Monday, June 30, 2014

February 20, part 2

I stopped cold.  Oses and I stared at each other across the few feet that separated us.  He was clearly as surprised as I was.  He was also naked, except for his collar.

Naked and ready to fight.  His gaze moved from me to the Ofetuchans looking down at us, cheering and jeering and laughing.  My Nobek stepped cautiously towards me, and I too moved, closing the gap.

“What is this, Shalia?” he asked. 

“I have no idea now.  I saw the weird bondage bed and assumed they were going to send in a Tragoom to rape me.”

“You wouldn’t survive such a thing.  Their cocks are as big around as your thigh.”


Finiuld stood up on one of his toadstool chairs and addressed the rest of his mob.  “You see the Kalquorian male, a beast of muscle and violence.  Nothing disturbs this creature more than being helpless.  Born to dominate, he cannot bear being vulnerable.  It is against everything in his alpha nature.”

“Which is why they don’t last long in captivity,” someone else noted.

“True,” the Little Creep acknowledged.  “And then you have the Earther female. Not much more than an incubator, existing simply to continue the species. The poor thing came from a society that subjugated its women.  She was bred to submit to her male masters in every way.”

I swear I almost laughed.  While we Earther women were pretty much second-class citizens to our government and the Church, I had often managed to bend the rules. My mother and I sure as hell weren’t bred into weakness. Most women I knew were not subservient, not to the degree Finiuld was reporting. What a bunch of morons Ofetuchans were.

I then thought, if Finiuld had that much wrong about my species, how many more mistaken ideas did he have?  And could I somehow use his lack of information against him?

Even more surprising was the reaction of the female Ofetuchans to the Little Creep’s statement.  They hissed like pissed off cats.  Their stares at me were furious, though I couldn’t be sure if they were mad at me for being subjugated or at my kind for subjugating me.  The men looked amazed.

Finiuld nodded sadly at his audience.  “Yes, yes, unthinkable, isn’t it?  Females as the inferior gender ... how bizarre.”

“Unnatural,” said one green-haired woman who sat near Finiuld. She had all of one couch to herself, like some queen. “Monstrous. The whole lot should be exterminated.”

“They almost have been, Glidas,” Finiuld said quickly, as if to placate her.  “At any rate, they are no better than any of the others we keep for our exhibits.  They have sentience, but no real chance of advancement.  They can never attain our level, so they are just like the others in the wild.”

There were a few murmurs of agreement.  Most of the women still looked affronted, especially Glidas the Green Haired.

Finiuld continued, his good humor working to overcome the pall of disgust that had descended on the group.  “I have also seen some signs Earthers can be taught better, if Shalia is any indication.  The Kalquorian, however, is most assuredly a lost cause.”

There was a lot of mean laughter over that sally.  Everyone up on the ledge was looking more relaxed again.  I looked at Oses to see how he was taking being insulted.  He didn’t seem to be paying attention to their conversation at all, though I had no doubt he heard every word said.  He was more interested in examining his surroundings, no doubt trying to figure out a way of escape or attack.

Finiuld’s good humor was getting that evil cast I’d learned to recognize.  His tombstone smile, turning to me, made every hair on my body stand up. 

He said, “I thought it might be fun to see the roles of these two lesser creatures reversed.  We’ll put their aberrant natures back on the right course, for a few minutes at least.  Shalia?”

I wanted to move right up against Oses, to take shelter in his strength.  However, I didn’t want to give Finiuld any reason to harm my friend and lover.  So I stood right where I was and answered.  “What?”

“You are in command of the Kalquorian.  He will be subservient to you and your pleasures.  You may begin by tying him on the platform.”

Oses went very still.  He stared at Finiuld with his eyes narrowed.

Okay so it was Oses, my actual lover, that they wanted me to have sex with.  Not some Tragoom with a tree trunk cock, not the amphibian-insectoid Dantovonian, and not the crazy vine-hanging Isetacian.  I still wasn’t up for having sex in front of an audience.  Especially not when they were looking at me with disgusted fascination.

I crossed my arms over my breasts, already feeling grossed out by the situation.  “You want me to tie Oses up?”

“That is my command.”

“And then you want me to have sex with him?”

“Absolutely.  For once, it will be you dominating a male.  One who does not like to be dominated.”

Under his breath, Oses muttered, “It depends on the situation.  The bastard doesn’t know as much as he thinks he does.”

I was startled to hear my Nobek friend say he could get into being on the receiving end.  Damn, Finiuld wasn’t the only one with misinformation.

