously, he couldn’t smell ale on the older man’s breath.

“It wasn’t a bar brawl, Jared.”

How did Jensen always know what he was thinking?

“You are so transparent. In about two minutes you are going to wonder how I will punish you for taking the sword without permission.”

Jared swallowed. He had known this was coming and wanted it over with. He wondered if it would be any harsher after Jensen’s obviously poor evening.

“It’s done. I have learned that you did not lie to me. It was your judgement and not your intention that was flawed. You clearly hate being made silent, and I know you dislike being bound. So there it is. Done. What did you learn?”

He wasn’t sure he heard right, was Jensen toying with him? “Um. Thank you Jensen. You, er, taught me that I must be obedient. That I must not take a weapon, or search your rooms.” He tacked another line to the end as he realized the mercy “You showed me you are merciful and kind.”

“No, Jared! I am neither of those. I am selfish. So, the next time there is an intruder in our rooms, by all that is earth, you WAKE ME UP. I can take a sword and give one to you and then we will both survive whatever murderous plans someone may have for us. You do not try to get yourself killed going after an intruder on your own. Your death would upset me, possibly more than my own, since I would be too dead to worry about that. Now go and find me that cold water and arnica. Mackenzie will throw a blue fit and I have no way to explain to her.”

The slave chuckled, “You’re scared of your sister.”

“Damn right I am! When the men of this Kingdom are busy throwing heroics and fighting rages out on the fields, who do you think it is that runs the entire show?"

Jared tended Jensen with soft hands. He dabbed at a swollen black eye, the split lip and bruised chin. He washed his bloody nose but it didn’t appear to be broken. His Master reached to touch him and rubbed tenderly at his bare arms.

Jared leaned into the touch, basked in it. “Why would anyone do this to you Jensen? Will they come back?”

“Leave it Jared. The intruder wasn’t unfriendly, nobody bad can know that route or use it. You should be safe, at least until, well, you know.” Jensen fell silent.

When Jared was finished with the last rub of ointment his Master placed a kiss on his brow. “You are so good to me, I don’t deserve you. I’m going to see Mackenzie. Make use of the bathing room to freshen up, you can put coffee over the fire and if you want to take a walk to the kitchens to fetch some soup for yourself, there should be some there. If I’m not back you must get into my bed and try to sleep. I want to hold you tonight. Is that alright, Child?”

"Yes, Jensen."

"Good boy."

Jared woke briefly when Jensen slipped under the covers with him. He spooned his slave close, kissed at his neck and went to sleep with an arm around his waist. Jared melted into the close, gentle, touch and went back to sleep feeling safe and content.

Chapter Text

Daylight was a grey streak of promise in the sky. The bed dipped and squeaked in rhythm and there was laughter, damp heat and a low drawn out groan. A hand reached to touch Jared's hair, tangling around it and trailing to his neck. He turned sleepily toward the touch and nestled against the firm, heated body.

“It’s so lovely, Jen.” The voice was Ethan's.

Jared's eyelids pushed apart in an instant, all trace of sleep gone. He pulled away from the soft caress and sat upright, gaze fixed in horror, on the scene beside him.

Ethan’s fingers remained outstretched from the sudden loss of contact with Jared's hair. Ethan and Jensen were naked in each others’ arms, eyes glazed with sex and desire. They were slick with sweat and joined. Joined.  The small man lay under Jensen, his legs, pushed up and splayed wide with the green-eyed man impaling him, stretching him open and grinding hard into him as he swung his pelvis up to meet the thrust. They eased pace and Jensen smiled at him and spoke, lust-strained and breathy. “Good mornin'. Come here and kiss me.”

Ethan moaned in pleasure, “Mmm, yeah, harder Jen, want more,” then squirmed, rolled his hips and pulled Jensen harshly into him. Jensen threw back his head and cried out, loud and primal. Jared swung his legs over the edge of the bed and ran from the scene. The bathing room door banged behind him and he sank to the warm floor with his hands over his ears to block the animal cries, the passionate words and the overt demonstration of his insignificance. How could he be so stupid to think there could be anything with Jensen? He was a slave, just that, nothing more. 

It wasn’t a deliberate decision to hide beneath the tables, maybe it felt safe, but he couldn’t escape the turmoil of his own mind, the alternate disgust and arousal at the scene he had witnessed. He didn’t understand Ethan’s apparent pleasure at the act which had been so harrowing and abhorrent to him, and the coil of anticipation he experienced when Jensen asked him to kiss, was inexplicable. Then, there was the simple fact; Jensen and Ethan were beautiful together. Jared had looked at paintings, seen the illustrations of desire and even penetration between men and women but nothing, not a one, had prepared him for the beauty, love and trust he had just witnessed. It stirred something in him and he wondered what would have happened if he had stayed and kissed Jensen, if he had perhaps kissed Ethan and allowed them both to touch him. Would Ethan taste like Jensen? Would his lips and fingers excite him in the same way? Blood pooled and gathered as his cock twitched and engorged. Jared let his fingers touch the head, dipped into the slit and then grasped and pulled at the silky skin of his shaft. He wanted more. He slid his hand slowly downwards and back up to the head, biting at the inside of his cheek to silence himself. He closed his eyes and lost himself in pure base instinct, fingers working to a fast, dirty climax that sprayed hot over his fingers.

His lashes still rested over flushed cheeks when Jared was yanked by his collar and dragged over the stone floor. The blow to his cheek was open handed but uncompromising, it repeated on the other side of his face and returned again three more times to each cheek with a vicious sting and red-hot burn.

Ethan stood over him, face contorted, seething with fury. “How could you? How dare you? You turn him around, shake his existence and then you refuse him. You disobey your Master, so directly, in the presence of another, humiliate him and then come here to take pleasure in yourself.”  Jared's hands were wrenched behind his back and cuffs locked together. Ethan dragged a large tub of water toward him and though Jared had seen it, he was not prepared for the cold shock of liquid over his head, the swallow of water and burst of his lungs, as strong hands submerged his face and held him under until he was flailing with need for air. His senses dimmed and the edges of his mind were fuzzy. He was going to die, expire in a bucket of water, on a bare floor, on foreign soil. What a ridiculous end. Stars burst bright and his chest prepared to explode as he was dragged up into sweet air with a tearing pull to his hair. He gasped deep, choked, rasped and struggled before he was plunged back into the watery torture.

Jared didn’t know how many times the small man sank his head under the surface or how long he endured the treatment. Consciousness returned with a wet retch and a hoarse, choking cough. He was lying on the floor, shaking, limp and soaked. Ethan stood over him, his face and hand had livid red bruises and Jared recalled fragments of his struggle against the man, knew how they had been acquired, wondered wryly what the payback would be for them, what other punishment awaited  him.

“You’re awake.” The statement was flat, but Jared glimpsed a hand movement and struggled to move to his knees.

“Good boy.” Ethan's praise seemed out of place.

“I hurt you. I beg forgiveness, Ethan.” Jared tried to sound genuine in his gasped apology, he no longer had so much pride that he would needlessly court punishment.

The small man shrugged. “It was an unpleasant punishment and you were frantic, it means you will remember it.” Ethan crouched in front of him, pushed the dripping hair from Jared's face and tucked it behind his ears. “I know you remember Joshua’s instructions. I cannot fully save my oldest friend from the disaster he has created with you, but you need to listen to me, Child, before it destroys us all.”

The small man sat heavily on the floor in front of him. “You won’t repeat what I am going to say to you, firstly because, on behalf of the King,  I instruct you not to, but mostly because it is not my intention to ever belittle or hurt Jensen and I do not think it would be yours either.” The deep brown eyes searched his face and Jared gave the faintest nod of assent. Cold water dripped and ran down the curve of his spine and he shivered involuntarily as Ethan resumed speaking.

“You and I, we don’t get to have what we want. Jensen doesn’t get to have what he wants. I can see how far he has fallen for you, but we all know it cannot be. It hurts, to know that I am the familiar comfort blanket, used when he is needy but it’s what I have always been and fool that I am, I always return. I cannot resent you, but I will not tolerate behavior that hurts him. Asking you to do what is required of a Court Slave is disabling him, he can see your fear and he will not push you. He is allowing you to lead and it is making him hesitant and you uncertain. In only days there will be a summit. It is our last chance to maintain our hold on the Lords that provide our armies and to gain favor with potential allies.

Adomisa is on its knees Child. This is our last chance and we are not above whoring our trade, our belongings and our allegiances and, I shall put this bluntly, we cannot be above whoring you. It is routine duty for a Court Slave to please guests. It has never been a consideration that one may not be agreeable. You will be presented and it is going to be difficult for Jensen. There are a number of important players about the table who may well have a fascination for you. To refuse them your service would be seen as a direct slight by Jensen, one that the Kingdom may not recover from. Do you understand what I am saying here?”

Jared’s brows knitted and he shook his head.

“Could he have found one more innocent?” Ethan sighed. “Just now, all that was asked was a kiss, and yet you ran and hid. In your fear, you broke every rule. This time it resulted in uncomfortable discipline. If you refuse to co-operate in Court and Jensen chooses to defend you, it may lose us the war. It will certainly earn you a slow and painful death. I assure you, Joshua will consider it treason. You do not have to be the best fuck in the room, it is fortunate that your naivete is attractive, but you will be one of the fucks in the room. You will offer it confidently and participate willingly, so Jensen doesn’t have to falter in his response. You shall attend with the physician today and I will find you some books that are applicable to your situation. You will learn.”

Jared nodded dumbly. It had always been there, the implication of being presented to others. Alona had hinted at the circumstances and there had been other references he hadn’t let himself dwell upon. He didn’t think he could do it but he knew he wasn’t getting a choice. He was damned, maybe Jensen was damned with him. He felt numb.

“I am going to let you prepare for the day. Jensen is still sleeping. You should organize his breakfast and wake him gently. I have a household to run.” With that Ethan unlocked his cuffs and left him alone.


He allowed his Master to wake slowly to the aromatic jangle of the coffee pot and the smell of fresh cooked bacon. He busied himself with the tray and presented it with his gaze low.

“Jared where is your breakfast?”

“I had oatmeal from the pot, Jensen.”

“Will you look at me Jared, please?”

He looked up sheepishly but his gaze slid to the side under Jensen’s scrutiny.

“Are you so very angry with me?”

He was quick to reassure his Master, “No, of course not, I have nothing to be angry about. I disobeyed and refused you. I was wrong and I’m sorry for that. Ethan was correct to punish me.” He bit his lip, pale and sick at the memory.

“Ethan spoke to you? Do you understand now?”

Jared’s cat-like eyes rounded, he didn’t know what to say, how much Jensen knew. Whatever he said was likely to be wrong. He stayed silent.

Jensen scowled, “Are we really back to silence? What is wrong with you Jared?”

He realized he hadn’t acknowledged his discipline. Jensen would be waiting on his experience. “I have learned that I must never refuse you. I shall let you and let anyone else use me and ..” his voice reduced to a stuttering whisper, “fuck me whatever way you wish.”

The tray clattered to the floor and a tar-black pool of coffee gathered and soaked into the bread that scattered with it. “Jared, what in moons did Ethan do to you?”

His voice remained whispered and broken, “Nothing I didn’t deserve, Master.” A tear pooled at the edge of his eye but he would not cry.

Jensen was grasping Jared by the shoulders, turning him, his hands smoothed all over his skin. “What did he do? Are you hurt? I’ll kill him. I swear I will kill the little freak. If you do not tell me what he did, I will search him out and ask him and he will not refuse.”

“I’m well. It was just a little water. He cares for you and he was right.”

Jensen guided him to the huge squashy armchair, curled Jared onto his lap and reached an arm around his waist. “No, he’s not, because you never would have said that if he was speaking for me. I care for you and I care for Ethan. Ethan and I, it’s complicated. I suppose we love each other in a way. In bed, I didn’t ask you to leave because I wanted you there. I wanted you to wake and see how wonderful sex can be. It doesn’t have to hurt. It can be good, fun even. I’m sorry I spooked you by asking for a kiss. You were just beautiful, all sleepy and dewy eyed. I would have said yes if you’d asked but I wouldn’t have forced you to join in.” He drew Jared’s face close and placed dry kisses over his face, across his nose and down to his chin and throat. “I want to fuck you, I want to feel everything, bury myself in you, but I only want to do it when you are ready. I took you in anger. I screwed up and hurt you. I’m the reason it scares you and I can wait forever if necessary.” He rested his forehead against his slave’s brow.

 “I made a deal, I gave myself and I will honor that.” Jared forced a smile.

Jensen shook his head and backed up, examining his slave’s fake smile. “No, no, no. That doesn’t happen. Promise me, Jared. I need you to promise me you will never open yourself to me, to anyone if you don’t want to. All I need to know is that you will consider it, that one day you might feel strongly enough to do that for me because you want to.”

“I promise I will consider what you ask of me.”

“That is not the promise I requested. Are you Morgan’s twisted protégé once more?”

Jared winced at the slight, “I’m a slave, I remember my position. Do you?”

Jensen’s fingers dug cruelly into Jared's hips. He shifted from under his slave letting Jared slide into the chair as he stood. Frustration bled into his speech and actions, he rubbed at his temple and tapped his foot. “I haven’t time for a personal predicament, I have to….” He paused and recollected his thoughts, “I’m going out. Clear up the mess and change the bedding. Find yourself a set of clothing that fits and put it on.”

“Yes Jensen.”

“You know I’m not angry with you, don’t you?”

He didn’t. Jensen seemed angry. Jared nodded anyway.

His Master leaned down to place a warm, closed-lip kiss on his mouth. “Good Boy”


Housekeeping wasn’t as straightforward as Jared imagined. Where even was the fresh bedding stored? Where did the dirty bedding go? Should he use wax polish and where did all Jensen’s knick knacks belong? Why did the mirror glass smear when he polished it? The castle was a maze of corridors and everyone avoided the slave. He sneaked down to the kitchen and hoped that Cookie would provide answers. She did one better and procured a jolly matron of a house slave to show him the laundry and share her wisdom with him. He soon had an armory of essential little items such as vinegar, lemon juice and beeswax and quickly mastered the skills to use them. He was loathe to admit it, but after days of imprisonment and inactivity he felt a buzz of achievement in the simple tasks.

He was whistling a tune when Jensen returned wearing a bright beam of his own and carrying a deep, uncovered, wooden carton.

Jensen stopped in his tracks as his eyes traveled the room and returned to Jared who was wearing a pair of his plain black pants with a white collared shirt and leather waistcoat. He set the crate carefully, in a quiet corner and returned to stand in front of his slave. He smoothed the crisp white collar open at the neck reaching his hand to the shining black slave collar beneath it.

“Moons! Jared! What you do to me! Your body is incredible and I love that I see it but, Gods! Sometimes a wrapping teases with the prospect of what is under. You are …perfect.”

There was a scratching noise and Jared looked about in surprise. “What was that?”

“We have mice,” said Jensen sagely, but he was unable to suppress a wide grin.

“I didn’t notice any when I swept.”

“You swept?” Jensen looked afresh at the room and sniffed, “Wow. Cinderella, you’re good.”

There was more scratching and a high pitched wail.

“Jensen, that sounds like an enormous mouse.”

“Oh that!” Jensen tugged at the leather collar forcing Jared to follow him. He leaned over the crate and picked out a handful of squirming grey fluff, with vivid blue eyes. “That’s the cat we need to control the mice.” The older man thrust the fidgeting fur-ball into Jared’s large hands and it calmed and stilled. It stared up at the brunette and blinked before breaking into a disproportionately loud purr and settling on his hand with the padding of tiny needle-trimmed paws.

Jared was entranced, he held it gently and stared in open-mouthed awe. “It’s a kitten. It’s so small, it would be eaten by a mouse.”

“Ha! I get no respect in this Palace, I ask for a cat and this is the best they can do. Should I take it back?” His Master asked the question but his green eyes twinkled and laughter lines creased. Jared wondered why he had never noticed the lines that were unusual on a young man but complemented his features so well.

“No.” Jared hugged it into his chest. “This is just a clever disguise, it is a covert rodent-catching agent.” He grinned up at Jensen. “Thank you Jensen, but why?”

The laughter lines moved and morphed as tension returned. “I don’t want you to get lonely. You should let it sleep for now.”

Jared smoothed the vibrating feline as he placed it back into the blanket lined crate. “Why would I get lonely?”

Jensen squeezed the bridge of his nose as he dropped his gaze. “We have important matters to discuss. I had you dress so that you can come and fence a little with me, I think it wise to keep your skills honed. We’ll talk as we spar.”

The Prince took up his own sword and returned Jared’s ruby-hilt blade to him. “With my permission,” he stated with purpose. Jared gripped it comfortably and for a while they both glimpsed a shadow of his former self.


Jared had to admit, Jensen was sneaky, he had a few tricks and light feet. They were both panting, the sweat glistening on their brows. Jensen had driven him back and was smiling with a confident swagger, ready for his decisive thrust, cocky bastard. Jared returned a half smile before hitting the floor with a roll and a twist, an imp’s grin with a devil’s move that finished Jensen with his opponent behind him, sword pointed full at his nape. Jensen shook his head and bent with his hands on his knees, catching a breath. Jared threw his neck back and laughed, full, genuine and unstoppably joyous. It felt good to best Jensen. They had sparred for nigh on an hour and Jared had poured himself into the game, invested in it. He felt his anger and frustration bleed into the blade, and dissipate through the air with each deliberate thrust, parry and defense. It was comfortable and familiar, the way he had dealt with his negative emotions since childhood, in a Palace where so little expression was permitted.

Jensen smiled at the sight of his slave, helpless with laughter, sword tucked back in its sheath. “Admit it Jensen, you thought I would be easy.”

“I knew you were good. I saw it in you the first day, but this,” Jensen stepped back and gestured up and down at his body “this is amazing. You think you have no grace but have you seen you fight?”

“Generally I am too busy pinning my opponent for that.” He eyed the blooming purple swell of bruising on Jensen’s face “ I imagine I would have found you more difficult if you were properly recovered and had full use of both eyes.”

Jensen reached his fingers to his own face and traced the scabbing wound on his lip, dabbed at the fluid filled pocket about his eye and shrugged. “I’ve had far worse so I won’t make excuses, the last move, I have never seen and I have been in many a fracas.”

Jared wiped his hand across his brow and pushed his sweat-damp hair from his face “I’m not sure it would work in real life. Sometimes Meggie and I would get bored of the routine practice, we would dare each other to come up with the most ridiculous and extreme move. This one seemed to work but like I say, unproven, and may get you killed on the battlefield.”

Jensen’s face soured momentarily. “Was Meggie a soldier at the Palace?”

“Meggie is Meghan, my sister. We learned together. She would beat your ass.”

The older man seemed to reel in surprise. “Your sister fights like this?”

“Just with me. She isn’t one for lace and teacups. She has less strength and reach but she makes up for it in guile.” Jared spoke proudly, his young sister was one of the strongest women he knew and he loved her entirely. It was after that the pang of regret hit him. Who would spar with Meghan now?

Jensen bit his lip and his smile died. Jared didn’t know what to make of it. “Is it a problem?”

“No, no. Just hate to think there’s something I don’t know.” The answer was hurried. “Will you teach me?”


“Yes, now.”

“We should probably have something soft for you to learn on.”

“Jared, the ground always has rocks, I can take it.”

He taught it step-by-step, one firm hand on Jensen’s waist, the other supporting his neck as he perfected the low flip. When he completed it successfully, Jared clapped. His Master sprang back to his feet and clasped Jared by the waist. He angled his head to him, not a demand but an invitation. Jared bent his head to meet it, he shut his eyes, licked his lips and let himself feel the slide and suck of it, the smell and taste of Jensen on his tongue and in his throat, enveloping him as he licked and sucked, tangled his tongue in delicious battle and devoured it all with a passion and a moan. Jensen pulled back with a suck to Jared’s top lip and soft kisses on his jaw and chin. The slave opened his gaze to a warm green stare and a “Thank-you Jared.”


The freckled man adjusted his pants and sheathed his sword. He adopted a serious manner. “We were supposed to have a conversation but I needed all my concentration.”

“Because I was awesome,” Jared teased.

“Because you were awesome, and since you have won our wager by three to one you get to ask me a question.”

Jared found himself guided to a couch a little way from the hearth, beside the stool on which they had placed drinks and a sandwich in the interval after their first bout. Jensen sat him down and curled beside him, head resting over his heart and his brand. “You can ask.”

“Have you an intention to harm Meghan? I will not hesitate to kill you if you do.”

Jensen’s whole body stiffened and he sat up straight. “You forget your place.”

“No, I do not, my place will always be to defend my little sister. Tell me you do not feel the same way about Mackenzie and I will apologize. You said you would answer any question, so you should do that before you punish me.”

His Master regarded him seriously, “It is not my intention to hurt Meghan. I do not wish her harmed by anyone and that includes Morgan. Good enough for you?”

Jared stared into the gold-flecked green and thought it was the truth.

Jensen broke the sandwich in two and offered him a piece, “Here, I am not going to punish you. It is a natural sentiment to defend your kin, I wouldn’t want to change it. I rather like who you are, even if you do shame my swordsmanship.”

A warm thrill of satisfaction crept through Jared’s soul and he pulled Jensen back to him. The older man relaxed into him and spoke, “My father would have liked you. Perhaps not as a slave, but he would admire the real Prince Jared. I wish he had been able to know you.”


They ate a while in silence. It seemed to Jared that Jensen was having difficulty finding the words he wanted to say. In the end they were blurted out, in a rush. “I have to go away.”

“But it hasn’t been seven nights.”

“I am aware of that, but I have to go and nobody must know, especially not Joshua.” He paused and wriggled around to face Jared. “I need your help. I cannot believe who I am asking for assistance but I must.” A hand snaked around the slave’s waist and clung to him.

“You aren’t fully healed Jensen. You should wait.”

“Jared, we may not have a week to wait. Morgan is at our door and our first defenses are lost. It is likely less than ten dawns before they reach this place. If I do not do this now, there may not be another chance.”

The slave was fully alert now. “That cannot be.”

“My sources are reliable, Child”

“How will I hide your disappearance for an entire day?”

Jensen chewed at his swollen lip. “It will be for longer than that. I need you to hold out for as long as possible.”

“How much time do you need?”

Jensen was silent, his eyes slid away from Jared’s gaze. “As long as you can. When Joshua finds out he will want to change his tactics. It won’t work if he adjusts his plans for me. He cannot consider me. You have to stop that from happening.”

Jared’s heart sank, Jensen was saying goodbye, for that was what lay in his unspoken manner. “Where are you going?” the question was rasped.

Jensen shook his head, “Joshua will ask and he cannot be told. I know it seems too much, but I have seen you, you are the bravest and most self reliant soldier I know. You think I have not noticed the way that you have borne the atrocious thing I have forced on you? Others could not have done so.” Jensen stood and took his hand, as he led him to the window. It looked over the swell and fall of the hill beyond the fortress.  A city of tents and makeshift shelters littered the fields, fluttering canvas and shanty huts as far as the eye could see. “Here, you need to see.”

“What on Earth?” Jared frowned.

“Many would not return to the Realm, they wait here, have vowed to defend us. The others are refugees, they seek shelter now their homes are lost.” Jensen took both his hands between his own. “You told me to find a way to force a negotiation but we are beyond that, we have nothing to barter with. You made me think, turn it around and re-evaluate.  There is a chance and I know it is slim, but there is a possibility nonetheless, that there is a way to reach stalemate with no winner or loser between us. I have to try Jared but I need you to be with me.” It was an impassioned plea.

“What is it that you will do?”

“You can’t know that. Just understand that if it all goes wrong, whatever you hear of me, you must trust me, I would never mean to hurt you.”

“I could go with you. You have seen me fight.”

“No, Jared. I need you here because you can fight.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“When it comes to the end, there are arrangements, for Joshua and Mackenzie and their slaves, there is an escape set up, a safe exile. If I was here then you would go with me but, there are so many more Morgan will see tortured. The ordinary servants should be safe, they will be needed in any regime and our army will defend them but the other slaves have nobody except Ethan.”

Jared raised his eyebrows and scoffed.

“I know he’s a strict disciplinarian, he thinks it makes it easier if a slave knows its place, has consistency. Whatever you think of that, he will fight with you, all of you. You don’t know him Jared. In his head it’s what he’s always been. He never chose his life either.”

“If I was here…, Jensen surely you are planning to be here to defend a siege with us?”

Jensen wiped his hand across his eyes, gripped the top of his nose between thumb and forefinger, “If it comes to a siege Jared, then we did not accomplish our mission.”

It was Jared’s turn to sit straight, he pushed Jensen’s hand away from his eyes and looked directly into them, searching for an answer, “What sort of rubbish is this, you didn’t succeed in killing yourself so you thought you’d have another try?”

“I am doing the best for our citizens and it is precisely what you would do, I know because I was there, remember? I am going to do this, you can choose to assist me the way I ask or I can take leeway by tying you up until somebody thinks to look for me.”

The flinch was visible and Jensen reached for his hand. “If I make it through, will you be here for me?  If I could return a treaty would you remain mine, even if everything changes?” there was a plea in the question.

It was theoretical. His answer meant nothing because there could be no such outcome. So why was it so hard to reply? He didn’t get the opportunity to fully consider it because Ethan banged on the door and swung in, face sour and voice raised.

“Where in stars is that stupid slave of yours, he has not arrived with the physician. Oh.” Ethan stood still and looked at Jared, dressed and sat on the couch.

“I did not make any such arrangement, Ethan.”

“I did. He should have informed you.” Ethan scrutinized Jared, observing his clothed state. “He should take those off, what were you thinking?”

“I was thinking that I was a Prince in my own quarters who wished to spar with his slave. I was thinking that you were in my employ and should respect my decisions.”

Ethan colored and bunched his fists. Jared touched Jensen lightly, “Forgive me, he is right, I should have told you. I forgot.”

Jensen looked worried. “Why would you need to see the physician?”

Ethan opened his mouth and Jared spoke before he could. “I suppose he will determine if I have healed.” Why upset Jensen? If he wasn’t going to come back then, the Summit, his Presentation, everything was irrelevant anyway.

Ethan closed his mouth and nodded.

Jared crossed the space and kneeled before Ethan. “I beg your forgiveness Ethan.”

Ethan nudged him with a booted toe, “Get up, undress, I will accompany you.”


“What was that about?” Ethan asked, as they descended a staircase.

Jared followed close behind in the correct manner. “Jensen does not want it to happen. He doesn’t need to worry about it for now, we’ve got time to sort it out. Isn’t that what you wanted of me, to accept this so he can?”

Ethan eyed him suspiciously, “It is a turnaround for you.”

“You made it clear to understand, Master”

“Good.” The small man seemed satisfied.


Jared wondered if the physician was unpleasant to all in his care, or whether it was only the slaves. Ethan handed the man a sealed envelope. The physician opened it and scowled as he read the note within. He screwed it up and threw it in the hearth. The flames blazed and settled again. “So the King would have me lie.”

Ethan leaned against the wall with his arms folded. “If you value your employment in this household and the position of your head on its shoulders you will do as you are told and there will have been no lie.”

“I examined this slave less than a full moon gone, he was certainly no virgin.”

Ethan pushed himself from the wall and stalked toward the man. Jared had seen him angry, he had been disciplined by him, but he had never seen this look of menace.

“Nobody has ever been in any doubt that the boy was a virgin when he entered this household and that includes the King. Examine him for disease if you must but we all know you did not find any previously and you will not now. The paper is dated and written, all we need from you is your name. The boy was virgin yesterday and taken today, there is no argument to be had.” Ethan had one hand on his dagger and Jared could see him toying with a small set of cuffs hanging from his belt.

“I will not sign without a consultation.”

“Nobody asked you to forego the consultation. In the circumstances it is essential. I am busy, we have stores to increase against possible siege, so I shall have the paper and you can direct the slave to its Master when you are done.”

The man scowled and signed his name. Ethan took the paper and left Jared with him.

“Lie on the table, hands above your head, knees up and as wide as you can get them.” The physician’s tone was ice-cold. There were two surfaces in the room, Jared didn’t need to ask, he skirted the cushioned one and lay himself on the cold wooden surface  with fixed cuffs. “There’s a very painful way to do this or you can choose the  uncomfortable version, so I suggest you do as you’re told and don’t struggle, but of course you are a trained and experienced slave so you do not need my advice.” It was a sarcastic comment.

His arms were fixed tight. Until then he could pretend he was calm. This wasn’t anything like the times his Master had used the cuffs to placate him, the times, before Jensen had returned from De’ith, when he had trusted Jensen. He didn’t have the time to consider that revelation before his legs were being pulled by strong, cold hands and fixed to firm cuffs attached by chains to a pulley above the table. The chain was tightened until he splayed wide, displayed crudely. The door was opened wide to the hallway. “The door is open,” Jared commented helpfully.

The physician reached to his desk and returned with a wooden paddle, he lined it up with the base of Jared’s raised and exposed ass and brought it down heavily with a sharp sting. Jared reacted with a short cry and tensed muscles as the ache radiated heat. “Well you might be as dull as ditch-water but you have good reflexes and nice muscle tone. Do not speak unless I ask a direct question, is that clear?”

“Yes Sir.”

A lamp was brought close and the cold hands squeezed and rolled at his sac, pulled and grasped his cock, Jared shrank back as far as he could, arched his spine but couldn’t escape. “Stay still!”  There was indescribable pain of the physician’s sudden tight squeeze to his balls and he bit his cheek hard to stop himself crying out. The pressure abated and the man began to whistle to himself as he worked. Jared felt the cold smear of lubricant on his tight hole and then two fingers invading, scissoring and stretching him open. “Mmm. Tight.” The commented wasn’t directed at anybody.

Jared had guessed the purpose of the examination, was determined to remain unflustered but his body had other ideas. His round muscle fluttered, trying to close around the offending digits, he could feel his heart racing, pounding hard against his ribcage. When he felt something solid, smooth and cold forcing into him, sliding deep and filling him, his vision closed in and he strained against the chains, claustrophobic and panicking.

He woke from his faint, choking on icy and brackish water, opened his eyes briefly and closed them against the deluge being poured from a large bucket. Jared took a breath as it ceased, coughed and choked to clear his lungs but the chains had not been loosened and the examination continued.

“You will clear that up as soon as the consultation is through.”

The thick invasion pumped into him and, with a twist of the man’s hand, the angle changed and Jared tensed as a surge of sensation traveled his body. With a traitorous twitch of his entire being his cock filled and grew. He bit on his lip, unaware of the bloody copper tang on his teeth, and barely suppressed his sharp, surprised moan.

For the first time the man examining him smiled, a wry, knowing arc, he spoke to himself. “Little whore, likes that.”

The action repeated and Jared swore with the shame of his response, received the sharp sting of the paddle for his indiscipline and struggled through repeated bouts of the bright, popping tingling to thank the man for his attention to Jared’s training. He felt the tension in his balls, struggled to stop it, thought of every awful thing.

“Oh yes. No problems there. Is the Prince Jensen as talented as me, slave?”

He came without a touch, red-flushed, his lip streaming blood over his cheek and eyes bright but with no tears. He would not cry for this hateful man. The physician withdrew the tool roughly, left the spattered fluid caking his stomach and altered position to look down upon Jared’s face. The slave guessed what he was expecting, what this cruel man enjoyed, and when the man met the murderous, set face on the young slave he was shaken, stepped back and breathed in before looking back to continue. He reached to open Jared’s mouth and Jared curled his lips into a snarl. Nothing disobedient, but he enjoyed the man’s nerves until the hard, cold, steel ‘0’ was forced behind his teeth, keeping his mouth wide.

His flecked hazel eyes shone cold and vengeful at the man while he probed at his tongue, his teeth and finally pushed the length that had tortured him to the back of his throat. Thick and unwashed Jared gagged about it as it was forced past his tonsils and the physician told him to breathe through his nose. He was sure he kept it there longer than necessary, enjoying the power, but Jared had found his zone. Years of folding his face to the required features kicked in on the back of this humiliation and anger. He could submit. He would do no harm, but the physician did not have to know that. Very soon he would have to release Jared and Jared was going to make it as uncomfortable as possible for the bastard.


The slave kept his gaze at precisely the correct level as the physician toyed with the locks on his cuffs. Jared had no tears or crumpled expression, he was cold steel and curled lip. The man was fumbling with the small key. “I can have you whipped with a word,” he blustered and Jared forced the corner of his lip upward, “Yes, Sir.”

“I will you know.”

“I understand the need for correct and just punishment, Sir, as does my Master the Prince Jensen and his brother the King.”

“D d don’t t try anything.” The chain securing his legs was unfastened and the cuffs released.

Jared used the moment to swing his legs dramatically, it could look like the beginnings of a kick and the man jerked back. “Oh forgive me Sir. I seem to have lost feeling in my legs.”

The cuffs on his hands fell open and he made over-enthusiastic movement with them. He didn’t sit up, he hadn’t been told to. He waited as the physician moved away from him. “You may sit.”

“Thank you Sir.” Excessively polite and formal, he sat up. He spotted a sentry waiting in the hallway, cradling a sore arm, he remembered his name, Hawkins, and flashed him a genuine bright smile, ensured it had been seen and reciprocated, before returning his correct and attentive gaze to the physician, in perfect slave behavior.

“There are diagrams of the positions you may be asked to adopt for sex, details on how you can best serve and information on how to limit any damage to the body your Master owns.” He put the book into Jared’s hand and handed a substantial jar of balm to him. Jared gripped his large hand around it, ensuring his fingertips grazed the other man’s hand. “There is always balm available, use it liberally. I cannot be bothered to treat a slave who lets itself get damaged by its own carelessness.”

“Of course, Sir.” He gave a wide predatory smile and was gratified to see the disconcerting effect it had on the man.

He made a show of efficiently mopping the water on the floor, before bowing in supplication but his lips snarled once more “Am I to leave here now, Sir?”

“Get out whore, you waste my time.”

Jared assessed the distance and angles between Hawkins and the physician. He lowered his voice so only the physician could hear and knew that Hawkins would not see. “You know what makes you insecure Sir? That piece of paper you signed, it proves that I am more important to the King than you are.”

He left the room and the man was gaping and furious, looking to Hawkins for support, but Hawkins was smiling at Jared as he took slave-soft steps through the hallway.

Chapter Text

Jared took his time returning to Jensen. He explored hallways and stairs and peered into open rooms. When he declared himself lost sentries turned him around with rolled eyes and knowing grins. He wasn’t untruthful but he was never lost in the physical sense, he could use markers and judge distances and direction perfectly well. He needed opportunity to think, not in chains, not with his Master’s watchful gaze and not with Ethan carefully nudging his behavior.

For the first time since he had made his impulsive decision in the small village of the Realm he was fully awake to the position he was in. No longer floating in denial or fear, or even relief at finding himself excused awful responsibility, it was time to face himself, as he really was and accept the limitations and power it lent him. It was time to work through what he felt for Jensen, as his Master and as a person, because he knew he would wait for Jensen, even if the Kingdom burned around him he would be the last person standing for him and would take whatever he could get with him. Jared wasn’t completely sure what that meant because it wasn’t a healthy choice.


When he returned to Jensen’s rooms his Master was sat on an armchair with a piece of string by his knee and an intrepid piece of grey fluff scaling his legs. He was welcomed with a guilty smile. “She needed to get out.” He scanned Jared’s face “Gods! What has he done? You are bleeding.”

“I bit my lip. I am fine Jensen.”

“How did it go? Are you recovered?”

“It was all right. I am perfectly well.” He grinned at the memory of the physician’s discomfort. “It went better than expected.”

“You’ve changed,” Jensen was regarding him with interest. “Or maybe you’re just being you. If I’d known a little swordplay would toughen you up I would have done it long before now.”

“I’m a slave, you don’t want me to toughen up. I am supposed to be submissive, quiet and obedient.”

“Being a slave is the toughest thing of all, but I never wanted a slave, I just wanted you, I sort of screwed that up,” Jensen’s eyes dropped and he fiddled with the piece of string.

Jared gave a short scoffing laugh. “Yeah, the whole brand and chains thing tends to do that.”

Needled claws drew blood from his ankle and sharp teeth nipped at his toe.

“She’s like you,” commented Jensen, “Soft and fluffy in appearance, nice to cuddle but she is a born predator with a sharp bite.”

“I’d hardly say that.”

“No because you’ve been hiding it your entire life but it is your second nature. I’ve watched you. You have given yourself and submitted, but you never backed down and lost yourself entirely, not even at the worst. You’re a strong person Jared and there is so much more behind that facade. You forgave me and I know I would not be able to in your position.”

“You could, you just never had to.” Jared kneeled by the side of Jensen's chair.

“For goodness sake sit on the furniture Jared.”

“No, Jensen.”

“What?!” Jensen was flabbergasted.

“When I told you it was easier this way, that the collar released me, I was telling the truth. If you want to return my life, then you must take me with you, as an equal. I am willing to try, but that is not what you are offering. If you succeed there will be a solution, you will return and I will remain your slave but I can never be more than that. There will always be others in your bed, eventually a partner, someone with the correct standing and connections.”

“You have…”

 Jared cut him off, “No. Not any more. What you said about Ethan, about consistency, I thought about it and he’s right, it is easier to be a slave that way. I cannot pretend I’m not a slave and I have to stop wishing for what I cannot have. I need to get on and accept it. It makes it easier for me if you accept it too.”

“I only asked you to sit on the furniture.”

“You want to pretend. You will behave as if I am an equal, kiss me sweetly, tell me again that you love me then you will leave me and command me to stay like a faithful hound.”

“Whatever the risks, it remains safer than taking you with me. Is it so bad?”

Jared’s answer was soft, he took his Master’s hand and rubbed it gently “It depends what your reasons are. I think it is because you believe you will not return to deal with the consequences, with me and with your emotions.”

Emerald gaze bored into him, Jensen lifted their entwined hands and rubbed them over his cheek “I may not return. The rest….” He sighed and rubbed his face.

“You won’t return if you think that way. For today I want you to be my Master. When you return, if you still want to pretend, then there will be plenty of opportunity for us to work out how to be together. Then you can tell me you love me and there is hope that I may believe you, then you get to ask if I will stay and receive an answer, but for all of that you have to come back.” His mind added more that he could not speak, and by then I may have worked out how I feel.

“If I don’t survive?” Jensen’s voice cracked.

“That is a future neither of us can see.”

“When did you get so wise, Child?”

“It isn’t wisdom, it’s just words and ignorance. Wisdom comes with age, experience and travel. I have none of that, just a dusty life spent behind walls, with people who could not understand me and a library where I was free to go anywhere, as long as it was in my imagination. I’ve never actually been anywhere. I can be told anything and I have no experience to guide me to trust or distrust it. I have no idea if you are truthful or a liar and the same is true of Morgan. All I can do is wait for the future to play out and then I will know for sure who is trustworthy and who is not.”

“You have better judgement than most. You follow your heart.”

“You flatter me Master.” Jared placed a hand on Jensen’s thigh, brushed it affectionately with his fingertips and left it laying solid there.

The change in manner was subtle but Jared noticed it, Jensen carded his hands through Jared’s hair and followed the curve of his collar around his neck with a finger, traced it up to his chin and lifted his face gently to stare in his eyes. “My good boy.”

He gave the slightest hand movement and Jared stood. Jensen placed the kitten in its bed-box and led into the study, he drew a rug across the cold floor to lie by the impressive desk and with a flick of his fingers Jared kneeled on it, settled comfortably, his head just level with the edge of the wooden surface.  His Master pushed a stack of sealed parchment toward him. “Pre-dated meal orders for Cookie, some for me, others for us both and a few for when I have a guest.”

“What guest?”

“Lord Collins and I shall be spending time together, which, in the circumstances, is not a lie. Misha lost his home and land, his was one of the first to fall. Remember I told you I had a friend on the Border? He and Lady Victoria are lodged here for now.”

“I didn’t know.” 

“How could you?”

“What will they do now?”

“What is left of their army will fall back and return to the fight, his senior men will cover for the fact that he will be accompanying me. Lady Victoria and Chad are with you in delaying the knowledge of our mission.” Jensen let his hand stray to Jared’s face and stroke his cheek, trailing it to rub the bloody mark on his mouth with his thumb. “Victoria will not allow you to take the blame for following my orders. I have left a note of explanation with her.”

Jared tried to control the butterflies that churned and fluttered in his stomach. He suspected the note might be sufficient if he hadn’t given the King his word to stand against Jensen, if he weren’t required to report to Ethan and Mackenzie on an equal status. He schooled his features “Thank-you Jensen.”

“You will assist me in packing the minimum possible, I leave after dark. It will give a head start until morning at the very least. I have listed tasks for you to undertake once I am gone.” He pushed another sealed parchment at his slave. “Take it, hide it well, destroy it if you must.”


Everything was in order with a good portion of daylight remaining. Jensen left him to his own devices, didn’t give a reason or say how long he would be, he didn’t have to explain his actions to his slave.

The kitten darted under the bed after a spider, batted the unfortunate creature between its paws and let it go, only to wriggle her bum, wag her tail and pounce after it again. Jared watched for a moment and smiled but pulled his glance away as his gaze fell on the small book the physician had handed him. Books were familiar, they had been his refuge when life with the Elders had become too hard. He would find a hidden corner of the library and search the furthest high shelves for delicious contraband, a fiction of peculiar characters or descriptive text of far away places he might one day see.

Jared was puzzled as to what sort of volume the physician would give him. He settled on the floor by the armchair and flicked to the center pages. He squinted at the drawing depicted on the paper and rotated the book a whole, slow, 360 degrees. He paled and read the text. He turned the pages then, quickly scanning drawings and text, color draining and eyes widening in horror. He was too absorbed to hear the door shut.


He flicked another page, chewed on his fingernail and visibly flinched as he emitted a short high pitched gasp.

“Jared, what have you got there?” His Master kneeled with him and gently prised his shaking fingers from the bound volume.

“Hey. Why so scared?” Jensen flicked the pages on the book, his brows knotted and then his hands were gripped tight about  it, whitening at the knuckles as his face reddened in rage. “Where did you get this?” he spat, voice of sharp gravel and low danger.

The kitten stopped in its play, flattened its ears and hid in the darkest recesses under the bed, its glowing blue eyes just visible. Jensen’s slave shrank from him “Forgive me Master.”

“Why Child? What am I to forgive you for?” Jensen was yelling.

“I, I, didn’t mean to, I looked and I can’t, I just can’t.” Jared was folding his body inwards, bracing for the blows he was sure were imminent.

“Stop! Just stop!” Jensen was breathing hard, as if working to regain control, he shuffled on his knees toward Jared and took his hand, rubbed a slow soothing circle  on it with his thumb and shushed him, “I’m not angry with you Child, look at me, I’m not angry with you. Whoever gave you this, whoever scared you so needlessly, that is who I’m angry with.”  A strong, warm arm snaked around his waist and pulled him flush to Jensen’s side. “When I left you not more than an hour earlier you were so strong and confident. What happened? It’s alright, tell me.”

Jared swallowed and reined his fear back, a heartbeat at a time. Jensen stroked his hand over his shoulders and down the curve of his spine. It grounded him and he leaned into the action.

“Take your time.” All anger was gone from him.

“The physician gave me it. He said this is what I would do, how to serve you and well whoever.” He flailed his arms toward the book “He didn’t say whoever but I can see…”

Jensen placed a finger over his lip, “Sshh, I get it.”  He took his finger away, lifted the book from the floor and tossed it, with good aim, into the fire which ate it with eager flames. “That thing is ridiculously outdated.” He tilted Jared’s face so he was staring into the gold-flecked green, could see the faintest flutter of the long lashes, “There are things in there I would never do, never let anyone do to you. The things that we might try will never be like that, not cold, not without care, never unless you want to and not without love, Jared. You are mine, you will never be a whore.”

Jared released a long shuddering breath. “Oh. Good.” His nerves were too shot to think of a better reply. Jensen’s fingers resumed toying with his hair.

“Child, what precisely did your visit to the physician entail? Whatever it was, I shan’t be angry with you.”

Jared looked downwards as he described the entire visit. Jensen shifted and his hand stopped in its soothing arc across his back. “I don’t understand why Joshua would interfere to have you certified for Presentation. I have never given him any indication that I would let that happen to you. Why did Ethan not tell me the truth? Why didn’t you?”

Jared couldn’t return the green-eyed gaze. He took Jensen’s hand and clung to it. He didn’t want to lie, not now that this may be his last day with Jensen. “I agreed with Joshua that I would do everything that was required of me, as a normal Court slave. Ethan wanted to tell you but I thought it was best that you did not have the stress of knowing, since you would likely not be here for the Summit.”

Jensen look confused. “You have hardly met Joshua.”

“We talked, when you were sick.”

“Why would he do that?”

Jared could see when understanding finally bloomed on Jensen’s face and this time the man paled, freckles becoming a stark contrast. “I let you go. He forced you to return to me didn’t he? How? What did he do? Are you his spy?” he looked dejected.

“I wanted to return and Joshua let me, providing that I took Ethan’s and Mackenzie’s guidance. Your brother just wants you healthy, I would never agree to spy on anyone Jensen and especially not you. You can trust me.” The last was a plea, though Jared was not sure how he would live up to it. He had promised to betray Jensen if necessary and it would be the King that would be denied if he did not. He let it lie, it seemed he could not tell his Master the whole truth after all.

“I’m glad you came back to me. It’s not like I have time to fret about the rest.” Jensen worried at his lip, huffed and squeezed Jared even closer to him. “I am disappointed that you didn’t tell me but it seems my family placed you in an impossible position.” He kissed Jared’s brow.

The kitten slunk to Jared’s knees and mewed until a large hand reached to cradle it. The younger man curled it against his chest and it purred, loud and content.

“You must name her.” Jensen commented.

“Can I?”

Jensen reached over to scratch the fluffy, upright ears. “She’s your responsibility.”

“Hope. I’ll call her Hope.”

“Good choice, Child.”


Light was fading to hazy dusk, Jensen stood at the window to watch the twin moons rise with the sun’s demise. For a few minutes golden light pooled with reflected white light over the distant hills and they shone, iridescent and alluring.

“It is so beautiful.” Jared couldn’t help the words that spilled. He kneeled at his Master’s side, careful in his posture.

Jensen looked wistfully at the scene.  “One day I will go there for the beauty, to drink it in and revel in it. We pass through for our purposes and the nature of it is forgotten.”

“I have never been to such a place, not really anywhere. I came here when I was small and after that, nothing until I turned sixteen and then Morgan only had me attend battle scenes for my education. Sometimes I wonder about it all, what I could see, all the experiences I am missing but then I know it scares me too, to go outside the walls on my own, it is all so vast and alien. I wish I had been well when you brought me here, I could have seen it, secure in your chains, which would not let me hide.” 

Jensen turned his head down to look at him at him, a hint of surprise in his demeanor, “Nobody really knows you, do they Jared?”

He ducked his head, Dumb fool! Why did he have to say something so stupid and weak? 

Jensen didn’t laugh at him or chastise. He looked to the hills once more. “I spend all my time escaping this place, its constraints choke me. When this war ends, however it ends, I will miss it. ”

Jared tried not to look shocked but the chuckle from his Master showed that he did not succeed, he continued, “I don’t like death and pointless destruction but there is something thrilling in the plot and execution of missions, the adrenaline of a stealthy approach to a covert target. I have the trust of my family and my troop, and I never reported all my dealings to my father or Joshua. I like life on the road, freedom of a pack and a horse, a camp fire and stars over my bed. I enjoy meeting new people and learning other culture with no walls and no restricting tradition or regulation. Is it so very strange?”

“Like that, it sounds a wonderful adventure.”

“Put your cuffs on Child.”

Jared stilled for a moment, tried to process what it was he had done wrong.

“Trust me.”

He rose with obedient grace and did as he was bidden, his heart fluttering with each beat. He felt the weight and the tight clasp of each restraint as he clicked them around his wrists and ankles and the locks slid into place.

