Emotions Are Sometimes Hard to Figure Out and Puberty Makes them Harder
“You needn’t stay if you’d rather leave, Daniel.”
Daniel would rather leave, but he shook his head. “I’ll stay,” he said.
“Very well. Until I tell you to leave, then, you may pour the tea.”
Daniel nodded and got the teapot, which was hot. The door opened, and in came Cyrus with Cassius. “Hi,” Cyrus said, looking nervous.
Daniel’s collar was a shield that meant he didn’t have to look at Cyrus. They hadn’t talked at all since the time in the room upstairs.
“Hello, Cyrus,” Theodore said, voice cold. “What can I do for you?”
“We actually came to thank you,” Cyrus said, hand on Cassius’s arm. “For your hospitality. Cassius has bought a house here in Merket, so we’ll all be leaving you by the end of today. We’ll be nearby, but I think it’s best for our working relationship if we’re neighbours rather than cohabitators.”
“Yes.” Theodore nodded once. “I suspect that to be true. It was a unique pleasure to have you as guests.”
“And to be yours,” Cyrus said, and Daniel could feel him not looking away from Theodore. “My employer has authorized me to give you and Daniel access to a portal we have to Three Hills.” He smiled. “In order to help you fulfill his conditions.”
“We do not require his aid,” said Theodore with a nod. He sounded surprised, but only to Daniel. “I am quite capable of travelling to the capital on my own. In fact, I have been issued an invitation to the upcoming royal wedding for just that purpose.”
Daniel poured the tea carefully, not making any faces. When had Theodore gotten one of those?
It must have been while Theodore was mad at him. Realizing that, he turned away to get the sugar. Daniel bit his lip to stop it quivering, because it was stupid for him to cry just because he’d remembered that Theodore had been mad at him. He wasn’t mad anymore. And it was stupid of him to cry because Theodore hadn’t told him something. There was no reason to be sad about those things.
With himself convinced of that, he turned back to the three of them, spooning two spoonfuls of sugar into the Master’s tea, hesitating. Did he like two or three spoonfuls? He couldn’t…Daniel couldn’t remember.
Cyrus was talking. “Daniel’s going to want to scope out the capital before he carries out the tasks he’s been hired to carry out, if he wants to perform them on time.”
“I will thank you not to dictate Daniel’s schedule to me, nor his job to him.”
The Master said schedule in such a funny way. He left out the K sound, Daniel thought. It was weird that he didn’t know how to say it right. Daniel would tell him that later.
Cyrus spread his hands. “Okay. I’m sorry. The portal is available to you if you want it. I will not tell Daniel how to do his job, but my employer would like this one conducted with reasonable haste.” He seemed to weigh something, then sighed. “Except that one of Daniel’s targets isn’t in Three Hills right now, so there’s not that much rush until he gets back.”
Daniel frowned. How was he supposed to kill someone who wasn’t where they were supposed to be? That wasn’t fair.
“I see,” said Theodore, touching Daniel’s thigh briefly, which calmed Daniel down a little. “Thank you. In any case, I hope our partnership continues to be productive and I wish you all the best in moving into your new house.”
“Thank you,” Cyrus said, starting to stand. Cassius held his wrist. “Cassius.”
“Cyrus,” Cassius said. He looked at Theodore. “I want to have your boy.”
“Excuse me?” Theodore asked, while Daniel stiffened.
“Buy him, I mean,” Cassius said. “I have coins, I’ll pay for him like humans do.”
“Daniel is under no circumstances for sale.”
Cassius looked at Daniel in a way Daniel didn’t like, then he looked back at Theodore. “I wasn’t talking about Daniel. I want Hugh. Neville likes him and he spends most of his time with us anyway. You never use him for anything. And I’m being nice by asking instead of taking him.”
Theodore had raised his eyebrow now, and Daniel’s heart was pounding. He couldn’t say yes. Daniel would kill him if he said yes. “You will find, Cassius, that many will be amused by your appearance here in Merket’s society. Of course, it will take some getting used to for most people to realize that dragons are people to begin with, though I do not doubt your ability to make them understand that quickly. I will warn you, however, that any leniency you might expect from people while you get used to this environment will rapidly vanish if you go around making unreasonable demands of others like you’ve just done.”
Cassius growled, which was a bit scary. “I’m not being unreasonable, and I don’t appreciate you treating me like an idiot.”
“And I don’t appreciate you attempting to lay claim to other people’s belongings. Both of you have struggled somewhat with the appropriate way to treat my slaves while you are guests in my house.”
“That,” said Cyrus, “is a mischaracterization of…”
“Daniel,” said Theodore, taking Daniel’s hand. “Go wait in my study.”
Daniel blinked. Why? “But, Master…”
“No buts. Go.”
Daniel nodded, but hesitated. “You’re not going to sell Hugh to them, right?” He hated that his voice quivered, but he wouldn’t be able to handle it if Hugh left so suddenly.
“Of course not, that would be illegal,” Theodore promised, smiling. “Go wait for me in the study.”
“Yes, Master,” Daniel said quietly, sniffing. Of course Theodore wasn’t going to sell Hugh. He should have known that. He withdrew from the room, casting one last look at Cyrus, who looked at him too. He’d been so nice to Daniel, and Daniel had been so mean to him. But now he was doing this. Why was he doing this?
Daniel didn’t understand him and he didn’t like him either. He left the room, shutting his eyes as the door closed. Theodore had ordered him to go to the study. He wanted to go to the room, though. To go see Hugh and tell him everything was going to be okay. But Hugh probably wasn’t there anyway. He was probably with Neville, if he was even home. He’d gone out on like five dates with Gabe since they’d met too. He hardly ever spent time with the rest of them anymore.
Stupid Hugh. Now Daniel was all mixed up about who he was supposed to be annoyed with. And he was supposed to be smarter than that, so he was mostly annoyed with himself. What was wrong with him? He felt weird, like something was wrong, but he couldn’t figure out what it was.
He touched his collar. Yes, he could. There was something funny about it. He couldn’t quite remember, but Tiberius had said one of the side effects was cognitive…something. Daniel didn’t remember the words but he was supposed to take it off sometimes. He’d taken it off a while ago, he was pretty sure. Maybe he should take it off now just in case, maybe that was…
Theodore’s hands touched Daniel’s. “Daniel.”
Daniel jumped. “Master! I thought you were…”
“I am. But you seemed upset, so I just wanted to check on you.”
Daniel turned around, hugging him. “I feel funny.”
“It’s all right,” Theodore said, petting Daniel’s back. “You’re okay. Nevermind the study. Go to the bedroom and lay down, okay? I’ll be there shortly.”
“I’m not tired,” Daniel muttered. His head just felt weird.
“I know. But lay down anyway. I’ll tell you about the meeting when I come back.”
Daniel could have complained, but…he sighed. “Fine,” he said. He lingered in the hug for a second longer, then went off to the bedroom. Theodore didn’t pat his back as he went, and he wished he had.
He wasn’t mad anymore, at least. Or at least if he was he didn’t know who at. Maybe he would have a nap. A short one. To clear his head.
2 thoughts on “Slavery, 97”
…Yeah, that collar is DEFINITELY not good for Daniel.
Why is he putting himself through all these mind games? Just kill Theodore and be done with it.
Yeah, it’s definitely not a good thing for him, it’s playing havoc with his mental state already.
Why does Daniel put himself through most of what he does? On some level he’s been convinced (by himself or someone else) that he deserves it, I think. Or even that he enjoys it. Honestly at this point I don’t think he even considers killing Theodore an option anymore. He’s tied himself too strongly to Theodore. Which was arguably not a great call, but it’s the one he made.