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Unlucky for Some

Chapter Text

She watched the old man touch his plate with the side of a loosely curled hand, he turned his dish to a more pleasing angle so the food, a slice of sweet pie, pointed towards him. He struggled to grasp his fork, moving it to the edge of the smooth table till he could pick up the handle.

Knowing that an offer of help would be foully rejected Rey sat patiently pretending not to see the difficulties Armitage’s father had with his meal. She was nervous about the visit. Slowly, very slowly she had built up a relationship with Brendol Hux. It had started through visiting his small world of a shabby sitting room, overcrowded with an impressive collection of weaponry, but his simmering tolerance was still a fragile thing. The man, even affected by age and illness, was still as straight as an iron rod; the General was strong in mind if not in body. His senses were sharp and his patience thin. Rey got the feeling age had not mellowed one of the First Order’s most ruthless leaders. In fact she felt vaguely as if he put up with her, like she was a visiting inconvenience instead of the only visitor he received.

Rey left her own pie uneaten. It was now or never, she told herself. What would Brendol do anyway? Give her his usual death stare? Hit her with his walking stick? Jedi were not afraid of old men, she reminded herself, especially ones who had trouble gripping a fork. She screwed up her courage.

“I was thinking I want to learn more about Armitage mother, His birth mother.” Her voice sounded overly loud.

Brendol gave her the death stare. His eyes narrowed to slits, his mouth frowned, it was as if every muscle in his face was holding back from ordering her to walk off the nearest, highest object.

“Why?” He asked.

“I'm curious, all I know about her could fit into two sentences; Armitage doesn't talk about her.”

The General chewed his pie while staring at Rey. Time stretched out and she was sure he wasn’t going to reply, she had almost decided to leave before the yelling would start.

“He didn't really know her; I had to take him when he was still little. Not too sure if I got a good deal either, he's not a good son. Terrible, weak...”

“His mother though,” she interrupted. “Was she terrible?” The perceived failings of his son rant could go on for hours and once Brendol started it was hard to turn his attention to other subjects.

He twisted uncomfortably, then put a still curled hand to his head, pushed an invisible strand of hair away from his temple. “She was a good cook, no a baker,” he corrected himself. “A chef,” he settled on. “she told me she had been a chef. On yachts - they are like space ships but on water here.”

“I know what a yacht is,” Rey bit her lip; she didn't want to upset him, not when this was the most amount of information she had ever gleaned from either Armitage or Brendol. “His mother was a chef,” she repeated.

“Forget the chef, she was a baker really. Did a lot of bread, all sorts, not rubbish like this,” Brendol prodded his pie with his fork. “Armitage’s grandmother worked here, as a kitchen hand, and maid, but she got sick. So.” The pie skated away from the marauding fork, but lost the battle and was stabbed mercilessly. “Armitage's mother came home from her ‘apparent career’, to look after her mother. Then my father, that is Armitage's grandfather, gave Armitage's mother her mother's job, I suppose because they needed the credits and my father was always…” He stopped. Then lightly said, “that is all.”

Rey frowned. That was all? “But how, General, I mean I don't want to sound crude, but, at some point Armitage got into his mother,” she trailed off under the General’s increasingly angry gaze. If she had been a piece of pie her eye balls would have been speared and slashed to pieces by now.

“My girl, if you haven't worked that out by now I don't know what my son's been doing. Knowing him, he is probably failing even at the most basics of marriage. Not to worry, I can always demonstrate for you?”

She coughed, something was stuck in her throat. The fit of sputtering lasted till she could slide another arm’s length away from her father-in-law.

“Hahaha,” she forced out a terse laugh. “I meant, Sir, you must have felt an attraction? There must be more to the story. I know you were married to Maratelle...”

He rolled his eyes. “People get so focused on that, but I married Maratelle after I ah, ‘knew’ Armitage's mother. Maybe also a little during.”

“During?” Rey asked feeling bewildered. “Do you mean during the actual wedding Brendol?”

Brendol exhaled and the fork was pushed so hard against the plate it squeaked. “If I had a chance I would have continued having an affair with Armitage’s mother after my marriage too, does that shock you?” He didn’t wait for her to answer. “But I had to start teaching work at the Academy, and by the time I came back it was too late. Why are you so interested anyway?” The old man asked suddenly. “It's all long, long ago. No good dredging it all up. Bad enough I have to live here without…”

“Her? Armitage's mother?” Rey finished.

“No, don’t put words into my mouth! I was going to say without any good help. What do you think we were? Some sort of doomed stereotype master and servant love story for the ages? Romantic rubbish.”

Rey picked up her own fork and pointed it at Brendol. If he was going to act like she was interrogating him she might as well have her own weapon. “What was her name? I want to know.”

“So you can search for her and find out my secret, hidden mysteries you believe I foster? I don't want you to know her name, if it hasn’t already been obvious enough. I'm sure you met Armitage and then, because of your inexperience and lack of choice on Jakku, settled for him. Probably regretting it now?”

“Sometimes,” she freely admitted.

“He's an idiot, we agree, but his mother, very infrequently, was adequate in some small areas, not like her son, a continual disappointment.” He stopped and lowered his cutlery, it clanked on the plate. “I'll show you and if I show you, no more questions. I won't answer them.”

Brendol got up, shaking off his daughter-in-law’s halfhearted attempt to help him up, then found an older style comm unit in a drawer, brought it over and started tapping. He scowled at her. “I need a new one. Armitage doesn't think I need technology I suppose.”

“You could order one yourself,” she volunteered.

“Shut up,” was the answer before he passed the unit. She watched the faintly lined, green tinged screen as security footage of a woman brushing her hair started. The woman was sitting on a box in front of an open oven. Rey recognized a pattern on the wall tile.

“This is Armitage’s mother? Here in the kitchen here?”

Brendol nodded.

She watched fascinated at a woman brushed her hair. A cat walked past the girl on the screen and she stretched out a hand to pat along its flank from nose to tail. The woman was wearing a wide apron, with long red hair and a pretty face. The shape of her cheeks reminded her of Tage. She could see him in her colorings. The woman sneezed and the General took the device back. He watched it a few seconds longer, his face unreadable.

“She was always slacking off,” he told her and he slid the device into his pocket. “I should have fired her after the first time I met her. She was incredibly rude, and extremely unprofessional. She claimed she was a chef, but she couldn't even pour wine correctly. The girl wanted me to get my own meal even! She was always trying to get into my room, letting livestock into the kitchen and she'd give food to passing children, or the person who delivered the supplies. That food didn’t belong to her! And she only had one dress. One dress!”

“Maybe she could only afford one dress? Maybe she didn't like wearing dresses?”

He sat still and then slowly looked up at her his eyebrows drawn together, as if he had never had this particular thought before.

“No more questions,” his voice sounded tired, the gruffness still present, but quieter. “She's gone and it wasn't meant to be. She got into trouble,” he added as an afterthought.

Yes, she had got in trouble. Brendol had got her into that particular trouble Rey thought to herself. No matter how the story had played out, whether he cared or not, whether they had been in love, if he had been married to Armitage’s step mother or not, the man had taken advantage of someone who was not in a position to refuse his advances.

Silently Rey tried to sum up everything she heard. Now she knew for certain Tage’s mother had worked in the Hux household, in the kitchen and that they had been together before he got married, and during. A curious concept. Brendol thought she was rude, but he hated everyone, she was probably a decent person, feeding children and patting cats seemed nice. Like normal, nice things. She had worked as a chef on yachts, had loved her mother, Armitage's grandmother, enough to come home to care for her. And then there had been the mention of Brendol’s father, he must have liked her, enough to hire her at least. She had never heard Brendol’s father talked about. What had he been like? Did he stop their affair?

After Rey had been practically pushed out of the General’s sitting room she went to look at a painting of a serenely smiling man who she knew was Armitage's grandfather. It was an odd picture of a Hux. Especially when their natural state was usually one of tightly coiled anger.

Armitage’s grandfather was a slightly tubby man with a beard and grey streaked hair, his hands rested peacefully in his lap. Brendol might have looked like him, if he hadn't spent his life frowning and squinting at screens.

The current Hux family maid, butler and caretaker combined Jeffery shuffled at the end of the hall, he saw Rey in front of the painting and moved up to stand next to her. He himself an old man. Rey was acutely conscious she was the youngest in a household of Imperial relics.

“That is Hux senior, senior. General Brendol’s father,” Jeffrey confirmed, “his name was also Brendol.”

“You knew him?” She asked curiously.

“He hired me. Senator Brendol was a good man, a pleasure to work for on the most part.”

“Were you employed before or after Brendol Junior, got married.”

“Oh,” Jeffrey rubbed the back of his head waking up long unused grey matter. “Before,” he answered. “I was at the wedding. That was a long time ago, even before the invasion,” he leaned forward and added, “don't ask me why I'm still here my dear.”

“What was he like, back then? General Brendol?”

Jeffrey ran a finger along the frame of his long dead master then rubbed off the build-up of grey dust sprinkling it on the floor. “He wasn’t a General back then and he was much the same as he is now, he was never, let's say, liked by many. If everyone, who was anyone, was going left, Brendol would go right. Or just stand still. If I can be honest?” He paused and stepped closer to his newest mistress.

Rey nodded urging him on.

The old man bent forward, happy to share what little family gossip he hoarded. “Brendol doesn't like people, particularly if he can't order them about, I think they annoy him. When he says jump, you better jump.”

“What about Armitage mother? His birth mother. Did she jump?”

“She did,” he admitted after a seconds thought. “But she had her own way with our Brendol Hux. That young lady was a better match for the General than Maratelle. That woman, Maratelle, was the opposite to ‘jump’; she'd complain about the amount of grains in a sugar cube that one, may she forever rest with the maker.”

Rey smiled as Jeffrey rolled his eyes.

“She said to me once, Armitage’s mother that is, not Maratelle, Jeffrey, she said, I like the challenge of donuts. And that was her all over. She also said don't let a Gungan in your kitchen, but things were different back then.” He put a wrinkled hand on her shoulder. “I'm glad we talked Miss Tara. Glad you came back. Some of us heard, well we heard you were some sort of bet, or trick or something strange. But here you are.”

“Here I am.” She agreed, then added silently ‘…for now.’

Jeffrey rubbed his hands together, he was short, a little shorter than Rey and with the air of a confidant he chose his next words carefully, the pair standing shoulder to shoulder in the dim corridor. “It's natural to be interested in the family history, but you should leave it alone. Truth is their story, the whole story, was wrong time, wrong people and,” he opened his hands, “that's all. I know it's hard to imagine the General, an old man who can't stand up for more than ten minutes at a time, and who once caused a droid nurse to commit suicide, could possibly be all doleful eyes and looking like the fallen hero, but Brendol could act the part. He must have been, hmm, forbidden fruit to a kitchen girl with little else to interest her.”

Rey wrinkled her nose.

“Don’t look like that Mrs Hux. Even I was young once. Anyway, your husband's mother saw something, Maker knows what, to spark some sort of relationship. We were all trapped and scared you see? The Empire did that to us. Fighting made the soldiers especially,” he paused and looked at his old master once again, “vulnerable.”

Rey could see memories flit emotions across the old man’s face; he licked his lips and bowed to her before making his way along the corridor once more. A few scuffled steps away he stopped and turned.

“Mrs Hux, if you are interested in history, you should get Brendol to tell you the story about how he started out as an officer, when he had to kill the Jedi General he worked under after 66 was ordered. He once fought with the Grand Army of the Republic you know? He likes talking about that.”

“He killed a Jedi knight?”

“Shot him in the back, I’ve heard it many times from the man himself,” Jeffrey answered cheerfully.

Chapter Text

It’s a truth, universal known; that a lone soldier is like a jammed fire arm. One has all the looks of power, the boots, the jacket and the fancy hat, but one soldier is of little use. This was how low he had been brought. Nothing more than a lowly civilian. At best he was a soon-to-be instructor at Arkanis Academy, and that position was on paper only. He could be easily discharged altogether. Brendol Hux thought the word ‘discharge’ with utter hatred. Officers who were discharged were people who had failed, and he had not fought so hard to be crossed out of history.

In the distance a siren suddenly blared, and the man walking alone in the Hux family estate garden startled at the sound, before furtively looking around. The noise grew closer as it sounded across the town’s early warning systems, but still not so close to be more than a firm, wailing echo. The Hux estate was too far away to be properly part of the incoming attack procedure. Brendol’s frown deepened, he keenly felt the restriction of the distance between himself and fellow soldiers. There was no way he could be useful here. He was stuck in a giant target of a house; too far away from the volunteer guards and the Academy to be of any use. His own personal alarm chirped from his wrist. Lifting the corner of his jacket he touched the stock of the holstered blaster he carried with him everywhere and scanned the wet garden. Of course there was nobody in sight. The black pebbled paths were empty, the home pond’s reedy shore line blank, the curved driveway void of transport, and he knew the house was empty. The few servants who worked in the Hux house would already be congregating in the underground bomb shelter. Sitting down together with their hastily made cups of caff and shared holos, numbing their tiny brains. Useless cowards.

