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Hapless Circumstances

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While Jasper rests on the shoreline of a lake, he ponders what his next course of action will be. Settling down where he is at the moment isn't an option. Even if he was lucky enough to flee from his old clan's territory, that doesn't mean he will be welcomed in a rival clan's domain. Which is unfortunate. The environment he is currently in is plentiful with resources required for survival. Not only that, but he still has a far distance to travel before he can make it to unclaimed land while keeping a low profile. He also doesn't have much of an idea as to what lies beyond the clans. There could be anything out there!

With a sigh, he turns his gaze so it is focused on the still surface of the lake. His only light source is the few sun rays peeking from the horizon. The sight before him is a painful reminder of what had happened before he fled.

Dry blood covers his cheeks. There are trails of it all the way down his neck and the top of his shirt is stained with splotches of red. It is difficult for him to decipher the exact location of the cuts with all the blood in the way. The cuts intended to scar his face for life.

Unable to stomach the messy image he is presented with, he scoops water into his hands and splashes it onto his face. Desperate to rid his face of the dry blood, he ignores the nip of the frigid water on skin. When his face is soaked, he rubs the blood so it can be removed with ease when he uses more water to rinse it off.

However, having a clean face doesn't make his reflection anymore appealing. Three long cuts decorate each cheek. His face is ruined, thanks to his inability to convince anyone of his innocence. All anyone from any clan has to do is glance at him, and they will assume it's best not to trust him. A pang of dejection fills his chest…

He turns his head away from the water and stands up. There's no time for him to focus on his emotions right now. He needs to keep moving.

Since there is nothing but trees in the direction he plans on going in, he has no choice but to continue his travels through the forest. At first, slogging through a bunch of undergrowth is only a minor inconvenience for him. As time goes on, however, his legs hurt more and more from how overworked they are. He is exhausted from spending an entire night and the first half of the morning attempting to remove himself from the clans' territories. Yet, a sense of urgency warns him against succumbing to the urge to sleep, so he pushes himself further.

When the position of the sun signifies it is nearing afternoon, Jasper is too worn out to continue traveling. He hopes hiding in a forest will help lessen the chances of him being caught as he lies down on a soft part of the ground. Though he is tempted to curl into a fetal position, he lies on his back in an attempt to keep his cuts as clean as possible. After all, an infection will do him no good.

He closes his eyes. By the time he starts to drift off, he is brought back to wakefulness, thanks to the sound of a twig snapping. He drags himself into a sitting position and lines his back up against a tree as he tries to figure out which direction the noise came from. That way, he can come up with a better idea as to where he should hide.

Much to his adversity, he catches sight of someone in his peripheral vision. He whips his head around to find the person (a man who appears to be in his late thirties) is glaring at him. Next to him is another male (he must be a teen), who gazes at him with a shocked expression.

Aw, dang!

The man glaring at Jasper doesn't take his eyes off him, as he takes out a sword and says to the teen next to him, "Don't just stand there. Prepare yourself!"

With practiced ease, the teen takes out a bow and arrow and aims it at Jasper. His eyes widen at the sight of the weapon. How did he not notice the bow and arrow before? He throws his hands in the air without a second thought to admit defeat and says, "Please, don't shoot! I'm not trying to cause any harm! I was just trying to pass through!"

The man walks over to Jasper and holds his sword to his throat, "I'm not buying it! Why do you have those cuts on your face? They look like scarification cuts to me. It's obvious that you broke a major rule back at your old clan and got banished. Why should we trust you?"

"Y-you don't understand! I've been-"

"Save it!" The man says, grabbing Jasper's wrists and yanking his arms behind his back, "We'll see what our leader has to say about this."

The man holds Jasper's wrists together with one hand and uses the other to retrieve some rope, after shrugging a bag off his shoulder and searching for some through his luggage. He uses the rope to tie his hands together and cuts off the excess to tie his arms so they are pinned against his back. He grabs a loose end of the rope wrapped around his arms and torso, as there is enough of it left to be used as a makeshift lead. Which gives Jasper no choice but to follow his captor. Unless he is somehow capable of escaping the strong man's grip on the lead, freeing himself of the ropes binding him, and dodging any arrows the teen fires at him. Which he doubts he can pull off, so why risk it?

The walk through the woods to wherever his captor's leader happens to be isn't a long one. Jasper supposes it only takes around ten minutes. Perhaps if he didn't have to worry about facing the leader of the clan and only had to consider how exhausted he is, the short journey would come as a relief to him. In hindsight, he picked one of the worst clan territories to trespass on. It isn't as if he had much of a choice, though. His ex-clan only gave him the night to leave their land without being killed, and the boundary leading to the clan's territory he is in now was by far the shortest distance from where he was chased out. Despite it being the shortest escape route, he barely managed to make it out in time.

They enter a building that isn't far from the woods. There aren't many people inhabiting it at the moment, much to his relief, as a crowd would be too much for him to handle with his current mental state. Only a few people who appear to be guards are present. Being around these few individuals still fills him with unease, though. They make it clear he isn't welcome here (as if he has a choice to be here).

They arrive in a room where a pale blonde man in white clothing sits on what Jasper assumes is a throne. His legs are crossed and he is leaning to one side so his elbow rests on the arm of the throne. His eyes are concentrated on a knife with a curvy blade. He strokes the silver colored metal with a finger, as if to admire it, but is careful not to go too close to the edge.

His attention is taken away from the knife when the man holding Jasper captive speaks up, "Mr. Heinrich, we found a stranger trespassing in our woods. He doesn't seem trustworthy."

"A trespasser, you say?" Mr. Heinrich's light blue eyes study Jasper before he continues, "I see he has recently acquired the mark of a traitor. He must have been chased out of his old clan."

He pauses for a moment before furrowing his eyebrows. His gaze is now piercing through Jasper, "But what made you think it was a good idea to trespass on my land?"

It takes Jasper a moment to find his voice, "M-Mr. H-H-Heinrich, th-this is all a big m-misunderstanding! I w-was framed!"

"I didn't ask what led to your banishment. I'm asking you why you walked onto my territory when you clearly don't belong here!"

"I was g-given the night to leave my old clan's territory. The Heinrich border was the closest one from where I was chased away. I barely made it out of there in time going this way. It wasn't my intention to stay here."

Mr. Heinrich narrows his eyes, "And you claim the reason why your face has been cut is because you were framed?"

"Yes!"

There is a pause and Mr. Heinrich continues to stare at him. Jasper's heart beats at a fast enough rate to cause him pain and it doesn't help that the intimidating leader hasn't blinked a single time since he first caught sight of him.

Mr. Heinrich speaks up once more, "And why should I believe you?"

Jasper opens his mouth to attempt to defend himself, but closes it when it occurs to him there is nothing he can say to prove his innocence. A smirk appears on Mr. Heinrich's face, "I see. It appears you can't come up with anything to back up your argument."

He takes Jasper's continued silence as an opportunity to ask, "And what did you do that made your old clan decide you're a traitor?"

"I didn't do it! I-I told you, I was-"

"Answer the question, traitor!"

Jasper flinches at the raised voice. He struggles to come up with an explanation. He wants to lie about what he was accused of doing to minimize how serious the crime was, as it is clear no one so far believes him when he says he didn't do it, but he doubts it will work. Even if doing so spares him in the moment, word of his supposed wrongdoing is bound to spread. What will happen if Mr. Heinrich finds out he wasn't being honest?

At the same time, is there anything he could say to make being a traitor less terrible than it is? 'Traitor' is one of the worst titles a person can have. All the crimes warranting scars signifying this character flaw are terrible, as they imply the individual is willing to take extreme measures to backstab anyone for their own selfish needs or wants.

Jasper fails to utter a word and Mr. Heinrich quirks a brow, "No response? That's very suspicious."

He stands with his knife now in a firm hold, "Well, then. Since I can only assume the worst of your crimes, I suppose I have no choice but to take care of you the same way I would any traitor. If there's anything you can say that you think can convince me otherwise, I suggest you say it now. Though there's certainly no guarantee I'll believe you."

The man and the teen hold Jasper in place while their leader approaches him. His breathing quickens at the sight of the knife and he attempts to remove himself from the hold, "No, please! I'll do anything! I don't want to die!"

"I'm sorry, but it's for the best if you die. You can't be trusted." Mr. Heinrich places a hand on Jasper's shoulder and his voice grows soft, "Don't worry, though. I'll make it quick."

Mr. Heinrich brings the knife to Jasper's throat, causing his victim to shut his eyes and anticipate the worst.

Out of nowhere, a voice inquires, "Daniel, what's going on?"

Jasper opens his eyes and finds a man with auburn hair staring at Mr. Heinrich. His hands are on his hips and his brows are furrowed, as if he doesn't approve of what's about to happen.

Daniel sighs and says, "David, sweetie, this doesn't concern you."

"Doesn't concern me? You're about to kill someone!"

"I've killed people before. And you know I always have a reason for doing so."

"And you know how I feel about it!"

Daniel walks away from Jasper so he is now standing in front of David, "This man has trespassed on my land and I'm convinced that he's dangerous. Just look at his face. I have no choice but to kill him."

"And how can you be so sure that he's dangerous?"

"David! Did I not tell you to look at his face? He has the mark of a traitor. He can't be trusted! And when I asked him what made his old clan think he was a traitor, he wouldn't answer my question. I can only assume the worst about what he did."

"And what's his defense?"