“Good Boy.”

Jared followed silent instruction and stood before Jensen, his breaths shorter and more hurried, eyes a fraction too wide.

Jensen cupped his face in his hand, long fingers brushed over his jawline. His breath whispered over his slave’s cheek as he spoke quietly, “Turn around and look again.” He moved his hands to the dent of Jared's hip bones and encouraged the twist, pulled him in against his chest and held him close, hands meeting around the slim waist. He spoke again, hot into the shell of Jared's ear “When it is all over, we should go, travel to the furthest places and explore everything they have to offer and I can keep you like this, keep you close to me. Would these be sufficient to make you safe, keep you from hiding behind walls?” There was a tug on his collar and Jensen drew his wrists behind his back and held them loosely by the cuffs.

A delicious shudder radiated through Jared, he felt the heat and breath of his Master on him and the solid comfort of his strong yet gentle hold.  “Yes.” He breathed “Yes, I think I would like that, I think it would work out.”

“We’ll start with those hills, camp through a sunset.” Jensen stroked a hand over his chest, leaving a tingling trail of sensation in its wake, “and we’ll just keep on going.”


He couldn't be sure how much later the sound of stone grating over floor interrupted them, Jared was pinned firm to the wall, Jensen was using one hand to fix his cuffed wrists above his head, while the other roamed his flesh, his Master’s tongue plundered his mouth and Jared returned the kiss enthusiastically, lips spit-slick and swollen. 

Captain Beaver coughed, “We’re ready to go Sire.”

Jensen gave a low moan and locked eyes with Jared in a heated, unspoken moment. He pulled back with an obscene smacking noise and Jared was left exposed with arms aloft, eyes glazed, cock spent and stomach wet with the pungent odor of sex. He colored and looked away in shame.

“No worries Child, I’m old enough to have seen it all.” The whiskered warrior commented, brash and cheerful but he glared in harsh judgement at his Commander.

“I have to freshen up, Misha will be here soon enough.” Jensen adjusted his clothes, covering up his own flesh, but not hiding the fresh stain on his pants. “Jared you can let your arms down now.” The green-eyed Prince offered his hand to lead him, “We’ll get those cuffs off and you can wash. Good Boy.”

Lord Collins brought Chad with him. The two slaves grinned at each other and nodded a greeting. The blue-eyed Lord appraised Jared from head to toe and smirked “Any time your Master isn’t treating you right …”

Jensen clipped his hand across his friend’s ear and finished for him, “you shouldn’t  even consider running to this old pervert.” He returned to his quiet conversation with his Captain.

Misha’s eyes sparkled, he grinned at Chad and Jared and had them follow him to the far side of the study “I assume you know what you’re doing, you’re bright slaves. I suggest you spend some time formulating plans. Jensen has let it be known that he is using his last days of rest to ensure that Child’s intimate education is sufficient. To that end nobody should be bothering you as long as you look the part. Child, you shall sleep in Jensen’s bed, ruffle the sheets, stain them a little and take them to laundry too often, looking tired.” He wiggled his eyebrows at them. “Chad will bring a few toys for you to be seen with, to complete the picture.”

Jensen looked across from his own conversation and interrupted, with a glance at Jared and reassuring words. “Of course if I am not back I cannot be there to present you and if I am here I can refuse.”


Jared released the breath he had been holding.

Jensen contnued, "They spar twice a day, stay sharp and work out routes to the rooms where every Court Slave is housed. They organize clothing, find a hiding place and formulate a plan of evacuation.”

“Yes, Master.” Jared replied, in clipped military style.

Chad and Misha looked doubtful.  “Can they do all that?” Misha asked.

“I know that Child can and I have faith in Chad’s abilities.”

“Thank you Sir.” Chad bounced like a puppy with a stick.


Dread overtook Jared as conversation wound down and Jensen hauled his pack onto his back.  Two moons suffused soft light and the stars watched over the earth with bright points of care. He offered a silent prayer to the Gods that rode the stars and tethered the moons and hoped they would spare time to listen to a damned boy.

Misha kissed Chad on the cheek, squeezed his hand “Look after my Love for me Baby Boy.”

Chad looked decidedly uncomfortable at the familiar term being revealed to all present. “Be careful, Master,” he returned.

Misha pulled the Captain to the secret doorway in an attempt at tact but they remained peeping through the gap in the wall. There was the low chatter of others waiting on the stairs below the false opening.Grey fluff skittered sharp claws over floor as Hope slid after an imaginary prey, then scaled the leg of a chair.

Jared felt warm, sturdy arms envelop him and hands curl into the hair at his neck. “I give you permission to touch yourself when you think of me. If you need to use the cuffs to feel safe, you can ask Lady Victoria or Chad, I give them my permission to use them wisely. Don’t let anyone use you, Jared. If I’m not there they can’t make you attend the Summit. Don’t give in to Joshua, don’t let him Present you without me. If it gets bad don’t you dare get wounded or captured, do you hear me? Promise me.”

“I won’t.” Jared spoke softly, they both knew these were promises he couldn’t truly make. “Come back to me Jensen. I want to travel with you.”

Jensen put his head down and didn’t look back. Jared’s eyes glistened but he wasn’t crying , damnit he wasn’t crying.

“Close the door after us Child.”

Jared moved to follow the command just as a streak of charcoal leaped through the opening. Jared lunged after Hope and grabbed her on the top step of a winding stairway. He stopped and hugged her into the crook of his arm. He looked down the staircase into the shocked blue stare of a Queen’s man. The expression changed to fury as Jake finally comprehended the naked and collared Prince. Jake squared his shoulders and prepared a punch for Jensen and another man grasped him and held him back.

“It’s done Jake. I already did it. Now is not the time.” Captain Kane shouted into his face and shook him.

Jared and Jake looked in unison at Jensen’s bruised and battered face.

“He did. He really did,” confirmed Jensen, with his hand unconsciously dabbing at his wounded lip.



Kane dipped a bow and Misha took over guiding Jake down the stairs.

“I’m sorry Jared. We have to do this. We will come back for you, I give my word and my honor.” His friend sounded small and broken.

Jensen grasped at Kane and roughly turned him away and downwards. “Shut the door, Child.” Jared stared after them, unable to move.

Misha took control, “Chad! Get Child out of here, close the door and put the cuffs on him. Stay with him till he calms.”

Chad moved quickly and Jared let himself be manipulated, felt the cuffs heavy and safe around him and breathed slow with Chad by his side.

Chapter Text

“Well that was odd.”

Jared continued to breathe slow, he didn’t look at Chad.

“Been a lot of odd things with your Master and mine recently.” Chad was being conversational, small, curious glances at the Jensen's slave.

Jared didn’t make a sound.

“Started with the day Prince Jensen turned up with you and the other two, then two days later they let the other two go. Just let them go and they went with Captain Beaver,” Chad paused, got no reaction.

“It turned stupid strange when they returned, with that kid, in the middle of battle.”

Jared closed his eyes. Not going to take the bait.

Chad went for the jugular, “That there, just now, he bowed to you, Child. Bowed and called you Jared.”

Jared snapped. “Jared is a popular name for a child of the Realm.” Damn

Chad laughed, “Knew you couldn’t play dumb forever, because you certainly aren’t.” He touched Jared’s arm, “I’m not part of the slave gossip club, I’m not going to say anything. If we’re going to do what has been asked of us we need to trust each other. It would be easy for you to use that passage,” Chad nodded to the study, “It takes you to the outer walls, by the stables. You could run, it wouldn’t take long to reach your troops, and in this confusion, with all the refugees, it wouldn’t be difficult. Do you want to? I can unlock you.”

“No. Do you?”

“Nah. I’ve never been anything but a slave, I wouldn’t have the first idea what to do, and if I got back to the North, I’d still be a slave. Misha and Victoria are good to me. I’ll stay, take what comes. I think we should trust Jensen, there’s things he’s done, I can’t say them all, but he’s a good man.”

“You think?”

“He’s been a bastard to you, there has been talk about that. Something about you twists his guts up. Lady Victoria has a theory about it.”

Jared scoffed, “What is this grand theory?”

Chad spoke softly, “He fell in love with you.”

Jared shifted uncomfortably. “You can unchain me now, Chad.”

Chad bounced up on his heels, poised, just like that, Jared blinked, it was such a fast, graceful move, like an acrobat. He knew Chad had to possess the same skills as Alona but his manner was so entirely different that he had forgotten it.  “I’ll leave them on until later. You see I’ve a theory about you.”

Jared was amused, “Oh! Pray tell.”

“Chad was crossing the room to the door. “You care for Jensen. If I take these off you’re going to use that passage to go after him. You’ll get yourself killed for no purpose and I’ll be left with too much to do on my own. So, yeah, for selfish reasons you stay this way for now. I’ll be back. He blew a kiss at Jared. Hope chewed Jared's toes for a few minutes before settling with a squeaky purr, on his feet.

Chad released him five hours later, too late to have a hope of tracking Jensen and Kane.

Kane, that threw him for the biggest loop. What was Chris doing with Jensen? His brain ached, tying itself in complicated knots just trying to figure it out, but he was doomed not to know, he had no outside knowledge. Moons, if Jensen’s words could be trusted then he’d never had the correct knowledge in the first place.


It was peculiar sleeping in his Master’s bed alone. He should have been comfortable, reveling in the luxury, no longer confined to a cold, hard floor, but his brain wouldn’t switch off, the space was too large, the comfort unfamiliar. Ghosting memories of a strong warm arm rested over his chest and the breathy snuffles of Jensen spooning him, with his head on his shoulder, assaulted him. He missed him. He missed Jensen and that made no sense.

He rose at dawn, lit the fire, tidied himself to the approved standard, collected two breakfasts, ate what he could and consigned the rest to the fire. He made the bed, used the laundry and tidied the room, all the while tripping on Hope, letting her catch on threads and pounce on whatever moved. Then it was done, and all he had was to wait. The time hung heavy, the air still and silent.  He watched at the window and even the traders seemed subdued in their work.

Chad bounced in after lunchtime, Jared drew his own sword from the sheath and Chad teased him for choosing the girly, jeweled one. He stopped laughing after a bout where he was thoroughly outclassed. Jared took time to analyze his moves, suggest improvement and even took his arm, held it loosely as he demonstrated better technique.  They sat together after practice and made a plan. Jared found parchment and they made lists, Chad sketched the layout of Palace apartments, where Court Slaves resided with their owners.  From the study windows, the view of the hill beyond the fortress filled with a steady stream of weary, bedraggled people carrying a smattering of belongings.

They heard the knock at the main door and Chad ducked behind the desk. Jared moved back into the bedroom and lay on the bed, grateful that he had thought to remove the clothes he had been sparring in, yet hadn’t had time to wash his sweat or tidy his hair. There was another knock. The caller was unwilling to disturb Jensen in an intimate moment. Jared wondered if he should stay silent and hope they would turn away but he knew that Jensen would always answer. In fact he was sure that, in most situations, he would not turn a visitor away even in the most heated sexual moments with his slave. He could not imitate his Master’s voice and he didn’t want to explain if he remained silent and Ethan or Mackenzie walked in, regardless.

“Um yes.” was his strangled answer. He cleared his throat and tried again, attempting to control his jitters, “Come in.”

He had a sheet pulled up to his neck when Alona stepped softly inside the room. She surveyed the area quickly, looking for Jensen.

“Em. Jensen stepped out. Did you need something Al?”

“Ethan sent me, to continue with your formal training. He thought that Jensen may need a break. I can see he already took one. She smiled at Jared, appraising his position on the bed “You’re flushed, did he give you private study Child?”

Jared made a face that he thought best approximated embarrassment. “Mm. Yeah.”

She giggled, “Oh, Child. I had better not stay. I shall ask Ethan to track him down and find a better time.”

Jared started to nod and then realized the danger in that intention, “No, wait Alona. He said he would be taking a ride out, this eve, before sundown, that I could rest at that time. We should take that opportunity.”

“I should check with Jensen. It would be correct.”

“No. It would be better if he did not find out. It would be pleasant surprise when he finds my skills improved. Please, Al.”

She took time to think about it and then answered, a little uncomfortably “Yes, alright, I don’t think that would be wrong.”

Jared couldn’t help a small stab of guilt, wondering if it could get her into trouble when he was discovered, but he pushed it away and gave a tight smile as she turned to leave.

She turned back just as she opened the door. “Are you getting along with everything? If you need some help with that you must say, I’ve seen it all you know.” She directed her gaze to his midriff, hidden below the covers.

Jared gripped the sheet tighter and shook his head vigorously. “No, No. It’s all under control Alona.”

Her peals of laughter faded as she made her way back to Ethan’s rooms.


The last of the daylight faded beyond the windows. Alona had been gentle and her instruction had been useful. Jared now understood all forms of greeting and could assist at table. He wasn’t sure, in the circumstances, if he would ever need to use such skills but it had given him something to concentrate on, a diversion from his worries for Jensen.

Chad had arrived some minutes after she left and Jared didn’t ask, but he wondered if he’d been watching for her exit. He brought a canvas bag with him. “Gifts” he’d chuckled. The blond slave lifted an object for him to see more clearly in firelight. Jared shook his head and frowned, reached his hand to take it.

“What do I do with it?”

Chad began to laugh and then stopped abruptly. He looked at his new friend as if he had grown two heads and turned green.

“You seriously don’t know, do you?”

Jared turned the smooth tapering cone in his hand, feeling the flare at the base, he gave another shake of his head.

Chad swallowed hard and tipped the bag. “Tell me if you recognize anything.”

There were some thin leather ties and a set of wicked looking metal clamps with jewelled chains and then finally, something familiar. Jared paled and picked up the smooth curved imitation of a penis. He paled and his fingers shook as he held the object so similar to the one the physician had used to torment him.

“This. It was, er, used. The physician used it.”

Chad became silent and looked sideways at Jared. He fiddled with the strings of the bag before blowing out a breath and reaching to take Jared's trembling hand. “I’ve got a bit of a reputation with the other slaves for being a complete dick. I’m not the perfect example that Alona is. Misha never wanted me that way and I suppose I was imperfect goods, pre-owned in the North and all that. What I didn’t know about sex before I was fifteen isn’t worth knowing. I was a virgin, they kept you that way, if they thought you were pretty, could make them enough money. I was familiar with all these toys, could use them to make me feel good, but the first time was still scary. I remember that and I’m not so much of an ass that I don’t see how much this is freaking you out. Alona will tell you that you can’t discuss your relationship with Jensen. I’m telling you, as a friend, I think you have to tell somebody, and I am never going to break that confidence. Stars, I’m not even here, right?”

Jared chewed his lip and looked to the floor.

Chad spoke uncharacteristically gently, “Start at the beginning, tell me how Jensen came to procure you.”

Jared would never be able to explain how it was that the cocky slave with the spiky blonde hair broke through his defenses and stayed with him for hours as he sobbed for the loss of his family, his identity, his life and after-life, and then again for the brutal loss of his innocence to a man he wanted to hate but couldn’t. Chad sat through it with him, let him spill the whole mixed-up tale of his experience, with just a short prompt when he faltered or a pat of his hand when he managed to verbalize his pain. He didn’t offer platitudes or judgement, he just listened. He didn’t tell him that tears would heal him or suggest he shouldn’t cry, he simply found a stash of Jensen’s handkerchiefs and stayed at Jared’s side. He didn’t even ask why, after all that, Jared sobbed at the thought of losing Jensen.

 Chad returned the items to the bag and stashed it out of sight. He fetched the cuffs when Jared requested them and fitted them for him, leaving them unchained. He ensured his friend was comfortable in Jensen’s bed and that Hope was safely tucked on the eiderdown with him.  At some point before Jared allowed his puffed red eyes to close for sleep, he realized why Lord and Lady Collins valued their rather brash slave, so much.


Even the pillowy-soft decadence which couched Jared in warm comfort could not prevent his lurch into anxious wakefulness in the moments before sunrise. His eyes struggled to open, they were swollen and sticky-shut with the salt tears of his shattering breakdown. He felt raw, tender in places that had no right to feel, but it was alright, nobody had come to take him in the night, either his secret was safe or nobody cared who he had been. The full weight of his trauma had been relieved and he could carry on, he would feel the closeness of his Master through the cuffs and would continue with his instructions on the paper he had been given. He would live in the present, without thinking on the meaning of the commands and without dwelling on probabilities and grim futures. Chad had taught him that, or maybe Jensen, perhaps both in their own way. A slave lives to serve, in the present only, because anything else is the responsibility of their Master.

He read his Master’s words on the page, traced them with his own hand, thought of the deep green eyes and freckled face, the freckle on his lip and the ones over his shoulders. He pictured the way the man smiled and the feel of his fingers, cold against his heated skin. Jensen’s words on the parchment said he’d be thinking of him now, his slave, his Child, that in the time when the sun rose hopeful over the hills, he would be doing this too.  The bag was where Chad left it. He tipped the contents onto the bed and inspected them once more. He picked up the small jeweled clamps, turned them in his hand, squeezed the tip of his finger between the gripping jaws and recalled where he had seen such items. He imagined them in Jensen’s hands. Jensen would kiss him hard and deep, crawl on top of him, the hard naked planes of his chest against him, his strong arms and legs pinning him in place. He would lick and suck at his skin, pull on his collar to remind him of his place, tease and squeeze his nipples before pushing him flat with a palm on his brand and making those soothing noises that Jensen had used to calm him, since his very first touch.

Jared’s hands traversed his own chest in imitation, then taking the first clamp he held it open, squeezed his left nub to a hardened point and clamped the metal jaws shut with a sudden hot point of pain and an erotic shiver that extended to his toes.  Jensen would want him to moan, would enjoy the flare of pain in his eyes and have Jared touch his erect cock with him, feel the arousal it created. He clipped the other clamp around his right nipple, shivering in expectation as it closed, but letting it snap regardless. His cock stood upright and weeping now, he licked his hand and grasped the shaft firm, with the other hand he tugged experimentally on the short jeweled chain on the clamps. He gasped, his back arched and his cock slid through the loose grasp of his hand.

He wondered what Jensen was imagining, what act he would be desecrating Jared with if he were here, his hot, slick, wanting flesh writhing hard against his slave’s body. Jared twisted as he tugged over his cock, the way Jensen would. Jared closed his eyes, buried his face into the pillow that still smelled of his Master and let Jensen’s hand take over, let him tease and stop, then strip fast at the flesh, squeeze, torment stroke and smooth, him. He came hard onto his stomach and panted, alone in the soft support of the feather bed. He traced a hand through the viscous mess on his firm belly, spread the warm stain to the dent of his hip and raised a finger to his mouth, imagined the soft, long fingers of the older man, parting his lips, tasted himself in compliance with his Master’s instructions. He didn’t retch. It did get easier, more familiar.


Cookie raised one eyebrow as her stare was drawn to the shining jeweled chain between his nipples, she was too polite to glance lower, at the setting, sticky mess. “Well, you two must be starving. You can tell Jensen he should be looking after you better, he wants to decorate you, he should fetch his own food.” She grinned as she handed him the tray.

Wearing the nipple clamps was easy enough, numbness quickly settled. Removing them was the bitch. In retrospect he had gone about it too quickly and it brought tears of pain to Jared’s eyes as his blood-flow resumed too quickly. “Sheesh!” He thought Jensen would laugh at him, a full body, belly laugh but he would kiss him too and massage the poor reddened peaks. 

Chad benefited from the sore nipples as they chafed on the shirt Jared wore for sparring, he laughed at Jared wincing through standard moves and the young swordsman barely avoided being beaten by the blue-eyed slave.

 When they were done with sparring and planning, they sat together, on the floor and Chad reintroduced the bag of items to Jared. He explained the dildo and the ass plug and showed him how to lube and care for himself. Jared declined a demonstration and was treated to a laugh and sarcastic comment about shyness. He promised to practice on his own but he couldn’t bring himself to believe Chad’s assurances that they were safe and fun to use. When Chad was done teasing him he wriggled on his knees and chewed at his fingernail, Chad smacked his hand from his mouth in the same way Jensen always did. His question was hesitant, face partially hidden by his retreating hand. “What happens when a slave is presented?”

Chad paused, “I don’t think Jensen is going to let that happen.”

“He’s not here Chad. Humor me, I’m curious.”

“It is a literal thing. You are presented to Court by your Master, well at least to be sampled by the men of the Court because ladies do not participate in public. It is a demonstration of your obedience and trust in your Master and a symbol of his acceptance of your overall purpose. You have to understand the way a Court Slave is regarded.”

“We are property. What more is there?”

“We are the same as any other slave. Ultimately, we are property of the Kingdom, not of our owner. We all belong to the King and his Court. We represent the ideal that a slave serves its Master and the Kingdom with total obedience and affection and that is rewarded with affection in return, but never love because that would be inappropriate. We are undamaged because it must be seen by the citizens and by other Nations that our Masters are merciful and our submission is not obtained through violence and torture. Of course, it is generally forgotten that the training of a Court Slave is at least six moons before they reach the Palace and in order to achieve obedience any pain is permissible provided it does not cause permanent scarring. Retraining or resale can be ordered at any time that the slave is unsatisfactory, though it is regarded as a weakness of the Master.”

“Is that what happened to you?” It was the first time Jared had seen Chad look small and pained.

“I guess I was mostly there already, in our land a slave is born and raised that way. Still it was hard. They teach you to be the best. The very pinnacle of our profession.” Chad spat the sentence bitterly and Jared wondered if he had been wise to stir the slave’s bad memories. “It’s all about appearances. Arranged marriages are not unheard of, political expediency can lead to unhappy partnerships. It is useful to have an outlet for frustrations that will not cause an international incident. Single men can also be unwise in their casual encounters. A Court Slave who is introduced as a virgin cannot spread disease. Of course a single slave cannot compete with the pleasures of a brothel and the King does not want his Lords to appear loose with their affections so a balance is struck to keep them away from such establishments.  Slaves are shared at public occasions and by private arrangement and few activities are off limits.”

“So. Why present us?”

“It is accepted practice within the region and especially with the slave dealing countries, to provide comfort to visiting dignitaries, it oils the wheels of politics, but you surely knew that.”

“Of course, but why a Presentation and the Summit specifically?”

“Oh, Child! Because you are young, beautiful and innocent. You are a real prize to the most discerning of men. It will be seen as a mark of great honor and regard to the visitors in the room that the Prince himself offers his own slave to them, in your first service. Your successful submission, with your coloring and appearance, clearly of the Realm, will be a source of pride and kudos for the King and a sign of strength to other slaving nations.”

“There was a book, the physician showed me it. There were pictures of slaves being used by more than one Master at a time.”

Chad smirked, “Well, with the right ones that can be fun.” Jared paled and Chad became serious. “My presentation, there were seven, all separate. Misha wouldn’t allow anyone to damage me. I was too busy concentrating on getting it right to have fun. It was scary and I was sore but it was over in a night and I have never had to service as many in a short time since.” 

“I can’t do that.” Jared's voice cracked, he looked terrified.

Chad took his hand “You’d be surprised what you can do, but why torture yourself with the thought when Jensen isn’t here. Circumstances are different now his father is no longer King, he would have demanded that Jensen show his dominance by taking your virginity in front of the room. Joshua has allowed a doctor’s certificate and I have never seen him stay for long or participate in public. He will ensure that appearances are correct but I think he is not all comfortable with the concept. I am sure we will see changes.”

Jared nodded dumbly. He wished he hadn’t asked, wondered how easy it would be to get lost in crowds of refugees.

Chad took his hand, rubbed it. “Cuffs?” he asked. Jared nodded and held his wrists to him, he would live in the now, safe in his Master’s ownership.


They visited the laundry while servants and slaves took their break. Linen swapped, Chad and Jared set about inspecting the clothes that were stored at the base of the piles, on the bottom shelves, that had a layer of fine dust settling on them. Finding worn but respectable clothing for the male slaves seemed simple enough. They estimated sizes between them and kept the designs flexible and plain.  The girls were a completely different matter. Chad was experienced in the variety of women’s undergarments, but estimating sizes to fit the likes of Alona and Danneel was impossible, he had to cover his mouth to stifle the giggles that were produced when Chad paraded in a pink corset that could barely lace, with a full skirt that swirled about his shins. In the end they decided to ask Lady Victoria for her assistance in acquiring garments for the girls. Chad joked that she might well ask him to model the girls’ clothes anyway.


The third day seemed easier. It had become a routine. A distant good morning to Jensen on the rays of a rising sun, breakfast, sparring with Chad, cleaning and time playing with Hope.  A  prayer for the refugees multiplying in makeshift homes beyond fortress walls, training with Alona and more time with Chad. At the end of the day he wished Jensen and Chris well on the points of the stars and glow of the moons. It couldn’t last but it wasn’t his place to worry about anything other than the tasks he had been set.

He no longer removed his cuffs except to wash and at night he pushed his face into the pillow and breathed the scent of Jensen.

Chapter Text


On the fifth morn there were no distant hills to stare upon, no sky to share with Jensen and no sun to bless him upon. Fog shrouded the fortress, clung to it, insidious and choking. He had instructions, completed the act with a fast physical release and a spurt of warm fluid which he wiped quickly with a cloth. He felt no connection to his Master, wondered if he still existed, out there, beyond his own confined world.


He wandered through the rooms, trailed his hand over smooth polished furniture and pondered the various paintings. His fingers feathered over the contours of De’ith and worried on a replica of Mount Burma. He stood in the middle of the study and turned slowly, taking in the models, the open books and the stacks of parchment on Jensen’s desk. He removed his cuffs with deliberation and placed them on the side of the muddled work surface.

Jared started with the documents in the center. He glanced at each paper, dismissing them quickly. Beneath the stack of parchment he found two volumes. One ancient tome and another, modern edition, were dog eared, bookmarked and folded in on each other. More peculiarly, they had been marked with notes written in the margins in Jensen’s neat hand. Jared took them in his hand and his breath caught as he recognized the formal edition of The Sciptures and then noted the faded and dusty antique version presented in a long disused dialect. He touched it reverently, smoothed across the decaying pages and frowned. He had never seen such an old version of The Scriptures, even the most secure vault of the library, in his childhood home, had no such thing.


The fog started to dissipate as the mid-morning sun burned at its edges. Jared stirred in the chair where he sat with the two books of Scripture. He checked Jensen’s translations of the key sections over again. His nails were bitten to the quick, frayed and with blood leaking at the fingertips. He finished reading and stared into space. The sheer scale of the betrayal of his family, of his people, of the entire Realm was overwhelming. He gripped at the modern book, he wanted to rip it, let it flutter in tiny, hateful confetti, into a fire.  Sense won over. Some way, somehow, there would be a way to reveal all of this and put it right. The research was needed.  He raised his arm and threw the book hard at the opposite wall, let it slam and slide against the stone. He smacked his own hand onto the solid desk top, felt it bruise and hit harder until there was a crack of bone shattering in his smallest finger with a splintering sharp pain that could compete with the agony of this knowledge. He deserved this damage, stupid foolish, unquestioning sheep that he was. Jensen deserved for his property to be damaged because Jensen had known and said nothing.

The pain in his hand screeched for his attention, he wrenched the desk drawers out looking for something to use as a splint and binding. He tipped them on the floor in anger, watching herbs, quills, and papers spill, roll, and settle. There was an essay on plants for use in treatments of all types of illness and injury and another on their use in poisoning and simulation of ailments. He passed them over with a cursory glance but his attention caught on a description of the use of poisons to produce the symptoms of heart weariness. He had seen the interest in plants from the first days with Jensen, they were littered about his rooms in bundles but it still seemed a strange hobby for a warrior. 

He found a silk tie and bound his hand then surveyed his surroundings and  repeated his actions on the cabinets and storage throughout the study. He ransacked the room and found no trace of Jensen’s whereabouts or of his mission. He didn’t think he’d even found a clue to the man’s true character or allegiances. Standing in the scattered debris of his destruction he saw the sunlight finally break through. A ray shone bright across the study and lit the cause of his meltdown, where it lay on the floor. A small piece of parchment had fluttered from its covers.  He picked it up between the long fingers of his undamaged hand, traced over the short note, in Jensen’s neat writing;


Did you really think I’d leave details of my whereabouts?

I guess you’ve read my research. You aren’t ready to know this, how can you ever be ready for this?  I wanted to tell you but I think I already mentioned that I’m selfish. I couldn’t risk losing you. 

Forgive me for what I am about to do, just know, I did the only thing that I could.


A realization seeped slowly into his consciousness, lodged and grew until it spilled in spoken word, gushed loudly to the empty space “I am not deviant. There is no such thing as deviant.” There was never a choice, never a distinction. No form of love was ever supposed to be ostracized or twisted. “I am NOT wrong.”

He came to himself in horror as more sunshine pushed through the window and he looked again at the disorder created by his outburst, noted the position of the sun in the sky and observed that Chad was late to practice. He had broken the rules, disobeyed his Master on every level. He had damaged his property and searched through his study, a stipulation which had so recently been reinforced with punishment. He ached for discipline, needed the absolution of carefully applied censure and the hurt of Jensen not being there to enforce it, was almost physical.

He confined Hope to her box and busied himself tidying the mess he had made.

Chad never arrived.

The study was practically restored to its natural state when Alona breezed in. “We’re going to try something different today,” she said, too cheerfully, and picked up his cuffs. “Here, you’ll need these on.” She snapped a medium chain between the ankle cuffs and gave a small smile which didn’t reach her eyes and he knew

Jared spoke softly “It’s alright Alona. It's orders, you have to follow them. Just tell me what I have to do.”

She looked as if she were about to cry. She rubbed at her eye, “Er, wrists behind your back Child.” She fixed them and tested the hold before clipping a heavy leash to his collar and snapping it to a ring on the nearby wall. She clicked the ball gag into place in his mouth and stepped away. “I have to let them in now.”

He nodded.

Ethan kissed Alona’s forehead, “Good Girl. You should go now.” She took one last, sad look at Jensen’s slave before turning into the hallway, lost from his sight.

There were two large and surly sentries with Ethan. He closed the door and locked it. The chocolate eyes burned with hate and rage, the small body was held stiff as he stood before Jared.  The slave dropped his gaze in submission and waited for the small man to speak. He was caught off guard as Ethan barreled into him and swung a hefty punch to his guts. “I trusted you. He trusted you. He loved you. Where is he? What did you do?”  He was yelling, voice high with passion and loss.

Jared dropped to the floor, wheezing for breath and banging his broken hand against the wall, his vision blacked briefly but he gathered himself rapidly, stayed on his knees before them.

The sentries fought Ethan off, pulling him away as he kicked a harsh blow to the slave’s ribs.  “Nobody likes a traitor, Child.” Ethan spoke coldly as he struggled to be allowed to stand. “You have no idea what I want to do to you for this. I imagine the King will let me have my way, but first you are going with these gentlemen. You are going to tell them where Jensen is and what you plan to do with him.”

The leash was removed and Jared was hauled up with a sentry grasping each arm and dragging him to the corridor.

“Wait!” Ethan reached to a pocket and returned his hand with a set of bolt clippers “I came prepared.”  He grabbed at Jared’s hair and pulled his head back. “Leave it there or I won’t be responsible for the damage.” he hissed. He pulled the black collar forward, slipped the cutters in and pressed the handle. Suddenly Jared saw the intention and he could no longer stay still and silent. He struggled and writhed, screeched behind the ball as the collar was destroyed and slid from his neck. The small man held the broken loop for him to see. “You’re not worthy of this. You never were.”

 A tear slid down Jared's cheek as they dragged him away. The punishment was already too much to bear.


They dressed him in a simple prison shift and chained him to a solid, stiff backed chair by a wrought iron table. There was large ewer of water and a mug within reach but his hands were chained.  His gag was removed and he was forced to be still while a vile paste was painted in his mouth and a funnel placed to the back of his throat.

 “This should be simple enough for you to swallow.” The paste burned an acid path down Jared's throat to his belly, where it roiled and flared bubbling pain. They reinserted the gag, left him and closed the door with the clatter of a heavy lock. The cell was solid, no light penetrated from any source and there was not a single noise to be heard. Jared waited for his eyes to adjust to the cloying dark but there was no relief with time. The pain in his guts grew until it was an unrelenting, savage blade, serrated, twisting and cruel. The thirst started soon after, raging and dizzying in the force of his need for water. Still he was left alone here. He could not see the water, the jug and the mug but he knew it was there, could shut his eyes and recall its position and the tantalizing vision of its clear, cold medicine.

He wondered if he should be flattered by the expense his tormentors had gone to, Dragonweed and Witches Wyrt are the most tortuous combination of poisons when mixed with common salt. They are a rare and inordinately expensive form of torture with an incredibly simple cure, water, gallons of it, taken within six hours to prevent a hideously painful death through the rapid dessication of internal organs.

He tried to calculate the passage of time but he was disoriented and confused. There were pin sharp pains through every nerve of his body and his bowels lurched ominously.

This was wrong, he was Jensen’s. He wasn’t permitted to damage this body. They only had to ask and he would tell them everything that Jensen had instructed him he could, but they had taken his collar and clothed him as a captured enemy. They had taken his coveted position as Court Slave and reassigned him ‘spy’. Only my Master can do that, he thought with a sudden flare of anger, only Jensen could tell him he was disowned. He would refuse to accept it from anybody else and would do everything in his power to wait for him, to be there for him, however long it took.


The pain should have driven tears down his cheeks in rivulets, except he couldn’t cry. His eyes were sticky with heat and every blink scratched and scraped across the drying orb. There was no saliva to swallow and still he remained alone in oppressive coal-black silence. If they didn’t come soon there would be no recovery.

The arrival of his interrogator was announced with the shocking glare of a bright potassium-lantern and a crashing thump of the door. It was a deliberately impressive entrance. He blinked and flinched at the agony of it.

The man had the posture of a senior officer with fine clothing and an elderly face. “Hello Child.” he said and raised a cup of hot coffee and a horse whip in salutation. He took his time dragging his own chair into a comfortable position and sipped at his drink as he stared thoughtfully at the young brunette. There was the sound of a grate being opened in the cell door, but there was no way of seeing who was watching them.

The man put his own cup and the whip on the table and made a show of lifting the ewer and pouring water into the mug, he pushed it to the very extreme of the table, within inches of Jared, so he could see the air bubbles rise and the meniscus settle as the fluid calmed. Jared gave a rasped whine and raised his yellowing eyes in a silent plea. His torturer got out of his seat and moved to perch on the table by the water and next to Jared. He picked up the whip and flicked it casually. The end caught on the slave’s arm and air whistled through his gagged mouth as he gasped in pained shock.

“I am told that once the body is dry, the skin loses its elasticity and the application of such a whip becomes, far, far more painful. What do you think, Child?” Jared nodded an agreement and he placed the whip back on the table. “Do you know what it is that we had you swallow Child?”

Jared nodded affirmation.

“Good. You have been here for three hours so we both know how much time you have left if I choose not to give you water. What I do not know is what sort of danger Prince Jensen is in and how much time he has left. Will you speak to me if I let you drink?” he spoke deliberately kindly.

Jared nodded again, tried to move his tongue behind the gag, but it was stuck dry to the roof of his mouth.


He drank thirstily from the mug that was tipped to his lips and the officer withdrew it “Ah, ah! Just enough to allow speech.” Jared moaned at the loss. The water was like nectar, refreshing and delicious he kept a little in his mouth without swallowing and rolled it around his gums and over his tongue in an attempt to wash the paste away.

“Where is Prince Jensen, Child?”

“He would not tell where he was headed Sir, and it is not my business.”

“Tch.” The whip came down hard behind him, landing in a red hot stripe of pain over his hands. Jared tried to order the thoughts in his fading, dried mind.

“He left a note with Lady Victoria.” His tongue was thick and heavy, the words were slurred and hoarse. The interviewer was a blur of color in his fading vision.

“Speak up.”

Jared tried but he couldn’t form words. His interrogator poured more water and let him drink. He dipped his hand in the jug and allowed a merciful drip over the young slave’s brows and into his eyes.

“He wrote a note. He made a letter and gave it to Lady Victoria.”

The officer looked to the observer behind the grate and shook his head. There was the sound of it shutting and the man sat again on the corner of the table by Jared and proffered the mug. He drank it dry and sighed. His breath was rattling in his chest and he coughed. His ribs were too tight on his lungs and he gritted his teeth with the effort of breathing in.

“Why did you continue with the charade that the Prince was present? How long has he been gone?”

He tried to remember, to count the dawns but it was muddled. “Five I think, five days. He commanded me to do this. I am his slave.” He repeated himself, allowed himself to feel the familiarity of his Master’s cuffs on his wrists and ankles. “I am his slave.”

“No. That was your cover. You are a spy. You need to think harder Child. He would not trust a slave over his brother, over Ethan. How can you think we will fall for that?” He lifted the whip once more and Jared shrank back into his chair, ready for the blow but it didn’t come.

He struggled to find the right words, to make this man understand. “I am Jensen’s slave. My Master trusted me to care less than The King and Ethan. They love him too much to let him do this, they would have saved him from himself and Jensen didn’t want that. He wanted the opportunity to save others, to save them.”

The officer tipped his head and tapped a finger on his lip. He seemed to consider Jared’s statement carefully. “You still call him Master. You would prefer to die a lowly slave rather than a hero of the Realm, the man who gave them Prince Jensen?” He gave the brunette another drink, fixed the hazel eyes open with his fingers and dripped water into them then closed the lids briefly with his thumbs and dripped more on the lashes.

“No. I would prefer to live and serve at my Master’s side when he returns.”

“Child of the Realm, why should you assist the Kingdom that enslaved you? Soldier, why would you betray your own people?”

Jared gave a sarcastic laugh which degraded into a wheezing and pained cough. “My people are betrayed already, by their own Governance. Jensen thought he could return a Treaty. He will return a Treaty.”  Jared had so little left to trust in, he would not think on the forgiveness his Master had asked for, he would believe in Jensen until the stars burned out and his bones were earth.

More water. It bathed his mouth and sated his throat but his stomach cramped and seized at the contact, he was being ripped apart from the inside out. He tried to double over, curl in on himself but the bindings kept him straight and he keened with a pathetic whine.

“Is it too much?” his interviewer asked coolly.

Jared gave a strangled sob and nodded. No false courage remained, only desperation.

“There are faster treatments, if you co-operate.”

“I am giving you everything.” It was a wretched plea.

There was the sound of the door grate being opened and his interrogator pushed off the table. “Think on it for a moment Child. I will be back.”

He took the lantern with him and slammed the door behind him, Jared found himself couched in dark silence once more. He was sure the time was too long. He could feel the paper tightness of his skin over cramped muscle and screeching innards. Every breath was a fight against his stiffened lungs.


The door opened and a lantern was gradually introduced. His tormentor brought a second ewer of water with him and poured some straight away, put it to his lips and rubbed at his belly while he drank. The touch surprised him and his eyes widened as he tried to focus on the man. More water was dripped into his eyes.

“Who were the men that Prince Jensen departed with, Child?”

“If he wanted you to know, he would have written it for you.”

The soft touch on his belly was removed as a sharp back-handed slap met his cheek and had him reel in his chair. “Don’t be stubborn. I will remove your water. If you are being truthful then you know that the Prince would not want you permanently damaged. Will you defy your Master, Child?”

The gentle massage of his stomach resumed.

Five days, his Master was five days out and whatever it was that he hoped to achieve he was either committed to the task or failed and dead, or worse. The Realm’s troops were closing in on the fortress within weeks or days of them. He could see it making no difference if he told. “There was a Captain of the Queen’s Guard and his soldier. They were familiar to me. He was not forced but neither were they. They were amicable, allied in some way. Please, it’s all I know Sir.” He turned blurry, begging eyes on the man before him and slumped, defeated and agonized, in his chair.

The questions continued, answers were repeated back to him in twisted variation and he struggled to answer correctly. There was a peculiar sense of superiority that they did not seem to know the right questions to get the best answers. Never once did they question the lowly slave's birthright or name. If he could have smirked at that, he would have. He didn't because his sensibility was fast disappearing into the dark, swirling void of coma.

“One more thing,” the man looked toward the door, as if taking instruction, “Are you in love with him? Child, do you love Prince Jensen?”

He couldn’t see the relevance of the question, it had to be a trick. He remained silent. Water sloshed into the mug and he reached his lips for it. At the last moment it was pulled away and he heard the awful splash of wasted liquid upon the floor. He was dying and too weary to lie. “I love him. I didn’t want to die without him beside me.” He rasped the last with labored breath and a deep frown upon his features. He felt the mug upon his lips but he was too weak to take it. Cold hands grabbed at his face and tipped his head back. He felt a funnel tube being forced into his throat and the rush of cold liquid into his protesting gut.

The officer left him there, with the funnel still in place and he heard whispered consultation at the door of the cell and an instruction to fetch the Physician.  There was Ethan’s voice, a shade louder now, “…as much water as you can…” 

He let his eyelids scrape down over his aching eyes as he descended into the flickering, flaming, black fires of Hell and that was fine because he had always known he wasn’t good enough. He was always going to end here.

Chapter Text

Something doused the fires, pulled him up through a racing, dizzy confusion of color and noise until he reached the cold ground and lay there aching, soggy and cramped. Hell had been more comfortable.

He wondered if he still had eyes. The sockets burned and itched as if they had been ripped from him. He forced an eyelid open experimentally.


His hearing remained.

“Child. I need you to answer me carefully.”

Deep brown eyes stared down at him in a serious face with set lips and deep brows under a shock of untidy brown hair.  It confirmed that at least one of his eyes stayed in place, assuming he was alive.

“Nod if you can understand me.”

Jared swallowed and his brain asked his head to move but it wouldn’t. He opened his eyes, both eyes, wide and blinked them in a slow and deliberate movement.

“Good Boy.”

He blinked again, the same deliberation.

“You were supposed to protect your Master, keep him safe in his recovery and you failed, you should have told us of his intentions. The King has offered a choice. You can choose to die here. We will stop with this treatment, let you go. You can close your eyes and never feel again. There is no shame in it Child.”

Jared thought his breath would not return, that the decision would be made without further input from Ethan or Joshua.  He hadn’t earned this, Jensen didn’t deserve this.

“Let me finish. Breathe. Are you still listening?”

There was the icy slap of water being dumped unceremoniously over him. He gasped breath inward over the arid spaces of his lungs. The sudden pain was piercing sharp and he struggled to exhale with slow care.

“…or you can be the slave you are supposed to be. Prince Jensen is missing, you will be in Joshua’s care and there will be no concessions or leniency for errors in behavior. The decision of whether to return you to Jensen if he returns is Joshua’s alone. Make no mistake, he grieves for his brother and is angry at your betrayal. We have no time to spare attention to you. There is paste remaining and we will not hesitate to repeat this exercise, without reprieve, in the event that you do not co-operate. Any small mercy is for the benefit of Jensen, if he should live, not for you.”

Jared wanted to roll over, push himself up and punch Ethan. He wanted to give a sarcastic reply and taunt them in to carrying out his swift end but he couldn’t so much as raise his head in protest and besides, he had made this decision the day Jensen left, his heart refused him an option. He would wait for his Master.


Ethan left him on the floor, to be tended by the bitter Physician. Jared was forced to recall all the reasons why one should never make cutting remarks to another, however well deserved. The man was instructed to cure the young slave but he had no obligation to be gentle. Jared's mouth was jammed open with a metal ‘0’ and a tube forced into his throat with rapid, scraping carelessness until he felt a steady drip against his cramping stomach. Unfamiliar slaves hauled him up and dumped him on a short table from which his legs dangled. They clipped his wrist cuffs over his head and his ankle cuffs to chains and attached them to a pulley above the table, spread him wide and vulnerable in a repeat of his previous visit to the Physician.

He found enough voice to give a low pitched whine when oily fingers probed at the tight rose of his asshole. They forced in and stretched at the ring of muscle, too quickly. His hand suddenly found movement. It clenched and banged against the surface of the table. The pain reminded him of the damage he had inflicted on himself. The Physician laughed and pushed the muscle open more forcefully before reaching behind himself to tighten the ankle chains until Jared’s ass was dragged upward in the air, toward the ceiling and he was resting mostly on his shoulders. A cold metal nozzle was forced through the clenching, resistant muscle and he found himself forming a muffled scream. He wasn’t expecting what followed. The flood of cold, soapy liquid into his hot anal channel was intrusive and uncomfortable. The swell of his bowels and distension of his lower belly was a whole new pain and humiliation. He felt the removal of the nozzle and the insertion of a large round ended plug and then he was left in this crude position while the physician bustled in and out of the room and whistled a happy tune.

 Slaves placed a tub beneath the end of the table, the plug was released and the ankle chains loosened. He had no control over his body to prevent the bruising fall of his legs against the end of the table and the revolting release of foul water from his bowels. A tear found its way from his left eye and trickled down his cheek. He heard the banging of the door as the Physician left the room and saw one of the slaves take a furtive look behind him, checking for the man’s absence. The soft pad of a finger collected the round drop from his face and the slave spoke sympathetically, “Tears are a good sign Child. The procedure is uncomfortable but necessary. We'll repeat it several times to flush all the poison from you. It’s an unpleasant procedure so he won’t bother to disturb us much.” There was a noise outside the door and the unfamiliar slave glanced about again. “Can’t talk to you.” Jared managed the faintest movement of his head in acknowledgement.

They repeated the procedure twice more before releasing him to lie on the floor again. The throat feed was left in, dripping life back to him.

When all poison had been chased from his ravaged body, the tube was snatched out, he was washed, given a new collar in basic brown leather and brought to the King’s chambers. Ethan settled him into a large cage on a thin mattress. He set a warm blanket on him and tucked it under his chin. The small man placed a closed lip kiss on his cheek, stroked his hair and spoke softly to him “Rest now.”


He was shaken awake by Genevieve, she was petite and extraordinarily pretty with deep brown eyes, thick dark hair and a sweet smile. “You have to arise, we have plenty to do and you do not want to give Master more reason to be angry with you.”

He felt so very weary, he ached all over, his bandaged hand throbbed with dull pain and he could not find a care. He stared blankly at the girl and she pulled again on his arm through the bars of the cage. “Please. Master has many pressures today and he tasked me with this.” She looked apprehensively about her as if she expected the King's presence any moment.

Jared crept sluggishly from his blanket and crawled to the open door of his cage. He paused at the edge “Is it alright, can I come out?”

“If it has been opened of course you can, Silly.” She frowned and shook her head at him. 

He ducked through the opening and kneeled on the floor beside her. He clutched at his sore head and struggled to his feet with a yawn.

“You need to look lively, Child”

“I don’t feel lively.”

“Do you think that matters? Try a splash of cold water but you have to be cheerful and compliant.”

He gave a sarcastic shrug “What more can be done to me?”

“The King seemed to think you knew the answer to that.”  She was giving him a steady gaze. “You had a bad day, this day can only be better.”

Jared thought she must be an expert in understatement but she didn’t appear to be mocking or cruel so he gave her the fake smile that Alona had taught him and asked if it was appropriate to use the bathing room.

Genevieve's manners were as correct and gentle as Alona and whenever she spoke of Joshua, her Master, there was the hint of a smile that spoke of sweet secrets. Jared was confined to the apartment to lay fires, clean and sweep while she hurried back and forth with various items and messages. The King swept past him in cold silence, not a glance in his direction but for Genevieve he stopped and exchanged a smile, brief kisses and affectionate touches, and, in those moments he missed Jensen with an intensity that mimicked physical pain.

He was collected by Ethan after breakfast and taken to the Great Hall. A crowd of servants and slaves busied themselves over an enormous and lavishly decorated banqueting table. Ethan stayed to direct the work and Jared was set the task of polishing and laying silver cutlery to precise measurements. He was about a third of the way up the table when he first had to stop and steady himself against the shining wood of a chair. He continued after a brief respite but as he stopped for a second time he felt Ethan’s arm around his waist. The Prince’s friend took the silverware from his hand and passed it to another. “You are obliged to tell when you are unwell, Child.”

