Contrapasso

Author: Azzy
Beta: Anne/Asylumfarm
Rating:Explicit
Archive Warnings:Graphic Depictions Of Violence, Rape/Non-Con
Category:M/M
Fandom:Mass Effect Trilogy
Relationships:Kaidan Alenko/Male Shepard, Kaidan Alenko/Miranda Lawson
Characters:Kaidan Alenko, Kaidan Alenko’s Mother, Kaidan Alenko’s Father, Henry Lawson, Steve Cortez, Karin Chakwas, Ashley Williams, James Vega
Additional Tags:the mother of all AU, Dystopian future AU, Master/Servant, not to any extend a bdsm fic, the master servant dynamics is taken quite literally, Ambiguous/Open Ending, Dubious Consent, dubcon, Sexual Violence, brain washing, Bittersweet Ending, Really Bad Decisions, immature characters, Stockholm Syndrome?, Forced Marriage, Hurt/Comfort, no space travel, No Reapers, Alternate Universe – Teenagers
Summary:John Shepard needs to get away from the slums, he does the only thing someone in his situation can do – sell himself into a two year servitude.
Notes: I do realise that it doesn’t speak well for a story when you have the urge to explain it beforehand, but honestly I do. This is just a silly story which is a mix between 50 shades of grey, a Handmaids tale and the winter soldier. Seriously – I am not here to write a story about reality, but a weird type of fever dream instead. Ergo, none of anything written in this story is written to be realistic, not even close.
Thank you to Anne Sturtevant for the beta job, you save my grammar and my sanity. 😉
And thank you to HeavenOnFire for the awesome artwork, and for constructive feedback allowing me to edit the story into something better. You are awesome. Please go visit her HERE
This story is written for the mass effect big bang 2018
You can find a play list HERE

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“People have stars, but they aren’t the same. For travelers, the stars are guides. For other people, they’re nothing but tiny lights.”

-Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

 

FOLLOW THE YELLOW LINE

So where does poor trash go when they are done with being just that? Either they join the Alliance or they find themselves at an auction. And that was exactly the predicament John Shepard found himself in, the Alliance didn’t want him, even though he was old enough, he had a chip and a criminal record longer than the intergalactic peace manifesto, a condition of life at the bottom. So his only option was to stand here in a crowded, ice cold room with a huge number scrawled with sharpie on his forehead.

There had been a time when the people sold at auctions had been poor souls, torn from family and friends, sold off for profit. But when the auctions became government regulated it had been the only real chance someone like Shepard had to turn his luck. He had no real skills, not including being obnoxious and how to take a beating like a champ. Now they got a contract and everything, and whoever bought your services would be bound to house, feed, clothe and take care of medical expenses for as long as the contract lasted. They might be doing this voluntarily, but looking around at the others, John wondered how many of them really had a choice, odds were that people were still torn from families to provide them.

He had been thinking of this long before he had had the guts to get in line outside warehouse 16, it had ‘human resources auction department, serve in humility for humanity’ written on it with huge letters, Shepard wondered if it was visible from space. And across the great sliding door was a sign that said, ‘applicants’. It was the Governments sneaky way of making it all sound more beneficial, cause after all applicant sounded better than slave.

Once the world had been different, and once being born in poverty didn’t mean that you’d die in poverty. But now with the new chipping system a new caste had been created, people like John Shepard had never had access to school, reading and writing weren’t necessary for him to die in some war somewhere, or working in a mine. Chances were that someone like Shepard would not make it past his 30ieth winter anyway.

John gingerly took the application handed to him at the door. “Follow the yellow line for the applicants under the age of 18,” the bored Government official said.

John followed the yellow line all the while staring at the data pad in his hand, with dawning horror he realized he’d have to fill it out, it had little squares to cross off. He looked up at a giant screen in the hall with the image of a smiling woman with perfect teeth and hair. “Yellow group – When you pass the table, please pick up a pair of government approved undergarments”

The line walked through a chip reader, and John’s heartrate spiked, he heard it beep and watched the poor sod being sent to the side. He grit his teeth as he walked through it, and right as rain the machine would beep insistently. The government official would herd John over into the smaller crowd to the left of the main line. John looked at the tacky dark blue shorts in his hands, and the data pad he still held onto, something new had come, it had crossed off some squares, not that he knew what it meant. No one had told him there was a chip reader here, but he should have expected it.

He had been told by some of the old timers, that the chip system had revolutionized the prison system back in the days. Shepard had gotten his chip when he was twelve, he didn’t recall it hurting, but he did recall how unforgiving prison was for a twelve year old boy, because on the street he might have been big enough to be a man, but in prison he was nothing but an underdog. When he had returned to the streets and the group he had lived with, they had thrown him out, because he had the damn chip in his system. But if nothing else, he was a survivor – he would do whatever it took to make it to tomorrow.

Sometimes he would lay awake at night, dreaming of what it would be like to be a citizen, to just be able to go where he wanted to, without armed guards stopping him by the chip reader. To be able to work an actual job, even in a factory would be amazing – to earn real money, and then to be able to buy which ever food he wanted from whatever store sold it. The freedom that he would have! The first thing he would do would be to take a train ride, he always wanted to go on the silver trains he saw whoosh by in the distance – cause no trains went to the slums. He wanted to go to school, and he wanted to taste fruit. John often imagined that he would go to the sea, he had seen pictures of it and it looked magnificent, absolutely breathtaking! The postcard with the sea he had seen would haunt his dreams, a couple hand in hand walking the beach, he wanted that more than anything. But it was only for citizens and not for the likes of him.

The chip meant that he was denied access to many places, lots of stores, communities, malls and train stations had a chip reader. It was the new government crackdown on crime, once chipped, you’d never be able to be free. He had seen people shoot their own brains out to not get caught, they chose death to the chip. Prison was nothing, but the chip was a death sentence. He had been lucky that the Reds didn’t care, because where they operate there are no chip readers to begin with.

“Do you think they are going to throw us out?” John whispered to the skinny young man standing beside him, clutching his shorts and data pad, just like John.

“No.” The young man whispered back, “They would have done it by now then.”

“Purple group – Please get in line for the obligatory health check” There was a pause where a government official pushed a machine up in front of them, and stood next to it. “You will insert your arm into the hole, and wait. The official at the station will tell you where to go next according to your result.” The perfect woman on the screen said with her eerie smile.

The machine had three holes, allowing three people to use it at the same time. John and two other men from purple group walked up to the machine and stuck their arm inside the hole. John couldn’t help but to look out over the warehouse, the large entry doors closed now, indicating that no more applicants were accepted this week. He noticed that men were sorted from women, the old from the young, and so forth. All in all it seemed like a pretty intricate sorting system but he couldn’t really understand why it was necessary. He saw a couple of people walking in line towards the door which said ‘exit’, it was unlike any other place in this warehouse, guarded by two men with rifles. John’s thoughts were cut off when he felt a sharp pain in his arm inside the machine. He looked up at the screen in front of his head. “Please look into the screen.”

A load of numbers and letters flowed over the screen, the government official came and stood behind them, holding a sharpie. He wrote 1206 on John’s forehead. “Go follow the red line.” He moved to the next applicant, “You follow the red line too.” He came to the last, and shook his head, “Please follow the green line to the exit.”

“What?” The man howled, “No!”

“I’m sorry, but you don’t meet the minimum health requirements for the auction.” The official said, pushing a button on his belt.

John just hurried down the red line, not wanting to know what happened to the man, he could hear the desperation in the man’s voice long after he had come to the next station.

The screen with the perfectly smiling woman flickered alive in front of the smaller group including John. “Red group – Please deposit your clothes in the red container and stand behind the dotted red line.”

John took a deep breath and pulled off his boots which were at least a couple of sizes too small anyway. He felt horribly exposed standing in the small group of men, all wearing the same ill fitted shorts, clutching each their data pad. John wish he could read what it said on it.

The lady on the screen came back and smiled her ever present smile at the men. “Red group – to your left is a door, please enter when called.”

As if called, a government official opened the door and looked down at his data pad. “1206, Shepard, John.”

Shepard took a tentative step, the concrete cold under his bare feet. “That’s me.” He said raising his arm a little.

The official just smiled and gestured towards what was behind the slim door. John entered followed by the official. Inside the little office was a chair, a weird machine and two cuffs. John looked alarmed, but just when he was about to ask, the screen came on. “Red applicant” the woman said, her smile still perfect. “Please sit and let the official adjust the cuffs. Once done the official will ask you a specific series of approved questions to aid the auctioneer.”

John sat down and held out his arms to let the official adjust the cuffs to his wrists, they were attached to the table with strong leather. The official placed two metal clamps on John’s fingertips and smiled at him. “Is your name John Shepard?”

“Yes.” John said. He waited for something to happen, but the machine just whirred on like nothing.

“Do you know how old you are?”

“Yes.” John answered, “I think I’m around seventeen winters.”

The official nodded, the machine just whirred so it accepted the answer.

“Can you read or write?”

“No.” John shook his head slowly.

“Please look at the screen.” The official said dully.  On the screen instead of the smiling lady there were a naked woman spreading her legs inviting. John blinked and watched as the naked woman touched herself between her legs. The image fizzed out and the screen was black once more.  “Alright.” The official said, “Please look at the screen again.”

This time it was a naked man, and just like the woman before him he spread his legs and touched himself, before the screen fizzed to black. John fought the urge to lick his lips, the little hairs on his neck stood out and he could hear his own heartbeat running a million miles per hour, and he wasn’t sure if he imagined the official’s little smile.

“Why did you sign up for the auction?”

“I need money.” John answered.

The machine let out a screech and stung John with an electric shock so hard he jumped in his chair.

“Again.”

“I… I need to get away from the slums. I want a chance at becoming a citizen with a work permit.” The machine just whirred and John let out the breath he had been holding.

“Thank you 1206” the official said as he removed the clamps and undid the cuffs. “Please exit at the other end of the room. Follow the purple and red striped line”

John got up and the government official handed him back his data pad. “Good luck.” The young official smiled at John, “I mean that.”

John could not help but to smile too, “Thank you.” He exited the door and followed the line, and after a little while, most of the red-group had joined him.

The screen came on and the smiling woman appeared again, “Dear purple-red applicants, you are now ready for the final stage of the process. Please follow the line and wait until your group is called on stage.”

-*-

There were only three people left in the red-purple group when John’s number was called, he stepped out into the light with as much confidence he could muster. Truth was he was scared shitless, he had no clue what would happen, he had signed his life off for a minimum of two years. “Applicant 1206, a seventeen year old male – John Shepard.” The auctioneer twirled his hand, and John turned on stage. “1206 is chipped; a full disclosure of his criminal record can be obtained if so desired. The chip also ensures one hundred percent sterility,” the auctioneer said, and Shepard tried not to cringe. “1206 has no dental problems to speak of, has normal sight and hearing. No terminal illness, sexually transferred diseases or genetic issues detected.”

John’s jaw flexed and he was fighting the urge to wipe his hands on his hideous shorts.

“He has a variety of body ink, including a tattoo from a gang.” The auctioneer paused reading the application, “1206 also has cybernetic body modifications to his right arm and hand.” John’s hands were shaking, and so he tried to keep them from view, because if no one bought his services, he would be thrown out on his ass, and told to try again next month. He was fucking desperate for that not to happen, he couldn’t go back to the Reds, not now – not after all that happened. “1206 uses drugs, is illiterate, and a homosexual.” The auctioneer read aloud, and this time John didn’t manage to fight his nerves and wiped his shaky, sweaty palms on his shorts. He knew he was in the low end because of the chip, the undesirable end; he barely made the cut for what the auction would put on stage. However, it had to work, it just had to!  “1206 has shown corporation and willingness to follow orders while at this facility.”

“The bidding starts at fifty credits.”

John closed his eyes and tried to ignore the auctioneer when he tried to fill the silence. “Yes?” The auctioneer called, “Fifty is good, can I get a sixty?”

In the end, someone bid a total grand of sixty-five credits for his services. It was a sobering thought that his life was worth sixty-five credits. He was escorted off the stage and out back to the processing, there was more paperwork, and he would meet his new master.

He was guided towards where a tall authoritarian looking man stood, Shepard didn’t know all the medals on his uniform but could tell he was important. He was not completely out of the woods yet, they had to work out the contract, which would take around two minutes but he could still end up back on the streets tonight. “Sir.” John said politely as he was left at a rickety table with the tall man. A bored looking government official sat there and with a monotone voice he said, “The standard contract runs for two years, in which you the buyer will provide the applicant with clothes, food, housing, medical expenses and two days off a year. It is the buyer, which will decide which work the applicant is most fit for, and the applicant will comply. It is the buyer who plans the obligatory two days off, in these days the applicant may travel to see family at the buyer’s expense.”

“Alright.” The tall man said.

The bored government official looked up at John and the man, “Now I have to inform you both that in this contract is a subparagraph which the government has implemented this year per September first.” He didn’t even look at the data pad, he knew the words by heart. “It’s forbidden for the buyer to administer cruel and unusual punishment upon the applicant, such as but not limited to; flogging, dismemberment, and death.” The official took a deep breath, “Imprisonment, withholding privileges, fair corporal punishment is however allowed without the involvement from the government. Should the applicant perish while in your charge, you are obligated to call the government office for auction applications within twelve hours of the applicant’s death. Should the applicant commit a grave criminal act, the government office for auction applications is not responsible and the buyer should call the law enforcement to deal with the matter.”

“Understood.” The tall man said.

“The applicant can contact the government office for auction applications complaints; should the buyer not fulfill the basic arrangements agreed on in this contract, or should the buyer unjustly maim his or her person.” The bored government official looked up at the tall man, “Your name Sir?”

“General Francis Alenko.”

The official wrote it down, “Applicant?”

“John Shepard.” Shepard said, his mouth feeling dry as a dessert.

“General Alenko, you can ask the applicant anything you do not feel was disclosed in the presentation, or suggest specific work conditions, I will mention that the applicant can deny your suggestions should this be against the applicants religion or marital status.” He paused, “Applicant 1206 is chipped and therefore you, the buyer, has access to anything the chip stores, it is included in the questionnaire file you will be handed should you chose to hire 1206”

“John.” General Alenko said, “Those cybernetics, are they illegal?” He prodded John’s hand where red light shone through the paper-thin skin.

“Yes Sir.” John nodded. “Ruined my hand two years ago.”

General Alenko nodded, “Are you any good with a weapon? Maybe close combat?”

John smiled weakly, “Yes Sir.”

“Married?”

John shook his head, “No Sir, no family.”

“Should have guessed you are an orphan, you look barely old enough to join the Alliance.” The General huffed displeased.

“I am Sir, old enough. I am seventeen. The age for enlisting is fifteen.” John said a matter-of-factly with a slight nod.

“I know that.” The General huffed. “I have no patience for attitude, boy. I need a soldier, someone who knows how to carry out an order, no questions asked.”

“Yes Sir.” John said as he paled a bit, he almost blew it because he couldn’t keep his fucking mouth shut. “I can do that.”

The General looked him up and down, and then looked over at the government official, “I am not sure he is right for the job. Not only is he more malnourished than I thought, but he has an attitude – “

“Are you rejecting the applicant, General Alenko?”

A distinguished looking woman stepped out from behind the General, “Don’t be so harsh on the boy Francis.” She smiled at John. “He is just nervous.”

John smiled weakly back, but didn’t dare to answer.

“He is just a kid Alice.” The General said, “He is Kaidan’s age.” He shot his wife a worried gaze. “I don’t know what got into you when you bid on him.”

“So are your soldiers.” Alice said with a little knowing smile, “You have no problem sending them to their deaths on some war-torn battlefield.”

“Fine!” The General huffed. He turned to John, “I will not tolerate attitude, and you will obey promptly.”

“Yes Sir, of course Sir.” John said his eyes trained on his bare feet on the concrete floor.

“The standard contract lasts for two years.” The government official said flatly. He looked up at John, “When you sign this, it is my obligation to tell you that you by doing so, forfeit your rights as a citizen, this includes your birth name, voting, family and personal life, for as long as this contract is valid. Once the contract terminates you must vacate the buyer’s house the same day.” John’s hand was shaking when he reached out to place his thumb on the signature reader. When he had signed the government official handed the data pad to the General. “When you sign this you obligate yourself to maintain the applicant, if he or she complains about pains, you must call a doctor, should the applicant need any lifesaving medicine you will also provide this. Should you wish to terminate the contract early you must provide the applicant with a fair warning of at least one day.” The general pushed his thumb down on the data pad, signing the contract.

The official handed over a small bundle to John, it contained what looked like a prison jumpsuit, only in a dark blue color. He swiftly stuck his legs into it and buttoned it up. It was large but not uncomfortable, and truly John was just happy to have some clothes back on. “This suit belongs to you 1206, your new master will assign you with a pin which must be worn at all times for as long as you remain in their servitude.”

“Thank you.” John said with a little tight smile.

“Do you have any belongings?” The general asked and John shook his head. Alice leaned in and pinned a large pin depicting earth with the text ‘human resources auction department, serve in humility for humanity’, and below that it had the number 1206, which would be his identification number, onto John’s jumpsuit.

In the car on his way to the Alenko residence he watched the city rush by outside the car window, places he knew, and places he never knew existed until the city ended and all he saw was fields and trees. When they drove through the gates to the Alenko house, John had never seen anything like it. It was like a castle.

He got out of the car, “North, take Friday to see his cot and give him a uniform. I wish to see him in my study when you are done.”

“Yes Sir.” North said. And gestured for John to follow, John noticed the pin on North’s uniform, it was almost identical to his own apart from the number. He smiled nervously at North who shot him a regular grin. “Come on kid.”

North walked into the mansion and down a couple of flights of a narrow spiral staircase, “Your room is here,” He opened a door which said ‘Friday’. John looked inside, there was a bundle of clothes on the bed. North placed a warm hand on John’s shoulder, “He really isn’t that bad, I am on my third contract. Life is easy if you just follow his rules.”

John nodded, “I hope I can.” John studied North, he looked around his own age, impressive that he got such an important job already.

“Of course you can, he isn’t exactly vague in his demands.” North shrugged. “Now change and I will give you a quick rundown.”

John went to the bundle of clothes; it was a uniform. He could do this, he discarded the jumpsuit and got into the new uniform. They were a little too big, apparently the one who came before him had been taller, but he knew better than to complain. As he opened the door to exit the room he found North waiting outside.

“You look every bit, Friday.” He grinned, “Welcome.”

“Eh.” John shrugged, “Thanks?”

“Alright so the General likes to name his specific jobs a name, maybe it makes it easier on him. I am North, just like the other Norths that came before me, I organize and maintain the security at the mansion.” He gently corrected John’s pin, “You are Friday, and your job is to be the General’s snotty son’s manservant.” North smiled, “Between you and me though, I’m James, I used to be an Alliance soldier.”

“John,” John said shaking James’ hand.

“Alright, John.” James said, “Don’t forget your new name, the General is pretty peculiar about that, come on he will fill you in on your new task.”

“Great.” John said and followed James, while he kept repeating Friday in his head, trying to come to terms with it.

 

FRIDAY

The General’s study was huge, and John felt like a child as he stepped inside. “I assume that North introduced you to your new role.” The General said, he didn’t look at John, he stood with his back to him, staring out the window. John fidgeted a little, “Yes Sir.”

“Good.” The General said and finally turned around, “Your file says you have a drug addiction.”

“Wouldn’t call it that, Sir.” John admitted.

“Do you, or do you not have an addiction, kid.” The General turned and stared at John.

John felt his heart hammer away in his chest. “I do – Red Sand, Sir.” John looked down at the floor, he could lie all he wanted but he knew the blood tests the machines had run told another story.

The General nodded, apparently pleased with John’s honesty, “Talk to the matron, she will sort that for you, give you what you need. You can get a ration a day.” When John just stood there dumbfounded the General continued, “I learned early on that many of you applicants have a drug problem, and if I want you at your best, and keep my medical bills to a minimum, it’s easier to ration you.”

“Thank you Sir.” John said, confused did not even begin to cover it. He had not expected that.

“With that out of the way, I expect you to be ready at all hours – you are entitled to five hours of sleep every twenty-four hours, also I expect you to keep clean and presentable at all times.” The General said, “Now, Friday. You will guard my son with your life, I expect you to give yours for his should the need arise. You will be his shadow. You will go where he goes. You will do what he asks, you will carry out whichever task he gives you without question, and should he make a complaint that you do not live up to the expectations, your contract will be terminated.” The General sighed, “My son is troubled, I am aware of this, so stay on your toes, Friday.”

“Yes Sir.” John said with a slight nod. He could do this, he needed this! He needed a good letter of recommendation to maybe apply for citizenship when his contract was up.

“Kaidan can get a little rambunctious, but you can deal with that, isn’t that right – Friday?” The General asked eyeing John.