That bit of intelligence was pushed firmly to the background, because I had to deal with the here and now.  “I won’t enjoy dominating him.  It’s not in my character.”  I didn’t know if that was true.  I’d never had the opportunity to be in charge of any man in a sexual situation.  The biggest thing for me was that I didn’t want to have sex for the Ofetuchans’ entertainment.  The thought turned my stomach.

“It’s a learned response.  You’ll get used to it,” Finiuld told me.  His eyes narrowed in warning.  “Do it.”

The look said it all.  If I continued to balk, punishment would happen.  Most likely to Oses, too.  The oft-repeated fantasy of taking Finiuld apart limb from limb was back.  My fingers actually twitched with the need to wrap around his throat, to yank on his arms and legs until they ripped free from his body.  The need to commit murder was abrupt and fierce.

Before I could do anything stupid, Oses went into motion.  He walked across the blue marble floor, right up to the platform.  He lay on his back amongst the pillows and spread his arms and legs wide, apparently ready to be tied up as Finiuld had commanded me to do.

Something in my stomach lurched to see that big, delicious body splayed like a decadent sensual sacrifice.  My girl parts, which had been decidedly quiet – revolted even by the idea of getting frisky for an audience – perked up.  My pussy loves it some Oses and obviously doesn’t care how it gets it.

The rest of me cared, however.  I went to the platform, hopped up and leaned over the Nobek to glare at him.  “What the hell are you doing?”

“Keeping you safe,” he answered.  “Be a good girl and tie me up good and tight.”

I could have strangled Oses.  “I am not having sex for their amusement.”

“Yes, you are.  You are going to use me and, if Finiuld tells you to, abuse me.  You will do it to keep your child safe.”  His eyes narrowed.  “That is an order, pet.  I am giving you power over me for our mutual satisfaction and to keep us breathing.”

Something in me drew in tight, like a puppy whimpering in a corner.  “Oses, this isn’t the kind of thing you like.”

He looked down at himself.  I looked too.  Damn if the bastard wasn’t erect ... and I mean ramrod straight.

I stared at him in shock.  He grinned.  “As I said, in the right situation I don’t mind being on the bottom.  Fucking you is always the right situation.”

“We’re waiting, Shalia.”  Finiuld’s voice dripped with threat now.

“In front of these assholes?” I hissed.  I couldn’t believe Oses was up for it.  Pun intended.

“I don’t see them.  They no longer exist, except for the threat they hold over my Matara.  I see only you, my beautiful mate.  Fuck me, however they want you to.  I am yours, and I am all that matters.” 

“Last warning.”  The Little Creep was sounding really pissed against the backdrop of the others’ snickers.

I did not want to be a performing monkey for the Ofetuchans.  I didn’t know the first thing about being in charge sexually.  Raped by Earther men, and then dominated by Kalquorians, I was kind of at a loss.

Yet here was Oses, splayed across that platform for my pleasure.  He did look delicious.  As much as I didn’t want to be turned on for the amusement of my captors, I was all warm and squishy inside contemplating him.  Plus, fucking Oses would keep him from being tortured or killed by Finiuld.

I swung a leg over the Nobek so that could kneel over him.  His eyes lit up.

“You are mine,” I told him, loud enough for everyone to hear.  “You will do as I want.  You will please me or suffer for it.”

Thursday, June 26, 2014

February 20, part 1

As near as I can figure, we were given two days of peace before Finiuld showed up again.  Better food than we’d had before was sent to us.  I assumed it was because I’d been such a good little pet and we were being rewarded.  The idea kind of made me lose my appetite, but Oses encouraged me to eat. 

“You and another need the strength,” he whispered to me when I picked at my food.  The one time I balked, he said in a warning voice.  “If I must carry on, then so do you.  Eat, or I’ll be angry.”

It was good to have the old dominating Oses back.  I was relieved to see him being big and bad, even in a cage.

The longer Finiuld stayed away, the more on edge I became.  By the end of the first day, I was convinced he’d show up at any moment.  Every little sound made me jump.  It wore on Oses’ nerves.

“By the ancestors, if I could knock you out without worrying it would harm you, I’d do it,” he said.  “We will work on your meditation skills.  Practice with me.”

“You meditate?”  The idea made me laugh.

The look Oses gave me shut me up quick.  “All Nobeks are taught to.  It calms us in stressful situations.  Sit down and do as I say.”