“I am just tired, Master.”

Ethan rubbed his arm, “You remember your manners even after Jensen broke you from them. Well done. You are pale and exhausted and that will not do for this evening. Come on.” Ethan returned him to the mattress within the cage but he didn’t shut the door. “Sleep a while. Gen will wake you when it is time to get ready.”

He had seen the preparations, he did not need to be told what he was to be woken for, he was just too tired to fret about it. He was asleep the moment he lay his head down.

The nap was refreshing and he was woken by Genevieve bearing sweet honey drink and a substantial soup. “You need your strength. You must bathe and prepare carefully, then you will report to Master in his study.”


However hard he scrubbed, whatever oil he applied there was no hiding the blooming bruises of yesterday’s experiences from his skin. He washed and styled his hair so it shone and he filed the mess he had made of his nails, nevertheless, he was nobody’s example of a perfect Court slave. He hoped his best efforts were sufficient, straightened his shoulders, dropped his eyes and kneeled before King Joshua in submissive silence.

Soft fingers stroked the blue sheen on his face and traced over the multi-colour marks left by the end of the Physician’s table. “Oh Child! What damage has been done? What would Jensen think to see you now?” The question was not asked in a way that required answer.  “No mind. You are, in any case, beautiful. We shall tell that you received the marks in defense of your Master, which is not untrue.”

 A hand cupped the slave’s chin and raised his head while the leather collar was released. “I have something for your presentation. I know that Jensen will like it on you. I chose to his taste.”  He held a shining metal collar with a dark green velvet lining and a solid loop at the front. He smoothed Jared’s hair from his neck and fastened it before reaching into another box for a decorated silver tag. He showed it to Jensen’s slave. The Royal Crest was engraved upon it, beside the interwoven JRA, his Master’s initials. Joshua snapped it to the ring and added a beautifully woven leather braided leash which he held loosely in his hand as he admired the new look.

There was the sound of rushing, heavy footsteps in the corridor and frenzied rapping at the King’s door. Joshua tugged on Jared’s leash and had him kneel beside him as if at rest. “Be relaxed and decorative.” he commanded.

A General of the King’s forces strode in with a hurried bow. “Your Majesty, Envoy Woolvett of the Federated States has arrived. He is demanding an immediate audience.”

The King’s brows knitted heavily. “The States have no invitation. What involvement would they want in all this?”

“He claims that he attends as a potential ally, that he may be of more value than any of your invited guests. He asks to be seen and he is here.” The last part was hissed with a heavy glance by the General to the corridor outside the room.

“Why would you let him come to my Chambers?”

“He refused to be left standing and in the circumstances I did not think it polite to have him struck down.”

Joshua tutted and drew noisy breath, as if in deep thought, he reached a hand to Jared’s head and unconsciously stroked through his hair. “Send him in alone, post sentries at the door.”


Jared dared not raise his eyes as the King greeted his guest but he was alert for movements of hand and served drinks efficiently without spilling a drop or drawing attention to himself in any way. He was surprised to feel a warm hand stroke his back and a murmur of “Good Boy” as he placed himself back at Joshua’s side.

“Envoy Gordon Woolvett, this is a surprise. What would bring you here at such a time?” The King boomed in an over-enthusiastic manner and shook the man’s hand firmly.

The Envoy was not a large man or even old and sage. He was of mid age and mid height with middle-blonde hair and a cocky attitude. He spoke cheerfully “My Government send their condolences for the passing of your father and are curious to know the new King. We feel that it would be foolish to pass you over as a copy of your father’s rule.”

“What a peculiar time to make such an undertaking, you must know that there are risks in traveling here and that this status may not last?”

“Of course. Our sources put the Queen’s army within a week of this place and note that the Earl of Ford has raised his largest and best equipped army yet. He aims to meet with Morgan’s troops in two days and then it will be all over for you.” The Envoy paused, “Unless you have a suitable trick up your sleeve or a new ally at your side.”

“Why would you ally with us Envoy? We have nothing to offer to you, I believe we have had this conversation several times over the years.”

“I did not say we would. You must be aware that our laws will not allow full trade and alliances with nations that have human trade practices. Perhaps we had hopes, but I see all your guests favor your own trading traditions. You do know that you do not have enough for them? They are shallow and will take whatever gifts you have to offer but they will watch as you are crushed and buy bargain pieces of you in the aftermath.”

The King’s hand carded nervously through Jared’s hair and Woolvett followed the action with his gaze. “What happened to the sweet girl that you had?”

Joshua startled as he realized his action “Gen remains with me. I treasure her presence. The boy is my brother’s property. I am caring for him while Jensen travels. You understand we are at war.”

The Envoy sounded incredulous in his reply, “Prince Jensen took a slave?” He took several steps and bent to peer at Jared. Jared bowed his head further, hid his face behind his flowing hair but Woolvett pushed the dark curtain aside and lifted his face. Jared thought he saw shock flit across his features but it was soon schooled. “Is he Realm?”

“Yes. My brother took him as an injured soldier, in the Borderlands. It means he has scars and a poor knowledge of his place, but you know my brother.” Joshua chuckled fondly.

“I thought I did but this is unexpected.”

“It was unexpected for everybody but he is a sweet addition. He is somewhat hesitant, but a diamond in the rough.”

The Envoy clicked a heavy ring against his glass as he imbibed his drink. He set it down and Jared refilled it without instruction. “Sometimes it can be hard to judge the full value of what you have,” Woolvett tested, but the King did not react to the comment. He took a drink from the refreshed glass. “There has been a change in your attitude Your Majesty.”

“In what way?”

“You refer to the boy as a person, a he. Is there to be a change in the treatment of slaves?”

The King bristled, “We treat our slaves in an exemplary manner. It is Jensen’s wish to use this form of address. In his usual rebellious manner he has put it into being and I follow suit because it is unfair to confuse the lad. That is all.”

Jared had to bite at his cheek to prevent an unsuitable outburst. If Joshua wanted to demonstrate continuity then he would not be having him presented this evening.

“It’s a pity,” spoke the Envoy quietly. He glanced at Jared, his eyes kept returning to stare at him and he licked his lips.

The King did not miss the stare, he placed a steadying hand on Jared’s shoulder. “You did not come here to discuss our slave Gordon. There are many who may baulk at your presence this evening so perhaps you can elaborate on the reason for your visit.”

“I will summarize dear Joshua. My Government are not comfortable with your trading associations. We do not ally with slavers, however, we have other issues with the Realm and you are at least, a quiet and unaggressive neighbor. I cannot make promises at this very moment but I should like to stay and be involved in your negotiations this evening and I will attempt to be inoffensive to your other visitors. At the very least I expect to be able to offer some sanctuary for your Lord’s and their pets in the event of your defeat.” He grinned at the King over his glass and eyed Jared once more.

Joshua sighed. “You are welcome Gordon. I shall ensure that there is a place for you. Perhaps you should like the comfort of a familiar slave to serve you? I can arrange for this one to be by your side. It appears that Prince Jensen shall not be back in time for dinner and we would not want the boy to feel redundant.”

The Envoy moved a hand to stroke Jared’s hair and face. “It would be much appreciated. Thank you, Your Majesty.” He gave a bright smile and a bow as he left the King’s presence.


Genevieve left with her Master and Ethan slipped into the apartment with a tight lipped soldier and a set of cuffs. Jared couldn’t pretend he hadn’t been expecting it with burgeoning dread. Once he was restrained they tipped his head to ensure that he would drink the tincture that they brought. “It will help to calm you.”

All Jared could see was a bitter paste that had been used a day before.  He twisted his head and fought the reflex to swallow as his nose was held closed. There was the whistle of a cane through the air and he felt the sharp burn of a lash to the sole of his feet. He gasped in pained surprise and sweet fluid drained into his throat, forcing him to swallow whatever poison they had chosen to give him this time.

 “This can get so much worse Child. I thought you understood your choice. Now settle.” Ethan was businesslike, no anger or passion in his voice.

The tincture didn’t take long to take hold, there was a pleasant buzz starting to cloak his mind into a blank space as fingers slipped a generous quantity of balm into his still sore and sensitive puckered hole and worked him open until three fingers pushed and scissored. More balm was dripped into the opening and he squirmed with the revolting squelch that it provoked. It was no more erotic than the Physician but at least Ethan was taking care in the process. The small man mumbled reassurance as he worked but he was starting to breathe heavy and Jared could hear his arousal. Finally an ass plug was worked into him and Ethan reached to stroke the slave’s cock as he angled the plug to brush the prostate.  The slave’s member swelled and stiffened in defiance of his own will.

“You keep this in. Only your master or someone you are asked to serve can remove it. Understand?” Ethan jostled the plug and Jared’s hips arched forwards, grinding against air. “Understand?”

“Yes, Master.”  He was grateful that Chad had introduced him to the item and he had taken time to get used to it in private.

“Good Boy. Just one more thing…” Ethan had his tongue between his teeth in concentration and in a bid to hide his own arousal.

No, no, no thought Jared. Even through the floating drug-haze he knew he couldn’t go through the agony of having his cock plugged. He whined and struggled against his ties. Ethan held up solid twin metal rings and he calmed, that wasn’t so bad. Jensen had used it on him once, it created a frustration and sweet desperation but for the most part it was bearable. He closed his eyes and pictured Jensen. He remembered his teasing fingers and glinting green eyes as he played with his balls, rolled them and licked a stripe from the base of his cock to the purple swollen tip. He recalled the rush of sensation as his Master crawled atop of him and gave a wicked smile while he grasped his erection and slid the ring to the base, pulled his balls through and dared him to taunt his Master, then forbade his orgasm before sliding the engorged flesh between the full pout of his lips, ripping moans and pleas and sex-spawned babble from his slave.

His cock twitched as the rings were pulled firmly into place. “Beautiful! You need no decoration,” exclaimed Ethan. “Now, whatever happens, however you are used, this will help but you know that you are not allowed to take your own pleasure. If you are tempted, think of Dragonweed and Witches’ Wyrt because that is what it will earn you if you come.” 

Jared understood the threat even through the induced calm of his body. He shivered but he couldn’t imagine taking any pleasure in the evening’s activities.

Ethan released the restraints and re-clipped his leash, “Time to go.” He gave a final comb to the soft, styled hair before leading him into the hallway.


Ethan kept the leash pulled tight while he waited for a cue. He tugged at it and Jared followed, stepping at the precise distance required. He was apprehensive, scared even, but the message didn’t seem to travel from his brain to his body. He was outwardly relaxed and confident, watching himself from afar.

There were slaves kneeled by their owners throughout the room, most naked but others dressed in short silk shifts. Joshua was speaking to a crowd of Lords, Ladies and Ambassadors, it appeared that he was coming to the end of an address. Jared could hear the words as he was led toward the doors that separated the ante-room from the Great Hall.
 “…Ethan has had the household busy preparing this magnificent feast.  There has been far too much doom and gloom in our talks so we have taken the opportunity to present the newest addition to our Court. Prince Jensen has taken a delightful young slave and since my brother is away, what with war and all that…” there was a nervous laugh from the guests, “it is my honor to present it to you, in its first service. Jensen has already taken his pleasure.  You know my brother, he never could wait! The boy, being Jensen’s did not arrive pre-trained so it is still a little shy but that does not mean you have to be.” There was more laughter and the murmur of low gossip in the room. Jared kept his eyes to the floor, relieved that he didn’t have to see the stares that would be directed at the new slave, standing naked and leashed. The door to the Great Hall was pulled open and the sumptuously decorated banqueting tables were revealed.

“Enjoy our hospitality,” The King completed and made a gesture to Ethan.

The guests filed past Jared, many took a wide berth and kept walking but for each that approached he was made to bow in perfect submission with his head touching the floor. Some leered and touched him, others commented on his physique, many on his lack of decoration. None spoke to him. One or two had him turn around and they felt the curve of his spine and the globes of his ass, separated them and casually pulled or pushed at the base of the butt-plug, and, while his body was sublimely relaxed about the touch, Jared was grateful that he faced the wall in those moments, so he could hide his glistening eyes.

Once he had been thoroughly examined and humiliated Ethan passed his leash to Envoy Woolvett. The Envoy looked confused “What am I supposed to do now? I’ve never had a slave to command.” Ethan bowed a little and gave a friendly smile, “Child will mostly know what to do on his own, other than that you can speak to him. He responds well to that.”

Each chair had a cushion placed beside it. Slaves dragged the chairs back and settled their owners in comfort, served a drink and then kneeled by their side ready to serve each course and attend to details. Jared noticed that the King sat without a slave, Genevieve and Alona were assigned to serve lone ambassadors, much as he had been. A subdued and wan Chad kneeled by an equally pale and worn Lady Victoria and Ethan was not at the table, because, for all his loyalty and friendship he was not born to nobility. He was the servant that organized his friends’ banquets but would never be invited. Jared thought that it must be intensely hurtful to the small man. He pulled his attention back to Envoy Woolvett, made him comfortable and kneeled dutifully beside him.


Jared made it through the first course without error or spill and breathed out. He peeked about the room, careful not to be seen. The guests chatted, nobody took any notice of slaves aside from a brief touch or chastisement. He startled when he felt a solid grasp on his shoulder and Envoy Woolvett passed a piece of sugared sesame bread under the table. Jared recalled his training, he took it lightly in soft lips, sucked gently on the man’s fingertips and then kissed them and said “”Thank you, Sir.”  Woolvett pulled his hand back in  hurried alarm and Jared panicked. He had made the man feel uncomfortable and needed to make amends, he pressed his head to the ground by the man and begged his forgiveness.

“No, no. Up! Get up!” The Envoy hissed at him.

He scrabbled to regain his position, mortified that he was a source of distraction to his Guest. He wasn’t sure if he had said as much, out loud, because his body and brain were floating in different directions and Woolvett answered with a whisper, “Nobody wants to talk to me so feel free to distract me, just lay off sucking my fingers.” The Envoy looked across at a Northern Ambassador with his whip-marked slave who was mouthing at his master’s crotch under the table and added “In fact do not suck at anything, Child!”

It took thoughts of Dragonweed and Witches’ Wyrt to suppress his giggles and the Envoy surreptitiously passed him another piece of bread. When he had finished chewing a giggle escaped him anyway. Envoy Woolvett’s hand reached to his chin and tipped it to look into the slave’s glazed eyes and he spoke with sadness, “Oh Child! What did they drug you with?”

Jared didn’t reply, he didn’t know the answer.

Envoy Woolvett attempted a conversation with the frightening leather clad lady to one side of him, the thin snooty fellow on the other and the sexually active Northerner opposite him. When the discussions faltered and they turned away from him he gave up and started to whisper an amusing commentary on the evening’s proceedings, directed at the slave by his side. Jared was bold enough to reply with witty rejoinder to some of his remarks, creating muffled laughter in his Guest. The Envoy shared each course with him and had him sip at his wine. It all felt oddly clandestine and at some point in the proceedings he decided that he liked Envoy Woolvett and he was actually having fun.


There was a ridiculous number of small courses and entertainment between each. It seemed that the King was not going to have much of a meal. At each course he met with another of his guests and took them to a separate table. As the evening progressed King Joshua’s face became ever more haggard, his hospitality more strained.

At some point the Ladies said goodnight and departed, some of the men took the opportunity to leave with them, citing long journeys and busy schedules as excuse. Mackenzie commanded her slave to stay and entertain the remaining guests and the other Ladies of the Kingdom followed her example. The remaining guests scattered to drink and take entertainment in the ante-room.

The King sought out Envoy Woolvett and invited him to his table in the now, almost-deserted, Hall. Ethan returned to collect Jared. “There are Guests awaiting your service.”


The coarse language and raw stench of sex pervaded the ante room. The candlelight was dim but he could make out the shapes of slaves being fucked in every orifice, over every surface, across tables and chairs, on the floor and even against the cold walls. Wall sex, that’s my favorite when I’m with Jensen added Jared’s drug-high mind unhelpfully, but none of these men were Jensen and he didn’t want to allow them in, to use him in ways that only his Master should.

His body kept moving, relaxed and unresisting it followed Ethan and kneeled before the small crowd of men. Ignorant of his mind his fingers reached to the buckle of the man before him and released his full and hard cock, took it in his mouth and worked his tongue around it, bobbing his head up and down over its length. His ears heard the lewd comments and understood the descriptions of the acts that the men in the room planned to perform with him but he continued making the man moan and grunt while strong hands gripped at his head and urged him on. He felt the ache of his lips, smelled the strong musk that was all wrong but he sucked his cheeks in and let him blow his load in his mouth and over his face then push him away like a broken toy and let another take his place.

He was a good little cocksucker, this much he had learned from the first three guests but number four was going to “fuck him raw” over the arm of the chair that he roughly pushed him onto to. A hand reached to push and pull at the plug in his hole, to remove it brutally while onlookers laughed. He squirmed but could not move away. In defiance of his obedient body, a tear slipped through his eyelashes and over his cheek. His self pity was interrupted by a pained screech uttered, then rapidly bitten back by whatever slave had been hurt. The sound was so out of place among the moans and screams of pleasure that it was obviously not the result of an erotic game. The man who was readying to defile him straightened and peered across the dimly lit room. A second screech followed with a restrained sob and the man hauled Jared back up from the chair and set him to kneel and wait. The entire room seemed to stop with the exception of a few couples. Too far gone to cease, they continued to pant and moan in the ecstasy of orgasm. 

Jared followed everyone’s gaze to where the King was leaving Envoy Woolvett’s side and cutting through the crowd, then snatching Genevieve from the clutches of a large, crimson-faced and sweaty Ambassador. There was another disturbance from the hallway and, suddenly, everybody was looking between the furious green eyes of their Monarch and the battle-ragged form of his brother who summed up the scene in a moment, pulled his dagger from his belt and took the room in five strides to be beside Joshua.

Sentries arrived quickly to escort the Ambassador away. They held the King and his sibling back, reminding them of the political ramifications of attacking the man.

Ethan carried Genevieve away, lamps were brought in to brighten the room and King Joshua stood to speak to the room. Jared thought he looked old and defeated. The King began a polite speech and stopped to rub at his furrowed brow. He looked back at Envoy Woolvett and shrugged. “You know what, it is late and this Kingdom has a war to win. It has become clear to me that, with the exception of one Nation, nobody here holds an interest in allying with us without unreasonable demand. My Lords should retire to rest for the fight ahead. The rest of you should make preparations to leave as soon as possible lest you get caught in bad blood. Our slaves have done too many favors already.”

You could have heard a pin drop in the thick silence that followed. Jared saw Woolvett smirk and nod while others scowled and pouted but the room cleared rapidly around two green eyed brothers who held each other in a close embrace.

Jensen is safe, Jensen is here, Jensen came back. Jared’s heart felt as is it could burst with emotion.

Jensen pulled back from his brother, patted him on the back and promised to explain himself. In inimitable Jensen-style he noted the banqueting table “Oh there had better be steak and ribs left over for me Josh!”

It was then that Jared felt his Master’s gaze find him. He could not conceive the speed with which Jensen came to be on his knees beside him, an arm around his waist,  looking into the pin-pupil eyes on his come splattered face.

“What did you do? What in Hell’s Moons did you do?”

He realized then, he had done everything that his Master had begged him not to.

Chapter Text

“What do you mean by what did I do?” Joshua snatched his brother up and spun him around. He shook Jensen by his shoulders and yelled at him. “Where have you been? Have you any idea what you have done? The trauma you created? What you put Lady Victoria and Ethan through? What you put your own slave through? And for what? Tell me what is different little brother.”


The room cleared rapidly, Jared and Envoy Woolvett remained, along with a single household sentry, uncertain of what he should do.


Jensen was rattled and adrenalin-high from his mission, he pushed back and swung a punch at his brother which connected with a loud snap. “He’s not a whore!”


The sentry approached with purpose and Woolvett blocked his path just as Joshua retaliated with an equal blow to his brother’s gut.

 “Family argument, as long as they don’t involve any blades,” the envoy said quietly. The sentry looked unsure, he didn’t know who Woolvett was, but he stopped and waited. 

Jensen pushed back hard at Joshua and there was a smacking noise as his hand met shoulder. “Don’t, just don’t Josh!” 


The King grunted and stepped back, off-balanced and red with anger. They were both breathing hard, their focus had slipped to nothing more than themselves, in the moment.


“He’s not a spy or a traitor Jensen but we didn’t know that. We couldn’t know that because you didn’t tell anyone that you were leaving or what you were doing. Even if your note was real it gave nothing. I thought you were dead. I thought he had betrayed you. Even when they said that nobody lies after three hours I wasn’t sure, not until the moment you walked through that door.”  Joshua held his hand to his head in despair.


“What do you mean, you thought he was a spy?” Jensen stalked forward and they circled each other warily. “You whored him because you were angry with him?”


I was angry with him and I was angry with you Jen. I just lost Papa and you go to get yourself killed because you have to do things differently, go your own way with no regard to tradition or teamwork.”

“You think I would have enjoyed presenting him?” disbelief laced the question.

“He is a prize, a source of pride.”

“There was something broken in Papa and there’s something broken in you Josh.” Jensen shook his head sadly and continued speaking, “I’m not dead, I simply can’t trust you not to treat me as a child. I have held this command since I was fourteen and still you cannot trust my decisions.” As Jensen’s fingers grasped at the hilt of his blade Woolvett nodded to the sentry and took position in front of the younger brother, the sentry blocked Joshua and they broke eye contact with a sudden realization of the public nature of their disagreement.

Jared was powerless to intervene. He hid his face in his knees. This wasn’t how it was meant to be, he should have been in Jensen’s arms, welcoming him home, showing him that he waited, telling him that he always would.


 “Prince Jensen. It’s lovely to see you again. Perhaps we can retire somewhere quiet to continue this.”


“Envoy Woolvett?” Jensen looked at the man in confusion, “Who made you umpire?”


“Jen!” warned Joshua “He’s right. We are both worked up. I have had a rotten day and it looks as if yours has been little better. He raised both arms, away from his weapons.


Woolvett spoke softly to the King and tipped his head to Jared, “Maybe we should get him somewhere quiet and check on your girl.”


Josh agreed and reached his hand to Jensen, “We should retire to my chambers.” 

Jensen cold-shouldered him and returned to his slave. Jared couldn’t look at him, His mind was still reeling and dizzy and he retained the reeking evidence of his shame all over his skin. Jensen’s letter hadn’t protected him.  It had given nothing when Jensen had promised protection. Joshua had believed Jared was to blame and Jensen hadn’t prevented any of this. Jensen told him he couldn’t be presented without him and Joshua had once told him that a slave should never be used in anger but they had done all of that today. He concentrated hard and refused Jensen’s hand. His Master reeled back with hurt in his eyes. Joshua gave a direct order with his hand and again with voice command and he still sat, unmoveable. Whatever spell the tincture had worked was unraveling with time or with his anger. He wouldn’t be a pawn in their sibling rivalry.


“You two go ahead. Tell me to pick up the boy.” Envoy Woolvett winked at them, raised a single brow toward the hallway where he was sure eavesdroppers waited and added in a whisper, “damage limitation.”


The brothers left the room with the sentry who was warily separating them by a step. For the first time it was just Envoy Woolvett and the naked slave, alone in a cavernous room with scattered furniture, stray clothes and the strong smell of sex. The envoy took his hand and spoke low, “You know Prince Jared, when we last met and I told you I wished to see more of you, I didn’t mean it quite so literally.”


Jared gave in to a fit of chemical induced giggles, “Rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”


You are the best company in this Palace. You did a damn fine job of putting me at my ease and I told the King that. Is it always this dysfunctional around here?”


Jared laughed again at that, at least his body chuckled while his mind caught up. “No. They love each other really.” Then he shushed Woolvett with a finger to his lips “Joshua doesn’t know about me. Oh moons, did you…? ”


“Of course not, and Jensen?”


“Of course, he always did.”


“So he is hiding you in plain sight. He is right, Joshua underestimates him.”


“Jensen’s an ass and an idiot. They are both liars.”


“And despite everything, it is transparent you care for Jensen. Don’t bother to deny it because I saw your face when he walked in that door. You, being his slave. Is it real?”


Jared huffed and indicated the state he was in. “What do you think?” he asked bitterly.

A soldier of the household guard approached. “His Majesty has asked me to show you the way to his Chambers.”

The Envoy looked to Jared's crumpled and debauched state, “Can you do this?”  Jared knew he saw bruises and scars. 

Jared gathered his resolve and rose elegantly to his feet. “Yes, Sir. You walk and I will follow.”



Tension crackled like a storm in the air. The brothers stopped talking the moment Woolvett walked into the apartment with Jared. It crossed the slave’s mind that at least they seemed to be talking rather than yelling.


Jensen looked to the Envoy as he stepped into the room and when the man stayed he swivelled his head to his brother and opened his arms in a gesture of query. “Why is he here Josh?”


The King ignored his brother’s question, “Apologies, Gordon. This has been out of order, I cannot believe you are still here. Please sit.”   


The Envoy smiled politely and took a seat. “Family drama happens to us all and current circumstances must be very stressful.”


Jared took a place by Woolvett’s side. Jensen’s eyes widened and he was back in his brother’s space with his fists raised. “Did you sell him?” He demanded to know. Joshua stepped back and Jensen stepped forward again.

 “Back off Jen! I didn’t. I should have done. I should have done it the first time the boy suffered, but I stupidly thought you cared enough for him,” He shot an angry look at Jared “and I should have known he would prove insufficient for our purposes.”


“Yours and Ethan’s purposes? He’s my sl..” Jensen stopped, as if the word choked him, shook his head, “He’s mine, he’s more than sufficient for me and I am an adult.”


“You were ill, incapable.”


“I was angry and grieving, for a few days Josh, for a few days.”


Woolvett coughed lightly. “He has an exquisite silver tag Jensen. Your initials are engraved upon it.”


Jensen took another short glance at where Jared sat by the man but he seemed to calm. “I’m sorry. It’s been a strange few days. I shouldn’t have…Oh moons we have thoroughly screwed all protocol this evening haven’t we?”


The Envoy smiled indulgently. “Don’t mind me. These things are almost always deadly boring. Tonight has been one of the most exciting evenings I have had in years and a fruitful one for our Nations, I hope.”


Joshua explained, “The Envoy is hopeful that there can be a small alliance between the Kingdom and the States. There are some limited troops that would be made available and they can shelter the vulnerable members of our Household and the Court slaves. They would only take the slaves as free citizens and we could not make them stay with their Masters, but they would be safe from the Realm and away from cruel resale.”


“Why do they change their attitude to us now? Is it not too late?”


Woolvett interrupted them to speak, “We have no wish to see Morgan as our neighbor but it is the Kingdom’s change of heart that will make it happen.” Woolvett raised the glass which Jared had just filled for him. “I should leave you to discuss it as a family.”


“I have made some tentative agreements but we should talk them over,” explained Joshua.


“If someone will show me to my room I shall take Child and retire. We will finalize details in the morning.” The Envoy stood and stretched.


Joshua indicated for Jared to follow him and stepped into Jensen’s path to pre-empt his brother’s outburst. “It is part of our agreement. Child will stay with Gordon tonight, while we make our decisions. Just tonight Jensen.”


“No! It doesn’t happen. He isn’t anybody’s whore. This man pretends to be shocked by our practices then demands sexual favors. No Joshua, I won’t let it happen.”


“I am content to do this Jensen. Trust me.” Jared’s voice was soft but quite unexpected in its interruption.


“No, Child. I forbid it. You are not all yourself, I can see in your eyes that you are not capable of refusal and decisions are not yours to make.”


“I refused you and Joshua, did I not? I want to go with him. Why would his company be any worse than yours? I wish to be away from your arguments and hate.”  The words tumbled angrily from him before he could reconsider them and it was too late to rescind them. He wondered what the punishment would be. They would wait until Woolvett was gone, he was sure of that. He moved closer to the Envoy but he would not lower his eyes, he kept a defiant stare.


Jensen winced, he stood over his slave, spoke with his voice raised and sour, “Why do you deliberately mess me around, give me promises and break them? Do you want him? Did you make your decision and regret my return? Is that what this is about?” 

Jensen turned his back on Jared as Joshua stepped back into his space, hand on his dagger while Jared’s own anger finally bubbled through and somehow the slave managed to drag his worn and weary body up and step forward, fists forming. Woolvett grabbed at him and flung him back to his knees with little effort. The envoy put one hand on Jared's shoulder and applied pressure to have him stay down.


Joshua and Jensen paid no heed to the slave or his temporary protector. The King had Jensen by the throat and slammed to the wall at the point of his dagger. “That’s it! Did I mention I had a really bad day.  I’ve had enough. Child asked you to trust him and if you have any sense left, you will.”


Jensen squirmed, “You would let a slave defy me, have him speak so insolently to us?”


Joshua continued “We deserve it Jensen. We were wrong. What I did to him today, I was wrong to do it, but he went through with it all for the chance to be with you. You have no idea what that boy went through for you, because of your stupidity. He stayed loyal through unimaginable torment. I thought he was buying time for co-conspirators, but here you are, you’re alive, and the only explanation is, he did it for you. You left him opportunity to escape at any time.  He could have chosen the easy way out, over and again, but he didn’t, he chose to wait for you.” He pulled the dagger away as Jensen lowered his eyes and looked to Jared and his body sagged against the wall as if unable to stand on his own.   


“Josh, you have never said that before, never admitted to being wrong. What happened?” Jensen looked devastated.


“Let them retire to their room and we can talk. I have made promises. I will not renege on them.”


Both men stood down and the tension broke with a slight, edgy laugh from Jensen, “Josh, did you just end the party by throwing every ambassador and representative out?”


“I think I did.” Joshua’s laugh was no less hysterical. “Except for Envoy Woolvett here, who got his own floor show. We should let him take Child and retire while we discuss our options. I have sent for Mack. Don’t make her kick your ass too.”


“Can I speak to Child alone first? Please.”


“You should ask him that, Jen.”


Jensen kneeled by his slave, gently tucked a strand of sweat stiffened hair over his ear and kissed the top of his head softly. His eyes were more gold than green and his expression begged of need for Jared’s trust. “Can you bear me long enough to speak with me, Child?”


Jared nodded numbly, face of stone but his fists began to unclench. Woolvett released the pressure on his shoulder with a pat.


“Come through to the bathing room with me.” Jensen took his hand and squeezed it gently, then spoke to the others, “Excuse us a time.”


Jensen settled him on a chair and drew warm water. He bathed residue from Jared’s body with tender care as he spoke. “You’re angry with me and you have every right to be. This shouldn’t have happened. It wasn’t supposed to. There has never been a case in my lifetime, where a slave was presented without its Master. For everything, I’m so sorry. Do you remember what I told you about blame? It still holds true. You can take no blame for anything that has happened. I am to blame for it all. I am your Master and I allowed these things to happen to you. Whatever happened this evening, the shame is all with me and with Joshua. This won’t happen again. I’m never going to underestimate the risks to you again. It’s my place to protect you and from now on that’s what I’ll do.  I’ll even let you take a swing, beat me black and blue, but not right here and now, when it will earn you punishment.” Jensen was biting his lip and pointing to his chin


“I could kick your ass all the way back to the Realm,” snarled Jared with passion, but the menace was starting to fade with soft touches and the sincere and sorrowful expression in wide green eyes. He had missed Jensen, missed that emerald stare and those long, gentle fingers.


“Good. I’ll find somewhere..”


“Don’t be stupid Jensen. Where would it all stop?” Jared exhaled loudly, “You came back, you rescued me. You were late but it is over and I didn’t give myself to anyone.”


Jensen grabbed him, held him in a crushing hug for a moment. Jared didn’t want to need it but it felt like the only thing that could hold him together. He let Jensen clasp his journey-grimed arms about him and closed his eyes in weary acceptance.


Oh Jared, I was carried away with the intricacies of my mission, there was so little time, so much to do. Everything moved so fast and Earl Ford’s boy has been lost without any family. It was difficult to balance between being found out and taking care of you and of him. I didn’t stop to consider the plans I made for you. I didn’t make enough provision for you or anyone else that I got involved in this scheme. ”


“Is Colin Ford safe?”


“It is typical of you, to ask after the lad before worrying about yourself. He is confused and homesick and I cannot make any promises to him. Wait! Does Joshua know of him? Were we found out?”


“I was not asked and I did not say. Why did you take him, Jensen?” Jared wanted to understand.


Jensen didn’t seem to hear his query in his eagerness for an answer to his own question. “You waited for me, despite everything?”




“You shouldn’t have. I’m not worthy. I should tell you to go with Gordon, to leave with him, and I cannot stop you if want that, but as ever, I am needy for your help.”


“Do you only need me for my assistance in this war?”


“I need you whatever the circumstances, Jared. I would need you if there was no war and I wasn’t a Prince.”


Jared listened but he couldn’t be sure. Jensen was a natural campaigner and his own mind was still drug-addled and suggestible. His fury had deserted him and he shrank into himself, becoming wary and fearful once more, unsure if he could believe this man’s sweet promises and gentle encouragement. He was so very tired and confused.


Jensen looked to his demeanor and cocked his head thoughtfully. He lowered his voice and spoke with authority. “You are mine, Jared, you belong at my side. I will have you there.”


The words felt right, these weren’t platitudes and false hope, they were strength and leadership and they felt good. Jared’s entire being warmed to the thrill of them but he didn’t want to show his reaction. He continued with his questions.


“Why did you take Colin?”


“In two days Morgan’s forces will meet with Earl Ford’s army, they will march to meet the small army of the Southern Borderlands. Morgan’s intention is to pillage our Kingdom and lay siege to this fortress. Unfortunately for him, it is the intention of Earl Ford and the Southern Landowners to defeat him and seize the Realm from his power. It is my promise to keep Colin safe when the Realm goes to war against its own.”


Jared couldn’t catch his breath. He snatched his undamaged hand to the nearest surface for support. “You already knew. The note! You were always going to do this. You set my people against each other? You would have families fight each other?” He was shaking his head in disbelief “You started a civil war with a child for ransom? How could you? Oh Gods, what have you done?”


“I only stirred the pot. The Realm has been a tinderbox for a long time. The only thing that has kept your Nation united so long has been this war against us. You must know it in your heart Jared. The Elders have been allowed to take too much from the citizens for too long. It has been fueled by Morgan’s obsessions and it is them that lit the flame. They did that, not us.”




“They accused Ford’s boy of seducing an Elder, of tricking him into deviant behavior. They were delusional enough to believe that Earl Ford would hand him over for trial and punishment. Morgan defended the Elder’s rights as moral guides for society and insisted Colin be tried. Earl Ford has been holding back on Morgan for a long time now. This was the end of his patience.”


“The boy is only ten.” Jared couldn’t disguise his horror.


“It was a poor excuse for the rape of a boy and it is not the first occasion it has happened. It is simply the first time it has happened to a family that could make a difference. Earl Ford is a good citizen and of course he sent his child by carriage, for trial.  He cannot be blamed for our subsequent attack, on said carriage.


“So you didn’t kidnap him?”


“Technically we did. Morally, perhaps not.”


“Did you let Joshua suffer through the loss of his people just so he would continue to take desperate last measures, so there will be no hint of this ambush? It is a cruel thing to do, he is ill with defeat. Surely he would have made pretense if he knew.”


“There are many who see through false actions and I am sure he would not be negotiating with the Federated States if he knew. That is a good surprise to return to. There is always a chance that Earl Ford or others will double cross us and then we will need an ally or a haven.”


“Surely you will tell Joshua this night and then he will stop the negotiations.”


“I shall not be telling him and neither will you. That is a command. When it is all over and the Realm has different governance, it will be best if the Kingdom was never known to be involved. I was never there.”


“How will you explain your long absence?”


“I shall tell him that we kidnapped your mother. It is not untrue.”


Jared was grateful he was already seated. The blood drained from his face and he thought he would faint. “What will you do with her? Where is she? What did you do? She isn’t strong enough Jensen, you will kill her.”


“Too many questions, Jared! We simply mean to keep her safe from thoughtless retribution. She is frail but she has tenacity. My own physician is with her, Jake Abel is by her side and we are hopeful we will see some recovery. She needs to see you, it will help I think.”


“I am dead. The shock of my presence will stop her heart.”


“Her heart is perfectly strong Jared. It is the withdrawal of poisons she was fed for so long that threatens to kill her. She needs reason to fight the addiction that has formed.”


Jared's whole life fell into place in a single moment. Missing pieces and unexplained events resolved to form a new story of his childhood and of his Uncle. He knew with certainty where truth lay and that Jensen had not lied to him. “I missed it. I was with her, I could have protected her from him. It was my duty to protect her.” A terrifying thought struck him and he had to ask “Meghan? What about Meghan?”


Jensen spoke gently, “We tried Jared. Really we did, and it is not hopeless but Morgan is keeping her close. She is important to him and we could not reach her. We won’t stop trying. Kane has a small band of loyal men. They will fight till the last. We all will.”


Jared was unraveling, threatening to fall apart. The whole day, the evening, this revelation, it was too much and he was going to shatter.


Jensen saw the first tremble, the moment it broke across Jared's face. He gripped his slave’s shoulders and looked him in the eyes.  “Jared. You were a child, even your brother was too young to have seen it; Not from where you were. Not with the people that surrounded you. You are mine. You are strong enough to get through all this.” He rubbed his slave’s arms gently. “You no longer have responsibility, it is mine to take and I take it. I take it all. I am going to make this right, whatever it takes.”


Jared’s hands shook so hard they tapped a noise upon the surface on which they rested.  “I need…” he struggled with words and Jensen continued to stroke his arms soothingly.


”What do you need? You can tell me.”


“Cuffs. I need cuffs. I need to feel safe, feel you.”


Jensen took a leather strip and some rope from his pockets. I’m going to use this as a leash, tether you and tie your hands for a moment while I sort some out. Will that be alright? Will it let you cope for a moment?” Jared clutched at him but he nodded and blew out a breath.




Jensen kissed the skin on which the restraints would lie and fitted each with care, tight enough for Jared to feel their security but not so tight they marked. “Mine” he said as he closed each clasp. Jared calmed with the snick of each lock. Jensen finished by peppering kisses over his slave’s face and around the entire line of his collar. He nipped and sucked a deep purple bruise into the flesh below his skin. “Mine and make sure Woolvett remembers it,” he growled.




“This collar looks amazing on you.”


“Joshua chose it, in your taste, Master.”


Do you like it? Shall we keep it?


“If it makes you happy then I like it too.”


Jensen smoothed the silver tag with his fingers. “I like you bearing my initials. It is more personal than the brand.” He sat with Jared, holding his hand and neither spoke for a while. Jared’s breathing steadied and Jensen saw the black of his eyes return to their natural state as the effects of the tincture finally receded. “Nobody should have given you anything to influence your self control. I will not allow it to happen again. Do you understand? I am going to take better care of you.”


“I understand. Will you punish me for my insolence, Master?”


“Do you think it merits discipline?”


Jared chewed at his lip as he struggled with his mixed emotions. He surprised himself with the honest answer. “Yes I do, Jensen.”


Jensen looked unsure for a fleeting moment before he replied, “Very well, I will think on it. You will report to me after breakfast. You will submit for punishment and thank me for my consideration to teaching you manners.”


“Yes Master.”


“Good Boy. Now that you are back to yourself, do you remain content to spend the night with Envoy Woolvett?”


“Yes. I think he only wants to speak with me.”


Jensen tugged at the loop on his collar, pulled him flush to his body and tilted his head to place a kiss on his lips. Jared sighed and his eyelashes fluttered as he closed his eyes and opened his mouth to the hot slick lips and searching tongue. They kissed slow and wet, as Jensen stroked smooth circles on his back. Jensen pulled away with low moan and a nip and suck to Jared’s bottom lip


“I trust you Jared. Are you sure you trust him?”


“He’s an honorable man. I think he wants to rescue me. We have met before. I never spoke much to him, Morgan was keen to forge some trade but the States politely told us to go to the deepest pits of hellfire. Gordon was always nice to me.”


“Do you want him to rescue you?”


“You rescue me,” murmured the slave. He leaned into Jensen and buried his head into the fur and leather over the firm chest. Jensen took him back in his arms and held him close, his chin resting on the crown of his head.


“We rescue each other Jared.”

Chapter Text

He put a basin of fresh water to warm by the fire and bent to unlace Woolvett’s boots, removing them with care and massaging the cramped, sweaty, feet. The Envoy swirled his drink and stared into the burgundy fluid.  Jared finished and came to rest on the floor beside him.

“Have you everything you need, Sir?”

“I’m more than comfortable, Jared, just a little fazed by your attentions. Have you finished everything that you are supposed to do, or should I brace myself for more?”

“I do whatever you ask of me.” Jared swallowed hard and resolved to end his nerves. He would ask outright, “You are allowed to request anything of me.” He raised his hand to the man’s thigh and stroked it. He watched his arm move, taking care not to catch his leather cuffs against the man.  “Some would use my mouth or have me in their bed. Is that your desire, Sir?”

There was no reply from the Envoy. Jared didn’t dare look up at the man, he continued to concentrate on the gentle rhythm with which he caressed the strong thigh and he let his fingers stray upward toward Woolvett's crotch. The silence was unnerving. What if he’d read his intentions wrong. What if… 

 “Prince Jared, stop!”

His hand was pushed away and the slave stilled, he held his breath.

“I don’t want to do anything like that to you. You are a beautiful young man but the thought of taking a slave does not excite me. This is not your consent Prince Jared. However they may pitch it at you, it is manipulated behavior and I cannot condone it.”

Jared breathed again.  “I’m not a Prince. Not even Jared any more. You should call me Child.” The fingers of his right hand rubbed unconsciously across the leather cuff on his left wrist.

“Will you be punished if I don’t use your body or if I continue to use your proper name?”

“No, Sir. Our time together is private. I would not speak of it.”

“And if I hurt you?”

“Then I have my Master’s permission to run from here and return to him.” He tried to sound confident but his voice was thin, “Do you want to hurt me?”

“No. Stars! No! I was curious. I have little understanding of the expectations placed upon you.” The Envoy was quick to reassure him. “I had another purpose in bringing you here. I would like to talk with you, to the Prince Jared.”

“You have questions for me?”

“I have heard King Joshua, I have listened to his promises and protestations. There are things that I have negotiated, but nothing is agreed or signed yet. The States has spent long years avoiding entanglement in this messy war and I am about to launch us into a new stance. You have the opportunity to prevent me. I would listen to your plea on behalf of the Realm.”

“I have no plea for the Realm. You should sign the agreement with King Joshua.”

Woolvett sucked a noisy breath. He reached to Jared’s face and tipped it up to look into his own.  His other hand reached to the Jared's wrist, caught on the cuff and held it. “They have held you captive, stripped and hurt you. I have no concept of what you went through tonight, except it was rape, it was wrong and it was torture. Look at you Jared! Jensen reminds you even now of his ownership. I am asking you to give your own opinion. I will not turn to tell your Master.”

Jared pulled his face from the hand, glanced to his wrists “It is my opinion. Whatever I think of the Kingdom and my own situation is irrelevant. I cannot support Morgan and his Elders. Sometimes a boil must be lanced and it is painful. I don’t expect you to understand.”

“Did you ask to be Prince Jensen's slave?”

“There was a choice and it was my decision. It is a step up from being dead which was Morgan’s intention, and the cuffs, Sir, they are my decision too.”

“You wish your people to go through what you have, to be under the rule of slavers?”

“I thought that was your purpose in negotiation, Gordon. Surely the States will not support that?” Jared was heated in his argument.

“What of the rest of the Realm. You would nevertheless ask us to stand against them, to crush them. For what? Revenge against your Uncle?”

“They are already crushed by Morgan, by the Elders. The Kingdom is no worse. Perhaps with your involvement there is hope for new structure all around.”

“Earlier, you told me that King Joshua was a liar. Do you think he will honor an agreement that he makes with the States?” Woolvett searched the slave’s face for tells.

Jared sighed heavily as he pondered the query, “I think you caught us at bad time. What is between Joshua and his brother is personal. I don’t believe it is relevant to Joshua’s standing as a King. All families bicker and bitch. Everything I have seen of this family indicates that honor and duty guide them, I think they will be obliged to keep their word, as bound.”

The Envoy laughed. “You are an optimist. How do you even do that right here and now?”

Jared shrugged. “I cannot dwell on the other.”

“I can make it a stipulation that Jensen release you. I can take you with me. Offer you sanctuary and freedom in the States. You're well educated and bright. I can find you an identity and a position in government, one with excellent reward and standing.  What we cannot do, whatever the outcome of this war, is to help you to attain the throne.”

He frowned, he hadn’t thought on such an eventuality. “Why would you say that?”

“We are not offering our assistance for the sake of the Kingdom or the Realm. It is a selfish need to retain the stability of this region. If we should succeed in regaining some balance, then, honestly, it would be foolish to throw that away by reinstating you.” He looked apologetically at Jared. “I like you Jared, I have always thought that you were the one bright hope to stop this madness but that ended with your death. It is a step too far for us to support your reintroduction, alive, with the rumors that surround your participation at De'ith. Add to that your apparent collusion with the Kingdom and obvious, deviant behavior. Now, I have no issue with sexuality , nor does my Nation but ask the citizens of the Realm to cope with it while wounds are raw and minds still set and civil unrest is inevitable. It takes years of careful nurture to erase such mindset. We could not entertain the risk.”

“I didn’t do what they said.” Jared needed him to believe it.

“I never thought you did, but it is politics and reputation. Please do not beg me for this Jared.”

“I will not beg. I do not wish to have the throne. I never did. All I crave is justice and safety for the people of the Realm.”

The Envoy reached for a bottle of wine, stilled the slave’s hand as he reached to do it for him. He poured a fresh glass and put it into Jared's hand. “It breaks my heart that it should take all this to find that you have the most care for your people, yet you cannot be their King. We should look forward though, celebrate your freedom.”

Jared looked perplexed, “The war is not won, it is not even certain.”

“No, but your freedom is. You should decide what it is you will do when you reach our Country. You will be able to choose your own destiny.”

Jared faltered in his reply. He pictured miles of open countryside, doors that led away, roads that stretched with unnamed junctions and a far off horizon. He pictured strange faces and unfamiliar people. He saw it without Jensen at his side and pictured loneliness. His heart raced, unruly and terrified. “I, I did not say I would come.”

“Of course you will want it. Nobody will punish you for this. I will ensure it.”

“No! I will stay. I want to be at Jensen’s side.”

“Jared, I know you feel a bond. I understand how the ownership process works but it isn’t real. You should break away now, while you are able. The regret will not last. You will see clearly in short time.”

“My vision is perfect right now, Sir.”

Woolvett circled him carefully, eyes oozing sympathy, like he was an injured animal. “You can accompany us, settle in a new home. If Jensen truly loves you he will follow and find you but I will be realistic, it will not happen and soon you will not want him.”

It was a flawless argument. Jared remained silent, weighed the words and pictured Jensen, riding in for him. He blinked and his mind produced other scenarios. Jensen, bitter at Jared’s rejection, in the arms of another lover, Jensen, dying in pain and alone. Jensen alone, defending Jared’s mother. He would take what he could get with Jensen. Hadn’t he already decided that? His fingers pressed the livid purple bruise on his neck, felt the sweet ache and then reached to touch the smooth metal of his collar. “You cannot know our relationship Sir. It suits me to stay by my Master’s side.”

“Love makes you blind, Jared.” 

“Then I shall let Jensen lead me.”

Woolvett shook his head sadly. “I believe you will Prince Jared.”

“It isn’t all bad.” The slave wanted him to understand.

“No, I will admit there is a difference in you and it makes me wonder. In all the times before, when I met you, you were a quiet, pale thing. You stayed at your Uncle’s side and repeated his words or stayed silent in your discomfort. You were painfully shy. It is strange how Jensen’s collar has made you bold and definite, strong enough to refuse my plans for you. I never imagined it could work that way.”

Jared found a smile that reached his eyes, crinkled his nose and produced dimples. “I am not constrained with heritage and expectation, I am free to be myself with Prince Jensen.”