“Absolutely, Sir.”

“Bless you gutter rats.” The General mumbled. And pushed a button on the intercom system, “Kaidan, your presence is requested in my office, right now.” A voice in the other end answered yes papa. Then the General ended the call. Both he and John waited for Kaidan to arrive; The General poured himself a drink but didn’t offer John one.

When Kaidan finally arrived, he walked past John without even acknowledging his existence. “Son,” The General said, “Your new Friday.” He gestured towards John, who flashed the young man a weak smile.

John tried not to stare, Kaidan was the single most handsome man he had ever laid his eyes on, had he not witnessed this with his own eyes, he would not have believed that he existed for real.

“Oh.” Kaidan studied John with his deep brown eyes, which shone with intelligence and something John couldn’t quite pin, malice maybe? Oh dear, he hoped not. “Right. Perfect.” He smiled at his father, “You give me all the best toys.”

John flinched a little at the way Kaidan said toys, like he was something to be played with intensely for a short while only to be discarded.  The General downed his drink, “Rules Kaidan, repeat them.”

Kaidan rolled his eyes like a petulant child, “Don’t assault, maim or rent out the applicants.”

“Thank you.” The General said, “Now take him to see your mother.”

“Yes papa.” Kaidan said and grabbed John by the arm, startling him so much he almost stumbled and fell. “Come on Friday.” He said, “Are you a cocoa, tea or coffee man?”

“Coffee?” John gasped out as he tried to keep up with Kaidan who had an iron grip on John’s arm.

“Great.” Kaidan smiled widely, but there was no warmth in it. “Sunshine!” Kaidan barked, and a nervous looking young woman came running, “two coffees in my mother’s sewing room.”

“Yes, Sir.” The girl named Sunshine said as she hurried off.

“She’s new.” Kaidan shrugged, “Come on.” He hauled John through the house until they made it to two huge white double doors, “mama?”

“Come in,” Alice Alenko answered, she stood and embraced her son, and looked at John with a tiny smile, “We need to make some adjustments to your uniform.”

“Thank you ma’am.” John said looking down at his pants that looked about two sizes too big, and pooled around his boots.

“Give them to the matron, she will get your uniform in mint condition while you sleep.” Alice Alenko said softly, “now sit” She gestured towards some white chairs around a round table. Sunshine had just finished placing a tray with the coffee before she hurried off again.

Alice sat down and pushed the com, “Rose, you are needed in my chambers.” She turned off the com again and nodded at John, “Your coffee will get cold, Friday.”

“Thank you ma’am.” He reached for his cup, almost dropping it as a secret door in the back panels of the room opened, a grey haired woman showed up. He assumed this must be the Matron, Rose.

“Rose, Friday needs his uniform adjusted.” Alice Alenko said. “Stand up,” She gestured at John who promptly stood. Rose dragged him to the middle of the floor and immediately started measuring his pants. John listened to Kaidan and his mother talk, while Rose made quick work of measuring.

“So Friday, do you prefer blondes or brunettes?” Kaidan suddenly asked, and Alice was just chuckling.

“Ex-excuse me, sir?” John stammered caught complete off guard.

“Oh is it redheads?”

“Don’t have a type, sir.” John answered, hoping that the line of questioning would stop.

“Interesting.” Kaidan mumbled.

“There.” Rose said softly, “Leave me your uniform later, and I will have it fitted before tomorrow morning.” The grey haired lady left the same way she came in.

Kaidan studied John and then smiled the same cold smile as earlier, “It’s been a long day for you, I think you should go shower, have something to eat and have your uniform fitted. I expect you to start your services tomorrow at five in the morning.”

“Thank you, Sir.” John nodded, realizing he had been dismissed.

“Oh Friday, don’t forget to get your schedule from North.” Alice Alenko called after him.

“I will ma’am.” John answered as he left the room. He was not gonna survive here for two fucking years. Maybe he should just chance it and go back to the Reds, at least he would know what to expect.

He walked back to his room, in what he realized was the servants quarters, he saw the woman called Sunshine. “Hey, I’m Jo-“

The woman held up her hand, “Friday,” she said, “You’re the new Friday.”

“Yes.” John said, “I was told you were new here too.”

“I’ve been here for two months.” Sunshine said with a shifty gaze. “He is a monster.” She whispered as she leaned in closer to John. “Be careful.”

“Who is, Kaidan?”

“Shhh!” Sunshine angrily hushed John, “Yes.”

“Noted.” John nodded, “I think I –“

“You are the fourth Friday in this trimester, Rose told me so.” Sunshine said.

“Oh?”

“The last one hung himself from the rafters in the hall.” She whispered urgently.

John just blinked confused, James had told him it was a nice place, it didn’t exactly harmonize with what Sunshine was saying.

“His fiancé is even worse.” Sunshine whispered as she looked over her shoulder.

“Of course.” John sighed.

“I’m Samantha.” Sunshine said gingerly holding out her hand, you seem nice and I hope you last longer than the last Friday.”

“John.” John said as he shook her hand.

“Don’t you have anything better to do young lady?” Rose called from further down the hall. “Yes ma’am.” Sunshine squeaked and hurried off.

“Bless her.” Rose sighed as she walked up to John. “That one is afraid of her own shadow.” John just nodded. “Alright so the dime tour.” Rose smiled, “Bath facilities are to your right, they are for both genders so knock before you open the door.” She rolled her eyes, “No locks in the servants quarters – at all.”

“Oh.” John nodded again as acknowledgement that he understood.

“So you can pick up your meal at the end of the hall, but should you be late, someone will leave it on your table in your room, you’d have to eat it cold – not that it makes much of a difference, it’s not exactly gourmet.”

“Army gruel I take it?” John asked.

“I wish.” Rose looked tired, “Most of the time it’s bread and soup, sometimes there is meat in the soup.”

“Still a step up from what I’m used to.” John shrugged, “Fried rats ain’t all that.”

“I can only imagine.” Rose smiled to herself. “I was notified by the General that you need a ration of red sand.”

John paled a little but nodded.

“Red sand is going to rot your brain.” Rose said casually. “Look I have some tablets you crush and they have roughly the same effect as red sand.” She smiled professionally at John, “Come. Step into my office.”

John followed her and walked into a small study jam-packed with stuff, there was a huge safe with several digital coded locks on it. “Can’t trust anyone these days.” Rose said casually, noticing John’s gaze on the safe.

“Suppose not.”

“Alright hand me your uniform.” Rose said as she hauled a huge box out from under the table. “Come on. Chop chop.” Gingerly John started to undress, and when he finally had put all his clothes on the table between them, Rose pulled a pair of grey pants from the box, “here try these.”

John gratefully pulled the grey pants on, feeling a little less exposed.

“How much red sand would you want?” Rose asked, her eyes resting on John, waiting for an answer.

“Uhm.” John scratched his neck, knowing she was waiting for an answer, funny how it didn’t bother him to buy it on the street, but somehow this was different. “A gram’s worth?”

“Absolutely.” Rose said, “Turn around.” She gestured for John to turn his back to her and the safe, which he obediently did. He could hear the beeping of her pressing the codes in and finally the sound of the heavy door opening.

The heavy door slammed again, and Rose said “You can turn around again.” When John turned she held out a little bag with some red tablets. “And here.” Rose handed him a second bag with four white tablets, “try these and see if you might not like those better, if you do – I’ll get you those instead, and if you don’t, no harm done.” She smiled.

John stared down at the drugs in his hand, he couldn’t remember when he had seen so many drugs just for him, and he didn’t know if he was exited or scared. In the slums drugs were just a part of life because it made you forget that you hurt, hungry or depressed. Also it made other things much easier when life dealt you some serious damage. But here? Here it would be out of boredom. “Thank you.” He smiled and pocketed the drugs.

“You can come back tomorrow and get more.” She smiled. “Look don’t worry, I was trained as a doctor before I found myself in this situation, and I’ll keep an eye on you. Remember to eat okay?”

“A doctor?” John asked surprised, he thought all doctors were strictly upper class.

“Yes, well I was born into money, but it didn’t last – it’s far more common than you think.”  Rose said. “Very well, go get your food and a shower – your shift starts at five tomorrow.” She pointed at the uniform at the table, “I will of course have this uniform fitted by then.”

“Thank you.” John said with a little smile and went down to get his food.

-*-

John woke with a start when someone shook his shoulder, he jolted up at stared directly in James’ eyes. “Wake up man, you sleep like the dead.” James laughed softly. “You got fifteen minutes before you are expected to work, I will give you the quick rundown.”

“Alright.” John stretched hearing his back creak under the extension.

James handed John a small circle shaped thing with a clip. “This is your pager. Basically it will let out a loud beep if Kaidan calls for you.” James said, “But mostly you’d be close by, or should you be required elsewhere, the house has an intercom, and you would be summoned.”

John nodded as he struggled to get into his uniform as fast as he could.

“Just do as he says, and you will be fine.” James smiled.

“That girl told me that the Friday before me, hung himself from the rafters.” John said with a small voice.

“That is true.” James’ smile faded, “But he had some mental challenges, depression or something.” He patted John on the shoulder, “You shouldn’t worry about it kid.”

John grabbed the bag with remaining two pills and downed one, pocketing the last. Letting James gently push him out of his room.

“Now it’s expected of you to stand outside Kaidan’s room at five, but he usually doesn’t get up before ten.” James said as he grabbed a data pad from a table, “Here is your schedule.” He handed the data pad to John.

“I.” John stared down at the data pad helplessly, while trying to keep up with James. “I can’t read.”

James sighed, “Dammit.” He took the data pad back with a little more force than needed.  “Today Kaidan is going to meet up with his fiancé.” James said, “This means stay on your toes.” He hauled John up the stairs to the first floor, “The General has an important meeting with the Minister of human resources Udina, and Minister of science Lawson.”

John looked alarmed, he had only ever seen those people on the front of newspapers.

“Don’t worry, people like us are invisible to them.” James smiled and hauled John towards the next set of stairs, “Henry Lawson’s daughter, Miranda, is Kaidan’s fiancé, and she is – uhm… difficult to please.”  James stopped in front of a set of heavy looking double doors. “Look just do exactly as you are told, and you will be fine.”

John nodded and adjusted his uniform. Feeling the chemical calm of the pill run through his veins, somehow he missed the burn before the high. “I will do my best.”

“Yes you will.” James said with a sad smile, “Good luck. And Sunshine will be up with Kaidan’s breakfast around eight. You enter with her.”

“Until then I just wait here?” John asked.

“Yes.” James shrugged, “House rules.”

“I see.” John nodded, and watched as James walked down the stairs again. John took a moment to get up from his seat and lean on the railing, he looked down to the ground floor, he looked at all the beautifully ornate house, every detail was thought of. He ran his hand over the fake wood banister, complete with little fake rings as ores. It was a masterpiece, and he couldn’t even imagine what it must have cost to get done for the entire house. John had mostly always had the fortune to sleep on a mattress, but that was because he was still useful. Not like those who were feeble, it always troubled him to see them huddled together for warmth in a corner where the elements or crazies might not get to them.  And then to behold all this wealth, it made him feel almost dirty inside. Had he not seen this house with his own eyes, he would not have believed such a place existed.

Soon Sunshine came up the stairs carrying a tray, “Just follow my lead” Samantha said with a little tick that could resemble a smile if you really wanted it to be.  She walked in without knocking, John followed hesitantly.

“Good morning Sir.” She sang, as she placed the tray on the small table-tray next to the bed. “Friday, would you get the curtains?”

John jolted into action and went for the curtains, who the hell had curtains anyway? It even felt like real fabric, not like the synthetic stuff he had worn all his life. He pulled them aside and let the sunshine in, he had never seen a view like this, fields and trees, “amazing” he mumbled to himself.

Kaidan sat up in his king sized bed, rubbing his eyes. “What time is it?”

Samantha had left as soon as she had placed the breakfast, and John was all alone. Embarrassment shot up Shepard’s spine, “I don’t know, Sir.” He said softly, trying to be as invisible as possible, without hiding behind the curtain.

Kaidan looked at him with a bored expression, “There is a watch right there.” He pointed to the bedside table.

“I see that, Sir.” John said miserably, “I never learned the time, Sir. I’m sorry.” He looked down at his feet, rejoicing in some odd way that at least he got himself a new pair of boots.

“You better learn.” Kaidan huffed. He poked his breakfast with a frustrated expression.

John said nothing, he was quite sure that it had been a statement, not a conversation piece. The doors swung up and Alice Alenko, the lady of the house entered, it was early morning and she looked impeccable as always.

“Kaidan dear.” She sung, “Miranda will visit us today, you must be ready by midday.”

Kaidan’s mood seemed to sour even further, “If time is so important to you mother, why did you buy me a manservant who can’t tell the time? I bet he doesn’t even know how to spell his own name.” he pouted, “Do you Friday? Do you know how to spell your own name?”

John took a deep breath and shook his head, “No, Sir.”

“See?” Kaidan argued exasperated, “This is what you leave me with, and expect me to get through the day.”

“Calm now.” Alice smiled and sat down at the far end of the bed, “I will find someone who can teach him the time.”

“By tomorrow.” Kaidan said.

“By tomorrow, dear” Alice agreed as she placed a hand on Kaidan’s calf. “About today son, I must ask that you are on your best behavior. Father will be very upset if you are not.”

“Yes mother.” Kaidan sighed.

“She is your wife to be Kaidan, at least show her some respect.”

“I hate her.” Kaidan mumbled, sticking his fork through a strawberry.

Alice smiled overbearingly, “That might be so, but you are still marrying her – we all have our obligations in life, and this is yours.”

For a second Kaidan didn’t look like a petulant child, he just stared at his mother with the same cold calculating eyes that John had seen the day before. “I know mother.”

“Good.” Alice smiled as she patted Kaidan’s shin, “And please go easy on the new Friday, we don’t want a repetition of last.”

“I promise, mother.” Kaidan said, his voice hollow.

“Splendid, I will leave you two boys at it then.” Alice got up from the bed, “Friday, I will call you on your personal caller when it’s noon. Be sure to have Kaidan ready by then.”

“Yes ma’am.” John said with a nod.

Alice left the room, and closed the doors behind her. Kaidan gestured at the table-tray, “Take it away.”

“Yes, Sir.” John said and came over to the bed to take the tray off.

Kaidan grabbed his wrist, and John stared down at the hand, afraid to look up into the cold brown eyes. “Absolutely control, Friday – do you know what that is?”

“Yes.” John whispered.

“Never linger again, and never ever answer my mother unless I gave your explicit permission.” Kaidan said, squeezing a little harder, “Next time, when someone enters, you leave.”

“Yes.” John said, making the mistake of looking up at Kaidan, a cruel smile on the perfectly shaped lips.

Kaidan pulled off the sheet and pressed John’s hand down on his morning erection. “This once I will let it go unpunished that you have not tended to this with your mouth yet.”

John felt cold panic travel up his spine, he opened his mouth to say something but the words never made it out, instead he gingerly closed his fingers around Kaidan’s silky cock. It had been quite a while since he had touched another person intimately, and back then it had been for mutual benefits, he needed the drugs and the guy wanted to get off. He hesitated for a split second, only to find that Kaidan had a painful grip on his neck. The pressure of Kaidan’s fingers didn’t lessen as John opened his mouth and swallowed as much of Kaidan’s cock as possible. Kaidan pressed John’s face flat against his crotch, John trying his hardest not to panic, his throat working against him, dry heaving. Kaidan held his head in position and started to thrust. “Absolute power Friday.” He moaned softly. John whimpered and dry heaved again. “Nothing quite like it.” Kaidan moaned with a little laugh, “Fuck yes.”

John felt like he was about to faint most of all, hoping that Kaidan would be done soon. Kaidan lifted himself off the bed a little, forcing John’s head back in an odd angle, before he delivered a couple of hard thrusts, finishing deep down John’s throat.  Kaidan flopped back in the bed, looking up at John, tears, snot and saliva mingled on his face. “Go wash up before you take the tray down.” He patted John’s cheek, “You can use my sink.”

John pushed off the bed and walked to the bathroom like a drunk man. He went to the sink and splashed water in his face, avoiding his own gaze in the mirror. He wiped his face in a towel and went back to get the tray. Unexpected, unpleasant – but nothing he hadn’t tried before.

“Tell Sunshine to get up here and change the sheets.” Kaidan said. “And Friday?”

“Yes, Sir?” John said, turning around to look at Kaidan, tray in hands.

“You can call me Master Alenko.” Kaidan said, “Sir, is my father.”

“Yes, master Alenko.” John echoed.

“Splendid.” Kaidan cheered, “I expect you to come right back, I need a bath.”

“Yes, master Alenko.” John said, his voice hollow. He turned and walked out through the doors. Two years of this? He wasn’t sure any citizenship was worth it.

.*.

He silently placed the tray in the kitchen, and looked over at Sunshine who was just entering with a bucket full of dirty water from washing the floor. “What happened?” She said and wrapped her arms around John. “Did he hurt you?”

John pushed her off and stared at her, “You knew he would, and you didn’t tell me?”

“Would it have made a difference?” Samantha countered.

“Yes.” John sneered. “Yes it would have made a fucking difference.”

“I’m sorry.” Samantha said, looking genuinely heartbroken. “Here.” She fished a pill from her pocket, “Have mine, I owe you.”

John stared at her angrily, but took the pill regardless.

“Look he is frustrated today because young lady Miranda is coming and you are just at the receiving end of that.” Samantha said with a soothing smile, “He is always a handful when she comes around, at least that is what I’m told.”

The chemical peace started to settle throughout John’s system, and he finally relaxed a little. “I should get back and help him with his bath, and you should go change his sheets.”

Samantha nodded, “Eyes on the price, a good reference and you might have an actual shot at citizenship.” She hooked her arm around John’s. “You can do it.”

John gave a lingering thought to the life he had come from, and how badly he wanted to never return to it, how desperate he was for a good reference. “I can do it.” He said with a little tight smile.

-*-

John returned to help Kaidan with his bath, when he walked into the bathroom he couldn’t help but to stop dead, it was the most beautiful bathroom he had ever seen, prior to seeing this he didn’t even have the imagination to dream such a place up, it was gold and marble, and a big tub in the middle. Kaidan was sitting in it already staring at him amused. “What?” Kaidan asked, a little smile on his lips.

“I never saw anything like this.” John said, “It is… amazing.” He touched the cold marble with his fingertips.

“It is, isn’t it?” Kaidan’s smile widened. “Now take off your shirt, and come wash my hair.”

“Yes, Sir… eh Master Alenko.” John said as he pulled his shirt off and left it on the marble.

“It sounds wrong when you say it.” Kaidan mused, waiting for John to get seated at the bathtub.

“What does?”

“Master Alenko.” Kaidan said sounding slightly perplexed. “I think Sir might be better.”

“If you say so, Sir.” John said pouring some shampoo out into his hands. He couldn’t help but to lift it up and smell it before applying it to Kaidan’s hair.

“Roses.” Kaidan said.

“Oh.” John smiled a little guarded, “They are flowers, right? Sir?”

“That they are.” Kaidan chuckled amused.

John didn’t answer he just continued to massage the shampoo into Kaidan’s hair. Now it wasn’t like he had never seen shampoo before, but never something that had an actual smell besides the neutral smell of soap suds.

“Are those prison tattoos?” Kaidan asked casually, not moving a muscle, not even opening his eyes, just enjoying the scalp massage.

“Yes, Sir.” John answered.

“Uh exiting.” Kaidan smiled to himself, and John resisted the urge to sigh and just started to rinse Kaidan’s hair.

Kaidan got out of the bath and stood on the floor holding out a hand, John caught on quickly and handed him the huge soft towel. He wrapped the towel around him and walked into the bedroom, followed by John. “My clothes.” Kaidan pointed over to a chair next to a huge dresser.

John went and got Kaidan’s clothes, it made him a little jittery kneeling in front of Kaidan who sat at the foot end of the bed, waiting. He still hadn’t processed this morning’s assault. His hands shook a little when he slid the snow-white underwear over Kaidan’s feet.

“What’s wrong?” Kaidan asked a laugh evident in his voice.

“Nothing, Sir.” John mumbled and pulled the underpants up till Kaidan’s knees.

“Friday.” Kaidan lifted John’s head with two fingers under his chin, “Don’t be frightened.”

John said nothing; he just stared up at Kaidan’s perfectly sculpted face.

“I would never hurt you. Not for real.” Kaidan smiled widely, flashing his perfectly white teeth, “You know that, don’t you Friday?”

“I do, Sir.” John answered in a tiny voice, swallowing hard. So this was a game, he could play games – however twisted.

“If I asked you to do it again, what would you say?” Kaidan said, pulling the towel from his body with his free hand.

“Yes.” John managed to whisper.

