They spent the rest of the afternoon sharing the details of their lives since the day Lindy had been driven home and Liz had been left behind. Liz kicked her shoes off and laid down on the couch on her side.
“Ryan wants me to rest a little every day, though he knows today is different.”
“I don't want to get you into trouble.”
“You wouldn’t be in trouble. It's my consequence if I disobey, not yours.”
“But you said he was mad at Jen...I mean Ms. Aldriss... too, over the brownies.”
“I’ll explain the difference another time; I can't right now. But you’re off the hook no matter what I do.” She settled herself, then groaned. “Would you mind grabbing me a large glass of soy milk? I have to drink one every afternoon. Help yourself to whatever you want.”
“If you hate it that much, why don't you pour it down the drain?”
“Because that's dishonest, because he trusts me, and because I ate the brownies and now have to live with the consequences.”
Lindy brought Liz the glass half-full, but Liz looked at her and shook her head. Lindy went back and filled it up to the top and watched Liz choke it down.
As the afternoon wore on, they both grew sleepy. Liz apologized to Lindy as she drifted off, but Lindy was already mostly asleep in a big soft chair.
Lindy awoke when the front door opened, but she stayed still with her eyes closed, not ready to make nice with Ryan yet. She heard him walk over to Liz, and through squinting eyes, saw him kiss her on the forehead to wake her.
“Hi,” he whispered.
“Hi, Master,” she said back with a soft smile.
“How did it go?” He gestured towards where Lindy pretended to be asleep.
“Probably as good as it could have gone. I think she's a bit freaked out by you right now.”
He chuckled. “Should I do my impersonation of harsh and overbearing Master just to give her fears some reality?”
Lindy watched incredulously as Liz punched him in the arm. “Don't you dare. She'll run screaming back to Edwal.”
“OK, I promise to behave. Say, look what I found today.” He opened a shopping bag and pulled out two brown stuffed bears. “They're twins, see? They have their arms around each other, but you can separate them if you want to.” He detached one from the other. Liz smiled and pulled him down to kiss. He patted her tummy.
“Are they kicking around?”
“Gods, yes. They hate soy milk as much as I do.”
He put his ear to her distended belly and they both laughed as one of the babies visibly kicked out.
“Was that Baby One or Baby Two?”
“Baby Two, I think. When One kicks, it's usually on my bladder. We have got to choose names for them!”
“Did you drink your soy milk this afternoon?”
“Yes, Master, I did.”
He gave her another kiss. “Good girl. I’m going to take a shower. What's on the menu for dinner?”
“Oooh, your homemade seven-layer?”
He walked away whistling. Lindy tried to absorb all she had just witnessed. If anyone had asked her, she might have admitted to feeling jealous of the obvious love they had for each other. She stirred and pretend to wake.
Liz was propped up on her arm, still lying on the couch. “Hey, sleepyhead. We both passed out.”
“Well, I’ve spent the last six months on a hard cot in a room full of snoring women. What's your excuse for being so tired?” Lindy teased back.
“Help me up?” Liz asked.
Lindy hopped up and helped Liz to her feet. “Want to help me make lasagna?”
“I haven't had anything like lasagna for years,” Lindy sighed. After her husband had kicked her out she’d been barely subsisting, until she'd been rounded up to use as "cannon fodder" when Palm attacked Orre.
“Then come on.”
Before long they slipped the large pan into the oven and they were sitting at the table, Lindy with a glass of wine and Liz with a glass of water.
They were laughing over something when Ryan walked back in. Lindy's laugh stopped cold as she saw him. She resisted the urge to scramble to her feet. Ryan smiled and walked over. He picked up her hand and kissed the back of it.
“Welcome to our home. We are so glad you are here.”
“T-thank you.” she stuttered, her gaze dropping to the table and hating herself for feeling intimidated.
“So,” he said, turning to Liz and giving her a kiss on the cheek, “How long till dinner?”
“Pour yourself some wine and have a seat. I just have to get my food together.”
Lindy looked at her quizzically as she turned to the refrigerator. Liz pulled out several items and Lindy watched in confusion as what looked like a cold baked potato, a dish of plain yogurt, salad greens without dressing, and another large glass of the hated soy milk made their appearance in front of one chair. The she retrieved the bubbling lasagna from the oven and placed two more salads with dressing in front of Lindy and Ryan.