Daniel rolls his eyes, "I said he couldn't be trusted. What don't you understand?"

"I want to hear his defense!"

"That he's been framed. But-"

"And what if he has been framed? What if he really is innocent? If he is, then you're killing him for no reason! That's way worse than killing him for a wrongdoing!"

"He hasn't done a good job of convincing me that he's innocent."

"Maybe that's because you should spend more time thinking about this before you make decisions that involve killing people!"

"David, I don't have time for this! I have other things to worry about! If this problem didn't come up during my break, I wouldn't even be discussing this with you. He would be dead by now!"

"Daniel, please! Couldn't we at least escort him off our territory?"

"No! I'm not wasting my men's time for someone who has possibly committed murder!"

"You assume he did something like that."

Daniel runs a hand through his hair out of irritation, "This isn't going anywhere! I'm going to kill him now, before I end up wasting any more of my time."

Jasper struggles once more the moment the words "kill him" leave Daniel's mouth. Said person walks toward him. This time as he approaches him, the grip on his knife is tight enough to turn his knuckles white.

Before Daniel can reach Jasper, David moves so he is standing in between him and his captive. This makes Daniel all the more irritated as he says, "David, get out of the way!"

David crosses his arms, "No!"

"David! Don't be so difficult!"

"Not until you start keeping your promises!"

The anger leaves Daniel's expression, "What?"

"You said you would try to be less cruel! Don't you remember?"

"Yes, I remember! But how am I being cruel? I'm about to give him a quick death for a serious crime he committed. That sounds humane to me."

"Daniel," David holds Daniel's wrist so he will have to rid himself of him before he can hurt anyone with the knife, "you're jumping to conclusions about a situation you know hardly anything about. And your solution is to kill someone over it. Don't you think that's a bit extreme?"

"It's his word against an entire clan!"

"Please, even if you think he did something terrible, can you at least spare his life? Can't we just work something out?"

Daniel doesn't say anything, so David continues, "Can you do it for me?"

They maintain eye contact for a while before Daniel sighs and says, "Fine, I won't kill him. But only because you are so insistent that I don't."

"Thank you so much!" David exclaims, pulling Daniel into a tight hug, "I love you, Daniel!"

Daniel wraps his arms around David, "I love you, too."

They stay that way for a few moments before Daniel releases himself from the hug and says, "Now why don't you go busy yourself with something? I have work to do."

"Okay," David walks away from Daniel and when he reaches the door, he turns his head back to his lover to say, "Thanks again for sparing him. It means a lot to me!"

"You're welcome," Daniel says, "Now go on."

Though he is grateful for the attempts David made to keep him alive, Jasper is still unable to relax. A part of him worries Daniel will break his promise and kill him anyway. Another part of him is concerned about what will happen to him if he is kept alive. It doesn't help that Daniel now has a hand on his forehead, as if he's trying to relieve a minor headache that developed from the dispute.

The man still holding Jasper asks, "So, what do you want us to do with him?"

Daniel doesn't bother to face him as he responds, "Place him in a cell. Get him out of here! I don't want to look at him anymore."

With that said, the man and the teen drag Jasper out of the room.

Chapter Text

Jasper is sitting in the corner of the drafty cell. He's curled up in an attempt to stay warm. The lighting is dim, and even if he is still able to see, it isn't ideal. It creates a depressing atmosphere. Tight metal cuffs cause him pain any time he tests the limits of how far the chain on the wall they are connected to can extend, and he is certain they will leave bruises on his wrists.

Worse than the physical discomfort is the dread. He has gone through so much during the past twenty-four hours. He would have never guessed he would be framed or have his face scarred. Nor did he ever imagine himself being a prisoner. All of this has caught him off guard and his mind is still trying to process what had happened. His life has become unpredictable, so he can only wonder about what is going to happen next.

The door to his cell is opened, causing him to flinch. He whips his head toward the door to find a familiar man with red hair, which is made less vibrant by the poor lighting. It takes Jasper a moment to recall that the man's name is David.

Even though David saved his life, Jasper can't help but curl into himself more as he walks toward him. He doesn't understand why he's reluctant to be around him. There is nothing about David's presence that is threatening.

David crouches down in front of Jasper and sets a bucket filled with water on the floor. While soaking a piece of cloth and wringing it out, he asks, "I heard no one has checked on you yet. Is that true?"

Jasper doesn't say anything, as he can't make his voice work. David frowns at the silence and says, "It's okay to talk, you know. There's no need to be shy."

It takes a bit, but Jasper is able to bring himself to speak, "N-no. Not yet."

"Well, I hope I didn't leave you waiting too long, then." David brings the damp cloth toward Jasper's face, "I'm going to clean your wounds out now."

When the cloth is inches away from his face, his eyes widen. The image of a knife appears in his mind.

Too close! TOO CLOSE!

Despite the cuffs binding his wrists together, he swats David's hand away. This causes David to let go of the cloth and hold his hand, as if he has been hurt.

It takes a moment for the realization of his action to hit him. When it does, Jasper pushes himself against the wall behind him as much as he can. It is as if he believes doing so will somehow help him escape from David, in case the other wants to harm him for the way he reacted to being helped. When David makes eye contact with him, he exclaims, "I'm sorry! I didn't mean to react like that!"

"It's okay," David says in a soft voice, "I'm not mad at you. I know you didn't do that for the sake of hurting me. You were scared."

Jasper is skeptical, but he doesn't want to make matters worse by voicing his disagreement. David sighs and continues, "Look, this is really all my fault. I didn't ask if you were okay with having your face touched or gave you much of a heads up. I just said I would do it and started putting my hand toward your face. And with everything you've been through lately, of course that would cause you to panic. I'm sorry for scaring you like that."

Jasper still doesn't say anything, so David picks the cloth up off the ground and stands, before saying, "I'm going to get a new washcloth now, since I'm pretty sure you don't want me to use this one that fell on the ground to clean out your wounds."

Left alone for a bit, Jasper tries to take David's absence as an opportunity to compose himself. It doesn't work, so when David enters his cell with a new cloth in his hand, he asks, "Are y-you really n-not mad at me?"

"Of course not!" David replies, "I said that I forgive you for what you did. Why are you asking me this? Is there something wrong?"

"I-I d-don't know. I g-guess I'm just worried..."

"About what?"

Jasper curls into himself more. His voice becomes small, "That you're going to hurt me..."

"Oh, gosh no!" David exclaims, "I would never try to harm anyone! Especially if they didn't do anything terribly wrong. Why do you think I'm going to hurt you?"

"B-because I hit you. And everyone else I've encountered today most likely would have hurt me for doing that."

"Well, don't worry. I'm not like those other people. I don't think it's right to get back at people like that. What you did wasn't even that bad. It's not like I'm going to be injured because you swatted my hand away."

"Well, I'm sorry for being so paranoid right now. I guess I'm not over everything that just happened yet."

"That's understandable. You've been through a lot lately, and you seem to be a little shaken up because of it. But don't worry. I'm here for you!"

David crouches down once more to soak the cloth and wring it out. While he does this, he asks, "I know you don't like having your face touched, but is there anything I can do to make you more comfortable with me touching it? The cuts on your face need to be taken care of."

"I don't know..."

"Alright, just let me know when you're ready, then."

"We might as well just do it right now to get it over with."

"Are you sure?"

Jasper takes a deep breath in an attempt to, once again, compose himself. He says, "Yes, I'm sure."

"Okay, then. Just let me know if you want me to stop. You're welcome to take a break if you need one at any time."

"Alright."

David moves his hand toward Jasper at a slower pace than last time to prevent him from being startled. This time when the cloth is inches away from his face, Jasper shuts his eyes. Before it touches his face, though, David says, "It's going to be a little cold, okay?"

"Okay."

Despite the warning, Jasper cringes at the touch. Even after he grows accustomed to the cold, the gentle rubbing on his cheek prevents him from being able to relax. By the time David is working on the other cheek, a whimper escapes his mouth.

David stops what he's doing and asks, "Are you okay?"

"Yes," Jasper says, gripping his legs as tightly as possible against his chest, "just keep going."

David does as he's told, and when he is finished wiping Jasper's cheeks with water, he uses soap to clean the skin surrounding the cuts. After that, he wipes the soap away. When the soap is all gone, he uses a towel to pat his cheeks dry.

While Jasper is having his cuts cleaned, he tries to pretend it isn't happening at all. Doing so helps prevent his panic from worsening. He imagines himself in the middle of a sunny field. No one bothers him because no one else is around, which isn't something he would wish for often. He tends to prefer being in the company of friends and family over being alone. However, he's not in the mood to be around other people at the moment, for obvious reasons. Which is why the daydream is effective in giving him a break from reality.

When David is finished cleaning the cuts, he starts talking, causing Jasper to flinch, "I'm going to put an ointment on now."

"O-okay."

At first, he finds the moist sensation of the ointment unpleasant, but it isn't long until it helps soothe the pain his cuts cause him. In fact, having the pain reduced, even if it wasn't enough to be unbearable in the first place, helps him calm down a bit. Enough to the point where he is willing to loosen the grip on his legs.

When David is finished applying the salve, Jasper wills himself to open his eyes. While putting the ointment aside, David says, "You handled that really well."