“Good boy.” Kaidan laughed and let go of John’s chin, “Sadly no time for that.” He pulled his underpants up instead.

John all but collapsed with relief. He reached for the socks and finished dressing Kaidan in silence.

-*-

John continued this routine for six months, no hiccups, no problems. He would get up, serve Kaidan’s breakfast, wait for him to finish and then follow him to the bathroom where he would give him a hand job or a blowjob, but never as violent as that first time. He would bathe Kaidan and clothe him, he would make Kaidan aware of the plans for today and usually just follow him, and do light cleaning such as dirty laundry. He would repeat pretty much the same routine at night, he would prepare Kaidan’s bed, sometimes give him a massage, and leave for the night. If you stayed on your toes, it was not really all that hard once you got the hang of it.

“Today,” Kaidan declared one morning. “I am going to take you to see my mother’s rose garden.” He smiled.

“Yes?” John couldn’t help but to grin, he had seen it through the windows, but never gone out there, he was dying to know if roses really smelled like Kaidan’s shampoo.

“Yes.” Kaidan said as he pulled his arms through his sweater.

“But sir, what about your –“ John asked, confused as to why Kaidan would cancel the plans he had.

Kaidan just gave him a stern look, and John closed his mouth allowing Kaidan to guide him out through the house and outside in the back. John took a deep breath, it had been so long since he had been outside. The air was clear and fresh, nothing like the stuffed air from the slums. “Come on.” Kaidan said, grabbing John’s hand and led him around the house. “Look.”

John’s smile grew, he could smell them from here.

Kaidan hauled John deeper into the rose garden, in the middle of it there was a gazebo. John walked over to a huge yellow rose and hesitantly smelled it, “Amazing.” He mumbled. He looked over his shoulder seeing Kaidan stand behind him smiling. “To think such a little flower could hold all that.”

“You like it?” Kaidan asked quizzically.

“Very much so.” John answered and smelled it again, “Your mother has a beautiful garden.”

Kaidan reached over and broke off the rose which John had been smelling, and much to John’s surprise, he placed it gently behind John’s ear. “You are very beautiful too, did you know that?” He said.

John felt his cheeks heat up, it felt like his blush spread from the top of his head to his chest. “No, sir. I honestly never gave it any thought.”

Kaidan lifted John’s head with a hand on each side of his head, forcing him to hold eye contact. “You are.”

“You are even more beautiful than your mothers rose garden, sir.” John whispered, not sure if he would get in trouble for it, but he found it absolutely bizarre that the most beautiful man he had ever seen would stand here and call him pretty.

Kaidan leaned in and kissed John on his lips, it was a sweet and soft kiss. The first kiss they had ever shared. “Such delicious lips.” Kaidan whispered against John’s lips. “Enough to drive a sane man mad.” He wiped a thumb over John’s lower lip, “Not that you’d do that.”

“No sir, I wouldn’t.” John whispered, hardly daring to breathe. His hands clasped at the small of his back.

Kaidan pushed his thumb in between John’s lips, closing his eyes in bliss as John’s lips closed around his digit. “Tempting.” He mumbled.

John just stood there and let drool slip from his lips.

Kaidan pushed down on John’s shoulder, and retreated his hand to unzip his pants.

-*-

Alice stood in her panorama window looking at the scene unfold, her husband joined her with two glasses of bourbon. Francis sighed as he saw his son and John in the garden. “We have to put a stop to this nonsense, Alice.” He said, turning his back to the garden view.

“Oh Francis, he is just doing exactly what the therapist suggested.” Alice sat down in her rocking chair, “We agreed that he should get out more.”

“But not like that!” Francis argued.

“I picked that little orphan for a reason, Francis.” Alice said with a tight smile, “I knew he was exactly what Kaidan needed.” She took a tiny sip of the bourbon, “And he does seem happier lately, doesn’t he?”

“You are spoiling the kid Alice.” Francis huffed not looking at his wife, “But I suppose you are right in a way, he is still here and that is the longest Kaidan managed to hold on to any servant.”

-*-

Kaidan would drag John around to show him Alice’s rose garden and kiss behind the bushes, swim in the lake and teach him how to play tennis. John loved every intense moment of it, they would laugh and goof, Kaidan would compare John’s eyes to the sky, read poetry, feed him fruit and talk for hours about books he read, and sometimes there was a tiny glimmer of moments where they were just two seventeen year old boys.

John would lose himself completely in Kaidan’s world, and for the first time in his short life, he felt like someone needed him there, he felt special, chosen – him, John. No one else.

Alice would sometimes pat John on the shoulder when no one was looking, and congratulate him on how good he was at managing her son.

That was until Kaidan’s birthday, the damned day he would turn eighteen.

-*-

John knew it was going to be a bad day the moment he woke. It was in the air. The entire house was tense and silent. Miranda and Kaidan would be finalizing the details of the wedding today.

He entered Kaidan’s bedroom as he normally would, placed the tray down, and went for the curtains. “Good morning, Sir.” He said with a cheerful voice, “Have you slept well?”

Kaidan pulled the cover over his head and grumbled.

“Come now, Sir.” John coaxed, “You have a big day ahead of you.”

“No!” Kaidan yelled under the cover.

John stopped dead in his steps, “Surely…”

“I said no!” Kaidan peeked up over the covers.

“Very well.” John nodded, he took a deep breath and turned to leave, he looked over his shoulder, not sure if he should maybe try and lighten Kaidan’s mood a little.  He decided against it and left the bedroom. He didn’t know what to do and was pretty sure that no matter how this played out he would be in the receiving end of a punishment. He chose to go to Alice, he knew it was unheard of, but he simply didn’t know what to do. He knocked on the door to her private rooms, knowing that she would be there, having already had her breakfast earlier.

When Alice called for him to enter he did. He stood there in the beautiful white room with the ornate chairs and the secret entry which Rose always used. “Ma’am.” He said, his eyes downcast, not sure if she was properly dressed yet. “I am sorry for the intrusion.”

“Ah little Friday.” She sang, walking through the room to her favorite rocking chair, by the huge panorama window overlooking her rose garden. “Come then. Don’t be sorry.”

John gingerly made it closer to her, and folded his hands in front of him. “Ma’am, young master Kaidan refuses to get out of bed.”

Alice sighed. “Make him.”

John opened his mouth to answer, but was cut off as Alice waved with her hand at him, “If you value your place here in this household, you will not embarrass me.”

“Yes ma’am.” John said, his voice pitifully low. Realizing he was dismissed he turned and left Lady Alice’s parlor. He went back to Kaidan with heavy steps, and mentally tried to brace himself for anything Kaidan could throw at him. Before he pushed the door open he swallowed another pill, hoping the chemical calm would carry him through whatever was waiting for him.

Kaidan was still in bed, and he hadn’t touched his breakfast either. “Sir.” John said softly as he closed the door behind him. “Please you have to get out of bed.”

“No.” Kaidan stated under the covers.

“Let me draw you a bath.” John said already taking a step towards the bathroom.

“No! No! No fucking bath, just fuck off!”

John closed his eyes and turned on his heels. He hesitantly sat down in the foot end of the bed. Laying on his side, the sheet uncovered Kaidan’s naked butt as he had pulled the sheet more over his head.

John gingerly reached out and placed a warm hand on Kaidan’s butt, “I could help you have a pleasant morning, sir.” He caressed the soft skin gently. When Kaidan just huffed under the sheets, John leaned in and kissed the skin letting his hand wander up Kaidan’s leg and under the sheet. “Please.” John whispered, kissing the butt cheek again.

“What the fuck!” Kaidan exploded, “What do you think I am?”

John flew back, and fell off the bed, both hands up in a defensive stance, “I don’t think anything, sir. I just wanted to –“

“Do you think I’m some kind of homo?” Kaidan raged, wrapping the sheet around him.

“No! Not at all, sir.” John squeaked staring wide eyed at Kaidan’s towering appearance.

“I’m not no fucking homo!” Kaidan grabbed John’s wrist and forced it from its protective stance. “Bet you are, you little slut – little homo slut.” He tugged John’s arm hard.

“I’m sorry!” John cried, his mind raced with how to get out of this situation, but when Kaidan’s fist made impact with his cheek all thoughts of that kind disappeared. “I’m sorry!” He repeated. John knew how to take a beating, and surely Kaidan couldn’t be worse than what he was used to; in the slums people knew how to fight. But John neither could nor would fight back.

“Did you just call me a homo, you little fucking cock slut.” Kaidan screamed, hitting John again, repeatedly. “You disgusting little faggot!”

John tried in vain to shield his face with his arms, but the blows and kicks didn’t end till Kaidan ran out of breath. John felt like his body and face was on fire. “Sorry.” He sobbed weakly. Angry men just wanted to vent their anger, the smaller he could make himself, the faster the anger would pass, the older member of the Reds taught him that – when you can’t fight back, just roll up and cry – they will tire of you fast.

“You’re bleeding on my carpet.”

“Sorry.” John slurred again, he made a weak attempt at getting up, but found he was too dizzy and his legs were cooperating.

He didn’t hear Kaidan move across the carpet, but he heard him press the intercom and ask for Sunshine to come clean his carpet and bring the first aid kit. John made a second attempt at standing, this time managing to get to his hands and knees, breathing hurt and his vision was blurry. He could see all the blood on the immaculate white carpet. He had not expected the kick to his side, which caused him to collapse once more. “No more, please.” He croaked.

Kaidan hunched down and stared at him, “You’re nothing but trash”

John sobbed, spit and blood bubbling from his mouth.

“Say it!” Kaidan screamed in his face.

John flinched holding up a bloodied hand to ward off potential fists. “I’m” He wept, “trash”

“Pathetic,” Kaidan smiled, “You’re dismissed.”

John struggled to get up once again. He could do this, he had taken worse in prison, and still walked out, a couple of scars richer and a tooth less.

“Oh yes,” Kaidan said standing to his feet, “I can’t believe you had me fooled for so long, I guess the joke is on me.” He stopped and took a deep sigh, and then he turned to look at John who was still trying to get to his feet, pointing at John he growled “You will never be a citizen!”

“Please don’t.” John slurred. So much for his effort, he had rolled up and let Kaidan vent, he had paid for his mistake with blood and pain – and still Kaidan wanted to punish him? That wasn’t fair.

“You used my weakness for your own perversions!” Kaidan screamed, “Get out! Get out of my sight!”

John got to his feet and took a dizzy wobbly step, “didn’t.” he mumbled, but aimed for the door, dripping blood, clutching his side.  He vaguely wondered if his hand was damaged beyond repair this time, and thanked the extra pill he had swallowed for the fact he could stand now.

Samantha saw him as she entered and let out a little yelp, but hurried past him to deal with the carpet.

-*-

When John woke he was confused at first, but then realized he was back in his cot, he must have fainted. He looked down at his hand covered in bandages, remarkably clean bandages.

Rose came in to check on him, and smiled as she saw him struggle to sit up. “You’re awake.” She said softly, lending him a hand so he could sit up.

“Did I faint?” John asked, he could feel his entire system was numb and doped, Rose had done her job well.

“You did, fell down the stairs.” Rose took his hand and smiled, “Scared the mistress.”

“Sorry.” John mumbled, “I didn’t mean to.” He smiled weakly “he must have hit my head somehow.”

“I am fairly sure she knows that.” Rose said, “Now let’s see,” she gently peeled the bandage off John’s head and right side of his face. “You’re healing just fine. And no infection it looks like.”

“What’s going to happen now?” John asked with a timid voice, flinching as Rose pressed down on sore flesh on his forehead.

“The General wants to see you.” Rose said softly.

“They found a replacement, didn’t they?” John asked miserably, trying to sit absolutely still for Rose to finish wrapping him up again.

“Yes.” Rose said in a near whisper.

John sighed, “Oh I see.” His chest contracted and tears stung in his eyes. It wasn’t fucking fair!

“Honey, don’t worry about it, you’ll see it all works out somehow.” She smiled knowingly. “Now let’s get you presentable so you can go see the General, shall we?”

John got out of the bed with a groan, and hobbled down towards the stairs upstairs. Kaidan’s threat ringing through his mind, ‘you’ll never be a citizen’, he had tried so hard, he had wanted it so much. He had even been content with his role in the household, if only he had never done what he did. He should have known better, he should have known that Kaidan was closeted behind three inches of concrete, that real intimacy confused him – and in Kaidan-land, confusion was anger.

He knocked on the large door to the General’s study, and entered when he was called. “You asked to see me, sir.” John said, closing the door behind him.

“Ah yes.” The General smiled a little quick smile, “Sit.”

“Thank you, sir.” John slowly walked over and sat in one of the beautifully crafted chairs that was opposite the General and his desk.

The General folded his hands on the desk and stared directly at John. “Kaidan wants to report you for sexual assault.”

“I see.” John looked down at his hands in his lap, “How is he?”

“He’s fine.” The General said with a little laugh, “Bruised knuckles and bruised ego. But that is about it. Don’t worry about him.”

“If you say so sir.” John looked up at the General for a split second, before he returned his gaze to his own hands.

“I have two choices here, kid.” The General said, “I can either terminate the contract or send you back to the slums – or I can find another use for you.”

John’s gaze snapped up to meet the General’s, “Please! I can’t go back! I am begging you” he leaned a little forward, fidgeting with his hands in his lap. “I will do anything sir.”

The General smiled warmly, “I know kid.” He poured himself a drink from a canter on his desk. “You have been nothing but loyal and worked hard.” He put down the glass, “Here is what I am going to do, I will reassign you and then depending on how well you do your job, renew your contract.”

“Oh thank you!” John could have cried with relief. “I promise you, you are not going to regret that, sir.”

“I hope not.” The General said. “When you leave this office, you will go clear out your room. The room belongs to Friday. You are reassigned as Sunshine and will therefore be moving to Sunshine’s room.”

“Yes sir.” John nodded.

“You know the drill; Rose will fill you in on Sunshine’s chores.” The General said, “Dismissed.”

“Thank you sir.” John got up from the chair and hurried out from the study. He felt tears sting in the corners of his eyes, happy tears, he couldn’t believe that the General had let him stay.

When he returned to the servants’ quarters in the basement, he met a very angry Samantha, her arms full of her belongings. “Why did you do that? You asshole!”

“I’m sorry.” John said, “I didn’t mean for any of this.”

“Sure!” She hissed, “And now I am stuck with his royal highness and his psycho mood swings.”

“Be careful what you say.” John said, “You shouldn’t even be thinking those things, let alone say them out loud.”

“Like you care.” Samantha said, tears welling up in her eyes from anger. “What the fuck is wrong with you? He is a monster!”

“He is not a monster!” John yelled, realizing too late his error.

Samantha laughed through her tears, “You actually care for him, don’t you?” She shook her head in disgrace over John. “They messed with your head good, John.”

“Shut up.” John growled and went to his room to gather his few belongings.

“So maybe you enjoyed sucking on his cock every time he gets bored?” Samantha said, leaning against the doorframe, barring John from exiting the room.

“Maybe I did.” John said, his answer was flat and devoid of heat.

Samantha just stared at him for a long time, until she finally spoke, “You know why I am here?” She asked.

“Citizenship I presume.” John answered calmly, though he could tell Samantha was anything but calm.

“Yes, to gain the right to marry my girlfriend and start a family.”

John looked down at the ground, “I’m sorry.”

“You should be.” Samantha shouldered him as she entered the room, “Get out!”

John slowly walked down the hall to the room that had been Samantha’s. The victory he had felt just moments before became a gnawing guilt in the pit of his stomach, all because he had messed up, Samantha had to live in what had to be her own personal hell for the rest of the year her contract ran. He tossed his belongings on the bed and went back to his old room, “Samantha?” He called, knocking on the door.

“Go away!”

“If I could I would take it all back.” John said, his hand flat against the wood of the door, speaking to the doorframe. “Is there anything I can do?”

“No! Fuck off!”

“Alright.” John sighed and left the door and walked down the hall again.

“There you are Sunshine.” Rose smiled, “I took the liberty of fixing your new uniform.” She handed him a bundle of clothes, “Wouldn’t want the same mishap as last, right?”

“Right.” He tried to smile. “Look Rose, is there anything we can do for Samantha?”

“Friday?”

“Yes, Friday.” John said, “Is there any way she could perhaps be reassigned?”

“Not that I know of.”

“Please Rose, you have the ear of the mistress, perhaps you could –“

“NO!” Rose said loud and stern, “And I will pretend this conversation never took place.”

John sighed and nodded, returning to his new room with his new uniform.

 

SUNSHINE

John was quick to learn his new routine; he would get up and do prepare breakfast for the General and Alice, and then do the master bedroom. He would wash the floors, clean the carpets, carry the dishes to the kitchen, wash their clothes, clean the windows and polish the silverware. The Alenko mansion was massive and it was many hours of hard labor; sometimes John wondered how Samantha had even managed.

Until one day when she went missing, it was like she had vanished, just up and left. No one knew why – but John had an inkling, she had decided that marriage was not as important as love. She had decided to run, before she too had hung from the rafters. He worried for Kaidan, he knew it was silly of him, but he couldn’t help it, in the time passed since he had come to this household, he and Kaidan was both his master, but also in a way his lover and friend – or at least he had been once. If John was completely honest to himself, it wasn’t much different than jerking off someone for drugs. Kaidan was the key to his dream, and he was ready to do anything for that to happen.

-*-

“Sunshine!” Alice called as she descended the stairs to foyer.

John stopped polishing the oak table in the dining room and came out into the foyer. “Yes ma’am.”

“Francis is going to bring a new Friday today, but Kaidan still in bed. Be a dear and get his breakfast to him and make sure he gets dressed. I could ask Rose, but I’m sure you can manage.”

“Yes ma’am.” John pocketed the polishing cloth.

“If he yells at you, just tell him to come see me.” Alice said with a friendly smile. “Chop chop Sunshine.”

“Of course ma’am.” John hurried to the kitchen to pick up the tray with Kaidan’s breakfast and walked up the stairs, his heart beating so fast he was sure others could hear it. He opened the door and went inside Kaidan’s room. “Good morning.” He said with a chipper tone, placing down the tray before he went for the curtains. “It’s a lovely winter day outside, sir. Snow on the roses I see.”

Kaidan slowly sat up in bed. “Friday?”

“No sir.” John said with his smile plastered to his face. “It’s Sunshine, sir.” He took the table-tray and placed it above Kaidan’s thighs in the bed.

John went for the bathroom to start Kaidan’s bath, and for a moment he just stood there and took in the well-known smell of the bathroom, Kaidan’s rose shampoo. He missed it terribly; maybe there was something wrong with him? But damn it he missed giving Kaidan his morning bath, there was nothing he would rather do in the world than to rub rose shampoo into Kaidan’s soft dark curls, and hear him talk about tennis and books.

“Why are you here?” Kaidan said behind John, making him flinch.

John turned, his smile in place, “Because your new Friday doesn’t arrive until later today.” He said calmly, “Have you finished your breakfast?”

“Not hungry.” Kaidan said and walked to the tub. “I can wash myself, thank you.”

“Very well.” John nodded, but couldn’t help but to be a little disappointed. “I will see to fresh sheets then.” He left the bathroom, carefully stepping over the slight discoloring in the carpet from his blood. He pulled the sheets of Kaidan’s bed, and left them outside the door, he then went to get fresh ones from the closet in the corridor. How he missed the intensity of Kaidan’s world.

He finished the bed, and then only needed to take the tray to the kitchen, he walked over to the door to the bathroom, and careful not to look at Kaidan he turned his head away. “Your bed is changed.” He wet his lips, “Will you be needing anything else, sir?”

“No.”

“Very well sir.” John said, hoping he didn’t sound as sad as he felt. “I will leave you alone then.” He went for the tray and closed the door behind him.

He spied from the dining room, mop in hand, when the new Friday was brought to the General’s study. He was absolutely handsome, and John hated him instantly.

Later when he came back to the servants quarters, his chores done for the day. He sat down at the servants’ dining table and pulled off his boots with a sigh. It had been an exhausting day in every way imaginable.

“Hey.”

John opened his eyes and looked straight up at the handsome man from earlier; he stood there with a smile and held out a hand to greet him. John took it reluctantly. “I’m Steve, the new Friday.”

“Hey Steve, I’m John.” He shook Steve’s hand. “Sunshine.”

“What’s with these crazy names, am I right?” Steve laughed a little. And despite himself John laughed too, “I know.”

“I haven’t eaten yet, have you?” Steve asked, moving towards the pot with the servants’ dinner.

“No.” John said, smiling as Steve handed him a plate.

“I was told you were the one to talk to about Kaidan.” Steve said so innocently that John had no doubt he meant well.

“I’m not.” John said digging his spoon into the soup, “Oh meat, I hope it’s chicken.” He mumbled before looking back up at Steve, “Tell James to give you his schedule.”

