flighty_dreams: (embarrassed)
[personal profile] flighty_dreams
TITLE: Spliced 5-4
AUTHOR: [livejournal.com profile] flighty_dreams
WARNINGS: NC-17. slavefic. scifi setting. M/m. some graphic violence.
WORD COUNT:  6,295 (this chapter), over 200k so far
SUMMARY:  In a world where clones are made and sold as commodities, Matt Muldane can't resist purchasing an intriguing slave.
NOTES:  The index to this story available here. Special thanks to [livejournal.com profile] aurila and to [livejournal.com profile] tuawahine .


“You spoil him.”

Matt followed Garthen’s gaze across the court to Min, who was sitting on a nearby bench rather than kneeling on the ground, like Garthen’s slave. The criticism, true or not, stiffened his spine. “Do I?”

Garthen shook his head. “Slaves need to be reminded of their place. If you’re too lenient, it’ll lead to trouble.”

You have no idea, Matt thought, repressing a smile. It felt odd though; not so long ago, he would’ve voiced the same opinion with confidence. Looking at Min now, sitting with apparent boredom, though he must have noticed he’d become the focus of their attention, he didn’t feel eager to agree with Garthen, despite the indisputable living proof before him.

But he was eager to change the subject. “I can handle one Andorian.”

“I’m sure you can, Muldane, never meant to imply otherwise. Just trying to save you some trouble later.”

They had just finished a game of netterball and were taking a break. It had been Min’s suggestion, trying to make amends for interrupting the other night, that he invite Garthen to play with him. He’d looked up the politician and learned he was an avid netterball player too.

Garthen, although initially cool to Matt when he answered his call, had warmed to the idea quickly. However, he’d wanted to go to his country club to play, rather than the club Matt normally used. The Shore Club was the sort of stuffy high class establishment that Matt hated, reminding him of similar places on Karta, and catering to the same clientele as the exclusive social clubs of many of Hollis’ clients.

It was a place for rich people to show off their wealth to each other. That included displaying their expensive pet slaves. Min’s mouth had flattened to a thin line upon being told he’d be expected to go, but he’d said nothing, even getting ready this morning without protest. He was still himself though, sitting on the bench without permission. It was smarter too; over there he was under cover, out of the sun.

Considering Matt had come here today with the express purpose of flirting with Garthen and enticing him into a contract, in front of Min’s face again no less, he didn’t feel much motivation to protest either.

“Another game?” he asked Garthen.

“I don’t know,” the man said, walking over to his slave, who held a towel and refresher device ready for him. The blond was of small stature, with delicate features. Garthen wiped the sweat from his face and then used the refresher to cool off as he tossed the towel back at the slave, who fumbled to catch it.

Matt suspected Min had been right about Garthen’s opinion on sleeping with slaves. He seemed to regard his slave as little more than movable furniture, valued only for its convenience and looks.

“I think it’s too hot out to play another,” Garthen said, as Matt had predicted he would.

“Yeah, it is,” Matt agreed, glad this was ending sooner.

They’d been scheduled to play three games, but Matt had already won the first two. He’d been careful not to make the margin of victory too large, but neither would he patronize the man by playing badly on purpose. He’d been playing the sport at least twice a week for years, having both the advantages of greater experience and skill over Garthen. But, as was becoming clearer to Matt, Garthen was rather petulant. They’d started the first game tossing friendly taunts back and forth, but as Matt’s better playing had become apparent, Garthen had grown more silent and morose.

Matt went to Min, who rose as he approached, giving him a towel as well. “We can go to the clubhouse and have a drink, cool off.” And get down to business and talk.

“Or we can entertain ourselves another way.”

Matt’s eyes met Min’s as they both wondered: What now?

The man’s words lacked the innuendo they might otherwise have had. Matt looked over, and caught him studying Min. He found his tolerance for Garthen rapidly evaporating.

“Did you have another idea?” Matt asked, his voice smooth. If it involved touching Min, a couple of netterball games wouldn't be all Garthen lost today.

“Let’s have them play,” Garthen said, surprising Matt as he gestured towards the court. “I’ll bet you a thousand credits my slave can beat yours.”

Matt seriously doubted that, but he looked at Min, raising his brows in a silent question. Did he want to play?

Matt followed Min’s gaze as it flew to the little blond, who’d paled with terror. Matt knew that was answer enough, even before Min’s eyes shifted back to him, a ‘no’ clearly in their depths.

