228 The Meaning of Comfort*
Ebony breathed out a sigh of relief as she placed the jug she'd been carrying down on one of the tables inside the server's room. When that man had touched her like that...she'd been seething, ready to knock him on his ass despite the fact that she'd only ever fought with Aegin or given guidance to the other slave women. It had been happening more frequently the last few months. The Slave Master getting less and less annoyed by the creeping hands of his guests. She'd kept it from Aegin, positive that he'd do something stupid like challenge the Master again. She figured he was in enough trouble of his own without adding her problems to the mix.
And they were problems. Mostly because she couldn't seek help from anyone but the other slaves. She couldn't retaliate, because that would mean punishment, but likely not for her alone. They had Aegin, and Ebony knew that they would use him however they saw fit, which likely meant they'd be inventive in giving their punishments outside of the Arena seeing as he tended to cope so well inside it.
The door to the serving room opened, and Ebony's break from outside was over. She turned to refill the jug she'd been carrying, only to find Lord Revierre, the man who had touched her, the visiting dignitary who had challenged the Reapers, standing in the doorway. And he didn't look all that happy. Based on the cheering outside she could guess what had happened.
"Lord Revierre, the restroom is three doors down on your left," Ebony's voice was soft and timid but persuasive. It had been her only voice for many years in her life. Show them you are the Servant, their lesser, yet convince them not to hurt you.
Lord Revierre's eyes narrowed, "I'm not looking for a restroom".
Ebony decided to continue to play timid and naive, "Oh? What are you looking for then, Lord Revierre? This is the Serving Room, there is not much here but refills that any of us can provide to you outside-"
He stalked towards her, "Do you know what that husband of yours did to my men?"
Ebony's eyes dulled. Okay, persuasion wasn't going to work, he was in close quarters, stepping past the invisible line that marked the space that she considered personal. Not that she had such a thing as a slave but it was the thought that counted.
"He slaughtered them, like they were nothing but playthings. I've trained those men for years, they were unmatched!" Lord Revierre snapped.
Clearly not, Ebony thought, but decided it best that the thought not even show in her eyes.
"The way I figure it, the Slave Master has to owe me something considerable, why not one of those Reapers' women?" said Lord Revierre, "That should be a fair price, don't you think?"
He went to take a step forward as the door swung open behind them. Neva, one of the other slave girls, the one that served the Madame directly, stepped through, pausing when she saw Ebony. Her eyes widened as she took in the scene and her lips moved before Lord Revierre could lift his foot from the ground.
"Ebony, the Madame is asking for you," Neva stated.
"Of course," Ebony said. She moved to sidestep Lord Revierre, but he grabbed her around the waist and pushed her back with force. Ebony hit the table, jostling it as she grabbed it to stop her fall. He stepped in close, far too close.
"You're not going anywhere," he growled, a hand clamping around her breast hard. She gasped from the pain, and he grinned, "See, you are at little slut aren't you? Just like all the others. You want this".
Ebony opened her mouth to protest, only to find it roughly invaded by the foul man. He tasted of wine and the snacks they'd served, and some tobacco concoction that Ebony found absolutely revolting. She froze, unsure what to do. Half of her fought to push him away, horrified by his violating mouth and grabby, wandering hands. The other half, the meek slave she'd practiced being all her life, told her to remain frozen and pliant.
What would Aegin think?
The thought wondered in unbidden. She had no idea where it had come from, yet she found she absolutely cared about the answer. If he'd known that she'd frozen after all he'd taught her, what would he think of her?
Suddenly, Lord Revierre was pulled away from her, and she met the Madame's cold gaze across the room.
"I think Lord Revierre has had a little too much to drink, escort him to his room and send a few of the prettier ones to keep him company," the Madame ordered, her eyes never leaving Ebony. Ebony felt shame fill her body. A wave of it pushing past her defenses and folding her shaky hands over her body. She knew the look in the Madame's eyes. The warning.
Time was up on the Slave Master's deal with Aegin, and next time, there was a good chance the Madame wouldn't stop it either.
What will he think? What will he think? What will he think?
The thought repeated over and over in Ebony's mind for hours following the incident with Lord Revierre. She knew she had to tell him. They'd only had each other to rely on after Rassa had died. They sought comfort in each other regularly, even if it had never gone beyond friendship. But that comfort meant the world to Ebony, and as she was walked down to the underground floor where the Warrior's lived, Ebony found herself wanting more than anything to erase what had just been done to her. To seek something other than words and hand holding.
The door opened and Ebony stepped inside, seeing Aegin sitting on the cot he'd been given as he usually was. The door shut behind her and he stood, a smile on his face.
"Hey Eb, so I thought today we could focus on-"
He couldn't speak another word as Ebony grabbed his shirt and pulled him down to her level. Couldn't speak because his mouth was preoccupied. He froze in confusion as Ebony crushed her lips to his. Ebony didn't know if that was a good thing or a bad thing considering she knew he hadn't been expecting it. So, instead of pulling away, she parted her lips and made a tentative swipe of her tongue. Once, twice.
Aegin's lips parted and he delved into her mouth as she did his. Their tongues battling as they would have sparred. Her showing all the fierceness but him eventually winning. Ebony moved her hands up from his chest to his face, then in his hair as she sunk into him, trying to get closer and encourage him to do something, anything in return. Anything to erase what had happened. But his hands moved oh so slowly, so carefully, as if terrified he'd break her. They sat lightly on her hips, then when she moved closer they rubbed her back as if comforting a crying child. That was the catalyst.
Ebony broke away, staring up into his lavender eyes that looked softer, more caring than she'd ever seen them, "Fucking do something!"
She moved to step back into him but his hands were strong enough on her hips to hold her back from another kiss, but certainly close enough to him that she was still in his embrace.
The question froze her. Stopped any action she had in mind as she looked up into his eyes. Eyes that asked the very same question, but conveyed more. They told her it was okay, whatever had happened, it was okay to tell him. Ebony wasn't positive how long they stood there, but she felt it as the tears began to track down her cheeks. Her throat clogged with her shame, with her pain, and she closed her eyes, dipping her head into his chest. She sobbed and he wrapped his arms around her picking her up and taking her onto his cot. She folded into his lap, sobbing into his chest as he trailed a hand up and down her back, holding one of her hands all the while. He said nothing, just waited for her to stop crying enough to talk and answer his question.
Eventually, she had no choice.
"The deal's off," she whispered, "And I don't know how long I'll last until I'm sent to serve in someone's bed rather than pour their wine".
She felt Aegin's hands still before his head dipped and he pressed his lips to the crown of her head, "Okay. I'll see what I can do".
She looked up quickly, fast enough that he barely got out of the way before she headbutted him, "Aegin, don't be stupid".
"This isn't the 'challenge the Slave Master' kind of stupid I was two years ago," Aegin argued.
Ebony sighed in relief as she bowed her head.
"This is the 'we're getting off this gods forsaken island one way or another' kind of stupid," Aegin continued.
Ebony couldn't help the huffed laugh that escaped her lips, "So what you're saying is, you've gotten more stupid in the past two years?"
Aegin shrugged, "There's no Rassa to rescue us now. Considering the months we spent along before he died, I'm pretty sure there never would have been. We get out. And we do it with our own power".
Ebony rested her head on his chest once more as she leaned into him, "Agreed".