For Jessica Elwood (jessicaelwood.deviantart.com)
By the Muse of Caprice and Whimsy (mocaw.deviantart.com)
Disclaimer: The “Jessica Elwood” fursona and its distinctive likeness is the property of Jessica Elwood and is used with permission from the creator. Everything else, including the Starlight setting, all other characters, and their distinctive likenesses are the property of the MoCaW and may not be used without prior consent. This story may be distributed freely as long as it is distributed in its entirety without editing, and with this disclaimer block intact. In other words: please give credit where it is due, it’s the decent thing to do. Thanks.
- * -
We went before the judge the very next morning, where I handed her my ring and signed the letter of manumission that said that one Miss Jessica Elwood, once slave to one Mister Jonathan Hawkins, was now a free woman, with all the responsibilities and rights of a citizen of the Empire. It was hardly enough to repay her for what I had done, I mused sourly, as the judge handed her the papers in their dark blue portfolio. If I’d been her husband, and Jessica my wife, my behavior could have gotten me thrown in prison, and a judge would have ordered me never to see her again under the direst of penalties.
Of course, some little part of me said, if I’d been her husband, and Jessica my wife, none of this would ever have happened in the first place.
Lady Harrington, my old governess, had been in need of a maidservant for her eldest daughter for quite some time, so I sent Jessica to her with a glowing letter of recommendation and a generous severance gift: the equivalent of one year’s pay for a household servant. Remiel agreed to drop by from time to time and see how she was doing. I didn’t dare: in fact, I made sure never to step foot in that section of town ever again. It was better that way, I decided.
I spent the next year in a kind of private hell. Everywhere I went, I saw her lovely face, accusing me, mocking me, hating me. The very sight of a chimera in servant’s livery was enough to send me running away in a panic, and like I’d said before, they were everywhere in the city nowadays. I couldn’t look at a slave collar again without feeling a sick sensation deep in the pit of my stomach, and more than once, I found myself having to duck into a nearby alleyway, vomiting my guts out, when I saw a master rebuking his slave in public for some perceived or actual slight.
I hired a cleaning lady. A few days later, I fired her and hired a male housekeeper to come by and clean up every week or so. Eventually, I fired him too: the house was too clean, and the very cleanliness seemed to remind me of her. I began purposefully leaving stacks of dirty dishes in the sink, throwing my clothing over the backs of furniture, anything to make the place dirtier and more messy.
Things got better eventually. They always do. The worst of the guilt and shame passed eventually, leaving a sullen, empty feeling in my heart that slowly faded to a dull ache.
I drank quite a bit. It didn’t help, but it was something to do.
Then there came a day about a year later when Alistair came to the club with a black eye and several parallel scratches down one cheek. “What the heck happened?” Remiel asked in shock.
“You know that Jessica Elwood girl? The one who used to be Jonathan’s slave?” Alistair asked.
Remiel glanced over at me, but I was nursing my third drink that night, pretending not to hear while hanging on every word. “Well. . . yes,” Remiel replied cautiously.
“Girl’s got a mean left hook,” Alistair said sullenly.
Remiel glanced over at me, suddenly seeming really worried. “Alistair, I don’t think this is a good. . .”
“She was working for Lady Harrington, and good lord, that ass is so damn fine, I just had to have her,” Alistair went on. “So anyways, I caught her behind the stables and was giving her my usual once over, and all of a sudden she just hauls off and clocks me. Kicked me in the nadgers, too. Whatever. I managed to get her fired, at least: told Lady Harrington I’d been attacked by her maid and I wanted the girl disciplined.” He pfehed. “Serves her right, the bitch.”
I rose out of my chair, silently walked over to Alistair, and, very calmly, punched him in the face as hard as I could.
It took three men to drag me off him in the end. If you look closely, you can still see the dent where his head hit the ground and I started punching his teeth out of his mouth.
- * -
There was a message for me the next morning from the Director. “I need to talk to you face to face. Come by my home tonight at 7 pm.”