Ships appeared, unfurling like umbrellas shaken free from hyperspace, they dotted the sky as Brendol watched. Three triangular shaped commands appeared, blinking into the atmosphere. He scowled at them with a pinched look of contempt. That was where he should be. Not trapped.

Let the Rebels attack he wished fervently, let the battle come to him. He could stand his ground then. Shoot, and fire, and win, and show them all he was every inch the soldier. Fingers traced the long, smooth outlines of the smooth explosive charge in his pocket. It was a weapon strong enough to slow nearby ground forces. One was enough to blow a hole a meter deep, or take out an armored unit. He waited, fingers poised, but no sounds of shots fired or cannons blazing could be heard. No sound apart from distant alarms, his own wrist unit chirping, and the patter of a thin drizzle of rain hitting the never ending puddles.

False alarm or a drill, he told himself and switched off his alarm. Even with the appearance of the Commands he felt it was all a mistake, the ships had moved on quickly after they breached. Some doped up, planetside sentry probably mistook their signature for incoming Rebel fighters.

Brendol made his way inside the house, he let himself inside the large door that had welcomed generations of the Hux family and shut away the sound of the sirens. Pausing, he brushed at himself still dripping from the rain, and, because there was no other option, hung his coat in the drying cupboard himself. Then Brendol carefully scraped mud off his boots. Still no staff appeared.

In the dining room he found the usual, single dinner setting was set out, but today the plates were empty of food and no attendant stood nearby to pull out his chair. Glancing at the nearby clock it showed sixteen minutes past his allocated dining hour. The servants were of course still holed up in the shelter and they would not move until the all clear signal was transmitted. They were faithful to the rules of slacking off if nothing else.

Any other time Brendol would not enter the kitchen. He hadn't ever. Or, at least, not in memory, but it was dinner time and dinner he would have. The door slid open at the touch of his impatient jab at the control and he entered.

He was mistaken about the empty house, not all the servants had scampered off to the bomb shelter.

A girl he had never seen before was standing at the long, stainless steel kitchen bench brushing a liquid onto uncooked bread loaves with what looked like a fat paintbrush. She startled as he entered, her brush hovering and her mouth open in a small “O” of surprise.

The servant girl was unlike any person he had ever seen before in his life. There was no nice way of describing the creature. No polite words to sweep her deformities aside. She was a spotted, red headed, freak show.

“My dinner?” He asked.

The girl closed her open mouth. “The other staff are all in the bunker,” she replied dropping a small bow. “There is an attack, Sir,” she added, a little sternly, as if annoyed that someone had interrupted her sudden peace.

“Obviously, but you are not with them.”

The girl finished painting the last loaf and put her brush down, wiping her flour covered hands on her apron. “I suppose I could bring your meal out myself,” she told him. “It's mostly done, I put it in the warmer drawer when the alarm started, it’s on a tray at the bottom of the oven.” She pointed towards the oven range. “You could take your plate out yourself. Sir.”

He looked carefully at the girl; he felt she must be new to be so simple. She was not so young though, maybe early thirties, plain, painfully so, with dirty, rough hands and that red hair. The most tragic case of red he had ever seen, and the freckled complexion to match. She was obviously not a front of house staff member. Nobody would allow such a girl to be seen by actual people.

“It is not my position to serve myself food,” he answered coldly.

Brendol returned to the dining room and sat at his setting, he scowled at the many empty chairs around the large, white clothed table.

The girl brought out his plate and placed it in front of him without the niceties of applying his serviette or removing extra silverware. Not the most well served meal he had ever had, but it would have to do.

“Now you must stand to the side, in case I have any more requests,” he ordered.

The girl stepped forward. “But, I have go, Sir. That is why I didn't leave with the others...”

“You will stand,” he said firmly interrupting any further pertness, “there.” He pointed to a worn carpet square where his attendant usually stood. The girl looked as if she may disobey, she stuck her chin up and shuffled to the side, arms folded, looked at where he pointed and over dramatically stepped into place.

Brendol ate carefully. After a while he asked for some wine indicating to where a carat sat on the sideboard. The kitchen girl brought it to the table and leant over to pour, holding the bottle wrong, grasping with two hands, like she was using a mallet to drive a picket into the ground. He placed his palm over his glass she tilted towards, effectively blocking her aim.

Her speckled face scowled. “Sir?” She grit out.

He pointed the correct glassware.

“I think you’ll find the first glass was the correct one… Sir,” she said.

His finger did not waver from the glass he had selected and she filled it with a sniff. He noticed her apron, which she had not bothered to remove, had brushed white flour over the dark wood of his chair back.

“What do you do here?” Brendol asked her.

“Currently I'm the chef’s assistant, and a general hand, but I'm a trained chef and baker. I make all the bread, Sir, and other baked goods.”

“Bread? Can't we just buy it ready-made?”

The girl looked at him as if he had asked her if she thought one plus one was equal to thirteen, her silly face turning even redder than normal. She inhaled and her eyes widened. “You don't like the bread?”
He picked up his roll, Brendol hadn't really thought about it before. The food at home was more edible than the bland Imperial rations he supposed. Buttering the still warm, cream coloured flesh of his roll he tasted it, biting into the softness.

“It is satisfactory,” he conceded still chewing. If the freak wanted more praise than that she was fresh out of luck.

“You would prefer store bought, ready-made bread? Bread made by machines?” Her voice sounded a little strangled.

“I really can't compare. I think this bread is satisfactory. Could it be more flavorsome? Yes, but perhaps you haven't been a baker very long? You are inexperienced?”

The woman raised a hand to her mouth in an over dramatic, and unnecessary, display of horror, left her post and went swiftly back to the kitchen while tearing off her apron, the long white fabric almost hitting him as she passed.

Brendol ate his meal alone.

***
The next evening meal he sat down to he noticed he had two bread rolls on two bread plates. One plate was on each side of his dinner like a set of ears to his soup bowl. He signaled to his attendant. This evening his meal attendant was the regular man; an older staff member who did the work of a maid and house manager - when he was not hiding underground. As if a little dirt bomb shelter would stop even a quarter of the universes current impact weaponry.

Brendol motioned to the twin rolls. “Why two?” He asked.

“I believe one is shop bought, Sir. The smaller is made here. Miss Magdalin, the kitchen helper, said you would like to compare.”

The kitchen helper? He remembered the dirty, red freak and apparent baker from the previous day, the one who had walked out. Brendol had assumed she wouldn't return after her sordid performance. That was why he hadn't bothered to fire her.

Very well, he would humor the woman.

He tasted the shop roll first. It was large, soft, even textured, very much everything a bread roll should be. Brendol placed it back on its plate. He tried the one the girl had made. She had cheated and warmed her home baked roll up. It was a little darker, easy to bite, tasted well enough. But was it superior to the shop bought one? He couldn't honestly rule either way.

“Tell her to make a different type of bread, I cannot judge on this plain example,” he told his attendant. He picked up both plates and rolls as if measuring their weight. “What do you think of the kitchen woman’s skills?”

“Miss Magdalin is very good sir, a great help to cook, not as good as her mother, but the staff does appreciate her hot biscuit.”

“Who is her mother? Does she work locally?”

The attendant coughed as he straightened a perfectly straight bottle on the dining room side board. “Her mother, Mrs. Magdalin, has worked for the Hux family for the past seven years, although while you've been serving, so maybe Sir has not seen her? Mrs. Magdalin is unwell at the moment. That is why young Miss Magdalin is filling in. Your father approved,” he added firmly.

His father approved. Of course he would. He couldn’t resist a good sob story. Her mother was probably having a holiday somewhere warm with her disgusting, otherwise unemployable, daughter place holding for as long as she could get.

He tasted the home made roll again. “I would like to try the biscuit if it is good. Which I doubt.”

“Very well Sir. I will order it.”

Brendol met the kitchen hand in the hall next. He had just opened his bedroom door only to suddenly stare down at scarlet hair. The girl must have been reaching to knock on the opposite side, because they stood close for an instant. Brendol hoped she had been going to knock, that she would not just open the door and barge in. The thought of the freak in his personal space made him feel ill. She was holding a large empty basket on one hip. Silently she stepped back into the hall to let him pass.

“What are you doing?” He asked.

Miss Magdalin spoke slowly, her eyes watching him suspiciously, as if he was in the wrong for stepping out of his own room. “Collecting laundry Sir, to put through the machine.”

“Don't you work in the kitchen?”

“Mostly, but we all have to pitch in.”

He stayed standing in his doorway. He didn't want her in his room. “I don't have any,” he lied hoping she would leave, but she seemed determined to taunt him. The door started to automatically slide closed and he watched it slowly separate them, but she activated the sensor and it opened again. He frowned.

“Have you liked the bread?” She asked conversationally. “The rolls with dinner? The pie? The biscuit?”

Brendol wasn't used to lower ranked people talking to him, especially asking his opinion, especially by small red haired girls and especially, especially outside his bedroom the one place he could reliably be alone.

“Satisfactory,” he answered coldly.

By the look on her face that was not the answer she was looking for. He rested a hand on the doorframe as if she would rush in any second and take his laundry whatever he told her.

“I appreciate feedback sir, you can be honest. I used to work...”

“I don't know who you think I am, but I don't care to chat with staff in corridors,” he interrupted. “If you supply baked goods I will advise you of their merit through the proper channels. Otherwise you should get back to the kitchen.”

She coolly appraised him, opened her mouth as if to retort and then turned and walked towards the kitchen. Basket bobbing on her narrow hip as she moved. He watched her execute an almost military like turn down the adjoining corridor, and waited, ensuring she didn’t return.

Locking his door he rattled it to make sure it was securely fastened. Would she have access to the master code? Could the freak put her dirty hands on his personal effects? He imagined Miss Magdalin fingering his inter-galactic ammunition collection, her floury prints dusting each carefully polished shell. She was sly. Sly and pert. The thought of her freckled face inside his closet, touching his clothes, made him uneasy.

Outside, after he had escaped into the rain, Brendol realised his interaction with the little baker was the closest thing he had had to a two-way conversation since they'd forced him to return home.

***

Brendol couldn't sleep nights. Almost every night he lay awake yet desperately tired, and it grew worse when the rain was loud. Sounding like shots in the distance and the thunder was a hammer to his skull. He felt he had to move, and keep moving, and if he stopped he would sink down, down and be stuck to the floor like being trapped in carbonite, frozen and screaming.

Hands shook.

Things crept in the dark.

The explosive he carried in his pocket during the day was always near, always watching him. It felt like a security blanket. Just one that could blow him to pieces.
To distract himself during these times, and to still his mind, Brendol set out a plan of monitoring the freak.

After weeks of various and increasingly intricate treats, but nothing exceptional, he was now sure Miss Magdalin was purposely holding back the best baked goods in retaliation for him not wanting to talk to her.

Brendol had even stepped out of his current comfort zone and asked the three other staff employed by the Hux household their thoughts on her creations. They had all timidly and unanimously said they enjoyed the kitchen hand’s bread and cakes and other sweets, but he could not taste anything that indicated anything was better than what was acceptable. There was nothing more than flour and water and yeast. He was convinced Miss Magdalin was intentionally excluding him, she was just like his senior officers, she was excluding him because she thought she knew better, and he would prove it.

The solution was quite, quite, very, very, extremely clear.

He had set up a motion activated nano-droid in the kitchen to watch her at all times. It was a simple answer really. Because, originally the choice was between; filming her, or locking her in the storage room next to the garage until she admitted she was in the wrong, whatever it was she was doing (or not doing). Ultimately the filming seemed less likely to cause a mess.

He’d hidden the droid high up on a dusty shelf full of various unused trash on the third delirious, starless night of practically no sleep. The mission had been successful. He could now watch Miss Magdalin any time on a portable screen in his room.

To be clear the camera was for supervising her work standards only. He tapped the viewing screen to focus solely on the now familiar apron covered form. Miss Magdalin was chopping vegetables, her face resting with eye-brows drawn together in concentration while her knife struck a wood block over and over.

Brendol was not attracted to the girl in any way, shape or form. She was a servant, not even the sort that you take with you when you travel. The sort of staff you pretend you need to iron your clothes, but really your just fucking them senseless till the next meeting or whatever one was attending. But Miss Magdalin was not even in the realm of decency, her freakish form even made his chest hurt. He was engaged anyway, to someone completely beneficial and attractive. So you see Brendol was not masturbating like an Ewok at a full moon to a girl on a screen. He was supervising.

In hours he couldn't sleep and couldn't walk, which was a lot on Arkansas even in the so called summer period, he'd check to make sure Miss Magdalin was spending her time well. He had started a small note file on her times worked, breaks spent and conversations she had with staff and visiting contractors. Already her list of crimes was lengthy. She had many days or evenings off, she talked to all staff too freely, she gave bread away to visitors, two dozen rolls a week stolen from the kitchen and given to the local preschool, also she’d fed left over scraps to sick looking cats and birds. Sometimes the cats even sat in front of the stove at night on a rice sack she put down for them. It was extremely unhygienic.