He pauses for a moment to examine Jasper's face before continuing, "I would like to cover the cuts, but I can't think of a way to go about doing so without pretty much covering half of your face. And that definitely won't work out. So, I guess you'll just have to try not to get your face dirty. And I know having your wounds exposed to air all the time will dry them out, so I'll try my best to keep them moist. One last thing, try to keep a relaxed facial expression at all times. It will help the cuts heal as quickly as possible."

"I'll keep all that in mind," Jasper responds, "um, th-thanks for helping me out like this. It means a lot."

"You're welcome! As I said before, I'm here for you."

After a moment of silence, David says, "I'm not sure if you got my name during that argument earlier, but I'm David. What's your name?"

"Jasper. And yes, I remembered your name."

"Jasper? I didn't even know that was a name. I like it!"

"Um, thanks, I guess."

"You know, I actually have a jasper. It's a really pretty reddish color. It's probably one of my favorite rocks from my rock collection."

"Okay, then?"

Despite Jasper's lack of enthusiasm for the conversation, a spark of excitement ignites in David's green eyes, "So, what clan did you come from?"

"The Cooper Clan."

"Oh, that's the one that's south of this one!"

"Yes, it is."

There's another silence, and this time, Jasper is the one to break it, "I know this may seem like a weird question, but do you have some kind of romantic relationship with the leader of your clan?"

"Yes. In fact, we're married!"

"What!?"

"Yep! We've been married for five years, now. Ever since I was nineteen."

Jasper doesn't say anything. Instead, he stares at David in shock. In response, David asks, "What?"

"I don't know. I just wasn't expecting to hear that. So far, you two seem to be very different people."

"So?"

"Well, it's just... it's just that I wouldn't expect someone like you, who seems to care about other people a lot, to be with someone who... you know..."

David sighs and says, "I know Daniel has a reputation for being terrible. And I know that your first encounter with him wasn't that great. But he really isn't that bad."

Jasper quirks an eyebrow, as if to say, Are you sure about that?

"Okay, so he has done some things that I'm not very happy about. But he has been trying to get better about it. And as his husband, he treats me very well. He has never hurt me, or anything like that, and he listens to me. He's even told me that he would give me the world, if he could. At some point, though, you have to understand that it's not easy to be a leader of a clan. Unfortunately, with how this world works, if he doesn't give other clans a reason to fear him, they might try to take advantage of him and his people. He only wants what's best for his clan. At least, that's what he tells me sometimes when I ask him why he has a hard time being a kind leader. I still think it's possible for him to be less cruel, though."

When David is finished talking, he gathers up the supplies he used to clean Jasper's cuts and says, "I'm going to get you something to eat now. You must be hungry."

David isn't wrong about that. Jasper hasn't had anything to eat since breakfast yesterday. He also hasn't had much to drink. The lack of food and water along with all the exercise he received from trying to escape the clans is enough to make his stomach ache with hunger and his throat parched. Now that he is going to be able to eat and drink something, his body makes sure he doesn't forget about how deprived he is of sustenance.

David returns with a cup of water and a plate of food. On the plate is a chicken leg, cooked carrot slices, and a piece of bread with butter on it. He hands the plate and cup to Jasper, who sets the cup on the floor next to him and places the plate on his lap. David smiles and says, "I hope that's enough to fill you."

Jasper doesn't respond. Instead, he picks up the chicken leg and bites off a large chunk of meat. He barely takes any time to chew the meat before swallowing and taking another bite. At this point, all he has to do is growl and be disgusting while he eats, and he won't be acting any different than a ravenous wolf.

The rapid pace in which the chicken is being consumed causes David to speak up, "Jasper, please! Slow down! You're going to choke if you keep eating like that."

Jasper complies and slows down the pace in which he eats. He still manages to finish his plate faster than what is usual for him, though. The water is gone not too long afterward.

David takes the empty plate and cup and says, "I'm going to go get you a blanket now. After all, I wouldn't want you to be uncomfortable while you sleep."

It isn't long until David returns with the promised blanket. When he's in front of Jasper, he doesn't hand it to him. Instead, he says, "Do you think you can scoot forward a bit so your back isn't against the wall?"

Jasper asks, "Why?"

"I want to wrap this blanket around you so you'll be warm. And also so it will give you padding against that cold, hard wall. Plus, it doesn't look like it will be easy for you to wrap the blanket around yourself with your hands shackled like that."

Without any further question, Jasper scoots forward so he can be wrapped in the blanket. David makes sure it's tight around him before backing away and allowing him to lean against the wall once more. Before leaving the cell, for good this time, David says, "I'll see you in the morning. I hope you sleep well tonight!"

Jasper allows a small smile to appear on his face. It is the first time he has smiled since the traumatic events he's been through recently. He says in response, "Thanks. I hope you do, too."

"Thanks, Jasper."

With that said, David leaves the cell. Which leaves Jasper all by himself. At first, he doesn't mind being without the other's presence. However, it doesn't take long for him to come to the realization that he was growing more comfortable around David the more time he spent with him. Now that he's no longer around, the fear is coming back to him.

What if someone else comes into the cell? What will they do to him? David is the only person in the Heinrich clan who has shown him nothing but kindness. It was easy for Jasper to stop being afraid around him. Though, he's sure if someone else he didn't know well had shown they cared for his well-being the same way David did, he would still be nervous around them in his current state. There is something about the good-natured man's presence that is able to put his mind at ease.

Despite the fear, the warmth of the blanket reminds Jasper of how exhausted he is. Having a full stomach doesn't help. He wants to fight it, so he can keep his guard up, but his body insists it's time to rest. It isn't long until he succumbs to sleep.

Chapter Text

After making sure Jasper has everything he needs, David figures he should go to his bedroom. While he walks down the hall, a glance out the window tells him the sun is setting. It’s a regular day, so nothing special will happen tonight. Therefore, no one is going to be in the mood for socializing at this time.

David enters his room and sits on the king sized bed as he waits for his husband to arrive. When said person opens the door and walks in, he asks, “How was your day, Daniel?”

Daniel moves to sit on the edge of the bed before responding, “Well, it was a little stressful, but at least things seem to be going fine with the clan.”

“I’m sorry to hear that you’re stressed,” David bows his head, and the smile that appeared on his face because Daniel entered the room vanishes, “I didn’t help, did I?”

“I’m not going to lie, the whole ordeal with the traitor was a bit frustrating.”

David turns his head to the side as an attempt to prevent himself from making eye contact with his husband. He says, “I’m sorry. I know that you’re the one in charge and all, so it was probably awkward for you when I spoke up like that.”

Before he continues, David manages to muster the bravery to lift his head up and look at Daniel, “But I couldn’t just let that guy die. Especially not when he could be innocent. You know how I am about that sort of thing.”

“Yes, I know, David. But I’m not mad at you. Even if it did stress me out a bit. Don’t worry about it, though. It isn’t a big deal. I’m over it now.”

“What I did really doesn’t bother you that much?”

“Of course not,” Daniel reaches a hand out to cup the side of David’s face, “it will take a lot more than that for you to bother me. And I can’t be mad at you for being empathetic. You’re a kind and thoughtful person. You’re willing to see the good in everyone. And even if being this way can cause you to be too trusting at times, it's still wonderful how compassionate you are. It's impressive how you can be this way in a world like this. That’s one of the things I like about you.”

David can’t help but smile at the praise. Daniel moves his hand so he can stroke his husband’s hair, and in response, David crawls closer to him so he can be snuggled. The two lean against each other for a while in silence. They both enjoy the tranquility of their environment.

"I told you how I was doing," Daniel says, after a while of sitting with David and not uttering a word, "What about you? Are things going well for you?”

David doesn’t bother to lift his head to make eye contact with Daniel. Doing so might discourage the hair stroking from continuing. He enjoys it too much to want to risk ruining the moment. Instead, he settles for snuggling against Daniel more. His voice is close to a mumble, due to how relaxed he is, “Things are going pretty good. I helped out that guy we ended up sparing. I’m happy I was able to make him feel better.”

“Wait,” Daniel stops stroking David’s hair, “you went in his cell to check on him?”

Even if David is frustrated with no longer having his hair touched, he doesn’t do anything to express his displeasure. Instead, he settles on sitting up, so he can retort, “Yeah, so what? I’ve done the same thing for other prisoners before him.”

Daniel sighs and says, “Why do you always forget that I hate it when you do that?”

“I didn’t forget. I know you say it’s dangerous and all, but it’s not like there weren't any guards nearby to help in case anything happened. Besides, he was chained up. If I thought he was getting too aggressive, I could have just walked away.”

“But what if he didn’t give you any warning? What if he tried to attack and seriously hurt you? After all, some of these people might think you have a key or something else on you that can set them free. There’s a reason why the guards make sure to be extra cautious when interacting with the prisoners. And I've seen how you interact with them before. You're not very careful.”

“But I don’t think he would have tried anything. He was scared.”

“And you think that makes this any better? Maybe some people don't do anything like that when they're scared, but some people do. Besides, this guy doesn't have much left to lose, so he might be more likely to do something because of that. Do you really want to be around someone like that?”

David recalls when Jasper swatted at him, but dismisses the memory. It was an accident and the action didn’t cause anything more than a few seconds of pain. He can’t imagine him doing anything worse than that. Which is why he is compelled to say, “But I really don't think he will do anything like that. He seems harmless.”

Daniel glares at him as if what he’s been told is the stupidest argument he has ever heard, “Really, David?”

“What?”

