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"I can't believe you already have a budget," said Hanna. "I've been here twelve years and I still don't have a budget."

They were sitting at a table in the little restaurant inside the department store, Gwen wearing a borrowed outfit of Hanna's that, though definitely too big for her, was at least an improvement on Quen's tunic and shoes. She was writing carefully, with the round, precise characters of someone who didn't write often, in the small black notebook Hanna had just bought her; she'd noted the cost of the black book, plus the red pencil she was writing with, and the black one with which, at the top of the page, she'd written the projected amount of her two weeks' wages and the date they'd be paid.

"I need a budget," she said. "I've never had to manage money before."

"Well, you don't have to write down everything," said Hanna. "I mean, you don't have to pay me back for everything. I'd like to get you some kind of 'welcome to freedom' present."

"That's very kind of you," said Gwen, "but I need to start learning what things cost and what I can afford. If you'd like to make me a gift of something specific today, I can make a note of that. Should I get a third pencil, so I can put gifts down in a different color?"

"You're sort of terrifying to me," said Hanna, and Gwen looked up, startled, and then gave the small but genuine smile Hanna was beginning to be eager to elicit.

"It's just as well to be methodical," she said. "Now. Clothes."

"Yes, clothes," said Hanna. "I'm figuring you'll need a work outfit-- something comfortable-- and then something nicer, for going out. And maybe some pajamas that don't swallow you up. Plus shoes-- work shoes and nice shoes. And-- well-- underwear, you know, bras and--"

"Please slow down." Gwen was taking notes, in red. Hanna read, upside-down: Work outfit. Nice outfit. Pajamas? "What exactly constitutes an 'outfit'?"

"Well," said Hanna, "your outfit right now is khaki slacks, brown belt, white blouse."

"How much did it cost?"

"Um," said Hanna, trying to remember.

Gwen smiled again. "You're sort of terrifying to me, too."

"May I take your order?" asked the waitress, appearing out of nowhere; Hanna hadn't even glanced at the menu.

"Can you give us a minute?" she asked, and the waitress said, "Of course" and walked away. Gwen, who had snatched up her menu as if to make an instant decision, relaxed slightly, but continued to study the card.

"This is definitely my treat," Hanna told her. "I invited you to lunch, so I'm paying."

"Is that how it works?" Gwen asked.


"Thank you," said Gwen. "Will you choose what I eat, then?"

"That's not usually how it works," said Hanna.

Gwen squinted at the card. "There are a lot of choices."

"Do you want advice?"

"Yes, please."

"Anything you don't like?"

Gwen looked at her as if she were crazy.

"Right," said Hanna. "See, that was another one of my problems, that I was a picky eater."

"As a slave?"

"I know, I know. Okay, do you want something tasty, or something nutritious?"

"Isn't there anything that's both?"

Hanna grinned. "Point. Let's figure out what it is."

When Hanna saw Gwen in clothes that fit, for the first time, she was stunned by the beauty of the girl's body. She was too thin, but in a clinging jersey top and slacks that hugged her hips, then flared out along her legs, she had perfect small breasts and a willowy waist above a tight little bottom.

"You look great," she said, hoping her tone passed for professional appraisal and not lechery. The last thing Gwen needed was to feel ogled by the counselor who was trying to help her transition into freedom. "Do you like it?"

"Is it appropriate?" Gwen asked.

"It's perfect for going out," said Hanna. "Probably a little too nice for work. If you're cleaning, you want something you can kneel down in."

Gwen gave her small, strange, lovely smile to the mirror as she answered, "Well, I'm used to that."

She tried on a few more outfits before settling on a plum-colored sleeveless top with a rolled neck, black slacks, and a black jacket, whose prices she carefully noted in red, in her notebook, as Hanna paid. Then they found a pair of looser, more easily washable calf-length brown slacks and a comfortable button-up blue shirt for work. One pair of everyday sandals, one of pretty black ones with a small heel; one pair of closed-toe shoes and six pairs of white cotton socks. Two brassieres. Cotton underpants.

"This seems expensive," said Gwen, writing.

"It's basic necessity," said Hanna. "And they should last a while. Oh, Gwen, look at this!"

She held up a soft silk scarf of dark gold, shot through with threads of metallic gleam.

"That's pretty," said Gwen.

"It would go with your eyes," said Hanna, holding it up against Gwen's face; Gwen stood very still. Her eyes were almost gold, or maybe copper-colored. "I could get it for you, if you want. As a gift."

"What would I do with it?" Gwen asked.

"Wear it," said Hanna. "It would go with your nice outfit. And you could just-- have it? I don't know, when I first got here I just loved owning stuff."

"How much does it cost?"

Hanna smiled. "You're not supposed to ask the price of gifts."

"I'm sorry," said Gwen. "I asked because if you're going to be kind enough to get me a gift, I would like to know how much money you would consider it appropriate to spend on one."

"In case there's something else you'd prefer, for the same price?"

Gwen lowered her eyes. "I'm sorry if that's-- ungracious of me."

"It's not," said Hanna. "It's very sensible."

She showed Gwen the tag on the scarf, and Gwen looked at it, then checked her notebook.

"That's roughly five times what you spent on a restaurant lunch for both of us," she said.

Hanna smiled. "Right."

"Will you take me to lunch five more times, instead?" Gwen asked.

Hanna didn't answer for a minute, and whatever her expression was-- she didn't know-- shut Gwen's face down into the expressionless mask it had been after she tried her wiles on Niel. She lowered her coppery eyes again even as Hanna hurried to say, "Of course-- of course I will, Gwen, I'd love to take you out again--"

"You're busy," said Gwen, her eyes still lowered; she wasn't really bowing, but the effect was the same. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to presume."