It was a bad sign. Ellsworthy was the type of boss who barely said a word to you if you were doing okay, was happy just to let you do your own thing at your own pace, so the fact that he wanted to talk was ominous, to say the least.
If I’d been a little more astute, I would have wondered why he wanted me to come to his home, of all places.
Ellsworthy met me at the door himself, poured me a brandy, and we spent the first half hour or so just talking about business. Everything was fine, things were going great, the field operatives were all doing well, thanks for asking, and so on and so forth. Small talk.
I was finishing up my second glass when the Director pulled a letter from his desk. “I received a letter this morning from Lady Brookside informing me that I was employing an uncivilized brute who had assaulted her son without provocation,” he said, putting on a pair of reading glasses (more for show than anything else: Ellsworthy had near-perfect vision). “She is threatening to withdraw her support from the Starlight Foundation if I do not immediately discipline the party responsible for the altercation at the Anacraeon Club last night.” He took off the reading glasses and looked at me curiously. “A certain Mr. Jonathan Hawkins. Sounds familiar, no?”
I stared into my drink in silence.
“So, was there any reason why you gave Alistair a black eye?” Ellsworthy went on.
“He already had the one and I thought he’d look better with a matching set, your Grace,” I said sullenly. “And after that, I figured I should do something about his teeth. He has too many of them, after all.”
Ellsworthy sighed at my rebellious attitude, folded the letter up in thirds. “In any case, I let Lady Brookside know that she is a tiresome old bore and that she can take her money and stuff it between her ears, where there is undoubtedly plenty of room. The Foundation shall get by without her.” The Director tossed the letter into the fire. “Still, I’ve known you for several years, Jonathan, and I am a bit surprised that you would do such a thing. You are not a violent man, after all,” Ellsworthy continued. “So. Tell me. What is really bothering you?”
“You’re a telepath. Why don’t you tell me what’s wrong?” I said snidely.
“I could,” Ellsworthy replied calmly, “but then again, it’s not about me, is it?” He leaned his chin against his steepled fingertips, waiting patiently. “Sometimes, it helps to put things into words, you know.”
“He had no right to say that about Jessica,” I blurted out at last.
Ellsworthy raised an eyebrow. “Your former slave girl? Interesting. So you mean to tell me that all this was over a slave I gave you whom you didn’t even want? Whom you gave away?”
“I didn’t want to give her away!” I snapped in reply. “I had to!”
Ellsworthy just stared at me in silence.
I felt my hands clench tightly into fists as I went on. “It. . . it just wasn’t right! I was such a terrible master. I treated her so horribly, and she was so beautiful, so intelligent, so talented. . . Letting her go was the only moral thing to do. Wasn’t it?”
“I don’t know. Was it?” the Director asked, steepling his fingers.
“It had to be! Someone like that doesn’t deserve to be a slave!” I shouted
“We are all slaves,” the Director said.
I looked at him in surprise.
“Not all of us as literally as Jessica was, no, but we are all slaves to something or another. An ideal. A goal. A dream. A concept. I, for example, am a slave to the Starlight Foundation, to which I am at once founder, leader and servant. Your friend Alistair is slave to his own lusts. There are those who are slaves to money, to liquor, to power, to religion, to pleasure, to their art.”
“It is, very simply, in our nature that all of us, eventually, find ourselves in servitude to something or another eventually, no matter how much we may claim to value freedom. It is what we choose to enslave ourselves to that defines us. In the end, if we choose to enslave ourselves to something worthy, there is no shame in it. At least, that is what I think.”
“Do you know what you are a slave to, my friend?” Ellsworthy said, after a long pause.
“To you, your Grace. I am always your devoted servant,” I replied quickly.
Ellsworthy laughed. “No, that’s not it. You work for me, but you do not enslave yourself to my whim. It’s loneliness, Jonathan. You’ve enslaved yourself to your own loneliness.”
I had no reply.
“You live alone in a house meant for a large family,” he went on quietly. “Your friends, such as they are, know almost nothing about you. I doubt that any of them could say what your mother’s name is. I know I could not.”
