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[personal profile] maculategiraffe
OK, first of all, this picture just popped up on my friendslist a couple of times FOR THE WIN, so naturally I'm sharing:

(I love the little head-duck the sign guy is doing, like "Hat-brim sin-shield engage!" Also: hell is going to be a PARTY.)

And now for some gay porn er, sexless het! This scene, set at Argounov's two weeks after Alix first shows up, has been referenced a few times (described from Jer's point of view here, mentioned by Holden here, a few other more oblique references) and I think at one point I said I wasn't going to write it, but, um, I changed my mind.


Alix woke up, feeling the softness of the bed under her sore body, the hand gently cupping her naked breast, the lips touching her lips as carefully as if she were a sleeping princess in a fairy tale. Slowly, she let her eyes flutter open and fix on the smiling face above her.

"Master," she whispered, her breath catching in her throat at the unexpected tenderness of his expression.

"Good morning," he said, stroking her arm, and she let her eyes fall half closed at the touch. "Don't go back to sleep."

"No, master," she said, opening her eyes fully again. "Should I--" Just enough regret and longing to spice the submission in her voice, not enough to sound whiny-- "go now, master?"

"In a moment," he answered. "I'll walk you back to the hall. I need to make an announcement to the rest of the slaves." He paused, as her eyes widened expectantly. "I think it's time you ranked with the others on the hall. I'm ending your transitional period."

Alix gazed up at him, her still-widened eyes filled with adoration. Argounov smiled indulgently down at her.

"Thank you, master," she murmured. "I'm glad... you're pleased with me."

"I'm very pleased with you," said Argounov, and kissed her gently on the forehead. "You've handled the transition well. I know it hasn't been easy for you."

She smiled shyly up at him, and he kissed her again on the mouth. She kissed back passionately, her arms coming up to cling to him; she knew he liked to feel her hang on him, smaller and more delicate than he, shivering with the need for his approval and protection. There were certain things it wasn't hard to figure out, about certain men.

"There's something else," he said, after he'd ended the kiss and laid her back down. "I don't usually do this, but I think under the circumstances-- well, Holden's been very hard on you."

She let her lower lip quiver a little, lowering her eyes from his face.

"So," he said. "I'm promoting you-- immediately. Over Holden. And Jer."

She looked back up at him, all her real gratitude shining out of her eyes. The last two weeks had been very stressful. She'd been looking forward to a talk with Holden for some time, but she'd never expected it to come so soon. Things were looking up.

"Come," her master said. "I have a tunic for you to wear now, too."

"Thank you, master," she said softly. "Thank you so much."

As soon as their master had finished with his announcement and disappeared back into his own part of the house, Alix's eyes flicked up at Holden, and she stepped forward-- he flinched for a split second, then recovered and thrust out his chin-- and took him firmly by the hand. He didn't resist as Alix led him towards the dormitory, but Jer followed them, not saying anything, anxiety written all over his usually stoic face.

"Come back in half an hour," she told him, and closed the door firmly in his face, hoping she'd given herself enough time. If she couldn't get it done in half an hour, though, she probably couldn't get it done at all.

When she released Holden's hand, he didn't move. He stood still, shoulders back, glaring at her, his eyes narrowed to slits in his pale face. She looked back at him, waiting patiently.

"What?" he said finally, his harsh tone not quite disguising its unsteadiness. "You expect me to apologize? Lie down and beg for mercy?"

"No," said Alix, concentrating on keeping her own voice steady. That tone had preceded too much pain and misery for her, and too recently-- her body still bore the bruises, mostly hidden now under her fresh white tunic-- for her not to feel a little reflexive fear. "I don't expect that."

"Then what are you waiting for?" Holden demanded, a little color coming back to his cheeks-- anger, probably. Maybe just confusion. "It's payback time, right? Your turn to try to make me cry."

"Right," said Alix. She sat down on one of the beds, and gestured him towards the one opposite. "Sit down."

"Make me," said Holden, not moving.

Alix sighed. "Suit yourself."

"You're not very good at this, are you?" Holden turned slightly towards her, but didn't move any closer. "That was your cue to punch me in the balls. Kick me in the face. Stick your little bitch fist up my ass, grind it around in there a little, see if you can make it hurt."

"I'm really not all that interested in the inside of your ass," said Alix, raising her eyebrows slightly before she added, "Though you do have some balls, I'll give you that."