“Okay.” Steve shrugged, clearly puzzled by John’s sudden dismissal.

-*-

The next morning John did as Samantha had done for him, he joined Steve by Kaidan’s door with the breakfast tray. “Just follow my lead, and you’re gonna be fine.” John said before he went into the bedroom. He placed the tray down on the table-tray and turned to Steve, “Friday, would you please get the curtains?”

Kaidan opened his eyes and John smiled, “Good morning, sir.” He gestured towards Steve, “I will leave you two at it.” His smile faltered slightly, as he wordlessly excused himself.

All the rest of that day, he would find excuses to do chores around the same floor where Kaidan’s room were at, hovering around listening in. He heard no yelling so he figured that Steve did a fine job as Friday.

“Sunshine!” Rose called from the foyer. “I need you down here!”

John descended the stairs to Rose, and smiled sadly. “Yes?”

“Hovering won’t help.” Rose said and placed a hand on John’s shoulder. “I need your help carrying all the Christmas decorations up from the basement.” She wrapped an arm around John’s waist. “Christmas, isn’t that lovely?”

John didn’t have the heart to admit he never had Christmas before, so he just smiled and said ‘yes’.

-*-

Christmas at the Alenko household was a big deal and there were mountains of Christmas lights and decorations, and John set about to hang everything as to Roses instructions. He entered Alice’s parlor with his arms full of decorations, instructed to hang lights and the silver bells in the large panorama window. He could see Kaidan and Steve outside, throwing snow at each other, and for a moment he felt his chest imploded, they were getting along perfectly. One thing was knowing it, another was seeing it. The rose garden was covered in snow, the gazebo looked magical in the middle of the maze of hedges. John took a deep breath and wiped his eyes with the back of his hand. He wondered if Kaidan made Steve feel special too, or if Kaidan ever even missed him – like he missed Kaidan.

“Cheer up Sunshine.” Alice said behind him.

“Sorry ma’am.” John wiped his face in his sleeve. “I am done with your decorations in a moment.” He tried to sound cheerful.

Alice poured two glasses of bourbon, and to John’s surprise handed him one, and then she too stood and stared out over the rose garden. “It is a beautiful garden in every season, but I love it mostly in the summer.”

“Your roses are amazing ma’am.” John agreed, carefully sipping the bourbon.

“Kaidan is troubled.” Alice said softly, “I suppose Francis is right, I spoiled him rotten.”

“He is the only way he knows how, ma’am.” John said, watching as Kaidan pushed Steve into the snow and laughed.

“You made him smile.” Alice said, “Did you know that?”

“I did not, ma’am.” John said, turning his head to look at Alice.

“No other Friday, not even Miranda makes him smile like you did.” Alice said sipping her glass, “That is why Francis didn’t terminate your contract.”

John didn’t answer, he just looked down at the silver bell Christmas ornament in his other hand.

“We all have our role in this world, and we don’t always like it.” Alice said, “Your role is to be Sunshine, and mine is to be the wife of Francis Alenko.” She smiled warmly at John. “Kaidan’s is to marry Miranda, and start a family of their own, a brand new household, where there will be others like you and Friday.” She took the last sip of her drink, “We all have our purpose, and we all keep the little wheels turning – that is the way of the world.” She placed a hand on John’s cheek, “I might have wanted to be a designer, and you might have wanted to be Kaidan’s lover, but none of those things are going to happen, because that is not our role in this world.”

John smiled sadly and nodded, “I know.” He emptied his glass and handed it back to Alice, “Thank you for the drink and the talk, ma’am.”

“Remember what I said, Sunshine. It might not be your place to be Kaidan’s lover, but neither is it that young mans – so dry your eyes.”

John nodded and smiled, he turned and continued with the decorations. Alice’s talk was such bullshit he didn’t even know where to begin. Funny how privileged people always talked about everyone else should be content. Fuck that! Why should everyone just be content? Kaidan didn’t want to marry Miranda, and he didn’t want to run over the hills with Steve either, Steve was a filler, Steve was Friday. Friday was there to let Kaidan indulge, pretend he was not gay and hide behind whimsical routines.

John knew better, he had felt it when they kissed, he had heard it in the moans when he had sucked him off. He had known it when Kaidan’s fingers had lingered on his lips when feeding him from the breakfast tray. He might be a trained dog, but that was what Kaidan needed to keep his sanity, John was sure of it.

Not that it mattered now; he was Sunshine.

-*-

John had never in his life thought he would find peace in polishing the silverware, Rose had insisted on decorating the tree and so John had set about his other chores. Polishing silverware was calm, repetitive and best of all he got to sit down. The dining room was bathed in the afternoon sun, and it felt almost serene.

“Hey.”

John looked up and saw Kaidan stand in the doorway. “Sir.” He smiled warmly, but didn’t stop polishing the spoon in his hands.

“I came down here for a book, and I saw you sitting here.” Kaidan said, walking over to the table, walking down the length of the table, looking at John.

“Is there anything you need sir?” John asked and finally stopped polishing and laid the spoon and the cloth down.

Kaidan took a deep breath, “I lied,” He said with a soft smile, “I didn’t come here for a book, I came here to see you.”

“Oh?” John blinked confused, suddenly uneasy, not sure if that was a good thing.

“I don’t think we ever had a prettier Sunshine.” He smiled and walked around the end of the table and came to stand behind John, placing his hands on John’s shoulders from behind. “For what it’s worth, you made a pretty good Friday too.”

“Thank you sir.” John said, willing himself to relax as Kaidan started to knead his shoulders.

“I’m sorry.” Kaidan whispered, “I freaked out, I shouldn’t have treated you like that.”

“No harm done sir.” John said, resisting the urge to fidget.

“I miss you.” Kaidan said with an odd tone which John couldn’t interpret.

“I miss you too, sir.” John said, and knew he meant it.

Kaidan stopped the massage and instead gently turned John in his chair. “I can’t make you Friday, but I could request that Sunshine brought me breakfast.” He smiled a little quick embarrassed smile.

John just smiled back, not sure what to say.

“I promise I won’t hit you again.” Kaidan said and had the decency to look away from John’s confused gaze.  “That was wrong of me.” – Kaidan laughed softly, “Look at me, apologizing to a servant.” He kneeled down in front of the chair and looked up at John, “I must be going crazy Sunshine, but I miss you. It’s all wrong when it’s not you.”

John blushed against his will, and smiled, “I would love to bring you breakfast, sir.”

Kaidan looked relieved and laughed a little. “Good, I will notify my mother and Rose.” He got to his feet, and kissed John’s forehead before he left the dining room just as suddenly as he had come in there.

John stared down at the silverware and a huge dumb smile spread on his lips. Little cogs in the machine, his ass.

-*-

The next morning he walked up the stairs with Kaidan’s breakfast tray, Steve was sitting outside in the corridor. Steve looked up at John and smiled bitterly, “You used to be Friday too, didn’t you?”

“I did.” John said, “Does it matter?”

Steve shrugged, “And I am not you.”

“What is that supposed to mean?”

Steve huffed and leaned back in his chair, returning his gaze to the huge chandelier that hung from the ceiling.

John ignored it and went into Kaidan’s bedroom, he put down the tray and went for the curtains, “Good morning, sir.” He said in a chipper voice, “It’s time to get up, tomorrow is Christmas.” He turned around and saw Kaidan sitting up in bed, rubbing his eyes. “Are you done with your Christmas shopping sir?”

“No.” Kaidan mumbled.

“Ah, well Friday will take you later, I will let him know.” John said smiling as he placed the table-tray across Kaidan’s thighs in bed. “I’ll draw your bath.” He left for the bathroom, smiling as he entered – the routine of this made him giddy, like he was home. Crazy.

Kaidan came out into the bathroom, but instead of aiming straight for the bath, he pushed John up against the wall, kissing him breathless. “I missed you so much.” Kaidan mumbled between kisses.

John cupped Kaidan’s face and kissed him back, “I missed you too.”

Kaidan took John’s hand and led him to the bathtub, John lost his shirt on the floor, and Kaidan got into the bubbles. John reached for the shampoo, but Kaidan grabbed his hand and dragged it under the bubbles to his erection. Kaidan turned his head and kissed John once more, “I don’t understand this; maybe it’s because you are pretty like a girl.”

“Maybe.” John answered kissing Kaidan back, swallowing his little moans. And by the time Kaidan finished, John was breathing heavily too, his own erection visible through his pants. He quickly stood up and excused himself to the bedroom. He pulled the sheets from the bed and set around to his normal routine.

“Sunshine.” Kaidan asked, flopping down on the bed before John had a chance to change the sheets. “Does it excite you to touch me?”

John stopped dead, holding the clean sheets in his arms. This was dangerous territory, not knowing what Kaidan wanted to hear, and for a bone chilling moment, John wondered if this had all been a test. “Why do you ask, sir?” He finally managed to ask, smiling casually.

“Curious I guess.”

Fuck! John’s mind raced with a million outcomes of this, but none of them ending well for him. “It is not my place, sir.” He said, congratulating himself on the smooth save.

“You are from the slums, are you not?” Kaidan asked, stretching naked in his bed.

“I am, sir.” John said, clutching the clean sheets till his knuckles were white.

“Did you have a lover in the slums?”

John shook his head, “I did not.”

Kaidan rolled around to his stomach looking up at John with a grin, “Did you do it for money?”

“Excuse me, sir?”

“Did you let other men fuck you for money?” Kaidan asked, “Isn’t that what slum-rat homos do?”

All color drained from John’s face and for a moment, he felt like fainting. He wasn’t sure if he wanted the ground to swallow him, or if he wanted to shake Kaidan silly. “My life before is not important, sir.” John said with a thin voice.

Kaidan laughed softly, “So you did.”

John looked away from Kaidan and down into the immaculate sheets.

Kaidan rolled out of bed and came over to where John stood, “I decided that I don’t mind that you’re a homo, Sunshine.” He smiled widely, “I think I like that you enjoy my cock.” He smiled, “My new Friday is like a machine, and I find no joy in that.” He whispered in John’s ear, “Where as you make the effort.”

“Thank you, sir.” John answered meekly.

“I’m so glad you’re back.” Kaidan kissed John’s cheek quickly.

“I’m glad to be back, sir.” John said and found that he meant it. “Should we get you into some clothes sir, you have a long day ahead of you.”

-*-

The Alenko mansion was a magical place at Christmas, and John had never seen so many sparkling ornaments, everywhere he looked there were crystals or sparkling fake snowflakes.

There was a cheerful spirit all around, even the General was helping with wrapping up presents and arrange the Christmas punch.

John was arranging the dinner plates, trying to remember the correct order of salad forks, forks and dessertspoon.

“Sunshine.” Kaidan said with a little timid smile. “I have something for you.”

“For me?” John stopped what he was doing and came over to where Kaidan stood.

“I got you a present.”

“Oh.” John’s eyes went wide, he had never received a Christmas present before, in the slums Christmas existed all right, and there would be food trucks handing out extra food in the spirit of the season. But he had never seen anything like the beautifully wrapped present that Kaidan held out in his hand. “Are you sure?” He asked, not quite sure why, it just flew out of his mouth.

“Of course.” Kaidan said, holding his hand up higher, “Take it.”

John took the little present with a shaky grin. “It’s beautiful.” He said.

“You are supposed to unwrap it.” Kaidan laughed leaning up against the china cabinet.

“Now?”

“Yes.”

John slowly undid the bow and then the wrapping paper. It was a box and when he opened it and inside was a ring, it was a simple silver ring. John had never gotten a lovelier present. “Thank you sir.” He looked up at Kaidan with a happy grin, “I love it.”

“Sunshine would you –“ The General entered from the other entrance, and stopped when he saw the scene before him, John holding the box and the colorful wrapping paper. “Kaidan?” The General asked. “What is going on here?”

“I bought Sunshine a present, papa.” Kaidan said with a shrug. “It’s Christmas after all.”

“Have you lost your mind?” The General asked, his tone low and menacing. “You don’t buy presents for the servants.”

“Why not?” Kaidan asked.

“Because they are servants.” The General said.

John barely dared to breathe when the General snatched the box from his hands. “North can take this back to the store.” The General said, “And you,” he addressed John, “Clean that up, and finish the table.”

“Yes, sir.” John flinched, but quickly picked up the paper and the bow, stuffing it in his pocket, returning to the table setting.

“Are you going to punish him because I bought him a present?” Kaidan asked his father.

“Should I?” The General asked.

“No.” Kaidan said with a bored expression, “What you should do is to return his present to him.”

When the slap fell it echoed off the walls, and John dropped the fork in his hands, the loud clang when it hit the plate on the table seemed deafening. And for a moment time was frozen in the dining room.

Kaidan stared at his father, rubbing his cheek.

“Remember your place, son.” The General said, his voice deep and authoritarian. “You worry more about receiving your wife to be, than handing out trinkets to rent boys.”

John looked down at the plate with the fork laying there in the middle of the ivory colored circle. He wanted to object but he didn’t dare to.

The General turned Kaidan around forcefully and ushered him out of the dining room, “Go get changed, the guests are going to be here soon.”

“And you know better than to accept it.” The General thundered as he pointed at John.

“I’m sorry sir.” John mumbled, eyes trained on the plate on the table in front of him.

“No you’re not.” The General stared at him for so long that John looked up at him. “The gift wrapping.” He held out his hand expectantly.

John pulled the wrapping from his pocket and hesitantly walked over and placed it in the General’s hand. “Tomorrow, you and Friday will be shuffling snow; Rose can deal with the house chores. And Kaidan needs a time out.”

“Yes, sir. Thank you sir.” John said daring to smile timidly at the General.

The rest of the Christmas was eventless, the dinner went perfectly, John would watch from the floor above along with Rose, James and Steve. “We make a good team, Sunshine. It went perfectly this year.” Rose whispered to John, “Yes.” John whispered back. Falling silent when the General pulled his re-wrapped present from under the tree, with the words, “I do believe this is for you Miranda.”

-*-

The next morning John did not carry a tray to Kaidan, instead he found himself outside in a snowsuit and a shovel in his hand. Steve was already at it, and John decided to start on the other side of the driveway.

“You fucking moron.” Steve hissed when John walked past him. “This is your fault!”

“I didn’t know, okay?” John argued loudly. “How the fuck was I supposed to know that getting a present was gonna land us here?”

“You are such a stupid little fucking whore, dammit!” Steve growled, and started to shovel now with a vengeance.

“What did you call me?” John took a step closer to Steve.

“I called you a little whore.” Steve repeated, “Is that a problem?”

“Yeah it is.” John spat into the snow in front of Steve. “You know shit about me.”

Steve stopped shoveling snow and turned around to glare at John. “Yeah? I know you are from the slums, you’re probably chipped too.” He gestured at John, “Those tattoos of yours are prison tattoos, don’t take me for an idiot.”

“What is it to you?” John asked with a sneer, “You are probably one of those fucking army bred little assholes, who didn’t make the cut when it came down to it – am I right?”

“No you’re wrong.” Steve said calmly. “But I am sure as shit not from the slums.” He took a step towards John, “Look I get it, you got a good gig here, and you get all the red sand your little heart desires, a bed, food and the occasional praise when you swallow his cum. But you will not push me aside, boy.”

“So that is what you’re afraid of? That you will be sent back where you came from, because I suck better cock than you?” John laughed haughty, “You are an idiot.”

“Fuck you!” Steve spat, “I need that citizenship as much as you do.”

“So?” John said, his gaze hard and unforgiving, “I don’t give a fuck about what you want or need.”

“Do you think he knows that you’d suck cock for a hit of red sand?” Steve asked almost innocently. “I’m sure it’s there in your assessment somewhere.”

John stepped closer to Steve, “Don’t you fucking dare.”

“What does it take for you to bend over and take it? An ounce?” Steve yelled.

Rose saw them through Kaidan’s window, “Oh dear!” She gasped and then sprinted from the room. Confused Kaidan came to the window and saw Steve and John beating the shit out of each other, John getting a particularly good hit in with the shovel and blood sprayed all over the virgin snow.

“Papa!” Kaidan yelled, “They’re killing each other!”

-*-

James grabbed John and slammed him face first down into the snow, “Stop!” James yelled.

Rose hauled Steve off, “Fucking nasty whore!” Steve yelled, spitting blood and broken pieces of teeth.

“I’ll kill you motherfucker.” John screamed as James pushed his face even harder down into the snow.

The General watched from the window of his study, stoic and angry.

“John, you’re gonna get up and you’re gonna shovel this damn driveway, even if you are out here till tomorrow.” James hissed into John’s ear.

John struggled weakly under James’ bodyweight, “Fuck that and fuck that fucker.”

“John.” James growled.

John finally relaxed, “Yes, yes dammit, let me go.”

James stood back and let John to his feet. “You did a number on him, man.” James smiled slightly. “Didn’t think you had it in you.”

John wiped blood and snot from his face with his sleeve. “Do you think we hug it out where I’m from – That motherfucker is lucky I only had a shovel.”

James shook his head. “Get on with it, you’re gonna be out here for a while.”

John looked out over all the snow in the long driveway and sighed. “Fucked that up good, didn’t I?”

“That you did.” James agreed. “See you when you’re done.”

John spat blood on the snow, and bent down to pick up the shovel, “No time like the present.” He mumbled.

Soon after a car drove down the driveway towards the road, John stepped aside, wondering what that was. Decided it wasn’t his problem, and it was probably Miranda returning home.

 

TINY LIGHTS

It was early morning when John finally finished, his fingers were numb and his nose had stopped throbbing. He went to the servant’s kitchen and pulled off the boots, his toes were angrily red and hurt like hell once warmth started to come back.

“Ah Sunshine.” Rose said with a smile, “Just in time, change to your uniform, we got a long day.” She tossed a bag with six pills in it on the table, and left.

“Aw fuck.” John wined, but none the less got to his feet. He opened the bag and took three pills, he would need to numb himself to get through today. His entire body was screaming for rest. He pulled on his uniform and took the tray up to Kaidan’s room. He noted the extra plate and figured that Miranda would still be there, so he knocked. When no one answered, he carefully pushed open the door. “Good morning.” He said in a merry voice. “Breakfast is here.”

He looked over at the bed and only saw one figure laying there, he placed down the tray and against his better judgement tip toed to the bathroom, and to his surprise he found Kaidan there in the bathtub, scrubbing himself raw. “Sir?” John whispered. When Kaidan didn’t answer, John stepped closer, and could see distinct clues to Kaidan had been crying. “Sir, are you okay?”  He came closer and when Kaidan didn’t react, John reached out and placed a hand over Kaidan’s hand. “Kaidan. Look at me.”

Kaidan turned his head and looked at John. “I can’t marry her.” He whispered.

“I know.” John whispered back. “But you must.”

Kaidan took a long shuddering breath, “I hate it.”

“I know.” John whispered again, slowly pulling the wash cloth from Kaidan’s hand, dipping it in water before he began to gently wash Kaidan’s shoulder and back.  “Life is full of things we must endure, and marrying Miss Miranda is just one of those things.”

Kaidan laughed bitterly under his breath. “Is that what they teach you in the slums?”

“Sometimes.” John said, “Unless you’re a real fast sprinter.” He smiled.

“What about your parents?” Kaidan asked, “Surely they,” he paused, “I don’t know… looked after you.”

“My parents were taken by the simian flu when I was just a baby.” John said, “It is more common than you think.”

“The simian flu? I thought that had gone extinct decades ago.”

John shook his head. “Is that what your history books taught you?”

“Yes?” Kaidan said slightly unsure. “Sunshine?”

“Yes.”

“Are you really a homo rent boy?”

John chuckled softly, “No, Kaidan. I’m not.” He stopped washing Kaidan and just looked straight into the brown confused eyes. “I… I like men, that is true. But never a rent boy.”

“I thought all people from the slums were, you know – for sale.”

“Maybe we are, look at me – I sold myself to be here.” John smiled. “When I first got here, you scared me like nothing else.”

“I know, I’m sorry.” Kaidan looked down at the murky bathwater, “I thought that – I don’t know, maybe I wanted to make sure you knew your place. Maybe I wanted to own that pretty face of yours.”

“Come on let’s get you out of this tub before you turn into a prune.” John held out his hand to help Kaidan up. John went for the towel, but Kaidan caught his wrist and pulled him in for a kiss, for the first time John could recall, Kaidan wrapped his arm around John’s waist to pull then close, skin against skin. Gently Kaidan took John’s hand and placed it on the small of his own back before letting go. John sighed into the kiss, and let his hand explore soft, wet skin.

“You feel so good.” Kaidan whispered lifting John up on the marble desk in the bathroom. Per instinct John wrapped his legs around Kaidan’s waist, pulling him close again.

John wanted to answer, but the insisting rubbing against his erection even through the cloth of his pants, robbed him of thought, he just moaned softly against Kaidan’s kiss swollen lips.