“Susan, your Grace,” I replied a bit peevishly.
“My point is, Jonathan, you’ve built walls around your heart that are so high and so steep that no one has ever been able to break them. Perhaps it makes you feel safe. I don’t know: after all, I’m just your boss, not a therapist. The effects, however, are obvious. You’ve lived like a leaf in the wind, tossed from one place to another, never rooting yourself in anything, never allowing yourself to be overwhelmed by something else.”
“Jessica, I think, nearly changed that, if only a little bit,” he went on. “To be master to someone is, in a way, to be enslaved to them, except that instead of enslavement, we call it responsibility. It means the same thing, really: you have duties, obligations to the other person that you, personally, must see to. Except that when it comes to mastery, it is not you who will suffer if you neglect those duties. It requires a special kind of courage to trust yourself with someone else’s fate, and a special kind of trust to allow your fate to rest in someone else’s hands. Do you understand?”
“I. . . I think I do. But I somehow don’t think that anyone else would use the word slavery for what you describe,” I replied irritably.
“Then what would they call it, my friend?” Ellsworthy asked, smiling like a cat who had just devoured the family canary.
“I think they’d call it lo. . . lo. . .” my voice trailed off.
Silence. Ellsworthy just stared at me for a long moment with that enigmatic Mona Lisa smile of his quirking his lips, just waiting for me to go on.
“Love,” I whispered, at last. “They would call it love.”
Ellsworthy shrugged. “Your words. Not mine.”
I swallowed hard. “I’ve been an idiot,” I whispered.
“Yes. But that is immaterial now.” The Director stood and looked at his watch. “Oh dear, look at the time. I can’t ask you to go home now. I’ll have someone prepare a room for the night.” He clapped his hands.
I glanced at the clock, was about to point out that it was, in fact, barely eight in the evening, when the door opened and She walked into the room.
“Jessica?” I breathed in astonishment. She gave me a cool glance, looked away, as if not wanting to even look at me. I didn’t blame her.
Ellsworthy grinned mischievously. “I happened to be near the Harrington estate last night and found a perfectly capable maid just wandering around without a home. Of course, I took her in, as I’m a sucker when it comes to strays. Miss Elwood,” he went on, “Mister Hawkins will be spending the night here. Please see him to the guest room and make sure that he is made comfortable. I leave him in your capable hands.”
Jessica curtseyed deeply. “Of course, your Grace. Mister Hawkins?” She turned and led me down the hall in silence.
I gave Ellsworthy a despairing glance. The Director just smiled and gave me a little wave of his fingertips. “Good night, Jonathan,” he said, flashing me that enigmatic smile of his. “Sleep well.”
- * -
We didn’t say a single word to each other the entire way down the hall. What could I say? The last time we had seen each other, I had been her master, and she had been my slave. I had ordered her to die, and she’d nearly obeyed. The magnitude of my sin humbled me.
How does a murderer ask his victim to forgive him?
He can’t. It’s that simple.
“We’re here, sir,” Jessica said quietly, opening the bedroom door. “Is there anything more you require?”
Yes, Jessica. There is. I want you to forgive me for what I did to you when I was your master. I want you to forgive me for treating you like an object, like livestock, for being such an asshole to such a wonderful person.
“Nothing more, Miss Elwood,” I said. “Good night.”
“Good night, Mister Hawkins,” Jessica replied. She curtseyed deeply to me and turned to leave, the silver tag on her slave collar reflecting bright orange in the firelight. . .
. . . slave collar?
“Jessica, wait!” I called out.
She stopped in the doorway, turned to look at me. Her eyes, I noticed, were cool and calm as I reached out and fingered the tag on her collar. A familiar bird-and-tree sigil was engraved in the shining metal, I noticed, the exact match to a ring that I had handed over to her at the manumission hearing.
“Why?” I asked, after a long time.
Jessica looked up at me, and I could see a bit of her dispassionate façade starting to break away. “I. . . I don’t know,” she said softly. “It just felt right. I wanted to do it.”
It is what we choose to enslave ourselves to that defines us.