The Envoy smiled back at him. He raised his glass and clinked it against the one that Jared held. “I’ll drink to that, Child.”

The slave’s smile became impossibly wide and his eyes sparkled with hazel, blue and golden hues. He sipped at the wine, appreciating a sweet, flowery nose and full rich flavor.

“Finish your wine Child and return to Jensen. I will not keep you from him. You should have what you want tonight, you have earned it.”

Jared turned to Woolvett as he left the room. “Thank you, Sir. Sleep well.”

“There will be one more chance for your freedom in the morning Jared. Please think on it.”

Jared nodded and smiled at the Envoy and shut the door softly.


Jensen’s rooms were cold and empty. Hope flung herself across the space and attempted to climb his legs. Jared eased tiny points of pain from his ankles as he extricated her claws and cuddled her into his arms. She left a trail of soft fur on his skin as she rubbed against his face with a satisfied purr.

“I know how you feel girl. I’m glad to be back too.”

The little grey feline climbed to his shoulder and settled by his collar while he lit a lamp, stoked the fire and turned down the bed. He couldn’t help his disappointment at finding himself alone, he wanted strong arms and reassurance and he especially didn’t want this opportunity to think about the things that had been forced upon him, these last days.

His mind returned to cold floor under his knees and strangers’ cocks in his mouth, to crude comments and unkind words, the smell and sound of sex all around him, in him and over his skin. The details were foggy, faces unclear. His lips were swollen and marked,his throat ripped, and dried come stiffly glued strands of his hair. The things he had done should disgust him but he had not stopped them, not even protested. His mind painted an outsider’s picture, refused the reality, but his body spoke otherwise. He drew a scalding bath and found the roughest cloth. He scrubbed at his skin until it glowed red with heat and friction and he still didn’t feel clean.

Jensen found him there, scraped raw and shivering in soap-scummy water that had faded to cold. He coaxed him out of the water, threw the softest towels around him and dabbed him dry. He rinsed his hair and combed it through and shaved his face smooth. He found a fragrant lotion and spread it carefully over the irritated skin. There were no words just the punctuation of an occasional chaste kiss on Jared’s skin as Jensen cared for him.

They lay side by side on the bed and Jared stared at the ceiling, watching flickering shadows with unusual concentration.

“Joshua told me everything,” Jensen started.

Jared’s eyes flicked toward him and returned to stare upwards.

“You can tell me he’s my family. Protest in your sweet way but I will not forgive him. I cannot forgive any of them.”

Jared showed no sign of attention.

“That arrogant, envious little freak colluded with Joshua to keep me in my room, insisted my heath was poor and had you prepared to betray me and yet he could not comprehend why I did not tell him my plans. He would not believe my written word and neither would my own brother.” Jensen sounded lost.

Jared didn’t know what words could make things better. He reached his hand to the older man’s and snatched it to him, curled his fingers into it so their hands were entwined.  Jensen squeezed into the hold.

“Ethan did everything Josh asked of him. He had Alona entrap you, he accepted the physician’ poison to have your co-operation, without a thought, not so much as a query to its possible consequences. Almost killed Victoria and Chad, almost killed you. My brother showed such gratitude for his loyalty,” Jensen gave a dark laugh “he had Ethan whipped for failing to handle you adequately. What sort of man does that Jared?” he paused for a moment. “My father would have. He was that sort of man.”

“Morgan is that sort of man,” Jared commented, his gaze still firmly fixed on the ceiling. “Your brother is nothing like Morgan. He has hardly had opportunity to find his own way.”

“I cannot find any excuse for what he did to you. There is none.” Jensen turned on his side to face Jared, he continued to clutch his hand.

 “Will Ethan be alright?”

“He was well enough to take you for Presentation, how do you even care Jared? He is dead to me, but he participated in harm to Lady Victoria and Chad, it is Misha he can never turn his back to. If he has a sense of self-preservation he will leave with Envoy Woolvett. I shall not beg him to stay.”

Jared fidgeted and his leg came to rest, flush and warm against Jensen’s. Reflection of firelight and slivers of dark still danced on the ceiling. “I wasn’t brave. I gave them answers as soon as they asked. I did what Joshua required without question. I had no loyalty or courage.”

Jensen pushed himself onto his elbow and looked down upon Jared’s face. “How can you even say that? You were perfect. You gave me five days. You did as I asked, everything except the one thing you couldn’t control. I have nothing but awe for you. Chad too.”

“Chad is amazing and a good friend.”

“You are awesome.” His Master reached his hand to stroke the soft brown hair that tumbled onto the pillow. He bent to lick at Jared’s ear and sucked on the lobe before whispering into its shell, “You deserve a reward, some compensation. Ask me for something, anything.”

Jared made a decision in a heartbeat and moved with rapid purpose. Jensen's eyes startled, wide and vibrant green-gold as Jared rolled over him, hooked a leg over Jensen’s thigh and an arm over his chest. Oval eyes with hazel orbs looked down at the older man as his mouth covered the plush pink lips, begging access. They kissed deep and lazy, slow suction and wet tongue exploring and competing. Jared’s hand cupped his Master’s face, angled and controlled it, set the pace and demanded the time.

They paused for panting breath and Jared finally found the words for his request. “I want to stop being afraid. I can’t stop the memories. You told me that it can be good, sex together.” He nuzzled at Jensen’s neck before continuing, “I want you to give me good memories to cover the bad. I want you to do with me what you do with Ethan. I want you to fuck me tonight, show me how it is supposed to be. I want you to make me forget before, and all the rest.”

“No Jared. Not gonna fuck you and it will never be like it was with Ethan.”

The slave drew back, with a sudden expression of hurt. “You said anything.”

“I have never loved Ethan like I love you. This will mean far more to me, be much more than that. Never going to just fuck you, Child, I'm going to make love to you, if you’re certain. Are you absolutely sure?”

He gave a tiny relieved grin, “M’sure, Jensen.”

Jensen let his hand trail over Jared’s neck and down to his body, he caressed his chest and tweaked a nipple. “I won’t use restraints,” he said, “Not going to hold you down, won't be your Master in this. I have nightmares sometimes, of what I did to you. I can’t repeat it. I need you to be definite, I want you to have control.”

“I trust you.”  

There were a few moments of silent hesitation, Jensen’s hand stilled and he stared into nothing.

“Jensen. Jen!”

Jensen blinked and came back to himself. He looked up at his slave “You should, I could. I mean, it might be better if, this time, you topped.”

Silky hair tickled at the freckled nose as Jared brought his head down and kissed at his neck. The slave’s hand tangled into Jensen’s hair and fingertips scraped gently at his scalp. A small moan escaped his lips as he felt Jensen's length harden under his thigh.

“Do you prefer it that way or are you trying to escape responsibility?”

Jensen laughed and licked at the smooth shoulder playfully, “You know me too well but I would, for you I would Jared.”

“No. It’s not going to solve our problems, not this time. I want this. I want you to take care of me. You said anything.”  Jared’s fingers smoothed over his face and rested on Jensen’s plump pink lips.

Jensen fluttered his eyelashes at the younger man and drew the bitten fingers into his mouth, with hollowed cheeks. He suckled the digits with noisy abandon and a wet tongue, before releasing them with a lewd pop. Jared’s eyes grew brighter and a faint blush rose to his cheek as his cock twitched against Jensen’s hip. Jensen untangled his hand from his slave’s hair and exhaled with a faint growl. He put his palms firmly on either side of Jared’s neck and let them move, fraction, by slow fraction over the skin in tandem. His fingers trailed behind, splayed and curious for every variation in the texture and map of this beautiful body.

Jared relaxed into the bright thrills of pressure on his skin, into the warm touch and slow promise of Jensen’s hands. He moved in to kiss at the freckled brow but the pressure increased and he found himself repelled and positions reversed. Jensen kneeled over him, flashed a dazzling bright smile at him and long fingers continued their traverse over his chest and down to his hips, moulding into the dents that led to his abdomen and onto the smooth exposed flesh where soft curled hair should have been. The big hands met there and fingertips brushed lightly downwards to the base of his cock. Jared inhaled with a squeak and pushed up against the touch.

“Not yet, not yet,” Jensen crooned, massaging his abdomen and over his hips, dipping back to the half hard member that nestled under his splayed thighs. Jensen's firm erection, red, swollen and magnificent bobbed against his stomach, leaking pre-come and Jared couldn't help that his stare was drawn to it.

“You’re scared, my Child.”  Warm hands restarted their journey and Jared felt them firm on the outside of his thigh. Jensen shuffled backwards on his knees to feel every knuckle and bump of his slave’s toes before beginning a slow ascent back over knobbly ankle bone and firm calf, smooth leg and strong knee. His fingers met again as he appreciated the gently trembling muscles of Jared's inner thighs. Jared breathed heavily and reached to touch Jensen’s arms, stroke his torso and tug at his hair. Jensen groaned at the touch.  “My good boy.”

Jared felt the blood rush and pool downwards, was embarrassed at such an obvious reaction to the words. He saw Jensen look at his rapidly swelling dick and smile before dipping his head down and placing a kiss on the tip. His Master's plump lipped mouth continued kissing down the length of his cock to the junction with his crotch and back up his body, stopping to lick into his navel and suck at his hardened nipples, until finally they were flush to each others' body with arms wrapped around each other and tongues locking in a deep, lip-bruising kiss. Jared squirmed as perspiration started to shine on him and slick their movements. They rutted there, high on kisses and touch, hands tangled in the others’ hair, mouths wet and swollen, reluctant to part. He felt the heat and sweet, nerve tingling sensation as their erections ground against each other in a lusty need and he craved more of Jensen, more than this.  He was moaning in short, high, needy bursts and he heard Jensen growl in his throat. “Please,” he finally managed to vocalize.

Jensen slowed his rhythm and managed to stop for a moment. He looked down upon Jared with glazed eyes and pink cheeks, a bead of sweat trickled over one eyebrow. “Are you sure? You have to be sure.”

Jared wriggled for movement and rutted up to him. “M’sure. Moons, I’m sure Jensen. Need this, need it. Please Jen.”

Jensen groaned, sex thick and aroused, he sucked a bruise just below Jared’s ear “I like that, when you call me Jen. Gonna need plenty of oil and it’s going to be uncomfortable, may be a little painful, just at first. Then we’ll make it good. So damn good! You with me?”

Jared struggled to control his breath and speak, “I put it under the bed. I used things, when you were away, know how it is Jen.” He thrashed his head to the side as Jensen reached to stroke between his thighs, rested his fingers on the taint between his balls and puckered hole,  “Oh, ummm.”

“Want to see you. Stay on your back.” Firm hands manipulated Jared, and he bent his legs, spread them  willingly, opened himself fully for his Master, for Jen. Slick fingers prepared him, slow and thorough between kisses and heated touch. Jared caught an erect nipple in his mouth as Jensen leaned over him and sucked at it greedily, nipped and licked it as he watched the tensed pleasure response and heard the babbled words of mock censure. Fingers slid inside him and it wasn’t an unwelcome intrusion and it wasn’t wrong. They worked his muscle open, one, two, and then three. A finger crooked and brushed a bundle of nerves and Jared arched and screamed, not for mercy, but for repeat. Jensen withdrew his fingers with a teasing smile and covered him with his body. Jared felt blunt pressure at his hole and for the first time he tensed and his eyes, sex-blown and black widened in fear as he looked into Jensen’s face. He nodded though and urged with cracked voice, “Do it, I’m fine, please, just do it.”

Jensen faltered and Jared could see fear reflected back at him, feel tension in his body and a softening of his cock. Jared reached to the firm globes of Jensen’s ass and pulled the man into him, “I trust you,” he reiterated and he felt the older man relax, harden again and begin to push with him. He gasped as he was finally breached. It was a burning, uncomfortable sensation but it sent a frisson of excitement through his whole being and he wanted more.

Jensen let him rest for a moment, then began a slow, delicious slide until he was full and balls slapped against his skin and Jared understood what it should be, what it was to give himself totally and be given everything from another. They stayed like that for what seemed an age, enough for more kisses, time for Jensen to be reassured by Jared’s fervor. Then it started again, the steady push-pull of raw affection, punctuated by  strangled cries and speechless screams and moments of pure ecstasy as Jensen slipped over the pleasure center of his prostate with deliberate movement and happy smirk.

Jared begged and pleaded but Jensen built to ragged senselessness, slowly and it was perfect and enough and yet too slow and not enough for the youthful vigor of the slave. Finally, finally, Jensen lost his control, pounded deep and fast and Jared 's senses exploded with each thrust. Jensen reached to grab Jared’s hand and put it on his throbbing cock. “Want you to come with me,” he moaned throatily.

It took barely a touch before Jared was tightening in orgasm, fluid threads streaming on his stomach, white-hot pleasure flowing through every fiber and flooding him with fulfilment. His lips moved in unchecked truth, “I love you Jen,” He felt Jensen tensing as his own muscles clenched around him and Jensen came to the sound of Jared’s name being ripped from his own lips.

His master collapsed into him and pulled out gently with a wet squelch.  “Oh Gods! That! You! Hmm.”  They were panting together, in time with the others’ hasty breaths.  Jared laughed in a happy endorphin rush, “You’re heavy. M’not sleeping on the wet patch.” He wriggled from under Jensen onto the dry side of the bed where he caught a brief glimpse of anxious blue eyes staring wide from under a low table. He giggled and pointed it out to Jensen. “I think we just destroyed her innocence,” he declared and then added, “ Thank you.” He snuggled down into the mattress and backed into Jensen’s form as his eyes started to droop.

Jensen poked him in the ribs playfully, “Don’t you dare fall asleep until I’ve had the chance to cuddle you.” He made an icky sound as he sidled further to spoon Jared and then flung the covers off and padded into the bathing room. He grabbed some cloths and returned to clean Jared with gentle swipes and small kisses. He folded a towel over the sticky patch and returned to the bed with a satisfied sigh. “There, better,” he said. Jared’s breath was steady now and he floated on a near-sleep haze as Jensen spooned him close, kissed all around his collar and faintly whispered to him, “I’ve been in love with you since I was ten Summers of age, Jared of the Realm.”

“I kissed a Prince and I liked it. I’m not afraid any more and we’re not damned,” Jared spoke imperceptibly, a mere breath that Jensen could barely hear, but his Master understood it anyway, and as he gave in to welcome slumber, Jared felt Jensen's lips move into a smile against the hot, damp flesh of his shoulder.

Chapter Text

He woke, with a start, to the loving touch of fingers through his hair and a kiss on his cheek. “Wake up, Jared.” 

There was the smell of coffee and the sun was established in the sky. He realized with dismay that he had slept through dawn, disobeyed yet again.  He threw the eiderdown off, rolled from the bed onto the floor and adopted a posture of submission before speaking.  “I beg your forgiveness Master. I am late for punishment.” 

Jensen was fully dressed. He stepped in front of his slave and all that Jared could see of him were his shined black boots. He spoke formally and authoritatively, “Plans have altered. It suited me to let you sleep, there will be no punishment for this lack of punctuality.” 

“Thank you, Master.” 

“Jared. I want you to go and wait by the desk in my study. I want you to think of the reasons why you asked for my discipline. Take your time. We have no hurry to leave.” There was no softness in the tone, it was assertive and controlled and Jared let the reassurance of it wash over him. 

He kneeled by the desk and wrestled with his thoughts. He wasn’t sure which  moment, which breech of rules, was the most important to Jensen but if it was important to his Master, he had to get it right. 

There was a flash of anger or maybe impatience that Jensen should delay the discipline like this, he couldn’t see why it mattered. He had been insolent and a slave is punished for such contempt.   

Jensen sat at his desk for a while, sorting through papers and searching through items. As time passed his activity quietened and he sighed. “Jared, I am not asking for details of why you are to be punished but rather the reason why you acquiesce so easily to the notion of being punished.” 

“It is the rules Master. I merely wished to save you the discomfort of commanding it.” 

“It is the rules if there is an ordinary Master and slave relationship but I wouldn’t describe anything about our relationship as ordinary these last days. Would you?” 

“No, Master.” 

“Do you truly believe that I would punish you for lack of co-operation in the circumstances that I found you?” 

“I’m not sure, Master.” 

“Jared?” Jensen skirted the desk to perch on the edge of the desk. He lifted his slave's face with his fingers and stared into the hazel orbs. “Really? Try again.” 

Jared struggled with notion. 

“I’m going to find some clothes for you. Find an honest answer before I return.” Jensen removed his hand and his slave dropped his gaze to the floor once more and furrowed his brow as he concentrated on separating the turmoil of his emotions. 


He raised his eyes, as Jensen returned to a wide bridle-leather strip on a braided handle.  “I have decided to discipline you with ten strikes of tawse. It will remain uncomfortable, as we shall be riding all day. Whatever you tell me, the punishment will not alter and I will never divulge details of our conversation to anybody. This is between us. Have you found an answer, Child?” 

“I think I have, Master.” 

“Go ahead.” Jensen nodded kindly at him. 

He spoke quietly, with irregular breath and uncertainty. “I asked to be punished because I feel out of control. I want you to take control for me.” 

“Go on.” Jensen stroked Jared's face and then let his fingers stray to his collar and tag, rubbing over the initials on the silver disc. 

“I want you to take the responsibility. The things I did, whatever I might do, I want you to take them, the blame and the memories. I want to be in the moment, just your slave, but to do that I have to accept your control, your rules and your weaknesses.” 

“Why did your own insolence particularly upset you? Joshua and I were poor in our judgement and it impacted on you. Surely you had a right to say your piece?” 

“It was uncontrolled and publicly vented. I risked the future of negotiations that would help your cause and mine.  It was your mistake to make, not mine and I should have trusted you.” 

“It is difficult to trust a person who has repeatedly let you down Jared.” 

“I need this to work between us and I need the closure that discipline brings.” 

Jensen kneeled to the level of his slave and looked directly into the nervous, teary eyes. “When I went away you told me that if I returned you would have an answer for me. You said that we would work out how to be together. Do you have an idea of what you need from me?” 

“I need you to be my Master. I need you to lead.” 

“Is that all you ask of me Jared?” 

“If I am your slave then I have to trust you for the rest.” 

“I was hoping that you needed my love. It’s what I have to give you.” Jensen looked disappointed but Jared couldn’t bring himself to confirm his own feelings, not yet. Jensen continued, “I can tell you what  I need and you can tell me, truthfully, if you think it will work for you. Can you do that?” 

“Yes, Jensen.” 

“Good Boy.” Jensen stroked the tawse as he spoke. “I want to be your Master, I want to love you and I hope that you might grow to love me. I need what is between us to be special, unsullied by others. I don’t want to take another to my bed or take a partner and I never wish anybody else to lay a finger upon you. Just me and you Jared and if you wish for another then I would ask you to leave my service, I would have you return my collar and leave me.” 

Jared nodded affirmation, “Of course, but it is not my business if you choose to take comfort in another. I know that you will want Ethan sometimes and a wife one day.”

“No! Jared. You’re not understanding me. I don’t want any other. Ethan and I are over, forever, and I will certainly never wish for a wife. That you wear my collar gives me responsibility to guide you, to make the best of you. I need you to grow in confidence by my side. I need you to be my equal. I need you to wear my collar as a symbol of trust and commitment, in deference to the way in which we choose to order our relationship but never to indicate that you are less than me. You have become an important part of me Child, do not belittle it. I cannot continue to be your Master if you will not accept a balance between us.” He was bending the tawse in his fingers now. “I will discipline you, not because it is my right or because there are rules to follow but because you crave it. For whatever reason, you seem to need to give control, to feel physical censure for your conscience. I cannot understand how you place such trust in me but I want to be good enough. I will try.” 

“I don’t understand how a slave can be an equal, Master.” 

“You are no less for wearing my collar and accepting my guidance. Orders and commitment are asked of soldiers and they are not slaves. Perhaps others will not understand, but this is about making things work, just you and I. It is nobody’s business but ours. Can we make some agreement to try to make it work this way?” Jensen’s hands were trembling upon the leather as he looked intently at his slave. 

Jared was shocked. It was far removed from any conversation he was expecting to have. The words that tumbled from him had little in common with the gravity of Jensen’s words “I searched your study. I damaged my hand, my hand is your property,” he babbled guiltily. 

Jensen reached to take the bandaged hand, carefully in his own. He gave it a kiss. “I already knew. Thank you for your honesty. I told you, your punishment will not change Jared and it won’t. Do you have anything else to say?” 

“M’sorry. It was just, it has been bothering me, that I did that.” 

“I guessed.” 

“Yes. I mean yes, Jensen. I’d like to try things your way.” 

“Our way, Jared.” 

He nodded enthusiastically at the older man, “Our way, Jensen.” 

“Good Boy. Now! Stand and bend with your hands flat on this desk and your spine straight. You will acknowledge the tawse with a kiss at the start and you will thank me for your discipline after ten strokes.”  Jensen offered the thin paddle to his slave and Jared placed his lips upon it as required. He braced himself for the inevitable pain. Jensen traced a hand firmly down his spine and caressed the firm globes of his rump, rubbing and warming them “It will hurt but then everything will be over and forgotten and you will learn to take control of your actions. This discipline is earned through insolence, disobedience and for the damage of my property. Do you understand, Jared?”

“Yes, Master.” 

He raised his arm high and brought it down on Jared’s ass with a firm whack and shocking pain. Jared’s heart raced and he gasped, his knees sank in an ineffectual response, to avoid the impact but Jensen held him firm. A pink stripe glowed in its wake and Jensen raised his arm once more. A second stripe was added by the first to a soft whimper from Jared. With each strike he let the red-hot pain take moments from him, the search of Jensen’s office, the wanton damage of his hand, the fast spill of Jensen’s secrets, every touch of strange hands and suck of strange skin. Betrayals and anger fell from him.  Jensen took care to ensure that none of the strikes overlapped, he smacked the paddle over his flesh in a solid, even rhythm. On the eighth stroke tears fell silently over Jared’s lashes but it felt like forgiveness and he allowed himself to fall into the moment. Jensen caressed the striped warm flesh lightly “Almost over my Child.” He added the last two, no less firmly but a little faster. He dropped the tawse to the floor immediately after the tenth strike and reached to remove his slave’s hands from the desk. He took Jared in his arms and folded him into his embrace. 

Jared collapsed, sobbing, into the warm care of his Master and accepted the kisses that were placed over his salty teardrops. “Thank you, Master.”  His sobs were heavy and broken- hearted, out of all proportion with the physical glow of pain, but Jensen seemed to understand, he held him close until the heave of his chest lessened and the tears stopped falling. Jared wiped his eyes and sniffed. 

“Better?” enquired Jensen and kissed his brow. 

Jared sniffed once more and nestled his head against his Master’s shoulder. He felt lighter of spirit. Whatever this new arrangement brought for him, he would cope.“S’much better,” he confirmed. 

“Then we should take breakfast and ready for our journey.”


The clothes were heavy and hot and they itched. They were not the light britches and shirt that Jared had worn to spar in and he had become unused to such restriction. “Clothes are so uncomfortable,” he complained. 

 Jensen laughed as his slave pulled at the cloth and scowled. “Not three moons ago you were shocked at the notion of being naked and now you whine because I wish to clothe you. You are so very contrary Child.”

Jared grinned in acknowledgement and his Master adjusted the cloth at his wrists to cover the leather restraint cuff that nestled close over his wrist and then smoothed the lapels of his jacket so his silver collar gleamed in the space between. 

“Why are we delayed?” asked Jared curiously. 

“There are promises we have made to the States. We will honor them before we leave. Come on, we have to attend in the Main Hall.” 

Jared paled and Jensen took his hand and pushed the sleeve up revealing his cuff, “Bad memories? I’m with you now. You’re safe.” 

“I should prepare. I’m not right Jensen.” 

“You’re perfect. Today, will change everything Jared and you are part of it, you brought much of it. I am so proud of you.” Jensen kissed him, a mere ghost upon his lips.  “From now on you are only naked for me and only if you wish to be.” 

Jensen pulled him by the hand through the corridors, to stand at his side with no kneeling, no distance or lowered eyes. Jared tried not to shrink under a mass of disapproving stares. His Master squeezed his hand and rubbed his palm in reassurance.

Lord and Lady Collins met them in the ante-room. Chad stood upright at Lady Victoria’s side, dressed and grinning widely at Jared. They were all ready to ride, even Victoria was in sensible britches and plain jacket. Jared took a second glance at Chad, he looked somehow different, aside from being fully clothed he no longer wore a slave collar and was visibly brighter and more bold.

The large room filled with a mass of chattering bodies yet there was an invisible line around their small group which nobody crossed. Jared looked around and back at Jensen, “It looks like the entire Household is here,” he said. 

“They are,” replied the older man. “Time to make changes,” he added cryptically. 

Ethan entered the room, a shade before Mackenzie and Joshua, with Woolvett’s delegation in tow. He looked about the room, searching for somebody and when his gaze stopped on Jensen his eyes dropped and he appeared to shrink into himself. Mackenzie spoke with him and he shook his head vehemently, refusing a request of some kind. Mackenzie dismissed him with a short, impatient gesture and continued over to Jensen. Her slave followed at the correct distance and dropped to his knee when she stopped by her brother, with crossed arms and an angry glare. “You need to speak with Ethan, Jen. He 's leaving because of you and he is too scared to even say goodbye.  He doesn’t deserve it. Not that! Not after all you had together. It's wrong to hurt him like this over a slave. Grow up and apologize!” 

“He's an adult Mack. He made the choices and now he takes the consequences.” 

“He included my wife and my Boy in his petty jealousies Miss Mackenzie, so if he comes near me, I will break his delicate neck,” menaced Misha, breaking into their conversation. 

“Misha!” The Princess was taken aback at the interruption and looked aghast to Chad, dressed and collarless by his side. 

“Leave it Mack!” hissed Jensen in warning. 

“Fine!” she huffed. “It is time. We have everyone gathered but one. Ethan thought you may know of his whereabouts.” 

“Really, who would it be and why should I know?” 

“We cannot locate the Physician. His slaves are no help at all.” 

Jared noted the stone-cold smile on his Master’s face. “He won’t be attending, Joshua should start.” 

“There is a stipulation. There can be no exceptions Jensen. Where can he be found?” 

“There is no point in a dead man’s attendance. He really should have taken more care mixing his poisons.” Jensen’s tone was ice and Mack reeled back from her brother, wide eyed and horrified. 

“Jen. You can’t have. Joshua will…” 

Jared’s hand loosened grip on his Master’s as the words and their meaning sank in. Misha and Victoria looked visibly shaken but Chad smiled, wide and smug. Jensen leaned in to his sister and spoke with quiet purpose, “Accidents happen, dear Sister and there is no evidence to suggest this was anything other.

The Princess pursed her lips in disapproval, shook her head sadly and turned her back on her brother. “We should start.” 

Jensen grabbed to retrieve Jared’s hand and gripped it. He leaned in close to his slave’s ear and whispered, “Breathe. Let it go, Jared.” Jared wondered if he would ever really know the man. 


The gathering was solemn, Lords and Ladies paid respect to Joshua with formal bow and pretty curtsies, Last in line was Jensen with Misha and Victoria. A gasp was heard as they filed past their King with a nod of acknowledgement to Woolvett but no more. There was the tiniest incline of Joshua’s head and he raised his hand to silence the gasps and gossip. “Thank you for coming,” he offered Jensen with grace, and for a brief moment the brothers locked eyes in silent understanding. 

Jensen did not move to stand with his brother and sister on the small stage. He rested casually by the wall and pulled Jared into him, circling strong arms around his waist. Jared’s back was flush with him and he could feel the steady rise and fall of his Master's chest and the warm exhalation of breath tickling his neck. 

The announcement was unexpected and its reception mixed. Woolvett and his aide stood in witness at the act of good faith that the Kingdom undertook. They asked each slave in turn and in person, to give their own decision without a thought for their Master or Mistress. Ethan took stance with the States’ men in a new role, with responsibility for the safe passage of slaves who took refuge. 

Genevieve was asked to make her choice first. She looked to the King with sad reluctance but made the expected sacrifice so that others would follow. “Freedom,” she said clearly and full of regret. “I will go.” Her fingertips brushed against Joshua’s for the last time and she moved to Ethan’s side.  Mackenzie’s slave followed her lead with more enthusiasm. Cookie pushed every kitchen slave forward and threatened their heads if they did not take freedom with the Envoy and he had to silence her when several chose to stay. She broke protocol, with glittering eyes to demand that the King release their tenures and remove their collars, so they could remain as servants and Joshua reluctantly agreed.   

Jared refused freedom with clear voice and Woolvett lingered to repeat the choice but the turn of his lip as he assessed the Realm’s Prince, in his close embrace with Jensen, indicated that he didn’t expect otherwise. 

Chad announced, to the shock of the gathering, that Lord and Lady Collins had already released his tenure but that he remained at their side, as soldier and comrade. 

Alona was the last to be asked. She looked to Ethan and he begged her to go with him. She ducked her eyes and shook her head. “No.” she said and Ethan's face crumpled and his shoulders fell.

“What will you do?” he asked and Joshua answered for her. She understands your job better than anybody Ethan, I am hoping she will accept the release of her tenure and a position in the Household administration.”  In that moment Jared didn’t think he had ever seen a lonelier person than Ethan. The chocolate eyes clouded as the man nodded, faked a smile and congratulated her. “It’s a good offer Al, really good.” 

Jared felt several wet drops against his head and he couldn’t be sure, but it felt like Jensen’s tears. He turned to look up at his Master’s face, Jensen’s eyes were closed. When the lashes re-opened on green–gold orbs, he wore a mask of indifference. 

The terms were repeated for all to be clear, an immediate cessation to taking new slaves, legislation to restrict the import of established slaves, a five year plan for the release of all foreign-taken slaves and a ten year plan for the complete abolition of slavery. There was a commitment to return some power of government to the people within five years. In return The Kingdom would be treated by the States as a free democracy and their laws would allow an alliance. Even now their messengers rode hard to deliver the agreement to their parliament and soldiers rallied to march. Jared recognized that it was a drastic and brave change in policy that would force enmity with some of the Kingdom’s former allies but it represented a new hope too. He nestled as close to Jensen as he could achieve as he considered the magnitude of responsibility upon the King Joshua's shoulders. He felt soft lips on the back of his neck as Jensen kissed him, a subtle reassurance from his Master. 


They didn’t waste any time in starting out on their trek. They had been delayed enough. 

His boots felt heavy on his feet as they squelched through soft muddied grass. He breathed in and relished it. He had forgotten the feel of wind upon his face and the sour-earth smell of stabled horses. He touched the ruby handled sword at his side and felt his dagger in its scabbard. The stable lad assisted with bridles and saddles with friendly efficiency and Jared could not help but pull a memory of another stable lad a lifetime ago. He must have stopped in awe as a familiar bay mare clopped into the yard and snickered her recognition. He welcomed her soft nose into his arms and let her blow thick equine breath over his face, “Hey, Girl!” 

“I kept her safe for you.” His Master stood close, respecting the moment. 

“Thank you.” Jared flung his arms around the older man and squeezed him briefly and the stable lad pretended not to notice. “Thank you, Jensen.” 

There were others readying for a journey at the opposite end of the stables. Jared caught a glimpse of Ethan turning to look at Jensen as he saddled a dapple-grey mare. Jared took his Master by his elbow. “Jen, if I ask you to do something will you consider it for me?” 

“You know I will.” 

“Say goodbye to Ethan. Give him that at least. Let yourself have that.” 

“Why do you ask the one thing I can’t do Child? I cannot forgive him.” 

“He did what he thought was best for you, Jen. It was wrong and it was warped but his intention was good. You don’t have to forgive him, just acknowledge that he mattered to you once, that you keep the good times with you.” 

“I’m not sure I can.” 

“He got me through it you know, the first days when you left me. He gave me cover when you left me cold, he bathed my wounds and he rescued me from your cage. He screwed up and hurt me, maybe he’s bitter with me and I acknowledge that but I don’t forget the rest Jensen.” 

The green-eyed Prince scrunched his face up and scowled at him, “I hate you,” he stated half-heartedly, “Wait here.” 

Jared didn’t intrude on their privacy, he strapped his pack and checked his bridle. He talked to his girl and smoothed her mane. 

Jensen returned to him in lighter mood, he gave him a kiss and a playful slap on his rump and Jared jumped and hissed at the discomfort. “I said you’d feel it all day.” his Master laughed.

As Jared stepped into the stirrup and swung to his saddle he asked the question that had been puzzling him deeply “Why did you allow Joshua to make such stringent promises, to put so many changes in place when you know you may not need their aid?”

Jensen looked, surprised, as if the answer were plain and obvious, “Because they are good changes, ones that needed to be made regardless of alliances. Because Joshua may not have had the courage to make them unless he was pushed.”

“Sometimes your deviousness concerns me Jensen.”

“Sometimes it scares me too, Jared.”

They rode out, a party of five, across a drawbridge that crossed a ravine, through makeshift tents and bundles of displaced humanity and then they were alone in an empty landscape with a wide open sky stretching before them. Jensen stayed close to his slave, his horse a mere step away. Jared’s collar and cuffs molded to him in the snug safety of Jensen's ownership and he let himself look at the lay of the land, the curve of the hills and the colors of earth. He saw the subtle sway of the trees and felt the breeze that created it. He heard the crows with their discordant caws and the distant babble of a brook.  He saw the landscape , felt it, heard it and tasted it. He did it all with his Master by his side and a collar curved about his neck, and yet he had never felt so free.

Chapter Text

They traveled in silence, took back routes and skirted settlements. The pace was fast and nobody fell behind. Lady Victoria and Chad rode as competently as any soldier Jared had met and both kept a bow and quiver on their back. As the day wore on Jensen pulled over and waved the others on. He dismounted and had Jared stand by him. He reached into his pocket and produced a small key. “By my estimation we are into no-mans land by now. We could run into Morgan’s men any time." He gave his slave a sympathetic look, "We have to take your collar off, Jared.” 

Jared chewed at his lip, he hadn't considered its removal, it felt like nakedness and vulnerability. “I have brands Jensen, you cannot take them away. I’m not ashamed to be yours, I can cover it with a scarf but I shall keep it on.” 

“We will have to cut into civilization soon. It's dangerous.” 

“It is all dangerous. The solution is to get them before they get us.” 

“You would fight? This is your own people, Jared.” 

He glanced to the sky and landscape and calculated the hours. “Jensen, these are your villages and your citizens. If a soldier chooses to dishonor our ethics of occupation, then a civil war may not have begun but he has already chosen a side and it is not the Queen’s.”  He wound his scarf around his neck for a third time and slipped his boot back into his stirrup. “Yes Jensen. I will fight. This is my family and our honor and I will not have it further destroyed.” 

They followed a river as it grew and widened, ran fast as it wound its way South, and soon there was no option but to cross. The bridge was on a well-used route, through a thriving market community. They paused to hide weapons and check that Chad and Jared’s brands were sufficiently hidden by their clothes. Jensen rewound Jared’s scarf to his satisfaction. 

They smelled the town before they saw it. Chad paled and looked sick. Misha, Victoria and Jensen set their faces and gripped their reins over-tight. Bodies lay rotting and fly infested in the muddied roadside. There was no specific target, the dead were collared and uncollared, young and old, children, parents and grandparents. Jared recalled the day Jensen had taken him, the care taken to reduce fatalities and bury the dead with respect, and his bile rose, sick with guilt. His pace slowed as he found himself unable to turn away. He mentally cataloged the sights, tallying the numbers. His armies, his responsibility. “They should have a burial.” 

He felt a brush against his leg as Jensen drew in close. “Its not you, Jared. Not your fault, not your responsibility.” 

“My Realm.” 

Jensen was firm with him. “Button it up and listen to me Jared. It’s wrong. It’s not under your control or mine. You ride, you keep pace and you put it away until you need to use it. Then you take out whatever sons-of–bitches you need to, in order to complete the task and stop it all. Understand? Answer me!”


“Yes, Jensen.” Jared pulled his gaze away and straightened, he quickened his canter to return to pace.

They recced the bridge from a vantage point, counted six soldiers, two elders and only four citizens, none of whom were being granted access to the bridge, one citizen appeared to argue and was summarily cut down, the three remaining civilians backed off and left the way they had come.  A brief sortie to the outer limits indicated supplies and horses for around 50 soldiers in occupation and Jensen's small group hid themselves well to discuss their options. The river was in full flood so there was no hope of successful crossing through it. There were no other bridges or fords within a reasonable distance and bribery looked to be off the cards.

“If there’s a fuss we’ll be overrun in no time,” said Misha. 

“So we need to be quiet.” 

“Freakin’ silent, and invisible,” added Chad. 

“We need a distraction,” said Jared. He unwound his scarf, opened his lapel to show the shiny metal of his collar and grinned at Jensen before speaking again. “An archer either side,” he nodded at Misha and Victoria, “Two head to head and one distraction. How many should I get away from the bridge?” 

“No!” hissed Jensen. “That isn’t an option.” 

“Why not?” Jared spoke decisively, “You know it’s our best chance. They won’t be expecting it in the chaos. I'll just be one of hundreds of slaves on the run, hoping for rescue."

“It makes sense,” said Misha.

 Jensen shook his head but he wasn’t convincing. “I could be the distraction,” offered Chad. 

“I’m better able to defend myself alone, I’m the better swordsman and you all know it.”

" Execution is summary, there have been too many incidents. Will they even stop to ask?” wondered Victoria. 

“I’m a rich man’s slave, that much can be seen. They’ll want information first. They’ll take me to the billet.” He nodded to the area that seemed be commandeered for troops. 

“If they get you there, you’ll be lost. I need you. We need you,” complained Jensen.

 “There are blind spots, I won’t let them get me that far. We need over the bridge or everything falls apart. Trust me Jen, please.”

 Jensen pulled on the tag of his collar and kissed him, brief but passionate. “I trust you. Don’t take any unnecessary risks. You are not permitted to get injured or killed.” 

“No, Master,” Jared returned with a cheeky salute. 

He rode fast, with no finesse, his bay was puffed and had no stirrups or saddle, just a poorly fitted bridle which he gripped with his bandaged hand. He pulled up, too sharp, barely avoiding being dismounted and slid from the horse to reach for the soldiers with desperation. 

There were quick-drawn swords and a flourish which he ducked with lucky reflex and Jared was forced to consider his lack of real-life experience as cold steel cut through air toward him. He made to draw his own hidden weapon but there was a sharply spoken order and activity ceased as the senior officer stepped up to survey the breathless and panicky slave. 

Jared hunched his shoulders, looked through disheveled hair with wide, childlike eyes and spoke in stuttering nervous gasps, indicating towards the hills and dense woodland. He didn’t let anyone see the sigh of relief as a single soldier and one of the Elders gripped him by the elbows to lead him away, with the other Elder following. He had hoped for two of the enlisted men but this would do. He staggered and let them take his weight. 

“Nice collar. Do you fuck him? Does your Master play with his pet?” the Elder gripping his right arm spoke with a leer and gave a deliberately harsh pinch to Jared's flesh. The soldier holding his other arm laughed and dragged hard on him. Jared gritted his teeth, hid his rage and kept his eyes low, but he didn’t miss the obvious discomfort of the other religious man at their behavior.  

They passed into a muddied gulley between homes. Water ran rancid-red into the stinking drain and smoke curled from smouldering houses. “What happened here?” asked Jared.

“What do you care? Faithless varmint and deviant evil happened here. They were judged and found wanting.” It was an ugly sneer on the Elder’s face.  

Fully hidden, between charred walls, Jared acted, doubled over, faking pain with a cry, and palmed his dagger. The soldier first, he thought. The Elder on his arm would take longer to react. Every instinct told him that the other robed man would be soundless in his shock. It was all he had and possibly his only chance. He straightened with frightening speed and strength, pulling the surprised warrior into a deadly embrace. His knife tore easily into the flesh between ribs to rupture the black heart with an upward twist and a cry muffled by the closeting hug. He pulled his blade out with a sickening squelch and kicked the body backwards with relish. There was an audible gasp from both Elders and he acted instantly to shake off the firm hand of the cruel Elder, to grasp at his head with a palm over his mouth and wrench it with the satisfying snap of bones. Adrenalin flooded his body and he panted in sick pleasure, over his deeds.

The other religious man stood agape and trembling. Jared thought he looked young and lost. It was a smooth move that had him in Jared's arms, mouth covered and dagger to his throat. “Sorry,” he said, as he pressed sharp edge into delicate skin. He froze, his anger was fading with the cooling shame of the bodies at his feet. He wasn’t sure how many moments they stood like that. The young cleric didn’t struggle, he licked his lips and spoke against the restraining fingers. “My sister is a slave in the Kingdom.”  His voice died to nothing and gathered strength again as he began to pray, a hopeless plea for the Gods’ forgiveness and Stars’ care. 

Jared couldn’t complete the task. He span the man around, “If you don’t believe them, if you cannot stomach their deeds then it is time to find others and stop them. In that there may be redemption.” He swung a clenched fist direct to the cleric's chin and watched as the man sank onto oozing mud. 

He sensed presence of another without a glance. Jared's steel was unsheathed and raised before he was even half turned to this new adversary. 

“Predator!” Jensen leaned casually against a blackened post, blood was spattered over his jacket and hands but it wasn’t his own “What are you doing with that?” He nodded to the Elder who was struggling to his feet with his hand clutching his chin and his feet sliding back into the mire.  

“He’s not going to give us away,” Jared glared at the man, “Are you?” He sheathed his sword as the man shook his head in mute fear.

“Come on then,” Jensen grabbed Jared’s hand and pulled. 

The river raged beneath the bridge as they crossed. Bodies of silently-fallen soldiers sank and drifted with the current and Jared offered a quiet prayer for their souls. 


They stopped high in the barren stones of the hills. Weary and hungry, they watered and tended their horses before sinking to the ground by a roasting-warm fire. Conversation was sparse as they ate their basic provisions. Misha, Chad and Victoria bade them goodnight and retired to the lee of a large rock, where they cuddled together, sharing blankets, warmth and affections. Jared pretended not to hear the soft sighs and suckling. He pasted himself to Jensen’s side and let the older man cuddle him close. They shared mugs of steaming coffee and stared at the stars. 

“You still pray to them, your Gods and your stars. For a time I thought you lost your faith but today you prayed,” Jensen spoke softly. 

“From the start, I prayed for you,” replied Jared, “I still do.” 

“Did you pray for me to lose my deviancy?” The older man asked. 

“At the beginning I did. I prayed for lots of things, even when I believed us damned.”

“And now?” 

“I pray for the people. I pray for my family, I pray for us. I pray that my temper does not lead me. Those things I did today, I was so angry, it became fulfilling and that has to be wrong. I am inexperienced and I let my ire overtake me.” 

“It was righteous anger Jared.” Jensen pulled his hands into his own and smoothed his fingers over his slave’s restraints, “You saved the one that you could, you spared him where others would not and your instinct was correct, no alarm was raised.” His Master looked thoughtful, “I think your Gods look after you still. Perhaps, with all of your pleas, they look out for me too.” 

“I believed we were lost to them for a time, but now I’m not sure. Maybe they do care for us still.” 

Jensen dropped his hands to take his slave's face and tilt it to his own. He leaned in and kissed him, and Jared’s lips parted to let him in. He withdrew briefly, “Your Gods may want to avert their eyes around about now.” 

Jared chuckled, “They might enjoy it.” 

Jared let Jensen lead, he submitted control to his Master, took the desire and the comfort of it in firm touches and loving caresses, in the heat and need, the wet suction and sweaty hot slide. They let the wind carry their cries of pleasure and the moons light their naked motion. The stars glistened their care over their love as momentum gathered and peaked in grunted orgasms and an outpouring of whispered endearments. Jared collapsed boneless into the firm hold of his Master. Even in the deepest of his sleep Jensen didn’t relinquish his hold on his slave. Jared slept there, under a great, wide, unending sky clutched close and safe in strong warm arms. 


Morning was cold and damp, the hot coffee welcome and strong. 

“How much further?” asked Jared. 

Misha answered, “We will be there by noon if we meet no resistance.” 

Victoria clarified, “Most Realm troops have moved up and through. They see no gain to stay in the Southern Borderlands.” 

“But Jensen always had purpose here. I remember he told me that.” 

Jensen sat beside him, placed an arm round his waist. “Morgan underestimates the landowners there. They have always aided us.” 


“There has been a network, an escape route, in place for several years. One that brings deviants and other political refugees, safely from the Realm into the Kingdom. Sometimes we took slaves too. It soothed my father’s opinion and gave the network cover. Besides, many did not have the food on their table to live here and sons are lost as fodder in Morgan's ranks.” 

Chad interrupted. “Jensen started it and kept it open.” 

Jared leaned into his Master’s embrace. “I misjudged you.” 

“You were supposed to. Every village we terrorized we offered the choice. It is an excellent measure of the caliber and leaning of the town seniors. We found a lot of friends and learned our enemies well.” 

“My mother is with friends in that network?” 

“Yes. She’s with people we can wholeheartedly trust.” 

“Thank you Jensen.” He kissed his green-eyed warrior gently on his neck. 

They packed up efficiently and rode through thick mud and driving rain. They picked their way over rough terrain to avoid patrols and stray soldiers. Twice they stilled like statues, behind cover, as marching men and horseback officers passed them by. 

A few miles from their destination Jared brought his bay mare beside Jensen’s steady stallion. “I don’t understand Kane’s involvement. You said he didn’t betray me but was he always with you? Was it his way to remove me from Morgan?”

Jensen looked at him, steady in his green gaze. “No.” His eyes shifted away in guilt, “I used you as leverage, to bargain with him.”

“He wouldn’t have done that.” 

Jensen rubbed a hand across his eyes. “He woke up and I showed him your injuries. Doc Grey, my own physician, explained your fever and I told Kane I could let you suffer and die or we could cure you and keep you safe, away from my father and safe from Morgan. He chose the latter and we came to an agreement. Your fever was useful to me, I had  enough personal snippets of your life to convince him of my care for you, to keep him co-operating. He trusted me.” 

“You made me a slave, how is that care?” 

“You were already a slave when we made the agreement. I simply hid the evidence. And I paid for it the day he saw you in the Square, he saw what I had done, what you had become, and he laid into me, would have killed me if it hadn’t been for James.” 

“And Jake?” 

“Kane commands him for now. I ask for his assistance. He was Morgan’s man but he could not go through with the final betrayal, so he settles for working to ease his conscience. He’s angry with me too. I seem to have that effect.” 

“I don’t understand. Why do you still work together?” 

“We may not be on the same page but we found that we were reading the same book. Our goals coincide, so they deal with the devil and pray for your soul.” 

“I am still alive,” conceded Jared. 

“Your body has been ravaged and your soul is tarnished.” 

“My soul is just fine and my body is recovered.” 

“You have been reading.”

“You left it for me to see.” 

“I did. I’m a coward.” 

“I’m glad, Master. It was painful but necessary.” 

Jensen showed some surprise at the use of the affectation and Jared gave a shy smile. “Surely I remain yours, even here, since it is what I wish?” 

“You remain mine, wherever we are and for as long as you want Jared, but surely you will not want that with your mother. We will remove the collar and restraints for now.” 

They were reducing to a fast walk, a manor loomed, lonesome and imposing upon the moor. Around its location, in the distance, specks of activity could be seen as their party was spotted. Jared was aware of the cold run of rain down his neck as his cape reached saturation and his feet were damp and chilled. “No,” he said. “Of all the people I might lie to, my Mam is not one. She will have me as I am, as I have become and am content. She will know that I..” he paused, “ .. kept a promise, and I came to care for the Prince of Adomisa, that I wish for a peaceful solution to this war.” 

Green eyes bored into him and Jensen appeared to have an argument to return  but he simply dug his heels into his stallion's flanks to encourage it on and replied with a short, “As you wish, Child.” 