One morning, after Miss Magdalin arrived late to work during a torrid thunderstorm, Brendol had watched horrified as Miss Magdalin had peeled off her boots and sat on a crate in front of the open oven to dry her hair. With a small comb she teased it out into an amber cloud, brushing and brushing like a holy mantra and then she had carefully platted it into two ropes before pinning it in its usual manner. He had saved that recording as evidence of her time wasting, and he watched it regularly to remind himself to be on the look-out for hair in his food. Long, coarse red hair.

No, he was not attracted to the woman.

The freak.

But, if sometimes Brendol watched her and he had no pants on it was because he was in the middle of changing, or not sleeping while reclining in bed. Not sleeping with no pants on because not everyone likes to wear pajamas, and he could not control when the nano-droid’s motion sensor would be activated.

Miss Magdalin started early in the morning, two standard hours before other staff. It was still dark when she would arrive and take out her proved bread. Those first two hours before the rest of the household appeared were Brendol’s most fruitful for recording her many misdemeanors. The hair brushing was just the beginning; she spent her time patting the cats, talking to the Gungan who delivered fish, or dancing around to music and singing. He had no sound, but she was either singing or talking to herself and he knew she often listened to music. Brendol had banned music in the kitchen, but she didn’t seem to think this rule applied to herself and the music obstinately continued. Miss Magdalin also spent some time staring at the sunrise, writing on her comm or other uselessness. After a few weeks of watching he felt he had enough to prove beyond a doubt the girl was ripe for dismissal.

Still he had to admit the baker’s actual bread making was improving.

Every day Miss Magdalin tried serving something different and made notes with a stumpy, well chewed pencil in a little green covered book on the results. This note taking was what had inspired him to start creating his own history of notes on her.

Experimentally she added sweet ingredients to her baking, like fruit or sugars, sometimes she tried different flours, or cheese, or strips of meat. Each change was noted and referred to. Brendol much preferred the sweet bread. He gave honest, but restrained, feedback and grilled his attendant around the baking technique used each day. Sometimes several messages had to be walked between master and baker. Each on opposite sides of a door, with a tired attendant sliding in-between to find out what the lemon taste was, or how Sir enjoyed the glaze.

As the weeks went by his palette improved, the nightly baking became more and more elaborate and Brendol’s voyeurism increased.

One very early morning, after seeing her sneeze over a batch of donuts she was preparing to be served at breakfast, Brendol rolled reached for his notebook, clicked the nib of his pen down and wrote:

Tuesday 3:26 – Purposely sneezed on food. Last straw! Termination of employment immediate!!

He pictured the way she would beg for mercy. Miss Magdalin would untie her apron and the long strings would dangle from each hand. If Sir would let her stay she would do anything. Anything! He would produce the damning evidence of his growing file and read the entries out loud as the girl cried.

“I’m sorry, there’s nothing I can do,” he would tell her, all the while not feeling sorry at all.

She would push the apron strings into his hands and refuse to leave. He could imagine her impudent, freakish face denying his claims. Her actions would leave him with no other choice than to have to punish her himself, forcing him to draw his weapon and to order her to remove her clothes.

Then Brendol would take the apron strings, maybe test them; maybe even pull them tight while wrapped around each fist. Making sure Miss Magdalin could clearly see he was not a man to disobey. While she squirmed at his touch he would tightly tie her hands behind her back, no her front - because he liked it when girls touched his hair.

Leaning close he would move her face to the side, freckled skin would come into focus and he would whisper in one pink ear. “you’re in trouble now, my girl.”

Smiling sadistically he thought about how he would make her suffer. He enjoyed the picture his voyeurism had created and found he had gone to bed naked again. This was a coincidence. His medication was making him hotter at night that was all. He did not feel any attraction to Miss Magdalin. This was purely a more of a…

A more of a…

He clicked his pen.

In his imagination Miss Magdalin lay naked and bound on the floor in the dining room. She looked up from the worn carpet path between the kitchen door and the dining table, her hair still pinned into her loop plats, tears streaked on flushed cheeks. Knees akimbo.

“Please Sir, I’ll do anything.”

He drew a pair of breasts in his notebook. On the screen the real Miss Magdalin was dropping test pieces of batter into boiling oil, she held a slotted spatula in one hand. Her head turned and for an instant he felt she had seen the droid. He blacked out the picture of tits he’d doodled and tried not to think the word “doodle” while removing his left hand from his penis.

On the screen Miss Magdalin frowned.

Exhaling slowly he watched as the girl on his screen switched to looking at the kitchen door. The cook entered, taking off her hat and coat.

Brendol switched off the device. He had no interest in the other staff. He lay back into his pillow, if Miss Magdalin left, he wouldn’t have anything to do again. He tapped his forehead with his pen. For now watching was a, kind of, “hobby” like a holovid of mistakes, and Brendol would like to have the satisfaction of assessing the result at the end. Maybe she was a sort of student? He was supposed to be getting used to students. He crossed out the word ‘immediate’ in his sneeze report and replaced it with ‘imminent’.

***

Master and servant nodded silently to each other as they passed, lips pressed into frowns at the sight of one another. Brendol left his laundry in the hall and he spent his spare time shooting at the cats and birds that he found near the house. He liked to later watch the way she flinched on the recordings at the noise of blaster fire. He had been growing sensitive to sudden engines and bangs himself, but Miss Magdalin’s reaction proved it was normal to not like sudden, loud noises. Completely normal.

One evening meal, a few weeks after their first meeting, Brendol found a flower next to his baked nightly offering. It was a water lily bud, partly opened, its sweet petals white and perfect.

“What is this?” He asked his attendant. “And if you tell me it is a flower, I will be angry.”

“Sir, the young lady is experimenting with presentation. Note the pattern on the bread. It is fine dusted sugar in the shape of a water lily also, only the sugared one is in full flower.”

Ridiculous! This would not do. This was deviating from the rules of play. He needed a single warmed roll, or biscuit, or croissant or whatever she had made with her own hands on a white plate. No decoration, no changes, the frivolous form of a flower was like an insult.

“Tell Miss Magdalin I need to see her. Now.”

His attendant bowed and backed towards the kitchen.

The door hissed open and Miss Magdalin came out rubbing wet hands onto a cloth. Her silly freckles and ridiculous hair all the same. Wearing her yellowing uniform shirt and enormous apron, tied so tight it made her bony hips stick out like a backless sack dress. No improvement in that presentation, he thought, but his eyes rested on the apron strings momentarily.

“What is this?” He pointed at the water lily without touching it.

“A decorated flaked white roll with custard center, Sir.”

“Not that! This?” He held up the lily bud between finger and thumb as if a rancid, insect had expired on his plate.

She relaxed, rocking back on her heels and she lowered her voice to a more friendly tone. “A flower Sir.”

The impudence! He made a strangled noise in his throat. The attendant snickered and smothered his laugh by turning to the sideboard and arranging the bottles there. They clinked as if the hand that was moving them was shaking.

“I thought we had an understanding? I would give honest, useful feedback on your bread. I’m not interested in frippery, dull, and frankly, random window dressing,” he took what he hoped sounded like a serious teaching tone. “I'm greatly disappointed Miss Magdalin.”

She stepped forward and plucked the bud out of his hand. “I wasn't aware of any clear understanding. I...” She paused as she searched for the correct wording he felt. “I am, I mean, I have been honored by your reviews recently. It has been a pleasure to experiment. The lily just showed that pleasure, it was so pure looking floating at edge of the home pond this afternoon, it inspired me, so I picked it. I think it looks quite refreshing. Don’t you? I thought you may like lilies?”

She twirled the offending article a smile on her face and the attendant coughed still facing away from his master.

“No more flowers,” he told her sharply. Then in addition added, “and I'll thank you not to steal from the gardens.”

Brendol generously ignored the way her eyes changed from sparkling to annoyance, not wanting to cause a scene, but he kept the information in memory to be added to her file later. Extreme, utter impertinence.

He cut his pastry in half as Miss Magdalin watched mesmerized. The custard oozed onto the plate, but wasn't too wet, it was a gelatinous jam like consistency. He took a bite and she held her breath.

“Not too sweet,” he told her between chews. “The powdered sugar on top is a suitable flavoring, but the pattern a waste. It looked more the shape of a spider. I think overall it tastes a little dry. Not the custard, but the bread itself.”

She balked. “Dry Sir?”

“Here,” Brendol pointed with his knife at a patch of airy looking dough.

Miss Magdalin moved next to him, very close now, and he was aware of her flour covered form standing almost over his lap. He widened his legs and his napkin fell on the floor. The remaining food in his mouth became hard to swallow. Custard stuck, coating his throat.

“May I?” She asked.

He passed her the knife. In order to cut herself a sliver of bread she placed the lily bud behind her ear. The white flower shone stark against the flaming red of her hair.

Forgetting his earlier distaste Brendol suddenly wanted the flower very much. In fact he would kill for it. He stared at the lily bud as she chewed, her eyes lowered to the plate as she prodded the bread experimentally.

“Perfect,” she announced the word proudly. “That Sir, is very fine pastry. Very fine. I can guarantee you will not taste better on Arkansas.”

“That is a matter of opinion.”

Her hand tightened around the knife then she placed it, not too gently, on his bread plate. The noise of metal striking china sounded loud. Involuntarily he recoiled at the suddenness of the clang. He could feel his face grow red with anger. How dare the freak, his father’s charity case question his judgment?

Sliding out of his chair he stood, gathered himself up to resting attention. He was taller, he could look down at red hair and filth. She was not the one in charge, not here; she was not to tell him what was fine and what was not. “You are on very thin ice Miss Magdalin, I am watching you.”

They were close; he could lift his hand and take the flower back. Draw the stem through her rosy strands, feel the hair on his fingertips. Push her down with the full force of his body and hold the explosive between them…

“Sir?” They both startled as the attendant cleared his throat. “Lily should go back to the kitchen,” he added and he nodded at Miss Magdalin.

***

He didn't see her for a long time in person. He always had the surveillance, but it changed. Like she knew, and she was sending him messages. She must have known because it was so clear what she wanted him to do. He studied the way she kneaded her bread, strong arms pushing down and out, down and out, or the way she washed her hands or wiped the benches. Sweeping was Miss Magdalin saying, I want you to watch me again, feeding a cat meant she wanted him to walk outside the kitchen. Talking to other staff she was actually talking to him. The camera was too small to pick up sound, but he imagined she asked if he liked her bread, or that she wished he would do things to her.

He fully realised he was becoming obsessive, but it was a neat, hidden obsession. When he thought of her he felt like he had something to do. Like an uncomfortable road that led to feeling human. Men like women, or other men (or droids) but people feel a decent amount of emotion for other people. Regular people don't have an empty void instead of feelings. He felt distaste for her and it stirred something like the expected, rushing blowback from a rail gun.

Anyway, it wasn’t just him. With each movement she indicated her interest, and each dish served clearly signaled she wanted his presence.

Something simply had to be done. He could not go on watching. Not when she showed so much awareness of him. What she so clearly wanted was impossible of course. Completely impossible, because of her hideous looks mostly. Brendol was vain enough to know he would only ever be satisfied be a pretty girl. He would have to let reject her.

Crush her.

In his notebook he drew flowers before obscuring them with clouds of inky explosions.

Brendol orchestrated one of their rare, natural meetings when she went out to empty the composting pot and he had spent two hours prowling around the back door waiting for her go outside.
Miss Magdalin stopped when she saw him, but was nice enough to hide her surprise. “Sir,” she nodded to him.

He had contrived the perfect excuse to approach her. “Miss Magdalin,” he said. “I shot a duck.” Brendol held the carcass out for her. It dangled lifeless between them, glassy eyed with blood stained along its white feathers.

She stared at the offering. “Thank you sir,” she finally answered, “at least it's not a cat.” She closed her mouth and bit her lip. “I should say, cook will appreciate it. I just have to,” she lifted the pot not reaching for the bird. “It’s very heavy,” she told him.

He stood duck outstretched.

Lily moved the pot to her other side.

“It’s very heavy to carry… oh, never mind.”

Brendol lowered his arm and stepped next to her. They walked together to the compost. The gardener, bending out of sight behind the herbaceous border, watched curiously. They could see him, they weren’t blind. Miss Magdalin held her head high and walked quickly ignoring the stares.

After she hefted the pot over the compost and tapped out the scraps he placed the dead duck inside for her to carry, she thanked him again, somewhat too sarcastically for his liking. On the way back to the house she went a little out of the way and they stopped next the house pond. The white lilies in the muddy water were like stormtroopers gloves abandoned in a swamp. Floating on the calm surface. Instead of just gloves Brendol imagined armored bodies under water just their hands floating to the surface.

“I wanted to show you I haven't taken any more flowers, even though they are beautiful, she looked at him sideways,” her arms hugging the pot with the dead duck in it.

“I should hope not,” he answered seriously. “I would have to fire at you for poaching.” He moved his jacket and revealed his blaster holstered at his hip.

They turned awkwardly back to the view of the pond and the lilies and the wispy rain. It would be almost pretty if he was simple minded enough to be impressed by a landscape. Which he wasn’t. Brendol looked at his boots, they had suck slightly in the bog of the of the pond’s shoreline. For one of the few times in his life he felt on the lower ground of a battle. Without Miss Magdalin’s usual surroundings he missed her unspoken cues.

