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May 28, 2020 7:45 PM
valentine furnishes his new house
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He's kept busy up until the end.

 

Valentine takes him up to bed, when they're done.

Jean gets a kiss, a small one, on the temple, before he leaves.

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He's so happy, it's hard to sleep.

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For the next week, he's kept very busy.

There's things to put together and to clean out and to fill in, a hundred little tasks, and when there's a chore to be done Jean is the one to do it.

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Cato seems pleased with the extra free time, curled up with his tablet or his laptop or out in the garden with the chickens,

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when he's not looking increasingly desperate.

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Jean is blissfully happy with Valentine's kept promise. He's delighted every time he's given a task; he hums, sometimes, when he's reasonably sure no one is listening.

Everything is done to the absolute best of his ability. This occasionally leads to spectacular disasters (bleach and ammonia should not mix), but he never skimps on a task.

At night, he hides his head in his pillow and grins until his face hurts.

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He gets a kiss, on his forehead or his temple or his cheek, every night.

And, after a week –

"You've been happy."

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"Yes, Valentine. Thank you."

He's been useful, and he's been kissed, and he's had snatches of time to read books and listen to music; he's been able to be good for Valentine -- mostly -- and to see him every day, to be smiled at sometimes, spoken to. He's watched Cato be Valentine's, and it's like seeing a planet return to its proper course in the sky. He hasn't caught a fish yet, but he's determined to learn.

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"You will be doing something...slightly different, tomorrow. I think you'll enjoy it. Please make sure you're well-rested."

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"--yes, Valentine."

He looks a little like he might want to stay up and watch for reindeer.

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"I mean it, Jean. I don't want you falling asleep sitting up."

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"Yes, Valentine," he sighs, obediently.

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"Very good."

He pats him on the head, kisses him on the cheek.

"I'll see you tomorrow. Sleep well."

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"Yes, Valentine," he says, once again, happily, "good night."

He sleeps with his hand on his cheek, smiling.

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When he wakes up, there's breakfast on his desk and a chicken feather on his floor.

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He spends an alarmed minute making sure that there are no chickens in his room, before he eats.

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When he's done – once the sun is up – Valentine comes through his door.

"Good morning – are you ready? All washed up?"

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"Yes, Valentine," already standing to follow him, eager.

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He takes him down the stairs, and around the corner, and into a room he hasn't entered before.

It's small, but comfortably furnished, with gauzy curtains and pale turquoise walls. There's something up against the wall, covered with the shroud, and Valentine leans down to uncover it.

It's difficult to tell what exactly it is, at first, a frame of dark wood padded in odd places, leather straps and locking hinges.

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His eyes follow the shroud, more than -- whatever that is.

He's not sure what this is going to be. But, evidently, it's important.

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He indicates a pair of narrow pads at the base of the device.

"Kneel here for me."

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Jean does as he's told. "Like this...?"

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"Yes," he says, "like that."

He tightens the first straps around Jean's calves, then his thighs.

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"Oh..." he breathes, relaxing into the straps. He'd missed this.

(Is he to die, after all? Is he to have flesh taken from him alive? Is he...

...it's not important. He'll be useful.)

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There’s a thick, padded one that Valentine pulls around his torso, another across his chest, and—

“Arms back, please—”

—two sets of long cuffs for his arms. The whole thing carries weight beautifully — he can relax into it, and it doesn’t cut into him, doesn’t press on anything too sensitive.

“...your role here is going to be somewhat different than it has been before.”

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