They were welcomed by earnest ostlers and bustling maids. Warm drinks were served next to a roaring hearth and cloaks and shoes set to dry. They were introduced to the Lord and Lady of the Manor. Steve and Sophia were cheerful and welcoming but their gaze fell to their Prince’s collar and they moved their eyes away in discomfort as Jensen reached to stroke Jared’s face and tangle his hand through his hair. Jared leaned into the touch and responded with a brush of their fingers, regardless of their opinions. 

Jake came for him, blue eyes unable to meet his hazel gaze. He stared at the collar, before turning away, his discomfort obvious. Jensen followed a few steps behind them both and Jared couldn’t help feeling that was the wrong way around, but his Master insisted. 

Jake spoke, “Your mother is awake, Your Highness.” 

“I’m not a Prince any longer Jake. It is plain Jared or Child.” 

Jake bristled and scowled, “You will always be our Prince, Sire.” 

Jared was firm but not unkind, “Then take my orders and call me by my name, as I wish it to be.” 

The soldier nodded affirmation and opened the door to a darkened sick room with a cheery fire and blankets stacked at the end of a generous and comfortable bed. A woman was propped against a pile of soft pillows. Thin and pale, her hands shook as they held a short novel and she squinted at the words on the page. 

“Mam,” Jared spoke softly, afraid to break the spell that had his mother in this room with him. Her hair was ragged and greying and the eyes that squinted were the palest of hazel surrounded by reddened rims in sallow, lined, skin. Her thin, cracked lips pursed as she registered the word and she looked up for the source of it. She found his face and stared into it without emotion, as if she wouldn’t allow herself to believe it. He stepped forward with slave-soft steps and grace, let the light catch on his profile and reflect on the sheen of his collar, “Hey. So, it’s me Mam.” 

She tipped her head to one side and surveyed him properly. Her eyes filled with tears as a sad smile arced her mouth, “Jare. Is that really you? They said you lived, that you would come. Is this real?” 

He stepped the rest of the way and sat on the side of the bed. He reached out his hand and wiped a tear from her cheek. “Feel me. I’m solid. I left De’ith and I did not die. I met someone and they kept me safe, much as they have with you.”

She clutched at him, ran her hands over him and cupped his face. She settled a finger on his collar and gasped, looking to him for explanation.  “This can’t be. You are to be King. You are my son, it isn’t right Jared.”

“You think I am wrong? Would you have me dead rather then deviant?” his face crumpled and his shoulders fell.

“No, darling, you misunderstand me. I always knew you were different.” Her voice was starting to fade and her grip loosened but her fingertips slid to the engraved tag and smoothed its cold metal. “You are nobody’s property, no toy to scrape before another man’s throne.”

“I’m not, Mam!”

“He’s not! Never that!” It was an indignant rebuttal. Jensen stepped up, solid and reassuring, from the shadows behind Jared. He placed a hand on Jared’s shoulder, squeezing it lightly.

“It was a fair won battle, I took a choice and keep my promise. I do not regret it, Jensen is an honorable victor.”

“There were others he saved by it, Your Majesty, your citizens. Jared is bursting with courage and that light will not be extinguished in him.” His Master was answering the Queen but he talked to his slave, looking at him with an open expression of awe, as if he were the only person in the room.

The Queen tugged Jared into a tight hug. “Oh! My baby.” Tears flowed freely over her cheeks and Jared could pretend the wetness on his own face was hers but his eyes glistened and pooled. She grasped him by his elbows and pushed him back again to get a better look at her son. “Such a bright light,” she murmured and sank into the soft, silk-clad pillows with a pained frown.  “You’re not coming back for the throne, are you?” she asked.

“No.” He answered her softly. “No, there is too much gone past. I am no longer the prince who was a ghost within the Palace walls. I am dead to our people and it is best I remain so.”

“So why do you come to me? Why does my enemy’s brother tease me with your presence?”

“You misjudge Jensen, Mother. He keeps you safe so you can recover. You will not abdicate for me and in natural progression Meghan will succeed you.”

“Jared? No! You can still return.” Jensen patted his hand on the younger man’s shoulder, let his hand trail and rub at his arm.

“No, Jensen, I can’t. I’m not what the Realm needs." He hadn't discussed his conversation with Woolvett and didn't want to divulge it here and now. "It’s alright because it has the appropriate person and she will recover. That is why I came all this way, to ensure my mother recovers her health, and she will.” He gave his mother a stern gaze with the barest twinkle of fun in it.  “That’s right, isn’t it Mam?”

 “You love him don’t you?” she was looking directly at Jensen. 

They answered in unison, both thought the question was directed to them. “Yes,” they said and Jensen startled at Jared’s reply with wide lashes over green-gold eyes and the formation of a round O with his plush pink lips. Jared shrugged, turned dark lash-lined eyes to him, “I can’t lie to my mother.” 

The Queen smoothed a hand over her son’s fingers and gave a wistful smile. “You sacrificed yourself and I never considered such an interpretation. I think the darkest hour is through,” she paused and yawned, “extinguished in your radiance. Hold onto him Jared,” she nodded at Jensen, “because you will be loved in his grace.” 

Jared didn’t understand the choice of whispered words but she was relaxed and serene. Her book dropped from the bed with a thunk and she closed her eyes and drifted into sleep with her hand fixed on Jared’s arm. Jensen moved an armchair close and they sat to watch over her in the curtained, cozy room.

Chapter Text

Jared placed a kiss on his mother’s forehead and smoothed her brow. He moved from the bed to kneel on the floor beside Jensen. His eyes met Jake’s glass-blue gaze across the room and he gave a smile designed to reassure. 

Jensen tensed then his hand twitched, relax, and Jared settled. He sat comfortably stretched with his legs bent slightly at the knees, leaning into Jensen. He breathed in the older man’s scent and let his hand and head rest on the firm thighs, allowing the thick fabric of Jensen’s traveling pants to scratch against his cheek. His fingers absently padded into his Master’s leg. Jensen returned the gesture with a steady scrape of fingernails into his scalp, through his thick, tangled hair. 

“You love me? Really? I thought I’d misheard before, or it was in the moment.” Jensen spoke with a sense of wonder. 

“Yes. Really.” Jared lifted his head to look up at him and continued his padding. 

The loud crash of a chair tipping to the floor interrupted them. Jake stood, his lips were drawn into a thin line and his eyes glittered with unspoken fury. The soldier retrieved the chair, set it upright and paced back and forth across the room. The Master and his slave watched for a few moments then Jensen broke the silence. “Jake, you may leave the room if we make you uncomfortable.” 

“And leave you alone with our Prince under your spell and our Queen in your reach? I think not.” 

“How dare you speak to me like that!” 

“You are not our Prince. You hold no rank here and our Prince refuses to acknowledge his responsibility.” Jake was being churlish. 

A single movement silenced Jared before he could respond. “Are you saying you don’t trust the man you keep calling your Prince?” 

Jake's lip curled in a snarl, “We don’t trust you. It extends to Prince Jared while he is in your enthral.” 

Jared struggled with the instruction to remain quiet, he couldn’t believe what he was hearing. 

Jensen scoffed and raked his eyes over Jake’s frame. “You’re not even disgusted, you’re jealous.” 

A red flush crept from Jake’s neck to the high points of his cheeks. “My feelings aren’t important. You lied to us, betrayed our trust. I answer to Captain Kane and serve my Queen. I will carry out my orders, as instructed, and  I am ordered not to trust you.” 

“I misled you! Jared was always safe!” Jensen paused, “Mostly.” He chewed at his lip, rubbed at his neck and cast his eyes down. 

“Prince Jensen, you offer a so called ‘solution’ but you are the enemy of this Realm and will be until Treaty is reached. You’re starting this dogfight with our troops on your threshold. It would be easy for you to wait on our turmoil and walk into our doors. How much easier if you have our Sovereign?” 

Jensen had tensed again, coiled to strike and it was Jared’s turn to provide comfort. He grabbed at his Master’s hand and kissed his fingertips, smiled up at him. Jared had been given the opportunity to collect his thoughts, “Let me speak, Jen.” 

Jensen sighed and gave wordless permission. 

“As I recall it, you betrayed me, Jake. You must have known Morgan’s intentions. We had an entire evening together and you said nothing.” 

Jake pouted, “I didn’t do it. I didn’t leave your side. You rode off and left us to fight alone.” 

“I rode after the scout, I was preventing our discovery but you could have prevented everything.” 

“Morgan would have killed all of us, if we returned.” 

“So, overall it worked out well. We survived and we had our eyes opened to our true allies and enemies. The Gods watched over us.” 

The surprise at Jared’s statement was clear. “How can you even say that? The Gods damned you a long time ago.” 

“Have faith, Jake. I will not allow anybody to hurt my own mother and I will always have the citizens of the Realm in my heart.” 

The blond soldier shook his head and sat back down. He wiped a sweaty palm across his pants. “How do you even do that, have faith? Are you truly content to be this way?” 

“I have more knowledge than you and yes, I am happy this way. I can see why you do not trust us and would watch us at every turn, but Soldier, we have to work together and we may as well be pleasant.” There was more command in his tongue than he intended and Jake straightened and gave the ingrained response, “Yes, Sir.” 

Jensen smirked and returned his hand to massage Jared’s shoulder slowly. They all returned their attention to the unconscious Queen. 


The Queen didn’t recognize Jared when she next woke. She thrashed in her fever and called for her nursemaid to bring her young children. She squinted at Jared's collar and asked where the King was, asked if her lover was angry and cried when he would not come. Jared took her hands as she trembled and called him a good boy, begged him to fetch his Master. Jensen assisted his own physician in preparing a cold herbal wrap and helped to apply it. He slid an arm around Jared’s waist and pulled him close as they stood by her bedside and waited for the delirium to subside. 

Evening gave way to still night and Sophia rapped at the door and let herself in. Jared was curled on the floor, wrapped in a blanket at Jensen’s feet. Jensen lolled his neck in an awkward position in his chair, mouth open in his slumber. She crossed the room to her husband who had taken over Jake’s vigil.  Jared opened one eye and watched her progress and closed it again as Sophia gave Steve a passionate embrace and kiss.

“Early report,” she whispered to him, “Morgan and Ford will meet at dawn. Our troops stand ready.” 

“Thanks. You alright?”  He hugged her tight and kissed her again. 

“Yeah. We should get them somewhere comfortable. Tomorrow will be tough on them."

“Are we secure?” 

“As safe as we can be. It’s never going to be perfect but everyone is on alert.” 

Jared let himself be shaken to wakefulness. Sophia’s expression was dark and he couldn’t fathom what he had done to deserve it but he was too tired to worry on it. He stopped Sophia from repeating the action with his Master. He leaned over Jensen and placed his lips against the full pink bow, slid his tongue in the warm, wet mouth and licked into it. “Wake up Sleepy-Head,” he murmured. 

Jensen’s hands snaked around his waist and snatched him onto his lap. Jared let himself drop onto the older man’s thighs, legs astride him, arms around his neck and deepened the kiss with passion and a whine. There was a giggle from Sophia and Jensen snapped his eyes wide and broke off with a wet smack of his lips. “hmm” 

“You should keep that in the bedroom. Our staff is used to strangers but not to open affection in the hallways,” laughed Steve.  

“Noted,” nodded Jensen. 

“Time for bed,” Jared arched an eyebrow at Jensen. 

“Your mother?” Jensen seemed somehow distant with him. 

“She’s settled for the night. Steve will send somebody if we’re needed.” He looked to the landowner. 

“Yeah, no worries, we will,” the man replied. 


The bedroom was warm and well prepared. A bath of hot water stood by the fire and warming irons heated the large, turned-down bed. 

“Mm. Did I mention how I love Sophia and Steve,” Jensen groaned as he swished a hand in the hot tub. 

“How did you meet?” asked Jared, following suit and trailing his hand in the wet heat.

Jensen didn’t answer him. He grabbed his slave’s arm painfully tight, and, with an angry growl, span him around and backed him into the wall. He hemmed him in, between muscular arms that leaned against the wall. “What in Stars has today been all about?” Jensen waited for an answer, green gaze boring into his slave. 

“I don’t understand,” Jared's breath hitched in a brief moment of panic.

“Neither do I Jared. That’s the point.” 

Jared’s cock had sprung to attention, straining at his pants but this wasn’t foreplay, his Master was confused and frustrated, looking to him for an answer and he had no idea what the question was. He shook his head and must have looked every bit as lost as Jensen. 

Jensen spoke again, controlling a faint streak of bitterness in his tone. 

“These people are my friends, I respect them and I think they respected me too.” 

“Jen, they do, I can see that. I hardly know them but they seem good people. Did I offend them in some way?” 

He could feel Jensen’s breath, hot and menacing, on his skin. “What am I to you Jared? At one moment I am a monster who keeps you in a collar, at whose side you kneel , at whose feet you sleep  and moons, what could make me look more of a monster than that? Then I am the man you need to make a claim to, wake me to a public kiss, for what? To declare me yours? Or show yourself to be an obedient slut? How is it you see our relationship working Jared?” 

Jared swallowed, his stomach did a flip as he considered his actions from Sophia’s and Steve’s perspective. “You could have said something,” he offered lamely. 

“What? I could ask you to ‘act normal and stop grovelling’. Like anyone would believe it was anything but an act for me to save face. As if anyone would think it from the first moment you kneeled for me.” 

“I was comfortable and you seemed to relax.” He reached a hand to Jensen’s face. “I’m sorry, I didn’t think. I just wanted…,” he bit back the rest of his explanation as he considered his own words, “I wanted”. He had been brought up to always think of the consequences of his actions, to ensure that he was correct from all views and angles. He understood diplomacy and public perception and could adjust his speech and deeds accordingly. Life was never as simple as I want. As his tutors had taught him, with a slew of lessons, there is no 'i' in Royalty.  If he felt like the spotlight was on his behaviour for most of his childhood, what must Jensen feel like here, as visiting Royalty, feared warrior and uneasy ally? Yeah, there’s no 'i' in slave either, he thought wryly. He wondered when he let go of his sense of public perception so completely. Jensen had suggested he remove his collar but hadn’t pushed the subject and Jared hadn’t truly listened or asked for further reasoning, he had simply wanted and Jensen had let him because it was what Jared wished. 

“I wasn’t thinking,” he admitted, paling with the sickness in his stomach. “I didn’t want to make you look bad, I wanted to feel your safety and give you comfort, it seemed so close, how we were, I didn’t want to give it up to sit in another chair. I like being that way with you, I forgot how it would look, here in the Realm.” 

“I thought we’d agreed that you are my equal. Equals don’t kneel for another.” 

“Unless that’s how they are comfortable, how they choose to order their relationship.” Jared tried to explain but he lowered his eyes and continued, “M’sorry, I can see now how it would look, I just forgot.” 

Jensen bent his arms to lean in closer to Jared. He spoke directly into the shell of his ear, with a puff of hot breath and the scrape of stubble on stubble, “and the kiss?” 

“Because you looked so beautiful and I wanted to be the one you opened your eyes to, because I’m selfish and I always want that.” 

“Because you wanted everybody to know that I am yours?” 

“Would that be so terrible, Jen?” 

There were no more words, only a crushing pressure on his mouth, hot tongue and rasping of unshaven skin. He opened his mouth and let him in, let Jensen take what he needed from him. He felt the forceful suck against his tongue and the nip of his lip. He snapped his hips forward, arousal pooling in the base of his stomach, He felt hands pin his hips to the wall and push his pants down over his swollen erection, allowing it to bob free to his stomach. 

“Mmhmm, Child. You have a kink for cold walls,” Jensen purred. He reached a hand to stroke Jared’s cock. 

“You have a thing for me against cold walls,” Jared replied breathily. 

“I do. Tell me Jared, do you wish to remain my slave? 

Jared threw his head back and mewled as fingers gripped and teased, “Yes, Master.” 

“To be a Royal slave, you must think as Royalty, you should not need my command in simple matters of sense and I know you are perfectly capable. I am disappointed in you.” Jensen removed his hand and stood back from him. 

The words burned more than any whip could and Jared felt the chill as Jensen’s body separated from his own. He ached with need. “Please Jen, I’m sorry.” 

“I know you are but you are the one who wishes to get this right so you will accept the consequences.” 

Consequences. Jared’s eyes pooled as he stared at the man before him. 

“Do you trust me? Will you accept my discipline and learn?” 

Jared did trust him but it didn’t make the prospect of punishment any easier. He replied with a slight tremble in his voice. “Yes, Master.” 

“Good. Now strip.”  

Jared blinked and hesitated. 

“This morning you were complaining about having to wear clothes. Get on with it Child.” 

He fumbled with his buttons, removed his waistcoat, stepped out of the pants at his feet and removed his socks before peeling his shirt and underclothes off under the scrutiny of Jensen’s dispassionate gaze. 

“Good boy.” 

Damnit. Damn those words. His cock took extra interest and he felt the damp drop of pre-come at its tip. Jensen’s lips curved upwards as he observed the response. 

“I want your back against the wall.” Jensen inspected his posture as a Commander would inspect his troops, “Heels all the way to the wall, spine straight, chin up,” he commanded. 

Jared obeyed, looked him directly in the eyes and answered, “Yes Jensen.” He understood the task and it was not uncomfortable yet, but over time it would ache and strain his joints. He wondered how long Jensen would leave him this way. 

“Now put your arms over your head, straight up, fingers straight and keep them there.” 

And if that didn’t really up the ante and put stress on his muscles and joints. 

“Good Boy” 

And that was deliberately cruel, thought Jared as his erection grew and ached, without a touch. 

Jensen smirked and began to discard his own clothes. He took his time, turned to give Jared the best view as creamy, freckled skin was revealed piece by teasing piece. As the final fold of cloth was removed to reveal Jensen’s own arousal Jared drooled and whined with frustration. His Master flashed him a pearl toothed smile as he grabbed a cloth and soap and climbed into the warm tub of water “Well that is quite the best view I have ever had while bathing.”  There had been a time when this would have made Jared flush with shame. He realized with a jolt that all he felt was the sexual frustration of his untended arousal and the physical ache of his body.   

“It’s a pity Jared, you should be over here to wash me all over,” teased Jensen as he trailed the cloth slowly all over his firm flesh. Jared bit his lip. He wouldn’t cheek Jensen and risk additional punishment.

It became increasingly hard to remain still as Jensen winked at him and took his own erection in hand.  The edge of the tub covered the detail of his Master’s actions but there was no mistaking the flush of the older man’s cheeks and increasing movement of his arm as he continued to stare at Jared’s frustration and discomfort. He came with a short cry, into the bathwater and finished washing then stepped from the water, full frontal view to his slave with water running in shining droplets over his muscled body. Jensen fastened a towel around his waist before stalking over to stand inches from Jared. 

“You can put your arms down and relax, Child. It’s your turn in the tub.”  He reached out and stroked the silky skin of Jared’s erection once more. “This is mine. You don’t touch it or we start over. Make sure you shave everywhere, won’t you?” 

Jared groaned and did as he was told. Jensen passed the soap but would not touch him. His neediness became a physical ache and wasn’t helped by the tell-tale signs of his Master’s release swirling in the water he was immersed in. A little reminder of his ownership, washing all over him and damn if that didn’t make him hotter and ready to crawl from his own skin for want. 

Jensen finished shaving and tucked himself under the covers of the bed. “You may get out now. I have washed the razor for you to use. I trust you with it.” 

For all the frustration of his current predicament Jared was able to appreciate how far they had progressed, Jensen trusted him to use an open razor on his own. He felt a warm curl of pride in his simple faith. He concentrated on use of the cold steel, sidelining other needs to ensure he did not make a single nick or mark on the body that belonged to Jensen. It helped to lose himself in the task and his arousal gradually abated. 

Jensen curled into the soft eiderdown, he still watched over Jared, looking into the mirror at him but he looked exhausted and Jared saw his eyelids fluttering. “You should sleep Jen,” Jared said softly. 

“You too, soon. Do you want to sleep on the floor?” the green eyes struggled to stay open. 

“Do you want me to?” 

“No. Want you here, but y’can, if you need to.” 

“Of course I want to come to bed with you Jensen,” he spoke affectionately. 

“Good. M’find it hard to understand you sometimes, m’trying Jare.”

“I know. I don’t understand myself most of the time. I’m sorry, Jen.” 

“S’alright. You’re still a kid, I forget it sometimes, you act more mature than me.” 

Jared finished up and wiped with a towel. He approached the bed with a very adult leer, “Not SO much a kid, Jensen.” 

“Hmph, Child?” 


“No clothes and no touching yourself. We’ll review it in the morning.” 

Jared snuggled close to Jensen, breathed in the fresh citrus of his clean hair and when he received no reprimand he reached his arm over the freshly bathed, smooth skin of his Master’s waist and spooned him close.


Jared woke as first light shattered the sky into shredded ribbons of colour. Jensen slept beside him slack faced and free from worry lines. His arms rested on top of the eiderdown and Jared was drawn to trace the tight, shiny, red lines of his scars with the very pad of his fingertips. How long had it been since that catastrophic event? It was mere weeks, yet it seemed a lifetime had passed and they were irrevocably changed by the circumstances that marked those days. These were the visible scars. He knew the invisible ones ran deeper and were harder to fix. This was his task, something he had control of, and it was his resolve to succeed in it. 

Out there, beyond his sheltered existence, today would be marked with catastrophe for his Nation and innumerable families. The scars would run deep, septic wounds would be bled of rancid pus and healing would be slow, without assurance. All he had was trust. He would relinquish control to the charge of others and wait for the news. 

Jared kissed each of the stark lines with the barest brush of soft lips before rising from the warmth of his sleeping place and folding warm covers over the still, slumbering form of his Master. He made sure his chores were complete, he unpacked what had been left the day before, made the room tidy and placed Jensen’s clothes to warm, by the fire.

Jensen continued to sleep. Jared hadn’t been given instruction to wake him and he could see no benefit in doing so. All they had was to wait and the hours would drag. He hailed the sun in traditional manner, wondered if Meghan was doing the same thing, somewhere under the same sky. He blew out the lamp and offered a prayer to soothe the sleeping Gods of the Moons and Stars before asking the Sun for its mercy. Gold shards faded to faint yellow streaks in a span of blue-grey as the burning ball of light broke the horizon over flat moors and jagged crags. Bent shrubbery blew in a stiff wind and the grounds of the house were quiet aside from the steady steps of sentries patrolling the grounds.

Jensen snuffled and fidgeted in the bed and Jared broke into his reverie to rejoin him. 

 “Mm. Are you there? Can I open my eyes yet, Child?”

 Jared kissed his cheek and trailed fingers along the proud jaw, “I’m here,” he said. 

“Thank goodness for that, I need to wake up and get on with life but apparently this fussy damn slave wants to be here when I first wake.”  Long eyelashes fluttered and parted and Jared was treated to a flash of colour, every bit as bright as the sunrise. “You’re supposed to kiss Sleeping Beauty,” Jensen snarked playfully. 

“But what’s the point?” teased Jared, “she’s already awake.” 

A low rumble from Jensen’s throat accompanied grasping hands that pulled him to his Master for a breath-stealing kiss. They came up for air and Jensen retaliated cheerfully, “When did this slave start to think it safe to cheek his Master?”

“When his Master decided to punish him for it with kisses,” retorted Jared with an impish, dimpled grin. 

“You need to be taught a serious lesson.”  Jensen’s face shone with mischief and he sat up and rolled Jared onto his back, clambered over him and dipped back in for another kiss before shuffling backwards, settling his weight on Jared’s left leg and grasping Jared’s right foot in one hand. He bent to suck the big toe into his mouth and wrap his tongue around it, while using the other to tickle at it’s sole. 

“Oh, no, no, no. no, Jen,” Jared screeched, thrashing and laughing. 

Jensen chuckled around his toe and godsdamn if that didn’t tickle even more. It was all he could do to prevent himself from kicking out at the older man. “Ssh,” garbled Jensen, toe still in mouth, “wha’ dey gun ‘ink m’doin?” Jared sat up to look at the ridiculous sight and laughed even harder, then reached to Jensen’s shoulders to yank him away from his foot and up the bed before diving in to tickle at his ribs. “Unfff. S’unfair,” complained Jensen, writhing and giggling uncontrollably.

At some point their hysterical laughter ceased and shifted with the hunger of arousal. They devoured each others lips, let their tongues fuck into the others mouth, their cocks pressed hard and they rutted against one another. There was no defined moment when they started and neither of them led. They felt no compunction to change the action or ask more of each other, they allowed themselves to follow the natural course and when they were panting and close Jensen whispered just two words to Jared “Come, now!” If the world ended, thought Jared, he had at least managed to find the perfect moment with Jensen. 

Jensen had him remain naked, he allowed Jared to assist him in washing and dressing then had him kneel while he scraped pen over parchment, making notes and instructions. “I’m going to organize my day,” he said as he finished his tasks and tidied his pens, “I want you to stay this way until I return and then you will tell me what you have learned. I will ensure you are not disturbed with servants.”


Jared was relieved, he had come to crave this structure, it allowed him to think clearly, order his thoughts and contemplate improvement. He wasn’t sure where it stemmed from but he knew that whatever public façade Jensen wanted he was always going to need this submission in some form. He wondered if it would become an issue as they moved to the equality that Jensen coveted. 


Jensen fixed his slave’s cuffs tightly behind his back and lifted them upwards to shoulder height, stretching the muscles and ligaments painfully, watching his slave carefully. 

Jared was grateful for the burn and ache of it. 

“What did you learn?”

“I learned that I am needy. I learned that I must control my neediness according to the circumstances.” 

“You need this? You need to give me control and show me your submission, is that what you need Jared?” 

“Yes, Master.” 


“Do you like me to punish you? Does it give you a thrill?” 

“No, mostly not, Jensen.”  

Jensen screwed up his face in a moment of confusion before asking another question. “Do you need me to punish you when you disappoint?” 

Jared was ashamed. He bent his head down and stared to the floor. He couldn’t be normal. 

“Jared, if this is going to work between us, you need to answer me honestly. You know I won’t judge any answer you give.” 

“Yes, Jensen.” 

“Tell me.” 

“I need the punishment Master. I need closure and the opportunity to make myself better. Sometimes the cuffs and when you handle me roughly, it does turn me on but it’s different when I have failed you, it feels different then.” 

“Good. You see, you are at least consistent. You told me this before and I listened, I had to be sure this wasn’t a one time thing and now I know."

“I shouldn’t ask you to do this, should I? I’m a freak, aren’t I?” asked Jared sadly. 

Jensen tugged his arms sharply upward and he winced at the pain in his shoulders. “Don’t ever think that! I agreed to this relationship too. Does it make me a freak?” 

“No, Master.” 

“Good boy. Now, bear in mind that you have already been given your discipline and tell me what you think we should do to make things better.” 

“I must not forget that your comfort includes your ability to relax in all circumstances. I should adjust my own behavior according to situation.” 

Jensen parted the cuffs and gently put Jared’s arms down. He massaged his shoulders. 

“I asked what we should do about it, because I don’t remember any useful instructions or hints coming from me. I shouldn’t have assumed that you would be in any fit state to think about appearances.” 

“We should ,er, probably make more plans, talk to each other,” offered Jared with a little more confidence. 

“Bulls-eye! The boy wins a prize,” quipped Jensen light-heartedly. 

“This counts as talking, right?” Jared hedged. 

“Another direct hit,” said Jensen and stroked a hand through Jared’s hair. “Do you want me to make suggestions or will you?” 

“You can, Jen.” 

“For now, you will not defer, kneel or submit to me in company unless we have agreed in advance or you can ask me without scandal.”

Jared looked crestfallen, Jensen studied him and continued, “Once we are alone, or otherwise private, then you can choose to serve me as usual. You can even strip if your clothes are getting on your nerves.” 

Jared cheered up a little, it wasn’t so bad. 

“Once a day I will require you to come to me, like this, so we can talk about the good and bad points of the day, then we can move on to think about what may happen on the morrow. I can do this Jared but I don’t want your submission to be associated with everything bad. You have no idea how beautiful I find you like this, how privileged it makes me, I can’t sour it by associating it only with mistakes and punishment. There must be rewards too. How do you feel about that?”  

“It sounds sensible.” He took a moment more to think about it, “It actually sounds really good Jensen as long as you are open with me too. You need to talk things through as well.” 

“Like what?” 

“Like losing your best friend, your father’s death, your relationship with Josh and how you are coping,” he looked directly at Jensen and added,“or not.” 

“Touché,”  Jensen said as he visibly squirmed. “Yeah, I will try, Jared.” 

“I think you had me at rewards though,” joked Jared licking his lips. 

“Get up, get dressed and then you can have a reward for just being you.” 

“You want me to get dressed for a reward? I’m disappointed,” mocked Jared. 

Jensen gave him a playful slap on the ass, “Better get on with it or I am going to steal that treat and keep it all for myself.” Jensen threw undergarments to him and rummaged for his pants, “Jared, remember to warm your own clothes when you warm mine, I’d hate any important parts to catch a chill,” he smiled. 

Jared chose a shirt and held his hands out to his Master. “You should probably remove these now,” he nervously indicated the cuffs. 

“No, you can keep those, just cover them well.” 

Jared puffed out a relieved breath, “Thanks,” he said.

He bounced on his heels as Jensen reached into his bag and drew out a small paper-wrapped package. He knew he was ridiculously excited but since the day he had been taken by Jensen he had been allowed nothing for himself. He hadn’t realized, until this moment, how much a small gesture could mean to him. He unwrapped it slowly, savoring the crinkle of paper and smoothing it. 

“Oh wow. How did you know?”

It is the one fact that kept cropping up when you were young and we first bounced the idea of getting you from the Palace. Kitchen suppliers can be very informative. For a while it was a running joke that we wouldn't  need to abduct you, we could simply lay a trail of candy that led to the Kingdom and you would follow it on your own."

“It's just, wow, can I?” he broke a shard off the edge. 

Jensen chuckled, “Of course. It’s yours. I had Cookie make it for you before I went away. In the rush I forgot to give it to you, so here it is now.” 

Jared inhaled the seductive caramel scent before popping the fragment of fudge into his mouth and licking every remnant from his fingers. It was soft, buttery and sweet with a hint of vanilla and he let it melt against his tongue slowly with a look of bliss on his face. He broke another piece from the block and offered it to Jensen, “Its official, Cookie is amazing.” 

Jensen took it with thanks. “The rest is just for you, don’t eat it all before breakfast.” 

“Can I give some to my mother?” 

“As long as Doc Grey says she can have it.” 

Jared wrapped the rest carefully and stashed it in his pack. He threw his arms around Jensen and hugged him tight, “Thanks, Jen.”  

His Master kissed his cheek and his smile crinkled the lines of his eyes, “You’re worth it."

Chapter Text

Breakfast was a raucous affair at a table in the kitchen. It was the first opportunity for Jared  to get to know their hosts. Sophia was a slight lady with dark eyes and shiny auburn hair. She was elegant and vivacious, with a ready smile for everybody, especially Steve, who accepted her lively wit and cheery nags with fondness. The darkness Jared sensed the previous day was gone, she smiled widely as Jensen and Jared squashed through the door in a race to bag the place nearest the ovens and sat in adjacent chairs with giggles and affectionate touches. Steve was less forward, he sat back to appreciate his wife’s animated participation with supportive words and loving glances.  While he had an obvious, established relationship with Jensen, Misha and Victoria, he regarded Jared and Chad with a barely cloaked mistrust. 

“Its a bit weird, this far into the Realm, how on earth did you meet Jensen?” Jared asked Sophia as he licked stray pancake syrup from his lips.

Steve leaned forward beside Sophia. “That’s for you to wonder and for us to know.” 

“Steve!” Sophia and Jensen protested together. 

He put his hands up and inclined his head to Jared. “Just being cautious, there’s  more people than us in this and a whole mix of different loyalties crowding our house. I’m not saying I don’t trust you, just saying that we don’t know more than tales of you and walls have ears, y’know.” 

Jared calmed Jensen with a touch to his arm. “S’alright. I get it. Need to know and I don’t need to know.” 

Doc Grey called for them some way into the morning and Jared was relieved to find his mother bright and lucid.  Jared and Jensen sat either side of the bed and once small talk of weather and horses had been exhausted, the Queen asked for a pack of cards and dealt the deck for a game of Rummy. She avoided any political conversation and would not broach the subject of her son’s attachment to Jensen, her eyes met his face but would not linger on his collar. As noon passed she grew weary and Jensen left Jared with her while Jake watched.

Jared held his mother's hand, running his thumb back and forth across her knuckles as the awkward silence forced worries through his head. Steve was right, the household was full of different factions. Jake remained loyal only to a Queen who would likely be deposed in the following weeks. Steve and Sophia, he guessed, were part of the revolution, backing the fall of Morgan’s (and therefore his mother’s) current governance. Jensen was in attendance to benefit the Kingdom and he couldn’t sort out his own alliances in his swirling head. Somewhere out there Kane and James Beaver worked together or apart, for the Queen and for Jensen. It was a recipe that was going to end in disaster or glory, there was little ground between. 

“Jared, darling!” his mother repeated and he jumped. Jake was moving toward her bedside and she was looking at Jared in concern. 

“Sorry, Ma. You surprised me.” 

“You were so far away Jare. Where did you go?” 

“Just thinking, Mam.” 

“Why am I here Jared? Why are you?” 

“You need to get better Mam. We think Jeffrey has been giving you poison, so we needed to get you away from him awhile. ” 

“You planned this?” 

“Jensen did.” 

“Am I a prisoner? Will he use me to keep the Realm from his door? It is too late for that and Morgan will not bargain for me.” 

“You’re not a prisoner.” 

“Then we should leave, we should go home. We will have the Guard find Morgan and bring him to justice, our troops can ride into a defeated and subdued Kingdom and we can we can move on in peace.” 

Jared couldn’t look at her, he picked at his nails and spoke in an almost-whisper “It isn’t so easy.” 

“Why not? What hold does Prince Jensen have over you?” 

“It’s irrelevant, Mam, you’re not strong enough to leave.”

“I was strong enough to be kidnapped by Barbarians.” 

Her voice was rising and he recognized the build-up to a rage. He had been warned of the possibility, a side effect of her withdrawal. He wasn’t fast enough to avoid the vicious swipe of sharp nails across his face as she released a banshee screech, “You’re not my son. Not him! He grasped her wrists and held her away as she writhed and struggled to release herself from his grip. “My Jared is dead. HELP! GUARDS!” Tears wet her cheeks as she twisted in his hold.

The pain of the statement twisted his heart and squeezed at it. In some way it was true, she had lost him at De'ith and he could never again be the Prince and quiet son she had loved.

Jake stepped in, took The Queen firmly by the hands and spoke reassurances in flat military speak. “Get out!” he hissed at Jared. Jared stepped back and looked at him in disbelief. “Just get out and call for the Doc. I’ve got her for now. There’s nothing you can do, you’ll just make it worse. Go!”  


Jared was in the kitchen, leaning on his elbows, looking morosely into his coffee when Steve found him. The man set himself on a chair opposite him and leaned on his elbows to look at Jared's face. “That looks sore,” he commented.

“It’s just a scratch.”

“Deep, though.” Steve got up and returned with a clean, wet cloth to stand beside the slave. “Here, we shouldn’t risk an infection.” he dabbed at the wound with care and continued to speak, “Is it tough, to see her like that?” 

“What do you care?” 

“Ouch man. That stings.” 

“True though.” 

“Not at all. We agreed to keep our Queen here, at our risk, and we are invested in seeing her recover.” 

“So that when the revolution is over you can have a show trial for her ‘crimes’ to legitimize your cause. Is that why I am here too?” 

“Wow! You have some trust issues. Have you even spoken to Jensen about this?” 

Jared swirled his finger in the lukewarm drink and scowled, “So we both have trust issues. We should make a toast to it.” 

Steve threw his head back and his whole, large frame shook as he laughed, “I think I like you Prince Jared.” 

“Don’t call me that. I’m not,” he was being petty but Steve had avoided his question.

“Jared. We are going to have a show trial, but it will be for Morgan and your mother will be the first victim to act as witness. We thought perhaps you would share your betrayal but I can tell that isn’t going to work for you.” 

“Because nobody will believe I am innocent?” 

Steve didn’t reply, he looked at the slave and Jared hated the pity he saw in his face.

“You think anyone is going to buy into it?” 

“You think that anybody intelligent hasn’t seen where this war started Jared? Half the population has suspected your mother’s illness was induced by Morgan, this war engineered by him. His jealousy was poisonous from the moment the King of Adomisa looked at her and she returned his stare. Moons help anybody who said as much, because they were never going to live for long. What nobody can work out, is why you and your brother never had the balls to call him on it. I mean, where were her sons in all this?” 

Jared slammed his mug to the table with the messy spill of displaced coffee. He bit his tongue and concentrated on the coppery tang in his mouth as he shoved the chair back and stood. “I have to go, somewhere, now,” he managed, and turned his back to exit rapidly. 

He heard Steve call after him but he continued walking somewhere else, anywhere else.


Jared brushed in circular motions. His mare stood still for him, the occasional huff let him know she was enjoying his grooming and his company. His brow rested against her warmth as he lost himself in the soothing action.  He raised his head to push a strand of hair from his eyes, and caught a slight movement in an adjacent stall. The lad was watching him, had been spying on him since he arrived, asked for the bay, took hoof-pick, brushes and curry combs from the store and shut himself in with his mare. The lad had protested that it was his job to care for the horse, that the Lord and Lady of the House would not approve but Jared had continued silently on, with a side-step and a moody glower. The stable-boy had disappeared for ten minutes before slipping back into the building and shadowing him close. Jared assumed he found somebody senior to share his concerns with and was returned with instruction not to let Prince Jensen’s slave out of his sight. No matter, he was here, and the lad was not preventing his actions. In fact he was trying so very hard to be stealthy and unseen, and failing so miserably, that it amused Jared and he had managed to snap out of the funk he had been in. 

Swapping the brush for a wide comb, he ran it through his girl’s tail, snagging on knots and despatching them with care. There was a bored sigh and the rustle of hay from the nearby stall and Jared’s lips quirked upwards. “You know, if you’re forced to keep watch of me you may as well join me. I promise I won’t slaughter you and ride off.”

He stepped to the edge of the stall and peered over. The boy startled and stared up at him with wide brown eyes and open mouth. “I, er, I wasn’t.” 

“Of course not,” agreed Jared “but I suspect that your Lord doesn’t trust me.”

“He doesn’t trust anybody,” the stable lad replied, rather too quickly. 

“Not even you?” asked Jared with a grin.

“Probably not,” the lad said, pulling a rueful face.

“Well at least it’s not personal.”

The lad changed the subject to something more general. “She’s a fine animal. Not flashy like with some nobles, but you can see her breeding in her bone structure and her character is beautiful, she is steady and loyal. She’s a rich man’s horse.” He was digging for gossip. There’s nothing better than tales of finery and horses to while away hours in the stables.

“She belongs to Prince Jensen,” Jared spoke vaguely.

“Nah,” Said the lad, “She thinks she belongs to you and that’s what matters.”

She nosed at oats that Jared was offering from his hand and let her neck rest warm against him. 

“Are you allowed anything of your own?” the lad asked, eyeing the shine of his collar and tag. It wasn’t a malicious or leading question, Jared could see the burn of innocent curiosity in his eyes. 

He opened his mouth to say no but stopped himself. Jensen had given him Hope and a present just that morning and besides he had Jensen. “Yes,” he replied after a beat, “I am. I’m just lucky enough to travel light. Prince Jensen provides what I need.” 

“They say you eat at the same table, with the same meal.” 

“I do. I don’t want for anything.”

“Does he let you wander about like this, talk to the likes of me?” 

“Well, yes, here I am, aren’t I. We have to trust each other,” Jared became pensive, “We’re a team.” he added.

The lad’s eyes were as wide as saucers, “Sweet deal,” he said.

Jared thought about the alternatives and it really was. We’re a team he thought, Jensen needs me to pull it together and running away never solves anything. He wiped the combs on a clean rag and lobbed them in the bucket. “You know, I should get back. Can you finish here?”

“Sure thing. Do you want me to send word when advance notice of Prince Jensen’s return is given. The couriers will always notify the stables first.”

“You can do that?”

“I can get word to you.”

Jared took the lad's hand between his own and squeezed it. “That would be wonderful, I‘ll take you up on it. Thanks.”

He returned to the main house with a new determination. He left a message with Steve’s footman, begging time alone with the Lord and gritted his teeth to return to his mother’s sick room. He pushed forcefully past Jake to draw a chair up beside the Queen. Jake appeared to have an argument on the tip of his tongue but with one glare from the young brunette he dipped his head, shut his mouth and returned to the corner of the room.

“I’m her SON.” Jared said, firm and even, “What claim do you have?”

There was no reply from the soldier.

Steve made time for Jared after the evening meal. One of his ever-present sentries lurked at the door and Jared turned to dismiss him. “I asked for privacy.” 

Steve gaped at the presumption but when the man checked with the Lord he waved him away with a huff.

“You’re quite some slave aren’t you?” Steve asked with edge.

“I’m not going to harm you and I don’t want to argue with you Steve. You’re a friend of Jensen’s and I respect and trust his judgement. I thought we should clear the air before he returns because his mission is difficult enough without the complication of friction between us.” 

Steve’s brow raised and he swirled his drink its bowl-like glass and raised it to him. “Fair enough. Shoot.”

“When you look at me do you see Prince Jared or do you see Prince Jensen’s slave?”

Steve’s brow knitted further. He took a sip of the pungent amber liquid and warmed his hands by the fire, “I, er. I’m not sure.”

Jared moved closer to him, joined him in warming by the fire. “If you see Prince Jared then I would expect a little respect, as the son of your Monarch. As Jensen’s slave I would expect you to trust his faith in me or to voice your concerns about me to Jensen himself.” 

“Maybe I don’t see either of those, Jared. Perhaps I see Jensen’s lover and in that there is an inherent danger of Jensen being too close to see harm.”

The answer broad-sided him, “Lover?” he repeated lamely.

“He is smitten with you, that is plain. I have yet to decide your intentions but this conversation is quite the eye-opener. You’re not what I was expecting.”

“What were you expecting?”

“Honestly? I was expecting a limp, selfish child who would hide from confrontation, or an arrogant self-centered man who would not listen to reason.”

“Ouch. Is that how this entire nation sees me?”

“Don’t take offense, you’re actually a refreshing surprise.” 

Jared dipped his head and blushed at the compliment. “Thanks.”

“Don’t think I’m going to stop watching you. It is my intention to live a long life and I find a healthy dose of mistrust aids that ambition when you have my political views.”

“Steve, I love my mother, I would give anything to protect her but I was not in a position to see the harm. My brother and I were children and Morgan doted on us, he cared for my mother, organized our education and played with us. We weren’t blessed with your distrust. I wonder if Jeff did see it and it resulted in his end but Morgan was always a step ahead.” 

“I’m sorry Jared.” Steve's apology sounded genuine. 

“I’ll get over it. There’s more to concern ourselves with. I am a part of Jensen’s team, which makes me a part of yours. Will we find a way to work together?” 

“I’m warming to you but Jensen himself concerns me. There is more going on than he is telling me.” Steve raised a hand to quiet Jared “I don’t expect either of you to tell me but you have to understand that Jensen once swore to me that he would never take a slave and yet here you are and the collar is self explanatory. We will not change the Realm to give the Kingdom free access and he will be answerable to me if he tries.” 

“I promise it is not our intention. Anything else that is occurring will not damage the Realm, you have my word on that, but I will continue to protect my sister and her interests in all this.”

“Even if she stands with Morgan?” 

“She won’t, not if I can get to her first.”

“If you don’t? If she does?”

“I won’t entertain the possibility.”

Steve shook his head and the firelight threw shadows on his tightly drawn features. His hand was gripping his glass tightly, knuckles whitened with strain.

“Difficult day?” Jared’s voice softened as he commented, “We’re going to get through this Steve, we don’t get a choice, but for what it’s worth the Prince in me doesn’t view any of what you are doing as a betrayal. It’s quite the opposite.”

“I don’t need your validation.” The retort was brusque but Steve’s hand moved to Jared’s shoulder and lingered, steady and firm. “Jensen is like a brother to me and you are going to get him killed. Jensen has asked to assist my advance team tomorrow. Do me a favor Jared, don’t ask him questions about it and don’t beg him to take you along, I won’t allow it. Make sure to love him tonight and send him on with your warmth.” Steve patted his shoulder. “Now, I have things to attend to. You should know that a stable boy has been lurking in an attempt to let you know Jensen is on his way. I have organized Supper for him in your room and ensured that you won’t be disturbed. You should make haste.”

 An icy shudder worked through him with Steve’s words you are going to get him killed. His finger played against one of his cuffs, the smooth touch of leather and cold solidity of metal checked him. The dismissal was undeniable and it wasn’t his place to question Steve, Jared turned on his heel to exit with a mumbled thanks. 

Chapter Text

Jensen's clothes were filthy and blood stained and a bandage covered an oozing crimson slash on his shoulder. He was wet through and travel weary but his eyes retained a spark of nefarious excitement from whatever battles he had seen that day. He fell into Jared’s care with silent appreciation. The fire was stoked, fresh clothes warmed and a table set for Supper. Mead glistened amber in his glass and plate of rich pie and vegetables was kept hot on the hearthstone. A single chair was pulled back, awaiting his presence and a cushion rested at its foot. 

He let Jared wash and dress him, towel his hair and invite him to his Supper but he remained tightly coiled, wound up with unnamed influence. When finally he broke his quiet concentration, he took his slave close, cradled his face in his hands and rubbed at Jared's freshly-shaved chin with a thumb, “Child.” he said simply and full of concern. 

“Sshh. I wanted to. I already ate with Steve.”

“You’re incredible, Child. Did I tell you that?”

“You may have mentioned it.” Jared gripped his hips and pulled him close for a short eager kiss.

“How do you want me? and you’re not allowed to say 'now' because you have to eat to maintain your strength, and we have to talk to maintain our agreement.” 

Jensen groaned, “You’re such a demanding slave.” His hands tugged at the bottom of Jared’s shirt and caressed the firm, smooth flesh underneath. His hand wandered over the outline of his slave's ribs and reached to grasp and twist forcefully on a nipple. Jared arched away with a hiss and he withdrew the probing digits.  “Mmm.” Jensen added in absent pleasure.

“You should sit.”  Jared backed him in to the chair and slid it into place.

Jensen tutted, “Naked and at my feet. That’s how you should be,” he said, “but you already knew that.”

Jared dropped his eyes in reverence and undressed slowly, revealing gleaming flesh, inch by slow inch and Jensen watched him with greedy gaze and  dark hunger. His Master had him stand naked and motionless while he trailed a finger over the needy erection that had formed. "So wanting. Too eager, Child. You should learn to control that." His voice was gravel and broken glass with barbs that pierced Jared's calm with a shudder of his spine. "Now," Hot breath huffed over ther slave's navel and the sensitive head of his cock, "I want to see how you submit for me, my slave."

He kneeled with grace onto the cushion by his Master's side, lowered his head in full respect and waited for Jensen's sign that he could serve. Jensen had him maintain the position for long moments of silent contemplation and then let him serve, tucked into the meal with enthusiasm and spoke between bites.

I spent the day gathering information.” he started. Jared let him continue without interruption. “The armies met at Taran Caer. There have been heavy casualties but neither is yet victorious. No word is given of Morgan and rumor is that he is not there.” Jensen smoothed a hand over his slave’s face and onto his collar. “There are reports that forward troops have reached our home. Joshua is battened-in and under siege but the States’ troops have greater number and rally near.”

“Does Morgan command the siege?”


“So he has forward warning, he has gone to ground.”

“It will not last. The sparks of this revolution have already scattered and set aflame.  It is moving faster than any of us anticipated. There are already uprisings and crowds of protest that grow in Venne and Ty’ bont.”

“Venne,” Jared repeated with an outward rush of air. He felt giddy and the air seemed thin. Jensen steadied him with a soothing rub and a reminder to breathe. “The Summer Palace.” Jared choked in panic. 