He knew he should tell her she was to leave the grounds immediately. She could even take the duck, a generous severance. He should make her go and never come back. But the words twisted to another line of thought. He could smell water and flowers and damp earth, the scent of a long lost summer time of youth, and instead of telling Miss Magdalin to go his mouth started uttering a completely different conversation entirely.

“I’ve been thinking about your presentation Miss Magdalin. That is your personal presentation. You will wear a dress tomorrow. I believe female staff should wear skirts. My father will be bringing guests soon and I don't want second rate attire.”

The girl sighed. “Brendol, what am I going to do to you?” Lily coughed. “I mean to say, what am I going to do ‘about’ you?” She corrected, and pushed some fly away strands of hair back behind her ear. She was a mess, as always, at the moment becoming a wet mess in the rain while holding a dead duck. The gesture was a clear signal though. Every time she touched her hair it meant ‘I'll do whatever you say’. Good. She understood. That was that.

Although, he felt uneasily he’d lost a battle.

“And I feel like pancakes,” he added petulantly as one last parting shot.

Brendol walked off and left her standing in the mud by the pond.

Chapter Text

“You didn’t wear a dress,” Brendol said peevishly. “I thought I was clear.”

Miss Magdalin froze in the doorway to the kitchen, her hands frozen in place around where they had started to unbutton her long jacket.

“Brendol, how long have you been standing in the dark?”

He didn’t answer.

She smacked her bag onto the counter a little too roughly. As if finding her employer in the kitchen when she arrived at work at 5am in the morning was some sort of crime. Well, it was his kitchen. In a way.

“Lights on!” She ordered and the room lit up. He squinted at her pale, freckled face in the sudden light.

“I was making some caff,” he lied, then realized he didn’t know how to use the kitchen’s elaborate looking maker. She would see through that excuse in an instant if she expected him to carry out his mission. “Make me one will you?” He added careful to be flippant in the execution. Miss Magdalin would not be the one to give orders. That was his job.

She took a cup out of the cupboard and shoved it in the machine. Then she held up a pointed index finger before pressing a single, oversized green button. The machine hummed as it heated the water.

“You’re dressed,” she told him as she hung up her jacket then unwound a long green scarf. “You get dressed up to make caff before daybreak?”

“You’re not ‘dressed’,” he answered.

A sigh escaped her lips. “I have ‘a’ dress in my bag, but it’s not something to wear while I work. It might get caught in the doors or the oven, and I really don’t want to get it dirty,” she pushed her bag towards him, intending for him to catch it, but it slid along the bench to fall on the floor. He looked at the bag lying at his feet; he didn’t know what was in the bag. It could be anything. She could have put a snake in there.

A curl of black-spotted grey fabric unfurled from the now open bag.

“Put it on,” he spoke to her back and her tightly coiled hair; she was busy pulling bowls and trays out of cupboards and shelves. He watched as she turned on the oven range to pre-heat and added milk to his freshly brewed caff. Brendol sipped it and scowled. He hated caff. It tasted like dirt.

The stupid girl worked and ignored her bag on the ground while pretending Brendol didn’t exist. With no intention of retreat he watched her intently, as if he were watching on his screen, and she moved automatically, determined not to be concerned by the surprise attack in her own base.

A cat slunk in, did a comical double take at the sight of the man who had killed so many of its kin, and then hid behind the dishwasher.

Miss Magdalin moved towards where her apron hung arm outstretched, but Brendol was faster, he stretched out and held her hand as it curled around the straps. With his other hand he took a calm sip of caff and choked it down without showing a single spark of distaste. “Dress,” he repeated and the ss’s hissed icily, in just the right tone he liked to use to intimidate, like she was another prisoner of war, another being to use up for the Imperial Forces.

The freak slid her hand from under his and she turned to face him, unreadable and unresponsive. She took the cup of caff from his hand and placed it carefully on a nearby stool. Brendol realized they were almost alone in the house. Small hands grasped his jacket collar and he felt the pressure of the fabric being twitched down. Her freckled face was close, he could see the curls of her short, wispy hairs against her ears. Closer and closer she tugged him until he had to stoop under the slow pressure.

Her lips parted. “Pick it up for me Sir, my dress,” she ordered and released him so he bobbed under the sudden freedom.

Fine. Fine, fine, fine. He could pick up a dress. Not because she told him to, because it would be worse for her once she put it on.

“Now turn around,” she made a twirling motion with her finger. “And close your eyes too.”

Realising that if she changed clothes where she was standing he would get clear vision on his camera Brendol spun and glanced up at the nano-droid’s location. He smiled, a tight lipped smirk, at where he judged the lens would be and tried to work out if he would be blocking his own view later. If she thought he was going to close his eyes though, she was wrong. What did he look like? Some idiot who closes his eyes while the enemy is behind them?

“How did you like the cake last night?” Miss Magdalin asked. “Not too spicy?”

“Fine.”

There was an awkward silence as he strained to listen to her undressing.

“People who want to fuck other people have to talk. At least a little,” she announced from the safety of his rear.

His skin felt hot. He did not want to ‘fuck’ her. Who would even want to touch her freckled, ugly frame? Not him. Brendol clenched his fists and folded his arms. The next words that would come out of his mouth were going to be ones that announced her fired. Then she would see how ‘fucked’ she was.

“Where did you work previously?” He grit out.

“On a passenger yacht, as a chef. You can turn around now.”

He turned and she spun. The dress’s skirt was full and had a ruffled white slip that peeped as she moved. The top was more fitted, with short sleeves. It was a very slight improvement on her uniform. At least she looked more like a female.

“What do you think?” She asked.

He moved closer. “Spots on spots, not a very flattering choice of pattern.”

The insult slid off her back like water on a duck. Really she had no sense of shame. “Well, we got a fair amount of time to chase the summer on ship. There are islands out there, near the equator, where when the sun comes out and when I say it comes out, it really comes out. Not like here. White sand, blue water and heat. You've never seen anything so perfect in all your life.”

She turned and pulled two trays of already blind baked pastry shells out of a cupboard.

Time to strike.

He moved to rest his hands on her shoulders, thumbs touching the exposed skin on her neck. From behind he could close his eyes and inhale her hair, unseen. He could imagine the warmth of tiny islands; he'd been to tropical planets before and deserts of course, beaches and planets that had more than fifteen minutes of sunlight every two days. The way her voice talked about the memory made him picture the sand and the cloudless skies from pink to glowing blue.

She put the trays down and twisted her hands in her dress, fingers interlocking on each side of the fabric. “My arms and face got the most sun, I'd duck out on my breaks and just soak it up, didn’t think too much about my complexion I’m afraid, my legs were covered more often, they are much less freckly. I can't take a ray of light without getting an extra spot.”

“Prove it.”

“Prove it? You want me to show you my legs?” Miss Magdalin asked sounding confused.

Maybe he had gone too far? “It is entirely optional,” he added lightly.

“So you say.”

Lily raised a timid hand to her waist and undid a thin belt on her dress, letting it hang off her hips. She bent slightly to grasp the hem of her skirt and he felt her buttocks press against his erection. They both straightened, and she turned red cheeked.

“You'll have to look for yourself actually,” she told him. “Kneel, here,” she pointed to her feet.

He moved a little jerkily, he still had the stiff back of a military man. He sunk onto the cold floor, knelt in front of her and pushed up her layered skirts, the crisp, white fabric of her slip bunched between his fists.

Long legs were spotted with the same freckles of her arms only less so and lighter. The girl held her knees tightly together, muscles tensed.

“I see,” he said. “They are indeed not as bad.”

She looked down at his crouched form. Slowly, like he was one of the timid cats, new and skittish, Lily reached out and ran a thumb along the shell of his ear and down to his lobe. It traveled from lobe to cheek, from cheek to jaw and finally to his chin then she removed her touch and returned to her sides her hands resting close to his fists.

“I think,” he said, still between her legs, his breath on her skin, “I need to inspect for further anomalies.” He pushed her dress up higher, but she turned away, the hem of her skirt brushing along his head. Small hands gripped the bench.

“I must put the bread in and finish my tarts for morning tea or we won’t have enough food.”

“Then I will wait,” he answered and moved to the side of the stove. The angry cat hissed at him from the small gap it had wedged itself in and he nudged it with his boot so it yowled and slunk towards the door begging to leave.

“Really Brendol, leave the poor things alone,” Lily told him as she straightened her apron over her neck.

He ignored her and instead studied a smeared, sticky label on a jam tin.

“I see the reason for the dress now,” she said to the tarts. “You didn’t need to pretend to be interested in my previous job.” Jam was spooned liberally, keeping her hands busy. “I know you are engaged Sir. Don't you think your fiancé will be upset that you are personally inspecting my, ah, visual history?” An eyebrow raised suggestively.

“She won't find out.”

“Don't you love her?”

“No. She is just a means to an end, if I marry her I will get a teaching position at Arkanis Academy. Maratelle is of course beautiful and talented and has excellent breeding, excellent connections. Everything an officer, or even an instructor, needs, but love?” He made a noise of derision, an acidic scornful sound spat into the air. “It isn't within my means. I assure you my girl; love does not fit into my life's work.”

Freckled hands draped thin strips of pastry over the cherry jelly of the tarts. “I think you will be poorer for your attitude, but I understand.” Miss Magdalin straightened a stray tart that had wandered out of alignment. “Love is not necessary for my own survival either, I'd rather be free. Is that how you feel?”

He didn’t answer, but she continued anyway. “I’m fine with this,” she faced him and waved a dirty hand towards him. “It’s my choice, but you can’t be a cock about it.”

“A…?”

“Don’t be a cock Brendol. Let’s just have a little fun. Women don’t like this sort of thing to made out to be a trial. Just a hint for when you’re with your terribly well connected future wife.”

“Then you want me to lie?”

She put the last tray of tarts on a shelf in the cooler and closed the door firmly and turned to him, arms folded. “You won't need to lie. I’ve dealt with sailors before, even hot shot, naval academy born and bred.” Lily moved over to him, took the jam tin out of his hands and stood on tip-toe. She pressed her lips close to his ear, so her warm breath fluttered across his side burns, and said in a low voice. “I know how to ride, do you?”

Blinking slowly Brendol felt uncomfortably ill equipped to answer. He hadn't surveyed his previous partners and, looking back, they had all been one offs. Did that mean something in itself? He’d always been focused on his career, and the few times he had felt less than comfortable being alone he was usually neck deep in a campaign surrounded by idiots. Still, he was much older than her, surely that accounted for experience. Unless… Sailors had a certain reputation. The thought of her experience made him feel warm, that he could be ‘having’ something many other people had already used. Miss Magdalin had already used, and filled, and emptied into; she had been made even more wrong.

“You jump ahead too far my girl; I am proposing an inspection only. You may disappoint me.”

She narrowed her eyes and Brendol pretended to not care about being cornered by a servant girl in a kitchen.

She touched his ear again but this time with her lips. He felt the slightest brush of skin on skin. “You will do more than inspect, I insist. Now what did I say about being a cock?” Her lewd innuendo was coupled with a hand placed on his growing erection.

His stomach fluttered. Probably the caff messing up with digestive system.

“How long will you take Sir?” She asked as she ran two fingers up and down his length. The digits separated at the tip to draw down again until they closed at the base. Over and over she fingered the outline of his dick.

He checked his comm and placed his hands behind his back. “There is one hour and twenty minutes till breakfast service.”

Miss Magdalin left a scribbled note for the cook to say she had been sent on an errand and put the gardener’s oats on to soak.

In the relative safety his room the red haired baker girl trailed along his bookshelves looking at the spines of documents nobody ever read. Brendol had no less than eight guns and rifles on display, or in the process of being rebuilt, spotted about the room. She could shoot him with three of the working ones because he always kept them charged. He hoped he wouldn’t have to shoot her.

“I'll thank you not to touch anything,” he ordered as her hand reached towards the stock of his largest work, a particularly impressive shoulder canon painted in snow camouflage.

The freckled hand hovered and teasingly it almost brushed the casing. “Nothing?” Miss Magdalin asked coyly.

“Not without permission.” He snapped his fingers and waved to the floor in front of him. “Stand here.”

She stood where he indicated. Her dress belt still hung undone.

“Take off your dress.”

“I wish you’d make up your mind,” she quipped and undid the side zipper then turned. Brendol realised she wanted him to do the back, he relaxed his fists and slid the second zipper down and she stepped out of her dress to hang it neatly on a chair back.

A brief, internal pep-talk made him tilt his chin up and strengthen his firm resolve. She was no more than a delinquent. This was his room, his house and his rules. Brendol studied Miss Magdalin like another one of his broken blasters. She was wearing a plain white singlet and dark green underwear. She must have been cold without anything to cover her legs even in the warm kitchen.

“Have you no stocking?” He asked without emotion.

“At the moment this is the only dress I own sir, and I wear it very infrequently. It was given to me for a friend’s wedding. I was bridesmaid.”

He circled her twice, stepping around her body as if she was a prize nerf in a sales lot. Skin was paler where she had received less sun. Her chest was freckled, particularly the points where her bones jutted and her shoulders. Miss Magdalin held her arms slightly out for him to see each side. Her wrists were normal, white, the same with the inside of her elbows, but the outside was rough. She could moisturize a little more. Her body looked boyish, small breasts, all straight up and down, but not totally unflattering. A generous soul, would describe her as ‘willowy’.