Liz sat in front of the baked potato and proceeded to scoop out steaming servings of lasagna onto Lindy's and Ryan’s plates. Then she sat back and picked up her own fork, ready to cut into the potato in front of her.
Lindy looked at her in confusion. Liz smiled back, understanding. “I'm on restriction, remember?”
Suddenly Lindy's appetite vanished and she pushed her plate away. Liz and Ryan exchanged a glance.
“Lindy, please eat. It's okay, I promise.”
Liz reached over and took Lindy's hand. Lindy let it stay limp, declining to accept the reassurance Liz was trying to offer. Ryan nodded to Liz. She pulled her hand away and cut another small piece of lasagna and put it on her own plate. She picked up her fork and cut a piece and started eating. Lindy relaxed a little and pulled her plate back. It really was delicious.
Liz winked at her, and turned to Ryan. “How did the meeting go?”
“There's a reason I never went into politics. God, I can't stand people who are so obviously lying when they talk.”
“The problem is, most other people can't tell when someone is lying. You can spot a lie at a hundred yards,” she grinned.
“I had a lot of practice on you,” he teased.
She huffed. “I never lie! Well, hardly ever. But I’m super smart and I can get around you easy.”
“Hey, missy, was that disrespect coming from your mouth?”
“Nossir. Nossir. Not a bit,” she said quickly with a smile.
“Hmmmm. I don't know. I think my lie detector is kicking in.”
She looked at him with big wide eyes. “You wouldn't spank a pregnant woman, would you?” She fluttered her lashes at him.
“In a heartbeat. If we didn't have a guest, right here, right now.”
Lindy was staring at them open mouthed. She realized they were looking at her and she quickly buried herself in her dinner, her cheeks flaming. They both laughed.
“I think I’ve overwhelmed our guest just a little,” Ryan stage-whispered to Liz. “Maybe we should change the subject.” Liz nodded.
He cleared his throat. “So, Lindy, what would you like to do first while you are here?”
She looked back and forth, nonplussed at the turn in the conversation. “Um,” she cleared her throat, “I think I need to use a little of my stipend to get some clothes. These are actually the only ones I have.” She was still wearing the grey cotton pants and shirt she had been issued at the camp.
“Of course we can go shopping, but you know, I have a whole closet full of things I can't wear right now that would probably fit you. All skirts, though; no pants. Hmmm.. no underwear either.”
Lindy looked back and forth between them. “I think I’ll pass on asking why. Skirts are fine until I get some stuff for myself. Except I don’t have any money or a real job.” Lindy looked down at her half-eaten plate, her appetite gone. All she wanted was to find a place she could call home. It hadn't been in Edwal since she'd returned from being a hostage and learning how corrupt the government was; it hadn't been with Jake, who blamed her for everything wrong with their marriage. Her eyes started to tear up.
“Hey,” Ryan said as he put his hand under her chin to lift it up. “Look at me.” She closed her eyes instead. “Lindy, please look at me.”
She finally opened them, the tears spilling out. He kept his hand under her chin as he looked her in the eyes.
“We made a promise to take care of you and we’re going to. Liz wasn’t asking you to help us out with the babies for free. We’d like to hire you officially, starting as soon as you can.”
“Liz is having a hard time getting around. She needs to be lying down more. I have had to do a lot of the grocery shopping lately, something I’m not very good at.”
Lindy saw Liz behind Ryan, making a face of horror and shaking her head. Lindy choked back a laugh and Ryan looked over his shoulder at Liz, who had a completely straight face. “I'll deal with you, later,” he threatened.
He turned back to Lindy. “Anyhow, we desperately need some help, and just to reassure you this isn't a pity job, I can show you the names of the agencies we've been calling to see about hiring help. You being released was a godsend, if you're interested in the job. It's kind of a glorified housekeeping/maid/companion job.”
“Yes. Oh, yes. I would love to!” she cried happily.