Matt forced himself to scoff. “I don’t think either of them would be much use out on the court. Let’s go inside.”

“Why so reluctant? They’ll be bad, that’s the fun of it. We can see who plays worse.”

Fun for him, at the slaves’ expense. The asshole wanted to laugh at Min, mock him for not instantly knowing how to play something he’d never done before.

“No thanks,” Matt replied, his tone a near growl now. He forced himself to remain civil; this wasn’t the first problematic client he’d ever dealt with.

Garthen was not happy. “Coddling him now? You’re going to ruin that slave, Muldane.”

“I’m a busy man, Garthen. I have better things to do with my time than bully pets for sport,” Matt retorted, reaching for his bag. Min took his equipment from him, putting it away. “But if you still want to talk business, I can do that.”

The resulting pause lasted long enough that he turned back after Min was done, watching the politician. Garthen frowned, looking at him and at Min, who when it seemed apparent Matt wasn’t going anywhere yet, dropped to his knees on the court. Bowed head and all, he appeared perfectly submissive, not a troublemaker at all. Matt grudgingly had to admire his sense of timing.

“All right,” Garthen said with a faint smile. “I see you’re a man who plays things straight. Let’s shower and then we’ll talk.”

Relieved, Matt followed him to the club’s bathing area. A few other pet slaves were inside, kneeling outside their master’s shower stalls, ready to serve. Imitating them, Min took up the proper position, though Matt would’ve preferred to drag him inside. But this outing was about business, not fondling Min, unfortunately. At least Garthen seemed willing to give up the games and get to the point.

Matt’s unease returned though as he shared a drink with the man at the lounge on the premises. He thought maybe it was their current location—he avoided these places for a reason after all—but that didn’t seem right. And despite his obnoxious suggestion earlier, it wasn’t really Garthen’s attitude either. It was an unfortunate reality of business that not all of your clients were likable. Some rivaled Min in being pains in the ass, constantly changing their minds and growing angry when he couldn’t meet all of their demands. Compared to some of them Garthen was low-maintenance, clear enough about what he wanted while also understanding there were limits to Matt’s services.

Why did he still feel negatively towards him then?

Brushing the feeling aside, Matt ended the meeting with a promise to send him a preliminary proposal within a week. They bowed their heads in Monlean custom to seal the agreement, and then Matt left, Min in tow.

Hollis had invited them over whenever they finished at the club, so Matt drove there. Despite his satisfaction at making progress with Garthen, it was still a quiet ride, neither of them inclined to talk much. He should have been in a better mood given the situation—it was a huge contract, and almost at his fingertips now—but something was still bothering him.

“That went well overall,” he said as they pulled up to Hollis' house, tired of the silence. “I have to meet with him next week, and-”

“I know. I was there,” Min said, cutting him off.

Frowning, Matt took a good look at him for the first time since they got into the car. “What's with you?”

“Nothing,” Min said, his tone indicating the opposite.

Matt glared at him. “What are you snapping at me for?”

There was a time when he would've punished Min for showing even a fraction of the attitude he'd just displayed, but those days were gone.

Presently, Min at least had the grace to flush. He pulled away, exiting the car, Matt right behind him. He could already hear the distant yapping of puppies inside the house. Their arrival hadn't gone unnoticed.

“It's not about you.” Min sighed. “It's that Vedan.”

It took Matt a few seconds to realize who Min was even talking about. “Garthen's slave?”

“Yeah,” Min said, walking at his side up to Hollis' door. “I can't stop thinking about him.”

What? Matt turned to look at him, pausing when he saw the deep frown wrinkling Min's features, the darker blue of his eyes as he gazed out across Hollis' front yard.

Oh. He was angry. Matt schooled his face into a more neutral expression just as Min turned to him. “He was terrified of that bastard. Garthen must have done other things to him before.”

Minril, Protector of Clonekind. Matt shook his head. “You can't help him.”

“I know,” Min said through gritted teeth. “But the day I stop noticing is the day I'll have failed them all.”

Matt shifted. He saw any possible threat to Min, but other slaves were easily ignored. Min's knowing look then only added to his discomfort.

Thankfully he was saved from answering by Hollis opening the door. Nuit was just behind him, holding onto the two golden-haired puppies, who were barking excitedly, straining against his grip.

“Hey, come on in,” Hollis said as they stepped through. His house was smaller than Matt's but tastefully decorated and well-maintained—or at least it had been until the advent of two furry balls of terror. Hollis and Nuit had adopted them a couple of months earlier. From what Min told him, they kept Nuit rather busy these days, between training them and the hair they shed constantly.