Well, it wasn’t like I had a ton of other things to while away my time with.  Sex was our only other recreation, but we felt kind of bad we could do it and the other prisoners couldn’t.  Plus there was that weirdness of being on public display.

So I sat with my legs crossed.  Oses spent a few minutes instructing me on keeping my posture just so.  It turns out I slump a lot, and he wanted me to sit up straight.  That Nobek was a pain with his perfectionism. 

Then there was all that advice about how to breathe.  For heaven’s sake, it’s breathing.  We do it all the time without thinking.  Yet I had to do it in such a way so that my stomach ballooned out and then sucked back in towards my spine.  “Fill your diaphragm,” Oses told me.

“I don’t even know where that is,” I retorted.  “Look, I haven’t dropped over dead yet, so apparently I’ve got this breathing thing down.  Stop being so picky.”

That got me rolled over and popped on my fanny a couple of times.  Then I had to get my sitting posture right again.

Finally, I was sitting and breathing to Oses’ liking.  Next came closing my eyes.

“Concentrate on your breath,” the Nobek said.  “Feel each individual inhalation entering your body.  Notice the moment of quiet before you exhale.  Then feel that breath leave you.”

I tried.  I breathed in and I breathed out.  I’d pay attention to it for a few seconds, then my mind would take off.  I’d think about what Finiuld might have in store for us next.  I thought about what I would do if he figured out I was pregnant.  I thought about Betra, Candy, and Katrina and wondered if they’d given up on us yet.  I thought about my dads and Clan Dusa.  Had anyone told them I’d gone missing?  Damn, Nayun would be frantic.  I’d already made him cry more times then I cared to remember.

“Shalia, come back to the breath.”

My eyes flew open.  “How do you always know?”

Oses chuckled.  “Because we all do it.  Thoughts always come.  You have to learn to let them pass by, to not get caught up in them.  Close your eyes and try again.”

And so it would go.  I tried to think only about breathing, then an idea or memory would sneak in, and I would fret and worry until Oses reminded me I wasn’t supposed to.

Meditation seems like it should be relaxing.  Instead, it’s one of the most frustrating things I’ve ever done.

Two days after my horrid experience at Finiuld’s party, I was making another attempt at it under Oses’ urging.  We were sitting on the ground, facing each other with about a foot of space between us.  I was struggling to keep my mind on my breathing when I heard a heavy thud.

My eyes flew open.  Oses was lying unconscious and Finiuld stood over him, his expression amused as he looked at me.  I damned near pissed myself as terror gripped me.

“Take off your clothes and let’s go,” the Little Creep said.  He held out his hand.

I wanted to scream.  I wanted to run and hide, though there was nowhere to go.  I did neither.  I stood, shrugged out of my shift, and took Finiuld’s hand.  He led me out of the containment.

We walked through walls, passing through rooms.  I saw what I thought were sleeping quarters, with small, Little Creep-sized beds and furniture.  I saw a room that seemed full of swirling mist and nothing else.  Then we entered a room that had actual doors all along the walls.  Each door was a different, bold color.  Finiuld pointed to a green one.

“That is yours.  Open it, take out what you find, and put it on.”

I frowned at him, not trusting the bastard for one second.  What could I do, though?  Finiuld was untouchable unless he willed otherwise, and I was screwed.  I went to the green door.

It didn’t open automatically, like most doors.  Nor was there a handle or any mechanism I could see. 

“Touch it, silly.”  Finiuld snorted at my apparent stupidity.

Since my back was turned to him, I took the opportunity to scowl and silently mouth nasty words.  I reached and touched my fingertips to the green surface in front of me.

The door swung outward rather than disappearing into the wall.  I jerked back to avoid being hit.  Then a metal bar and a few items suspended from it slid out of the space within.

My brows rose at the things I was apparently supposed to wear.  Everything was made of shiny pink plastic-y stuff.  There wasn’t much of it, except for the boots.  The boots were platform and once on, would make me at least six inches taller.  The backs would end just below my knees, but the fronts were going to cover up to mid-thigh.

The rest of the outfit was some psycho’s version of underclothes.  The psycho was probably Finiuld.  The underpants were little more than a waistband, side strips of pink material, and straps meant to wrap around my upper legs.  The bra had no cups. 

“Are you serious?” I asked the Little Creep.  “I might as well just put the boots on and nothing else for all it will cover.”

“Put it on,” he said, his tombstone grin more nasty than usual.  “I don’t want you late for your performance.”