He sat back. “Just to make this official, let me lay out the terms. You get a room all to yourself, which is your private area that we will not enter without being invited. Liz and I always discuss what needs to be accomplished each day – and that includes what I have to do too – so I’ll expect your input and then expect everything on the list to be done, unless there’s a good reason. I’m not an ogre, I promise.” He grinned. “You'll share our meals of course, and you’ll get money for personal expenses.” He named a figure that sounded like a fair amount.
She nodded. “That sounds fine.”
“There's one more thing. I know you and Liz talked today and she explained a little about our relationship. First, it's important that you know I love her so much I would die for her. And everything I do centers around her well being and the well being of our marriage. I’m not perfect; Liz will be more than happy to tell you all about that I’m sure.”
Liz looked at him with a wide-eyed innocent look.
POW camp in Orre, six months after defeating Edwal
At last the gate to the camp opened and Lindy was free to go. She ran to Liz and they hugged tight, the separation of the last few years falling away in only a moment.
When they pulled apart, Lindy's gaze fell to Liz’s bulging belly.
“Oh my god,” She looked back and forth between Liz's face and her stomach. “How far along are you?”
“Six months,” replied Liz with a grin. “I was already pregnant when I saw you before, but I didn't know it.”
“Six months? Really?” Lindy looked skeptical.
“Well, yeah – with twins.”
“Oh, wow! Boys, girls?”
“Two girls!” She caught Lindy’s gaze behind her and turned to the tall man towering over them both. “Lindy, this is my husband, Ryan Benault.”
Lindy stared up at him for a long moment before taking his outstretched hand. Liz couldn’t blame her caution - the only thing Lindy knew about him was that he was the slave trainer who had taken Liz away when everyone else had gone home.
“I’m very glad to meet you, Lindy. You helped Liz get through a very difficult time in her life.”
“I - um, thank you.” She pulled her hand away, looking awkward and uncomfortable.
He smiled. “Let's head back to our apartment. Liz has made lunch. I have some things to take care of today so I’ll have to leave you two there.”
~ ~ ~
Liz saw Lindy try not to wolf down lunch, but Liz knew how boring and scant the camp food had been and didn’t blame her. Once Lindy slowed down, she looked up at Liz.
“Are you sure it's OK if I stay with you for a while?”
“You have to,” Liz replied. “The only way we could get permission for you to stay in Orre and not get sent back to Edwal was to agree to sponsor you for at least a year. But yes, of course it's okay. In fact, we’re hoping you would be interested in helping us out.” She patted her tummy.
“I would love to!” Lindy breathed, her face alight with a smile. “Really?”
“God, yes – we’re kind of panicky, to be honest. Ryan thought it would be perfect. We’re going to look for a bigger place to rent, with at least three bedrooms. We aren't sure how long we’ll be here. Things are kind of interesting right now.” She took a deep breath. “We’re closely involved with the new government.”
“What do you mean? Wait – you were at the Weiss place, where Chairwoman Aldriss was. Do you know her?”
Liz chuckled. “Yes, you could say that. She's my best friend. Ryan and her husband worked together, and she’s the reason we're here in Orre. We thought we might have her over for dinner tomorrow night. Her husband Michael is back in Alaine and she gets lonely.”
Lindy’s mouth dropped open. “Maybe you should catch me up on everything.”
Liz spend the next hour recounting her enslavement and training, Jenny’s arrival at the estate and hiding from Elias Palm, the attack on the Weiss Estate, revealing Jenny as the rightful Heir, and then her kidnapping during the brief war that Lindy had been conscripted for and captured during. Lindy listened in silence except for an occasional “wow!” or “seriously?”
“Then, Ryan and I got married.”
Liz knew what was coming, and she and Ryan talked for a long time about what to say and how to explain. In the end they’d decided that honesty was the only way to go.
“He was your Master while you were a slave.” Lindy began.
“And you got married, and he just gave it up? Or is he still training slaves? But you are here now, so he must not be...”
Liz took a deep breath. “He's not training, no. He's working with Jenny as an adviser. But Lindy, there's something you need to know before you agree to anything, and we took a risk that you would be okay being here because the alternative was going back to Edwal and I knew how much you didn't want to do that, so now you are here and I hope you can be okay, but you certainly don't have to help us with the babies and after a year you can leave....” She ran out of breath.
Lindy chuckled. “Liz, just tell me whatever the hell it is that you’re having trouble telling me.”