“The prison,” articulated Jensen in calm, matter of fact tone. “It is where Morgan takes his most vocal political opponents. “Steve’s troops move at dawn to contain the risk of careless losses and garner evidence.” 

Jared wound his fingers together and looked to the floor.

“You’re doing it again, Child.” The voice was stern, long fingers tipped his chin to have him look into Jensen’s face. 

Jared couldn’t find the right words. “What? Master.”

“Speaking with silence. Talk to me.Tell me.”

“It’s not my place.” Jared spoke low.

“I decide that, Jared. So speak.”

Jared didn’t know where to begin. He spoke with a careful attention to his tone, no whining or aggression, he thought.

“You said that you would not interfere, that it wasn’t your place to be a part of this rebellion. I don’t understand how your mission to Venne can be neutral. It is certainly dangerous.” Jared worked to contain his anxiety but his Adam’s apple bobbed and his eyes were wide under thick lashes.“You should be here with me. I don’t want to lose you, not like that, not in a fight that isn’t your own. The troops that guard Venne are the best, the very pinnacle of the Realm's forces.” 

The surprise was evident in Jensen’s reply, "How did you know? Wait. Steve, it was Steve wasn’t it?”

“He said he would not allow me with you.”

“He won’t, nor shall I. End of discussion. Plate. ” Jensen was abrupt, he pointed to his empty plate, and even though he was confused and disappointed Jared was prompt in its removal and the provision of a cheese course. Jensen took an about-turn in conversation, with questions about Jared’s day and the Queen’s health. He slipped a grape under the table to place it on Jared’s lips and had him suck it in and lick at his fingers. He let out a soft sigh and palmed the growing tent in his britches as the action was repeated with a square of rich cheese. What was said next was lust-filled and gravelly, spoken with command and not request. “I shall enjoy you tonight, Child.”

The desire and authority of it crept under Jared's skin and tingled at every nerve and each pore of his being. He wanted for this, waited for it all day and the agitation at being excluded from Jensen’s battle plans melted with the heat of his passion. The chair scraped back from the table with a push of muscular thighs and Jensen’s legs spread wide to welcome him as he obeyed silent signal to kneel there. Two hands tangled in his hair and pushed his head downward to nuzzle his mouth against the rigid outline of his Master’s erection. His own cock twitched and took interest but Jensen disentangled the soft locks from his fingers and snatched at the cuffs on his wrists to place Jared’s hands over his quivering inner thighs. “Mine!” Jensen reminded, and Jared moaned at the rush of blood pumping to his erection. “Show me, what it is you do for me, let me use you, have you lick me, suck me, please me and then swallow every drop that you wring from me.” The words were wonderfully wrong, dripping with the obscenity of salacious sin and Jared licked his lips with the gathering saliva that drooled there.

No more time on thinking, his hands and mouth wilfully colluded to forget everything but the want, want, want that thrummed through him. He pawed at the stubborn britches and Jensen steadied and aided him until his mouth slid, hot and wet down the swollen, solid pole, then paused to lick at the tip and suck the pre-come from the spongy head. 

“Such hot property, such a pretty, filthy mouth. My good boy. All mine. Just mine.” 

Perfect words,  it felt so right, tasted and smelled so good, so many wrongs slid away with every slip of his tongue up and down, over and around the pulsing vein of his Master, his Prince, his lover. Each pulse was a beat of the heart that belonged to Jared, his.

The pressure increased on his head, hair was painfully tugged as he sucked Jensen in and opened his throat to him. “Want to see your face, your perfect face as I fuck into it. Open your eyes for me Child.”  Jensen gave in to sheer animal rhythm, and Jared tried to keep pace as the thrusting length pushed harshly against the soft tissue of his throat, had him full, scraped sore and breathless. Still he had his fingers exploring, gentle pressure on Jensen's balls and smooth touch of his fingers between muscular globes to circle the rim of his Master's tight pucker.

All the time he kneeled, submissive, staring up with bright hazel eyes through thick, dark lashes and soft mussed hair, while his lips closed wide, red and velvet around the thick, sensitive cock.  Jensen came with a guttural wrenched cry and Jared swallowed, licking each last drop from the slit of the softening dick and from his own lips. He relished the sensation, the taste and the act, without consideration to his own straining erection. 

“Fuck, Jared! Gods! You don't know what it is you do."  Jensen was panting, sweat running from his brow but he stood and tugged Jared by the ring of his collar.  He pulled him up with a surprising force and Jared let himself be dragged along and flung across the bed and the sensation of it, the force of being needed this way thrilled through him, had him trembling with anticipation. Jensen landed over him, knees astride of him, strong hands holding him down against the mattress, his eyes heavy with desire and maybe something else, darker and indistinct. Jared moved, an attempt to swing his hips upwards, to grind against the firm flesh of his Master but Jensen’s knee blocked and pinned him with a sharp pain and he moaned in desperation. 

“No!  You don’t get to be in charge.” How could Jensen be so deliciously cruel?

“Please, Jen, please,” he begged, but the older man wasn't paying attention to his pleas, he was stiff in his actions, shutting down from his slave.

“No! There’s something I need to do, to say.” There was nothing sensual in the statement.

Jared felt the strain on his arms as his cuffs were secured with a short chain, to the bedstead above him and his hips snapped up again, drawn to Jensen, searching for some relief but Jensen was backing away, and Jared heard the metallic clink of more chain just before he felt the cold metal around his ankles the snick of locks as he was immobilised.

Jensen hovered over him. The sweat glistened on his skin, his lips pursed in a kiss swollen heart, his pupils blackened and complemented the gold-green of his usual gaze but the expression was lit with adrenalin and fear. Worry lined Jensen's mouth and had him biting his lip. He sat back on Jared's thighs and the weight was heavy but not comforting to Jared. Jensen seemed to be searching for words, unable to stutter them out and the younger man felt cold panic gather in the green eyed man and slither to squeeze at his own heart. “Jensen? What is it? Jen?” 

His Master averted his gaze as he spoke,“I lied Jared. It was always a lie.” 

The cold squeeze on Jared's heart turned to ice, started to crack into shards and began to shatter. “Jen?”

Chapter Text

Jensen sat back, wiped his forearm over his face and pushed his hair back. He repeated the gesture with Jared as he smoothed stray strands onto the pillow. Jared was frantic with concern but he waited, he could see an explanation formed, then pushed back and then different words summoned and rejected. Worry chased away the need for Jared’s own sexual fulfilment, it left him limp, with a cold sweat and uncomfortably tied limbs. 

Jared bit back his fear, “You said you would talk to me Jen. So talk, about this lie, about your father, your brother, anything, just talk to me.” 

“How can you do that Jared? I screw you up, mess you around, tie you up and leave you hanging and STILL you ask me what is wrong? Fuck! Just fuck!” Jensen formed a fist, raised it high and brought it slamming down toward Jared’s face with uncompromising speed. Breath caught in the slave’s throat and his eyes widened in terror as he pulled against his ties to escape the impending blow. Air whistled past his ear as solid knuckles landed a hairsbreadth from his chin and buried themselves in soft pillow. Jared took a moment to compose himself before glancing up at Jensen, who was flushed pink, with an indefinable glint of something else, a spark of excitement or danger. Jensen saw Jared’s stare, blinked and turned his back on him. 

Jared recalled all the other times when Jensen had turned his back, walked away from him, left him chained, alone and anxious. Anxiety turned to anger and he strained at his ties. “No! Fuck you Jensen! You don’t get to do this again. You don’t get to pretend that you can cope with it alone. I won’t be left here, I won’t let you walk away and leave me again. I will shout and scream and fuss and then I will show Steve your scars, tell him how screwed in the head you really are.” 

Jensen didn’t answer, he pulled the belt from his pants and rounded on him again. Jared flinched as the leather squeaked its release and Jensen folded it in his hand.He was sure he had pushed too far and Jensen was going to break. Jared fought to find a calm place in his head, somewhere which would shelter him from the impending pain. 

“You won’t,” Jensen spoke, as he jammed the belt between his slave's teeth and looped it until it was secure. 

A tear gathered at the edge of the Jared's eye and Jensen gathered it on the pad of his finger, burst it between thumb and finger and rubbed the wetness away. “I have to think.” Jensen said, as he adjusted his pants, tucked in his shirt and left the room with the heavy slam of solid wood. 

Jared wasn’t sure when the nervous trembling and raised goose-bumps lessened to give way to cold despair and confusion. His limbs were pulled taut and they ached. He didn’t understand what he had done wrong. Everything had seemed perfect until the moment it all changed. He closed his eyes and let himself drift to warm days and childhood but there was no longer any safety there, he saw the memories differently, tinged them with blood, portents and bad omens. 

He didn’t open his eyes when the door squeaked and scuffed shut. His eyelids acted as shutters as footfall approached and a chair scraped over the floor beside the bed. A warm hand wiggled its way beneath Jared's head, lifted it gently and encouraged his mouth to meet a cup of mulled spice wine. “C’mon. I know you’re awake Child.” Jared took a sip but his eyelashes continued to rest on his cheeks in an act of defiance to his Master. 

There was a faint swish as satin-soft fabric fell over his face and tickled at his cheek. Jared could smell Jensen as he leaned over him, it was a sweet spicy musk, with fur and leather and it stirred everything that wanted within him, and how crazy and wrong was that in the circumstances? “Ssh, Child.” A cool silk scarf wound around his head and over his eyes. The soft pads of Jensen’s fingers adjusted the width and Jared sought out the touch and revelled in it. When the fingers drew back, their task over, the quietest whine escaped his throat. 

The chair creaked as Jensen settled in it. His Master blew out a breath before telling his story. 

“As a child I didn’t think it was wrong to keep slaves. I didn’t think about it. I loved the attention they lavished on me. I liked the way they looked and to touch them. Ethan was sometimes uncomfortable in the beginning, but he grew out of it. Slaves deserved to be slaves because we were better than them. They weren’t real people, I was sure of that, why else would they allow themselves to be used in the way that they were? They were a symbol of the Kingdom’s wealth and power. The Court slaves denoted virulence and dominance and I didn’t understand the sexual allure of that until puberty.” 

Jared felt a delicate touch of fingers tracing about his nipples and he suppressed a shiver. 

“Of course Joshua was older and reached maturity first. Papa’s behavior changed with the note of Josh’s voice. The things that had been private with Papa’s slave became overt and deliberately exhibitionist. He worried at Josh to touch and join in. His girl at the time was small and timid, Papa liked them that way. He would smile at me as he squeezed her nipples hard enough to make her gasp, or terrorize her as she served. She was always correct but Papa would find fault because it pleased him to see her fear and he enjoyed the sounds of her pleading and crying when he disciplined her.”

The long fingers stopped their pattern on his chest and reached to pat at the blindfold. “You wonder why I did this,” Jensen whispered to his slave, “You’ll understand.” 

Jared didn’t move, he didn’t want to break the moment, and besides, what could he do in his current predicament?” 

“Josh was appalled at Papa’s behavior. He railed against it and rebelled. He refused to take a slave of his own and was noisy in his abhorrence of our father’s treatment of his girl. All teenagers rebel right?” There was a soft snort but Jared didn’t smile around the belt gag.

“You expect me to tell you how I supported my brother, how repulsive I found the King’s actions, but it wasn’t how it was. You see it fascinated me, what my father did to that girl. The noises she made, the way her muscles strained against her restraints, the sheen of perspiration that covered her as she fought and mewled, even the red stripes the belt left on her, but especially, most especially, the moment between the calm façade that she was trained to project and her breakdown into pleas and desperation. You have no idea how potent and raw that single moment is, how alive and honest and vital a person is in that fleeting instant. You can’t comprehend the intense power and passion it aroused in me. Papa always rode her hard after discipline, he didn’t bother to hide it and I watched him fuck her with such dominance and lust. I looked on as he shared her for her sins and she cried as men plowed all of her holes together. It was the most incredible sight and it was captivating. There was so much expression and truth in it. When I grew up and reached the Hell of my own puberty, Gods help me,  I  yearned to have the same . By the time I was fourteen Papa trusted me with my own Command and I tried to find the perfect slave. I looked, I met with every trader, searched each market, I won’t pretend that I did not and Joshua was furious with me. None was ever quite right. I never saw what I needed in their eyes. ”

Jensen tugged at Jared’s collar. “You understand now that I do not want to see how you look at me. I don’t need to see the revulsion at my true nature. I never want to see that.” He smoothed at the silk blindfold. 

Jared wasn’t sure how he felt about the revelation. There was disgust at Jensen’s father but little surprise. He wondered how he would have viewed such a public spectacle but he couldn’t imagine it. It occurred to him how he had felt just days before, with the tear of flesh and snap of bones in his hands. He had enjoyed it. He had been zinging with sensation, overwhelmingly alive, and he knew he would not hesitate to repeat it. Jensen had been there, he had watched Jared. How much had he seen? Had his slave’s verve been obvious?  

He stayed silent and listened as Jensen continued, “Josh and I are normal brothers. Both of us wanted our father’s attention and neither of us got it. Our rivalry became the stuff of legends and Papa despaired with each of us. With every slave that Joshua and I passed over, our father became more frustrated with us. I’m not sure when it occurred to Joshua that taking a slave before me would win him favor, but when he took Genevieve he took Papa’s favor and Supreme Command of our armies, and I took to a bitch fit. It didn’t matter to me that I was altogether too young and too headstrong for the command, just that my brother was given it and that he did so with an underhand and two-faced manoeuvre.”  

Jensen gave a wry chuckle. “It’s a fact that youth will adopt a cause to protest, for all the wrong reasons. In public I flamed his choice to take a slave and vowed I never would. In turn he teased me with stories of his dominance, described the power and sexual prowess in every, minute, excruciating, detail. I was devastated and jealous when Ethan saw the benefit of pleasing the King by buying Alona, and slowly I managed to convince myself that I meant the condemnation I spoke to them.”

Fingers resumed toying with the hard nub of his nipples, pulling, rubbing and squeezing at them. 

“Time passed and I was given tasks that took me into the Realm. I saw life and I grew up. I found out that I had no interest in female slaves because women in general do not sexually attract me. Men on the other hand, mmm, I love their rough edges and hard lines, I get hot and hard with the promise of rough sex and harsh kisses. I prize stubble burn in all the wrong places. Men turn me on in a way that a perfect curved women can never hope to.”

Jared hissed in surprise as a nipple was sucked hard into a warm insistent mouth and a tongue worried at it. He squirmed and tried to pull back as Jensen bit a painful round about it, before moving away to speak again. “I discovered that all people are equal but some are unfairly judged or poorly treated. I still took slaves for the Kingdom but it became harder with every occasion and Captain Beaver and I developed rules for the capture and treatment of slaves and a network of slavers who we trusted to sell to fair owners. I felt so justified and even moral.”  

A large, warm, hand moved to cup Jared’s exposed balls and he jumped as frayed nerves created a flutter in his stomach and the chains that held him clinked his surprise. The hand closed around his most sensitive flesh and squeezed, just to one side of painful, but Jared couldn’t ascertain which side. His breath hitched and his body reacted with eager enthusiasm. 

Jensen groaned with lusty growl and faster breath, before he started talking once more, “Then, there you were, all hard muscle and handsome face, sword in hand, full of courage, defiance and the surety of youth, until the very moment you accepted your defeat under my weight and my dominance. I knew you, knew the prize that you represented and I understood your worth, but you showed me something else that I had hidden for so long.”

There was a harsh tug on the length of Jared's cock and it was filling once more, hardening under rough pressure. 

“I tell everyone that I let you take the choice to maintain my reputation and that I took you as my own to keep you safe but it isn’t true. All of it is a lie. I let you choose because I enjoyed seeing you squirm, it felt good to watch your growing despair and while my sensible ego admired your care and courage there was so much more to it. The moment you knew you’d lost it all, the light in your eyes dimmed and you had been my enemy for so long, it turned me on.” 

Jared was starting to feel nauseous but his body refused the memo. He felt the bed dip and hot breath ghosted across his face. He sensed Jensen kneeling between his splayed legs just before he felt the heat of them and the pressure to push his thighs impossibly wider.

 ”Even then, I didn’t truly understand my own lie until you were branded. You were breathtaking on your knees before me, determined and brave, until the first devastating agony of scorched flesh and there it was, the raw and uncontained moment when you broke, and I saw the very core of you, truly alive, unprotected, open and helpless.”  Jensen’s voice cracked, heavy with lust, “I almost came in my pants and I knew I had to have you. I wanted to enjoy your despair. I never wanted you broken but I needed another chance to see you break. Does that even make sense? It is a narcotic, an addiction to me and I crave it so much I instigate it. The moment, earlier, when you thought I would punch you; Oh Child! That moment was raw and undisguised and your fright was pure pornography to me. Why do you think I am reluctant to discipline you? The truth is not that I don’t want to strike you, I ache  to see those stripes, to hear your cries and make you beg, but I do not know if I can maintain control. I cannot be sure I will stop.” 

Oiled fingers circled the rim of his puckered hole and two broke in with eager haste and a pained squeal from Jared. Jensen slowed for a moment but continued the steady jacking of his slave’s cock. Jared’s body reacted with perplexing enthusiasm, snapped up into the grasp and joined the rhythm.

“Mine!” his Master reminded him, “You don’t get an orgasm until I say you can.” 

The thrum of his desire almost deafened Jared to Jensen’s words, his whole body drummed to the beat of want, want, want. His mind listened to the harsh, stinging words but his body heard desire and touch. His heart still beat out a steady L-O-V-E, none of it made sense and little of it mattered in the heat of the moment. 

“I treated you badly and I didn’t enjoy it entirely the way I anticipated, but the power is intoxicating. Seeing you in chains, that first night,” Jared felt the shudder that wracked Jensen’s body at the mere memory, “I would have ravaged you then if I thought my men would forgive me, but I knew they would not so I made you submit on a leash and put you in crippling chains and enjoyed the show from a distance.”

A third finger probed and scissored as nails dug painfully into the base of his swollen member and Jared drew a shocked breath.

“What a show! Everything you did, every move that you made was perfect to me. Oh! The way you wore your status and your collar, so gracious and unbowed. I never imagined there could be courage in submission, that the soul can be left unchained, but it is so with you. I’m not even sure of the true source of my anger when I returned to find you Presented. I tell myself it is because I love you but I wonder if I am only jealous that others got to see your true nature and deepest pain. I no longer trust my own reactions, Child.” 

The truth was more cruel than the chains, and Jared hated the way his hips rolled up to meet Jensen’s fourth finger. His greedy hole sucked it in and tightened around it demanding its attention and thrust.  

“You say I’m screwed in the head and you have no idea how right you are and how wrong I am. I can’t resolve the way that I love you with the way that I want to love you, and I do love you, so very, very, much, Jared.” 

Bright bursts of sensation lit his body and flung it up for more, chasing fingers that Jensen removed in haste and pressed roughly over the tied belt and onto Jared’s tongue with earthy, gagging taste. “Want to hear you cry and beg and plead for it, Child.” Nimble fingers unbuckled the belt and eased it from his mouth. As the leather hit the floor Jensen’s mouth descended on the parted lips. Teeth knocked as he pressed a hard, possessive kiss on his mouth and Jared whined and responded, pressing his own mouth into it with bruising pressure. He hated Jensen, hated him for his dominance, hated him for enjoying his pain, hated the early neglect of his chains and lonely existence. He hated the lies and deceit. His tongue twisted and fucked brutally into Jensen’s mouth, he loved him with an inexplicable chemical attraction, he loved him for his dominance, he loved him for his soft touches and firm instruction, he loved his stupid flaws and he loved him for the way his pain took everything away but Jared's raw, needy humanity, to let him live  in the moment for a fleeting, glorious time."

Please,” Jared moaned. 

Sharp teeth bit into the soft fold of his neck and sucked a stinging purple bruise. “Not going to stop. Going to take you and fuck you hard, need to see you squirm, hear you cry. I need you Jared but if I don’t come back you’ll know its better for you. You can be free to find a gentle love without pain or submission. I lied when I said I’d let you go. As long as I’m alive I won’t let you leave me. I’ll track you down, drag you back and chain you to the floor. I’ll brick the windows and seal the door. I’ll secure your leash to a cuff on my wrist and drag you wherever I go. I will have you kneel at my feet and spread for my pleasure. I can’t be without you and I can’t pretend to be something else any more.” 

Something cold and blunt and pressed into him, spread him wide and caught against his rim as it fucked huge and hard into his ass. Dildo thought Jared and pushed down onto it, chasing his sweet spot. He sensed Jensen’s stare as the substantial toy stretched and skewered him. He knew Jensen was watching his ass take it deep and open up again as he pulled it out with rough abandon. Jared gibbered and begged, but the toy was plunged forcefully back with careful avoidance of his prostate. His chains scraped and cut his flesh as he fought for completion.

“Not good enough, Child!” growled Jensen.

A fierce bite to his hip had Jared throwing his head back and keening. A tear rolled from under his blindfold. “Please, Jen, Jensen please, Oh Gods, Jensen, Jen, Jen, Jen. Need. Need it. Need you Jensen, Jen.” Jared was bucking upward and chasing air with his mouth looking for full lips to kiss but all he found was the top of his Master’s head. His teeth clashed with its crown and Jensen cursed and slapped the inside of Jared’s thigh with a sharp, erotic sting. The heat of it coursed through him and as the blow was repeated on the opposite leg and suddenly he felt pre-come drip from his over-sensitive, swollen cock. Jensen's fingers squeezed his shaft painfully, and dipped in to gather the bitter, clear fluid, collect it and press into his mouth with silent demand. He sucked on them, licked every drop and swallowed. He gasped in a shuddering breath as the dildo rammed against his prostate with purpose and his whole body arched against the restraints that held him. Then it was withdrawn, his hole empty and fluttering for something to fill it. He moaned then screamed Jensen’s name and the reply was rasped and barely controlled, “Can’t stop this, Child.”

“Want it. Need you to use me, hurt me, show me I’m yours Jen. Please.” 

The reply was in hurried, frantic action. The locks on his ankles were released and hands pawed and pushed at him until he was kneeling with his cuffed hands chained in front of him, his ass in the air and his face pushed into the mattress. A strong grip parted his smooth, muscular globes and Jared felt the blunt head of Jensen’s pulsing cock as it breeched and penetrated him. Jensen’s arms gripped him tight about his chest, held on with pincer grip, fingers gripping sensitive nipples and pulling him back onto Jensen's pistoning erection, to fuck him with careless, bruising thrusts. Jared met each plunge, pushing down and chasing the sensation. His face ran wet under the silk and Jensen muffled his screams with a shove of the dildo between his lips. 

Jensen’s breath came in short bursts and Jared felt the tension as Jensen’s balls pulled up against his ass-cheeks. “Come for me,” his Master snarled as his own ejaculation sprayed hot and wet, into Jared’s tight passage, marking him as Jensen’s, owning him. Jared had never been so strung out and alive as in this moment, never before felt so much.  His orgasm rolled over him with blinding intensity and he came with unprecedented force, untouched, over the sweat soaked sheets, with his hands still chained and his eyes still blind. He collapsed into unconsciousness with exhausted tears, and nothing more to give.


Jared panicked, couched in all-encompassing darkness when he woke, but he felt Jensen’s steady hand on his chest. He had been moved, the bedding was dry under him and an eiderdown lay soft atop him. He raised his arm and it was free to pull at the silk blindfold that still blocked his sight but he winced with the pain of movement. Jensen’s hand knocked his hand away, “Leave it on.” he ordered. 

Jared was weary, every muscle ached, he was battered and sore and he didn’t think he would walk properly for days, but there was a buzz of pure pleasant satisfaction and the familiar instinct to obey. “How do you want me, Master?” 

“I want you to rest beside me Jared. I want you to let me hold you and allow me to pretend for this night.” 

“Pretend what?” 

“Pretend that you love me. I won’t look, I cannot bear to see the hate in your eyes.”  Gentle kisses rained on Jared's face, over his nose and across his cheek while fingers carded through his hair. “I’m sorry Jared. I’m so very sorry for everything that I am, I’m sorry for the things that I’ve done and the things I still want to do.” Jensen repeated “I’m sorry.” Over and over until Jared lifted his fingers and placed them on his lips. 

“I know you are.” 

Jensen sighed and rested his head on Jared’s chest, over his steady beating heart and atop of his brand, His hands tangled with the tag on his collar. He startled as Jared bent to kiss him gently on the top of his head. 

“Sorry I bumped your head Jen.” 

There was a hitched laugh and salt-wet drops slid over Jared’s breast. “You’re saying sorry for accidentally bumping my head. You are priceless, Child.” 



“Some of those things that you want to do to me. I think I encourage them, I want you to do them.” Jared licked his lips and gave a nervous laugh before continuing, “I like when you hurt me that way. I like when you peel away the layers to find me raw and I really love it when you put me back together afterwards. What don’t you get about the phrase, I trust you?  I keep telling you and you don’t seem to comprehend it.”  He patted his hands carefully until he found Jensen’s face and he cradled it carefully then wriggled from under his Master and searched out his lips. He pressed a finger softly to them, parting them for his mouth to latch on and kissed Jensen warm and sensuously. Jensen stilled with surprise and then responded with slick, gentle movements and a hint of tongue.

Jared spoke again when they stopped for air, “Take the blindfold off Jen. I don’t hate you, I don’t think I ever could. I love you the way you are and I’ll take you that way. I’ll lock you in a room, brick over the window and chain you to the floor if that’s what it takes to keep you.”  He ran a hand over his Master’s shoulder, smoothing it and reassuring him. 

When the silk was removed Jared wasn’t sure if it was the lamplight or Jensen’s bright smile that dazzled him more.

Unchained, Jared propped himself on one elbow, he let his hand smooth lightly over the pale, dappled flesh. “If that is talking then I’ve suddenly become a big advocate of it.”

Jensen let out a disjointed and relieved laugh. “Yeah. I’m useless, I bust my own rules on the first day.”

“Oh I don’t know. It’s a fairly big discussion to me Jen. It pretty much checks off family issues, kinks and relationship boundaries in one clean sweep. Why did you? Today, I mean, why now?”

Jensen lifted an arm over his eyes and Jared nudged it away “Don’t hide!”

“I couldn’t fight it. You were laid out for me, willing and vulnerable and all I could think about was how you would look, the face you would make with the shock of pain. I wanted it so bad and you trusted me. You let me manipulate and dominate you, you welcome it! You are so beautiful and I want to make you submit and hurt.This thing I feel, that I crave, is wrong and I don’t know where it comes from or how to make it go away. I am scared of how far I might take it. I know what I am capable of, I raped you once, I almost killed you.”

For the first time in the discussion Jared looked worried, he picked at a nail and his brows dipped and met. ”You said you didn’t enjoy it. Was that a lie too?” 

“I don’t know. I was furious and hurt and I wanted revenge. There was no lust and yet I got hard. The only passion I had was anger and yet I came. I wasn’t thinking about about how you would be. I barely saw you. It went too far and there was no spark left in you. All I saw when you looked at me was pity and despair. It was soul numbing and shameful. I knew there was evil in me then and I tried to release it. I opened myself up to bleed it out, I needed to feel it run from my veins, but I don't think it did. It curls in a dark corner of me and waits."

Jared took Jensen's hand in his own and kissed at each of the slashed scars, then took the other and repeated the action.

Jensen shook his head in wonder. "I have never understood why you would forgive me for such a thing.”

“So there was regret and self-knowledge. That’s a good thing isn’t it? That is normal. I’m a little puzzled at what it is you’ve done since that which should have me scurrying for safety because I have never felt threatened. Uncomfortable, nervous and turned on but never unreasonably afraid. You used the tawse precisely as you described and you stopped. We mended. We’re good together aren’t we?” 

“I almost broke your jaw tonight, Jared. How is that a good thing? I keep telling you to be honest with me. It was time for me to be honest with you.” 

“You didn’t try to connect that punch, it was deliberately way-off. You got the result you needed without the hit. You have more control than you credit yourself with. I’m glad you told me,  I’m not a china doll, I’m a big boy and there are things I like, rough things. We can work it out safely, can’t we?”

He tipped Jensen’s face so he was looking directly at him. “I do want to include it when we’re intimate, Jen. When you go all caveman on me it makes me hot as hell and twice as horny.” 

Jensen gave an exaggerated shudder “That is not an expression which should ever pass your lips Child. Who on this fine earth taught you it? Wait. I can guess…” 

“Chad,” giggled Jared. 

“Chad,” finished Jensen.

“Did you..” 

“It’s not all about ..” they spoke simultaneously and Jared indicated that Jensen should finish. 

“Most of the time it’s not about making you raw, it can be when you laugh so freely or the way that you care for others. It can be your teases or the fierceness that you lose yourself in when you fight. All of it turns me on. It’s about having all of you.” 

Jared reassured him “You do have all of me Jen. Always.” He flattened his palm over Jensen’s heart. “Did you tell me now, because of Venne? Did you hope to push me away?” 

His hand rose and fell with the sigh from Jensen’s chest. “No. I didn’t hope for this to finish us, even if I thought it would. I suppose I had to know whether tomorrow could realistically be the first day of the rest of our life together, or if I should cut my losses and accept all this for an anomaly of war, one of those short, crazy romances born from strange circumstances. The chances are that I will have to explain our relationship to Meghan and that would be hard even if I understood it myself.” 

“Woah, hang on! My baby sister doesn’t get details of our sex life. Not ever.” 

“Moons, no! Never! But she will want to understand what defines us. She is your blood and she is going to want to know why you refuse your place in the Monarchy and how you accept this collar.” 

“Right. Of course.” Jared chewed on his lip. “So, Meghan is at Venne and you intend to be the dashing hero?” 

“Something like that, but I am the distraction. There will be three events in addition to the public unrest. There is to be a strike on the prison, infiltration of the Palace and an attack on the base to the North of Venne. We hope it will tax the defences to break. The information is good but the City is in chaos, with riots and flame. Technically, this is precisely my job, a deep covert operation against a key enemy target. Josh has too much on his plate to worry about refusing it. He would do anything right now. You know I will still refuse your company. Venne is one of the few cities you would be recognized and we cannot risk the jeopardy it would place everyone in, especially Meghan.” 

Jared didn’t have to like it but he was a strategist and he reluctantly agreed with the logic. “If you tell me not to follow you I won’t, Jensen.” 

Jensen reached up and ruffled his hair. “Good boy.” 

“Steve’s gonna be pissed that you told me your plans. Why have you?”

“You told Steve something today, Jared. You said we were a team. You have trusted me far more than I deserve. It's time I woke up and did the same for you, because you are right, we jumped in this together and we’re the only ones that see the vision as we do. All we have is each other and we make an awesome team.” 

“So, I get to accompany you?”

“Nope. Absolutely not! I will need a team mate to rescue me if it all goes to Hell.”

Jared huffed and settled back into the soft bedding with his hands under his head. 

Chapter Text

"Do I get to hear the story of how you met Steve?”

Jensen snickered and choked back a bigger laugh. “It’s not so exciting. It isn’t exactly the big secret he made it out to be. He doesn't want safe houses compromised but he must know I wouldn't give those to anybody. Ever since we arrived he's been like an over-protective parent who isn't sure about my new boyfriend. Mostly I think he was trying to save me from embarrassing myself in front of you.” He pointed at Jared. 

Jared sat back up with avid interest and an evil grin. “Boyfriend, huh? Well the boyfriend is not going to shut up till you tell him.” 

“Alright, alright!” Jensen put his hands up in defeat. “But if you mock me it will incur an awful punishment.” He wriggled his fingers toward Jared’s ticklish feet.
“I might enjoy it,” purred the slave. 

“Oh sweetie, I’ve already seen you scream like a little girl when your toes are involved.”
“Quit avoiding the subject, Jen.”
“Alright, alright. I got caught with my pants down and Steve rescued me.” Jensen spoke the sentence, in double time and gave his best innocent grin. “There, story told.” 

“Oh, no, no, no, Jen. Definitely not good enough. Morbid details please. There is plenty I can blackmail you with!” 

Jensen stuck his tongue out at the younger man. 

“Mmm. Sexy,” teased Jared. 

“Do you ever stop?” 

“Nope, not until you tell me.” 

"And  I'm  supposed to be the cruel one. " Jensen scrunched his face up to glare at him. “Alright!”  He settled with his head in the crook of Jared’s arm. “Command of covert operations is supposed to be sexy, right? Full of intrigue and interesting situations? That’s what I thought when Josh decided to appease me after his meteoric promotion. Well, it isn’t. It’s dull and it sucks, especially when you’re not actually allowed to  do anything  covert. The only thing Papa and Josh were interested in was a little spying to discover the probable location of the next battle, the numbers each army consisted of and the array of weapons they might use. There was hardly ever good reason for a murder or a torture session. The good stuff like kidnapping you or assassinating a few Lords was strictly off limits and if Pa had his way I would have been commanding from afar, and that’s even less fun.” Jensen thought a little. "It may actually turn out to be a good thing I didn't assassinate Earl Ford."

Jared concentrated on straightening the arc of his lips. 

“Do not smile! You know what I did? I cobbled.” 

“You cobbled?” Jared wondered what he was missing in the conversation. 

“Uh-huh, I am a Master Craftsman, a travelling cobbler. I can resole your boot faster than your average shoemaker. You know what every soldier, cavalryman and Officer does before he goes into battle? He makes sure his boots are in perfect condition. They are the most important piece of equipment.” 

“You do have a point.” 

“Damn straight I do! Others in my command traveled as tailors with uniform cloth and buttons or horse traders with fine steady steeds but I got to mend shoes. Once those boots are ready to go, the next stop is generally the Inn and where do you think said cobbler will be staying the night? Liquor, my Child, is the best tongue loosener. If said target is a complete bastard, then it is also useful to drop the defenses of an arrogant man so that there is opportunity to play.”


"For instance, it is difficult for a sober man to go into battle missing several fingers but easy to have a drunk man bet on his skill with a knife. Drunk men are also apt to drown in fast flowing rivers, that sort of thing."

Jared didn't think he liked the glint in Jensen's eye that suggested fond memory, he moved the subject on. “This doesn’t explain Steve.” 

“No, I’m getting there.” Jensen licked playfully at Jared’s chest. “Steve was a weird one. I couldn’t figure him out. On the one hand he is in all the right social circles, on the other he never seemed to affiliate himself too closely with any of them and his household never gave a single detail of his itinerary away. He was a mystery but we had others so I continued calling to make myself familiar.” 

“How familiar?” Jared’s voice was teasing but he couldn’t hide a possessive edge. 

“No! Not that sort of familiar! Do you think Sophia would leave me alive if I was that sort of familiar? Mind, in the end it was that sort of thing that led me into trouble. See, the other thing about spying on the Realm, that sucked for me, is the singular lack of opportunities to get any sort of sexual satisfaction that doesn’t involve my hand. However drunk a guy is in the Realm, they’re not going to hook up with another man in a bar and brothels are severely regulated. Hell! on any given night, at least a third of the clientele will be Elders. I was seventeen, I was permanently horny. You know how it is because you’re there right now.” Jensen palmed at Jared’s half hard cock to make his point and his slave chuckled and knocked his hand away. His Master returned one hand and tugged painfully on his collar with the other. “My property! I can handle it when I like,” he reprimanded with serious growl. 

Jared’s cock went from half mast to full in moments and he cursed as Jensen smirked. 

“Where was I? Oh, yes, inns.  Three weeks into a serious stint within the Realm and I was climbing the walls with lust, I was also busy plying a particularly nauseating man with ale which was served by fittest barman I’d ever met, who had a  very bright  smile for me. Matthew caught on to my game quickly. He egged me on, and, as I soon found out, spiked the man’s drinks. He’s a strong lad with jet black hair and beautiful blue eyes. I seem to have a thing about eyes.” He stroked Jared’s cheek. “Yours are the prettiest of all, he doesn’t compare to you.” 

Jared pulled his arm in around Jensen, to cuddle closer. 

“When our target was finally unconscious Matthew helped me to drag him into the alley where we left him at the door of the local brothel, with a newly circumcised dick and a note asking for the cheapest ride. Cruel but fun! Course a brothel can remind a man of what he can’t have and it got a little heated there in the dark, before we both got a grip and stopped. We made a date instead, a rendezvous by a remote lake in a remote field in a ridiculously outlying area of the village and he followed me out as soon as the bar closed.” 

“So how did you get caught? I’m assuming this was the pants down  incident.” 

“Your stupid Gods and Stars got me caught. We found our way to a warmed rock on a ledge and made out under twin rising moons and a bright star-lit sky and Matthew, he wasn’t inexperienced, not at all. What he could do with his mouth should be a part of our school syllabus, because wow, this thing he does...” 

Jared cut him off, “Jen ...” 

“Too much information.”

"Oh. You're better. You really mean it when you're on your knees."  Jensen kissed lightly at his slave's skin and continued, “Right , well, anyway, as I said, twin freakin’ rising moons  and apparently  a super special  outdoor prayer circle for godsdamn Elders from about all the local villages. The bastards were on the hill above us and waited especially to make sure we were at the  very pinnacle  of our activities before jumping us. Biggest cock-block ever .” 

Jared was tempted to laugh but he also understood the seriousness of the crime they had been caught in and the associated tortures. “Gods Jen,” he breathed and caressed the older man’s arm, “What happened to you and to Matthew?” 

“Well, obviously my weapons were out of reach, except the one, y'know,"

Mmm, I know it,  a very mighty weapon," Jared mocked, and stroked Jensen's cock reverently. Jensen didn't reprimand him, he wriggled a little to give Jared a better angle

"... and  my men were nowhere to be found. I'd sent them on to our next location when I thought I was going to get lucky and there was no way  I was taking James out to that lake with me. Matthew and I got lucky, the jail they had us thrown into was temporary, little more than a drunk tank for local trouble makers. I had a pair of my own trusty boots on and being a master craftsman  the heel was hollowed to contain lock picks and a small knife. Getting out was the easy part. Finding somewhere to go was the problem and as selfish as I can be, I didn’t want Matthew to suffer. Turned out Matthew knew somebody, who knew somebody and we passed through three households in the one night until a final stop for which we were blindfolded in case we were infiltrators." 


"No, it was scary! I remember hearing the voice when Steve identified me, well he recognized my alter-ego and his cobbler. Steve had been rescuing deviants for a fair while. We stayed a few days and I didn’t dare risk contacting my men. Matthew’s friends had been careful so we weren’t traced. After four days Steve explained that there was a problem. They had to get us out of the Realm into the Kingdom but his usual routes were being blocked by Misan troops and we couldn’t get the appropriate papers to make us safe. I guess that’s where it all started. I explained that I could get anyone into the Kingdom, if he could get us over the border. I didn’t explain how and he made me cross several times over several days before accepting my word. Matthew got out and I saw an opportunity and offered regular assistance. It was an exciting sideline that Josh didn’t need to know about. Oftentimes there were chases and sometimes we got to secure revenge. It was six months before I trusted Steve enough to give him my real identity and he was so angry with me he punched me to the floor. We’ve been good friends ever since.” 

Jared did laugh at that. “Perhaps I should have punched you when we first met.” 

“I’m sure you would have done if you hadn’t been too busy being heroic.” 

“No, I would have killed you. I’m glad I didn’t.” 

“I’m glad too.” His Master took his property firmly in his hand and slid his torso, with hot friction, down Jared’s aching body until his mouth slid wet, warm and velvet, around his slave’s eager erection. “Enough talking,” Jensen said, as the younger man moaned his approval.

There was little sleep for the Master and his slave, before the sun rose.




He watched as far as the eye could see. The small band of soldiers and allies rode out in warm cloaks and full weaponry. Weak sunlight reflected from bare branches and frost-glazed grass, making him squint to maintain the contact. Winter was on its way and he wondered if anything would prevent the misery of another harsh war-poor season. 

Misha, Victoria and Chad accompanied Jensen’s small force. Jared had recognized many of the faces from his first days as Jensen’s captive. Captain Beaver greeted him with a hearty hug and warm hello. Others gave curious glances and outright stares but everyone eventually returned to their preparations without a word to the slave by Jensen’s side. Their numbers were diminished, Jared had noted that, and conversations sometimes stopped in a silent space where a now-absent comrade would have jumped in with a joke or comment.

Steve’s fighters saddled and armored themselves in tandem with Jensen’s men but there was little interaction and the atmosphere was tense and uneasy. The remains of the Queen’s Guard, with Captain Kane at the fore, was to meet them at a later rendezvous. Jared wondered how much more tension that would add to the unlikely allies.

Jared touched a finger to his lip where Jensen had kissed him deep and brutal, in the stall of the stables, and asked him to wait for him, had kissed him again sweet and tender and told him not to give up, whatever transpired. He moved the pad of his finger to a purple bruise by his collar and pressed the flesh, he felt the sharp ache and the promise of it. “Mine,” Jensen had told him before he departed.

As the final dot disappeared on the horizon Sophia reached a hand and took his arm. “C’mon, it’s cold out. There’s nothing to do but keep faith.” Jared sighed and let her guide him back to the Manor.

Green wood popped and crackled in the heat of orange flame. He stared into the hearth, watching the flickering fire. Low afternoon sun filtered through the thick glazed window but a tall, sturdy candle burned on the mantelpiece. Cream wax melted and dripped, gathered, then reset on its curved edge. The flame burned for Jensen and Jared would not extinguish it. It would flare until his Master returned or the wax dwindled and burned down. He refused to consider the latter. 

He blanked out the incessant drone of his mother’s pleas for drugs she didn’t need but couldn’t let go. How long had this been her narrative?  Maybe hours but it didn’t matter, this dependency wasn’t her. He could ignore it, he had to ignore it. This was normal, the doc had told him so and books from the library confirmed it.  His mind and heart were in Venne and even his mother’s anger and tears couldn’t pull him back. He patted her hand, set out Mahjong tiles for her and fetched her water. 

At some point the begging ceased and The Queen slept quietly. The slow click and roll of a ball-bearing clock was rhythmic hypnotism in the thick silence of the house. Jared watched the drip of wax and pulled an image of Jensen into his mind. He tried to remember all of his freckles, counted them until he lost his mark, then started again. When that became frustrating he catalogued every bruise and ache in his body with a sense of pride and contentment.

 Soft footsteps broke him from his reverie. Sophia handed him a mug of warm coffee, drew up a chair and sat next to him. “I can’t settle,” she said. “It’s the not-knowing.” 

Jared took the mug and blew across the top, steam curled and dissipated. He nodded and took a sip. He could think of nothing he could say to comfort her. They sat in companionable silence and the fire crackled, the clock clacked and clicked and the wax of the candle dripped and gathered. 

He returned to his room when all others retired but he didn’t climb into the big, cold, and empty bed. He pushed a squashy, soft couch to the nook by the window and draped a soft woollen throw about his shoulders. He sat with his feet tucked up on the cushion and stared up at silver clouds that scudded across  jewelled, ebony sky, trailing over bright slivers of the moons. An owl swooped in stark silhouette, hunting for the last easy-pickings before the freeze. He studied it, this predator with, smooth grace and natural violence. Predator, that is how Jensen described him and he couldn’t dismiss the notion. He knew he was a good swordsman, he had defeated too many to lie to himself or call it prideful. He had excelled in close wrestling, archery and every combative skill. Morgan had ensured the best trainers and fullest schedule but he had always possessed instinct.

What Jared hadn’t been able to predict from his closeted tournaments is the anger that simmered within him, how he enjoyed the reality of the fight and the sharp thrill of the kill.  Uncomfortable memories scratched and worried at him. “Morgan’s puppet prince.” was how Jensen had once described him. How had his Uncle intended to pull the strings? How much of him remained Jeffrey Morgan’s design? 

He couldn’t sit, couldn’t wait, the only people that mattered to him were embroiled in their own battles. He sat helpless, watching the slow progression of the night. He wasn't aware when he moved from his seat and he didn’t see the sentry that stalked him, monitoring his progress from a distance. Sophia’s soft touch and tired voice found him barefoot, blank-eyed and shivering on the frigid, white-iced lawn.

 “C’mon in Sweetie, I’ve some cocoa on the hearth.”

He let her lead him indoors by the hand, took the drink that was proffered and allowed her compassionate charm to chip at his carefully constructed armor. 

“I can’t hate him. I don’t know what I feel any more.” It tumbled, unasked, from his lips. 


“Morgan,” he spoke into his mug.

“He’s your kin.”

“I love him. He’s like a father to me. He was the one who was always there for me. He had my first sword forged, he took me riding, showed me the constellations. He comforted me when I was lonely and gave me Harley and Sadie.” Jared's voice broke and hitched as he pictured his hounds, alone in the chaos of a Palace under attack. He didn’t even know if they still lived, or if they were ended with mercy after his funeral.
“I can’t think of him as a monster. How can I even be sure that it was his will to have me dead?” 

“You’re an intelligent lad, Jared.” She left it at that.
He buried his head in his hands. “What if I am shaped the same? I think I have good intentions but sometimes I burn with fury and righteousness. He was my hero, my standard and if that was my mold and it is wrong, what does it make me?” He didn’t give her time to answer. “It makes me wrong.”

 Her questions were gently probing. “What do you think about Jensen? He idolized his father. All he ever wanted was the King’s love and approval. Is he the same as his father?” 

Jared pulled his hand through his hair “I can’t know that, I never met the King in his last years. Jensen is…” he faltered and lowered his eyes. “He’s not wrong but, the things that he does, he’s not all right either.” 

There was a sharp intake of breath and Sophia leaned in to catch his eye. “Jared, sometimes Jensen scares us all, but he has never done anything to make me think he would harm us. You must tell me if Jensen is keeping you against your will. We see your collar and make that assumption and then we see your actions and they contradict.  Offering yourself in your honor is not the same as consent and keeping you by fear of the alternative, is not care. Does he hurt you? Does he scare you, Child? We would defend you if you needed that.”

He was quick to reply but it was difficult to find the correct words for emotions he had never named, “No, Sophia! Don’t think that. Sometimes, there is a glimmer of something, he has a darkness which haunts him but there was opportunity to have my freedom and I didn’t take it. I chose this, I chose him. It is hard to describe what he is to me, I can’t pretend it is right, only that I crave the darkness every bit as much as I need what is right with him.” 

“Being deviant isn’t wrong Jared, love isn’t wrong.”

 “I know. I am coming to terms with that. This thing, that is between us, gives us respite from all other wrongs, it is alive and vital and perfect. What he needs to take, I need to give.”  He rubbed at his face. |He was sure he sounded insane.

“Isn’t that the definition of true love, Jared? Two halves of a soul which fit together, without rules or reason?” 

“I can’t lose him now.” Jared choked back a sob, “How do you stay so calm with Steve gone?”

“I’m a mess, Sweetie but he will come home to me. I have to believe in that. Jensen will come home to you. Your love is the magnet.”

“I’m not even sure where home is, Sophia. It is no longer in the Realm and Jensen demonstrates no ties to the places of his childhood.” 

“Oh but isn’t it obvious Jared? It doesn’t matter where you are. You are his home and he is yours.”
“What about my mother? What about Meghan? Where is their home now? You cannot pretend a revolution can play out and all will stay the same.” 

“Of course not! They will find a home wherever love is. Earl Ford has chosen to rebel but he remains a Royalist and his sway will be great in any new order. There are few who would see your family destitute and many who will want their influence. A balance shall be struck.” 

Jared couldn’t help the slightest smile as he studied her. “Are you so good with every refugee who passes through?” 

“There are a lot who have been broken. At first I tried to fix them but it doesn’t work. I learned from my mistakes that people are resilient and they must be allowed to find their own faith and strength. Not everyone we helped has been a success but I hear from enough to know that there is hope.” 

“You don’t even support a Monarchy do you?” Jared was sure he hadn’t misread her comments and body language during his stay. 