My mouth felt like it was filled with cotton. “Jessica. . .”
“I’m sorry, Mister Hawkins,” she said quietly, her equilibrium returning. “I shouldn’t have upset you. I’ll take it off right away.”
I didn’t reply with words, just reached out and touched her cheek, cradling her face in the palm of my hand. Jessica closed her eyes, just drinking in my touch, her cheeks burning with embarrassment. I could feel her pulse under my fingertips, right at the base of her chin. Her heart was pounding, fluttering like a frightened bird as her warm breath caressed my wrist.
It was all the answer I need.
“How long?” I asked, at last. “How long were you in love with me?”
“I don’t know,” Jessica replied at last. “I certainly didn’t at first, but as time went on. . . You were kind to me, and decent, and always treated me with respect, even though I was a slave. At first I was afraid that it was just one of those things, you know where the slave just starts thinking they’re in love with their master, but it’s not real. . . like with hostages. Then I realized it wasn’t. That I’d really, truly fallen in love.” Her eyes closed, and tears streamed down her face. “. . . and that just made me even more afraid.”
“Jessica. . .”
“. . . the night that you asked me to come to you and take off my clothes. . . I was afraid of you, yes, but somehow, I felt excited too. Because I’d loved you for so long and I wanted to make you happy. I wanted to serve you in every way that I could, to let you take me for your own pleasure. But then. . .” Her eyes filled with tears. “How could you do that!?” she cried. “How could you ask me to do such an awful thing, then send me away like that?” She closed her eyes. “I trusted you. . . and you hurt me.”
I felt the tears rise. “Jessica, I. . . I’m so sorry,” I whispered. “I was an idiot. I was angry, I was tired, I was depressed, I was drunk. I. . . nothing can excuse what I did that night, and I’ve hated myself for it ever since then. I couldn’t even ask you to forgive me, because I was too ashamed of what I did.”
“Maybe I wanted to destroy something beautiful that night. Maybe what I wanted to hear was that you weren’t just a slave to me, that someone out there loved me even though the person I’d loved had abandoned me. That it wasn’t just because I owned you that you stayed with me, that you would have stayed even if you were free, of your own free will. I wanted someone to love me, not just to serve me, and love is something that you can’t force someone else into. It’s not something a master can ask of a slave.”
“There is something I’ve wanted to tell you for a long time. . . something I was holding back for so long,” I went on. “I should have told you this long ago, but I didn’t. Maybe I was too proud, or too afraid, or just too stupid to do so, but I should have been honest with you and told you this a long time ago.”
I looked down into eyes and did the bravest thing I’d ever done in my entire life.
“Jessica,” I said. “I’m sorry. Please forgive me. I love you.”
It was like a dam breaking. She surged upwards like a breaking wave, kissing me frantically, her lips pressed tightly against mine, her hot breath mingling with mine, her arms thrown around my neck. Buttons popped off the back of her frock as my impatient hands tore at her clothes, throwing her dress to the floor as I caressed her lovely body, her soft fur warm against my skin. The smell of her hair was like an intoxicating fragrance, the touch of her hands raised goosebumps all over my body, and I lifted her into my arms, still kissing her deeply, my tongue questing against hers, thrilling at the feel of her wet warmth.
We tumbled into bed with the desperate energy of two long years of smoldering frustration and self-restraint flaring into brilliant flame.
- * -
Now I bet you’re expecting me to go step by step and tell you about every moment of what happened next in extreme, titillating detail, right while boasting of my own sexual prowess, yes? Well, I’ll just have you know that certain things are not meant to be shared with outsiders. After all, a gentleman never tells. Granted, I’m no gentleman, but it was also a bit complicated and confusing at the time, and I’m not sure I remember it all correctly. In any case, you can probably fill in the blanks on your own.