“Sit,” he told her.

Lily perched silently on the edge of his bed and he returned to kneeling in front of her legs. This time, Brendol used his hands to keep her knees parted and he noticed the pale red curls of pubic hair peeking from the edges of her underwear. Filthy, unkempt, freak, can’t even grasp the basics of feminine hygiene. Brendol leant forward and let her straying pubic hair brush against his forehead while her hands ran through his hair, fingers gently clawing his face closer so his breath heated her skin.

He pulled off her shoes and ran his palms up her legs, feeling for any deformities. She had well-formed calves and her thighs were everything a man could want. Pity they still suffered from a spattering of pale brown freckles.

Would her stomach be the same? His fingers touched on the hem of her singlet and he pushed up. Her stomach was smooth enough, the skin looked soft, her shallow belly button rose and fell as she breathed. Good enough. He pushed further and closed his eyes wanting to make the next reveal more dramatic. He peeked through lashes to look lingeringly at pale breasts, her peaks topped with pert looking pink nipples, standing hard in the cool air.

Lily watched his face, but he would not give her the pleasure of revealing his reaction. Instead he hoisted her singlet over her head and asked her to undo her hair and lie down.

She calmly undid her braids and let her hair fall loose around her shoulders. Then lay back with a soft sigh and he arranged her arms above her head. Brendol pressed her hands firmly into the mattress as if to demonstrate that he wanted no movement. While leaning over her face Brendol saw she opened her lips as if expecting a kiss, her eyes closed in expectation. A disgusting display of softness which was left unrewarded. A soldier doesn’t kiss his weapons. They are just tools for survival.

He took off his jacket and rolled up his shirt sleeves as she waited, her eyes opened to stare at the ceiling. Then Brendol returned to kneeling. His hand pulled her underwear, scooping the green fabric down her hips, then down to her knees, ankles then tucked under the bed, out of sight.

Miss Magdalin made a noise at being made so completely at his mercy. A louder sigh. His eyes darted to where she lay, he felt annoyed at the sound. This was his moment, not hers.

He pushed up her legs roughly so her feet rested on the edge of the bed, her pussy displayed lewdly. He noted her inner lips poked out longer than her outer. Strange. Different. Not neat and hidden like girls with their perfectly waxed and proportioned cunts in porn holovids. He pushed her legs wider. She could not be made any more open, his hands stroked her thighs so his thumbs moved to brush the curled hair. It was all so red like her hair, maybe more so. He combed through while holding her wide. Five freckles in her pubic region. Did that mean she'd had sex outside? Under the sun, on some cloudless ocean, with one of her no doubt many lovers? Fucking some dirty sailor. He pressed each spot with a thumb testing to see what she looked like without them, until at one point it slid across her pink hood. He stroked along the large pink lips, both hands, both sides, pushing them back behind the outer lips.

Her body reacted, legs stiffening, and her mouth formed the sighing sound again. She thought he was trying to please her no doubt. Maybe he would have to gag her?

“Sit up,” he told her and she did slowly, her hair looking ruffled, her cheeks pink.

“Undress me,” he told her.

“Then I may touch sir?”

“You may.”

She undid his belt and his pants, he noted she didn't fumble much, she was experienced indeed. She pulled off his shirt and ran her hands over his chest up to his neck.

Continue, he reminded her as she leant her cheek towards his face and she pulled down his pants and underwear in one movement. He felt the cold air on his erect dick, and he put his hand up to cover himself and she smiled at his coyness. Dropping his hand he pulled himself up. She was the one who should be shy, not him.

Turn and kneel on the bed, don't you dare look at me, he ordered and her eyes flickered towards rebellion, but she looked away as he hung his clothes. When he came back to her he noticed she had one arm positioned between her thighs. Even with her back to him he could see what she was doing. She was touching herself, rubbing tight circles around her flushed clit. He stroked his erection. He felt hard, hard, hard. So different to before he came home, because he couldn't be bothered before, all the pills, and the missions, and getting older, the lack of sleep, it had left him too tired to masturbate with any true feeling.

But now.

But now, this was to teach her a lesson.

He opened the drawer next to his bed and to her credit she didn’t turn around. He joined her on the bed and applied the paddle brush he had ordered to her hair. It was every bit as erotic as he had imagined. He pressed his erections against her back sliding it along her skin with one hand as he brushed slowly with the other. He could look down and watch her finger herself, her pale blue eyes closed and a look of peaceful concentration on her face.

He tugged himself against her harder. The swollen head of his dick thrusting between his hand and her pale skin. After her hair was made neat he rested the brush, bristles against skin. She tilted her face up exposing her neck, her spotted cheek. No, he was not going to kiss her, as much as she wanted. A feeling of control almost made him want to finish this way. Masturbating into her back while denying her wishes. Instead of kissing he briefly rested his cheek against hers; abandoning the brush he pushed her fingers away and set about replacing them with his own. She was wet, her hips pushed back against him as he touched. He cupped a breast as he slid a finger inside. She felt warm, ridged and open as he swept in a circle and she murmured his name. Tilting head back again. How many other names had she said? She had admitted she liked sailors.

“Four?” He asked.

“Sir?”

“Six? Twelve? How many men have you slept with?”

Her voice became breathless. “How many would you like?”

“Lots,” he replied. “You like it. You’re a slut.”

“Twelve then,” Lily agreed, then she pushed his hand further inside of her and wriggled. “Two at once sometimes.”

“Two? At once?” His lips started kissing without really meaning to. It was an animalistic response, he told himself. Her fault, her mistake and not his weakness. Instead of the chaste kisses he had spread thinly with past hook ups, he widened his mouth and she responded wanting her lips pressing firm, sucking his skin, her tongue prodding.

“Two,” he repeated and pulled her hips up. “How does that work?”

“Wonderfully,” she gasped.

He entered from behind and felt the tightness yield around his hardness. He watched his dick disappear, plunging lewdly inside her cunt. He fucked slowly, enjoying the mesmerizing display and the feeling of controlled ecstasy, but his partner was less patient. Lily pushed back and took control. It was so succinctly taken; he only had time to submit, even from his position of power. She would not kneel like a timid schoolgirl, quaking at the thought of deep dicking. Instead she pushed back, pressing her ass to meet his thrust and again and again, breathing hard and tossing her hair, trying to move it clear of her eyes. He heard his name and held on to her soft breasts as she guided him. It didn't take long, he was coiled, already half gone, ready to fire. The idea of two men, two cocks. The logistics.
He emptied. Peaking with fast thrusts, shooting his cum inside her wet hole. His mouth quickly pressed against her shoulder. Inhaling her tangled hair, letting its kinked strands choke him. She smelt like soap and yeast and sweetness.

He placed a hand under her stomach and tried to bury himself deeper and hold his twitching dick inside his freakish fuck toy.

She grabbed his hand and moved it to her clit, rubbed it against herself. Kept moving, moving, but he had finished. She would not use him, would not, but she was, she was strong and firm and on the edge. He felt her slick folds fluttering under his hand and muscles constricting around his dick. She repeated his name and then a deep growl she peaked. Hot milking sheath tightened.

After he'd fucked her he became lost. What next? What do normal people do next? Brendol felt used, but a good used, with just the smallest shadow of guilt. For what he didn’t know. He lay down stiffly, unsure if he had made a tactical error or just won a victory.

Lying red and sheened. The ruddiness of orgasm painted across her body Miss Magdalin stretched, digging her toes into his bedspread. “Good?” She asked turning.
“Accept... excellent,” he replied. “Very,” he added feeling generous.

She pulled him towards her and he twisted his face away, but she fought him. Her kisses spread across his face and he reluctantly allowed it. He didn't need it, he didn't think it added anything to the experience but he allowed it. Perhaps somewhere inside it felt satisfying, to feel wanted.

Still, he didn't want the experience to end. Not because he wanted to be with her. She was hideous and no amount of afterglow could blot out her flaws. Miss Magdalin liked sex. She liked to fuck men. He was a man. That was all it was. He could push down any guilt, after all he’d done much worse than mess around with the servants, hadn’t he?

He grasped the brush from the rumpled blanket and combed through her hair. Even as she turned to kiss his shoulders and touch his chest he removed her hands, then straightened her head and slowly pulled the bristles through red hair. Once she had calmed and sat naked and submissive, with his cum leaking all over his blankets, he ordered her to braid it again which Lily did while he watched. A curious smile played over her lips. Next time he would do it. Side to side, out then in, out then in, but now he was ready for her to leave.

“It's nearly breakfast,” he reminded Miss Magdalin as she turned to embrace him. Her empty hands fell to her side.

She stood and put on her singlet as he watched. “My underwear?” She asked looking through clothing.

He looked back without comment.

“Fine, I will catch pneumonia, and you pretend to care I have no stockings.” Then she picked up his black pair briefs off the chair and put them on. Looking at him as if daring him to object. They were large and shaped wrong, and the elastic kept them barely in place. He exhaled a sigh of contempt, but otherwise stayed quiet. She slipped on her dress and he zipped up the back, buckled the thin belt and the baker girl slipped on her shoes looking as if nothing had happened.

“You will wear a dress again tomorrow,” he told her.

“Sir, I can't. I remind you I only have one.”

“My girl, just buy another.”

“You know, I explained dresses are not suitable for kitchens. I can wear it same time next week. Also, I have not got...” She trailed off.

“What?”

“Nothing. I mean, I don’t have time to shop. You know what time I get here.” She looked at herself in the reflection of a polished chrome blaster, tucking away a stray hair. “Anyway, your Maratelle is arriving tomorrow and we are all too busy to scratch ourselves. How many are coming again?”

“Twelve,” he answered. “Senator Hux will also be home, and he is bringing the whole fucking circus with him. Do the seed rolls, the small seeds, but not the black ones, you know the ones I prefer. And you will wear a dress.”

“Seed rolls, for twelve. My lucky number apparently,” she replied flippantly.

“Wouldn't it be thirteen now?”

“Unlucky for some, so they say.” She nodded to him still naked reclining in bed next to a hairbrush. “Apparently I need to get started on breakfast,” Miss Magdalin explained. “And those rolls won’t bake themselves. Thank you for the light entertainment Sir.” She exited with an airily blown kiss before Brendol could protest.

Chapter Text

Brendol’s father, Senator Hux, was an easy man to please. He was perfectly amiable old boy, liked by his staff, well regarded in the local area as well as a trusted advisor within Empress’s regency world offices. However, his only child could count on two hands the amount of times he'd seen him for more than a week at a time in his entire life. The Senator was like a distant, elderly housemate who swept in and disrupted everything only to exit suddenly, leaving Brendol feeling stranded.

His mother had divorced his father early on and disappeared into the upper-class spin of galaxy social life long, long ago. She was now just a hint of a memory, more an uneasy remembrance of an all too shallow loss. Brendol’s mother had been invited for the wedding and week-long party months ago, but had sent a message of almost believable regret that she was too far away to arrive in time. His mother was nothing, less than nothing now, his father though… well, Brendol respected his father. Everybody did. And, if Senator Hux forgot to call or send a message or contact his only son, even when Brendol was stuck in the med bay of an Imperial hospital ship for a supposed attempted suicide, then it was because he was busy in the capital doing whatever it was he did, which was important.

He may have respected his father, and felt nothing towards his mother, but Brendol didn’t have the same feeling of muted emotions towards his future wife Maratelle. When Brendol thought of his bride-to-be he mentally slumped. It was, at times, easy to build a castle in the sky where Maratelle was safely shunted to another location after the wedding and he could live and teach at the Arkanis Academy alone, but, when he occasionally faced up to the truth, he knew the reality would be more complicated.

Maratelle Rax was a tall, Arkanis born, but not raised woman with a golden glow of tanned skin. Her honeyed texture set off her white teeth; her smile was quick, and it gleamed as sincere as a shop assistant who sells on commission. Unfortunately for the socialite, she was on (as she thought) the wrong side of 40 and it rankled with her that she was no longer the pretty cornerstone of the universe’s popular clicks. Instead of playing the part of the often chased and unreachable daughter of a pair of high ranking diplomats; an older, yet no wiser, Maratelle was now ready to be caught, but had found no man or woman left who wanted the prize.

So, it had fallen on her aging parents to source a suitable match. If Maratelle knew her high ranking officer fiancée’s bribe was a position at Arkanis Academy; or if she knew her husband to be was technically not currently an officer at all, was unknown. Brendol was wealthy and looked fine, if a bit stout and eternally gloomy. They wouldn’t need to stay on Arkanis she had assured herself. He would get tired of teaching after she introduced him to other, more interesting people and places. She would be back on Canto Bight before she knew it, and maybe even with a sweet baby to show off. The baby would have the best nanny droid, she would have the money and Brendol would have her; which was more than he deserved in her mind.

If there was any justice at all in the galaxy Maratelle should have married the dashing actor who played Roger Starr in the last blockbuster holo, but instead she got a greying wet blanket and school dinners.