"You didn't presume," said Hanna, and put her hand on Gwen's arm; Gwen didn't flinch, but her stillness, if possible, increased. Hanna took her hand away, feeling huge and clumsy, and utterly unqualified to be anybody's counselor. "Gwen? It's just-- there's nothing wrong with what you said. I just wondered, is that really what you want? You'll probably get sick of me soon, you'll be seeing so much of me-- if we meet every day-- not that you have to--"

Gwen finally lifted her eyes again, and looked at Hanna carefully, as if sizing her up. It made Hanna nervous; she tried not to twitch.

"It's probably more appropriate for you to choose what gift you give me," Gwen said. "Isn't it?"

"But I want to give you something you want," said Hanna. "And if you'll let me buy you lunch again, I'd-- well, I'd enjoy that. But I don't know if I'd think of it as a gift."

"I would," said Gwen.

"Then, okay," said Hanna. "It's a deal."

Gwen nodded. "Thank you."

"Well--" Hanna tried to bridge the moment. "The only thing we haven't gotten so far is pajamas."

The women's sleepwear department made Gwen blink and pause right at the edge of it. Hanna stopped with her, following her gaze to a rack of skimpy lingerie in scarlet satin and lace.

"Not quite what I had in mind," said Hanna, "but if you like it--"

Gwen stared at her for a moment, and then said, "No. I-- sorry. My third owner-- Lord Kazakov-- he, um, he liked me to wear things like that. Sometimes."

"Ugh," said Hanna involuntarily.

Gwen gestured at the racks. "He must not be the only one who likes them."

"I don't think they're really you," said Hanna. "Let's find some stuff that's actually for sleeping in."

As Gwen fingered a green cotton-jersey top, Hanna said, "So am I sleeping over again tonight? Do you want me to?"

"That's very kind of you," said Gwen, "but I'll be fine. It's not my first night any more, and Beck and Niel are-- fine."

Hanna nodded. "Okay-- if you're sure. It's no trouble for me. I sleep just as well anywhere."

"Thank you," said Gwen, "but I'll be fine."

She seemed fairly enthralled by the variety of pajamas that covered you up almost entirely, so Hanna let her browse and wandered off a little way, avoiding the racks of lingerie; she didn't want to picture Gwen's fragile, youthful body in any such getup. Hanna knew the routine; she'd heard it from female clients before. They dressed you up, usually with elaborate makeup, too, and then took pleasure in spoiling the picture; delicate undergarments torn and disheveled, makeup smeared with tears and sweat and semen. Hanna pushed the images of Gwen away, her heart beating too hard and fast, and poked desultorily at a table piled with soft folded dressing-gowns.

Then she heard the man's voice.

"That's a pretty set."

She turned around to see Gwen standing by the lingerie, and a man smiling at her with what wasn't really a leer but somehow looked like it. Gwen was holding perfectly still, not looking up at him.

"Got anything special in mind for it?" he asked rather suggestively.

"No," said Gwen.

"That's a shame," said the man. "It'd be perfect with your hair."

Gwen finally looked up and looked around, desperately, for Hanna; Hanna was already striding forward. She came to rest at Gwen's side-- the man looked up at her, puzzled-- and said, clearly, "Sir, this isn't appropriate behavior. Bothering people while they shop."

"I wasn't bothering her," the man protested, looking down at Gwen. "Was I, miss?"

Gwen stepped a little closer to Hanna; she was trembling again, and didn't answer.

"Leave her alone," said Hanna, more forcefully than she really meant to, and the man lifted his hands in a gesture of surrender, taking a couple of steps back.

"Sorry," he said to Hanna. "Didn't know she was yours."

Hanna nearly answered, but he was moving off and she didn't want to delay him. She turned to Gwen and took the cold little hand in hers.

"Hey," she said. "It's okay. I don't think he really meant anything."

"I don't know how to-- reject people," Gwen whispered. "I should-- that would be a good thing to-- learn."

"Right. All your instincts are telling you to respond and seduce him. I know."

"Or look around for my owner," said Gwen shakily, and laughed a little as Hanna got a sinking sensation in her stomach. "I mean-- thank you, for stepping in. What should I say, next time?"

"Just move off," said Hanna, trying not to take the "owner" remark too seriously, "and if he follows you, say something kind of snippy, like "I'm just trying to shop, okay?" If he keeps going after that, you can get really mean. I don't think anybody would push it very far in a crowded department store. But you shouldn't walk anywhere by yourself at night-- I mean, nobody should, not just you."

Gwen nodded. "Okay. Thank you."

"Did you find some pajamas you liked?" Hanna asked.

Gwen shook her head. "Can we just-- go home now? I'll use the pajamas at the facility again tonight."

"Of course we can go home," said Hanna. "I'd say we've gotten a lot accomplished today."

Hanna had decided to take her car for the shopping, not wanting to subject Gwen to buses and streetcars just yet, and as they loaded their purchases into the backseat, she said, "Hey-- I was sort of planning on driving you to work in the morning. Is that okay?"

"If it's no trouble," said Gwen. "That would be nice."

"Yes. I figure you've got enough to deal with, with your first day at work and everything, without worrying about getting the right bus. So I'll drive you and I'll pick you up, for lunch-- hey, do you want tomorrow to be our next lunch date?"

Gwen smiled as she repeated, "That would be nice."

"Good," said Hanna. "Then I'll take you out to lunch and you can tell me all about your morning. And if it was awful, you can officially quit your job then, and I'll find you a new one. Sound good?"

Gwen didn't answer, but her smile got bigger as she settled herself into the passenger's seat, still clutching her little black notebook like a talisman.

"See, maybe you can get used to this whole freedom thing after all," said Hanna.

Gwen nodded. "It has its perks."

"Anywhere else you want to go, before we head back?"

"I don't think so," said Gwen. "Thank you, Hanna."
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