"How about my cock?" Holden's lip had curled back, half sneer, half snarl. "You know you want to punish that fucker."

"Well, it's not exactly its fault," said Alix, keeping her eyes on his face; she knew he wanted to see them dart below his waist, and she wasn't going to give him the satisfaction. "I don't think it's had much to do with how you've been treating me."

"That's what you think, you pathetic cunt," Holden answered, his lip still curled, his voice thick with an ugly lewdness. "You know how hard it gets me to pin you down and make you scream?"

"I'm fairly well aware, yes," said Alix, and took a deep, steadying breath. "But that's not the only thing you've-- brought to my attention. In the last two weeks. And that's what I'd like to talk to you about."

"It's cute how you think your little psych-out game is going to work on me," said Holden, still not moving. "Talk as long as you want. It's not going to make whatever you're creative enough to actually do hurt any worse."

Alix spread her hands out, palm up, on her knees. "I'm not going to hurt you."

Holden stared at her for a while before he finally said, "You've got to be fucking kidding me."

"I'm not."

"No." Holden shook his head like a dog shaking off water. "You can't be that stupid. You think, what, that just because you don't hurt me now, we're going to kiss and make up and be best friends and the next time I outrank you I won't make you fucking pay for--"

"You're never going to outrank me again," Alix interrupted.

"Oh, is that so!"

"It is," said Alix calmly. "Because this is how you act around people who have power over you--" except Jer, she added mentally, but it wasn't the time to bring up Jer-- "including our master. And he doesn't find that particularly attractive."

"I guess you find it attractive," said Holden. "Is that the kind of sick little bitch you are? You just can't resist a man who beats you down, huh?" He took one deliberate step towards her. "Well, if that's how you like it--"

"Lift your hand to me again," said Alix, without raising her voice, "and I'll break your fucking arm."

He stopped where he was, his eyes fixed on her face, then, without a visible change in his expression, stepped back.

"That's better," she said. "You've spent the last couple of weeks using me as a punching bag with a few holes, and I've spent them wishing you would just settle the fuck down and let me talk to you, so now that I outrank you, you're going to listen whether you like it or not. And whether you'll sit down for it or not. Are you listening?"

He stared at her for what had to be a full minute before he nodded, once.

"I'm not going to hurt you," she said, her voice softening a bit, "because if that worked on you, it would have worked by now. He's not stupid or anything, but he's got a bit of a one-track mind when it comes to discipline. I've seen you act up just to get enough of a beating that you don't have to think about anything else for an hour-- and once it wears off you're nastier than ever. I'm not playing that game with you. I only play games I'm pretty sure I'm going to win."

"You got a game in mind for me, then?" Holden asked, after a moment, with a touch of genuine curiosity. "You think you can win?"

"Maybe," said Alix. "Please, Holden, sit down."

He did, on the floor, facing her, leaning back on his hands. It was an odd position to choose, placing himself below her, so that he had to tilt his head back to keep looking at her, but she supposed it was still more defiant than sitting where she'd actually suggested he sit. Not that it mattered; she had his attention now.

"Jer told me a little bit about you," she said carefully, and watched him stiffen all over, his eyes narrowing again, but this time she didn't feel even a twinge of fear. "He told me how you were happy, where you were before. And what it was like for you when you first got here. How upset you were."

"Nice of him to pass it along," said Holden through a clenched jaw.

"I think he was trying to apologize," Alix explained. "For the way you were treating me."

"How sweet."

"It was," said Alix, "considering that he knew I'd be outranking you eventually. I'm not sure if you knew it, too-- I don't think it would have made any difference whether you did or not. It certainly doesn't make any difference to how you behave with our master. But I'm pretty sure Jer was trying to make me feel sorry enough for you that I wouldn't flay you alive once I had the chance."

"I guess it worked," said Holden, watching her face.

"Maybe so," said Alix, inclining her head slightly. "Though I'd been paying attention, anyway. I could tell you were... enraged... in a way that had nothing to do with me. Like a wounded animal, lashing out, biting anybody who comes anywhere close, just in case they have something to do with the pain."

"You don't know shit about me," Holden hissed, literally hissed, between his teeth, with a sibilant little shhh.

"No?" Alix kept her eyes steady on his. "Well, maybe I'm wrong. But I could tell, whatever was wrong with you, he was just making it worse. The master, I mean. He didn't understand you-- still doesn't. He's not very good at understanding other men, I don't think. But I am. Good with men. I don't tend to be as attracted to men as I am to women-- maybe that's why. More objective distance."