On seeing him for the first time since their awkward engagement dinner almost four months ago Maratelle rushed forward to wrap her tanned arms around her fiancée. “B, so good to see you, I’ve missed you,” She drew back as he stood stiff and unresponsive, eyeing the crowd of beings behind her. The whole wedding party had turned up together to spend a week in the ‘countryside’. They were a crowd of people he didn’t really know, but who no doubt needed to be impressed so his father could build a new market or get another commercial fishing license.

The Senator approached next to shake his son’s hand in a strong grip. Brendol always thought of his father’s handshakes with displeasure. They always involved two hands and an overly lingering clasp. Like his father was instantly signaling he was in charge, yet was showing how much ‘fondness’ he felt for the handshake recipient. Brendol had to fight the urge to wipe his hand on the side of his jacket afterwards.

His father warmly welcomed the party of guests, as well as their accompanying human and droid staff, urging them to make themselves at home.

“You must have been so lonely without anyone here,” Maratelle told him, as he physically as well as mentally tried to melt into a dark corner. He answered curtly in a half-hearted affirmative, but wished himself on the other side of the continent.

The only person in the crowd Brendol clearly recognized was Jeffrey, his father’s newest secretary, who smirked smugly front and center within the well-dressed crowd. The younger man was always rubbing Brendol the wrong way. Jeffrey was all tailored suit vests, bright coloured capes and sending cagey messages on behalf of Senator Hux. Would it be too much to ask to not have his father’s minions at his own wedding?

Maratelle plucked at her fiancé’s arm which brought his attention firmly back to herself.

“Won’t you show me to my room Brendol dear, we can get settled and have a good catch up? I haven’t seen you since,” Maratelle wrinkled her nose, “well, since that restaurant that’s at the end of the universe. You know the one that had that garish show? It was our engagement; I can’t believe it’s been so long, but it’s been such a busy time.” She hooked her hand around his bicep and he noticed her musky perfume felt overwhelming. He felt like a cat in a trap.

A rose gold tinted droid, one with ridiculous red accent lights recessed in its cheeks trotted up and peered blankly at the couple. Brendol realized there was no retreat from his fate. Everything had been so pleasant the day before, spending the early morning with Miss Magdalin and then the rest of the day had been used reviewing her kitchen strip show. Further evidence of the girl’s strange ways. The way she had interpreted his uniform suggestions into the idea that he had actually wanted to have sex with her. That was all they had been after all. Suggestions. He rolled the explosive charge in his pocket between his palm and fingers.

Now, with all these idiots in the house, it was so starkly different. Stifling.

“Which room is mine B dear? Do show me lovely.”

The droid pushed Maratelle’s many hovering bags as he led her upstairs.

To add to his simmering discomfort Miss Magdalin, in her uniform (but not in a dress) and apron, was at the top holding a datapad. If Brendol thought she would be jealous of his painted bird he was being proved wrong, as his lover seemed steadfastly uninterested in the duo. Lily consulted her pad calmly. “Miss Maratelle Rax is with Mrs Rax in the large room facing the rear of the house,” she informed them.

“With Mother?” Maratelle frowned. “I don’t share a room; I get my own room, don’t I B?” She turned to Brendol looking as if she had been told she was to be made to sleep in a tent. “I mean to say this is unacceptable, I simply can’t share. My wedding, and really the week leading to my wedding, should be perfectly perfect, tell her,” she waved silver painted nails at Miss Magdalin, “to put Mother somewhere else.”

Brendol looked at Lily with a slight edge of pleading in his eyes.

“Unfortunately we don’t have enough room as it is for all the guests, we’ve already converted the library and study to bedrooms,” she explained.

“Well, make them move!” Maratelle replied petulantly, her pale eyes narrowed. “James, Merry, can you believe this girl had me down to share with mother?” She addressed a couple behind them, who laughed a little forcibly while waiting for their turn to be pointed to a room.

“You are in the end room to the right,” Lily told James and Merry who moved on without comment, and obviously not wanting to get any more involved. Miss Magdalin looked up at Brendol. “Can I speak to you in private Sir? Perhaps you could suggest a solution?”

“Oh, you can say anything you want to say in front of me,” Maratelle intercepted.

Lily bit her cheek and one of her amber eyebrows raised ever so slightly.

Brendol cleared his throat. “Maratelle, please excuse me; I must correct this girl.”

Miss Magdalin passed the datapad to Maratelle, who held it extended away from her body like it was a dirty sock, and Lilly followed her master into the offending shared room.

“What are you going to…” He was cut off by Lily’s lips on his own as she fiercely pulled his face down by to meet her own. His slightly stubbled cheek pressed against her chin and his chest ached from the sudden capture. Brendol felt her eyelashes flutter she crushed herself so hard against him.

“Let’s fuck on her bed.”

He put his hands behind his back in protest, why was the girl always so strange? Here he wanted a solution, not a display of lust. Besides, he eyed the perfectly smooth, glossy looking bed covering. It would be obvious wouldn’t it? He couldn’t perform like a banther on heat. His frown deepened. “I thought you would be the sensible one in this shitstorm of a circus. You forget yourself my girl.”

“Oh please, dear Maker save me,” Lily sighed and let go of his bent head with a shake. “There really are no spare rooms, unless you want her to share yours? I haven’t had time to change the sheets though.”

The thought of Maratelle in his bedroom was unpalatable. Never mind that in a week’s time it would be the new normal, that after the wedding there would be no other alternatives. He felt angry, trapped. “NO! That is definitely not an option,” he snapped, then, “Not yet,” he added in a quieter voice

Lily tapped her cheek in thought, and her eyes looked sympathetic. They softened when she looked at him, like when she was giving bread to the little neighbor children who gathered at the kitchen door.
Brendol walked around the room; it was located next to his father’s and a perfectly fine room, big enough for four women to share.

“Well, I have another idea, but I don’t think you’ll like it,” Lily finally said. “Then again you might.”

He scowled and signaled for her to continue.

“She’ll have to have your room, there’s no getting out of that if our fine lady insists she can’t share.” Before Brendol could protest more she rushed forward, speaking firmly. “In return for giving up the only suitable sleeping space in the house you, Sir, will have to bunk in the basement room. The one that’s like a little dungeon next to the garage.”

“I will never, ever, ever allow that. My bedroom is the one place I can escape all this,” he motioned around him at the ridiculous luxury. “I need to be alone.”

“Really Sir? You’re going to be the same as ‘her’?” Lily folded her arms, her soft eyes grew flinty.

His voice grew louder. “It’s not going to happen! You don’t seem to get it through your tiny, little brain.”

“What if I told you, I’m also staying in that room for the next two weeks?”

Brendol inhaled. “You’re staying in my room with Maratelle?”

“No Sir, although,” Lily smiled and straightened her apron, “never mind, we can play that game another time. I meant; I am staying in the dungeon so I can be at everyone’s beck and call while the wedd… the party week is on. We could be roomies.”

He straightened his shoulders and stared at the wall behind her. She was such a freak. Why would he want to stay with an employee? He considered the situation as he peered over her shoulder. Miss Magdalin called the room a dungeon. Just what he had thought when he had wanted to ‘discipline’ her; maybe she wanted him to treat her like a prisoner? This way he could finally get the truth and break her of all her sneaky, pert ways.

And fuck her again.

He’d seen the look she had given the couple wanting to be shown their room. If he didn’t do her, someone else would.

“I’m hungry,” he finally conceded.

Lily stepped forward and ran her palms along his arms below where his rolled sleeves sat. It just the slightest touch brushing his dark hairs and leaving his skin wanting. “If you bunk with me, I’ll make you the gateau with the pink berries. The complicated one, with the honey infused cream. I’ll make it right now.”

He thought of the cake fondly. Brendol took the idea that he could fire Miss Magdalin anytime if she was on hand and turned it over in his mind. “When we leave this room look like I really got angry,” he ordered and marched towards the door.

On the landing Brendol stared deadpan at his fiancée as Miss Magdalin demurely slipped our behind him sniffing far too much and hiding her face behind her hands. “You can stay in my room Maratelle, I’ll find elsewhere,” he informed her. “Our attendant will make it ready as soon as she finishes assigning the rest of our guests.”

“Oh B, I knew you could find a solution!”

***
The room that was now called a dungeon had been fitted out with two camp beds. Brendol had liked that. He was used to sleeping on similar narrow platforms when assigned to planetside campaigns and beds on ship were smaller still. It was the only thing about the room he did like so far. That it reminded him he was a soldier.

Although, being a soldier wasn't helping him in this situation, because the lack of a second exit made him anxious – although he would never admit it. There was only long, high windows and heavy cement all around. He hovered in the doorway. His chest was hurting. How come he had to have a heart attack when he needed to stand in a small space? It never happened on ship. There were always giant open areas and platforms without railings overlooking easy to fall into, gaping chasms of circuitry, a much better set up.

From the door way Brendol could see the open area that led to the garage and with the garage door open he could see outside if he stood at just the right angle. There was a clear passage he assured himself, and left the room's door locked into the open position.

He sat on one of the low beds with his knees drawn up, feeling like he was an oversized academy schoolboy being left alone in his dorm the first time. It was his bed, because Lily had made only one bed up and so it must be his. He looked at the pillow, it had a picture of a cartoonish diploplod wearing a tiara on it. Next to the bed was Miss Magdalin’s bag. To relax himself Brendol opened it and pulled out the contents. Her one grey and spots dress was already hanging on a frame in the corner, but in her bag were shirts and singlets, well-worn socks and pants and underwear. He inspected the silky underwear for bugs, holding their soft material close to his face. It would be just like her to bring filthy disease into the house.

They were thankfully clean.

Brendol still felt claustrophobic, he used her hairbrush to push open all of the three long windows. At the last window he accidentally dropped the brush into the bushes outside. She could pick it up later. Anyway, he had his own brush he’d bought for her to use. He went to the box of mostly guns he’d put together for his ‘dungeon mission’ and got it out. This brush was far superior to the one he’d just lost; it had soft bristles and a smooth rubber grip instead of a row of hairbands over a chipped wooden handle. He put it on her empty bed and felt good about the gesture. She was welcome to borrow it - as long as he did the brushing.

With the windows and door open Brendol’s hands steadied enough to take one of his pills and wash it down with some cheap, nasty tasting gin he’d also found in Lily’s bag. The change in his brain seeped through his clenched chest and smoothed the strangling tightness. He was fine he told himself. In fact if he stayed here, maybe he didn’t need his pills – it was coincidence that he had gotten used to the small space after he’d taken them. If he could stay here he could be cured even. Because, he would prove that he didn’t need two exits to every room to feel normal. The explosive in his pocket felt warm in his curled hand as his fingers traced the seam on the detonator.

Jeffrey walked past holding a box and whistling. The whistling stopped after he passed the door frame to the dungeon and he stepped back into view.

“Are you looking for something Sir?” Jeffrey asked him in a falsely light voice.

Brendol hadn’t bothered to repack Miss Magdalin’s bag so was standing in a puddle of women’s clothing while holding a bottle of gin.

“Everything is acceptable,” he replied. “I’m staying here.”

“But this is where Lily, um, Miss Magdalin, is staying,”

“Yes.”

Jeffrey thought about his next words very carefully.

“And, you are staying Sir?”

“Yes.”

“And, I need not tell anyone else?”

“Jeffrey, you aren’t as stupid as you look.”

The servant shuffled the box to his side, his young face flickered annoyance at the insult, but that was all, just a slight irritation. Jeffery didn’t stoop so low as to show emotion, he was far too well trained.

“Well, to let you know, I’m just next door… Sir. Due to the current over stuffing of the house I get to sleep in the garage’s back room, if you can call it a room,” he looked over his shoulder. “So, I’ll be keeping the access doors closed most of the time; so I don’t get cold.”

Brendol tried to look like this didn’t bother him and he didn’t feel a fresh stab of panic thinking about his reducing escape strategies.

Jeffrey smiled thinly. “And if anyone asks Sir, I’m sure I could possibly say you are staying with me.”

When Miss Magdalin found Brendol in their room he had drunk too much of her gin and was lying on his back staring at the rain through the open windows. She had brought him a plate of cake. The promised cake. It looked delicious with bright berries baked between creamy layers. She had even shaken fine sugar over the already decadent dessert.

“I think people are looking for you ‘B’,” she sat down on the floor next to him and placed the plate on his stomach.

He exhaled sharply and stared at the ceiling, eyebrows drawn together, carefully studying the cracks in the plaster.

“If you call me that again I will shoot you.”

Her face appeared in his line of view as she bent over him and kissed his cheek, bestowing feather light touches till his forehead relaxed out of its anger.

“Maratelle is in your room now, and she calls it ‘quite manly’. I changed the sheets, took out all the remaining gun parts, two changes of clothes and this,” she reached into her apron pocket and held up his notebook, it looked important. I did not read it. I also had to give that hideous droid of hers the access code to your door.”

He took the notebook and put it in his own pocket. He had already packed his view screen for the kitchen in his own box. He did feel grudgingly thankful for the clothes, because he hadn’t thought further than a spare jacket. “Where are my project blasters? Why did you touch them?”

“In the laundry and...” She looked around, “all my stuff is on the floor. Why are my underthings touching your BlasTech rifle?”