Daniel tries to keep the irritation out of his voice as he speaks, “You know how people don’t always think rationally when they’re afraid? And how they will sometimes make stupid decisions in the moment because they think it will make everything better?”

“I guess.”

“Well, one of the things that determines what that stupid decision will be is the fight or flight response. Have you ever heard of it?”

“Yes.”

“Unfortunately, a person stuck in that prisoner's situation might choose to fight, which will only end up causing them problems. But more importantly, if they choose to go about handling their situation that way, you could get injured, and I don’t want that to happen to you.”

“Oh,” David takes a moment to absorb everything he has been told, “I get what you’re trying to say. But I still don’t think that prisoner was going to cause any harm. He didn’t seem like that kind of person.”

“No, David. I don’t think you understand what I just told you.”

“I do! I just don’t think it applies to the prisoner! I actually got to know him a little, and so far, he doesn’t seem that bad.”

“It could just be a facade.”

“He must be an amazing actor, then. Because everything he said and did seemed genuine. I’m sure he wasn’t faking his emotions, either. He definitely looked scared.”

“He was probably afraid because he’s a coward who doesn’t want to accept that there are consequences for his actions. He could also be trying to make you feel bad for him so he can manipulate you. Remember, the scars on his face imply that he isn’t trustworthy.”

“Did you look at his clothing? He didn’t seem that important in his old clan. What would he gain from going against his leader?”

“Maybe he wasn’t that important, but he certainly wasn’t a lower ranking member, either. He looks young, so he must have had the potential to become something better. Maybe it wouldn’t have even taken much work for him to become more relevant. Especially through means that can involve harming others. Whether it be physically, or by ruining their reputation. It’s never good to have someone like that around.

“Or, he might have not been happy with his leader, and so he decided to defy him in a way that caused his clan harm. Of course, when people do this, they can sometimes be proud of what they’ve done. Even when they’re being punished. Other times, they might act like it’s unfair that they’re being punished and claim what they did was right. Then, there are the ones who regret what they did. Probably because they were punished. I’m guessing if rebellion is the reason why he has been declared a traitor, the prisoner is of the people who regretted what they did. That would explain why he’s trying to deny it. With all these possibilities in mind, I hope you can see why I don’t trust him now.”

David can’t come up with anything to counter what Daniel has told him, which is why he doesn’t say anything more about the topic of whether or not Jasper is a terrible person. For now. Instead, he settles for asking, “You’re still going to keep your promise about not killing him, right?”

“Yes, but only if he doesn’t do anything to try to harm anyone. If I so much as think he might be planning on doing something to hurt anyone in my clan, I will have no choice but to end his life. And there will be nothing you can do to save him, then.”

The last statement causes David to tense up. He tries his best to use a casual tone as he responds, “I’m sure he won’t do anything like that.”

There’s a pause in the conversation. David interrupts it by asking, “Since you’re going to keep him alive, what do you plan on doing with him?”

“Hmm,” Daniel puts a finger on his mouth as he goes over the question in his mind before answering it, “well, I haven’t given that much thought. I’ve been preoccupied with other things today. But I’ll come up with something soon.”

David doesn't say anything in response. Daniel takes his silence as an opportunity to suggest, “Why don’t we get some sleep, now? We can worry about this another time.”

Daniel moves so he’s at his side of the bed and lies down. David cuddles up next to him. When they are settled, Daniel pulls the blanket over themselves.

David receives a kiss on the forehead, before he is told, “Goodnight, David.”

He snuggles closer to his husband and says in response, “Goodnight, Daniel.”

David has trouble falling asleep that night. As is typical of him any time he is worried for the well-being of another person. He can only hope that Daniel’s plans for Jasper aren’t horrible.

Chapter Text

It has been a few days since Jasper had been captured and kept as a prisoner, and not much has happened. Which is a relief for him, as it means no more harm has come to him. He doesn’t even mind not having anything to do. He needs time to recover from the shock of the horrible events he had experienced, so he probably isn’t able to appreciate entertainment at the moment anyway.

The only person who has been keeping him company while he is in the cell is David. Which works for him, as he still isn’t ready to be around anyone else. David has been keeping an eye on his wounds to make sure they are healing well. Aside from checking on him every now and then to determine whether or not the cuts on his face are fine, he has been continuing to give him food and water. Jasper’s needs aren’t the only reason he enters his cell, though. Sometimes, he goes in there for the sake of keeping him company.

At the moment, Jasper is curled up in the same corner he has been curled up in since day one of being in the cell. He keeps the large, thick blanket David gave him wrapped around himself for comfort. He fiddles with a corner of the blanket as he stares off into space. He does this because he’s deep in thought. He is still amazed by what had hit him and wonders what is in store for him in the future. At least his guesses for what is going to happen next are more optimistic than they were when he first became a prisoner. However, he still doesn’t look forward to it.

Jasper jumps at the sound of the cell door opening, but when he glances over to find out who opened the door, he relaxes when he discovers it’s David. He is carrying a plate, which doesn’t make sense to him, as he had eaten dinner not too long ago. When David is right in front of him, he passes the plate over to him. Now that he is able to analyze what is on the plate, he discovers it is holding a slice of apple pie.

After being given the pie, David hands him a fork and says, “I thought it would be nice to give you some dessert. And I couldn’t let you miss out on the apple pie here. It’s really good!”

“Thanks, David.” he scoops some of the pie onto his fork and takes a bite. He melts when the warm, sweet pie filling touches his tongue. Crunching on the pieces of crisp apple in the filling and the buttery, flaky crust that once encased it makes the dessert all the more satisfying. After swallowing, he says, “Wow, you’re right! This is really good!”

David smiles, “I’m glad you like it!”

While Jasper continues to eat the pie, David sits down next to him to examine the cuts on his face for the fifth time today. Despite the size of the cuts, they have managed to scab over by now. Which is a step in the right direction. He still makes sure to keep them moist with the ointment he has been using, though. He also tells Jasper to be careful about not removing the scabs, even if the other knows not to do that and rolls his eyes any time he is given the reminder to express his annoyance. After all, it is general knowledge, so does he need to be told this so often?

When Jasper is finished with the pie, he sets the plate to the side so it isn’t a burden. A question pops up in his head, so turns his gaze toward David and asks, “Do you know what your husband plans on doing with me yet?”

“No, unfortunately,” David replies, “But I’m sure a decisions will be made soon. Are you worried about what’s going to happen?”

“A little bit,” Jasper says, turning his head so he now has his eyes focused on the ground. He resumes to fiddling with a corner of the blanket, “I know it won’t be anything good. He thinks I did something terrible, and because of that, he thinks I deserve to die! I mean, I don’t believe he’s going to kill me as much as I used to, but I still think it’s possible…”

David places a hand on his shoulder. At first, Jasper tenses at the touch, but it doesn’t take long for him to relax. While using the comforting gesture, David says, “Don’t worry, I’ve been talking to him a lot about this. He says that as long as you don’t do anything that will make you come off as a threat or hurt anyone, he won’t kill you. And I’m sure you aren’t going to do anything like that.”

“But what if he thinks I’m doing something threatening when I’m not? Or what if he says that I am as an excuse to get rid of me?”

“Then I’ll do everything in my power to make sure he doesn’t kill you.”

“Are you sure you’ll be able to pull that off?”

“I’m sure I can find a way. Even if I technically don’t have the same amount of power as Daniel, despite being married to him. According to the rules that govern this clan, anyway. Yet I’ve still managed to find ways to make him change his mind about things in the past. And he’s always willing to listen to me. Besides, he hates seeing me upset. Especially if he was the one to make me that way. At this point, I’m pretty sure he doesn’t want to kill you because he knows I won’t be happy about it at all.”

“Well, I guess that’s good to hear. But, I’m still concerned about what he’s going to do with me if he doesn’t kill me.”

“I don’t know what he plans on doing, but I don’t want you to get hurt, so I’ll do everything I can to make sure that doesn’t happen either. I know I’ve already said this many times, but I’m here for you. You can always come to me if there’s a problem.”

Jasper doesn’t lift his head or stop fiddling with the blanket. David doesn’t say anything about the lack of response. Instead, he settles for removing his hand from Jasper’s shoulder so he can rub slow, comforting circles on his back (the blanket had slid down a bit, which is why he is able to do this). Fortunately, there is no objection toward the action, so the two sit there in silence for a while.

When David comes up with something to say that might help Jasper out, he breaks the silence, “Maybe you should tell Daniel what happened. Explain to him how you ended up being framed and maybe give him some reasons to believe why you would have never done anything to hurt your old clan. Who knows? It might convince him that you’re innocent.”

“Are you kidding me!?” Jasper exclaims, lifting his head up so he is now facing David, “That totally isn’t going to work! He made it clear that he will never believe me about getting framed! There’s no point in even trying! If anything, it will probably just make him annoyed with me, and he already hates having me around! I don’t want to risk making everything worse!”

David takes his hand away from Jasper the moment he is yelled at. Even if the raised voice causes him to tense up, he still manages to keep his tone calm, “You can’t know whether or not it’s going to work if you don’t try.”

“I don’t need to try to know it isn’t going to work.”

“Well, it was just a suggestion. You don’t have to take it if you don’t want to. I was only trying to help.”

Jasper doesn’t say anything in response to that. He resumes to having his head bowed, as the memories of being framed and the punishment that followed flood his mind. It’s something he tries not to think about often, as doing so only causes him mental anguish. Which isn’t something he wants to deal with at the moment. Not when he is still uncertain about what is going to happen next in his life.