“I want you to enjoy yourself.” Kaidan whispered, stepping back but pulling John off the marble desk, guiding him to his knees. “Go on.”

John looked up at Kaidan, his lips already on the head of Kaidan’s cock.

“Undo your belt.” Kaidan whispered, placing a warm hand on John’s head, burying his fingers in his hair.

John hesitantly undid his belt, and pulled out his own straining erection. Still not sure if Kaidan really meant it he barely touched it.

“I want to see it.” Kaidan mumbled with a thick voice, slowly moving in and out of John’s eager mouth.

John moaned around Kaidan’s cock by the prospect alone, and then slowly started to jerk himself off, trying to time his hand with Kaidan’s lazy moves.

“Look at me.” Kaidan whispered.

John looked up, and found the dirtiest look on Kaidan’s face he had ever imagined. John whimpered around Kaidan’s cock, missing a beat with his hand, trying his hardest not to finish too fast.

“Yes.” Kaidan whispered. His fingers grabbing John’s hair tight, fucking his mouth harder, “eyes on me.”

Pumping his fist a little faster made him moan with abandon, his mind addled with images of how badly he wished that Kaidan would fuck him, bend him over the cold marble desk and pound into him. He looked straight into Kaidan’s eyes as he peaked, ejaculating all over his own hand and the tile floor. His breath came in short bursts, and to his surprise Kaidan rammed his cock as far down as it would go in his throat as he finished as well.

The moment Kaidan was done riding the wave of his orgasm, he pulled out and took the towel, leaving John kneeling on the floor with his pants pooling around his knees. John grabbed the edge of the marble counter and pulled himself up to his feet. He had not finished pulling his pants up when he suddenly heard a female voice in the doorway.  “When you are done entertaining my fiancé -”

John almost dropped his pants again because he fumbled so much with the buckle.

Miranda just chuckled “Would you be a dear and tell Friday I need my bags packed this afternoon.”

“Yes ma’am.” John said. “Of course ma’am.” He straightened his uniform, and hurried out of the bathroom, thinking it best if they dealt with their marital problems between themselves.

-*-

Upon asking Rose about Friday and Miranda’s request, Rose informed John that Steve had been taken to the hospital, and since it was all on John, he just had to work for them both.

So after doing the regular chores, he went to Kaidan’s bedroom again, he knocked and entered. Kaidan was not there, but Miranda was. “Friday is away, I am here to pack your bags, ma’am.”

Miranda sighed and went to the bathroom to finish her make up.

John pulled out her suitcase and started to fold her clothes, he listened to her hum a tune in the bathroom as she got ready. He tried not to notice the amount of lingerie she had brought, and carefully placed a dress on top. ¨

“You like my laces?” Miranda asked behind him. “He might even fuck you if you wore it.” She smiled maliciously.

John kept folding her clothes neatly, not wanting to give the General another reason to be displeased with him, and mouthing off to his future daughter in law, was a big fucking no-can-do.

“I bet you think he loves you.” Miranda said, her voice dripping with acid. “He doesn’t.”

“I don’t think that ma’am.” John said softly.

“Do think I’m an idiot? I saw your little slutty display out there.” She pointed towards the bathroom. “He belongs to me.”

“I know ma’am.” John said, not sure what part he was answering. Miranda turned him around forcefully, shaking him hard. “I know what he is; I doubt he even knows it himself. But you will not come between us.” She forced her face up in John’s face, their noses touching. “He is going to marry me, and we are going to have children – do you understand that?”

“Yes ma’am.” John hiccupped.

She pushed him away hard enough for him to fall backwards over the corner of the bed. Miranda opened the bag at her feet with her makeup and personal belongings; she took out a purple dildo and tossed it at John. “Here have that. And leave my husband to be the fuck alone.”

Miranda left the room in a huff, and left John to finish the packing. He got to his feet and weighed the dildo in his hand. He could take it, or he could pack it. If he packed it, Miranda would see it as a declaration of war, but she could hardly come after him because he had packed her fucking ridiculous looking dildo. “Bring it bitch.” John mumbled to himself as he pushed the purple monstrosity down in the suitcase with her clothes.

He finished packing and carried her bags down to the foyer.  He smiled brightly at Rose who was waiting impatiently. “Where have you been?” She scolded.

“Sorry Rose. She had so much stuff up there.” John said, putting down the luggage on the ground.

“Well Miranda and her father are leaving, you should get those to their car.”

“I will.” John said and lifted up the suitcases again.

-*-

John was a little nervous the next morning when he arrived at Kaidan’s door, what if he was angry? He had no idea what Miranda had told him, if she had even told him anything. “Good morning.” He said gently. “Are you awake?”

“Leave the curtains.” Kaidan mumbled from the bed.

“If you wish, sir.” John said and just placed the tray before closing the door to the corridor. “Do you want me to draw you a bath?”

“No.” Kaidan said patting the unoccupied side of the bed. “I want you come lay here with me.”

“Sir?”

“I have a name.” Kaidan said, “I want you to use it when we are alone.”

“Kaidan.” John said “I can do that.”

“Good come lay here.”

John laid down stiff as a board on the empty side.

Kaidan popped up on an elbow and looked at John. “What is your name, I mean your real name.”

John turned his head and looked at Kaidan in the dark, “John.” He said softly.

“I like that name.” Kaidan said, “John.” He smiled inching closer until he was flush against John’s side, snuggling up to him, whispering. “I can’t get you out of my head.” Kaidan placed a hand on John’s chest, “I keep seeing you there on your knees worshipping me with your eyes, moaning on my cock.”

John hardly dared to breathe as Kaidan’s hand slowly moved up and ran his palm across his nipple under the fabric.

“Do you love me John?”

“I do.” John whispered.

“I’m not homo.” Kaidan whispered.

“It’s not called homo.” John answered, “Only people who don’t understand would call it that.”

“Understand what?” Kaidan asked, his finger drawing lazy circles around the nipple.

“Why a man would love a man.” John whispered.

“What do you call it then?” Kaidan asked so sweetly and innocently that John almost rolled over and hugged him.

“I don’t give it a name, and it needs no name.”

Kaidan was silent for a little while, and then whispered, “Are you saying that to make me feel better?”

“No not at all.” John answered.

“Alright, then…” Kaidan sat up in bed and looked down at John in the dark, “How would I know if I’m… the same as you?”

John looked up at Kaidan, “You just know.” He whispered.

Kaidan reached out and experimentally touched John’s flaccid cock outside the fabric of the pants, “Nope, not feeling a thing.” He said almost to reassure himself. “You want me to fuck you?”

“Yes.” John said bluntly.

“Now?” Kaidan laughed a little nervously.

“When you’re ready.” John answered truthfully.

Kaidan stood from the bed and started to pace, “I don’t understand this, I was fucking her right here in my bed, she is picture perfect, a woman most men would fucking die to be with – and all I could see was you. Your face.”

“I’m sorry,” John said, watching Kaidan back and forth, naked, working himself up in a hysterics.

“It’s not your fault.” Kaidan said his breathing fast and frustrated, “It’s me, there is something wrong with me.” He stopped and clenched his fists. He turned to John, “I had many Fridays, women and men. What makes you different?”

John slowly sat up in the bed and looked at Kaidan. “Not sure.”

“Are you afraid of me John?” Kaidan asked softly.

“Sometimes.” John answered with a little shrug.

Kaidan came over and stood in front of John, and out of reflex John reached for his pelvis to pull him closer. “No.” Kaidan took a step back.

“Why not?” John dared to ask, his eyes trained on Kaidan in the darkness of the bedroom.

“Don’t look at me.” Kaidan yelled his voice cracking over, turning his back to John.

“I could cover my head?” John suggested.

Kaidan didn’t answer, he just stood there in the dark, his back to John and breathed for a while. Then suddenly he wordlessly turned around and covered the space between them in two long strides, slapping John so hard he tasted blood.

John held up his hand to check if he was bleeding, because blood on the carpet or bedding would be very bad.

“Don’t ever presume to know what I want.” Kaidan hissed.

“Forgive me.” John mumbled, “Sir.” From what John could see out of the corner of his eye, Kaidan’s body language seemed to relax a little, and he sat down on his hunches and gently turned John’s face towards his.

“I shouldn’t have done that.” Kaidan said, “I don’t know what it is about you. I want to hurt you and fuck you at the same time.” He sighed.

“I am yours.” John whispered softly. Do you know what absolute control is, John thought to himself – temperance my friend, patience, humility, and no fear.

Kaidan looked John deep in his eyes for a long time as if trying to determine if it was the truth. John smiled weakly and when Kaidan pulled him to his feet roughly, he knew the fist was next, he still gasped at the pain at impact.

“Fuck you!” Kaidan cried, “I fucking hate you!” He punched John again and again, until John’s legs buckled under him, and Kaidan flipped him over with a kick to his side. “I wish you had stayed in the fucking slums,” He cried, “Fucking whore!” He kicked again and when he had John on his hands and knees he moved behind him, and with one hand pressed down between John’s shoulder blades held him down, and with his other hand he forcefully pulled down John’s pants, “Don’t make a fucking sound, slut.” He hissed.

John bit down on his fist so hard he drew blood, whimpering when Kaidan pushed into him with force. He was repaid with a hard push between his shoulder blades. Soon the pressure between his shoulder blades went away, and Kaidan grabbed his hips, a grip that would no doubt bruise. This was Kaidan confused, taking what he didn’t know what to ask for – And John was more than willing to give it to him.

“Your fault.” Kaidan mumbled, this voice thick.

John squeezed his eyes tight, surprised as Kaidan’s hand caressed his lower back; the soft touch was in stark contrast to Kaidan’s punishing thrusts. A little smile graced his face when he heard the first moan escape Kaidan. It felt like a victory, and he knew that nothing was going to be the same again. He had given Kaidan what he needed, selflessly and because he wanted to.

Pushing back, meeting Kaidan’s thrusts made Kaidan moan again, and John felt his own growing erection twitch. Kaidan grabbed his hair and forced his head back, John’s jaw was slack and his eyes closed. Fuck it was good, so much better than he had expected, if Kaidan kept this going he was going to come without anyone ever touching his cock.

“F-fuck” Kaidan stuttered, his hands slipping on John’s sweat slick skin. “You little bitch.” He finished off with a couple of stumbling thrusts and a high pitch sound between a wail and a moan.

Forcefully pushed forward John’s face made impact with the carpet, he was breathing heavy and it felt like every muscle in his body spasmed, both from the shock of pain, and his release denied. He Kaidan not kicked him in the side once more and yelled at him to get the fuck out of his bedroom, he wouldn’t have been past rubbing one out against the carpet.

Rose patched up his face and gave him something for the pain, she didn’t need to tell him he should attempt to work on something out of the watchful eye of the General for a day or two till the swelling had gone down.

-*-

Steve never returned, instead John found himself face to face with a pretty brunette, she had that down to earth smile that everyone just had to return. “I’m Ashley.” She said.

“John.” John said shaking her hand. He wanted to dislike her for being Friday, but just could not really find it in him.

-*-

John had been up to Kaidan’s room with breakfast the last couple of days but had found the door locked. So he had knocked and announced that the breakfast was outside on the corridor. When the new Friday arrived, he gave her the tray as he knocked on the door. “Sir?” He called through the thick wood. “Your new Friday has arrived today, she has your breakfast.”

He turned to Ashley, “He is angry with me, so he’ll be out in a moment, just follow his directions and you’ll be fine.” He shot her a brilliant smile, but it never made it to his eyes. Ashley nodded; she was not new to this. She had told John that this was her third household in five years.

-*-

Large boxes had arrived the day before, John and Rose opened them in Alice’s study. “They are perfect.” Alice cheered. “Look at them Rose!” She held up the printed invitations. “Oh and their names is in gold like I asked.”

“Very pretty,” Rose agreed.

Alice turned to John, “Sunshine, you take these and fold them neatly, and Rose you have the most beautiful handwriting, you can write the envelopes.”

John took the invitation that Alice handed him, “But.” John said with a tiny voice. Rose shook her head to silence him, but it was too late.

“Yes?” Alice said about to open the next box.

“I can’t read the names ma’am.” He looked away from Alice and down at the pretty invitation.

“Very well.” Alice sighed, “You unpack this then,” She walked over and took the invitation from him, and met Rose at the little white desk she had in a corner between matching bookshelves. “So, Harold and Beatrice.” She said, Rose writing.

John looked down at the box and carefully opened it. It was a suit and several smaller boxes, shoes, cufflinks, tie, perfume. He smiled a little imagining how handsome Kaidan would look in this. “Where do you want me to put all this ma’am?”

“For now just carry the box into the master bedroom.”

“Yes ma’am, right away.” John took the box and carefully carried it up to the master bedroom. He could see the door to Kaidan’s room was open, and he heard a feminine laugh.

He didn’t want to be jealous, but it cut through his spine like a knife. He decided not to invade on their privacy and just passed the open door with the box. He placed it on the bed in the master bedroom, and sighed. It was stupid of him to be jealous, it didn’t matter what Kaidan and the new Friday was doing – Kaidan was still going to leave soon, gone to live with his new wife in their new house, with their new servants and new life. And John would be stuck here, scrubbing floors and hanging out laundry till his contract was up, and then some – he hardly thought the General would give him the credentials to apply for citizenship based on his behavior during his employment here. Maybe he would end up like James, being North for turns with no end in sight, all in the sprint for a citizenship.

Taking a deep breath he exited the master bedroom, but as he passed Kaidan’s room he heard Kaidan call for him. He turned and smiled as he saw him for the first time in almost a week, and first time since that morning.  “Sir.” John said, “Is there anything you need?”

Kaidan came out from his bedroom and without a word grabbed John’s chin, turning his head to see the multicolored bruises. “Are you okay?” Kaidan asked softly.

“Yes.” John answered, his heart doing a little silly flip hearing the concern in Kaidan’s voice.

“Good.” He kissed an especially angry bruise. He took John’s hand, hauled him inside the bedroom and locked the door. He pressed John against the door and kissed him breathless, “I still hate you.” He whispered against John’s cheek.

“I love you.” John whispered back, fully expecting a slap across the face, what he had not expected was soft lips against his again.

Kaidan pushed John down to his knees and undid his own belt. John pushed the pants down and closed his lips around Kaidan’s erection. Even if the back of his head banged against the door as Kaidan fucked his mouth, he felt like the luckiest man alive. Kaidan moaned with abandon, grabbing John’s hair tighter as John moaned, vibrating the sound around his cock. But unlike normal, Kaidan pulled out and ejaculated across John’s face. John looked up at Kaidan’s face as he tried to catch as much as he could with his tongue.

Kaidan rubbed his cock against John’s cheek, smearing the cum stains. “You are the most beautiful creature I have ever seen.” He said breathlessly, smiling down at John.

John licked his lips and smiled, “So are you.”

Kaidan pulled up his pants and held out a hand to John, gently helping him to his feet. John didn’t quite know what to do with this gentle, loving Kaidan – but he loved it, he loved every damn second.  “We need a bath.” Kaidan said, “Would you make us one?”

John nodded as he wiped the cum from his brow. Walking out into the bathroom he had expected to find Friday, but it was empty.

Kaidan came out into the bathroom and tossed his pants and shirt in the hamper, “Come on.” He said with a smile, “We can fit two in there.”

John hesitantly got out of his clothes and joined Kaidan in the hot water with the rose bubbles. He scooped up water in his hands and washed his face, scrubbing it clean. Kaidan reached out and touched his cheek again, running a fingertip down the bruises, “I don’t think I realized I hit that hard.” He leaned back in the water and sighed happily. “I’m sorry, John.”

“Don’t be.” John said, gingerly placing a hand on Kaidan’s knee which was above water. “I asked you to.”

“No you didn’t.” Kaidan said, the look he shot John was nothing less but miserable.

“I am yours, I love you.” John said, slowly leaning his own leg against Kaidan’s in the water, “even if you don’t love me.”

“I don’t know.” Kaidan sighed, “I just don’t know anything anymore.”

“Turn around, let me wash your hair.” John said, hoping that it would take the sadness out of Kaidan’s tone. Kaidan turned and inched in between John’s legs.

“It feels strange.” Kaidan mused, “Feeling your naked body against me.”

John moved back a bit as he poured the shampoo in his hand.

“I said strange, not wrong.” Kaidan looked over his shoulder at John, whom then scooted close again.

John massaged Kaidan’s scalp and continued to soap his skin down his shoulders and arms. Reaching around him he soaped his chest. Momentary insanity let him rest his chin on Kaidan’s shoulder and wrap his arms around him. “You always smell of roses, did you know that?” John whispered.

“No I didn’t.” Kaidan answered.

John kissed Kaidan’s shoulder and let go of him in order to rinse out the soap from Kaidan’s hair.

“I want you to come with me when I leave.” Kaidan stated, “After the wedding.”

“Yes?” John answered, trying to hide his unease.

Kaidan turned around in the tub, facing John. “Yes! I could show you the ocean, and maybe even the remains of the forest.” He leaned in and kissed John, “It will be magnificent!”

John allowed himself to smile at the idea, he wanted nothing more, but the chances for it happening was astronomically small.

“Come here.” Kaidan pulled John unto his lap.

John felt Kaidan’s erection rub against his for a second, which made him purr in content. John cupped Kaidan’s face and kissed him, horny wet kisses. He lifted himself up and positioned Kaidan’s cock. It burned when he slowly enveloped it inside, moaning into the kiss.  “Let me love you.” He whispered, licking Kaidan’s lower lip. Kaidan said nothing he just closed his eyes and held onto the sides of the tub. John kissed him again, fucking him slowly.

Kaidan closed his eyes and let his head fall back on the edge of the tub, biting his lip.

John steadied himself on Kaidan’s chest, picking up the pace a little, panting. Studying Kaidan intensely for any hint of a change in mood.

Kaidan opened his eyes and looked at John riding his cock, lost to pleasure.  Per instinct he reached down and cupped John’s ass, feeling how his muscles would tense and lax with his movements.

John let go of Kaidan’s chest with a hand and instead gave his own neglected cock the friction it begged for. He moaned loudly, never taking his eyes of Kaidan who looked absolutely wonderfully depraved like this. Never would he get enough of that expression on his face. John let go of his own cock again and leaned backwards, his back complaining with a little snap. He grabbed the sides of the tub and let Kaidan set the pace, meeting his rhythm. He was well aware that the water slushed over the edge of the tub and spilled to the floor, but he couldn’t care less. Kaidan moaned too, and to John’s surprise licked his nipple with a slick warm tongue. It was just for a second, but John shivered, goosebumps forming on his overheated skin. “Please.” He keened, not sure what he wanted, besides more.

Kaidan did it again, resulting in John’s shiver visibly manifesting itself under his skin.

John pushed himself forward, pressing his chest against Kaidan’s, kissing him again, their hands touching any skin they could reach. John moved again, his cock trapped between their stomachs, he caught Kaidan’s tongue between his lips and sucked it, causing Kaidan’s cock to twitch inside him. “You feel so good.” John panted.

Kaidan sucked in his breath, and for the first time ever John felt Kaidan’s hand around his cock. “Yes.”

Without losing momentum he leaned back a little again, his pace hard and fast, his legs and arms were screaming for a break which he wouldn’t allow them. John licked his lips, trying to keep eye contact with Kaidan.

Kaidan’s hand slipping on the wet skin, his gaze moving between where he could see his cock disappear into John, and up on John’s face. His jaw hung slack, every muscle on his chest and upper arms flinched when Kaidan drove himself deep inside.

“Shit.” John panted, “I can’t.” John let his head fall back as his orgasm ripped through his body. It felt like his entire being let go and just became light, an intense star that would last for a couple of seconds only. Like pleasure given form. Kaidan’s arms wrapped around him and pulled him close, his hitched moan as he too orgasmed, his entire frame shaking from the intensity.

John clung to Kaidan, letting him ride out his orgasm, he could feel Kaidan’s cock still twitching inside, even as Kaidan’s breath steadied. “Holy fuck.” John whispered; his throat raw.

“Holy fuck.” Kaidan repeated, his breath warm against John’s ear. “Is it always like that – when… when a man loves a man?”

“It is.” John smiled and kissed Kaidan’s shoulder.

They got out of the tub without a word, John chuckled at the cascades of water that was on the floor. “I’ll fix that.”

“I think I’m in love with you.” Kaidan said, his poker face perfectly in place. John stopped dead with his pants in his hand. “That’s why I get so fucking angry with you.” Kaidan said, his face contorting with something akin to sorrow. “I am about to marry Miranda for fucks sake.”

“I know.” John said softly, placing the pants down on the chair again, he walked hesitantly over to Kaidan, caressing his right arm lightly.