Once the door was closed, the puppies rushed forward. Matt petted them, but while happy to see him, they greeted Min more enthusiastically. He tried not to take it personally; Min spent the day here with Nuit at least once each work week, and played with them far more than he did.

As he and Min settled onto the couch opposite Hollis in the living room, Nuit asked, “Would you like anything to drink?”

Once he would have appended 'Master Muldane' or at least 'sir' to the question, but Hollis had warned Matt he was trying to get Nuit to drop some of the formal language, at least in private among trusted friends. Of course, the question was also directed to Min as well.

“Yes.” It was lunchtime, and after dealing with Garthen all morning, he needed another drink. Once he and Hollis decided to share some wine, Min looked up from petting one of the dogs and chimed in that he'd like some too.

Matt gave him a sour look, and told Nuit, “Do not bring him wine.”

“Yes, sir,” Nuit said with a bow of his head.

Min gave Matt a glare in return, his jaw tightening. “I'll have a soda.”

Glad Min wasn't going to fight harder today, Matt watched Nuit disappear into the kitchen.

He should never have allowed Min any of his beer that first weekend. Early on they'd had plenty of arguments about Min drinking—he'd even threatened to punish him until he got such inappropriate ideas out of his head, which had led to Min making threats in return—that had gotten ugly enough that he hadn't wanted to risk them moving from threats to actual violence. Especially when the only defense he had against Min's argument that he saw no reason why he couldn't drink in private with no one but him or Hollis to see, when he had to refrain in front of every other person on the planet, was to say that it just wasn't right for slaves to drink alcohol.

Yeah, that hadn't gone over well.

It wasn't appropriate, but at least he'd won today's round of their ongoing war. At times Matt took great relish in drinking publicly, where Min could only watch, while he knew Min 'secretly' drank at the house sometimes when Matt wasn't around. Not to mention that in private Min often stole sips from Matt's drinks, which was only slightly less irritating.

“Didn't go well with Garthen, did it?” Hollis asked. A clatter from the kitchen sent the puppies scurrying off to investigate.

Matt met his friend's gaze. Since their fight months earlier, things weren't quite the same between them yet, but Hollis still knew him best. “Overall it went well, but Garthen is still an ass.”

“That's not news,” Hollis pointed out. Unsurprisingly, he had a low opinion of his own country’s politicians. “What'd he do?”

“He's not a graceful loser,” Min said.

“Ah.” Hollis smiled, evidently amused by the image of Matt demolishing Garthen on the court. Matt found it a pleasant memory himself. “Did he make excuses?”

Matt shook his head. “No, actually. I'll give him that much.”

Nuit came in then carrying a tray, the two dogs at his heels. The bottle already opened, he poured the wine for them before handing a glass of soda to Min and taking a second one for himself. Then he sat down beside Hollis, who tucked him in against his side.

Matt leaned back, savoring the red—and ignoring Min's eye roll. At least he wasn't bearing a serious grudge over his alcohol ban today. His free hand settled on Min's knee, stroking it.

“I’ll need your help with the proposal next week,” he told Hollis.

“Sure, no problem.”

As he and Hollis were discussing the type of contract it would be and the legalities involved, nimble fingers swiped the half-full wineglass from his hand. Halting mid-sentence, Matt yelled, “Minril!”

Ignoring him, Min abominably drank half the glass at once. Matt grabbed for it, and a smiling Min gave it up without a fight, the damage already done.

There wasn't even a sip of wine left. Not meeting his eyes, Nuit rose silently, refilling it for him. The slight twitch of his lips didn't escape Matt's notice. He refilled Min's glass with soda too, not that Matt thought that would actually be a deterrent.

Meanwhile Hollis' eyes crinkled with amusement—this was clearly a conspiracy—but he didn't comment on Min's behavior. “So you need my input by when?”

“In a few days,” Matt said, focusing back on business, but keeping the glass well out of Min's reach now. While almost used to this behavior at home, he hadn't thought the precaution necessary here. “Will that be enough time?”

Hollis agreed, and gradually talk faded from the proposal to what Hollis had done the day before. As he described the visit with his sister, the bigger puppy jumped onto the couch, nearly causing Min to drop his drink. He laughed, petting the dog as she licked his face, while Nuit jumped to his feet.

“Tika, down! Get off of there!”