I thought he must be planning to subject me to another awful party.  It made me feel sick inside, but I’d survived the first one.  I’d get through it again.

I put the stupid garbage on.  Everything fit, so Finiuld had been sure to get my proper measurements.  What a guy.

As soon as I was wearing the ridiculous getup, he took my hand again.  “Let’s go.  And mind you give us a good show.”

I had no idea what he meant by that.  Was I supposed to be a good little pony or dog or table again?  I didn’t like it, but I could handle it if it was no worse than last time.  I took it as a warning from Finiuld to mind, or else.  More of the usual, in other words.

We went through two more rooms, again decked out like what I took to be bedrooms.  Without using halls and corridors, it was hard to get a feel for how the ship was laid out, but I did my best.  If Oses and I somehow managed to get our hands on the Little Creep’s phase device, we were going to need to know how to get around the ship.

Finiuld stopped me in front of a wall and grinned up at me.  He looked like a really gross kid anticipating Christmas morning.  “Enjoy yourself,” he chuckled.

With that, he pushed me forward through the wall, releasing me as soon as I was through.  I blinked at my surroundings.

I was in a rounded room that took me several seconds to recognize as the place I’d nicknamed the Arena.  The ledge was well over my head, and the seating up there was filled to capacity.  There must have been well over a hundred Otetuchans relaxing up there, eating, drinking, smoking their incense sticks and wearing their incredibly loud and ugly clothes. 

The blue marbled flooring beneath my feet and the battle frescos on the wall around me were the other clue that clinched my location for me.

What caused my initial confusion was the sight of a raised platform in the middle of the floor.  The rectangular surface was covered in linens, hued in a headache-inciting rainbow of the hectic colors Finiuld and his kind seemed to prefer.  Fat, fluffy pillows scattered across it.  There were pillars at the corners of the platform.  My mouth went dry to see chains and shackles attached to those pillars.

It was a setting for captive sex.  I was apparently going to be raped for Finiuld and his guests’ entertainment. 

At that moment, I knew I’d reached my limit.  There was no way I would give myself to God-knew-what to amuse these nasty little bastards.  No fucking way.  I’d told Oses I had survived worst than Finiuld’s party, and I had.  But the situation I was looking at was more than I wanted to survive.  Fuck no.  Not now, not ever, not for any reason.  It would mean Oses’ death for me to refuse, but I had no intention of surviving beyond him.  I would find a way to die long before chancing my child being born into this.  Death for us all was preferable for this slice of Hell.

I would not willingly get on that platform and I would fight whoever the Little Fucking Creep sent in to fuck me.  I would do whatever it took to not be taken, and I didn’t care that it might be a fellow prisoner who might face death if he didn’t overcome me.  I would show no mercy.

Movement at the corner of my eye caught my attention. A large body materialized next to the wall on my right, stumbling into view much as I must have when Finiuld shoved me into the Arena.  My first thought was it must be my would-be rapist.  More naked than not, knowing how vulnerable I truly was, I nevertheless readied myself to attack, to strike first and gain whatever advantage I could.

It was Oses.

Monday, June 23, 2014

February 18, Part 2

Oses was pacing back and forth in the cage when we arrived, my abandoned fur shift clutched in his fist.  Finiuld gave me the same old Death-to-the-Nobek warning he loved so much before bringing me inside.  Then he let go of me. Oses, who was facing me from across the enclosure, nearly jumped out of his skin at my abrupt appearance.  He raced over.

“Shalia!  Are you all right?  I woke up and you weren’t here and I was sure the worst—”

He stopped yapping.  His arms went around me, holding me close.  He glared around the habitat, as if looking fierce meant a damned thing to Finiuld. 

“I’m okay,” I told him.  “Just fucking exhausted.  I need some water, Oses.”

“Of course, my poor Matara.”  He picked me up and carried me the short distance to our cave where he set me down.  “Don’t move.  The service left water and food a couple of hours ago.”

Oses collected the meal that had come for me in my absence and brought it over.  It was only then that I realized I was actually hungry as well as thirsty.  I’d been too disheartened to notice.  My sweetheart fed me and took care of everything without asking what had happened.  The only thing he did ask was, “Were you injured?  Someone has been spanking you to judge from the redness of your ass.”

I shook my head and kept eating.  Between mouthfuls I managed, “I’m okay.  I’ll tell you everything in a moment.”