Kaidan took the perfume on the counter and tossed it across the room, it shattered against the wall. “Fuck!” He picked up a perfume more and tossed it against the same wall. “I don’t want her, I want you!” He grabbed John and for a second John thought he was going to hit him again, but instead he lifted him up on the marble counter to sit. Kaidan wrapped his arms around his waist and pressed his face against his stomach. “I want you dammit.”

John ran his fingers through Kaidan’s hair. “I want you too.” He said softly. “I wanted you from the moment I saw you.”

“How did you know?” Kaidan asked innocently, “That I was like you?”

“I didn’t.” John admitted. “Not at first.”

“So when?” Kaidan let go of John to straighten up so they were eye to eye.

“Right now.” John admitted with a little smile, “But I suspected it since you kissed me the first time.”

“In the garden.” Kaidan caressed John’s cheek, pulling him in for a kiss. John’s hands feeling their way down Kaidan’s back to cup his ass. He wrapped his legs around Kaidan’s thighs, deepening the kiss.

A loud knock on the door to the bedroom startled them both. “Shit.” John laughed nervously.

“Yes?” Kaidan called.

“Sir you are expected in the lady’s parlor.” Ashley called out. “Now, please.”

“Tell her I will be there in a moment.” Kaidan looked lovingly at John and chuckled, “You are loud, do you think my mother heard you?”

John paled deathly white, he had not even thought about that. “I hope not.”

“I’ll just tell her I made you.” Kaidan said, kissing the corner of John’s mouth. John reluctantly unwrapped his legs and let go of Kaidan. He slid down from the marble counter and went for his clothes. “I’m going to stay and clean this up.” He said, closing his belt, bending down to roll up his pants legs.

“Could you, could you come back tonight perhaps? When they all sleep?” Kaidan asked.

“For you, anything.” John said with a smile.

-*-

John felt like he was dancing on clouds for the rest of the day, not even hanging up wet sheets in the bitter cold spring wind made him loose momentum.

Not even Rose harping on him for not dusting the lamps in the foyer could get to him.

“Rose?” Alice opened the doors to her parlor and looked for the matron, “Oh Sunshine, you’ll do, come here.”

“Yes ma’am.” John said, placing the broom against the wall and walked the few steps to Alice’s parlor, he entered the white welcoming room, the afternoon sun bathing it in an orange glow.

“Come here dear.” She gestured for John to come closer. “Do you think the pants would need to be fitted?” Alice laughed a little, “I can’t quite make up my mind.”

John looked up at Kaidan who stood in his formal outfit, like a lame horse on parade. He looked miserable. “I’m afraid I know nothing of formal wear, ma’am.” John smiled professionally at Alice, “But they look just fine to me.”

Alice sighed, “Run along and find Rose for me.”

“Yes ma’am.”

“Oh Sunshine?” Kaidan called. John turned around and nodded, “Yes, sir?”

“Bring me a glass of wine.” Kaidan said, “And one for my mother too.”

“Right away, sir.” John left and went looking for Rose and two glasses for wine. When he returned to Alice’s parlor, Rose was there, twisting and turning Kaidan to fit the pants. John silently placed the glasses and the wine on a side table inside the room. “Ah perfect!” Kaidan’s smile was brilliant like he was shining when he saw John there in the door. “Just what I needed.”

“Will that be all?” John asked, risking a look at Kaidan, feeling his own smile tug at the corners of his mouth.

“Yes.” Alice said. “Carry on.”

“Yes ma’am.” John left the parlor; he could hear Alice’s voice carry down the corridor. “Really Kaidan, must you be so imprudent.”

-*-

When John thought everyone was asleep, he tiptoed up to the foyer and up the carpeted stairs to Kaidan’s room. He pushed the door open, and locked it as he had entered. “Kaidan?” He whispered.

Kaidan turned on his bedside lamp and blinked, trying to rid his vision of sleep. “Oh I thought you weren’t coming.”

“I finished my chores.” John said with a little shrug, noting how Kaidan looked slightly alarmed by that.

“Come lay down.” Kaidan said, lifting the covers inviting John down under them.

John stepped out of his standard issue grey sweatpants and slid down under Kaidan’s soft covers. “This feels almost normal.” Kaidan mumbled as he spooned up against John.

“You looked stunning today.” John whispered, caressing Kaidan on the back with his fingertips. “Like a movie star.”

Kaidan laughed, lifting himself up on his elbow to kiss John. “You give me too much credit.”

“I think you looked like a movie star, even if you don’t” John insisted.

Kaidan’s features mellowed, “I hate being dressed up and paraded around like a piece of meat.”

John kissed him softly “They are just proud of you.”

“No they are not.” Kaidan laid his head down on John’s chest, listening to his heartbeat. “They always want me to be someone else. That is what I am, the testament to their impeccable pedigree.” John just listened in silence. “Even as a child, I was never allowed to have friends, I would have servants.” Kaidan took a deep breath, “They would teach me to behave like my parents wanted me to, they would cater to my every need. Would you believe I was in my teens before I even wiped myself?”

“I would.” John chuckled softly.

“What makes you say that?”

John tried to stifle his laughter but failed miserably. “Honestly?”

“Yes. Please.”

“I think you were raised to be like that.” John said, not sure if he should have spoken, he still was a little uneasy with this new, soft Kaidan.

“I think you are right.” Kaidan agreed. “When I first met you, you were nothing but another Friday, another slum rat. But now all I see is John.”

John pushed Kaidan gently down unto his back and climbed on top of him, spreading his legs with his knees. He bent down and kissed Kaidan softly. “You make me feel special; no one ever did that before.” John admitted. “Like I matter.”

“You matter.” Kaidan argued but John hushed him with a kiss. John kissed his way down Kaidan’s neck, down over his collarbone and down across his chest. John moved down in the bed, placing a hand on each of Kaidan’s thighs. Kaidan pulled a pillow under his head so he could look down at John.

“Lotion.” John said, distracting Kaidan to look in his bedside drawer, while swooping down licking a wet trail across Kaidan’s pucker. He heard Kaidan’s surprised gasp, but a second later Kaidan relaxed and John could effortlessly bury his face between Kaidan’s butt cheeks. His hands massaged Kaidan’s inner thighs and ass, feeling brave John pulled a little at the skin exposing Kaidan’s pucker even more, sticking the tip of his tongue into the tiny hole. His entire body trained on Kaidan’s breathing, ready to stop instantly. He sighed of relief as a hand came to rest on his head caressing him softly. He stretched the skin a little more, allowing for more of his tongue to effortlessly slide inside, ignoring the drool that dripped down over Kaidan’s ass and down to the mattress. John lost himself pleasuring Kaidan with his tongue, and was rewarded with a soft moan and the hand in his hair flexing.

He kissed Kaidan’s ass one last time and looked up at Kaidan that stared down at him with open mouth, breathing heavily. John maintained eye contact as he licked his way up Kaidan’s cock, he closed his mouth around the head, just for a quick taste before he let go complete and reached for the massage oil that he had used to loosen Kaidan’s muscles so many times before. He poured it on Kaidan’s cock rubbing it in, and then gave it a little extra. “How do you want me?” He asked sweetly.

“On your back.” Kaidan said with a low rusty voice.

John laid down on the bed, and waited for Kaidan to get up, drool was still running down his thighs which made John’s cock twitch.

“Lift up,” Kaidan said, pushing the pillow under John’s hip. John gently rested his legs on Kaidan’s shoulders, and this time when Kaidan pushed inside there was no pain at all, only a shiver that travelled up his spine. Kaidan fucked him deep and slow like earlier, but outside the water his thrusts made much more impact, and had John pushing back against instantly. Kaidan still looked a little confused, and John braced with a hand against the headboard, the hard strokes pushing him against it rhythmically. “What’s on your mind?” he asked breathlessly.

“You loved that.” Kaidan said, studying John’s slow undoing under his hands.

John moaned as Kaidan angled his cock just right, rubbing his sweet spot.

“That thing with your tongue.” Kaidan said, ending his sentence with a series of shallow thrusts that had John pausing.

“Yes.” He panted. Kaidan answered him with returning to the hard, deep pounding. “Fuck…” John closed his eyes, his legs shivering so much he opted to hook them with his arms, pulling his knees down towards his chest. A deep loud moan escaped him, and Kaidan fucked him harder, he slowly slid across the bed without his hand to hold the distance to the headboard.

Kaidan slowed down and then stopped completely, sweat dripped from his forehead, he licked his lips as he pulled out. “Turn around.”

John turned around to his hands and knees, his hand against the headboard again. Waited for Kaidan’s cock to breach him once more, but instead he felt Kaidan’s eyes on him. John just knew that Kaidan would be looking down at him as if he was special specimen of something alien. Like he was observing, learning. Kaidan finally pushed inside again, grabbing John’s hips he was free to set a fast pace that would have them both undone in a hurry. John went for his own cock, and turned his head down into the mattress, moaning into the foam and fabric.

Kaidan’s grip was hard and uncompromising and he almost lifted John off the bed as he finished deep inside him. John stroked faster, his other arm reaching behind him to keep Kaidan in place inside him. “Don’t.” He moaned, cum overflowing slid down his thigh. “Shit.” He hissed into the mattress.

Kaidan pulled out much to John’s displeasure, but he didn’t argue, he just panted into the now damp fabric, his entire body humming with the promise of an orgasm.

Kaidan moved away from the bed, and John just laid there with his hand around his cock, trying to get his breathing under control. He wasn’t sure if it was some sort of retaliation for the rimming or if it was just because he hadn’t finished fast enough. But he was quite sure there was a statement behind it. He wanted to just finish it himself, but he also knew that Kaidan would most likely be upset.

Kaidan came back to the bed and laid down next to John, looking at him.

“Please.” John whispered, turning his head slightly to look at Kaidan. Kaidan smiled wide, he inched closer to John, kissing him deeply, running a hand over John’s back and ass, smearing some of the cooling cum around in the process. John lifted his hips slightly, just enough so he could move his hand, only to have his pelvis pushed back into the mattress. “Absolutely control, John.” Kaidan whispered with a dirty smile.

It was absolutely about the rim job. John sighed and slid his hand out from under him, deflated completely into the bed. “I’m sorry.” John whispered back, “It was just so tempting.”

Kaidan blinked slowly, uninterested. “Don’t do that again.”

“I promise to never do that again.” John managed a tiny twitch of a smile.

“Good.” Kaidan smiled, pulling John close for a cuddle. John stayed until he heard Kaidan’s breath become a light snore. He slowly and carefully untangled himself and got dressed, silently exiting the room. He was such a fool! How could he have thought he would get away with something like that? All he had wanted was to pleasure Kaidan, but apparently his closet doors was not swung wide open yet, a part of him clung to the idea that he wasn’t into men, that he just liked John because he moaned prettily and sucked his cock like no one else. Maybe it was just Kaidan that didn’t like someone else taking control away? John didn’t quite know, but he knew that he wouldn’t be taking liberties like that again anytime soon.

-*-

LAST DAYS OF GRAVITY

The General had summoned John, his mind reeled going over the last couple of days, wondering if he had done something wrong. He took a deep breath and knocked on the door.

His heart hammered away in his chest like it was trying to free itself of his ribcage. “Sir. You called for me?” John asked lamely, standing in the middle of the floor, flinching as the door shut behind him.

“I did.” The General said with a little smile. “Sit.” He gestured to one of the chairs of the opposite side of his desk. John sat down in silence, waiting for whatever was on the General’s mind.  “I’m sure you are aware of the wedding, Sunshine.”

“I am, Sir.” John said with a fake smile. “We are still on schedule if you should worry about that, sir.”

“I know you are.” The General said with a fake smile of his own. “Did you know that Kaidan asked for you to transfer to his new household?” When John looked surprised, the General continued, “He asked my wife to be precise. He didn’t come to me – would you know why?”

“No sir” John said, his hands holding on to the seat of the chair so hard, his knuckles went white.

“I didn’t expect you’d know.” The General sighed. He stood up and walked over to his bar and poured two drinks, he handed one to John, who took it with a shaking hand. “I am aware of my son’s preferences in his bed, don’t think me an idiot.” The General said, “That is why I agreed to my wife buying you, because I figured that he could get it out of his system.” The General took a sip of his drink, “but what did he do? He buys you Christmas presents, and invites you to sleep in his bed at night.”

John took a deep breath, unable to look at the General.

“And now he wants to own you.” The General sighed. “Which leaves me in a special kind of dilemma. I want my son to be happy, but he also needs to fulfil the part he was born to fulfil.” The General emptied his glass and poured himself a new one. “I would have denied his request, was it not for my wife.” He turned to stare directly at John, “Which leaves me with one option – to transfer your contract to Henry. He has in turn promised me to gift you to Miranda.” The General smiled, “And everyone gets what they want.”

John paled, “Please don’t.” He looked up at the General.

The General smiled a fake smile at John, “You could always terminate your contract here.” He pushed a data pad on the desk towards John. “Then of course you’d forfeit your chances of citizenship, and go back to the slums.”

John bit his lip; he wanted to be a citizen more than anything in the world. It had what had kept him going when things had been almost impossible.

“The real question seems to be; how badly do you want to be with my son?” The General said pushing the data pad even closer to John.

John looked at the data pad, and up at the General. “I can’t read that sir.”

The General sighed. “Very well, I will let Rose read the contract on your behalf, and you can ask her.”

John shifted, not sure if he trusted that arrangement, but he had no other real option, besides calling the General a liar. “Yes sir. Thank you.” John got up from the chair, “Is that all sir?”

“My wife told me the table decoration you made for the wedding are absolutely beautiful, who would have thought.” The General smiled.

John left the office with a strange nagging feeling inside his chest, something was wrong, he was being used as a pawn for something, but he couldn’t figure out what. How he wished he could read that contract, because he wasn’t sure he trusted Rose either.

-*-

“There you are Sunshine.” Kaidan called across the foyer, “I have been looking for you.”

John smiled when he saw Kaidan standing there with a warm winter coat, snow in his hair and red cheeks. “I am preparing your wedding, sir.” He said politely.

“That can wait.” Kaidan smiled, “Come, I want to show you something.” He walked over and took John’s hand, hauling him across the foyer, and outside in the cold. The cold hit John like a wall, only wearing his maid’s uniform with short sleeves.  “I have a sweater in the car.” Kaidan laughed, “Don’t be such a child.”

John let Kaidan haul him to his car, and stood still while Kaidan opened the trunk and searched through the stuff discarded in there. “Here it is.” Kaidan grinned, pulling out a brown and beige woolen sweater, tossing it to John.

John pulled the sweater over his head, and smiled, it even smelled like Kaidan.

“Get in.” Kaidan opened the door to the passenger seat.

“But what about my chores?” John asked worried. “I will be in a lot of trouble if I leave.”

“No you won’t.” Kaidan laughed, “Get in.”

John sighed and got into the car, he knew he would be in deep shit, and he also knew that Kaidan wouldn’t bail him out. But truth was that he really wanted to see whatever it was Kaidan wanted to show him. “Where are we going?” John asked softly, as Kaidan drove out of the main gate.

“I want you to see my new house.” Kaidan said excited.

“I’d like that.” John said with a little sad smile, seeing Kaidan this excited almost made him feel bad that he even considered not following him to the new household.

“It has a view over the ocean.” Kaidan said with a genuine smile, “You will love it”, he placed a hand on John’s thigh, “Have you ever seen the ocean, John?”

John turned his head and looked at Kaidan, “w-what? No.”

“Miranda doesn’t care where we live, as long as she gets to live like she is used to. When I saw this house, I thought of you.” Kaidan said a little weak blush spreading on his cheeks. Turning the car down a narrow path, which lead up to a mansion on top of a hill.

John smiled a smile that never quite reached his eyes, “I can’t wait to see it.”

-*-

Kaidan parked the car in front of a huge white mansion, the air was cooler and there was a distinct smell in the air. John looked over at Kaidan, while inhaling deeply. “It’s the sea.” Kaidan said with a grin, “Come.” He took John’s hand and guided him across the courtyard and over to a narrow set of stairs, “Look”

John stopped dead and stared out over the deep green sea, the waves looked grey as they rolled in over the rocky beach. “It is… it is… Beautiful” John whispered awestricken, “Can I?” He nodded towards the sea, not sure what he was asking.

“Of course.” Kaidan smiled, “Go on.”

John let go of Kaidan’s hand and jumped down the stairs, two steps at a time. The sound of the waves crashing against the rocks was almost deafening here, it was the most magnificent thing he had seen in his entire life.  He hunched down and placed a hand on the wet sand and rocks, letting the waves wash over his skin, it was cold as ice.

Kaidan placed a warm hand on John’s shoulder, “So is it everything you thought it was?”

“I can’t believe this is real.” John whispered. He collected some sand in the palm of his hand, and watched perplexed as the tide flushed it off his hand again.

Kaidan waited till John was done marveling over the ocean and stood up. “This is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen, thank you.” He said reaching up to kiss Kaidan.

“Just wait till I show you the forest.” Kaidan whispered against John’s lips, “It has a waterfall.”

John felt all giddy, and for a moment forgetting that he was never going to see any forest. “I love you.” He just whispered back, and kissed Kaidan again.

“Don’t you want to see the house?” Kaidan asked, John nodded and slowly followed Kaidan up the narrow staircase from the beach to the courtyard. The door had a massive door knocker and the name plaque was already in place, Miranda & Kaidan Alenko, it read. And John felt his heart break a little as he was forced back to the reality of Miranda.

“Here is the living room, check out the view.” Kaidan said, his voice echoing in the empty room. John came and stood next to him, staring out over the sea. “I bet it’s beautiful at any time of day.” John mused, “Morning, noon, and night.”

“It is.” Kaidan agreed, wrapping an arm around John’s shoulders.

“Kaidan, can I ask you a question?” John said, his tone sad and emotional.

“Yes.”

“Why did you think of me when you bought it?” John turned away from his view and looked directly at Kaidan.

“Don’t laugh.” Kaidan said with a soft smile. “The day I went to see it, the ocean had the same color as your eyes that is why.”

John let out a shaky breath, somewhere between a sob and a laugh, in that very moment he knew he couldn’t just walk out, if Miranda wanted to work him to death, so be it. He pulled off his sweater, looking directly at Kaidan, and then he pulled off his shirt. Kaidan just looked at him, so John slowly discarded the rest of his clothes standing naked in front of Kaidan in the empty house.  John cupped Kaidan’s face and kissed him deeply.

Kaidan shrugged off his winter coat without ending the kiss, and wrapped his arms around John, pulling him close. He lifted John up and turned them around, seating John on the thick oak countertop of the built in bar cabinet. Kaidan looked John directly into his eyes, wrapping his hand around John’s erection.

John sighed happily and closed his eyes, listening to the faint sound of the ocean, and Kaidan’s breathing. When he suddenly felt soft lips on the tip of his cock, he opened his eyes and looked down at Kaidan. John hardly dared to breathe as Kaidan experimentally licked the length of it, and sucked gently on the tip again. Kaidan looked up and noticed John staring intently at him. Kaidan smiled and pushed John’s thighs further apart, automatically forcing John closer. “God.” John breathed and closed his eyes again as the soft lips returned to his sensitive skin. Kaidan took more of his cock this time, making John moan deeply. A finger pushed inside him, soon followed by a second digit.

John was panting hard when Kaidan stopped. For one terrible moment, John thought he had overstepped some invisible boundary again and that he would ask him to get dressed. But Kaidan lifted him down from the oak countertop and kissed him, John could taste himself on Kaidan’s tongue.  “I love you John.” Kaidan whispered.

John felt tears prick in the corners of his eyes, he wasn’t sure if he was happy or sad, maybe a bit of both. He never got around to answer because Kaidan’s phone let out a shrill ring, Kaidan looked conflicted, but in the end reached for the phone in his pocket. John sighed and walked over to the panorama window overlooking the sea, he was right, the sea was just as beautiful in the dark, the stars littering the sky like a blanket of fireflies that wrapped up him and the ocean.  He could hear Kaidan argue with someone on the phone, but John just slid open the door to the deck outside. The cold was intense, but he didn’t mind. He needed the cold to sober up, it was so easy to be caught up in Kaidan. This wasn’t his, it would never be his. Neither the house nor Kaidan.

“John?” Kaidan called, he came out onto the deck, and wrapped his warm coat around John’s shoulders. “Why are you standing out here? It’s freezing.” He smiled a little worried wrapped his arms around John from behind, resting his chin on John’s shoulder. It took a while before Kaidan registered that the tiny tremors he felt wasn’t due to the cold. “Are you crying?” He whispered in John’s ear.

John didn’t answer, he just hung his head.

Kaidan forcefully turned John around, studying his tears, and his blue lips trembling in the cold. “Why are you sad?” Kaidan asked, “I thought you would love this place.”

“I do.” John smiled weakly.

Kaidan wiped a tear from John’s cheek with a thumb, “Then don’t be sad.” He smiled, “We are going to be happy here.”