She cringed, obeying far better than Min had minutes earlier. Shoulders hunched, she slunk around the side of the couch, but not quick enough to escape Nuit, who grabbed her by the collar. Of the two, she was the troublemaker.

While Nuit scolded her for climbing onto the couch, darting nervous glances in Matt’s direction, Matt gave Min an arch look. “You would be a terrible dog owner.”

Still looking at the puppy, Min grinned, not taking offense. “Why?”

Matt rolled his eyes. “No discipline. You'd let the dog do whatever it wanted.”

“Not anything,” Min corrected. “Even I'd insist on house training.”

“Yeah, and that'd be about the extent of it,” Matt said dryly.

Min shot him a glare and then turned to Nuit. “Why don't we take them outside?”

Nuit looked appalled. “That'd be rewarding her!”

Min smiled, completely unrepentant, and Matt sighed. Hopeless.





“Was he jealous today?” Hollis asked an hour later, a glint in his dark eyes.

Matt frowned. “No, not even a hint of it.”

“Well, I wouldn't give it too much thought,” Hollis said, sobering. “From what you said, Garthen was being an ass. Not exactly much of a threat.”

“That is true,” Matt said, though still disappointed.

They were alone in the living room now, the clones outside playing with the dogs. Lunch was done with already, and he and Hollis had elected to stay inside and finish discussing business.

“He was mad though,” admitted Matt. He described Min's reaction to Garthen's treatment of his slave.

Shaking his head, Hollis said, “That's terrible, to treat the boy like that. Bad enough that I had Nuit for more than a year and never realized he might want to learn how to read. I felt like an idiot when he asked me.”

Matt grimaced. During those first six months with Min, he'd have been shocked at anyone suggesting that he teach him to read. Even now, he wasn't sure whether knowing how to read wasn't a big part of what made Min so... him. Nuit didn't seem adversely affected however. He might embrace the privileges Hollis had granted him, but he still behaved respectfully. Unlike Min, who took pride in being offensive whenever he could get away with it.

“Nuit didn't hold it against me though,” Hollis was saying, a sad light in his eyes. “He's grateful for whatever I let him have. He doesn't know better, but Min does.”

“You say that like his gratitude is a bad thing,” Matt said, memories of many times when Min hadn't appreciated one of his compromises flashing through his head.

“Matt,” Hollis replied, a surprising sharpness to his tone, “when it feels like a starving kid being grateful for a single bite of bread, of course it doesn't make me feel good.”

Matt felt that was exaggerating more than a little. “Hollis-”

“They get nothing, Muldane. No possessions, because they are a possession. Whenever I give Nuit something and tell him it's his to keep, he always looks at me like he doesn't believe me. I'm not sure he's even accepted yet that the dogs were really for him.”

Frowning, Matt's mind drifted back a few months. One afternoon he'd dragged the bag Min had brought with him to the house out of the closet, opening it. That had gotten an immediate reaction from Min, who'd stalked over, demanding to know what he was doing.

“Getting rid of these clothes,” he'd told him, lifting them out. Among other things, the leather jacket reminded him too much of their encounter on Festun, and the odd dinner they’d had Min’s first night back. “I've bought you plenty of better ones.”

He'd never seen Min spiral so quickly without being insulted first. “Don't you fucking dare,” he'd growled, wrenching the clothes and the bag away from him. “Don't touch my things.”

In the end, despite Min showing no reciprocal respect for his possessions—he often read Matt's books, sampled his alcohol and borrowed his clothes without asking, among other things—when faced with his unrelenting protectiveness, Matt eventually gave up. But he'd insisted Min unpack the bag completely, putting the clothes and other items away properly, rather than looking like he had a bag packed, ready to escape at any moment.

At Hollis' curious look now, he told him about the bag. Less than a week after Min’s return, they hadn't been speaking yet at the time, so he'd never told Hollis about it.

Sighing, Hollis said, “Not your best move there, but at least you were smart enough in the end not to take them. I wish Nuit had his awareness.”

“How so?” Matt asked.

Hollis ran a frazzled hand through his short hair. “Even the puppies, if I said they were too much trouble and told him I was giving them back to the shelter, I don't think Nuit would fight me on it. Protest, beg maybe, but get angry? Call me the names I'd deserve? He wouldn't.”

“You want him to yell at you?” Matt asked, baffled.

“If I did something that cruel and unfair, yes! I want him to see it's unfair, and be offended. He adores those puppies, and he'd be heartbroken if I took them away. If I did that, he should be pissed at me for being a bastard, not resigned.”