Regardless of whether or not he wants to deal with the memories and no matter how hard he tries to push them out of his mind, they continue to haunt him anyway. A pang forms in his chest, and the emotions he is dealing with must be obvious, as David is compelled to ask, “Jasper, are you okay?”

Jasper turns his head to the side. A lump has formed in his throat, due to his emotional state. He pushes past it so he can speak, “Yes…”

“Are you sure? It looks like something is upsetting you.”

Jasper doesn’t say anything in response to that, so David continues, “Do you think you can tell me what’s wrong? I’m willing to listen, if you need to talk.”

“I don’t know if I want to.”

“Why not?”

At first, Jasper isn’t sure if he should even tell David the reason why he doesn’t want to talk. However, it isn’t long until he gives in, “Because I’m upset about getting framed and about all the other stuff that happened afterward. And I don’t think it’s a good idea to talk about it with anyone.”

“You can talk to me about it. I’m not going to judge you or use it against you or do anything else to hurt you with whatever you tell me. And who knows? Maybe talking about it will make you feel better.”

“I don’t want to risk having you tell Daniel about what happened. And I don’t want to make myself more upset by talking about it.”

“Jasper, I promise I’m not going to tell anyone about what happened if you don’t want me to. And I understand that you don’t want to make yourself more upset by talking about it. But you can’t just ignore your feelings about it forever. Do you really think it’s a good idea to bottle up your emotions after everything you’ve been through?”

Jasper turns his gaze toward David so they are now making eye contact. After a moment of silence, David says, “Of course, you don’t have to talk about it, if you don’t want to. I understand that this is something personal to you. I just think that having someone to talk to might help.”

Once more, David is somehow able to put Jasper at ease. He talked to the man in front of him for the first time a few days ago. He didn’t even know much about him before that. Not even his name. Only that the intimidating clan leader, Daniel, happened to have a husband. Now he is considering telling him about what had happened, despite how apprehensive he has been about telling anyone about it?

“Okay,” Jasper says, giving in, “I’ll tell you what happened. But I don’t want any of the guards near this cell to hear about it. This isn’t something I’m comfortable talking about, so I don’t want them to repeat it to Daniel.”

“It’s okay. I’m sure if you speak quietly, they won’t be able to hear you.”

Jasper takes a moment to make sure he has enough control over his emotions to tell the story before he starts, “Well, I think I should start out by saying that there was this one guy in my old clan I haven’t gotten along with for a while now. His name is Braden. At first, things with Braden and I weren’t that bad. Since I tried to get along with everyone in my old clan, we used to be friendly toward each other. And then one day, around the time we were fifteen, I caught him doing something really shady. I don’t want to go into detail about what it was right now. But ever since then, he has considered me an enemy. And after seeing what he did, I didn’t really want to be his friend anymore, anyway.

“I tried to warn a few other people about him, but no one wanted to listen to me. Everyone thought he was an amazing person, so why would they take my word for it when I said that he was up to no good? After finding out that the people I told would never believe me, I gave up on trying to inform anyone on what had happened. Thankfully, the people I told didn’t tell anyone else what I had told them. After all, I didn’t want the clan to think that I was ‘spreading misinformation’ about the guy they seemed to think was so amazing.

“Well, even if I wasn’t speaking openly about what had happened, it was hard for me to hide how much I couldn’t stand him after I found out that, in all reality, he was just a terrible person who was willing to hurt anyone to get what he wanted. It didn’t take long for everyone to figure out that I didn’t really care for him. Unfortunately, this didn’t do me any good, as Braden had managed to slowly manipulate more and more people into hating me over time. And it gets worse.

“Fast forward seven years since I discovered that Braden was up to no good, and the guy who was assisting my old clan’s leader passed away. Unfortunately, while deciding on who should be second in command for the clan, he decided that Braden was the best choice. He didn’t have any doubts about him becoming a good leader one day. And of course, I wasn’t at all thrilled about the decision. Man, looking back on all this, I really wish I wasn’t so obvious about hating that guy. It seriously screwed me over reputation wise.

“Anyway, after a few months of being the assistant leader, I guess Braden suddenly decided that he couldn’t wait to be the leader of the clan anymore. He came up with a plan to get rid of the leader. The plan wasn’t too successful, even though he had two people helping him out. A guard ended up dying in the process, since he found out what was going on and he didn’t want him to tell anyone what had happened. Well, he was the only one who found out aside from me.

“I tried to stop him from getting to the leader. Unfortunately, I wasn’t doing a very good job of fighting him off, since he was so strong. I probably would have died if the leader didn’t come in to see what was going on. Especially since he had two people helping him fight me.

“Unfortunately, during the fight, I had managed to get some of the guard’s blood on my right sleeve. And with my right hand, I was holding the bloody sword that I was somehow able to knock out of Braden’s hand. To make matters worse, he didn’t get any blood on him after killing the guard. But the blood on the sword had managed to drip onto my sleeve in a way that made it look like I’d recently stabbed someone. A little bit of blood on the floor also got on my sleeve, so that didn’t help. That’s why I have my sleeves rolled up. I didn’t want anyone to see the blood after I got banished because I knew they would think I murdered someone. Thankfully, everyone has overlooked my rolled up sleeves so far. I was worried people would find it suspicious. Anyway, he only ended up getting a few smudges of blood on his clothes from fighting with me.

“Of course, Braden wasn’t going to own up for what he did, so he put all the blame on me instead. And the two people helping him out sided with him. At this point, you can probably guess that everything was working against me and that he was obviously able to convince the leader that this was all my fault.

“Because the leader believed that I was the one betraying him, I was punished with scarification. The leader himself was the one to scar my face. And even though more and more people were growing to hate me over the years, th-there were still people who were trying to defend my innocence. But it d-didn’t work. And after my face was sc-scarred, I w-was… was banished.”

Tears are rolling down Jasper's cheeks. A long silence fills the cell as David stares at him with uncertainty. It is as if he’s worried about doing or saying something that will make everything worse. At some point, he is able to bring himself to say, “Jasper, I’m so sorry…”

Jasper doesn’t say anything in response to the apology, as he is too focused on everything that’s making him upset. More tears fall from his eyes as he whimpers, “I’m never going to see my friends or family again!”

David pulls Jasper into a tight embrace, who in response, doesn’t do anything to fight against his attempt at being comforting. Instead, he buries his face into his shoulder as quiet sobs pour out of his mouth and shake his form. He wants to wrap his arms around David and hold him tight, but he can’t with the shackles on his wrists, so he settles for gripping his shirt for comfort.

David doesn’t mind the way Jasper responds to his comfort. In fact, he encourages this behavior by stroking his hair. He doesn’t say anything the entire time he is crying. Which Jasper does for a while.

When Jasper’s sobs are reduced to sniffles, David asks, “Are you feeling any better?”

“A little bit,” Jasper responds, “But I still feel terrible…”

“I’m so sorry you had to go through all that. No one deserves to suffer through the amount of pain you’re dealing with right now. Especially if they didn’t do anything wrong.”

David holds him tighter, “And it would be wrong for me to tell you that you’ll get over it one day. Because that just isn’t true. You’ll never get over it completely. But that doesn’t mean it won’t get better. I know it doesn’t feel like it will ever get better right now, but I promise that it will. And I know I’ve said this many times before and you’re probably getting sick of hearing it, but I’m always willing to help you if you want me to. Even if you just need someone to talk to.”

There’s something about the response that Jasper finds strange. David is such a happy-go-lucky individual. Why is he acting as if he understands what he is going through? Has he gone through something terrible himself? He tries not to pay the strangeness of the response much mind, though, as he says, “Th-thanks for being here for me.”

“There’s no need to thank me. I love helping people out. It’s rewarding enough to see that you’re feeling a little better.”

Jasper doesn’t say anything. Instead, he snuggles against David as he tries to use the warmth of his body and the blanket to combat the chills he is experiencing from crying. Not to mention, he’s exhausted from all the intense emotions he had to deal with, so leaning against David allows him to relax. As time passes, it becomes more and more difficult for him to stay awake.

The hair stroking doesn’t help, as the comforting act is persuading him to fall asleep. It isn’t long until he ends up doing so.


*****

David continues to hold Jasper. Even after he falls asleep. He doesn’t stop running his fingers through his hair, either. He studies the sleeping form leaning against him.

I should probably leave now. I don’t think Jasper would want me to hang around while he’s sleeping. It seems kind of creepy.

As if to contradict his thoughts, Jasper snuggles closer to him. David can’t help but smile.

He looks so peaceful right now. What if I end up accidentally waking him up if I move? Maybe I should stay for a while, so he can get some rest. It’s not like I have anything important to do anyway.

With those thoughts in mind, David doesn’t move for a long time. He stays with Jasper until he himself grows drowsy. When that happens, he leaves to go to his room.

Chapter Text

After sitting with Jasper (while said person was sleeping) for what he believes was at least an hour, David walks to his own room with lazy steps. Upon arrival, he finds that Daniel is already sitting in bed and reading a book. He lifts his eyes from the book to study David not long after he steps into the room, who is turned so he can't catch sight of the wet spot on his shirt. He says, "Well, it's not often that I'm here long before you are. What have you been up to this evening?"

"Not much," David replies, removing his day clothes and replacing them with an outfit more comfortable for bed, "just kind of got occupied with something for a while. That's all."