Liz dropped her eyes to her hands, clasped tight around her knees. “I stayed at the Weiss Estate after my two years were up, because I found that … I felt very fulfilled being a slave.”
There was a pause. “Go on,” Lindy said.
“I was freed when Ryan and I got married, and we tried to have an ordinary relationship. But it wasn't working. I … I wanted things to stay the way they were. I was much happier.... with a Master.” She raised her eyes to stare in Lindy’s, waiting for the look of revulsion she was afraid she would see, but Lindy's face was inscrutable.
“I need to make it clear that I asked – actually, I begged – Ryan to continue to be my Master. He agreed.”
“I'll bet he did,” Lindy snorted.
Liz ignored the remark, plowing ahead. “He was very reluctant, but he agreed after we set up some rules. If I ever feel that I am overwhelmed with our arrangement, I can call it quits, and we’ll figure something else out.”
“And have you ever tested that theory?” Lindy crossed her arms.
“Actually, yes. When we first found out I was pregnant with twins, he started treating me with kid gloves. I mean, I couldn't go shopping because he said I might be too far from a bathroom. He sent me to bed at eight o’clock every night. He stopped doing all the things that, well, that gave me comfort, in the name of protecting me. I needed my Master, not a babysitter, and when he wouldn't listen to me I told him I wasn't going to be his... um, I wasn't going to continue with our arrangement any more. I even left him for a few days." The worst days of her life. "I was trying to shock him, and I did, and we figured it out.” There was a lot more to the story than that, but it would save.
Lindy was silent for a minute. “So...what exactly does this mean? Do you have to do everything he says or he'll beat you?”
Liz could hear the hostility in her voice and knew it was loyalty to Liz that put it there.
“If I did everything he told me to do he'd die of shock. Seriously, though, what it means is that he is the captain of our ship. What he says, goes, but just like the captain he listens to everything his crew has to say because he respects the crew – me. It's kind of like Helios and Tella.” She knew Lindy was familiar with the ancient legend of the Sun God and the Earth Goddess, and how she made him the center of her existence, circling around him while he showered life onto her.
“Did you know I took your father's class at the university?” Lindy asked softly. Liz shook her head. She hadn’t known Lindy back then. “I remember how much he clearly loved that legend, and how dismissive his class was of his interpretation.”
“What they didn't know was that my mother was Tella to his Helios every day of their marriage. I didn't realize it until I put things together during a conversation with Ryan a long time ago.”
Lindy’s shoulders relaxed a little. “So what exactly does this mean?”
“Ryan is my Master. You’ll hear me call him that, though I’m going to try to tone it down a bit for a while. He loves me and cherishes me and puts me above everything else, and in return I give him obedience. Most of the time. And when I don't, there are consequences.”
Lindy sat up straight again. “ 'Consequences?' You mean punishments? Like what they did to me the day we were taken as hostages?” Lindy had panicked and lashed out and hit a soldier in the face. She was caned ten times, in public.
Liz heard the rising anger in Lindy.
“Lindy, I trust Ryan. With all my heart. He's shown me he's worthy of that trust over and over. Usually, we set up rules together. We agree on something that’s in the best interest of our marriage. Sometimes we disagree on what that is, and I’ve made a conscious choice to submit to those decisions. I’m not perfect, and I certainly don't agree all the time, and we – I – have agreed that when I disobey him I’ll be punished. And even though I hate being punished, it makes me feel safe. I need the boundaries. I need to know I can count on him to follow through. And the best part is that once it is over, we start fresh. We don't have any of those chronic arguments that can poison a marriage.”
Liz saw Lindy flinch at that last sentence and she waited. Lindy’s mouth twisted. “I was married after I got back. We argued a lot. Jake was really good at holding a grudge, even after I thought we’d hashed it out. We were living with his parents, and eventually he threw me out.”
“I’m sorry.” Liz took Lindy’s hand and gave a gentle squeeze.
Lindy looked down. “So how does he punish you?”
“Sometimes it’s physical,” Liz said softly. “Sometimes it’s removing a privilege."
“I need an example. My mind is imagining horrible things.”