Sighing loudly Brendol moved his gaze back to watch the clouds through the open window. The cake on his stomach rose and fell uneaten.

“I have a whole hour till I need to go visit my mother for the afternoon. Would you like me to help you make up your bed?” Lilly waved at the unmade bunk.

“No, this is comfortable.”

Miss Magdalin slowly pulled the pillow out from under his head and gripped tightly in two hands before hovering it an inch from his face. He stared at the diplopod’s bug eyes and waited for her to smother him to death. Instead she put it back and started to feed him the cake, every few bites following the mouthful with a kiss. It was an awkward way to eat, lying mostly flat and having to swallow and kiss. She was strange, so odd. He stroked a curl of red hair as it splayed across her chest. Mesmerised by the way the strands slid under his fingers.

The effects of the alcohol swirled, not completely unpleasantly, and Miss Magdalin finished giving him cake and kissed the last crumb away before starting to lick his neck. Her warm, wet mouth teased his skin.

“You taste nice,” she told him. “I wish I could eat you.”

He smirked.

“May I?”

“Yes,” he answered and undid his pants before she could change her mind. Her hands skated under his shirt and down to his underwear.

“Giving you a, ahem," she blushed and let out a small sigh, "a blow job was not what immediately came to mind when I made my request.” Brendol could tell she was weighing up options. He smoothed her hair again and noticed a smudge of blue under one of her ears. Probably from the berries in the cake. Fingers drew a line along the band of his grey officer issued briefs. “If I do you, will you do me?” Lily finally conceded.

He considered. “I just ate.”

Miss Magdalin rolled her eyes and kissed his lips again. How did people get used to such things as kisses? It still felt unnecessary. The act of pressing lips together was time wasting when she could be sucking his dick.

“I may have to shut the door. Jeffrey has walked past twice already,” she said between breathes.

He closed his eyes and thought about how terrible Miss Magdalin was as she pressed the door release. How she had trapped him in this tiny room. It had been her plan all along, because she had been so quick to offer the solution of cohabitation. He felt her tugging at his pants; they glided down his legs, the heavy belt buckle sliding heavily against one of his thighs. Then she peeled off his socks.

The problem was…

Now she was removing his underwear and he had to tilt his hips upwards to accommodate the removal. He felt his erection spring free and lie against his lower stomach, and he rearranged his balls to a more comfortable angle.

Anyway, the problem was that he was far too lenient with the staff. Lily was taking advantage of his good will, his generous mind. If he was back with the Imperial Navy he wouldn’t put up with such. With such. With such.

Her tongue licked his cock slowly from base to tip.

But then, nobody had ever, ever before offered cake and a blow job. Brendol wondered if such a ‘service’ would have garnered any special treatment from himself in the past? Lips circled the tip of his cock head and her tongue dipped across his slit. Hands circled the base. Not his hands, but small, firm hands. Hands that spent every day expertly kneading bread. She drooled over his member and he felt wet spit ooze along the shaft.

Well, he was open to trialing this new twist. Maybe they could… his mind went momentarily blank as she starting blowing him in earnest. His breath caught in a low moan. Still with eyes closed he ran his hands through her hair careful to keep the long red strands off her face.

He could play along.

His communicator beeped with a message and Miss Magdalin paused, lips still wrapped around his dick, her hands stroking.

“Ignore it,” he ordered.

His dick popped out of her mouth. “I am just going to take off my pants, don’t think you can move.”

Brendol heard her shuffling and felt her moving and then relaxed back into a tipsy haze as she positioned herself kneeling back on the floor next to him and continues to suck him off.

He felt her hold his wrist and guide it till his fingertips brushed against her pubic hair. Flaps of sensitive labia skin squirmed against his thumb. Freaking girl parts. They were so odd, he wanted to flinch away. To instead use his hand to press her head down, to spear his dick into her face and make her gag. Occasionally he hit the back of her throat and it felt like a few more deep thrusts would mean she would choke on his cum. He liked the thought of punishing her, of filling her smart mouth. Shooting ropes of sperm till she had to swallow all his seed. Hands in red hair and knuckles clenched white.

She pulled off again and interrupted his train of thought.

“Brendol,” she sighed. “If you won’t finger me, let me fuck you. I’ve been on my feet all day.”

He didn’t know what that had to do with anything. Honestly, she had it easy. She did no work, just standing around showing people rooms and spent all her time making cakes, patting cats and flirting. “Fine,” he answered and started to slide a finger into her.

“Give a girl some passion will you?” She shot before returning to her blowjob duty.

He would have given it all up then, except he was tired himself, too tired to remove his dick from between her lewd, wet lips. The freak didn’t know what tired was. Tired was nights and nights and nights of not sleeping. Tired was spending two weeks trapped in a gun battle firing at maker knows what while the smaller ships get picked off and the bodies of pilots fall through space, because he can’t send anything to get them, useless, stupid… he blinked his eyes open and stared at the window.

“Brendol,” she looked up at him. Their eyes met. He looked at his penis in her hand. “Keep on track, will you Sir?”

He closed his eyes again. “Move will you, it’s too hard to reach,” he complained and he felt a huff of air over his stomach. Lily shuffled closer and angled her ass in his direction. Even it was covered in a spattering of freckles. “I should fire you,” he told her, his fingers slipping inside slowly, then faster. “I should.”

“Yes Sir,” she gasped as he smeared wetness back and forth along her protruding lips. “Fire away.”

He would.

He would.

He felt her slip her tongue down the side of his cock as she nuzzled into his balls. Hands pumped at his shaft and his own hands pushed fingers roughly into her, but being man handled seemed par for the course and Lily's hips pressed back as she leaned into his movements.

He would cum first and that was how it would be Brendol thought spitefully. Let her choke on that. Let her choke. Her hands stilled as she attempted to push back even further into him, her mouth was open and low moans of pleasure came from her.

“Just… there, please Sir”

Fingers brushed deep inside, over soft ridges. He watched himself fingering her cunt through half-closed lashes. Selfish girl. Making him do the work.

As her orgasm clenched around his fingers he felt his own tightening need wanting to shoot. Cock angled and rammed back in her mouth he felt her lips constrict, again he hit the back of her throat as she became compliant in passion. Brendol thrust until the edge seemed very near, then he pulled at her hair till her face popped off, eyelashes stuck blearily over blown out eyes and she smirked up at him. Lips still parted as if in the middle of eating a delicious and illicit treat. He came on her face and jizz strung across her freckles like a pornographic connect the dots.

They stared at each other.

Then he closed his eyes as Miss Magdalin rested a sticky cheek against his leg.

“Blown away Sir.”

He exhaled loudly and released her. Strands of hair tangled between his fingers where he had clenched too hard.

“Don’t you have to visit your mother?”

“Don’t you have to call your fiancé?”

Chapter Text

Although he was long, long past childhood, had commanded whole units of troops, travelled the known and unknown universe, and flown to planet with air so poisonous it could kill a man in less time than it took to know you were dead, Brendol still felt a strange aimlessness when he had to talk to his father.

After his satisfying afternoon visit from Miss Magdalin he had taken his chance with the lesser of two evils and decided to answer the Senator’s summons before Maratelle’s. Brendol had a tension headache from the alcohol and he felt it was better to stew with someone a few decibels quieter than a F7 Drop Ship with a questionable service history.

Sitting in a stiff backed chair before a wide desk filled with projector display equipment Brendol nodded through the dull pain behind his eyes as his father talked about the engagement. He half-listened as the man droned on about the importance of family and how Brendol was so much older than his father was when he had produced a heir. He pointed out how uncertain times had become, especially with the rebels gaining footholds in the region – so why not start straight away? Senator Hux wished sincerely he could have had the chance to have more children, if only his unbalanced, inconsiderate, air headed wife - although he had tried to work things out, nobody could say he hadn’t - hadn’t left him.

‘More children which he could ignore.’ A tiny voice said inside Brendol’s mind.

Grandchildren would make Senator Hux happy. They would secure the family Hux, in fact the next generation would bring them all stability and happiness. For example, if Brendol had a family to distract him he would stop all this rot about post-traumatic stress. Stress from what? If there was such a thing, wouldn’t every soldier in the Empire’s armies have it? Brendol’s father didn’t believe it made up illnesses; all his son needed was something to look forward to and to keep busy. To think of others for a change instead of moping around by himself.

On his father’s desk, along with the projector which could show little renditions of people giving little messages about little official type things; was a plate with a slice of cake on it. It was a slice of his gateau cake. The one Miss Magdalin had made him especially. He kept his eyes on the pastry. If his father didn’t eat it soon the cream would go soft and oily. Didn’t his father know that?

He lifted his gaze from the cake after the senator finished carefully hinting that Maratelle wasn’t getting any younger. “I will be concentrating on my new post,” Brendol replied finally. “And the current war is not a good time for raising, ahem, babies.” He personally didn't want children and also didn’t care about children in the war, but his father was such an old fashioned tradionalist. As an added bonus, no doubt, a baby would make a million photo opportunities for a Senator up for re-election. Well his father could fuck off, the thought of offspring made Brendol want to gag. He had heard partnered officers lament missing their spawn. Children were just another distraction from what could be a top notch careers. He sighed at the cake and rubbed his temples. Just repeat like a normal person who cares about such things he schooled himself. Don’t get upset, the old man is just looking after your best interest.

He can’t live forever.

“I don't want children and I don’t have stress,” Brendol spoke slowly and his father grunted in reply it was a dismissive noise.

Brendol closed his eyelids and watched the inverted lights ball in blackness. “The doctors say it's PTSD,” he said lightly, trying to keep his voice calm, trying not to lose it all, trying not to snap through the thin, thin, paper fucking thin layer of patience he had left, “but that’s just a trumped up excuse they used because I was the patsy who won them battles. Vice Admiral Gredge couldn't stomach the means. They felt they had to discipline someone. Unfortunately, they picked the one someone who knows what really happened.” Brendol’s voice grew louder. He could hear himself get louder like his body was in another room. With effort he took a breath before continuing. “I’m sure, what’s wrong, is really just a type of inner ear anomaly that’s kept me off ship. I told them it’s all the loud noises that irritate it, but I’m getting better. I’ve rested.”

As if to prove he was rested Brendol sat very still and straight. His father, his respected, loving father didn't answer.

The door to the office opened.

Jeffrey stepped forward from the corridor and bobbed.

Brendol noted his father’s secretary had not knocked. How long had Jeffrey been skulking around listening at doors?

“Yes?” Hux senior asked.

The man nodded and smiled. Instead of watching their vapid exchange Brendol turned his gaze back to the uneaten cake.

“The ladies have requested afternoon refreshments in the Green Area.”

All three men rolled their eyes. The green area was an indoor conservatory of sorts. Filled with oversized indoor plants and kept heated. It was comfortable for about five minutes before the damp and heat became distracting and a place Brendol especially disliked spending time in. However, they couldn't decline their guests.

The Senator drummed his fingers against the desk. “What do you think about children Jeffrey? I’m trying to convince Brendol to embrace a family life.”

Jeffrey smiled wryly, his lips practically simpered. “Not my forte, Sir,” he answered. “I hear you, Sir, do great work for the local kindergarten, supplying bread for the children so they all get a good meal.”

Senator Hux was pleased at such subtle brown nosing; he stopped his drumming and waved a hand dismissively. “Oh that, that’s nothing at all, nothing at all. Usually there is nobody to cook for here, and I have to keep the servants busy.”

Brendol wondered if he took the slice of cake now and ground it into his father’s expensive communications projector, what would happen next? If his father wanted him to be unhinged he could do so with a petty vengeance. When he had been in charge of troops he had been more powerful than this old relic would ever be. He had never been made to feel small and odd. Like a sad afterthought. Someone who the staff could freely talk over and discuss his perceived shortcomings.

As if sensing his son’s tension Brendol felt the senator looked at him as he sat, still straight as a knife, but silent and brooding as he blinked at the dark berries on the cake.

“I better not keep Maratelle waiting,” Brendol finally spoke. He nodded before passing Jeffrey, cool, calm, appreciated and valued Jeffrey, to leave.

He would be powerful again if he stuck to the plan.

***

“You're serving,” Brendol hissed at the incredible sight of Miss Magdalin freckled and flustered in the Green Area.

“I am! Someone,” Lily hissed at him, “put it into my head that I should bring a dress to work. And, the Senator’s precious Jeffrey doesn't work in the Green Area because ‘he gets dizzy in the humidity’. Meanwhile there are twelve people to feed a billion tiny meals a day too, and I had to rush back from helping Mother. She is…”

“They put you front of house?” Brendol interrupted. “You are ridiculous! Completely unsuitable.”

Lily sniffed. “You would rather the townie girls? The temp staff? I’m sure there are at least half a dozen wide eyed sixteen year olds running around ruining the kitchen. Cook could send them instead and we’d all have teeny tiny canapés dropped onto the carpets while they all spend their time messaging stormtrooper boyfriends and saying ‘wot then?’ to your father’s ambassador guests.”

“I’m sure I don’t care what your excuse is.”

Miss Magdalin glided onwards, serving the guests. Offering them jam filled tarts, squares of purple flans and little chocolate dabs with mint leaves on them, all delicately balanced on an enormous silver tray.