But one thing I do remember is lying between her legs, feeling her soft fur against my skin, her warm moistness tight around my manhood as I thrust into her over and over, and as I came up from kissing her neck and face, I could see her smiling radiantly, her eyes alight with a transcendent joy born of more than mere physical pleasure. That smile, and the realization that something I did was making her so blissfully happy, was what finally tipped me over the edge, and I let out an explosive gasp of wordless pleasure as I spurted my hot seed into her womb, which tipped her over the edge as well, her smile turning into a loud moan of pleasure, her warmth clamping down around me hard as her nails ran roughly down my back, our two bodies shuddering simultaneously as we clutched each other close, as if trying to join not just our bodies, but our hearts, our minds, our very souls.
- * -
“I guess things just got a bit more complicated, didn’t they?” I said afterwards.
Jessica lay in my arms and just smiled sleepily. “It’s a good kind of complicated, though. The fun kind,” she murmured.
“I suppose.” I kissed her tenderly over each eyelid. “So. . . what do we do now?”
“I think I should begin by turning in my resignation to the Director,” Jessica replied. “I can’t work for both of you at the same time, after all.”
“Are you sure you want to do that? You’re sure it won’t get weird or something?” I asked.
“What do you expect to do without me? You can barely make your own breakfast. I’m surprised you’ve lived this long without me without starving to death,” Jessica teased.
“I ate a lot of fast food,” I admitted sheepishly, “and the dishes are starting to pile up a bit in the sink.”
“See what I mean? I’d better get back to taking care of you fast, or you’ll never get anything done,” Jessica said, pouting with mock annoyance.
“You’re too good for me,” I sighed. “I don’t deserve you.”
“No, you don’t,” Jessica said, kissing me gently on my cheeks and running her hands up and down my sides. “But you can have me anyway.”
I kissed her back, stroking her firm, round buttocks as I pulled her close to me. “I can, hmmm? Body and mind?”
“As much as I’ll let you,” she said softly, nibbling at my ear. “No more.”
“Then I’ve got everything I could ever ask for.”
“Can I ask you for a favor, then?” Jessica asked.
“Anything you want.”
She smiled and leaned out of the bed, rummaging around her clothing for a bit.
I raised an eyebrow in surprise as I saw what she handed to me. “Are you sure?” I asked.
“Just for fun,” Jessica pleaded. “Please?”
“All right,” I sighed. “But we’re going to have to come up with some rules for this to keep things from getting too weird, okay? We don’t want a repeat of last time.”
“Sounds fine with me,” Jessica said, grinning happily.
I reached up and fastened the collar around her neck, then took the ring from her and put it on my right ring finger. Jessica took my hand in hers and kissed my hand tenderly.
“What is your bidding, my master?” she asked, eyes twinkling mischievously.
- * -
Ellsworthy, when he found out that Jessica was leaving his service, was strangely understanding. “I guess the old saying about loving something and letting it go is true after all,” he said cryptically. He sent her on her way with a very generous severance package, which Jessica used to buy her own apartment near mine. We agreed it was important for her to have her own place when she came to work for me, a place she can call her own, outside of my home.
She doesn’t use it much, though.
Don’t get the wrong idea: Jessica is still a freedman. I owned a slave once, and I don’t think I’ll ever own one again. Having such total control over another person is a bit frightening, to tell the truth. I can barely keep my own life straight, so how can I trust myself to be responsible all the time for someone who is willing to entrust themselves to me so completely?
On the other hand, there’s nothing wrong with a little make-believe. I’ve still got the collar and the ring, and once in a while, Jessica asks me to break them out again, for old time’s sake. I don’t mind. Because the truth is, despite the fact that she sometimes calls me master in the bedroom, and plays at submitting herself to my every whim and desire, now she does so because she wants to, and if I go too far, she can end it all with a word. Which makes it a lot better, if you ask me. As Ellsworthy might say, it’s not just Jessica who’s enslaved to me. Now, it goes both ways. Both of us are slaves to the other, devoted to each other’s pleasure, no matter what it looks like at first glance.
It’s kind of complicated. But complicated in a good way. A fun way, as Jessica would say.
Which reminds me – I’ve got some preparations to make. Miss Elwood will see you to the door. Come by again if you’re in the area. You’re welcome any time.
- FIN -