"Hm," Daniel furrows his brows, as if he is aware that David is being vague about what he was busy doing to avoid telling him he was hanging out with Jasper. A prisoner of all people. He doesn't mention his displeasure, though. Instead, he settles for putting his book to the side and saying, "well, I hope you were able to finish whatever you were busy with."

Neither of them say anything after that and David sits down next to Daniel on the bed. Even if it's clear his husband isn't happy with how insistent he is about helping Jasper out, there isn't any tension between the two. In fact, after a few minutes of silence, Daniel wraps an arm around him and pulls him close.

David snuggles closer to Daniel. He spent a large chunk of his evening helping another person through the emotional aftermath of a traumatic event. Even if doing so gives him that warm, fuzzy feeling he is rewarded with any time he helps another person out, he still can't help but be drained afterward. It doesn't help that he had been helping others in his clan with various tasks before that as well. He wants to be pampered now.

Daniel asks, "So, even if you were busy, have things been going well for you today?"

David answers his question after settling into a comfortable position, "Yeah."

"That's good."

David rests his head against Daniel's shoulder and asks, "What about you?"

"I'm busy as always. But things seem to be going fine."

They both grow silent for another long span of time, enjoying the moment. That is, until Daniel finds it necessary to say, "Whelp, I've finally decided on what I'm going to do with the prisoner."

David tenses as a bunch of negative possibilities of what could happen to Jasper flood his mind, but he tries his best to keep his tone casual as he speaks, "What do you plan on doing with him?"

"I'm going to make him a slave."

"What!?" David exclaims, pushing himself away from Daniel and glaring at him, "You can't be serious!"

"I am being serious."

"Why!? How is this even going to work!? I thought you didn't trust him! You aren't worried about him being around other people?"

"Look, I know this might not seem like a great solution to this problem. And I understand that this is probably something you didn't want. But I figured since I can't kill him, I might as well make him useful. Right now, he's just wasting resources sitting in that cell and doing nothing. And maybe being a slave can help him make up for whatever he did. Or at least some of what he did."

"And what about you not trusting him? He's going to have to interact with other people if he's a slave!"

"I know that technically he could try to do something while he's a slave, but I figure it will be pretty easy to keep him under control. I'm not going to let him work with anything that can be used as a weapon or let him prepare food, in case he tries to meddle with it in some way. I'll keep him in this building, too. There are a bunch of people here who can keep an eye on him, if he ever wants to try anything. And it wouldn't hurt to have another servant around here, since the other ones seem to be a bit overwhelmed at the moment. Besides, you'll be able to check up on him if we keep him around as a slave, since you still care about him. For whatever reason."

"But you know that slaves don't get treated well! He's going to be miserable! And what do you mean by 'make up for what he did'? You aren't planning on punishing him with more than slavery, are you?"

Daniel pulls David into his arms once more in an attempt to calm him and says, "Oh, no. Of course not. He's going to be treated just like every other slave. If he does something wrong, he'll be given the appropriate punishment for whatever he does."

David tenses even more, causing Daniel to continue in a soft voice, "But don't worry. You'll do a good job of making sure he follows the rules, right? So he might never have to get punished. And if he does, I'll make sure the punishments don't go too far. Better yet, I'll always be the one to punish him myself. I'll make sure he doesn't get anything like a severe injury, because I know that you really wouldn't want that. And I also know that other people might loathe him because of the scars on his face and could end up taking the punishments too far."

David is still struggling to relax, so Daniel holds him closer, "He's also going to have a small room all to himself, because I know the other slaves most likely aren't going to want to share their living quarters with him. And the ones who don't mind might get ideas from him. And no one would want that. But anyway, if you think about it, he has it a little better than the other slaves. He'll have more privacy. And as I said before, I'm sure you'll do a good job making sure he doesn't get into trouble."

"I don't know. I still don't like this idea,," David says, turning his head so he is now focusing on a random spot on the bed, "And I don't understand why we couldn't just escort him off our territory. It would have been the right thing to do."

"I already told you, I don't want to waste my men's time on him. And who's to say they wouldn't try to do anything to him while they were escorting him anyway? They know I don't care about him. And you wouldn't be around to do anything about it."

"I would have been willing to come with him, to make sure they didn't hurt him."

"Absolutely not! I care too much about you to let you walk with a traitor out in the middle of nowhere! Even with guards around!"

"But he wouldn't try to hurt me! He's really not that bad!"

Daniel ignores David's response, "Anyway, there's no telling if someone from outside of our territory would try to kill him after we safely get him away from here."

David struggles to come up with something to argue his point, so he doesn't say anything. Instead, his fingers fiddle with the edge of a pillow case as he continues to stare at a random spot on the bed. His other hand is curled in a loose fist and is held to his chin as he tries to come up with something to say, despite the long pause in the conversation caused by his lack of response.

Daniel strokes his hair in another attempt to soothe him, "David, just think about it. Would it really be so bad for him if we kept him around as a slave? At least here he will be fed and both you and I will make sure no one tries to kill him or cause him a lot of harm. And you can continue to spend time with him, if you want. I still don't like it, but you don't listen when I tell you not to go near him. Just be careful. Please!"

"I-I guess you have a point. I just... wish we could go about this differently."

"I'm sorry you don't like how this turned out. I have been keeping your perspective on this issue in mind. But trust me, it's the best solution I could come up with. I promise that this isn't going to be as bad as you think."

David leans against Daniel and hugs him as he tries to comfort himself, "I hope you're right."


*****

A faint beam of sunlight filters in through the small, barred window of the cell as the sun makes its presence outside clear and declares the arrival of morning. It is now day five of Jasper being a prisoner of the Heinrich clan. He has yet to receive any notice about what is going to happen to him. Though a part of him still anticipates a pessimistic future, he is growing tired of sitting in a cell for so long. He would appreciate a change of scenery.

Out of boredom, he rubs the stubble on his chin and jawline that has grown there from going without shaving for several days. Even if the prickly sensation provides him with something different to focus on in mundane setting of the cell, he still isn't fond of having stubble on his face. For one, he isn't trying to grow out his facial hair at the moment. He isn't able to grow a full beard yet, and what facial hair he does have when he goes without shaving for a while is awkward in appearance. It doesn't help that he will have scars on his face now. Even if he could grow a full beard and cared to have one, they would ruin it. After all, the beard wouldn't be able to cover all of his scars and he doubts he will ever be able to grow hair in the places he was cut.

Another problem he has with the stubble is that it reminds him of how gross he is right now. He hasn't had a chance to clean himself since he was framed. It doesn't help that he had been running for long periods of time before entering the Heinrich territory. He didn't bother asking David if he could clean himself either, as he was too overwhelmed to focus on hygiene and doubted anyone would trust him enough to release him from the cell to let him bathe. There is the possibility of attempting to clean himself where he is at the moment, but he doubts it would work out with the restraints he is wearing. He isn't going to have someone bathe him either. Not even David. He might trust that guy more than anyone here, but there's no way he's letting him do that!

He runs his fingers through his greasy hair to check how disgusting it is and cringes. Wasn't David touching it yesterday? It wasn't much better then than it is now. Well, considering the circumstances, it is understandable why he is gross at the moment. At least he can be certain that David isn't judging him, as he doesn't come off as the type to do that. Still, Jasper can't help but cringe even more at the thought of another person touching his unwashed hair.

Speaking of David, said person enters the cell not too long after the day starts. He has a glass container full of ointment with him, as he still finds it necessary to keep the scabs on Jasper's face moist. However, he lacks his typical cheery demeanor. Instead, a frown is present on his features, and he uses his free hand to rub his arm, as if something is bothering him. This can't be good.

David attempts to talk in a casual tone, regardless of how obvious his nervousness is, "Well, I have some news for you, but I should probably share it with you once I finish moisturizing your scabs. B-because you still don't seem to be comfortable with me touching your face and I don't think telling you will help with that."

They stare at each other for a moment. David's uneasiness never falters, causing everything to become awkward. Jasper breaks the silence by asking, "It isn't good, is it?"

David kneels down in front of him and gathers some ointment onto his fingers, "You'll find out soon. L-let's just try to focus on this right now, okay?"

With a shaky hand, David makes sure to go slow as the tips of his first two fingers, which are now covered in ointment, near the scabs. Jasper can't help but grow more nervous than what is typical for him during this procedure with the way David is acting at the moment. It causes his heart to beat faster because of the anxiety, thanks to how much more he now dreads the future.

He shuts his eyes and grips his blanket for comfort, as he always does. The moment David touches him, he whips his head to the side. It isn't the first time he has done this. Even after growing comfortable with David. However, he has never done it more than once during this process. Which is what he is doing now. It isn't shocking, though, because the comforting words the other has never failed to tell him before whenever he is scared aren't being uttered. Which makes him all the more worried about what is going to happen to him. Had David not scared him enough with how nervous he is acting?

David stops trying to apply the ointment on his scabs and says, "I'm so sorry. I probably shouldn't have even brought up the thing I need to tell you before trying to do this. I'm just making you feel worse than usual about this, aren't I?"

At first, Jasper doesn't know what to say. That is, until an idea pops into his head. He opens his eyes now that David's hand is away from his face and so it isn't awkward when he speaks, "You know what, why don't I put the ointment on? It's not like you have to worry about cleaning out my cuts anymore, so you don't have to worry about me getting soap in an open wound because I can't see them, or about all the supplies being an inconvenience for me to deal with, since I have these shackles on."