Frowning, Matt asked, “Why are you beating yourself up over this? You'd never be a bastard to Nuit.”

Hollis' bitter laugh then disturbed him. “I already have been. It's as much about what you don't do as it is about what you do. I sat back and let him remain ignorant for over a year when I could've taught him to read.”

“Hollis, that's hardly on the same level as-”

“That was just an example. My point is he should realize some things are unfair, but he doesn't because he's too damn brainwashed by the training.”

Thinking of the many, many issues he'd had with Min, Matt said, “But look at what happens when they ignore the training completely. It's a disaster.”

The frustrated, knowing look that lit Hollis' eyes then made Matt uncomfortable. “Is that how you think of him? A disaster?”

“No, of course not,” Matt immediately said, feeling like his words had been twisted.

“I thought things were getting better,” Hollis said.

“They are,” Matt said, exhaling. “Certainly better than a few months ago. But I just... he's impossible.”

“What do you mean?” Hollis asked, his brow furrowing.

“Impossible to please,” Matt growled. “And not in the fun way.”

Hollis gave him that lawyer look. “Maybe you need to take a step back, see if there's a different approach you could take, or something more you could do.”

There was a certain air of expectation about Min sometimes, as if he were waiting for something that hadn't come. After a moment's pause, Matt scoffed, “As if he's perfect and doesn't have anything to fix.”

“No, he certainly does,” Hollis said, “but if you fix your part, he'll reciprocate.”

Matt frowned. Knowing his Andorian well, that made too much sense for him to like it.





On the way home, Matt stopped to run an errand. Despite it supposedly being his day off, twice he received calls from troubled clients. He spent nearly an hour in his parked car outside the store, a restless Min listening to him deal with them. Matt would love to get through one weekend without a panicked or irate call.

As they finally exited the car, Min said low enough for only him to hear, “Workaholic.”

He had been busy lately. Usually he took some business trips to break up the routine of work, tacking some vacation days onto the trips when he could. Due to the situation with Min though, he'd avoided them for months, delegating the assignments to one of the two employees directly below him in the company's hierarchy.

That seemed too much to explain though, so he gave Min a knowing smile and said, “I have my ways of relaxing.”

An amused huff from Min. “That I'm aware of.”

Then they were inside the office store, Min's features smoothing. Maintaining the proper position and distance, Min followed him through the aisles. He waited until no one was close before asking under his breath, “What are you looking for?”

Matt paused, glancing over his shoulder. “A desk organizer.”

A brief smile touched Min's lips—yeah, he had noticed the poor condition of his current one—before he slipped the blank expression back into place as another customer entered their aisle. Matt didn't like seeing it, just as he disliked Min walking three steps behind him—he wanted him there, within reach—but slaves were to be unobtrusive shadows.

After some deliberation, he found an acceptable organizer and left the store, the clerk handing the shopping bag to Min. Another shop across the street caught Matt's attention; he might as well go there too while they were here. It would be payback for Min drinking his wine earlier.

Min slowed for a couple of steps as he noted their destination, before resuming a normal pace. The public mask seemed to take on a bit of a strain though.

For Matt's part, he enjoyed entering slave supply stores with Min. Not only did they make Min amusingly uncomfortable, but recently the encounters had begun telling him fascinating things Min would rather hide. Not that he'd been completely successful at hiding them before; in little ways, like how he'd responded to Matt the other day, yielding to sex instead of more arguing, or how readily he sometimes bent over Matt's desk at work, hands remaining braced on the edge of it, letting Matt take him as he wanted, he'd given signs of the needs Matt knew lay inside him. As they'd walked through the office store Min's eyes had glanced over the merchandise with casual interest; here his eyes lingered, even in—or especially in—the aisles with restraints and whips or paddles of some kind.

The Min he'd first known had been aroused by these things, but Min now seemed determined to pretend he'd never done any such thing. Frustrating to Matt, but the 'new' Min had reacted so furiously to even the threat of physical punishment early on that Matt had quickly stopped mentioning it.

Confusing to say the least, particularly when in the past Min had sometimes invited discipline, but they'd had enough problems without Matt pushing in this area.

That didn't mean he couldn't have some fun though. Hiding a grin, Matt stopped in the restraints aisle. Some of these cuffs would look delicious adorning Min's wrists. Especially if he clipped them together with a leash, so Min couldn't wander off. The image made him smile.