“OK, here's one, though there really aren't that many,” Liz smiled, “Last week, the doctor did a routine check on my blood sugar. It was a little high. I’m going back to have a longer test in a few days that will tell us if I have diabetes. In the meantime, the doc told me – and Ryan – to limit sweets and breads until we knew for sure. Well, my definition of 'limit' was different than Ryan’s, and well, Jenny talked me into baking brownies. Between us we ate a whole pan one evening while he was gone. I wasn't paying attention, and it was a stupid thing to do. Ryan was calmly furious when he got back. With Jenny, too, I might add, because she knew I shouldn't be eating them. He gave me a spanking, which the doctor said was just fine to do, don't worry.”
Actually, she’d gotten five strokes of the cane, because it was much shorter than a spanking, and less 'thumpy' to the babies.
“And now this week, I’m on an incredibly strict diet that has everything the babies and I need for nutrition but has absolutely no taste or appeal at all. And believe me, I won't do something like that again. No brownie is worth unsweetened oatmeal and soy milk every breakfast for a week.” She shivered. She hated soy milk.
What Liz didn’t say was that Ryan was furious with Jenny, too. He called Michael, and later that evening, the Heir to Alaine Province had tossed the Chairwoman of Orre Province over his lap, where she received the worst spanking from her husband she’d had in a long time.
Lindy looked at her with an open mouth.
“Honey, I know this is overwhelming, and not at all what you had in mind when I asked you to stay. But I need this in my life, and Ryan needs it, and we can't hide it behind a closed door in our house, because we have to hide it everywhere else.”
“I hope he doesn't expect me to call him master or obey him – I mean, I am grateful for you sponsoring me, don't get me wrong, but I can't spend the next year being obedient because I’m afraid of being punished. And if he lays a hand on me...”
“I will kick his butt to the door. Lindy, he's not your Master, and he would never dream of insisting on your obedience. And he would never, ever, punish you without your consent, which you have not given him. If he gets angry about something with you, he'll do what every person in a healthy friendship does – talk it over, maybe fight it out a bit, and find a middle ground. I'm the only one who has given him permission to punish, and I’m not about to share!” She tried to make it sound like a privilege she wasn't going to let anyone else have, which was true.
Lindy smiled wanly, looking mollified for now.
“She asked me to be in charge of our marriage. This isn’t something I’m imposing on her, and if she didn't want to continue this, we would change.”
“I'm not sure you do yet, but I’m asking you to keep an open mind, and ask before you get angry or concerned about something. There will be things that make you uncomfortable, like the food thing tonight.”
“Yeah. Sorry about that.” Lindy glanced at Liz’s plate and was surprised to see the lasagna piece still there, with no more than a nibble taken from it. Her salad and yogurt bowls, however, were empty.
“Sometimes she sits at my feet and I feed her.”
“Oh. Okay.” That would be a little weird.
“We’ve talked with the doctor about what is safe to do and not do, so I need you to trust me and not interfere if I punish or discipline her.”
“Even if you feel it isn't deserved. We have rules about respect, rules she’s agreed to, so sometimes it may seem like she is just blowing off steam and I should let it go, but I don't and won't. Like making faces at me behind my back.” Liz looked down and grinned. “She knows how to tell me if something is really bothering her.”
“And one more thing. Have you heard of 'consensual non-consent'?”
Lindy shook her head.
“It means that Liz has given me permission to discipline or punish her even if she says 'no' at the time. I don't know if we've ever had to use it?” He looked at Liz.
“Once,” she said softly. “I was really mad at you about working late... we were over at Jenny's and I didn't express myself well...”
“Oh, yeah,” he grinned. “Anyhow, Lindy, I need your promise you'll never interfere with a punishment or discipline, no matter what it looks like to you, no matter what Liz is saying or doing. Sometimes it can get intense and she’ll be crying hard – and if you need to go to your room you are more than welcome to, but you cannot interfere.”
Lindy looked at Liz.
Liz nodded. “Lindy, please give us your promise. Ryan would never ever truly hurt me, and I have a safe word to use if something goes unexpectedly wrong. If I say that word everything stops cold. As long as I’m not saying it, you've got to promise to let it be.”
“All right. I’ll... try...I am a little freaked out by this, but I’ll ask if I have concerns. If I’m wondering why you are doing something may I ask that also?”