"Yeah, that probably would be a better idea at this point. We only have to worry about getting the ointment on the scabs. And I don't think you're going to get used to me touching your face any time soon. Do you know how much to put on?"

"I think I can take a good guess as to how much I should put on. I've put ointment on plenty of times in the past. It isn't hard to figure out. And even if I don't have a mirror and can really only rely on touch to figure out whether I'm putting too much or too little on, I still think I'll be fine."

"Okay, you have a point," David hands him the salve before standing up, "um, I'm going to get this ointment off my fingers now. W-while you're busy putting some on your scabs. I'll... I'll be right back."

"Okay."

With that said, David walks out of the cell at a quicker pace than what is usual for him. As if Jasper's first encounter with him today wasn't awkward enough. While applying the salve to his scabs, he can't help how his stomach twists as he visualizes the possible outcomes his future hosts. Though he is sure his emotions are valid, a part of him still finds it irritating. He has improved so much since the frightened state he was in when he entered the cell, and now he is regressing. Of course, it is bound to happen as he is about to discover what Daniel has planned for him (he is certain this is what the news is about). Still, can't he have a break?

When Jasper is finished lathering the ointment on his scabs, David returns with his hands clean and dry and takes the container from him so it isn't a burden. He asks, "Are you ready to hear the news."

Jasper swallows, in an attempt to aid his throat as it tightens because of how anxious he is, "We might as well get this over with."

"Well," David says, resuming to rubbing his arm, "Daniel finally decided what he wants to do with you. You're... going to be a slave..."

There is a moment of silence before Jasper responds, "What?"

David averts his gaze from Jasper. His voice becomes small, "You're... you're a s-slave now."

Jasper sits there and stares at David. He grows lightheaded not long after he being informed of his fate.

Is this really happening right now?

David's voice wavers, "I'm s-sorry..."

Jasper still doesn't say anything. David takes the lack of response as an opportunity to try and compose himself before continuing, "I tried to make sure everything would turn out fine for you. Or at least, as fine as it could be in your situation. But my husband says this is the best solution he could come up with. I-I'm sorry. I really am."

A couple tears fall from David's eyes. Jasper is still too shocked to say anything, so he lets him have his moment. When David speaks again, the tears don't stop rolling down his cheeks, "You probably don't need to see me get all emotional like this right now. B-but I couldn't help it. I feel terrible about all this and well... it became too much for me to handle."

David wipes the tears away and continues, "But don't worry. Even if this isn't at all an ideal situation, I'll still do everything I can to make things better for you."

He walks closer to Jasper so he is right in front of him and kneels down so he can pull him into a hug, "I'm sure you'll get through this. I know you've been through a lot, and you might think this is too much to handle, but you're strong. I'm sure you'll find a way. And you know by now you're not going to be alone while you deal with this."

He holds Jasper a while before freeing him from the embrace. He takes one of his hands into his own so he can give it a comforting squeeze, "Is there anything you would like this morning? Anything you want for breakfast?"

Jasper snaps out his daze and says, "I-I'm not h-hungry..."

"Okay, I understand. How about I go prepare a bath for you instead, then? You probably want one, since you had to sit in this cell for a while without being able to do much about your hygiene. And I can make it nice and warm for you, too. How does that sound?"

"Th-that sounds n-nice."

"Good. I'm sorry I couldn't make one for you earlier, though. Daniel was really paranoid about you when you first came here. He already hated it enough that I was hanging out with you in this cell. I don't think he would have been at all happy with me taking you out of here. And I doubt you would be okay with me cleaning you right here. You definitely weren't in a good state of mind for that. Which is fine, because that's too weird for me anyway. But now, you have to be clean if you're going to be working here, and you're going to be out of this cell soon, so now you can bathe."

David stands, and before heading out of the cell, says, "Well, I'm going to go prepare that bath now."

After that is said, Jasper is left on his own as he tries to process what in the world had just hit him.

Chapter Text

When David returns to Jasper, he enters the cell with two guards following behind. However, David doesn't walk close to him as he has the other times he checked on him. Instead, he stands near the door while the guards remove the metal cuffs binding his wrists and says, "I'm sorry. I know you would have probably preferred it if I was the one taking the shackles off, but the guards wouldn't let me do so."

He isn't wrong. Jasper still isn't ready to have anyone other than David close to him. Even if the circumstances are less than ideal, he is lucky his anxiety for being around other people has improved from the crippling, panicky state he was once in, so having the guards near him and touching his arms once in a while for brief periods of time to remove the shackles only causes him to cringe. The whole ordeal still gives him the urge to hide from the presence of these unfamiliar and standoffish individuals, but at least he isn't reacting in a stupid manner to being freed from his restraints as a result of being touched in a harmless way.

Once he is freed, Jasper stands and follows David and the guards out of the cell. David leads the way to wherever he intends on taking him for the bath. One of the guards is in front of Jasper, to keep him separated from David while he has his back turned to him. The other one trails behind everyone else in the group, which Jasper assumes he does in case he tries to make a run for it or attack the guard in front of him. Their caution is understandable, and it is a part of their job as guards to play it safe with prisoners, but he still has to suppress the urge to roll his eyes. He isn't an idiot. He understands that resistance will only make everything worse and he has no idea how he can pull off escaping. Nor has he reached the point of becoming nihilistic because of how awful his life is right now. Other than that, there is the obvious factor of having no one other than David believe him about his claims of being innocent in the Heinrich clan that both irks and saddens him.

When they arrive in the room with the bath, David says, "Unfortunately, the guards are going to have to keep an eye on you while you bathe. That isn't going to be a problem, is it?"

Again, the guards are only trying to do their job, but the statement still causes Jasper to shrink back and turn his head to the side. He says in response, "Oh, um... I guess it's not the worst worst thing in the world..."

"You aren't comfortable with this, are you?"

Jasper doesn't say anything, so David continues, "That's okay. I'm sure a lot of people would feel uncomfortable about this. Would it make you feel better if I stayed here? I don't mean that as in watching you bathe, or anything creepy like that. Only so I can make sure the guards won't do anything, if that's what you're worried about. Though I'm sure they won't try to do anything to you."

Jasper doesn't lift his gaze from the floor as he says, "I don't know..."

David places a hand on his shoulder, "Jasper, I'm sure it will be fine. The guards know it would be a bad idea to try and do anything to you, since I am expecting you to come out of here without being harmed in any way. And if you're worried about them looking at you the whole time, I doubt they're going to do that either. I'm sure they hate this just as much as you do. They're just doing their job. And as I said before, I'm willing to stay here if it will make you feel better about this."

"I think it would be better if only the guards were here. I mean, um, no offense to you. I know you aren't the type to be creepy or anything. I just... think I would be more comfortable with two people sticking around than with three because then there would be less people here, you know?"

"Okay, I understand." David pats him on the shoulder before turning to leave. When he is at the door, he says, "I'll be waiting right outside this room if there is any trouble, okay? And go ahead and take your time. You aren't required to work today so we aren't in any rush. Oh, and I left some clean clothes on that ledge over there for you to change into once you're finished."

"Okay."

David leaves the room once that is said and Jasper walks next to the bath. He observes the guards out of the corner of his eye before doing anything else. Neither of them are staring at him, so he is more confident about undressing. Well, he still isn't happy about having them around, but he has to clean himself at some point. He might as well get this over with. Besides, trying to make the best of his situation by acknowledging the guards' lack of interest in viewing him without clothes helps him cope with the unfavorable circumstances.

While he removes his clothes and discards them somewhere nearby the bath (he'll take care of them later), he is careful about making sure that when his blood stained sleeves unravel, the guards are never able to catch a glimpse of them. He hides his shirt under the rest of his clothes, too. That way, the blood stains can continue to stay out of sight.

With his clothes out of the way, Jasper steps into the water. At first, he is caught off guard by how warm the bath is. It isn't enough to hurt him, but it isn't pleasant either. However, it isn't long until he grows accustomed to the temperature of the water and submerges himself in it. He sits there for a while as the warmth he is now engulfed in encourages him to relax. At some point, he finds himself slouching so his shoulders end up being engulfed by it as well. As a result, he has no choice but to make his knees break the surface of the water, since there isn't enough room for his entire body (excluding his head) to fit in the bath.

Despite how relaxed the water makes him, it doesn't prevent him from forgetting the presence of the guards forever. In fact, the moment he recalls that he has company, the urge to lie in the warm water until it is cold enough to no longer be enjoyable dissipates. Not long after it does, he grabs the soap that David left for him to use and starts cleaning his body. Once he is finished doing that, he moves onto washing his hair. After he is clean, he steps out of the bath and is quick to wrap himself in the towel placed next to the clean clothes so the guards can't see anything he prefers to keep private.

When he rubs himself with the towel to dry off, he never lets how he is naked leave his mind and continues to try and keep his privates out of sight at all times. After he is finished drying himself, he puts on the clean outfit David gave him and heads out the door. The guards grow more attentive toward him as he walks up to David and asks, "Can I use something to shave my face?"

"Sure, I can get you something for that."

This response prompts one of the guards to speak up, "Sir, I don't think this is a good idea."