She gave a wry smile. “My political leaning is for a government of the people, but I don’t forget that everyone is an individual with their own problems. We all feel pain. I may hate the system but I don’t hate you or your mother. I dislike the Kingdom’s hierarchy and abhor slavery but I could never hate Jensen.” 

“You’re a fine Lady. Steve is fortunate, the Realm is fortunate.”
“Nobody is perfect. I’m told that I’m an evil bitch if dinner is served cold, I am quick to temper if a maid should mix rose and iris in an urn and I will kill anybody who threatens my husband's safety.”

Jared reminded himself that even Jensen didn't doubt Sophia's protective nature when it was applied to Steve. He returned a smile at her and tapped at his mug to break the renewed silence.

Chapter Text

Jared stared at the landscape beyond the window. He saw the brief flurry of activity as a courier rode in at full gallop. He breathed deep to calm his nerves and his fingers lifted unknowingly, to worry at his collar. Whatever the news that was borne, Jared had no right to its knowledge and it angered and feared him all at once. He paced the room, every nerve within him trembled and tingled.

He was still pacing when Sophia found him. She was pale and her eyes were tearful. She leaned a hand on the polished surface of a table as she conveyed the news that had been brought. “The siege of Adomisa is over. The Realm’s forces were cut down from the rear, by troops of the Federated States. The States has declared war on the Realm.” 

Jared’s first reaction was relief and he breathed deep, smiled and held her hand before becoming fully aware of her panic. She looked fit to faint and Jared guided her to a seat. 

“Why would they do that now? We cannot fight a war on three fronts, what will we do?” She cried. He was still thinking on the answer when Sophia roused herself enough to sit upright and study Jared. “Oh stars! You are not even surprised.”

He frowned. He hated to see this gentle woman in unnecessary distress. 

“You knew! Steve warned me from the first moment you arrived, that Jensen was hiding secrets. He is supposed to be a friend. You knew what the Kingdom plotted and you did not give as much as a whisper! We should have known better, but you, your birthright is to protect the people of the RealmYou are everything that was told.”

 “Sophia, Jensen is your friend. This involvement isn’t relevant to the cause you fight. The information is 'need to know' and you didn’t need to know. Steve used that card with me, so you understand the concept. Surely you cannot pretend you have told Jensen every aspect of your own campaign.”

 She wasn’t hearing reason. “You are your Uncle’s child and you are worse because you use it to betray your own nation.” 

The insult stung but Jared didn’t pull back, he reached to rub reassurance on Sophia's shoulder. She startled back from him with a fearful scream for a sentry. 

“No, Sophia!” He was rushing to explain himself, to explain his Master, before the onslaught of armed men came to rescue her from the traitorous Prince. “The States’ alliance is defensive. It stops with the Realm’s retreat.” 

Three fully armed men approached. Jared smoothed at his empty belt. He had been disarmed from the moment he entered this household. He felt utterly exposed and there was no escape. He continued talking, “The States merely want Morgan removed from their doorstep. The Kingdom will come to the table for a stalemate that ends as it all started. You see danger from the wrong quarter, my Lady.” Jared raised his hands in surrender.

“Do you have guarantee of that? Do you have King Joshua’s ear? You are their toy. How can you even know such details?” Sophia was angry. 

“I have the States’ ear and unique insight into the Misan Court. The Federated States can make the difference, force negotiations that have been shelved too long. Joshua is not his father. This war wearies him and he will concede, but he will not accept defeat.” 

Sophia indicated for her sentries to wait. “You are delusional. You don’t even know who you are any more. The Kingdom has you twisted to its will. The States has done this without the courtesy of a warning. It is not a defensive move.” 

“They gave warning. They held talks with a key representative of the Realm. There is agreement to push Morgan back. What the Realm does with him is its own business, and fresh governance can decide its terms. It stops at the border.”

“You expect me to believe that Kane sanctioned it?” She sneered at him. 

“No, Sophia, it wasn’t Kane, and Prince Jensen played no part in it. I was in the best position to see all angles and opinions, I had opportunity and I did it. I sanctioned it. It was my decision.” 

She opened and closed her mouth, then asked, “How does a dead man sanction anything? Did Jensen know of it when he entered this household?” 

“He knows that the State’s offered Joshua their assistance to reduce the carnage, and protect their own interests. He doesn’t know that I sanctioned it.” 

“So you keep secrets from him? I didn’t think a slave was permitted that.” 

Jared shook his head and rolled his eyes. He knew it was true, but it hadn’t felt important or wrong. He was sure Jensen guessed and had left him this single, last act of diplomacy for his Realm. Jensen never wanted to speak for the Realm, it wasn’t who he was.

Sophia’s voice dropped a little and became sympathetic. “I think you need to decide what you are and where your loyalties stand Prince Jared. I hope you are correct and do not trust too easily. I have heard that is a failing of yours.” 

“The States are known to be fair in their dealings. You have too much other bad business to fret without cause.” 

She regained some of her poise and nodded curtly to him, “Do you understand the terms of a house-arrest Jared?” 

“Yes ma’am.” 

“Consider yourself under house arrest. You will not leave this room. If you try, my men have permission to restrain you by any means.” 

Two men took position in imposing stance by the door. The third crowded him with greater height and bulk. He moved away from him under wary eyes. “My mother?” 

“You are forbidden to go near her.”

“You hold no authority to do any of this, Lady Sophia.” He couldn’t help the petty jibe.

“I am Lady of this household and you, you are nobody. Don’t forget that Prince Jared is dead, Child.” 

“I am somebody to Jensen.” 

“Prince Jensen is easily lost if you have lied to us.”

The sentries blocked his path as she took her leave. He originally thought the wait for the allies’ return was going to seem long. The men who guarded him were tight lipped, silent and solid. He shifted his estimate to 'endless'.


Out of the frying pan into the fire. Jared hated the expression but it seemed so very apt. 

It should have been a joyful moment. Instead it was an unmitigated disaster; a monument to the human condition and its survival instinct, the one that demands that trust be strictly rationed. 

Jared couldn’t describe what he felt when Christian walked through the door. He had grieved for him, missed him like his own family. Moons! Chris was his family. The moment that he had walked into the room, alive and larger than life, had been painful and hopeful all at once. This time Jared got to see, to touch and to inhale him in a tight, warm, bear hug, with safe  arms wrapped around him.


“I missed you, you stupid big puppy, I was always coming to get you, you know that, right?” Chris’ voice was rough and emotional but Jared knew he wouldn’t cry. His own eyes may have been a little damp but that was just the tightness of the squeeze. 

It was when he unburied his head from the broad reassuring shoulder that Jared noticed what was out-of-place and altogether wrong.  

“We have to get you out fast. We’ve found the Queen, we have a carriage for her and your horse is being saddled. We’ll remove that abomination from your neck and get clear. Do you have anything you need to take?” Christian’s voice crackled in the static of his confusion. His men were armed and the sentries that had guarded him in neutral silence were being herded away from the room. At first Jared wondered what Christian had said to reassure Sophia of Jared’s cooperation and then he had seen Sophia, held by Chris’ men, knife to her throat and a defiant glower on her elegant features. Her lips formed words. “Please, Jared.” 

“Chris?” Jared flexed his arms and pushed the Captain back from his space. “What’s going on? Where’s Steve? Where’s Jensen?” 

“Sire, we need to move now. I can explain as we ride.” Captain Kane was all business, his hand found Jared’s collar and felt for a clasp. 

Jared reached up protectively and swatted the searching fingers away. He knew the lock was fitted flush, the only access, his Master’s key, but the touch felt like trespass. “Don’t” he said irritably. 

“Sire! Do you need anything?” Chris repeated. 

“No. Yes. I need you to explain what’s going on.” 

“We’re getting you out of here. Somewhere they’ll not find you. Now, please move Jared. I am not sure if they have reinforcements.” 

Years of partnership had him moving in tandem with his friend, letting himself be swept along in the older man’s care, as if no time had passed without him. He came to his senses in the spacious entrance hall when the stable lad was dragged roughly into their presence and ordered to prepare his horse and turn the rest loose. 

“Chris. Stop it! Just stop!” Jared held out his hand to the lad and shoved the boy’s captor away. “Leave the boy alone and leave the horses alone,” Jared growled, to everyone’s stunned surprise. 

“Prince Jared, come on! Now is not the time to argue over details.” 

“Is Morgan on his way? Are we found out? If so, we should be getting these people to safety, not abusing them.” 

“Morgan is being kept busy with your favorite Prince and his friends. They deserve each other.” The words were spat with heavy sarcasm and hatred.

Christian moved to hook the stable-boy’s arm.The lad looked up at Captain Kane and gulped. Jared ground to a halt and protectively shoved the lad behind him. “No!” he said. “I think now is a great time to hear the whole plan, preferably in private, Soldier.” He spoke with an authority he had never before used with Chris. 

His Captain span on his heel to stare at his Prince with a wide-eyed look of disbelief.

“Sire. Your sister awaits and you would not want harm to befall her.” 

Jared thought he would not find his breath. “You have Meghan safe? Oh, Stars! Christian, why didn’t you say?” Jared moved to hug the broad man again. “So, you must bring her into the protection of the house. We are better to stand together.” 

Captain Kane drew back. He studied his former charge with an expression that suggested Jared had lost his sanity. “This household stands with the Kingdom and with the man that took everything of you. They made you a slave, you are a prisoner here. I have made it safe for you to leave and they will not pursue you. Prince Jensen is dealt with, we will regroup after Morgan is quashed and rise again to quell this madness.”

Jared couldn't ask his Captain what he meant when he said that Jensen had been dealt with. He didn't want to hear the worst, wouldn't accept it anyway. He filed it in a dim part of his mind and pretended it wasn't said.

“No! No, Chris, we won’t! We will squash Morgan and you will assist the people of this Nation to regain peace and dignity. The Kingdom will draw back their hatred and regain their own peace. That  was the plan.”

Activity had ceased and an unnatural stillness surrounded the Prince and his Captain. Into it Jake carried the Queen with the ease of one carrying a small child. She was wrapped in quilt with her face chalk-pale but her bright hazel eyes shone clear. “Captain Kane, Private Abel, Jared, We will take counsel now. Jake, be a good boy and find a chair for me while you fetch the Lady of the House. My dear Sophia will find us a safe space.” 

Captain Kane took to his knee in a deep bow. 

“Quit grovelling and start listening Captain Kane, I tire so easily of all this.”


It felt unreal, years lost to wracked pain, vague uncertainty and breathless, weak whispers dropped away with strong spoken words and determination. His mother arrived as though she were never gone, with a gentle chastisement directed at Kane and a friendly warning to Sophia. Sparks of hate flashed between the Lady of the House and the Captain of the Queen's Guard but they conceded to their Queen with an awkward ceasefire. There was acknowledgement that none of the parties had entered this tryst in total honesty. There were promises of change and negotiation, a need to be done with this war and memories of long lost friendships.

On the sidelines, in no defined camp, was her son, the one she had given it all to and taken everything from. He was wrecked by Kane’s deed and his mother’s calm. They could fix this, reboot the rebellion from different direction, mend their alliances and end a war. The trust would have to be rebuilt but without Jensen, whatever the result, Jared knew he would be empty and homeless.
The fog of his mind was thick, it swirled and grasped at him as he fought an urge to scream and shout, yell his grief and disapproval. Words ended in question and attention focused on the him but he hadn’t heard the questions over the noise of his loss.  

When he finally heard their voices, the Queen was speaking sadly, “I already know his decision. My son is dead. Have the boy saddle a horse for Prince Jensen’s slave and have the armory return his weapons to him.”  

Angry heat burned at the edges of the mist and clarity returned. “Mam,” Jared's voice caught and hitched, “It doesn’t have to be like this.” 

“You think I cannot see how you are Jared? You are no longer my lost boy. Somewhere since De’ith you grew up. You cannot denounce him to be here and I fully understand what sacrifice the Federated States has asked of you, I have seen it in your words and your actions. I loved Jensen's father once and I should not have let him slip from me. Don’t lose faith, fight for your love and take him home.”

Surely it was hopeless. Kane had brought his campaign forward and exposed Steve’s revolutionaries and Jensen’s troops to the full wrath of Morgan’s men. The time of the mission was long past, the rendezvous not kept. 

“Mam.” He pleaded. 

“No!” It was Christian’s objection, “You would disown your only son? You would let him be resigned to deviancy and servitude, committed to a life of degradation and an afterlife in Hell? You aren’t thinking straight.” He made toward the Queen and Jake lunged to restrain him. 

“You see only the collar Sir, you haven’t seen them. You didn’t see them together, Sir.” Jake did not stand down from his Captain.

Jared turned a shocked face on Jake who returned a clear blue gaze with a small shrug, “I see what is there and I was jealous but I will not deny it, there is a time for truths and it is now. You love Prince Jensen and he would gather the moons for you.  He needs you, now more than ever.”

The Queen was breathing shallow, her pallor grey with exhaustion, “Jare,” she gestured for his hand and he wrapped his arms around her. “My son is gone but I am very fond of Prince Jensen’s lover. I think when we have mended me and fixed this ridiculous squabble, we may see each other again.” 

“How do I even know he is alive?”  His finger drifted to the sore purple bloom on his neck,  “Don’t give up on me, Child. Whatever transpires, don’t give up.”  

“I am certain, it was foretold.” 

He kissed her and held her close, breathed in the scent of lavender water and rose. He squeezed his eyes tight to prevent the flood before bowing to take his leave, the last time as her son and the final moment as Prince of the Realm. There would be no reunion with Meghan, for she had no brother.

Jared gathered his courage and walked away.

Chapter Text

The stables were quiet aside from the occasional, soft thud of hooves and puffed breath that hung in the air as cloud. Jared adjusted the girth and checked his pack a last time, then breathed earthy-sweet air deep into his lungs and led his girl out of the stalls by rein. The late afternoon sun hung low in the sky with a glare in his sight line. He heard the steady clop of another horse on the cobbles and a relieved smile pulled at his lips as he turned to greet the other. Chris had chased him from their conference, raging at his choices and his deviancy, asking him to change his mind, change his wrong but he was sure it was the shock, a knee jerk reaction to something utterly unexpected. Jared had hoped he would calm and follow him. He didn’t want to be alone. He didn’t know how to be alone.

The person waiting in the yard wasn’t Christian. The stable lad threw his pack over his shoulder and grinned at Jared with hopeful enthusiasm.

“No! Oh no!”

“I have fifteen Summers and I can ride real good.”

“You are too young. I won’t be responsible for getting you killed.”

“Prince Jensen had a command at fourteen and you are not yet seventeen. I can fight and I can run messages. I can tend your horse and tell you jokes.” The boy wheedled and batted his eyelashes, flexed his muscles in a show of strength and bounced on his heels.”

“No. You stay safe, here.”

The lad pouted. “Who is to say it is safe here? There will be uprising everywhere and I will fight for our cause wherever I am.”

Jared pointed to the house.

“I’ll follow you anyway and I’ll whistle. Mama tells me my whistling is ever so annoying.”

Jared continued to point to the mansion and shook his head.

The boy snagged his foot into a stirrup and swung himself onto his horse. “Hey, if we succeed, this is the last great adventure of the war and I am not going to miss it. It may be my only opportunity for a war-story to tell to my grandchildren and I get the scoop of what really happened to Prince Jared. Now, I can tell it to my disbelieving grandchildren or I can tell it now.” The lad gave the cockiest of grins and waggled his eyebrows.

“You little shit! Give me a reason not to knock you off that horse.”

“Nobody should travel alone,” he pulled the reins and dug his heels in, “and you’ll have to catch me first." The lad turned to the moor and took off at a canter.

Jared looked to the empty landscape, shuddered at the vastness of it and followed him. He was done arguing.


It happened that Ben was a good rider and cheery company. The lad was inexperienced and eager but good-hearted and quick to follow instruction. It was nothing like having Chris or Jensen’s solid and reassuring presence. This time Jared was required to lead with confidence and give the boy firm command. It steadied Jared in a new way. Ben was reliant on him for his survival and Jensen was in trouble, he needed Jared, of that he was sure. He felt it in the fluttering of his gut and the squeeze of his heart. Jared wasn’t going to show weakness or let Jensen down. If this was all Jared had, his only team, he would make it work because he could not consider a future without his Master, his Jensen by his side.

The Moons favored their journey. Nyxos was at full round in bright cheer, and Hypnos waxed yellow at half. The stars burned through the clouds and the constellations guided them on to Venne. There was irony in that, Morgan had taught him well.

They stopped to take stock, five miles from the City. Inn lights burned a welcome for breakfasting travelers and Jared adjusted his scarf, had Ben check that his collar and cuffs were not exposed, then led the way to charm the serving girls into conversation and hot meals. He spent enough of the money he had appropriated from Jensen’s stash to loosen tongues without rousing suspicion. He was sure Jensen would forgive his light fingers and, if he didn’t, then Jared would take whatever discipline it invoked. Jared was single- minded in his goal.

Ben’s chirpy nature made him friends in quick time and his ready helpfulness saw him offering to help in the stable. Jared watched him with increasing respect. The lad initiated conversation that had travelers pouring their tales to him without asking for Ben’s own story.

They stopped at the Inn for most of the morning, taking warmth and soft drinks and swapping frequent company. By noon Jared was confident that they had a good general knowledge of the unrest that surrounded Venne. The news was disturbing, fear and hopelessness clutched at him but he forced himself to gather his comrade and ride forward. He took point with dignity, projected courage but all the time his mind was a swirl. He had no plan, and few hours to formulate one. It seemed that checkpoints were becoming more frequent and the suspicion of the soldiers increased at each stage. Civilians were fleeing Venne with meager belongings, in sooty, ragged clothing, while Jared and Ben headed inward to the chaos.

The landscape was familiar, housing and settlements, offices and barracks were like old friends to him. He forced himself to breathe slow and relax his grip on his reins. He smiled at passers-by and greeted groups of weary but focused warriors who moved with purpose about the area. Ben rode so close their horses almost clashed and Jared found a smile to paste on his lips. This was it, they were it and there could be no falling apart now.

They were almost at the city gates when a soldier pulled them up with one hand settled on his weapon. “Why do I know your features, traveler?”

Jared pretended to take a long stare at his face before he answered, “I have had occasion to deal with both barracks and Palace in my time. It is likely we have met and perhaps shared drinks.”

It wasn’t the right answer, Jared could sense it from the increased tension in the man’s shoulders and the flex of his hand about his hilt. Jared kept his tone pleasant. “Perhaps I resemble somebody that you have met.”

“What is your purpose here?”

“I am sent with this lad to retrieve belongings that My Lord wishes to keep safe. He keeps premises with fine armor and steel which he must distribute in haste to Lord Morgan. It is my honor to complete this task.” Jared cited an address which he hoped still dealt with such items.

“Then you must have papers.”

Their confrontation was drawing stares, Jared gave a false smile and nod, “Of course, but I am not sure that all who watch us are sympathetic to Lord Morgan’s cause, we should pull out of the crowd. It is all quite unsettling. Maybe you can find a way to assist us in our mission.”

His reins were taken in hand by the stranger and he let himself be led to a quiet spot between abandoned trading stands. He flicked his hand for Ben to follow and hoped the lad had some common sense.

The parchment he presented was blank. He watched for the warrior’s reaction and drew faster. Ben shifted and jumped from his horse, blocking the view to passers-by. Jared was shaking but he took the opportunity. He pressed a sharp edge to the angry soldier’s throat and leaned in close to speak. He didn’t recognize the cold hostility in his own voice, “Where are the prisoners being kept?”

A glob of vile spit struck his face and slid a revolting trail. Jared retaliated with a forceful slap that reddened the skin and jolted the man’s head into the stone wall. He heard Ben suck in air.

“I can leave you alive enough to crawl back to your family or I can make sure you beg for them as you die.” Jared stuffed a rag into the mouth that opened in rage and let his knife draw a fine nick that trailed blood down the soldier’s neck. There was no time to think, the man struggled and pushed with unexpected might and loud crack at his elbow. Jared’s response was immediate and instinctive, his captive contorted his face in agony as he sank toward the ground. It took a hefty tug at Jared’s ruby handled blade to pull it out of the foot it had pinned into the soil. “I can repeat it with the other foot,” he snarled. If this was war, if this was inflicting hurt, he had no regret, it was all too easy.

Ben coughed loudly. Incoming.

Tears slid down the defiant face, Jared removed the rag to allow the soldier's bitter speech, “You can’t help them. All you will see is vermin meeting their end.”

Jared tensed, he estimated no more than three unarmed citizens were watching with interest. Ben stepped back to maintain distance from them and Jared adjusted his stance and dealt a heavy punch to his captive’s gut. He had to finish this quickly. “Where?” he repeated as he let his blade catch the light.”

“You’re going to kill me.”

“Not if you tell me. I keep my word.”

Blood pooled and gathered on the street and snot ran from the man’s nose. “There is a holding place for the condemned, on the North side of the Square.”

Jared withdrew the knife from his throat and took him by the shoulders. With a hefty shove the soldier was in the arms of a smirking citizen. “I said I wouldn’t kill you,” he called as they made haste to leave the scene. Within moments, a crowd of riot and noise was left behind them and the distraction had them slipping through the gates without challenge.


Freezing sleet drizzled from looming grey clouds and the cobbles beneath their feet became slippery with the miserable slush.

The Summer Palace stood, an untouched relic, at the far reach of Venne, impenetrable and securely closed for siege. It was a forbidding testament to Morgan’s presence for there was no longer any other to take its protection.

The main prison stood empty, a shell of its former self, doors were battered and hanging, the bars torn from the windows. The Royal insignia had been ripped from its pole and fluttered, tattered and defaced, on a low wall. The acrid stink of smoke pervaded the senses, barely covering the putrid-sweet stink of cloying blood that ran through the gutters.

Buildings smoldered, shops were overturned and streets were empty. Scared citizens scurried by the shelter of crumbling walls and abandoned carts. Soldiers patrolled with dark threat and drawn swords. Jared pulled up the hood of his cape and walked his mare with an overt show of belonging. The fear had left Jared, his eyes shone bright and his body pulled taut. There was a thrum of excitement and purpose through every fiber of him.

In the Square, joiners worked reluctantly at a stage, completing trapdoors in the base and a high bar overhead. Rope was looped and knotted. Troops circled the endeavor with sharp instruction and body blows of encouragement. Jared was careful to take time in his approach, to let it be casual and curious, but his attention was drawn to the makeshift barricade at the North of the Square where a solid troop of Morgan’s elite gathered with heavy presence.

Ben and Jared played their parts of out-of towners with aplomb, asked after the events of the week and the purpose of proceedings. Ben chatted excitedly about his intention to join Morgan’s armies and Jared spoke sympathetically of the soldiers who had died. He expressed anger with a red flush to his cheeks and wondered what traitors and Kingdom-vermin looked like as subdued cowards. They inched steadily closer to the barred area as they inquired about the time that the fun of the executions would start and where the best viewing was to be found. One man returned a sideways glance and mentioned in passing that Jared resembled their deceased Prince and Jared laughed it off with a comment that it used to be a hilarious coincidence but was now a particular disadvantage. Others chuckled with him. Because nobody returns from the dead, especially not those who fell at De’ith, Jared thought, as he kept his lips in an arc. Inside him a murderous poison and explosive fury roiled and flared.

Finally, finally there was the clear view he had been ingratiating himself for. Brave men, comrades and unexpected allies, were chained and caged together. All that remained of Steve’s revolutionaries and Jensen’s covert troop crouched, broken, bloody and beaten, betrayed by the human condition of mistrust. Defeated but not bowed, bright eyes raged defiant in the closed cage and he flicked his own gaze over them, looking at them, searching for the one with the dazzling green stare. If any recognized his cloaked form, none demonstrated it. Jared's trembling knees and sick stomach were grateful for that consideration.

Jared offered a silent prayer to the absent sun, a plea for them all, but his mind pictured just the one who held the key to his collar, the one who owned his soul. He wouldn’t remember the platitudes he spoke as he stalked the exterior of the barricade, just the moment when he saw the broken body that Steve clasped upon his knees, the brief flutter of thick eyelashes in an obscenely swollen and battered face and a flicker of emerald-gold awareness that found and held his own, hazel gaze for the briefest moment.

He wanted to scream, cry out and rage. The need to act, to draw his weapons and batter the cage was all encompassing and visceral but the stakes were high, the odds higher and he had no plan and no army. He felt Ben’s hand, warm on his shoulder, heard the concern in his voice as the lad lied for the sake of appearance, “Our Lord will be waiting on us, Sir.”

Jared returned a reply in character and prayed that Jensen would not believe it, “You’re right, Lad. We have wasted enough on these traitors.” He struggled just to keep his eyes on the route of his departure and to prevent his feet from sliding on the frozen surface.

They reached the opposite edge of the Square before Jared allowed himself a glance behind. In the dark skies overhead, a ribbon of sunshine slashed through the swell of grey, and a rainbow shone, vivid and iridescent against the gloom.

Chapter Text

If there was one City that Jared knew, it was Venne and something he knew better than Venne was the Summer Palace, with all its tradition and peculiarities. He was beginning to think that he pretty much knew Jensen too. So, there were two of them and hundreds of Morgan’s men but he still had the element of surprise. He watched Ben disappear through the ancient and tiny, ivy covered, gardeners’ gate. That discovery had been a secret of his and Meghan’s years before, when their childhood was carefree and unfettered by war. Apparently it was still their secret.

The next stop was the armory store which Jared had used in his previous lies. It stood vandalised and looted but he knew where the main safe was hidden and how to use the treasure within. Who would have thought to hide their secrets and their security from the Crown Prince? One patrol heard the thump and scrape of his endeavors and came to investigate. No soldier left the building. Jared was fairly sure the vault couldn’t be opened from within.

The crowd in the Square was surprisingly large for a devastated City. There was nothing like a public execution to bring out a mass, Jared thought wryly. He set up a brazier, lit a flame and spread chestnuts on the grill. Within moments, a busybody of a City Elder bore down on him and he was only satisfied when Jared offered him the stall, with all of it’s profits, in return for permission for Jared to set up another on the South of the Square.

The crowd was getting restive and a warm bulk bumped into Jared. The chestnuts in his hand rolled over the floor and he bent to retrieve them. “You bloody fool.” A familiar, deep voice growled at him and a hand reached out to gather the fruit for him, the cloak was pulled just enough for Jared to recognize the branded wrist.

Jared tossed the chestnuts over the grid and pulled at the man, “We should let someone else tend to those,” he said working through the crowd, with the Captain close behind.

“Tell me you didn’t come alone.”

“I didn’t come alone James.”

“Try to sound like you mean it.”

“One rookie,” Jared sighed. “How about you? How many?”

“Chad plus two. You got a plan, Child? ‘Cos I gotta say we’re strugglin’ here.”

Jared continued his relentless squeeze, through the expectant crowd, toward the North corner. “Tell me Jensen’s got the right footwear, James.”

The old warrior chuckled, “They all do, but it ain’t gonna unlock the cage and I ain’t gonna get close.”

“No mind. Jensen owes me a foot-rub. These boots are a damn squeeze on my toes. Keep away from the braziers, grab as many horses as you can and, see the covered street drain by the old brothel? The men should arm themselves with what is under. Apart from that, pray to the stars and moons and run like the wind.”

Several of the soldiers recognized Jared from his earlier chat.They relaxed when he approached and welcomed him back. He dug into his pockets and offered warm chestnuts. He told a bawdy joke and they laughed with him, their mouths spilling fragments of sweet goodness. He found some more of the treat and others gathered to take advantage of his generosity. He told another joke about condemned men and rope, one he had heard in the company of Morgan which made his toes curl and stomach twist. There was a burst of hilarity. Sick fucks.

He hardly dared to look to the barred area. He thought he could detect subtle hand movement, prisoners who picked at their boots or fiddled with their chains but it was probably because he knew what was there. Jared tried to locate Jensen but he was gone from Steve’s care. He didn't have time to think on it.

The lowering of the drawbridge over the moat that surrounded the inner fort of the Palace took everybody by surprise. Drum beats and bugle calls accompanied the clatter of hooves over cobbles, and riders in finery trailed the silk regalia of the House of Morgan. Jared had mixed feelings about that, on the one hand it was an arrogant announcement that Morgan had snatched leadership of the Realm, yet it also served the purpose of underlining that the true Monarchy, his family, was not complicit in the atrocities of this twisted show.

Jared wanted to withdraw his gaze from the pompous procession but something sought his attention and made him gasp. Morgan rode tall, protected on all sides by his guard and accompanied by his most trusted General, Samuel Campbell. Behind their horses he could make out prisoners. Misha, Victoria and Jensen were being dragged behind, on short chain. For a moment he couldn’t move nor even draw breath. Jensen was barely conscious, struggling to keep up, and when he dropped to his knees Morgan had his steed continue. He looked behind and continued dragging the Prince across sleet-cold stone. Jared could only imagine the horrific scour and scrape his Master would endure, and in that moment, the fond memories of his childhood father-figure were forever scrubbed from his mind. He saw his Uncle for the monster he was and there was no grey, just black and white and Jared wasn't his Uncle's creation, he refused to be that. There were pieces of him that would always be there but he would not allow it. He was Jensen's property and that made him safe. Jensen would not allow him to become that.

Jared’s fury was red-hot and vengeful. He would release these freedom-fighters but for him there would be no running. He was here to take Jensen back, but more than that, Morgan was going to meet his end and his end would be miserable, at the tip of Jared’s sword. There was no more time to consider it. Jared sidestepped two of the previously smiling soldiers as their eyes bulged and watered and they clutched at their throats. They found their swords and flailed at Jared but it was already too late for them, Jensen's obsession with plants and the notes he had meticulously kept had paid off. Apparently a little extract and a sharp needle went a long way. He wished that Jensen was with him to appreciate it, but his Master was almost at the stage, the procession had stopped and Jensen had managed to stand once more, but he was bent over, his arm clutched around his stomach and even from this distance Jared could discern the deep lines of pain on his face.

On the opposite side of the square his own childhood obsession with science was just about to pay dividend. A loud pop and an even louder BOOM preceded bright flashes of light, an explosion rent the air and the crowd screeched and screamed, fell and crushed. Liquid contained inside metal, heated and boiled in secret until the South brazier joined the show with a colorful, fountainous, eruption. White hot chunks of metal and liquid nut sprayed into the air and fell to scorch and scald the unsuspecting. With fear of more fire and black magic, the crowd dissolved into an undignified, panicking mass.

Jared had no time for sympathy or guilt, The crowd had all gathered to watch a sick entertainment and he had work to do. Within the cage, chains were being dropped and released. Steve stood and organized all the men and the pitiful few that remained of Jensen’s troop followed without question. The picks slid easy from the heel of Jared's borrowed boot and slipped into the lock without resistance but he could not move the catch. He swore and struggled with it, tried not to be distracted by the thundering sound of stampeding horses that emanated from the nearest barracks at the Palace gates. Lack of mounts would slow Morgan's call to defense and he allowed himself a smile, Ben had succeeded in his mission.

In the overwhelming noise and chaos that followed, Jared didn’t hear the warnings that the caged men shouted or notice the approach of three of Morgan’s men who surrounded him and drew steel. His own sword was smacked to the ground with sickening clang and another blade found his back and prodded. He drew breath, closed his eyes and waited for the searing slice into his heart, game-over. He opened one eye when the cut of the blade desisted and bodies fell to his side in synchronicity, with a thump and a squelch. Captain Beaver stamped his foot on a corpse to retrieve his blade. “Gimme those picks you idjit and get the other idjit out of here. Go get your boy.”

He grabbed at his ruby hilt in time to note the sword that was being withdrawn from the second body. Delicate hands protruded from a heavy cape to heave a similarly jeweled sword from the man’s torso. He swung around to look at the face under the dark hood, surely it was impossible, it couldn’t be.

Blood dripped from the twin of his ruby hilt blade. It was held in double handed grip and its owner panted as she gave a short laugh. “Don’t you ever again run off without saying goodbye or even hello, Jare, and don’t you ever die on us again, ever. I mean it. I will personally kill you for that.”

The lock of the cage snapped open behind them and Meghan grabbed Jared’s arm. “C’mon. Kane will have gone after Campbell and Morgan.”

The crowd was like quicksand. For every step forward they were jostled a little further back or to the side. It was a frantic squash that reeked the stench of sweat, fear and rage.

“What the Stars is Kane doing bringing you here?”

“Honestly Jare. Of course he didn’t. I didn’t tell him I was coming and didn’t let him catch up with me until we were within these walls. All this was for you, idiot! Mam should have smacked some sense into you when we were young.”

Horses whinnied, ran free, bucked and reared, creating waves of hectic movement. Jared had an ideal distraction but in doing so had possibly denied himself access to rescue the one that mattered most to him. As he struggled to make progress his stare barely left the wooden stage.

Morgan reached the dais. He watched the hubbub unfold around him and cut short his plans for an impressive demonstration of his authority. He had his prisoners hurried to the stage, and, when an executioner could not be found he chose a member of his entourage at random. Misha and Victoria huddled around Jensen, holding him up as he swayed on his feet and there was a tussle as the nominated soldier grasped Jensen and pulled him away from his friends toward a noose. Jared pushed harder with rising alarm. He heard an indistinct whoosh,and the next time he looked to the stage Jensen lay, in a heap on the wooden floor, under his executioner. Feather flights fluttered from the arrow in the soldier’s back and Jared caught his breath with relief. Another rush of displaced air had Campbell and Morgan ducking to one side and Morgan’s men rushing to evacuate him while others searched the battlements for the sly archer. Jared hoped that Chad had a solid escape plan.

Another noise could be heard, faint against the tumult and Jared stilled and cocked his head for the direction from which it came. It was an even beat, an organized roar and he knew what it meant. Meghan noticed it too and they looked at each other, two sets of bright, determined hazel eyes met and they nodded silent understanding. Reinforcements were rolling in for Morgan’s safety and neither were prepared to let him escape.

“I shouldn’t let you stay Meggie.” She was his baby sister, and it was his job to care for her.

“It’s not your choice, Jare. I’ve always decided for myself.”

“You’re too young and you’re all that’s left.”

“So, what Mama told me is true. You would rather throw your lot in with the Kingdom.”

“I’d rather do what is needed for the Realm, especially when it includes what I need. Who I need.”

“Are you saying you need Prince Jensen?”

“Get out of here, Meggie!”

“I’m not letting Morgan sneak away with Mam’s crown, I won’t have our people downtrodden and sold-out. Suck it up because I am still the Princess here and this isn’t about you or me, its about our citizens,” Meghan grinned and redoubled her efforts.

Jared grinned back. His sister was dishevelled and flushed with excitement. She was as she had always been, a miniature tornado, throwing herself at life and relishing danger. Until he met Jensen he used to think she was the only one like that. "Do you think we could try talking to the army, to the crowd? You are the Princess," Jared asked.

They continued to push and jolt through the sea of people, Meghan rolled her eyes at him and glanced about. "No, I think that is a really stupid idea. Uncle Jeffrey and I didn't part on the best of terms and I am certain that his men are not sympathetic to me. This lot," she indicated all around them, "don't seem the most sympathetic crowd either."

“Hey. Don’t get yourself killed because I’m not going to bandage you up this time, Sis.”

“He took Mam from us, our entire childhood, and then he took Jeff from me and now you. I owe him and it's not me who’s the wuss, Jare.”

“Suck it!”

Then they were there, climbing the wooden frame. Jared's eyes searched the stage, landed on Jensen, who was pinned to the floor, pushing a dead man from his legs while Misha and Victoria struggled to unlock their chains. Jensen caught Jared’s eye, his bloodied face split into a wide grin and his swollen eyes managed an approximation of a wink.

Jared heard Morgan’s voice among other shouts and warnings but he didn’t count the number that descended upon them. Kane burst onto the scene with a yell and a sharp rebuke for Meghan and her impetuousness. They circled back to back to protect the prisoners, and all the while they focused on Morgan. They saw the greed in his eyes when he recognized the faces and calculated the prize in front of him. There was arrogance in Morgan's decision to remain in the Square, hate in his announcement that he would watch them all die. General Campbell tugged a warning at his Commander but he wouldn’t be moved. The roar of panicked crowd and the orderly march of reinforcements faded to a buzz in Jared’s ears. His heart pumped hot lava through his veins, fueled by an uncontained fury, a lust for revenge and a burning love. He fought with the edge of the righteous and an instinct unmatched by any other. He didn’t count the fatal blows he dealt and he didn’t notice the flesh wounds he received. He was vital with grace and energy.

The slice of his cuts sprayed a fountain of blood from the soldier at his feet and he panted with exertion. Jared saw two men close-in on Meghan and gave a heads-up, but she was failing. She span and flipped, a last ditch manoevre that saw one of her adversaries impaled. In a moment Kane had cut-down the other. Jared came back to himself long enough to reassess the overall situation. Chad had arrived and stood in defense of Misha and Victoria who had worked themselves free and acquired weapons. They unlocked Jensen but all three were barely upright. None would survive a fight. He managed to catch Chad’s attention for a brief moment, “Chad, get them out, take Meghan and go. Now. Chad!”

Jensen shot him a dark glower as he clutched at his ribs and scraped out a refusal in his honey deep growl. “No! You send me away now and I swear I will take it out on your ass.” The relief at hearing him speak was palpable, whatever the injuries, Jensen, his Jensen, was still with him and still battling.

“Well you better get moving so you can keep that promise, Jen.” The tone was firm but he raised his eyebrows and smirked, all the while continuing with a deep cut to fell another assailant. Misha grabbed at Jensen’s arm and Jared was horrified to see that Jensen was unbalanced by such a simple touch, but he couldn’t afford to dwell on it.

“No.” Meghan was adamant.

“They did this to get you out, Meghan. Chris and Steve and Jensen, all of them, rebels and troops of both nations Don't let it be for nothing. Go!”

Christian didn’t let her argue, he manhandled her into their care and tasked Chad to keep her safe, whatever the means.

Jared turned his attention back to Morgan, he didn’t see Jensen stumble or hear the older man’s command for Chad to leave him behind, to ensure Meghan’s retreat, or witness his Master's insistence that if Chad did not leave he would turn his sword on himself so that there was no choice.

Somehow things slowed. The crowd needed to be quelled. There were reports filtering through the ranks that Morgan had broken into a power-hungry craze and threatened the Princess Meghan, herself. There was confirmation that one of the soldiers fighting valiantly at the centre of the melee was a Captain of the Queen’s own Guard, and a wild rumor spread that the Gods had sent Prince Jared’s ghost to avenge their Princess. A proportion of the army dropped swords, stood down and refused orders. There were murmurs and threats of mutiny and Officers made it a priority to lock the City down until they could reassess the situation. Jared wasn’t sure when the tide turned, but all at once they were not alone in fighting Morgan’s elite guard, ordinary soldiers stood at their shoulders with support and hastily shouted names and ranks.

Even fools have the instinct to save themselves and Morgan saw a chance of his defeat, a possibility that a weapon could reach to injure him. He took protection of three, then swung his horse and made to leave the rest of his men to fight for him. Jared didn’t miss the move, he reacted quickly to snatch at one of the horses that stood by the bloody remains of its rider. Christian moved with him and they were side by side, riding, like they had never been apart, cutting a swathe through the rioting and out the other side.

Jared spat blood from his mouth and crimson drenched his ripped shirt. His collar shone clear about his neck and he hadn’t a care to cover it. Adrenalin coursed through him and he was close, so close. He saw the froth on Morgan’s horse, felt the steam rise from its flanks, heard its snort, smelt leather, sweat and fear. He sensed the loss of Kane when the thunder of the horses faded to two beats and then, there they were, just Lord Morgan and Prince Jared, traitor and betrayed racing toward a deadly finish.

The drawbridge to the Castle stretched between Morgan and the safety of the main fort and his General made ready to raise the defense. They were halfway across when Jared acted. The bridge swayed, timber juddered and echoed beneath their mounts and soldiers rallied at the portcullis. Jared launched himself at the despicable man, nothing left to lose, propelled himself with all his might and Morgan was not expecting it.

It was an anti-climax. The ease with which Jared had the older, heavier man dismounted and on the boards, under his boots, was laughable. He was breathing heavily, unsure of the truth, but Morgan grounded him in the moment with a struggle and a litany of filthy curses. Apparently Lord Morgan’s nephew was a deviant, a whore, a slut, a faggot, and a cock sucking mother-fucker but yeah, he was also the one who stood.

Jared's hand trembled on his hilt and he cocked his head to look, really look, at the terrified, ordinary, pathetic man who shook at the pressure of his blade and pissed his pants at his imminent death.

The drawbridge shook with steady rhythm as somebody approached from the fort. Jared didn’t deign to look up.

“Can’t do it, can you, you low piece of deviant property? So useless, so weak you’re not even a person. Branded and used for your hole, Jared. It's all you were ever worth.” Morgan ground his words and spat them.

“But he’ll be the one to end you. How much less does that make you?” 

Jared flicked his head up in shock, the voice was ragged and weak, but there was no mistaking it’s source. Jensen’s retort ended in a cry of pain and a grunted effort to escape General Campbell’s clutches, but Jensen was being dragged and his legs would not sustain him.

Jared tensed his arm to slam the blade downward, to tear through flesh, muscle and sinew but the harsh, even voice of General Campbell checked him. “You’re a sensible lad Jared. Is that really you? Don’t feel the need to reply, peculiar, and all that, but time is short. I’m more interested in your priorities. See, whether you murder your Uncle or not, you’re not getting out of here alive unless I let you.”

“Do ungfff.” Campbell stuffed his fist in Jensen’s mouth too far for a bite to be effective, though it didn't stop the Prince from trying.

There was more bounce on the bridge as somebody caught up with Jared, to stand at his shoulder. “Do you think he cares about that?” Kane had left his enemies defeated, behind him. He stood ready behind Jared, answered for him.

“I asked Jared, not his valet.”

Kane made to launch himself at the General but Campbell held Jensen in front of him. Jared stopped his friend, while stamping hard on Morgan’s leg to secure him.

The General spoke slyly and full of disdain, “This piece of crap slave may not care about his own death but I don’t think it wants its precious spoilt-brat owner to be hurt. I think it is too warped to survive on its own.”

Jared pulled his gaze up to the masked sneer of Morgan’s right hand man. His heart crashed and sickness rose, he was caught in horrible understanding. Jensen shook his head, eyes as wide as the swell of his cheeks allowed, every twitch and movement willing Jared to drive the steel the few inches it would take.

Jared looked between them and Captain Kane added his opinion, “Kill him and be done, we take our chances and we are rid of two bastards.”

Morgan screamed and begged as Jared pushed deeper to make a sharp hole in flesh which bled a crimson trail. Jared stopped before tip touched muscle and looked to Samuel Campbell. “What is your proposal, General?”

Christian butted in, “You can’t be listening to this Jare, please. Jensen would own you, he is not worthy of you, he is wrong, a bugger and deviant and he makes you the same. He sends you to Hell. Kill them both and redeem yourself.”

Jared’s mouth became dry, his eyes swam with tears.

Campbell narrowed his eyes and thinned his lips, “I only ask the slave,” he spoke dismissively to Kane.

Jensen was studying Jared, as if he wanted to catalog every detail of him, devour it, commit it to memory and keep it forever. Jared knew the look because it was the one he thought he must be wearing at that moment. He licked his lips and found his voice, “I asked for your proposal, General Campbell.”

“I step back, we make an exchange. You walk away and nobody follows from this fort. I make no guarantees for your escape from this City. That lies with you. You found a way in.” The man shrugged.

“How do I trust a traitor?”

“I have honor.”

“The honor of thieves,” Jared mocked.

“Appropriate enough for a promise to a slave, and you have no alternative but to take it.”

“We’ll take our chances,” sneered Kane.

Campbell drew his arm back for the kill and Jensen locked his puffed eyes on Jared with calm acquiescence.

Jared wasted no time, “No! Wait! I accept your proposal. I’ve seen what my Uncle is. I’ve seen him cry and smelled him wet with fright. He’s nothing special, the very lowest. He betrayed his own brother’s children, his kin. He’s not worth any single life being lost, whatever their status or crime. I take Jensen because his worth is immeasurably more significant. The Kingdom will deal for him.The Queen will negotiate with him. The States will listen to him.” Jared's voice cracked and he smiled at his Master, “I love him.” He kicked into his Uncle’s belly. “For this traitor, for him there is no love, no respect, no use, nothing. He taught me about worth and now I use his definitions.” The scathing hate rolled off Jared and he dragged Morgan to his feet with vicious grasp.

“Good choice.” General Campbell straightened and relaxed his blade, “On the count of five then?

Jared nodded.

“One,” the General counted.


“Also,” Jared spoke directly into his Uncle’s ear. “I will not stop until I have hunted you down. You created me, this fighter, and I will take you apart, day by miserable day, piece by painful piece, with just enough left to give you back to our people. Then they will shred you until there is nothing left but blood and gore. That is my promise and my honor, Sir.”


“Jared, please don’t…”

“Sshh, Chris.”


The prisoners were released with forceful shoves and Morgan sped, sniveling and wretched over the boards toward his safety. Jensen stumbled slowly forwards and, as Morgan reached Campbell's side the General gave a dark scornful laugh and applied a second, heavy shunt to the Prince. Jared wasn’t fast enough to catch him, Jensen span to the side and lost his balance, momentum kept him airborne and he fell from the drawbridge. Jared thought he screamed, he may have done but he wasn’t sure. Nothing seemed real. The sickening sight of the slack body somersaulting into empty space had him frozen, terrified and lost.

A laugh traveled on the sleet-wet wind, “If you want what’s left of Prince Jensen you better hurry up and get wet.”

Jared wanted to chase after them, grind them into a million, tormented, pus-oozed pieces, but sense constrained him. He heard a deep splash below and the slap of fetid water against the bank. He pulled and tore at his clothes until he was stripped to his pants.

“Jared, you can’t go after him. He is dead already, make this choice. Come back with me. I can’t help you with him. I love you like my own but it is wrong. If you choose him, I won’t kill you, I won’t even turn you in but I cannot help you. It’s the law and the Scripture, Jared. Please.”

Jared closed his eyes and breathed in. “Get off the bridge before it closes Chris, get off and keep running. If you feel able, leave my clothes and weapons under the drain by the old brothel.”

He flexed his knees and raised his arms and then Jared was falling, hurtling into a void. There was the rush of iced air on his skin, the flow and tangle of his hair, the dank smell of rot and then the shocking punch of breaking water. He sank deep into the bitterly chilled moat and his lungs emptied and burned as he struck out for the surface. He felt all around for any sign that Jensen lived His hands cut through murky, thick water and he forced his eyes open to search for a shadow or shape.

Jared emerged at the surface, gasping for air before taking a deep breath and diving under once more. They were a team and he had made a promise that he would not give up on Jensen. He would find him or die trying.

Chapter Text

Drip, drip. Echo. Silence. Drip, drip. Echo. Silence.

Cold beneath him. Cold air, no, yes, cold air with pockets of warm, damp air. Steam?

A strong reek of horses on him, and, all around him, damp, with hint of rotten eggs. Sulphur?

Hard floor under thin fabric beneath him. Jared stretched a hand and his fingers trailed over rough, damp stone, no they were smooth stones, a mosaic of small smooth stones.

Pain, bright gashes of pain everywhere, some skin deep, others that burned into muscle and tissue. A throbbing circle of pain that threatened to engulf his entire head and sodden unresponsive airways that rasped dank air.

Drip, drip. Echo. Silence. Drip, drip. Echo. Silence. Snuffle.

Rough fabric covering his naked body. He felt for the reassurance of his cuffs and his breath hitched in panic-- gone, hand to his neck, searching for his collar--gone. Stiff, crusted fabric pulled tightly on his shoulder, across his back and around his legs.

Drip, drip. Echo. Silence. Drip, drip. Echo. Silence. Labored breath.


“Jen, Jen, Je” returned an echo.

Jared choked, he coughed green chunks of mucus and muddied spots, and the noise bounced in repetition. His ribs were too tight, too fragile, the agony consumed him and he forced a compromise of harsh croaked breath.