Holden, still between his teeth, said, "I really wish you'd shut your cunt face."

"Yes, well, if wishes were horses, beggars would ride," said Alix primly.

"So I gather," he said, and the corners of his mouth twitched involuntarily, in a smile or a grimace, she wasn't sure which. "So, basically, you're going to talk me to death."

"Not exactly," she said. "After this-- if you want-- I'll just leave you alone, as long as you stay out of my way. We'll just-- ignore each other. If that's what you want. I'm not interested in revenge."

"What are you interested in, exactly?" he asked, with considerably diminished conviction in his attempted sneer.

"I want to help," she said, and he sucked in his breath. "I think I can help-- make things easier for you. More bearable. If you let me."

Holden looked up at her, his mouth half open, his eyes wide and bright with what it took her a moment to realize were tears, and closed his mouth, and opened it again, and then turned his face away so violently she expected to hear his neck crack.

"Why?" he asked the door. "Why would you-- why?"

Alix answered, "No one should ever suffer as much as you're suffering now."

Holden swung his head back to her, baring his teeth in an animal snarl. "I don't need your fucking pity--"

"Don't you?" said Alix, standing up and walking towards him. He turned his face away again as she sat down next to him, and when she touched his back, gently, he shuddered with a violence that seemed to stop his breath, but didn't shake her off. "Anyway, it's not just pity. I'm-- interested. In you. You're funny, sometimes, and-- interesting. And Jer loves you-- I think you're the only thing he's ever let himself really love. If he can love you like that-- there's something there. Worth helping. Isn't there?"

He didn't answer for awhile, and then, not turning towards her, he gritted out, "How? How can you-- you think you can help me, you stupid fucking cunt, you don't-- you can't--"

"I don't know if I can or not," she said. "But-- I think maybe-- there are things you need to say-- and have someone hear. Really hear. You keep screaming at the-- at Argounov-- and he's not listening. And Jer does love you, but he also thinks you're completely insane. I can-- hear you. I've been listening. I mean, for one thing, whatever happened to you, you blame a woman. I've heard a little too much about my evil cunt-owning ways lately to have missed that."

Under her hand, his back began trembling. Eventually, he said in a voice that he didn't entirely succeed in keeping steady, "I've been hurting you."

"Pretty brutally," Alix agreed. "And I couldn't fight back, without making things even worse for myself. But let's be clear-- from now on, if you try anything like that, I will fuck your shit up, and I won't need your kind suggestions on how to do it. From now on, you can leave me alone-- or you can try to let me help. If you think maybe you could use some help. If you do-- I'm here."

Holden was silent for awhile, his back moving convulsively under her hand. She didn't move the hand.

"Oh, God," he whispered eventually. "Alix--"

"You said my name," said Alix, smiling. "I think that's the first time. Will you look at me?"

He turned his head, and she saw that his face was wet with tears. She reached out, deliberately, to touch his messy dark hair, smoothing it back, and he shuddered again, and then half lunged, half collapsed forward, wrapping his arms around her waist and burying his face against her stomach.

She put her hand on his hair again and stroked it, while he clutched her like a life preserver. Eventually, his voice so strangled and distorted by tears and misery that it took her a moment to understand, he said, "I'm sorry-- Alix-- I'm so sorry--"

"I know," she said, stroking the back of his neck. "It's okay. By the way, don't ever call me 'cunt' again, you prick."

He choked on a startled laugh and started coughing violently. Alix thumped him on the back until he gasped out, "I won't, I won't--"

"Good," she said, as the coughs slowly turned into sobs, and he began to cry in earnest, gulping for breath and hiccuping like a child. "Shhh. It's all right, Holden. You're not a complete bastard, even if you do a pretty good impression of one when you want to. And I really do think I can make it-- a bit easier. At least, well, pull you back from the brink." She looked down at his trembling body pensively. "You know, I've wondered why-- with how desperate you've been-- you haven't kept doing the things Jer says you were doing when you first showed up. Fighting back. Trying to run."

He got out a few syllables, which it took her another moment to parse as "Cause of Jer."

"Ah-- right," she said, and stroked his hair and his back while he cried steadily. "And he's here for you. And I'm here, now, too. Shhh, Holden. It's okay. It's going to be okay. Oh," she said, looking up at the sound of the door opening, "there you are. Holden? Jer's here."


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May 2011

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