He heard his fiancé praise Lily’s gorgeous russet hair as the older woman was offered the tray, ‘the colour, so refreshing! How she wished she could be so blessed’. But Maratelle waived Lily away, she wouldn't eat. Maratelle was watching her figure for the upcoming wedding. Carbs were so bloating.

Maratelle turned to a friend as Miss Magdalin still stood near the group. “I’ve given up gluten, it’s terrible for your insides,” she revealed. “You should try it; you slim down ever so much when eating everything absolutely natural.”

Brendol watched as Miss Magdalin gave the back of Maratelle’s head a withering look, like the jeweled up woman was a small child who she felt obliged to coddle, but really wanted to smack. Brendol hid an almost smile behind his palm. The girl was terrible, didn’t she know her place?

His father joined the group with his soon-to-be daughter-in-law and chimed in with some rot about not believing Maratelle needed to lose any weight. Why she was perfect! He couldn’t believe she wanted to change anything about her figure. Then as Miss Magdalin offered the tray to the Senator he greeted Lily warmly. He put his hand on her arm and made sure to make eye contact then generously compliment the food. The display made Brendol want to vomit. How fake, how false. His father hadn’t even eaten the cake. He didn’t appreciate Lily at all. If Senator Hux only knew how much work Brendol had done to get the baked goods up to a passable standard.

And, now the Senator was remembering a time when he had given Miss Magdalin a gift for a long ago school achievement. It was probably one that everyone gets, like for completing exams or finishing her final year. Miss Magdalin told him she remembered it fondly. Her voice sounded genuine, because just like everyone else, she liked Senator Hux. She didn’t shake off his hand or look away, she stood and simpered like the stupid, stupid freak she was. Brendol realized he was folding his arms too tightly, that his nails were digging into his arms.

Still they made a spectacle of themselves. His father asked after Lily’s mother and her shoulders visibly stiffened. In a quiet voice Miss Magdalin admitted, ‘the lady was not well, but was comfortable for now.’

The Senator praised them both. “You are a good daughter,” he told Lily gently. “A good daughter to a great woman, best baker for miles. Both of you. Only don’t tell cook I said so, eh?”

Lily grew pale and thanked him with a dip of a curtsy before moving on. The silver tray like a shield now, held out before her body and in both hands. A force field to block any more unwanted conversation.

How come she, a freakish person who broke the rules so completely, who was common and freckled and coarse, was a good daughter and he, a man who had achieved five times as much, was someone who made up stress related illnesses?

Miss Magdalin finally came again to him and held her tray out. He picked up the last garish, bright red tart.

“You are not a good daughter,” he said.

“You are not a good son. She is very pretty, ‘your’ Maratelle, you should go stand with her.”

“I suppose. Yes, she is pretty,” he shrugged. The room already felt too close. “She is perfectly happy with her friends and the Senator.” He looked at Maratelle as the woman laughed at some joke, the silver claw nails scraping strands of hair off her face. “I don't know if I can live with her. Might board at the Academy with the other instructors.”

“How can you plan to marry a woman you can't even imagine living with?”

“You're the one who will have to cook for her. She’ll be living here on the estate, that’s how it works doesn’t it? You’re the one who is the best baker for miles.”

Lily bowed her head and her lips tightened. Brendol could see her face reflected in the smudged surface of the tray, her features warped and slightly twisted.

The woman in question sailed over to the pair and Miss Magdalin’s chin sunk even lower, swallowing back her next remark, cheeks flaming.

Maratelle was beautiful, blonde, large chested. She smiled too wide though. Wore a lot of make-up and jewelry. He knew she was older than he was, forty he guessed, maybe even more, but she didn’t look it, she looked slick and fresh and perfect. Comparing her with Lily he wondered why he was even questioning his choice to be with Maratelle? It was like comparing a common E11 rifle with a shiny, well maintained 4-13 Hold Out. Absolutely not in the same category of quality.

The few times they had been alone together Maratelle had talked to him a bit like a rapt school girl all breathless and hanging on his each remark. He had liked the attention at first, but now, after everything, would it be terribly grating? He examined her blonde hair. It was adequate.

“Are you alright B? You don't have to stand by yourself.”

Miss Magdalin inhaled as she stood next to him, turning a darker shade of crimson. The girl picked up an empty glass and put it on her tray as if she was simply clearing up in the general area.

“Yes?” he answered wondering if this was a trap.

“Because, I do worry sometimes, about you here all alone. I mean in the house when your father is away. What if there was an attack or something? What would happen to you, without me?”

“What would you do to stop an attack if you were here?” He replied.

Maratelle put her hand on his forearm. “Me? Oh no B, you’d save me.”

He heard a short, muffled burst of laughter behind him and watched as Lily swept off to collect a tray full of dirty glasses at the opposite end of the room, before walking out calmly. He ignored Maratelle and her clawing hands. Her vapid conversation about the wedding. The Green Area was too hot, the people too pressing in the small space. He didn't like how the plants touched. Their fronds interlaced with each other as they poked the skin of passing guests. There was overly green moss growing on the window sill. It looked like a disease mottling up to the glass, slowly rotting the frame.

“After everything, I think it’ll be all beautiful,” Maratelle was saying. “I’m sure you have enjoyed your rest while I booked, and shopped, and slaved! I wish I had time to just relax,” she added as if she had worked a day in her entire life.

“No more stress after your holiday, right boy?” He heard his father say from the other group. Could the man not leave him alone? “You’ll be an asset to that Academy now you’re fighting fit.”

Brendol looked at the tart still sitting in his hand as Maratelle and his father started talking about school boys and their pranks. The sweaty pressure of his fingers meant the tart had created a pool of red in his palm. His hand was shaking and he stiffened it to his side. He didn’t have PTSD. Fuck them all. He stepped past his fiancé and walked quickly out the door. He went directly outside, because he needed space and air, even in the heavy rain. The rain that splattered on the tart, the tart he’d held too tightly and it had smeared between his fingers. He dropped it into a muddy garden bed. Walked to the kitchen door, then wiped his dirty hand against the wet door, smoothing the rain drops and jam into a wide arch, and stood watching water drip from his hair. Let his hands shake. He felt the explosive in his pocket, rolled it across his palm, if felt hard and smooth.

Lily didn't come outside. Nobody did. Where was she? Didn’t he need her? If they were truly, truly meant to be together then she would know he needed her. More proof she was nothing.

He went through to the garage, into the dungeon and checked his footage. She was in the kitchen, just on the other side of the wall from where he had stood. If the wall hadn't been there they could have reached out and touched hands.

She was not working, just standing holding her empty tray while strange people stepped around her. So, she said she was so busy with so many guests, but she wasn't. She wasn't!

He noted the time she stood idle in his notebook. Watched his hand waver as he wrote. His writing so shaky he could hardly read what he had recorded. The water made him feel cold, the cold made him shake.

He called the kitchen and asked for Miss Magdalin to bring him anything.

Pulling her inside at the briefest of knocks, she was holding a plate with another slice the cake she had made him perched in the center.

“Make them go,” he told her while holding her arm, him fingers made her skin white under their grip.

“Brendol I can't...”

“I want it so it’s just me again. Make them go,” he repeated with a shake. He knew he sounded a little manic, a little, just a little anxious. Although, he reminded himself, was never truly anxious. He wasn’t unwell. He wanted her to understand that was all.

Miss Magdalin nodded wordlessly.

Good, she listened. She got things done, Lily didn’t ask him ‘how he was’ or suggest he needed rest. “I didn't eat what you made,” he told her. “The tart, it was made out of jam. Wasn't it?”

“Yes Sir, just jam and pastry, you looked at a tin yourself, just the other day.”

“It wasn't… I apologize for not eating it,” he told her stiffly. “I wanted to try one after I saw you made them, and they looked good, but it made my hand bleed.” Brendol took the plate with cake on it and put it on his bunk. Then shoved the offending hand in his pocket, bending forward, tilting. His chest felt heavy. “Wear your dress again tomorrow my girl, it looks very fine.”

At her release Miss Magdalin changed, her eyes narrowed dangerously. “Don’t you ask me to wear it anymore! YOU! You’re so rude and ungrateful and mean. And, I thought we had an agreement.” She stomped her foot and his shoulders stiffened. “Show me your hand,” she ordered.

“No.”

“Here,” she took out the brush from her bed and in a calmer voice asked. “Please fix my hair, it's all over the place. That green room is entirely inappropriate to hold more than two people and a flame thrower, and I'm used to small spaces.”

He let go of the explosive in his pocket and grasped the brush. Of course the girl’s hair needed brushing, she had been leaning against walls.

Lily pulled her hair bands out, looked at both his hands, juggling the brush between them. She inspected the palms, turned them over and looked the backs, they were square and pale with a smattering of dark hairs. She scratched at the remnants of jam on his palm. As she looked at his hands he looked at hers. Grasped one and held open the fingers, bending them back.

“Your hands are too pink, what's wrong with them?” He asked.

“I have to wash them a lot. As much as I'd enjoy giving you listeria sometimes,” she answered. “They have grown a darker red over time and they were none too silky smooth to begin with. Now brush Sir.”

She sat on his bed smoothing out her dress.

The brushing was like a balm. Brendol had to straighten the kinks out, only he could to it justice. Messy, dirty girl. He watched the bristles black against her red. The way they slid through, the way her hair bounced up at the end of each stroke. The way he had to be slow and careful around her ears, the first plunge at the fine hairline and then a long drag of the brush.

“What would you like with tonight's dinner? Plain or with that sweet bark sugared in. Those are the two I have on hand, no special orders today.”

“The sweet,” he answered. “You know I like that one. I’ve told you before my girl, you should listen to me.” He brushed a little more. “And tomorrow bagels. I know they are hard, but you are getting better.” He paused feeling his chest tighten. The familiar choking. “I suppose we can’t get rid of them. Those people.”

She nodded and his fingers held her jaw straight again. They gripped the side of her face, his thumb resting with the tip just touching her red brow. He curled a finger across her lip.

“I’ve heard the guests are all going to that new night market tomorrow night, then to a show, so we might all get the evening off. The staff that is.”

“I’ll stay here.”

“You don't love her.”

He changed the subject. “Your mother is sick.”

“Yes, sir,” she agreed quietly. “Brendol, you don't have to marry her, or anyone.”

He knew she didn't mean her mother.

“If I do I can work at the Academy. Then once it's established that I am not… injured anymore I can stop contracting and return to active service. They tell me it is a good opportunity to teach. If more soldiers were like me we wouldn't have the trouble they have now. We'd be winning a lot more battles, holding onto positions instead of all these raids. There would be less causalities, less disorder. They had the right ideas with the clones, back then we won battles and were stronger. Train your army from youth then they won't revolt, or disobey orders. I have to work at the Academy to prove I'm right. The Empire thinks I am unfit, but I will prove they are the weak ones.”

He braided her hair. It took a few tries to get the tension what he wanted. He circled the plat around his wrist, a long red rope; it could almost go around twice. He watched the way her hair showed bright against the bluish veins at his wrist. There was an old scar there, a little thing, an accident. Her hair covered his raised white skin.

“Maratelle is fine. A good woman. A good choice.” If he could convince himself that their time would be easier. He’d let the room get to him. The drinking, the headache and his fucking father, the man could make him so wound up.

Lily stood and bowed a little touching her hair. “She is very fine Sir but, someone once told me, ‘illusion never changes into something real’. It’s like - how can I explain it? I can work on all the fancy yachts in the galaxy, but I’m not millionaire. I’m sure you can be something equally as useful as a soldier is. We all change as we grow.”

“Really, because I spent fourteen years as an officer and before that six years at military college. You can hardly compare that to your summer boating holiday.”

She stiffened in his arms. “My holiday? My holiday? Brendol, I worked for over two years on that ship. I was one of their top chefs. My name was put on the menu two weeks before I had to leave. You can be such a self-centered prick.” she took a deep breath. “I don’t want to fight, I just want to… to…”

“What?” He asked and could almost bite his tongue off. Because he didn’t really want to know. He’d suspected she was using him for something. She was just like the others, wanting him to stand up to his neck in blood till it trickled down his throat only to slash out his knees from under him. “You want romance with the master? Is that what you want? Me to run away with you and I’ll save you from your sad, little life?”

Lily pursed her lips, stood and looked down on him. Instead of shame and anger he saw nothing in her face, not a tear, not a frown.

“No Sir, I made myself clear at the start, you’re a distraction, nothing more. A warm body.”

“Like all the others.”

“Like all the others,” she repeated almost serenely. “Don’t think you mean any more because I come when you call. It’s my job.”

“I don’t want to see you again,” he told her seriously. “I will find somewhere else to sleep.”

“Fine,” Lilly answered quietly. She didn’t yell, she didn’t cry. She just kept on talking in the same tone as if he’d asked her to iron him a shirt. “I have tomorrow off with you toffs all gone, so stay here tonight, I’ll go back home after dinner service and be out of your way. Now, I must help cook. Am I excused Sir?”

“Go,” he shouted. Then more quietly, “please.”

He could be just as calm as her.

He could be as calm as a fucking dead Jedi in there fucking fake temples.