John looked up at Kaidan, fully expecting a fist to his face when he whispered, “Don’t lie to me.”

Kaidan’s smile became a thin line of anger, “Get dressed.” He huffed, and ripped his own jacket from John’s naked form.

John walked slowly past Kaidan inside the house, and started to dress himself. He had wanted a beautiful moment to say goodbye, but found that he just couldn’t. This was his personal hell, and he was stuck here for all eternity, or so it felt.

Kaidan closed the sliding door and stood for a moment, just looking at John getting dressed. “We are all cogs in the machine, John.” Kaidan said softly, echoing this mother.

“I know.” John said in a fragile tone, pulling the brown sweater over his head again. “But if I allow myself to believe that it’s going to end well for us, it’s going to break my heart.” He sucked in his breath and looked down at his fidgeting hands, “I wish this house really was for us, I wish a lot of things. But that doesn’t make them true.”

Kaidan took a deep breath, “You really wish that?”

John nodded.

Kaidan came over and wrapped his arms around John in a tender embrace. “I can make you happy, I promise.”  He said softly.

John felt that insane sobbing laugh resurface, this was madness.

“I will make you the head of all the servants, you will have your own room, and –“ He held John out in stretched arms, studying his puffy face, “You will be a prince in my house, I promise.”

Smiling, John nodded again. Not because he believed Kaidan, but because Kaidan believed it. The truth would eventually catch up with Kaidan, but it was not today. “That sounds good.” John said softly, wiping his own tears away with the sleeve of the brown sweater.

-*-

Returning to the house John tiptoed down to his room, he had not gotten anything to eat that day, but there was no food on his table. He figured it was punishment for skipping out on the wedding preparations.

He opted to eat four pills instead and lay down; hoping sleep would come to him soon. Behind his closed eyelids possible futures with Kaidan in the beautiful mansion by the sea, passed by.

-*-

The next morning Rose came to see him, as he was scrubbing the floor of the dining room. “I read your contract.” She said, her face professional and cold.

John tossed the brush into the bucket and looked up at Rose. “Yes?”

“It looks fine, standard contract for transfer.” Rose said, but something about her tone and body language made him uneasy.

“Rose, you are lying.” John said getting to his feet with a pained grunt, as his knees hurt.

Rose sighed, “Alright, so the transfer is not for the remainder of your contract here, but for another two years.”

John stared at her, “And that is it?”

Rose nodded. “Are you sure you want two more years, you are almost done here, and could go to the citizens council in less than six months.”

John looked out into the foyer and then back at Rose, “Look, I have no choice… either I accept that contract, or my current contract is terminated.”

Rose looked saddened. “I’m sorry that all your hard work is not worth more.”

“Me too.” John said.

Something shifted in Roses expression, and she caressed John’s cheek, “be careful kid.”

“I promise.”

“The General wanted to see you as soon as I had spoken to you.” Rose said, “I’ll take over here, while you’re gone.”

“Thank you Rose.” John said, slightly puzzled but none the less he went to knock at the General’s study door. He entered when the General called for it. “Sir” He said respectfully as he entered, the door closing heavily behind him. “You wanted to see me?”

“Yes, you spoke with Rose?”

“I did.” John took a step closer to the table. “She said she had read the transfer contract.”

The General nodded. “Are you ready to sign it?”

John nodded and came closer to the table where the data pad was.

“I must inform you that you will technically be transferred to Henry Lawson, Miranda’s father. But that is just a formality.” The General smiled fatherly, awaiting John’s action.

John gingerly took the data pad, “So I just sign here?”

“Yes.”

Hesitating for a moment John placed his thumb on the data pad and waited to hear the little pling when it had registered.

“I’m glad you took that decision, I would hate to send you back.” The General said, taking the data pad from John’s hands.

“Now what sir?” John asked softly.

“I will take care of it, just return to your duties for now.” The General said and smiled a smile which John didn’t care for one bit, it looked like a predator who had finally found it’s pray.

-*-

When John was sure everyone slept he carefully tiptoed up to Kaidan’s room, he knocked, but there was no answer. He sighed, what had he expected? That Kaidan was awake at this hour? To his surprise it was James who opened the door, “North?” John asked “I didn’t expect to see you here.”

“I could say the same, Sunshine.” James smiled amused.

“Is he sleeping?” John asked, and James nodded.

“He downed a bottle of whiskey.”

“Ah.” John smiled to himself. “Big day tomorrow.”

James stepped out into the corridor with John, “And you?” He asked in a whisper, “How are you holding up?”

“I signed a new contract.” John said pocketing his hands not to fidget.

“Are you sure that was wise?” James asked, his worried gaze resting on John in the dark corridor.

“No.” John shook his head, “But he said that he would terminate my contract and send me back, if I didn’t sign a new transfer.”

James sighed and shook his head. “I’m sorry.”

“I can’t go back.” John whispered. “It would cost me my life.”

“Miranda isn’t going to let you stay, you know that don’t you?” James said softly. “I hope you return here then, because I’m going to miss you.”

“I know she won’t,” John smiled sadly, “And I’m going to miss you too James.”

He left soon after and went down the stairs to the servants quarters and went to bed, he laid there and stared at the ceiling wondering what ill omens the future would bring. Would Miranda really find a way to send him away? Of course she would, and like James he just hoped she would let the contact return to this household, because even without Kaidan it was still a nice place to serve out the rest of his contract. How he wished that he could somehow sidetrack Miranda, in the slums it would have been so easy, just a shiv in her side and that would have been the end of her. No one would care.

But he couldn’t do that, Kaidan would never forgive him for the absolute scandal it would ensue, and also John would surely die on the prison island. He only knew of one place they sent murderer and high profile prisoners – and he never wanted to go there, if you sat on a rooftop and the smog wasn’t too bad, you could see the island with the huge building on it in the distance. He knew that was where they held the worst of the worst, dropped down there never to be released again – the murder of a socialite like Miranda would surely mean his death.

Only option was to tough it out, hopefully Miranda would hate him so much she would mostly ignore him.

-*-

All of the staff was made to wear burgundy clothes for the wedding, they had all gotten a haircut and a shave this morning.

Rose called them all when the Alenko family was leaving, and they all stood faithfully on the stairs to the house and watched at Kaidan and his mother got into the car. John still insisted that Kaidan looked like a movie star, and smiled thinking of how annoyed he had been when John had told him.

John was placing the fine china on the long dining table, finding a rhythm that allowed Rose to follow with the forks. He had a terrible feeling in the pit of his stomach, and his hands trembled. He placed down the last plate and turned to Rose, “please, can I have a little more today`?” he asked.

For a moment Rose didn’t look like she understood, but then it clearly dawned on her, “Yes. Later.”

“Okay.” John said sadly, and went to get some more plates. “I just wish that –“

“Stop right there.” Rose said, placing all the forks down on the table. “It is not your place to wish, it is your place to obey. You signed that contract yourself.”

“I know.” John answered miserably. “And you are right, I’m being an idiot.” He smiled a little fake smile.

“You are not the first servant to fall in love with their master, and you won’t be the last. But I’m telling you that no good ever came from it.” She looked at John with a motherly expression, which he had never seen on her before. “Cogs in the machine, son.”

John nodded, “You’re right, I’m sorry.” He placed a plate down on the table.

“John.” Rose said, startling John because she had never used his real name before. “He is not worth it, trust me.” He caressed his cheek gently with her callused hand, “I hope he chokes on your tears.”

John didn’t know if he wanted to laugh or hug her, but her expression was just so serious that he couldn’t help but to figure if she knew the feeling herself. “Don’t worry, I won’t embarrass anyone.”

“I know you won’t” Rose whispered, “Now get to work.”

John started up placing plates around the table again.

-*-

They stood waiting on the stairs, as the cars returned. First out was The General and Mistress Alice. Next was a man that John thought he might have seen before, and then came the bride and groom. John fought tears, he wished Kaidan didn’t look so happy, and he wished she wasn’t so beautiful. They looked absolutely perfect together.

The guests poured in and the hired help started to carry out food and. John would pour the wine and smile politely. He stood against the side of the room and waited for a guest to have an almost empty wineglass, or someone called him over. The dinner seemed to go on forever, songs, speeches, and more wine.

John felt Rose slip two pills in his hand as they watched the newlyweds open their presents.

It was not fair.

Kaidan looked magical, and Miranda looked like a queen in her dress sparkling with tiny stones. Worst of all they only had eyes for each other, and they looked happy. John left the small ballroom and went towards the servant’s kitchen. He noticed the strange man and the General look at him with that same weird predatory smile. A cold chill ran down his spine when he realized that the man was Henry Lawson, the new holder of his contract.

John sat down at the table and downed a half-finished glass of wine cleared from the table.  Kaidan was happy, surely he couldn’t be that good an actor – and Kaidan was where he was supposed to be, why was that so damn hard for him to accept? Maybe it was because he felt they had something special, something that was uniquely theirs, and he didn’t want to be without.

He put on his game face and went back to the reception.

 

FRIENDLY CREATURES

They had seen the newlyweds off in the car, but by then John felt wonderfully numb. It reminded him of why he had ever started to numb his system, he hated to feel things. He just wanted something to take away the strange hole he felt in his chest and replace it with nothingness.

He watched as the car left down the long gravel drive, he sighed. He had hours of cleaning up left before he could call it a night. But it was okay cause as long as he had chores he wasn’t thinking.

He started pulling down the decorations in the ballroom, the room was silent except from his own shoes against the ballroom floor. Funny how a room can be so filled with life, and then be completely devoid of the very same thing just moments later.

“John Shepard.” The strange man said, stepping into the ballroom. “Please come with me.”

John left the half done decorations on the floor, and obediently followed Henry, he was dying to ask where they were going but he didn’t dare. There was something in Henry Lawson’s eyes that told him to be very, very careful.

“Francis.” Henry said as he entered the General’s study, “This is the chipped individual, right?”

“It is.” The General said. “Sit down kid.” He gestured at a chair in the middle of the study.

John’s eyes widened with fear, he wasn’t sure what this was, but he could feel it wasn’t good. Still he sat down, afraid of the repercussions if he didn’t. The whole room felt like it vibrated with expectation.

“Look at me.” The General said, “You did good son.” He smiled, “And now you’re going to be our finest achievement. Isn’t that something?”

John didn’t answer, he just looked at the General. He felt a pinprick in his neck, and within seconds he felt like his body was made of lead. He looked helplessly up at the General as he slid down the chair and unto the carpet.

The General went for the intercom, “North, you are needed in the study.”

North came and lifted up John, dragging him out the study and out of the house and into a car that was waiting. Henry and the General both got into the car as well. John felt drool pool between his cheek and the leather seat, but his limbs refused to cooperate.

“You think it’s going to work?” The General asked.

“Of course.” Henry replied, “And if not, there are plenty of chipped individuals, we can get a new one next week. It will work, if not now then eventually.” He leaned down and looked at John at the opposite seat. “But I have a good feeling about you.”

Another man dragged him from the car and into something which looked like the nurses station at the slums, just larger. He was placed face down on an operating table, his face held by the neck support. John staring at the long string of drool that landed on the immaculate white tile floor.

“Alright,” Henry said, “Let there be light.” He laughed a little drunken, and when John felt a sharp pain from metal being pushed into the base of his skull, searching back and forth, he felt his bladder go. “There!” Henry laughed victoriously as his probing apparently found the chip once shot into him. John recalled once being told the first trial chips were just under the skin on people’s shoulders, but they were easy to operate out. Then later the chip was shot into the base of the skull, preventing people to poke it out with crude instruments in dingy bathrooms.

“Look Francis, let me load Anastasius the behavior program I made.”

John couldn’t even feel the cooling piss on his skin, he would just watch the drool drop to the floor. His heart beat like a jackhammer, and if he could he would have screamed till he passed out, but it was a luxury he didn’t have.

“It’s loaded, now let’s see –“ Henry trailed off. “Right first is to choose a name he will respond to.”

“I don’t know, he is yours.”

“Alright I will name him Grimes, sounds better than Grime.” Henry said, “There, now he will only respond to Grimes.”

“Marvelous!” The General said. “That calls for a drink.”

John could hear glasses clink and the men laughing softly.

“Let’s see. We can have a protocol for most foreseen situations, but we don’t want him to kill himself or someone else before the trial period is over.” Henry said, “I will set him to only respond to his codename Grime, and then an order he will carry it out no matter what. Downside of that is that someone has to remember to order him to sleep, drink, piss, and eat.”

“That is hardly smart.” The General said.

“True.” Henry mumbled, “So what about I set it so he will ask permission?”

“Imagine him coming into their bedroom at night to ask permission to sleep or piss? No that won’t work.”

“Alright then the order protocol it is.” Henry said, “We could go with a semi order protocol, so his most basic needs like to piss, eat and sleep, he will take care of himself when he has no other active order.”

“Let’s try that.” The General said. “So if faced with violence, he will just stand there?”

“Yes.” Henry said, “I will lay down a violence inhibitor.”

“What about the sex? My son seems quite fond of this subhuman, and quite frankly Henry, I find it appalling. I hardly think your daughter is going to accept it either.” The General said.

“I can lay down a sexual inhibitor as well.” Henry said, “Or he could just follow the regular protocol.”

“I don’t trust Kaidan with this, better lay down the inhibitor.”

John blinked, feeling tears leave his eyes and mingle with the drool on the floor.

“Let’s do this, and this – oh and this.” Henry took a loud slurp of his glass.

The sharp pain disappeared, and he felt what he figured was a Band-Aid on his neck.

“Get up.” Henry said, but John didn’t as much as react.

“Grimes get up.”

John breathed panicked as he felt his body move, struggling to get up from the operation table.

“He does have control of his body though; I mean look left and right, walk and all that. Right now it’s mostly because he’s still drugged.” Henry smiled at John. “Go sleep, Grimes.”

“Yes Sir.” John said and went to a cot in the corner.

“I didn’t tell him to go to that cot, so unless specified, he will just find the fastest way to carry out his command.” Henry beamed. “If he lives through the trial period, we have created history, Francis.”

The General walked over and looked down at John in the cot, “Is he still in there?”

“You mean his conscience? Yes.” Henry said, “I can only do so much. Still it’s cheaper than getting compliant workers out of red sand, am I right?”

The General clapped John’s cheek a little too hard. “Yes indeed.”

“I am going to keep him here for a day or two, and then take him to the kids, with a manual of course, would be terrible if they botched him right away.” Henry said. “Also he need all those drugs out of his system.”

-*-

John sat in Henry’s car, watching the scenery much like when he was first take out of the city. But everything was different now, he truly felt numb and even if he rationally knew he was both angry and scared, then his body didn’t react. It was like watching the world from a glass bubble.

He was sure the old men had done this out of spite, that they were afraid of the relationship he had with Kaidan. It had been a perfect coincidence that he was also the only one with a chip in the household.

They arrived at the mansion by the sea, and John got out the car and followed Henry to the door. He rang the doorbell and a smiling servant greeted them, John hated her instantly.

“Father.” Miranda said hugging Henry loosely, John mused that maybe she wasn’t as close with him as people liked to think. But then again maybe it was a thing with these rich people? But he couldn’t imagine growing up like the yolk of an egg, getting everyone’s attention and receiving anything you ask for. Only to be forced to marry someone you don’t love because you too are a cog in the machine.

John stood completely still, waiting. His order was to follow Henry and as long as Henry stood still, so did he. He saw Kaidan come from the back of the house, smiling as he saw John.

“I have a present for you.” Henry said, “Grimes, come here.”

John came to Henrys side.

“Grimes here is an improved version of your former servant.” Henry smiled. “After I installed the Anastasius protocol in his chip, Miranda.”

Miranda paled, “You did what?” She looked at John, and for the first time he saw genuine concern in her blue eyes. “That is hardly ethical father.”

“He is a test version, a gutter rat that no one will miss if it fails.” Henry said with a little laugh, “Come now Miranda, here is the manual.” He handed her a data pad.

“Wait, what?” Kaidan looked from Miranda to Henry.

“My father installed a command protocol in your precious little fuck toy, which made him nothing more than a living machine.” Miranda said, handing Kaidan the data pad. “Get it out of my sight, it makes me sick,” She turned and left.

Henry turned to John, “Grimes, follow Kaidan.”

“Yes sir.” John said, standing still as Henry left the house, the front door closing with a heavy sound in the silent room.

“John?” Kaidan cupped John’s face and looked into his eyes. “Are you in there?”

John felt a tiny smile tug in the corner of his mouth, and he blinked. He wanted to kiss Kaidan but found that he couldn’t move a muscle, besides the tiny smile he had managed.

Miranda came back with two drinks in her hand she offered one to Kaidan. “Grimes go sit.”

John walked over to an armchair overlooking the ocean through the large panorama windows.

“I saw the prototypes my father made.” Miranda sighed, “They all killed themselves before he perfected the harm-reduction protocol.”

“He meddled with his chip?”

“Oh yes, and then some.” Miranda walked over to John. “Grimes, what is your protocol?”

John didn’t look away from the ocean but answered her in a toneless voice. “Activation Grimes, orders to completion, sexual and violence inhibitors in place. Personal needs partial activation. All functions nominal.”

“See?” Miranda shook her head and smiled bitterly. “They ruined your little fuckbuddy.”

“Why would they do that to him?” Kaidan asked.

“Who knows?” Miranda sighed, “My father wants to patent the Anastasius protocol, makes the servants easier to control, but your dad? No idea – maybe he just really hated this little piece of trash?”

Kaidan sat down heavily in the sofa behind John. “So what does this all mean?” He looked up at Miranda, drink in her hand.

Miranda came and stood in front of John. “It means that when you want to activate him, you start with the activation code. Look.” She stepped back. “Get me a drink.” Nothing happened. “Grimes, get me a drink.”

John got up from his seat and walked over to the bar when he and Kaidan had kissed last, and poured a drink and came back to her with it, just standing there. “Grimes, sit.” She said, and he did.

Kaidan looked over at John, tears welled up in his eyes. “That is terrible.”

Miranda downed her first drink, and started on the second. “Depends. Absolute control, right?”

“But not like that!” Kaidan argued.

Miranda shrugged, “It is what it is.” She looked down at John, “When you are done with his services you just tell him so, and he will go take care of his personal needs. I have seen dozens like him Kaidan. And they didn’t live more than a month. But maybe my daddy did manage to perfect the harm-reduction protocol, I doubt it though.”

“Why?” Kaidan asked.

“Because the Anastasius protocol controls the will, but not the soul.” Miranda said, “The violence inhibitor makes sure he can’t attack anyone, and that he can’t pick up a gun with violent intent, but there are so many other ways to kill one self that my father’s protocol can’t foresee. I once saw a test subject drown himself in milk; he just kept pouring it down his own throat till he collapsed.”

Kaidan sighed and looked down into his drink. “Is it reversible?”

“Don’t know.” Miranda said, “As I told you, none I know of have survived.”

Kaidan looked over at John, who was still sitting there staring out over the ocean.

“Does it matter?” Miranda asked, sitting herself in Kaidan’s lap, “You got me now.”

John blinked, feeling tears run down his cheeks as he sat there and listened to the two of them fucking in the sofa behind him. The waves crashed against the beach over, and over. John wondered if Kaidan had ever been so vocal when they were fucking. He looked down at his hands for a moment, his fists balled up so tight he left bloody marks in his palms.

-*-

A week went by, and John found an odd sense of calm in the rhythm of his orders, and the predictability of his protocol. Kaidan had stopped looking at him like he was a monster, that was at least something.

The other servants avoided him, but why would they seek him out? He wasn’t even able to answer a question, or engage in conversation. He found that he missed Samantha, and maybe she had had the right idea all along, nothing was worth this. Nothing. He should have let the General terminate his contract when he had the chance, this was worse than the slums, worse than death. He should not have trusted Rose, he should just have run and never look back.

He was surprised to find that Miranda was out for the afternoon with some friends, and Kaidan had stayed home. Kaidan sat in the white leather sofa overlooking the ocean and fiddled with a data pad. “Grimes, come here.”

John put down the duster and walked over to stand next to Kaidan, he looked down at him, awaiting his next order.

“I wonder how this inhibitor works.” Kaidan mused, “Grimes, suck my cock.”

John didn’t move.

“Did you not hear me Grimes?” Kaidan asked angrily.

“Yes, sir.” John said, his jaw flexing and every fiber in his body wanted to get down between Kaidan’s thighs and pleasure him, but he couldn’t move.

Kaidan downed his drink. “Fuck!” He yelled angrily and tossed the glass, “Grimes fetch me the bottle.”

John walked over to the bar and got the bottle, walking back to where he stood before and handed Kaidan the bottle of whiskey.

“Grimes get on your knees and open your mouth.” Kaidan said, taking a deep drink of the bottle.

John got on his knees and opened his mouth.