"Oh, come on. It's not like he's going to be able to kill someone with what I'm planning on giving him to shave his face. Unless he is really determined to do so. No, I'm just going to give him a small blade. It wouldn't be necessary to give him something bigger than that. Besides, you two should have no problem taking care of a situation where he gets too aggressive. You have actual weapons on you and you're trained for that sort of thing. But you won't have to worry about that. I know you don't trust him, but he's actually pretty harmless. I don't see any reason why you would need to attack him or anything."

The guard doesn't say anything more about the topic, but the way he glances at Jasper isn't reassuring. The glance tells him that the guard still isn't on the same page as David. Which isn't shocking, but it still causes Jasper to focus his eyes on a random spot on the wall out of discomfort.

David speaks up once more, causing Jasper to bring his attention back to him after avoiding eye contact with everyone in the room for a bit, "Well, Jasper. Why don't you bring those dirty clothes to me before I go get you something to shave with?"

"Okay."

Jasper walks over to where he discarded the dirty clothes, gathers them up in his arms, and brings them to David. David takes them from him before walking away from the room. While he is gone, Jasper heads over to the center of the room so he is away from the doorway. He doesn't want to be near the guards if they are going to act nervous about him using a tiny blade to shave. He makes sure he doesn't come off as too nervous himself, though. He doesn't want to risk sending the wrong message and making the guards even more suspicious of him.

When David returns with the promised blade, Jasper makes sure not to make any sudden movements or do anything else that might cause the guards to attack him. David also gives him something to lather his face with while he shaves, as well as fresh water to rinse the slick substance off when he is finished. While he hands him the needed materials, he says, "Be careful with the scabs on your face."

"I know. I'll make sure I don't accidentally scrape them off."

Jasper stands in front of the mirror and soaks his face with water. After that, he applies the moist substance David handed him before placing the knife on his skin to remove the stubble with a gentle amount of pressure. He can't help the pang in his chest at the sight of his reflection, though. It isn't any better from when he studied his reflection on the surface of a lake all those days ago. He doubts he will ever grow to love the sight of his own face now that it's scarred the way it is.

When he is finished removing the stubble, he rinses off his face and cleans the knife before going over to David to return the supplies he lent him. David smiles at him and says, "You look great, Jasper!"

Despite disagreeing with the statement, Jasper says in response, "Thanks."

There is a moment of silence before David speaks up once more, "Why don't you come with me while I put these shaving supplies away? I can give you a tour of the building right after."

"Sure, I'll come with you."

With that said, they walk to wherever David is going to store the shaving supplies and once he is finished with that, he says to the guards, "I don't think you two will have to stick around anymore. There's going to be a lot of people in the places I plan on showing Jasper, so I'm sure I'll be safe."

David turns his head to Jasper to add, "Not that I believe you're going to do anything to me. As I've said before."

One of the guards says, "Alright, if you're sure you're going to be safe, we'll leave. Just be careful."

"Don't worry. I'm sure everything's going to be just fine."

With that, the guards leave. Out of nowhere, David grabs Jasper's hand and drags him along with him as he strides down the hallway, "Let's get started! There's so much I would like to show you!"

Bemused by how enthusiastic David is about giving him a tour of the building and how his mood continues to improve as time passes, despite how upset he was about the whole enslavement ordeal earlier (Is he trying to make the best of the situation?), Jasper replies with an, "Um, o-okay."

David drags Jasper all over the building and tells him all about each room he believes he will be occupying at some point. However, it is difficult for him to give David his full attention during the tour, so he forgets where half of the rooms are within five minutes of being shown them. He can't help but be distracted by the looks people give him as he walks through the building. Some people glare at him, while others turn their heads away from him as if he is an eyesore. At some point, they encounter a mother who ushers her child out of the room as quickly as possible the moment she catches sight of him. All these reactions cause a mixture of anxiety and hurt to claw at his chest. It makes him want to curl up in some dark corner that is out of the way where he hopes he can be left alone.

It is when they are in the middle of a hallway when David is about to show him the last few rooms he wants to show him that Jasper stops moving. Since David had stopped holding his hand a quarter of the way into the tour, it takes him a few seconds to notice that he is no longer following him. When he comes to this realization, he turns toward Jasper and asks, "Is there something wrong? How come you suddenly stopped walking with me?"

Jasper doesn't say anything and instead turns his gaze to the side to avoid making eye contact with him. David walks up to him and takes one of his hands in his own to try and comfort him, "Jasper, please tell me what's wrong. I know something is bothering you."

Jasper musters the courage to speak, though his voice is small, "I-I... I don't feel like being around other people r-right now..."

"Okay, I'm not going to force you to be around other people if that's not something you want. How about I go show you to your room? No one will bother you in there."

Jasper can't help but be shocked by the statement. He gets a room to himself, even though he's a slave? He doesn't question it though, as he follows David to his new room.

When they arrive at his room, Jasper can't help but be shocked by the lay out. It isn't anything fancy, and the room is small, but there is still enough space for it to be a comfortable place to relax in. It is also obvious that someone had taken the time to give it a homely feel, as the bed is already made for him and there are even a few books stacked up on the nightstand next to it.

While he studies the room, David says, "I hope you like it. I found out this morning that this room had already been set up for you, but I added a few extra touches to it. By the way, do like to read? I wasn't sure if that was something you did for fun, so I put some books in here just in case. And if you do like to read, I'm not sure what you like, so I picked these books randomly. But don't be afraid to get other books from the library if you don't like these ones."

When Jasper recovers enough from his shock to speak, he asks, "How come I get to have all this to myself? What about the other slaves here? Are their living areas this nice? And how come I'm not living with them?"

"The reason why you have this room all to yourself is because Daniel doesn't trust you enough to live with the other slaves. And if you're worried about the other slaves' living conditions, don't worry. I know this clan has a reputation, thanks to the current leader and those who were in charge before him, but things have been getting better. Really, the only thing you have that the other slaves don't is the opportunity to have time to yourself. Still, I'm not happy with this arrangement. I wish we didn't have slaves here at all."

There is a pause before David speaks up once more, "Well, I'm going to go get you something to eat now. You haven't had anything for breakfast, so you should definitely get something in your stomach."

David leaves him alone in the room for a bit, so Jasper takes the time to sit on his bed and reflect on his current situation, now that he is no longer in awe of his room. Doing so causes the anxiety to return. In fact, when David comes back to his room with the promised food and sets it on the nightstand, he doesn't bother to touch it. Which causes David to say, "Jasper, you need to eat. I understand that you're not hungry. And I don't want to be pushy if you don't want to eat. That's why I didn't bother giving you anything for breakfast. But I don't want you to get in the habit of skipping meals, either. It's not healthy."

"I know. But there's something that just occurred to me. And thinking about it is making me lose my appetite..."

"What is it?"

Jasper curls into himself, "Um, d-don't the slaves here usually get branded on their hand or something?"

"Yes, they usually do. Daniel and I talked about it this morning, and he originally wanted to do that to you, but I managed to convince him not to." since it appears his response doesn't do anything to soothe Jasper, David pulls him into a hug and continues, "You don't need to worry about it. You're going to be fine."

"A-are you sure this isn't going to happen? How are people going to know that I'm a slave if it doesn't happen?"

"I promise it won't. He told everyone this morning that the scars on your face will be what signifies your slavery, so no one's going to brand you."

Jasper still can't make himself relax, so David hugs him tighter and runs his fingers through his hair as he says, "Jasper, I'm not lying to you. I promise. It's going to be okay."

It takes a while, but Jasper manages to push himself to say, "I'm sorry. I'm still paranoid about that sort of thing after having my face scarred..."

"You don't have to apologise. I understand why you're afraid. But your hand is going to be fine. No one's going to brand it. You don't need to be scared."

Jasper wraps his arms around David and they stay this way for a while. Even after Jasper manages to overcome his bout of anxiety and relaxes in David's arms. He savors the moment. He enjoys having his scalp massaged and being held like this. Even though the person holding him is a twig who is a bit shorter than him (the slight height difference isn't a big deal, but Jasper is at a normal weight for someone at his height, so it adds to the size difference), it still makes him feel protected.

David breaks the silence between them by saying, "You should probably eat your food, soon. It's starting to get cold."

Indifferent to the statement, Jasper mumbles, "Yeah..."

There is another silence, and the two continue to hold each other. At some point, David says, "I'm not doing a good job encouraging you to eat, am I? But I can't stop touching your hair. It's so soft when it's clean."

Jasper pushes away from David, "Wait, what?"

"I'm sorry! That probably sounded weird, didn't it?"

"Yeah, a little bit."

"I didn't mean for that statement to come out like that! You aren't bothered by what I said, are you?"

"No, I'm not bothered by it. I know you didn't mean it that way."

"Maybe it wasn't a good idea to touch your hair like that in the first place. It's something my husband does to me whenever he's in a cuddly mood, and now I'm beginning to think that only lovers should do that for each other. I just thought it would help you feel better because-"

"David, it's cool."

David is quiet for a moment before he says, "Okay, if it really doesn't bother you, I'll drop it. Um, why don't you try to eat your lunch now? I hope it's not too cold."

Jasper doesn't say anything as he gets to work on eating the food on the nightstand so David will stop bothering him about it. Satisfied with the response, David moves to leave the room. When he's at the doorway, he turns to Jasper to say, "I'll come to check on you later tonight. If that's okay."

"Okay."

"Oh, and one last thing, in case you're wondering about that shirt," David lowers his voice in case anyone may be nearby, "I got rid of it, so no one will find out about it."

With that said, David leaves the room, and Jasper has one less thing to worry about.