He unglued his eyelids to a twilight world, or was it his sight that was compromised? Glints of bright reflection and a dim disc of light overhead.

Drip, drip. Echo. Silence. Drip, drip. Echo. Silence. Labored breath.

Fragments of memory returned. Jensen somersaulting through the air, Campbell’s cruel laughter, icy black depths, the grasp for a still body, dead weight dragging him back into the water and a struggle to the steep, muddied bank. Sliding, grabbing, but finding no purchase, slipping under the water, sinking under the surface. Bursting lungs filled with water as he fought to keep Jensen at the surface. Then, acceptance, fading into a black, hazy calm.

Is this Hell? His mind asked his neck to tilt, and his body still worked. His eyes adjusted to the gloom. A myriad bright colours, bejewelled mosaic tiles and pretty shells covered the walls, and jewels twinkled like stars in the faint light of the grubby skylight. Twin artists' moons shone in bright-painted sapphire-tile sky. He ignored the throb and lifted his head to look to the inner cavern, because he was sure it was there. He knew it would be.

It was safe, familiar, or Heaven, and sure enough it was there, the step downward to the clear green pool, with clouds of fluffed, yellow-tinted steam that drifted low over its surface. There was a slow burning lamp lit in the alcove by the steps, which surely shouldn’t be possible.

“Daddy?” Daddy, daddy, dad

No strong arms moved to gather and comfort Jared.

Drip, drip. Echo. Silence. Drip, drip. Echo. Silence. Cough, cough.

He turned in the direction of the sudden noise. Blanket covered form, angular pale face, high cheekbones, proud chin with a growth of ginger-blonde scruff. Thick, long eyelashes that curled from closed eyelids and rested on the freckled cheeks, freckles, so many of them and tangled, mussed, gold-brown hair that he itched to run his hands through.

“Jen! Moons, Jen?”

Somehow the Gods had blessed him with a Heaven he didn’t deserve. He tested his stiff, aching body and managed to scoot the few inches that separated him from Jensen. A fit of coughing wracked through him and he trembled uncontrollably. He reached his hand into the soft warm hair, dropped his arm onto the smooth warm skin of his waist, trailed his palm to Jensen’s stomach and flinched backwards as his fingers touched ragged skin and rough sewn stitches. There was a gasp and then quickened breath and his Master wriggled back so that their bodies spooned flush together. Jensen’s breathing steadied and he showed no signs of waking. Jared’s head whirled with dizziness and he felt himself slipping back under. He gave in to the dark.


Jared kept his eyes closed and continued spinning until he was dizzy. When he finally lurched and fell to the soft grass, he laughed. “Coming! Ready or not.”

The orchard was dense with straight rows of heavy hung trees. He could hear Prince Jensen giggle. It was wild and free and contagious. He peeped around wide trunks and explored between shrubs. Ethan whistled and mocked from somewhere up high and Jared double backed and peered upwards, pointing in excitement at the pale leg that poked from the greenery of an apple tree. “Found you!”

Ethan was pink with excitement “I can show you his secret fort but he won’t let you in, he will battle you for it and he is better.”

The folly was solid and stone and Jensen defended his castle with vigor until the seven year old Jared sank to the lawn, close to tears and pouting. “You’re never gonna let me in.” Jeff sometimes bullied him like this, older boys were mean, thought Jared.

Suddenly Jensen was next to him, strong arms flung around him, his fur waistcoat tickling at his nose and an unexpected soft kiss to the top of his head. “You need to know the password, Silly,” the ten year old whispered in his ear and then added. “Yours.The password is 'yours'.”

“Yours,” repeated a confused Prince Jared at the half-size door.

“And then I say mine and you can come in, because I can share this with you, if you’re mine.”

“Oh, alright.” Jared didn’t understand but he wanted to see Jensen’s fort more than he’d ever wanted anything, aside from wanting his daddy back.

“Mine!” announced Jensen with pride, and pulled the younger Prince into his hide-out.

Ethan picked at daisies on the ground by the folly. The two young Princes lay side by side on the battlements, not a space between their sun drenched bodies. “I have a special place,” boasted Jared, “It’s prettier and more secret than this.”

“There’s nothing more secret than this,” argued the green-eyed Prince.

“My place is. Nobody but my daddy and I know it is there.” Prince Jared furrowed his brow and remembered that big boys don’t cry. “My daddy is in heaven, so it really is a secret.”

“Is it bigger than this?”

“I can’t tell you.”

“Please,” The freckled boy pleaded, “I never tell a secret.”

Jared chewed at a nail, he really, really liked Jensen, and Jensen had let him into his fort. “I don’t know. Long ago, all the Kings and Queens went there to bathe and it would make their sicknesses better but nobody goes there now. Daddy said the Elders declared it friv, frivul,” he couldn’t remember the word, “Anyway, we’re not supposed to know about it and it would be real bad if it was found out, but daddy said he fell through the bushes into it, one day, when one of his hounds was lost. We went there sometimes and got it all cleaned up and pretty. It was our special secret.”

The emerald eyes glowed with curiosity. “I promise. I promise on everything I have. I promise on Ethan, I won’t tell. Papa says the Elders are mean and miserable men and I won’t let them be mean to you. When you’re here with me, you’re mine. You said so. That means you have to tell me everything.”

Jared sighed, after all, it was a BIG secret to keep to himself forever. “Daddy called it a grotto. It’s a cave in the ground. It is lined with sparkling jeweled tiles, it has its own sky and pools of hot bubbled water and a spring that you can drink from. Sometimes I bathe in the pool that has green water that is the shade of your eyes.”


Jared rolled to his side to look into the green eyes. I would let you in. You’re the only person I would let in and we already have passwords.

“Mine,” breathed Jensen

“Yours,” grinned Jared, without understanding.

Prince Jensen propped himself up on one elbow and rested his head in his hand to look down at Prince Jared. His fingers trailed softly over Jared’s face and Jared was suddenly embarrassed about mentioning Jensen’s eyes. The touch wasn’t unpleasant but it was unfamiliar and felt odd, nobody ever touched him any more. He laughed and stood, “Catch me if you can,” he teased. He was already running.


He jolted into wakefulness as a hand pulled back from his face. “Prince Jared. C’mon, you have to wake up, you need to eat.”

Jared blinked and grabbed at the blanket that covered him. “M’wake,” he mumbled hoarsely and broke into a cough.

“Here.” Ben crouched beside him and pressed a cup of cool water to his lips. “You were dreaming, Sire. Was it nightmares?”

“Huh,” Jared sat up gingerly and glanced around at the grotto, “Dreaming,” he muttered and added, “Memories.” He frowned in confusion. “What am I doing here? What are you doing here?” Jared kept his voice quiet, he restrained it to prevent the cough that lurked in his throat.

“What do you remember, Sire?”

“I remember the moat, finding Jensen, I couldn’t get out, couldn’t find purchase to get Jensen out.” Jared was frantic and close to tears with the memory.

“Sshh. So you don’t remember bringing us here, or the pain when I stitched your wounds?”

Jared dropped back to the hard floor. “No,” he groaned and then asked in panic, “Jensen? Is he?”

Ben gave a smile, “Turn around, he’s right there next to you.”

“Oh Gods, he is so pale and damaged.” Jared reached to caress his Master’s face.

“His fever has broken but he will not wake. I think he needs time to heal.”

“I need to..” Jared shuffled closer to Jensen.

“I know. I keep separating you so I can bathe your wounds and every time I return you have found a way together, pressed to each other like magnets.”

“How are we here? What has happened?”

“If I tell you, will you eat? I haven’t much but I can steal scraps and there is still some fruit and berries frozen to the trees. They thaw well enough.”

Ben handed him a thin slice of bread and slices of brown-edged apple. Jared turned his nose slightly but he was hungry, his stomach growled and he nibbled at the food. It wasn’t so bad, he ate with some gusto even if there was an overwhelming smell of horse coming from his immediate vicinity.

Ben ran his hand through his hair, he looked scared. “I, er, I got in to the gardens, and into the stables and let the horses out, like you said. I did come back to the Square, but the battle was fierce and I could not tell friend or foe and everyone was bigger and more skilled than I. I’m a coward and I ran away in the only direction I could find space, until I was at the moat and could go no further. I hid,” Ben said miserably. “I’m sorry.”

Jensen shifted and murmured in his coma. Jared laid a hand over his chest and held it firm. He could feel the fast, irregular beat of his heart. Jensen calmed and his heart slowed and steadied, he gave a faint whine and slept on.

Jared returned his attention to his young companion. “You have courage, but you have sense also. There was no gain for you in that fight Ben. Don’t feel bad. What happened then?”

“I saw Jensen fall, I saw you follow and I ran to be beside you when you surfaced, but you were weakening, the bank was too slippery and I could not reach you. I broke a branch from a tree and I thought you were gone under for the last time but you rallied and took it. Between us we pulled you both out and I could not believe you still stood. The City was returning to normal around us and we guessed it was locked down. You said you knew somewhere safe, somewhere hidden within the protection of the outer walls of the Palace. Who would look to find you within the Palace grounds? Somehow we made it here, carrying Prince Jensen between us.”

Jared finished his meal. He carded a hand through his Master’s hair. “He looks so ill.”

“The water was fetid and foul and you both carried deep wounds. I took everything from you and chanced the spa pool to bathe you entirely. I think it was useful but your wounds could not help some infection. I’m sorry, I had to break your collar and cut your cuffs because I could not leave the filth that was beneath them.”

Jared nodded his understanding, “S’Alright.”

“Jensen’s gut wound was particularly gruesome, he had lost much blood and I stitched it, innards and out, best I could but it has been problematic.”

“You stitched it?” Jared spoke in awe.

“There are many times a horse may catch a wound or abscess and I have to treat it. This was my first time to work on people and it is not neat, but the silk has held.” Ben looked proud of himself and it was deserved.

“Ben, how long have we been here? How are you able to find this food?”

“It has been three days and the City remains locked and in turmoil. My sources suggest that Earl Ford has taken victory in many cities, most notably Ty’bont. The Realm’s troops withdraw from the Kingdom and there has been no chase.” Ben looked around the multi-colored cave and gestured to the scree-deep and bramble covered entrance, “I am careful not to be followed to this place, I think we should wait and build your strength. I am certain that the City will be liberated soon, then we can leave without threat.”

Jared was gaping, Ben seemed to have no concept of how incredible his achievements were.

“I’m sorry Sire, that was forward of me. Of course, it is not my decision.”

“Ben, if what you are telling me is correct, then I fully concur with you. I still don’t understand how you have achieved all this.”

Ben gave a bright smile. “Oh, it was easy. The barracks lost a stable lad in the fighting so I contrived to return some of their lost mounts, and, when they needed assistance I provided it. Of course they couldn’t refuse a displaced horseman a temporary position in the stables. I can steal some small items, such as needle and thread and clean rag, and I am given food with my board.”

The slave looked carefully at the blankets on which they lay and the other which covered him. He wrinkled his nose. “Ben, are these horse blankets?”

The stable boy giggled. “Yes, Sire, which reminds me, I have a mare in foal. I must check on her before feeding time. I should go before suspicion is aroused. You can care for Prince Jensen and sleep a little more.” Ben balled himself small to crawl into the overgrown gardens.

“Ben!” Jared called after him, “Thanks. Take care.”

Brambles looped back and were stacked over the entrance.


However beautiful the space happened to be, the confinement, the pale stillness of his lover and the waiting could all drive a man insane.

Ben brought clothes for them but Jensen’s wounds were too extensive for them to be practical. Jared put his own garments to one side without wear. He kept busy in any way he could. He bathed Jensen’s wounds and bound them, thanking the Gods for the healing salts that bubbled from the core of the ground. He drew water from the fresh spring to drip into his Master's mouth and he dried their blankets in rotation. He kneeled beside Jensen to talk to his unconscious form and massaged his undamaged muscles. Jared knew of warriors that took a blow to the head and never awoke, but he could not dwell on that, he traced the scar of his brands and kissed the brow of his Master. He was Jensen’s slave and he would live in the moment, to serve him. There could be no tears.

At dawn and dusk he let Ben take over the watch. He placed his blanket at the entrance and prayed, naked and on his knees, to the Gods that rode the Stars and tethered the Moons. He watched the low sun rise over the frigid earth and begged for its light. He hardly noticed the drastic change of season or the blue tinge of cold on his fingers though they warmed by the hot pool in the darkness of night. They lived in their own small world and he didn’t ask for news of politics or battles. There was just this, Jared waiting for Jensen to wake.

Three days after Ben woke Jared, Jensen opened his eyes and allowed his slave to spoon him thin oatmeal. Jared wanted to sob and scream at his Master's lack of focus and recognition, but he needed to be strong. After four days, the emerald gaze found Jared’s face, and fingers sought Jared’s hand.

On the seventh day Jensen licked his lips and blew a breath. With a shaky smirk and in a grating, uneven, voice he informed Jared that he still owed his slave a smacked ass, and Jared wanted to cling to him and cry but he couldn’t, Jensen needed his fortitude.

“You told me about this when we were children, this is our grotto,” Jensen announced on the tenth day, as they paddled their legs in the hot, green pool.

“Nu-uh,” replied Jared, and dropped his leg hard enough to splash warm droplets over the top of the soft gold-brown hair. “You didn’t give the password.”

Jensen grabbed hard at Jared’s bearded chin and held it tight as his lips descended on Jared’s mouth in a hot, harsh, kiss. Teeth knocked together and tongues twisted. Jensen gave a high whine and Jared could feel the burn of their unshaven scruff and the delicious bruise of Jensen’s fingertips.

“Mine.” growled Jensen, as he paused between kisses.

“Yours,” confirmed Jared. “Our grotto,” he added.

“I want to do things to you, in our grotto.”

“You don’t have to ask Master. Never have to ask.” Jared slipped into the shallow water, he pressed Jensen’s legs apart and kneeled between them, hazel gaze held correct and low and a familiar thrill coursing through his veins. He had longed for the closeness, the possession and the sex, but his Master was sick and he would not push for it.

Jensen’s hand tangled through his slave's hair and rubbed the skin of his neck. “I wasn’t sure,” he rasped, “You took your collar off. I was captured and weak, an unworthy Master.”

Jared couldn’t help the sharp look up into Jensen’s face. “Never! Never that. I didn’t remove it, it wasn’t a choice.”

“You had it when you took Morgan down, I remember that. I remember thinking it made you the most honest and brave person I ever met. Then I realized you left your safe walls, you came all this way in the wide open for me, and I was honored and undeserving to be your Master.”

Jared kissed a path up the inside of Jensen’s thighs and stopped with his head buried in the coarse hair and rich smell of his Master’s cock and balls. The flesh filled out and hardened with the touch of his face. “Didn’t come all this way to lose you, Jen.”

Strong fingers grabbed tightly at his hair and tugged his head painfully, to look back at his Master. “Didn’t say you could do that, you impertinent pup,” Jensen snarled.

Jared fought to hide his delight but his cock swelled and hardened.

“Who is in charge here, Child?”

“You are, Master.”


Jared stood, towering above Jensen as he sat on the edge of the pool. His eager cock was erect by Jensen’s face and the older man stared at it without a touch for what seemed like an age, then, lightly, almost tentatively he stuck his tongue out and licked into the hole at the top, dipping into the slit and sucking just a fraction. He withdrew his tongue and Jared shivered with want. Jensen ran a single finger up its length. “Have you touched yourself? Did you come without me?” he asked with a sinful honey-drawl.

“No, Master.”

Jensen groaned, a little needy sound. “Gods, Jared! You’re so wrong you’re right. What you do to me.” He let his hands roam all over his slave’s ass, he squeezed his firm globes and sucked hard on his balls. Jared threw his head back and moaned with the effort of restraint. “Bet you want to come soon, don’t you?”

Jared bit on his cheek and nodded, “Yes, Jensen.”


The slave took a moment to register the command and then dropped with grace and the faintest splash. Hot water swirled and slapped against his throbbing dick and it wasn’t enough.

“Not fast enough, Child. You’re slacking.”

“I beg your forgiveness, Master.” He remembered his training, kept his position with lowered eyes.

“You ordered my departure, you have damaged my property, you do not bear my collar and you forget your manners. So many mistakes, my Child.” Jensen petted his head. “I think you want to be better than this. Do you want to be better than this?”

“Yes Master”

“Do you need my discipline?”

Jared’s body thrummed with tension. His voice was thick with desire “Yes, I do. I need your discipline.”

“I am injured, so you must make this easy for me.” He signaled for Jared to bend over the rocks at the edge of the pool. “Show,” he demanded, and pushed Jared’s head sideways to the tiled floor with his face so close Jared could feel the brush of hair on his jaw. Jensen’s eyes were glazed and hooded and his breath sped up and deepened with the pink flush of his cheeks.

So damned pretty, mused the slave.

Jared reached his hands behind and pulled his ass cheeks apart to expose his tight pink hole. He felt pressure at the rim and the slow push and exploration of a finger. It was dry and the intrusion scraped and hurt. He wriggled and hissed but his erection didn’t fade, pre-come beaded from his slit in anticipation.

I am going to spank your ass till you come, Jared, and when it is cherry red and hot you will sit on my cock and pleasure me. Your come will be the only oil you will get, so you better prepare to catch every single drop.” Jensen’s beard dragged up Jared's spine with a trail of sparking nerves. “I can see how much you want it.” Teeth latched on the nape of his neck and bit down with sharp erotic pain, blood was sucked to the surface and Jared knew he was being marked with intent.

Jensen offered his hand and Jared kissed it. “Yes, Master.”

There was no leniency in the hand. It was as strong as Jared remembered and it fell with punishing sting and fast punishment. Fingerprint painted over fingerprint in forceful slaps, until his ass was a fiery patchwork of pain. The carefully constructed dam of his emotions collapsed and tears flowed. His body accepted his survival, he was alive and feeling it with every nerve end and every fiber. His arousal was overwhelming and he snapped his hips forward searching for relief. He cried for the sharp pain, he screamed into a hastily balled rag, for the wrong of his throbbing dick, he sobbed for the time when he thought Jensen would not recover and wept for loss of battle. Jensen’s hand took his and held it around his needy member, squeezed and stroked at it, and, as the final smack reverberated through the echoing caverns and deep into his soul, Jensen spoke the command “Come, for me.”

Thick ribbons of fluid coated their fingers as Jared shuddered through his release with bright relief and satisfied sensation.

“Let me look after you, I got you. Let it go, Child.” His Master reassured in soft voice and pulled him up with tender hug. The tears still flowed through his lashes and dropped over too-pale skin. Soft pads of Jensen’s fingers wiped drops from his eyes and the plump lips kissed at his face. “So beautiful, so good for me, Child.”

Jared adjusted his position to silent command. He allowed himself to sit in Jensen’s lap, felt the line of hot thick cock that pressed against him and enjoyed the stinging ache of punished flesh as it pressed against Jensen's hot skin. He accepted the press of slick, come covered fingers that scissored him open with impatience and allowed the press of the thick cock-head that nudged inside as he lowered himself onto it. He pushed down with Jensen’s encouragement until it spread the flower of his hole and stuttered inside with the lubrication of his own ejaculation. He slid down until he was full, filled with the hot evidence of Jensen’s survival and it felt so good, so right, so alive. Jensen clenched his teeth and whimpered and Jared stalled, “Is it hurting?” he asked.

“Stars! No. Move. Just move, Jared. Been so long, can’t hold out.”

His neck stretched with his head resting on Jensen’s shoulder and he arched as he slid up the length and bounced down with a slap of Jensen’s balls against his hole. Teeth nipped and marked him, sucked at his earlobes with the repeated simple statement, “Mine,” and the word travelled in a predictable thrill, right to his groin.

He fucked down against the older man with firm rhythm that he let increase into a crescendo of ragged thrusts and heavy breath until Jensen was pumping hot and wet into his hole. His own orgasm crept up on him and surprised him with a whispered prompt and blinding white explosion of fuck, gods, damn, so fucking good.

They slipped into the soothing depths of the hot pool in each others arms to let the healing salts clean the traces of semen and of blood that had seeped from their wounds during their passion.

“What did you learn?” asked Jensen.

“I learned that you are here, you are alive and you must never leave me again, Master.”

Jensen nuzzled his slave. “I learned that I am not complete without you. I learned never to underestimate you. You are my hero and I am blessed with you.”

“Flattery will get you everywhere,” Jared chuckled, but it faded into a yawn.

When Ben returned with their Supper Jared was clutched tightly into Jensen’s embrace and they slept deep and free from signs of pain. Ben tucked their blankets in and left them to their dreams.


On the eleventh day Jensen spoke about the events that led to his capture. He described the rendezvous that hadn't been met by Christian. They had known then, that Captain Kane's troops would not participate, had hoped that Meghan was already safe with Captain Kane or sheltered within the walls of the Summer Palace.

"I took the decision." Jensen's voice was emotionless but his eyes were moist. "The numbers were greater than our sources suggested."

Jared guessed that those sources included Christian.

"We would have done it regardless. Steve's men needed the head-start and it has been a pivotal base for Morgan." Jensen leaned in to Jared and Jared rubbed gentle circles into his back as he took a moment. "Steve got what he needed, the documents went back with three different couriers in three different directions. We have to hope that at least some made it through. It was the right decision." Jensen pulled his knees tight to his chest and his head dipped to meet his knees. "Doesn't make it any easier," he added quietly. "I lost good men, good friends, good husbands and fathers. Once we had given Steve the time for his mission, I gave the order to pull out, but we were surrounded. It was brutal. The kills were not clean, they played with us and I wasn't the only one who could have been killed outright, but it didn't suit them. The cuts were designed to maim with maximum pain and steady blood-loss. It wasn't a fun game." He indicated his shredded stomach. "I thought, if we surrendered, there was a chance for a later escape. James had fallen back with the archers. I had to hope that he would come for us." He found Jared's hand and squeezed it. "I knew you would come. I trusted in that."

Jared lifted the pale hand to his lips and kissed it. "Always. As soon as I heard."

"Didn't think we'd make it. Campbell recognized Lord and Lady Collins straight away, separated them out. It made it easy for him to call the rebellion a scheme engineered by the Kingdom, a public exoneration of his deeds. I almost skated by, but no-one ever really does that. Morgan took a long, hard look at each of us. It wasn't like I could fight him, but the worm still took a few swings." Jensen managed a grin. "Have to say, Child, I'm not too impressed by certain members of your family. I won't be making polite visits any time soon." The humor didn't extend to his eyes. Jensen stared into mid-distance, his expression was grey and lined, haunted by recent ghosts. Jared held him in his arms and they didn't speak for the rest of the day.

On the fifteenth day Venne was liberated by Earl Ford’s armies.

On the seventeenth day Jared and Jensen returned to Steve’s Manor and heard a graphic account of the punch with which Sophia laid Christian Kane to the floor. Jared blew out the flame that Sophia had kept alight for them.

On the eighteenth day, there was confirmation that Campbell had been captured near Venne, but Lord Morgan had fled the Realm for the protection of the Northern Lands. That same day Ben’s courage was formally acknowledged by the Queen and he was asked to consider employment as foreman of her own stables. He didn’t have to think for long before accepting the position.

Day twenty saw Jared hug his mother and sister tight and bid them farewell, with promises that he would write to them.

On the twenty-fifth day they returned to the Kingdom and to Jensen’s chambers within the tattered fortress. Hope clung to Jared’s ankles with a full throated purr and the deep press of fully developed claws. Joshua didn’t ask for details of their absence and Jensen didn’t elaborate. Jensen had attacked a target at Venne, there had been riots and they had been trapped. It was all the King needed to know. The rest; the ghost of a Prince, the glimpse of a Princess, and the strange collaboration of enemies was just rumor and fairy tale.

Misha and Victoria welcomed them home with fond embrace but soon returned to rebuild their devastated home, and Chad traveled to Venne to stay with the girl he fell in love (or perhaps lust) with during the heat of battle. Cookie prepared a magnificent feast, Jared seated his Master and kneeled to serve by his side, eating food delicately, direct from Jensen's fingers and licking them clean with care.

On the thirtieth day Jensen and Jared rode out to meet a man and take him to a nearby smallholding. Colin Ford saw their approach, ran to the gate and squinted at them until he could be sure, and then he was running at full tilt, into the strong, safe arms of his father. Earl Ford surprised Jared with a tight hug and a promise that they were always welcome at his home.

Injuries healed, good food and peace filled them out and gave them color. Their life settled into some sort of routine. Jared dressed in the fine clothes of a warrior noble which contrasted with his near-perfect submission as Jensen’s slave. Days came when Jensen sparked with dark, possessive energy and then Jared would savor his Master’s ownership, give in to the screaming, sweet, agony that proved life and challenged his control. In those times Jensen never overstepped Jared’s thresholds and never lost his own control. Afterwards, they would lie together, sated and peaceful. They would explore the map of Jared's bruises, bites and welts, Jensen would kiss each one with tender love and Jared would take calm from the sharp ache of discipline and restraint.

A short, cold, Winter gave way to Spring and Jared noticed Jensen’s ennui. Jensen spent hours pacing or looking into the far distance. His attention was short, his conversation shorter and Jared could not shake him from it.

Jared woke, naked, in the soft comfort of their bed one morning, to Jensen’s anxious call. He remembered the day and understood his impatience. Today, the Realm, the States and the Kingdom came to the table to ratify the Treaty of Venne. In this fortress, on this day, King Joshua, Queen Sherri and President Speight came together under the watchful eye of Envoy Woolvett, to make history and put their signatures to lasting peace.

Jensen tugged Jared toward the study window. “Come here,” he said. He hugged his slave into his chest and slid his arms to rest about his waist, so they both looked out of the thick glass. Dawn splashed brilliant color across sapphire sky and a bright orange ball of light peeked over the distant hills. Jensen kissed his neck. “Remember them?” he asked.

Jared gazed to the vast sky and the far-off peaks and recalled a day when they had done this, long before the events of Venne. “I remember,” he said. He didn’t need any other words from his Master. “Is it time?”

“Will you come with me?”

“I am yours, I belong at your side.”

“Kneel.” It was said with reverence and the power of unspoken love.

Jared slipped into position, immediate, lithe and graceful. He felt the tangle of a hand through his soft hair and fingers that trailed to lift his jaw, to look up at Jensen. The other hand was reaching to the window seat, to clutch at a velvet box. Jensen breathed deep and retrieved his hand from Jared’s head. He opened the box and tipped it to show his slave the contents.

Red silk lined the box and contrasted with the shine of the heavy, silver band, softly lined with deep green velvet. A simple inscription was finely engraved on one side, 'Mine'.  A smooth tag hung from a ring at the center. He didn’t need to see it to know that it bore Jensen’s name.

Jensen kneeled in front of his slave, a mirror of Jared's submission. “I know that your life cannot be everything you thought it would be, a year ago. I know everything that you give up today, what it was supposed to be and what it is not. I cannot pretend I comprehend the scale of your sacrifice. On this day, the day you come of age, let me offer you a new future. Will you come with me in a new adventure? Will you be mine, and let me keep you safe and close in new places? Because, Jared Tristan Padalecki, Prince of the Realm, Hero of the Kingdom and Honorable Slave, I cannot think of a life more wonderful than one spent with you, under the vast skies of your Stars, your Moons and your blessed Sun.”

Jared hesitated and blinked, come of age. He calculated the day and understood Jensen’s meaning. Today he turned seventeen. A year ago he looked forward to this day, the day his mother would relinquish her crown to him. It was to have been filled with pomp, circumstance, responsibility and war. Time had altered his world, tilted it on it’s axis until it was unrecognizable, and he hadn’t even remembered this day, his birthday.

Jensen was swallowing, his hands trembled, “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have…”

Fuck it. Jared reached to Jensen, took his face in his hands and slid his lips over the shocked, slightly open, full mouth of his Master. He kissed him deep, slicked his tongue over the hot cavern of his mouth. He kept his eyes open and looked into the loving and most passionate green eyes that ever were. His tongue twisted and licked teeth, entwined with Jensen’s tongue. He counted the freckles on his nose, and watched the flutter of long lashes against the proud face. He felt the rasp of morning stubble as they continued, breathless. He nipped at Jensen’s lip and listened to him whimper.

When they finally parted, with a lick of their spit slick lips, he answered, “Yes. Of course I will. Of course I am yours. I am always by your side.” Jared touched a finger to the silver collar. It was the most beautifully crafted piece he had ever laid eyes on. “Thank you Jensen. It is wonderful, it is just..” he didn't have words for the pride he felt.

“I wasn’t sure. You haven’t worn my collar since Venne and I didn’t know if…”

“I do want it. I didn’t know how to ask. I didn’t want you to think I would only be yours with a physical reminder. I didn’t know if it would offend you.”

“I am flattered that you will wear it.” Jensen lifted a second box. “I thought maybe, if you liked the collar, then you could want these too.” He lifted the lid to reveal a gorgeously crafted pair of cuffs lined with the softest, green, kid leather and embellished with silver. “Will you let me fit them for you?”

Jared gave no verbal answer. He smiled and nodded, then dipped in formal submission. Jensen fitted the collar with gentle hands and the greatest care, and then did the same with the cuffs. “My good boy,” he said, with meaning, and that didn't fail to thrill his slave.


The request to attend the signing of the Treaty was unexpected. Woolvett asked Jared to take an equal place at the table and later, Jensen said he thought that Joshua’s jaw would never return from the floor, to which it had dropped when the Envoy asked for Prince Jared’s formal confirmation that he would not, ever, seek to become King. Jared signed his name for the first and last time, as the legitimate heir to the throne of the Realm. While the revelation of his identity stunned Joshua into temporary, fish-faced, silence, it was a testament to Jared’s strength and honesty that there was not a single raised eyebrow that this responsibility was undertaken wearing the collar and cuffs which identified his status as Jensen’s slave.

Jensen didn’t wait to explain himself to Joshua and Mackenzie, he didn’t feel like having that conversation and there was little he hadn’t already organized.

Ten days after Jared’s seventeenth birthday the Master and his slave warmed by a camp fire near the peak of the highest hill in the range. From here, the entire Kingdom spread before them. On the other side of the peak, other lands and cultures stretched into the distance, but that was for future days. Jared sat between Jensen’s outstretched legs and leaned into the safety of his fur and leather clad chest. Jensen placed the gentlest of kisses on the back of his neck and Jared leaned into the touch.Their horses huffed softly beside them and Hope woke on the blanket of the bay mare’s broad back. The grey cat stretched, jumped down from the day’s perch and stalked to sit with Jared. Jensen carded his fingers through Jared’s hair, traced the metal edge of his collar and gave a contented sigh. They drank coffee from battered mugs and watched the sun set over their past. Two full moons rose and the stars cast points of care over the Master and his slave.

Chapter Text

He arrived at the inn without a slave, strange enough for a man with a fine horse, when such property was cheap and easily acquired in these Northern Lands. Odd again, that he fumbled awkwardly in his pockets to withdraw a wad of cash, which he stared at bug-eyed, as if it were the strangest item he’d ever come across. Bandages wound around both of his hands, out of which poked just three fingers on his right hand and a thumb and a forefinger on the left. The innkeeper could see the problem and moved to assist him. He took the ragged man’s paltry belongings and had an ostler hold his horse. “Sixty for a room and twenty more for the stabling. Slaves can be chained in your room or left in the pen.” He indicated a cage by the stable, he thought it best to be clear about these things, in case the man's property followed behind.

The man muttered under his breath, peeled the notes from his wad and added another. A nervous tic twitched and shook on his lip. He gave his host a wild-eyed look as he handed the money over and one eye roamed, sightlessly. “Took my slave! Gotta keep the ghosts away. No ghosts!” He yelled.

The innkeeper was used to the strangers that passed through his small outpost. He had seen the broken ones before. They drifted through with the language of the Kingdom or of the Realm, sensibilities long diminished by a savage war. Some fled from phantoms which ran from the battle fields with them, others survived to see the end of the war, only to find that they could not adjust to peace. He took their money and kept his mouth closed but he was beginning to think that this one was stranger than most. He wished he hadn’t taken his money because the more he saw of him, the more crazies the dishevelled man at his door seemed to have.

“People respected me. They feared me,” the man blurted out without preamble, and then dissolved into unintelligible mumbling and gibberish.

The innkeeper held his tongue and led him through to the smallest and least attractive room he had, he wasn’t about to waste the good space on the crazy. The man shuffled after him, he was crying with the pain of walking.

He would have been imposing once, he supposed. He was tall, over six foot and his once fine clothes hung from a large frame which would have been solid, if full. His brunette hair was greying and cut unevenly. His face was half shaved, just half a beard, which complemented his half ear on the other side. Marks covered his face, healed silver threads, red scabbing slashes and a fresh, raw, red gash. Similar, knife-edge scars shone visible, on flesh of his arm.

“Hey, Buddy, you’re bleeding. Do you need something for the wounds?”

“Ghosts,” spat the man. His one, steady, hazel eye locked on him. 

“Er, right, I’ll just leave you to it then.” The innkeeper backed out of the door.

A shout followed him through the door, “Drink!”

He sighed, some days the hospitality trade just wasn’t worth the effort. Still, he had seen the money and with creative pricing at the bar, he should make a tidy profit from the crazy this evening.

The crazy coddled a glass in a corner of the bar and drank steadily. Every now and again he would pull at the innkeeper and speak an assortment of insane statements at him. If the man could be believed, ghosts assaulted him in the dark of night or in the silent, lone places of the day. He ran, he never stopped running but it became harder, he had so few toes left. Wherever he ran, they followed, and they took him apart, day by day and piece by piece. A finger, a toe, an ear, or another gash to bleed. He claimed it never stopped. Soon they would come to take him entirely and then others would rip him to bone and blood and it would all be over except the hell-fires of eternity.

When the sorry traveler fisted his few fingers into his shirt and begged him to keep the ghosts away the innkeeper asked why the man thought the spirits did this to him.

“I coveted beauty that was not mine, I let it destroy." He paused and stared blankly. The innkeeper made to move away but the man snaked his few fingers to his wrist and curled them in a hook about it. "He will take me apart, day by miserable day, piece by painful piece, with just enough left to give back to my people. Then they will shred me, until all that is left is blood and gore. It was his promise and his honor and I gave him that, do you understand?" He was ranting and shaking at his arm. "It was my teaching, my legacy, and he will not rest in the wet murk, he will not lie in peace. "

The innkeeper recognized the mental decay of buried guilt and wondered how bad his crimes could be, to take him this far down. He resolved to account for all his knives and lock them away before he retired to his bed this night. He unhanded himself and pretended to make busy behind the counter. Some crazies weren’t worth the profit.


Jensen nipped at Jared’s chin and hmmed with satisfaction. Jared couldn’t look away. His Master was beautiful with sex blown eyes and the slick shine of perspiration that dripped down his chest and over the firm, muscular, freckled flesh. Jensen dragged a finger over Jared’s stomach, through the thick fluid of their ejaculations and pressed it between the wide, kiss-swollen lips of his lover. Jared arched his back, the rope above him squeaked and his shoulders pulled as he stretched the ties that held his arms to the branch above his head. He groaned, in a combination of pain, pleasure and content.

"So good for me today, Child. Everyone saw you, every Master and Mistress in the market looked at you and saw that you are perfect on my leash. They all wanted you, but you are mine, never property, or asset, or for sale, just mine and they can never have that or understand it. They can't know how I love you." Jensen shifted, heavy on Jared’s tired thighs and moved back to dip his sinful tongue into his navel and then lap and slurp at every drop of come on his belly. His slave’s head dropped back exposing the expanse of sweat shiny flesh over a collared and bite-marked, neck. “Mmm,” Jared whined, because it felt incredible and his body thrummed in latent delight, but he was fucked-out, with nothing left to give. More than that, a cold wind chilled his damp skin and there was a faint odor, over the clean wood-smoke, of something scorching.

“Mm. Jen.”

Jensen covered his slave's mouth with his own and kissed deep and tender, pushing the intimate fluids onto his tongue and coating his teeth.”


Fingers tapped playfully at his nose. “You know better than to speak without permission.”


“Ten lashes,” said Jensen before lifting himself from Jared’s legs and collapsing in a splayed star on the grass. “Tomorrow.” he added.

“Alright, but Jen, permission to speak!”

Jensen rolled onto his stomach to rest his chin on his hand and stare at his lover. “Granted.”

Jared pulled at his ties. “Dinner is burning,” he said, nodding to the fire.

Jensen twisted himself around and sprang into action to stir at the stew. “Nooo! You know I hate burned stew, why didn’t you say something earlier?”

Jared tried to shrug but it didn’t work out well, in his position. He blew a sarcastic kiss instead. “I seem to remember being under orders not to speak.”

“Fuck!” Jensen brushed the grit and grass off his skin and bent to release Jared’s cuffs from the knotted rope. He manoeuvred the arms down gently and kissed at them before giving a massage to Jared’s stiff shoulders. “Y’alright, baby?”

“Better than.” Jared grabbed Jensen to kiss him briefly. “Does this mean you want me to play wifey?”

“Mmhmm, ‘cos you are totally the girl in this relationship,” teased Jensen.

“Admit it, my food tastes better!”

“Your cooking tastes better, wifey,” admitted Jensen, “and meantime, I can find something to cover the taste of burnt yam.”

“It’s still your turn to fetch water and rinse dishes, Jen.” Jared dipped the spoon in and stirred around to remove the lumps that stuck to the base of the crock. He eased them out and flicked them through the air, into the thicket beyond. He heard a loud yowl and Hope skittered from the bushes, chasing an exhausted and tortured rodent.

Jensen was picking through a roll of herbs and Jared was relieved to see that it was the green pack, because Gods knew what damage could be wrought with the various plants in the blue pack. He had asked for descriptions in the beginning but they’d given him nightmares. Jensen still collected them from the wild, he carefully processed them, labeled and packaged them but Jared had stopped asking, long before.

“Thyme and rosemary should do it,” announced Jensen, just as a desperate rodent climbed his bare foot and Hope came crashing down after it with outstretched claws. He gritted his teeth and glowered. “Jared, it is time that your damned familiar stopped toying with its prey, I mean how long has she been at it?”

Jared smoothed twigs and dirt from his body and started to dress. “Jen, I am not some sort of wizard. Also, I have no idea how long, and, in the very passionate, circumstances I am offended that you even noticed.”

Jensen gave an exaggerated scowl and pointed at Jared. “Well, the attachment that creature has to you, is not normal.”

“Aw. You’re jealous.”

“Damn right! She gets a snuggle everywhere we go.”

Jared cuddled up behind Jensen and looped his arms around him, to pull the naked body close. He stood a head taller than Jensen, had outgrown him by inches over the last years of his youth. He had broadened and their lifestyle had cultivated lean muscle. For all of his six foot height, Jensen now appeared small in his arms. Jared kissed at his neck and blew in his ear. " You know I love you the best. You get snuggled too.”

Jensen hmmed his appreciation. Hope dashed by their legs and Jared swung his sword from its sheath, noiseless, smooth and fast, to casually slice the rodent’s head off. “There,” he said.

Hope sat on her haunches and poked at the creature with an inquiring paw and Jensen laughed, a full body laugh, with his head flung back.

“Dinner time,” declared Jensen when he had calmed and clothed himself.

They sat flush to each other’s sides, they chewed their food and contemplated the starry vista of the sky.

Hope sat beside Jared and there was the noisy, wet crunch and tear of skin, bones and flesh.

“Oh. Ew, Jared. Do something!” Jensen screwed his nose up in disgust.

“You wanted it dead.”

“Yes, but..”

Jared looked, soft and gooey eyed, at the fluffy grey feline, or as Jensen liked to describe her, his little Hellspawn. “It’s nice! She brought something back to share with us. It’s a mother-instinct. She’s teaching us to hunt.”

Jensen growled in a way that suggested he may explode and Jared took the hint, he picked up the remains by the tail and flung it into the thicket, Hope chased after it, to finish her meal elsewhere.

They continued eating, washed it down with hot coffee and Jared stared thoughtfully into the flames. “You know, you have a point. It is time to stop toying with the prey, our prey. The road splits from this village, we can double back and get further from the Realm or we head directly in. Morgan has run this far with us pushing. It took us the best part of four Summers to find him, we shouldn't risk losing him now. It’s near enough.”

The older man nodded and swallowed his food. “I was almost out of Blue Narline, to dope him with, anyway. Do you want me to replace it with Dragonweed and Witches Wyrt tonight?”

“No.” Jared looked to Jensen with serious expression. “We take him back. We let the people have their justice.”

“But that means visiting.” There was definitely a childish whine from Jensen.

Jared could see his reluctance and pressed on. “I picked up our mail today. It has been several seasons, Jen. There was a lot.”

His Master rolled his eyes. They’d played this game before and Jared always won. “So, go on, hit me with it,” he said.

Jared produced a stack of papers and shuffled it in his hands. He started carefully, ease Jensen into it, “Chad has another nipper on the way and mini-Misha will be two in the next moon cycle.”

“Yes,” they said in unison, and placed the note on the ground.

“Parliament opens in Ty’Bont in two moons.”

“Bugles and dignitaries?” inquired Jensen.

“Definitely,” replied Jared.

“NO!” they both shouted and Jared dropped the paper to the ground to make a different pile.

“Gordon Woolvett’s grand 40th birthday bash.” Jared squinted at the card “He’s pencilled in, NO bugles or pomp, on our invite.”

“Maybe, if it fits into our trip,” conceded Jensen, and another pile was born.

The piles grew and Jared paused before the next one. He knew it was transparent of him but he couldn’t help himself. Jensen grew agitated. “Whatever it is. NO!”

“Jen, I think we should.”

“Should what?”

“Ethan is getting married.”

“Awkward!” snapped Jensen.

“It will be quiet. Gordon, Josh and Mac will all be there and so will Meggie.”

“Excuse me? How does Meghan know Ethan?”

“Apparently, she is accompanying Josh.”

Cogs turned in Jensen’s head and thick lashes parted wide around emerald eyes. “Oh! Wow! Well! Really?”

“It appears that the Padaleckis have a kink for the Ackles family or the other way around, or something.” Jared trailed off helplessly and then went for the kill. “Cookie will be catering it.” He pulled puppy eyes from his armory.

Jensen snatched the paper from him and placed it on the MAYBE pile, with a glare.

The slave held two more pieces of paper. “So. There were two requests that we might get close enough to fulfil if we head East after the wedding.

Jensen crossed his arms, “Hey, I never agreed to go,” he grumbled.

“Anyway, moving on.” Jared was real smooth. “The Laird of Bel’ten is convinced he has a werewolf issue.”

“Are they even real? Gosh I hope so,” commented Jensen. “Knowing how he treats his slaves, I sincerely wish that the werewolf enjoys chewing on his bones.”

“I’m with you there,” concurred Jared, flinging the letter on the NO pile. “Lastly, there has been a spate of robberies and kidnappings at the Tynbach Pass but nobody has got close to catching the gang involved.” He waved the paper in the air. “Yes? No?”

“Yeah. Definite yes. It’s our sort of case. We should send mail to James Beaver and see if he can assist.”

“Done,” said Jared with a smile.


It was getting late and the innkeeper cleaned the bar and wiped glasses. His regulars had slunk home to their families and only one customer remained. Crazy huddled in the corner mumbling and clutching his ale.

The door flung open, letting in a fresh breeze, Crazy screeched like a banshee and drew a dagger while trying to jam the whole of his body under a small table. “They come to get me.They always get me. Ghosts! Keep them out!” Crazy was flailing and gibbering.

The innkeeper dropped the glass he was holding and it shattered, scattering sharp debris across the floor. “Gods!” he swore.

Two men strode into the bar with purpose. “I apologize, we didn’t mean to startle you. We were looking for our Uncle.” The voice was gravel deep and polite. They moved together, as one, their pace fluid but their bulk impressive enough to block lamplight, giving them the impression of a halo. A glint caught on metal around one of their necks and the innkeeper reached automatically to the sign that read, “No slaves permitted in the bar.”

The gravel voice reduced to a threatening snarl. “There is nowhere that I go that my slave cannot accompany me.” The shorter one, a green eyed warrior, spoke even as he honed in on Crazy.

People were the innkeeper’s business and he was good at assessing them. Add to that, he recognized a mistake when he made one. Even if they weren’t the largest freakin’ bulk of muscle and power he had ever seen, even if they weren’t armed with weaponry fit for Royalty, and yes, they were all that. Even if they weren’t, any man who can keep a slave who stands head and shoulders above everyone else, with muscles of Atlas, and a familiar, perched, calm as a cat, on his shoulder, has to be respected. Respected, as in, get out of the way and make no waves. At all.

They moved together in strange synchronicity, taking no personal space, and the air about them may as well have crackled and popped with the dark energy and tension they exuded. One word described them. Dangerous.

The innkeeper cleared his throat and spoke meekly, “O, o, of course. You say you’re looking for your Uncle.”

“Uh-huh.” Spoke the giant-warrior-wizard-slave, who was pushing his floppy brunette hair from his face to look at the innkeeper. “Six-feet-plus-change, of pure crazy. Has us running all over the lands to keep him safe. That would be him under the table. Pathetic, isn’t it?” The slave moved with incredible grace for such a large frame, he had deep dimples in a smiling face with color-flecked, hazel eyes and long lashes, but the voice was honeyed-steel and the soft eyes flashed with hints of menace.

The warrior-Master with the pretty face and calculating, green eyes slapped an excess of money on the bar to cover drinks, tips and inconvenience and smirked his thanks for taking care of their Uncle. Then, they were dragging a hysterical Crazy from the inn with ease, all the while reassuring him that he was missed at home, how his sister and niece waited for him and how old acquaintances would love to chat with him about the war.

The innkeeper watched them leave and bolted the door behind them. He swept the glass from the floor and tried not to think about the events of the evening. His heart should be warmed by the nephews’ care of their Uncle but instead he saw something feral in them. He was reminded of wolves closing in on their prey, nipping at it's heels before taking it down for the final kill. He wondered about the substance and form that ghosts might take.

He shook the thoughts from his mind, counted his unexpectedly elevated earnings, and downed a tankard of ale before bed.

“Do you trust him not to run?” asked Jensen, as they trussed and gagged Morgan ready to sling him onto the mule.

“It’s a long way,” said Jared, thoughtfully.

“Precaution?” asked Jensen, with a dark glint in his eye.

“Yeah,” replied Jared.

Jensen sliced Morgan’s foot off at the ankle and cauterized it over an open fire before binding it with poultice. He wasn’t gentle. Any infection wouldn’t be fully developed by the time they reached the Realm. They could always amputate his leg later. They washed the blood off their hands in a cool brook, splashed at each other and laughed together, like children on a Summer's day.


The next day they rode in comfortable silence until Jensen spoke up, with a hint of excitement.

“Jared,” he said.


“That thing, at Tynbach. Do you remember the Principality just to the North of that?”

“Yeah. That was a great place. I liked that place.”

“Anyone was allowed to marry there. You could marry a donkey if that was your kink, or a donkey could marry a donkey,” Jensen spoke fondly. “When we’ve finished with the case we could go back, y’know. I mean we could go back there, with the marrying thing n’all.”

Jared was quiet for a few moments. His brow furrowed. He was trying to process Jensen’s sudden interest in donkeys. Jensen was biting his lip, he looked vulnerable and terrified, “If you don’t want to…”

Realization dawned. Jared pulled up his horse with a sudden jolt to the reins and dismounted, “Jensen Ross Ackles, did you just propose to me?”

Jensen halted his own stallion. He coyly batted long, thick eyelashes at Jared. “We should get married. If y’know, if you want to, with me,” he muttered, wringing his hands and chewing on his lip.

The slave tugged his Master from his horse in a terrible breech of conduct and, with a horrible lack of submission, dived headlong upon him for a kiss. “Yes,” Jared whispered into Jensen's ear and then growled as he bit a dark purple claim into his Master's neck. "Yes. I do."

They didn’t travel far that day.

~The End~