The food and water revived my flagging energy a bit, enough that when I was finished I shared the harrowing ordeal with Oses.  I waited to the very end of my story to tell him the bit I’d heard about the pulsar screwing up another ship’s power, its connection to our collar controls, and the phase mechanism.  I was hoping that Finiuld had left by then and wouldn’t overhear.

Oses mused about the information for a few minutes.  While he thought, I curled up in his lap, snuggling against his chest for comfort.  I was so glad to be with him again, even if my poor Nobek couldn’t really keep me safe.  Just having him there gave me strength.

His voice rumbled through his chest against my ear when he did speak.  “So the collars and phase device are powered by something on the ship.  Somewhere on here is a mechanism or computer that’s running them.”

“That’s good information, huh?” I asked, hoping I’d helped our situation somehow.

“Any intelligence is worth having.  It’s not like the usual collar systems, like the Bi’is have.  That would explain why Finiuld didn’t collar you on the space station.”

I leaned back to look Oses in the face.  “How is it different?”

“Bi’isils use a system in which the collar controller is on their person.  It has to be recharged from time to time, but it’s completely portable.  I thought perhaps Finiuld’s controller might be similar, but it would seem not.”

I considered.  “It would be easier if he did carry it around.  We could have hoped to get it from him.”

“It’s more defensible to not get collared in the first place, but once he gets these things around our necks, they’re a damned sight harder to break free of.  Just touching him makes us senseless from pain. I must make myself get past that somehow if I’m ever to overpower him.”  Oses fell silent again.  His brow furrowed as he thought more about our situation.

I sighed.  “We can’t grab the phase thingy off him either.  Not that it matters.  Even if we could, with a single command he’s got us writhing on the floor, screaming our heads off.”

Oses looked at me.  I felt something inside me go cold as all emotion drained from his eyes. 

He told me, “As hard as I try to figure this out, I can’t seem to find a way to save you from the situation.  I can’t protect you against this monster.  I’m of no use to you, Shalia.”

Terror filled me.  I thought perhaps Oses was thinking of killing himself.  The dead quality of his voice told me he was giving up.

I clutched at him.  “I need you, Oses.  Just having you here to hold me is restoring my sanity after that awful party.  If anything happens to you, I won’t survive it.”

I’m not sure he heard me. His gaze went distant as he said, “This feeling of helplessness ... I can’t bear it.  One failure, one loss was enough.  I can’t do this again.”

I stared at him.  “When have you ever failed?”

Oses blinked and seemed surprised I was there.  He’d gone away for a few moments, somewhere awful.  I didn’t really want to know where that place was.  If it left my big, bad Nobek in despair, it had to be the worst imaginable situation ever.

There was such pain in his eyes.  Nobeks might not be much for venting grief, but there is no doubt they feel it.  I might not have wanted to know what it was that made Oses feel so beyond hope, but I needed to know.  Not just for myself, though I admit to that selfish impulse.  My Nobek needed me for his survival as much as I needed him for mine.  He didn’t have to say it for me to figure it out.  Sometimes I’m not so dense.

“Tell me,” I insisted.  “What did you do that makes you feel you’ve failed somehow?”

He took a long time to answer.  I thought he might not.  Finally, however, he relented.

“It’s what I didn’t do,” Oses said.  “I let my brother die.  I stood there and watched him drown and did nothing to stop it.”

The story is as sad as one can be.  Oses had an older brother, one who’d been classified as an Imdiko.  He’d been much gentler boy than Oses, but that didn’t keep him from acting like an older brother might:  occasionally bossy, teasing, and playing tricks.  Oses alternated between idolizing and despising this sibling named Roweld, depending on what stage the rivalry was at.

“It was during one summer when it happened.  I was all of eight years old, and Roweld was ten.  I lived at the training camp as most Nobek boys do, and I’d come home for a scheduled visit with my family.  Our parent clan surprised us with a trip to the beach.  We’d been to the local lake for water sports before, but having never visited the coastal shoreline, we were ecstatic.”

They’d spent the next two weeks as boys would, building sand fortresses, playing games, learning to body surf.  Brotherly rivalry often meant competition between the pair.

“Roweld was older, bigger, and therefore usually better at most things,” Oses said, his eyes getting that faraway look once more.  “However, I was going through rigorous physical training in camp, so I was pretty sure I’d finally be able to beat him in a few of our games.  I challenged him to see who could swim the farthest.”

There had been a sandbar a short distance from the shore.  The idea was to see who could swim back and forth the most laps before giving up.  Roweld had taken the challenge up, delighted to put his upstart brother in his place.