“Of course. Please try to pick a time when I’m not in the middle of spanking her, though.”
She almost laughed at that.
Liz told her to take a long hot shower and not to worry about the hot water. A few minutes into the shower, she realized she'd left the shampoo out in the hall after Liz handed it to her. She wrapped a towel around her and ducked out of the bathroom. Voices drifted out of the kitchen.
“You look tense.”
“It was a long afternoon. Oh!” There was a soft male groan. “I’ll sit through just about anything if I can get one of your back rubs afterward.”
“I wish Jenny could find someone as good as you were to assist her. Her new assistant is nice, but she could be a bit more organized. And then Kelsey had a sick child and couldn’t be at the meeting, and Dan found an unexploded shell in his field and had to deal with that, and Ian’s on the beach somewhere.”
“I hope we can go to the beach someday.”
“I promise that after the babies come we’ll have our honeymoon, too. Just you and me.” He chuckled. “And two babies.”
“OK, little slave, did you make a face at Lindy behind my back?” Ryan’s voice was firm but Lindy heard no anger in it.
“Sorry, Master, I did,” replied Liz.
“I know why you did it, but, rice, 5 minutes.”
“Yes, sir,” Liz’s voice was resigned. Lindy heard a cabinet open and shut, and then the clang of metal pans.
“Let's do it in our room in case she gets out of the shower sooner than we expect.”
Lindy ducked back into the bathroom but kept the door cracked just enough to peek through. She could see into their bedroom from this angle. Liz walked in with a cookie sheet. She placed it on the carpet and poured dry rice onto it. Ryan leaned over and moved it around.
“Ready?” he asked. Liz nodded. Ryan stood in front of her and eased her down onto her knees, on the rice. From the winces she gave, Lindy guessed it wasn't too comfortable. She was further shocked when she saw Ryan pull Liz’s hands behind her and wrap something around to bind them behind her back.
“You okay?” he asked. Liz grimaced but nodded. He played with her hair for a minute, and then his hands strayed down to her breasts. He took both mounds into his hands. Lindy ducked back in the shower before she saw anything else.
She stayed in long enough to run out of hot water, terrified to face them. Once she had dried off and donned a borrowed bathrobe, she stepped out into the hall. Their door was still open but there was no evidence of either of them in the room. She scooted to her new room to put on a t-shirt loaned by Ryan, briefly wondering why Liz had no pajamas to loan her. At the sight of the soft bed her body sagged with fatigue. She replaced the robe and went out into the living room. Liz was on the couch having her feet rubbed by Ryan, who was sitting on the floor. He invited her to come sit but she made her excuses and retreated to her room.
~ ~ ~
Despite the comfort of her bed, the thoughts running through her head prevented any sleep. Finally she admitted to herself what it was that was keeping her awake, and she got up and quietly made her way into the kitchen. It took a moment to locate the rice, and she was deathly afraid of banging anything when she lifted the cookie sheet out of the drawer. She crept back to her room and shut the door.
She placed the metal sheet on the carpet and poured some rice onto it, estimating how much Liz had poured. It looked so benign. Then using the bedside table for support she lowered herself down until her knees were in firm contact with the hard white grains.
Holy hell it hurt.
She pulled herself back up as fast as she could and considered. She was going to do this for five minutes, she vowed, to see what it was like. She eased herself back down. The pain was just as bad as it had been the first time. She leaned forward to put her hands on the floor in front of her to take a little weight off of her knees.
Then she remembered: Liz had not only not leaned forward; Ryan had pulled her hands behind her back. Lindy sat back on her knees, feeling the pain again, and moved her hands behind her. It rocked her back just a little and increased the pain more than a little. She settled in for the remaining time.
At two minutes she was hissing and shifting, trying to get more comfortable, but moving made it worse. At three minutes she was whimpering, and at four minutes she flung herself forward onto her hands to lift her knees up.
How the hell had Liz done it?
Lindy carefully cleaned the rice up, dumping it quietly in the kitchen garbage and covering it up with something else. She rinsed off the cookie sheet and replaced it. She crawled back into bed and lay there a long time before she finally slept. ~
This is just a scene I wrote a long time ago and I never went further with it. Maybe someday. Liz and Ryan's story isn't over quite yet, I think...