Noble, 34

Being Alone Is Rarely Healthy In the Aftermath of Something Awful, but You’re Never As Alone As You Think You Are

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The door opened without a knock, admitting Diego with a tray of food. “I have your supper, Lord Geoffrey.”

Geoffrey shook his head, watching the fire, wondering what it would feel like to put his hand in there. “I don’t want it.”

Diego shrugged and put it down on the table.

Geoffrey looked at him, trying to glare. “Didn’t you hear me? I said I don’t want it.”

It didn’t matter what he wanted, though. Diego didn’t work for him anymore. He worked for Giacomo, just like everyone else in this house. The servants all had the DiGorre crest on their shirts, sewn over House DiSheere’s colours.

Diego shrugged again. “Then don’t eat it. I get paid to bring it to you, not shove it down your throat, and if I come back to the kitchen with it I’m the one who’ll get reamed out for not doing my job.”

Geoffrey nodded, tears collecting in his eyes under the force of that. Why was Diego so angry? All Geoffrey had said was that he wasn’t hungry. But of course he knew why Diego was angry with him. “Okay. You can leave it here. I’m, I’m sorry.”

“Hey, what the fuck?” Diego asked, looking disgusted. Geoffrey would be disgusted looking at him too. “Don’t start crying, God.”

“I’m sorry.” Geoffrey wiped his eyes. “It’s not…” he took a breath. “I’m sorry, really. For what I tried to do to you, before.” How could he have ever tried to do that to a person?

“I don’t want to talk about that,” Diego said, turning away.

“Okay,” Geoffrey whispered. “You don’t have to forgive me or anything.”

“I don’t.”

“But I promise not to do it again. I promise I won’t try to hurt you or touch you again, I promise. I didn’t…I never thought it would hurt like that, but I…”

“You didn’t think shoving your cock up my ass would hurt?” Diego snapped, glaring now.

“I…that wasn’t what I…”

Diego snorted, giving Geoffrey the finger. “You know what, that’s probably what your dad thought too.”

Geoffrey blinked back tears, trying to hear what Diego had said. “My father…” No, Gerhard had been a drunk and he’d liked to hit, but he’d only hit Geoffrey because Geoffrey deserved it. He wouldn’t have.

“Yeah, your fucking father,” Diego spat. “And you know what? I had to go right back to work, and I got hit the next morning for being late for my duties. Not all of us get to lay around in bed for days while people bring us food that we can afford not to eat.”

Geoffrey felt like he wanted to sit down, but he already was. Right. Right. So many people had it worse than him. Dammit, he was so, he was so selfish. “I’m sorry,” he said, in a voice quieter than the fire.

“Just eat the damn food.” Diego headed for the door. “Thought it would be fun to have you here like this, but you’re just pathetic and sad. I don’t know if I’ll even bother taking a turn on you once we’re allowed.”

And he left, abandoning Geoffrey. He sat in front of the fire, shaking and shivering. There were no clothes in the house except for on the servants. All any of the nobles had to wear were these sheer loincloths Giacomo had had made for them. He just wanted Javier. He just wanted Javier to hug him and tell him it was going to be okay even if he never believed it, but he’d gone away to send a letter and he wasn’t back yet and Geoffrey just wanted…

The door opened again and Javier came in, and Geoffrey sobbed quietly. “Hey,” Javier said, coming over. He sat right in the chair with Geoffrey and put his arms around him, their skin touching. “I’m sorry I was gone so long.”

Geoffrey shook his head. “It’s okay. You have stuff to do.”

“I know, but I don’t want to leave you alone.”

Geoffrey didn’t want that either, but he didn’t want to be a burden for Javier all the time. That was all he was anymore.

Well, maybe not all.

“Diego said something before he left,” Geoffrey said.

Javier glanced at the food. “What did he say?”

“He said he…he didn’t know if he’d take a turn on me.” Geoffrey wasn’t so stupid that he couldn’t figure that out.

“Yeah.” Javier sighed. “I wanted to wait until you were feeling better to tell you that.”

Geoffrey smiled, bitter and cold. “They’re all going to rape me, aren’t they?” He started to cry again as he said it. Or maybe he just kept crying. Had he stopped?

“Probably not all of them. Some of these people have known you your whole life, Geoffrey.”

“Long enough to hate me.”