“He’d always been the faster swimmer,” Oses remembered.  “I was certain he could still beat me over a short distance, but I felt I could outlast him.  Speed was his strength, but endurance was mine.”

The boys commenced the challenge.  Their parents had been nearby, sitting and talking with another clan taking in the sun-soaked beach that day. 

“I have no doubt they checked on us from time to time,” Oses said.  “But it takes only a minute of distraction for tragedy to come.”

As Oses had thought, Roweld pulled ahead fairly quickly.  The young Nobek didn’t let that bother him.  He kept swimming, plowing through the water to reach the sandbar, turning back to shore, and doing it again.  The current was strong, fighting him.  Around the third lap, he caught up to Roweld.  By the fifth, he was well ahead of his older brother.

“I reached the shore and looked to see where he was.  I could see Roweld out near the sandbar.  I noticed he wasn’t really swimming anymore, just kind of bobbing up and going under the water, over and over.  He would show up farther and farther to my right each time.  I thought he was trying to trick me into thinking he was being pulled under by some animal and dragged away.  I just laughed and waved to show him I wasn’t falling for his games.  But he kept doing it, except him coming up was happening slower and slower.”

There was a sudden yell from behind Oses.  His Nobek father raced past him, diving into the surf and swimming with strong, quick strokes towards where Roweld had been the last time he’d come up.  The water there was now unbroken, but for the waves. 

“My other fathers followed him in, along with the men of the clan they’d been talking to.  It was only then that I realized Roweld had not been trying to trick me.  I didn’t know how quiet drowning was.  I didn’t know all his strength was being spent in fighting his way to the surface to draw a breath of air.  There were no cries for help.  There was no flailing wildly to get our attention.  He just came up and went down again until he couldn’t come up anymore.”

They found Roweld fifteen minutes later.  By then it was too late.  The current had grabbed him and pulled him away from the last place he’d been seen, making his safe recovery impossible.

“You were a child,” I told Oses, while sobbing over the loss of a little boy I’d never met.  “You said yourself you didn’t know he was drowning.  How could you?  It wasn’t your fault.”

“Perhaps not,” he said, his gaze still far off in that awful place where older brothers die.  “But I stood there and watched him.  I laughed as he drowned.  I failed to keep him safe, the way a Nobek should keep an Imdiko safe.”

“Surely your parents didn’t blame you?”

“No, they blamed themselves.  We were in counseling a long time to come to grips with what had happened to Roweld.  It was a terrible tragedy, and we all suffered horribly from it.” 

Oses drew a deep breath and looked at me.  His face twisted a little, as if just the sight of me was the equivalent of shoving a knife in his guts.  “I swore after Roweld died that I would never again fail to protect those weaker than me.  And yet here we are.  You are being harmed, and I cannot stop it.  Just as I could have saved Roweld, I should be able to save you.”

I reached up and grabbed his face between my hands.  “You are saving me, Oses.  Maybe not the way you feel you should, but you are my sanity.  You and the hope of finding a way out of this mess is what’s keeping me together.”

His gaze dropped.  He refused to look me in the eyes.  “I am doing nothing.  Just as before.  I am standing aside and watching you drown.”

“The only way you can fail me is by not being here.  Without you, I will give up.  You are keeping me above water, Oses.  Not having you will be the reason I drown.”

“You can’t mean that.  You have to despise me for not saving you.”

“Listen to me,” I said, digging my fingertips in his jaw.  His eyes snapped up to meet mine, giving me hope that I might reach him after all.  “I have endured much worse than being treated like an animal.  In the past, I have been raped.  I have been attacked.  People have done their best to kill me.  I survived all that, and I will survive this as long as you’re here to remind me I have a reason to.  Don’t you fucking turn coward and leave me alone to do this by myself.  I will never forgive you.”

Oses blinked.  His mouth dropped open, and I saw a flash of anger.  Inside, I cheered. Calling him a coward had done what begging and reason could not. Pissed-off Oses was a damned sight better than hopeless Oses, even if his anger was directed at me.

I watched as he dealt with his emotions, willing him to find his strength and not use it to pound me into jelly.  I could have screamed with joy when I saw the dangerous light that was so much a part of his personality return to his eyes.

“I am here,” he declared with a growl.  “I accept the challenge of being your strength.  I will always be here for as long as you want and need me.  Do not let my momentary weakness ever make you suspect otherwise.”

Relief nearly made me faint.  I had my Nobek back.