“Wider Grimes.”

He opened his mouth wider, and watched as Kaidan opened his zipper and stood up, letting his pants pool by his feet. He knew what came next, and it was okay.  He looked up at Kaidan as he started to fuck his mouth, Kaidan held his head still with a hand. John didn’t react, he couldn’t feel the slightest arousal tingle in his body. Kaidan pulled out and slapped him hard, “Come on, get into it.” He screamed. But John could do nothing but look up at Kaidan with sorrowful eyes. “Fuck!” Kaidan cried, driving himself deeper and harder in John’s mouth and throat. Once he finished he pushed John backwards so he banged his head against the small glass coffee table.

“Shit John!” Kaidan yelled as he pulled his pants up. “This was the one thing you were good at, and I can’t even use you for that anymore.” Kaidan closed his belt buckle and kicked John’s leg with his bare feet. “What are you good for huh?”

John just closed his eyes as the kicks and punches kept raining down on him. He had never thought he would see this side of Kaidan again. He felt the pain from the beating, but he couldn’t even move his arms to shield himself, or curl up. Only reaction he had was nausea, it kept building until he couldn’t hold it in no longer, and he vomited out over the carpet and his own arm. Snot and blood mingled with the stomach acid.

Kaidan stopped and sat down in the sofa again, just staring at John. “I wonder if it was kinder to just let you drown yourself in the ocean that would at least hold some sort of poetic justice.”

John coughed and spat again, wiping his mouth in his sleeve.

Kaidan just stared at him, and started to cry. “I know he did this to fuck with me, he promised me you could come, if only I married Miranda as promised. But it looks like he got the last laugh,” He took a shuddering breath, “Look at you, you aren’t you anymore. Even if you are right here as promised.”

John just looked at Kaidan, even if his right eye was swelling up and he couldn’t quite see out of it anymore. There was nothing in the world he wanted more than to comfort Kaidan, hold him, kiss him and tell him everything was going to be alright. But he lacked the command, and therefore he just sat there in a pool of his own vomit and felt like his chest was going to implode.

“I know I wanted to control you, I wanted to own you. But not like this.” Kaidan sobbed, “Not like this.” Kaidan rubbed his scalp and suddenly stood, walked out of the living room, leaning John sitting there staring after him. As the idle protocol kicked in, he pulled off his shirt, and wiped his arm and face. He slowly got to his feet, they felt wobbly and sore, he aimed straight for the servants’ quarters, a bath and a change of clothes.

“Grimes, stop.” He heard Kaidan yell. John stopped and turned around to look at Kaidan. “Follow me Grimes.” His eyes were wild and desperate, and swimming from all the alcohol.

John followed Kaidan out the house, Kaidan picked up his abandoned bottle of Whiskey on the way out. They walked down the narrow staircase to the sea, like the very first time they were here together.

When they made it to the sea, Kaidan stopped, and so did John. John managed to smile a little, he loved the sea even on a day like this, heavy rainclouds and the sea was wild and deep grey. “Grimes, walk into the water till it reaches your knees.”

John walked into the water, it was freezing, and his entire body was shaking from the cold, but he still walked out to where the water slushed against his knees, and turned around to look at Kaidan. His heart stopped for a second when he saw the gun in Kaidan’s hand. Kaidan took a deep drag from the bottle and then placed it on the wet sand. “I can’t live like this!” He yelled over the wind. He aimed at John, and John just stood there shaking from the freezing water, waiting for the bullet. Maybe it wasn’t so bad, maybe it was like a switch and he would become one with the waves.

Kaidan yelled something that John couldn’t make out, and the gun shook in his hand. John saw Miranda up on the deck looking down at them.

Kaidan tossed the gun in the sand with a scream of frustration, and waded out into the water and wrapped his arms around John’s trembling form. “Grimes, hold me.” He whispered. And John did, he felt like he held on to Kaidan for dear life. “I can’t do it.” Kaidan whispered. “How easy it would be to ask you to just walk out into the ocean.”

John rested his chin on Kaidan’s shoulder and inhaled his scent from the skin on his neck. How he wished he could kiss that spot right there right now.

“There is only one thing I can do.” Kaidan whispered, “I’m going to make that old fucker reverse what he did to you.” John closed his eyes and just breathed slowly, while holding Kaidan so tight his arms cramped. “And if he can’t…” Kaidan trailed off. “John. Grimes do you wish to live?”

“Yes sir.” John whispered.

Kaidan sighed, “Do you still love me Grimes?”

“Yes sir.” John whispered again, the rogue smile tugging at the corner of his now blue lips.

“I love you John.” Kaidan said, “I never thought I could care so much. I have treated you so badly, when I should just have told you that I was attracted to you from the beginning. I’m sorry. Do you forgive me?”

John was silent.

“Grimes,” Kaidan sighed, “Do you forgive me?”

“Yes sir.” John said, his teeth clattering from the cold.

“Thank you.” Kaidan let go, and so did John, “Grimes follow me.” He said, “Let’s get you inside.”

-*-

Once inside Kaidan wrapped John in a warm blanket, he even pulled his cold, wet pants, shoes and socks off him. John just watched him do it, like he had done for Kaidan so many times. He fetched two drinks and handed one to John, “Drink, Grimes.” He said, “It will warm you up.”

John took a sip, he felt the warmth spread through his entire system, and he sighed happily, wrapping his bare legs up under the blanket.

Kaidan lit the fire in the fireplace, illuminating them both in soft orange light. He sat down next to John and just looked into the flames silently.

“Are you coming to bed soon?” Miranda asked from the dark hallway.

“Not yet.”

She came into the living room. “What is this nonsense?” She sighed. “I thought you had gotten rid of it.”

“John is a man, not a thing.” Kaidan said without taking his eyes of the flames.

“Once maybe.” Miranda sighed and walked around the sofas to sit opposite John and Kaidan. “Did you not listen? My father broke him; he will never be a person again. The kindest thing you can do is to put a bullet in his brain.”

“I tried.” Kaidan said listlessly, swirling his drink thoughtful. “I can’t.”

Miranda sighed, “I know you liked him.”

“I love him.” Kaidan corrected, and finally looked at Miranda.

“So if you love him, let him go, let him die. It’s not an existence for anyone, what my father did to him.” Miranda said in a near whisper.

Kaidan hung his head, “My mother knew, and I am sure she told my father. My father aligned himself with your father to pull this off. It was the perfect opportunity. Your father could test his fucking program, and my father could erase John without it ever coming back to him.”

“Maybe.” Miranda said. “I know you didn’t want to marry me, and I sure as shit didn’t want to marry you – but here we are, and we ought to make the best of it. Cogs in the machine, remember?”

“Fuck the cogs!” Kaidan yelled, “What I care about is getting this undone.” He gestured at John. “Even if you and I are stuck with each other till judgement day, then John didn’t deserve this, just because our parents are afraid of a scandal.”

“I hardly think my father is concerned about you fucking your servant.” Miranda shot back.

“Maybe not, but is he concerned that I’m not fucking you?” Kaidan said. “He needs that grandchild doesn’t he? Another cog for the fucking machine.”

John sipped his whiskey and listened. He couldn’t remember he had ever loved Kaidan as much as he did right now.

“Why don’t you ask your lover-boy what he wants? Oh wait, you can’t – what a shame.” Miranda sneered getting up from her chair and walked over to Kaidan and John. “I will help you on one condition.”

“What.”

“He goes.” She pointed at John.

Kaidan hesitated and looked from John to Miranda. “What makes you think I need your help?”

“Because if you want my father to undo his fuckery, you need me.” Miranda placed a hand on her hip and looked down at Kaidan, “So what will it be?”

“Yes.” Kaidan whispered hesitantly after a long silence, “If you manage to get your dad to undo what he did, John leaves.”

“Or dies in the process.” Miranda said drily.

 

EXIT

It had taken some hard negotiation from Miranda, to even get her father to see John in his laboratory. True to her word she had threatened him with refusing to carry a child, if he did not undo what he had done to Grimes.

And now here they were, Kaidan, John and Miranda, all waiting for Henry Lawson to finish with the preparations. “I never did attempt a reverse.” Henry mumbled, “It’s crazy, might as well kill him, Miranda. Kill my most successful test subject, it’s madness.”

“Maybe so father, but you are going to do it.” She said her voice seething with anger. “I refuse to look at that zombie in my house any longer.”

Henry turned to look at them, “if that is the problem, why don’t you just sell him back to me?”

“Because no living person should be made to suffer like this.” Kaidan cut in. “Miranda tells me that all your other test subjects killed themselves, it was not your procedure that killed them, but the fact that they did not wish to live anymore.”

Henry mumbled something under his breath.  “Grimes, lay on the operating table, face down.” He said.

John went and laid down, remembering when last he was here. He hoped that either he became himself or died, Kaidan was right, no one could live like this.

“Erase it.” Kaidan said.

“What?”

“Erase the information stored on the chip.”

“But that would –“ Henry argued.

“That would make him a citizen, now do it!” Kaidan said.

“I’m going home.” Miranda said, “If you want to stay and watch, be my guest.”

“I’ll see you later, I promise.” Kaidan said, kissing Miranda before she left. The second she was out the door, Kaidan came to John’s side and took his hand.

“You sure you want to delete all of the protocol? I mean we could just alter the sexual inhibition and leave him here for you to visit, Miranda would be none the wiser.” Henry said.

“I’m sure.” Kaidan said his gaze transfixed on Henry, “Delete the damn chip.”

Henry frowned but set to work. The second the control program was erased, John could scream, a primal scream so loud that Kaidan flinched. “Does it hurt him?”

“Of course.” Henry shrugged, “I inserted a metal rod into the base of his brain with no anesthetics.” Kaidan felt bile rise, and John almost crushed his hand with his, every muscle in his body tensed up, and had it not been for the leather straps holding John down, Kaidan was sure he would have bolted.

Eventually John passed out, and Henry didn’t even blink.

-*-

When John came to he was staring up into the white ceiling of the operating room. “John?” Kaidan asked softly.

John smiled widely. “Kaidan.” He whispered, voice raw from screaming.

Kaidan laughed happily and took John’s hand again. “You’re back. I missed you.”

John turned his head, pain shooting up his spine. “Thank you.”

Henry turned off the lights, “Honeymoon is over, take him back to where you found him.”

“I will.” Kaidan said getting out of his chair to support John getting to his feet. “I brought a change of clothes for you.” He said, “You’re a citizen now, can’t have you look like someone from the slums, right?” He slowly let go of John, making sure that he was steady before leaving to get the bag from the trunk of his car.

John looked over at Henry who stood at a sink, disinfecting the probe. “You can’t seriously think that this program of yours will ever work.”

“It works.” Henry mumbled angrily.

“Trust me it doesn’t.” John said, his voice breaking over.

Henry turned around, leaned against the sink and studied John, “You are my most successful test subject to date. Not only did you survive much longer than any of the others, but you are still intact.”

John opened his mouth to answer, but found that he had none. Henry Lawson has lost his mind, how long ago it happened, he didn’t know.

Coming back into the room with the bag Kaidan looked from Henry to John, “Could we have some privacy please?” He asked Henry, who left the operating theater with a frown. Kaidan handed the bag to John, “It’s my clothes, so they might be a little big, but it is all I can do right now.”

John wrapped his arms around Kaidan, pulling him in for a tight embrace. “You did all this for me.” He whispered, kissing Kaidan’s neck like he had wanted so badly for so long.

Kaidan dropped the bag and cupped John’s face in his hands, “I told you.” He said with a little smile, “I love you.”

“I believe you.” John answered a little breathless.

-*-

John felt like a completely different person in Kaidan’s clothes, he couldn’t recall a time in his life where he ever wore something this soft and nice. His head was reeling, his chip was blank which meant he could go anywhere. But that anywhere was not with Kaidan, whom would return to his wife. So even if it was a victory, even if he had gotten what he had wanted – it felt like he lost.

Kaidan opened the car door on the passenger side for him, and scratched his neck a little nervously. “Is there, is there like anywhere I can take you?”

John shrugged. “City gates I suppose.”

Kaidan wet his lips, clearly wanting to ask more questions but restrained himself. “Alright.” He just said with a nod, and closed the door after John got into the car. He walked around the front of the car and got in behind the wheel. “Which gate?”

“North? East?” John said with a little sad smile, “It really makes no difference.”

Kaidan started the car and for a little while they drove in silence until Kaidan couldn’t take it anymore. “Do you have a plan?”

“Nope.” John answered, his gaze locked on the road out in front of them. “But I’ll figure something out, I always do.” He shrugged as much as his sore neck would let him.

Kaidan stopped the car, the breaks screeching. “Are you going to go back to the life you had before coming to my house?” He asked, his worried gaze intensely studying John’s reaction.

“I don’t know, okay?” John said. He turned in the seat and looked at Kaidan, “Look, I got no skills, no education, no money and no place to go – what do you think?”

“Surely you had a fallback plan?” Kaidan asked surprised.

“Not even close.” John said, his voice empty and hollow. “Can you even imagine what kind of desperation drives someone to sell themselves for two years to total strangers?”

“With benefits.” Kaidan stated sourly.

John just stared at him in disbelief, “I’m walking back.” He undid his seatbelt and opened the door to the side of the road.

“Stop.” Kaidan grabbed John’s wrist and held him in place. “I – I thought that… I was told that…” He had the decency to look away from John’s chocked expression. “I believed that – fuck, please John I just didn’t know better.”

John relaxed a little but kept the door open and one foot on the gravel.

Kaidan looked up at John with the most vulnerable expression he had ever seen. “In a matter of a year, my life has been turned upside down, everything I thought to be a fact, is not… I feel like I’m going crazy here.”

John took a deep breath, pulled his leg back inside the car, and closed the door. “I know.” He said softly.

“All those terrible things I did to you, I wanted to punish you for making me doubt myself. For making me care – changing me.” Kaidan admitted, “At least let me make it up to you.”

“You already did.” John raised his arm and kissed Kaidan’s hand which was still firmly locked around his wrist. “You gave me my life back.”

Kaidan smiled and blinked emotional tears from his eyes. “I almost shot you.”

“For a good reason.”

“Still.”

“I forgive you.” John said, reaching out between them and caressing Kaidan’s cheek, “I love you remember?”

“But how? I don’t understand – I never gave you a reason to do so.”

John smiled a little sad, “Like it doesn’t need a name, it doesn’t always have a reason.” He placed his hand on top of Kaidan’s, “Look the truth is that I could have walked out, I could have left – have terminated my contract. I didn’t, because of you, and maybe sometimes despite of you.”

Kaidan smiled softly. “Thank you.”

They sat in silence for a moment, and then Kaidan started up the car again, driving towards the city. John turned on the radio to mask the strange, sad and heavy silence.

The city’s skyline became visible in the horizon, Kaidan turned off the radio and licked his lips, clearly wanting to say something, he looked at John to his right, and up at the mirror. “I don’t want to go back.”

“What will happen to you if you don’t?”

“Don’t know.” Kaidan said.

“Kaidan, I refuse to take you with me.” John said, the sentence tasting sour on his lips, because truthfully it was the only thing he wanted, to grab a hold of Kaidan, and never stop running, never looking back.

“I know.” Kaidan said with a sigh, “I wish I could take you back to my house.”

“You promised Miranda.”

“I know but…”

“I don’t want to talk about it.” John said, turning the radio back on, demonstratively staring out the side window, away from Kaidan. He figured he could try and get some job that didn’t require training, like factory work. And then maybe see if he could sell Kaidan’s clothes. That would maybe give him enough money to eventually rent a room. He smiled to himself, yeah that was what he was going to do. He had a plan, and he didn’t have to go back to the slums, ever again.

“Are you going back to the application line at human resources?” Kaidan asked bluntly.

“Not if I can help it.” John mumbled, he would do just about anything to never have to follow the yellow tape in the floor again.

The awkward silence fell over the car again, and they didn’t speak until they made it past the checkpoint at the north gate. Kaidan found a parking spot and parked. Both he and John got out of the car.

“Will you let me buy you something to eat?” Kaidan asked.

John smiled crocked, “Like a date?”

“If you want it to be.” Kaidan said holding out his hand. John took it and followed Kaidan, “I know this great place close by, how do you feel about steak?”

John squeezed Kaidan’s hand gently, and chuckled, not that he knew what steak tasted like, but the way Kaidan went on about it, it had to be good.

They were seated at a table in the nicest place that John had ever seen, he felt like he wasn’t supposed to even be here, but the sensor hadn’t beeped when he had walked through, and the waiter was smiling like he belonged there. He had asked Kaidan to order, and the waiter apparently found that absolutely endearing, because when she returned she brought a bottle of wine on the house.

“You know what? You are not the only one feeling like they are going crazy.” John whispered, reaching for Kaidan’s hand on the table.

“I am not letting you go.” Kaidan suddenly said, he looked determined and held on to John’s hand. “I won’t, I can’t.”

John smiled despite himself, “Oh? What do you suggest then?” He reached for his wine with the hand Kaidan didn’t hold on to.

“Not sure yet.” Kaidan’s determination gave way to a gentle smile, “guess killing my wife is out of the question.”

John laughed. “Yes.”

“Gentlemen?” The waiter interrupted them with two plates, John stared down at the massive chunk of meat, he had never in his life eaten a piece of meat this large. “Is all that for me?” it just flew out of his mouth, and he had sort of expected Kaidan to laugh.

“It is.”

John studied Kaidan as he cut into his own steak, and John mirrored it. He had never thought meat could taste this good, and he closed his eyes in bliss. When he opened them Kaidan was just sitting there smiling at him.

“I take it you like it?” Kaidan asked.

“Never tasted anything like it.” John admitted. “Is this how you eat all the time?”

“Pretty much, though not as fancy.” Kaidan said, holding up his wineglass to toast. “You’ll get used to it.”

“Don’t play me, Kaidan.” John said, toasting with him nonetheless.

Kaidan sipped his wine, looking at John through the candlelight on the table. “I’m not. I will find a way.” He speared a piece of carrot on his fork and offered it to John across the table, smiling as John obediently accepted the morsel. “My father has a mistress, and I’m sure so do most men. It keeps the arranged marriages intact I guess. But if he can, then why can’t I?”

“So I’m your mistress now?” John smiled amused, who would have thought he would sit here? Of all the possible endings, twists and turns his life could have taken since he signed up at the application office that day – this was not even close to anything he could have imagined. He reached for Kaidan’s hand again and laughed softly. “Are you asking me, or telling me?”

Kaidan shrugged, “Asking you, please.” He smiled nervously, obviously more nonchalant in his wording, than his actual meaning behind it.

John took a sip of his wine smiling, he knew he was torturing Kaidan, but maybe a part of him liked that. Maybe a part of him wasn’t as forgiving as he pretended, not when he suddenly had the upper hand.

“Is that a yes?” Kaidan asked, not sure how to interpret John’s reaction.

“If I were to say yes, how would you even pull it off?” John asked, not taking his eyes off Kaidan, even as the waiter came and took their plates, to replace them with dessert.

“I would rent an apartment for you, and give you a monthly allowance.” Kaidan said with a happy gleam in his eyes, “Just like daddy does.”

John blinked, “So you would pay for me?”

“Well, in a roundabout way?” Kaidan squirmed a little, “You make it sound so dirty.”

“If I had known it was this easy to get the good life, I would have become someone’s mistress, long ago.” John said with a little grin to indicate that he was joking.

-*-

Kaidan took John to a hotel and paid for a week, ample time to find an apartment. He even handed John money to go buy some clothes. A nasty little voice in the back of his head, whispered that this was really just prostitution, and it was no different from when he was still a servant in the Alenko household, or when he lived in the slums. He was pretending to be Kaidan’s boyfriend for money. But he liked pretending to be Kaidan’s boyfriend, and he didn’t really object to the money either – he knew it was Kaidan’s weird way of making amends. He meant well.

The apartment was fantastic; it was two rooms just for him! A living room and a bedroom, never had he had this sort of space all to himself. The apartment even had a little balcony where he could see out over the entire area, with its café’s and squares and parks. Who knew the city could be this peaceful and nice? He could see the tall industrial chimneys from the slums in the horizon, but you couldn’t even smell whatever they burned way over here. Still he felt a little bad, he was sure the game was rigged, that people never earned their citizenship no matter how many turns they took in different or the same household. And what if Henry Lawson was experimenting on some poor soul right this moment?

Alice had hired a tutor to teach him how to read, and he had told him about the ancient Greek gladiators, they too could win their freedom eventually, and their master would present them with a rudis, a wooden sword that represented their freedom and their trials in the arena. John wondered in silence if this apartment and all the money was his rudis. His one in a million gift. Not because he was the best, and not because he had served the longest – but because his master was benevolent.

A cage of lies and gold, is still a cage.

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Art by HeavenOnFire

 

 

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