“I’ve known you your whole life and it’s given me more time to love you, Geoffrey.” Javier was so kind to lie for him even after all this. “They’re not allowed to touch the other boys without permission. But everyone, the other boys and the servants and guards and anyone who comes to the house, they’re allowed to touch you. Encouraged, I think. Giacomo said it’s an Ech’kent tradition he saw while he was there, where a house will have a butt-boy for everyone to use.”

“Why…” Geoffrey choked. “Why is he so cruel? Is it my fault, Javier? Did I make him that way?”

“Nobody makes somebody that way, Geoffrey. He just is.”

Geoffrey shook his head. “No, it’s my fault. I hurt him first, and now he’s teaching me a lesson. He probably thinks he’s doing the right thing. Maybe he is. Maybe Kyaine is better with me like this.”

Javier sighed. “He told them to give you a week before they start…”

“They can start now,” Geoffrey said, shaking his head. “It doesn’t matter, just tell them they can start now.” If Geoffrey was going to be raped again, what did it matter if it started today or next week? All the days until it started were just going to be lies anyway.

“I’m not going to do that,” Javier said quietly.

Fine. Geoffrey would do it himself next time someone brought him food. “Did you know my father raped Diego?”

Javier flinched. “No. I knew someone had. I didn’t know it was your father.”

Geoffrey nodded. “Diego hasn’t been here long. I wonder if Dad brought him on just for that.”

“Maybe. Listen,” Javier said. “I’ll be right back, okay? Janus is waiting outside and I told him I’d see how you were feeling, but I don’t think this is a good day for a visit.”

Geoffrey shook his head now, straightening in the chair. “No. Tell him he can come in.” Janus had a right to see him. Geoffrey was his husband. Maybe he wanted to be the first one to use Geoffrey in his new job.

Javier searched Geoffrey’s face and who knew what he saw, but he got up and opened the door. Janus came in with Dalton, both dressed just like Geoffrey and Javier were. “Hi,” Janus said, already crying. He came right over to Geoffrey’s chair, kneeling in front of it, like he was the one who belonged on his knees. He took Geoffrey’s hands in his. “Hi,” he cried.

“Hi,” Geoffrey told him. “It’s, it’s okay. You don’t have to cry.”

Janus shook his head, eyes squeezed shut. “I’m so sorry, Geoffrey. I’m so sorry. This is my fault.”

“It’s not your fault. You didn’t do anything wrong, Janus.”

“Yes I did,” Janus hiccoughed. “I’m the one who sold you out to Giacomo. I agreed to let him kidnap you so the war would end. He, he promised he wouldn’t hurt you, Geoffrey. I’m so sorry, I’m so, so sorry.” He was sobbing now.

Geoffrey slid down off the chair, joined Janus on his knees for a hug. “It’s okay,” he promised. “I already knew that, Janus.”

“You did?”

“Of course I did. It wasn’t hard to figure out. You were just…you were just doing the right thing. You didn’t know what would happen. You didn’t know what Giacomo would do.” Janus couldn’t have known how cruel Giacomo was. Nobody had known. Even Geoffrey hadn’t known what his own brother was capable of.

“I swear I didn’t,” Janus said, in such a quiet voice. “I swear. I’m so sorry. You didn’t deserve what happened to you.”

“Yes, I did,” Geoffrey assured him. “But don’t worry. I love you. I still love you.”

“I still love you too.” Janus was almost wailing now, and Geoffrey rubbed his back. “I…I figured you’d hate me, and…”

“No,” Geoffrey promised. Janus hadn’t done anything wrong, Geoffrey had. “I don’t. You’re my husband and I love you and I want you to stay here with me, okay? Sleep with me tonight, okay? And, and you too,” he said to Dalton. “If you want. Only if you want.”

“I do, I do,” Janus said, trying to get his crying under control. “Shit, I’m sorry, I shouldn’t be, this isn’t about me, shit. Do you need anything? Tell me what you need. I’ll get it for you. I’ll do whatever you want.”

“I just…” Geoffrey didn’t need anything. Nothing was going to help him. He looked at Javier, who nodded. “I just need this,” he said, hugging Janus tighter. Javier joined in, arms around Geoffrey from behind, and Dalton came and joined them too. “Just this, okay?”

And maybe that did help, a little.

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