Aware of what Matt was up to, Min stared intently at the register at the back of the store, a light flush tingeing his cheeks. For a moment, Matt considered buying a pair. Min wouldn't cause a scene in the store, keeping his meek pretense in place, but once they were alone, he'd also have a furious Min to deal with, who would make the items disappear faster than clothes in a pleasure house. The brief satisfaction wasn't worth the headache.

“Nice Andorian,” someone said, jerking Matt's attention away from the leather cuffs. It was a woman—a girl really, Matt decided—in her early twenties, the expensive cut of her clothes and the fine watch on her wrist unmistakable signs of wealth. But it was the person behind her that caught Matt's interest even more, an Andorian with hair the same color as Min's. He couldn't help noticing that this clone wore fine leather wrist cuffs with silver decoration that matched his collar.

The stranger chuckled. “Didn't mean to interrupt. Just saw him and couldn't help saying something. Guess we like the same type.”

“Yeah,” Matt said, glancing between the girl and her slave. Shorter than Min, and with softer features and blue eyes of a darker shade, the hair and eyes on this clone were still similar enough to Min's to create a resemblance. To be polite, he added, “Your boy is pretty.”

“Thanks,” she said with a bright smile.

Matt decided she was one of those people whose default attitude was cheerful. He'd always envied them their constant good mood—but often found them annoying in large doses.

“They make good pets, don't they?” the girl said.

Glancing at Min, Matt said idly, “Yeah, you could say that.”

Min had stiffened a little, not looking at any of them. He hated being called a pet, despite Matt's use of the nickname during their first months together. Another habit Matt had dropped.

The other Andorian was eyeing the restraints around them, a becoming flush to his cheeks. It really is genetic, Matt mused.

The girl followed Matt's gaze to her slave. “See something you like, Juno?”

Now the clone really blushed. “Yes, mistress.”

His owner chuckled, turning to Matt. “This one is shameless. Never gets enough.” She paused, thinking. “He even acts out sometimes, wanting me to punish him. Is yours the same way?”

Surprised by the frank inquiry—especially given in front of the slaves in question—Matt still didn't skip the opportunity presented. Eyes on Min, he said, “He used to, but not lately.”

Min turned away. From his hunched shoulders, Matt guessed he was wishing himself somewhere far, far away.

“Ah,” she said with a husky laugh, “I wondered if it was an Andorian thing, or just him.”

“Andorian thing, definitely,” Matt confirmed, just to watch Min's reaction. Apparently he decided to get at least some of that distance, because Min stepped away, heading for the back of the store.

His improper departure didn't pass without comment. “Likes to wander a bit?”

“Shy,” Matt replied, loud enough for Min to hear.

After a few more minutes of idle chat the woman and her slave left, and Matt joined Min, who had found the clothing section and remained there. Not that Matt believed he was that engrossed in the clothes, but they were far away from the more interesting things, and were what Matt had come in here for anyway.

Min had started helping Sadie in the garden a few weeks earlier—he'd been bored enough one day at the house to bother, Matt supposed—and since then he'd wreaked havoc with the wardrobe Matt had bought for him. While some casual, plain clothes that could also be worn by free people were acceptable for slaves—such as denim pants and certain synth-cott shirts—Matt needed Min to have enough proper slave outfits to wear when he brought him along to social events. However, Min took great pleasure in ruining items that he deemed 'embarrassing.' Matt could have just told Sadie not to let him work in those clothes, but he'd chosen to see this as a challenge to maintain a sufficient wardrobe in the face of Min's abuse.

“All terrible,” Min whispered now, still looking at the racks instead of Matt. Apparently Min was pretending that little conversation hadn't happened. That was all right; Matt didn't need a whip to punish him.

Humming in response, Matt did his own appraisal of the selection. Min's tastes varied greatly from his, and unsurprisingly he preferred to wear the casual clothes that didn't scream 'slave,' as he had put it. Yet looking at the items here, sometimes what Matt could never wear himself—not just because of the social rank attached to the style, but certain colors or fits themselves—might look inspirational on Min, in his opinion.

Mouth twitching, he selected one decent shirt and then a sleeveless one in a lurid pattern he knew Min would despise. As if the design itself wasn't bad enough, his Andorian hated sleeveless shirts.

Master,” Min growled, in case someone overheard. From the tone it was clear he really meant Matt's name. Or a vicious insult.

Matt stifled a grin, the reaction was everything he'd hoped for. Usually Min avoided talking in public as much as possible, so he didn't have to address Matt with the proper title.

“Go try these on,” he said, pushing the shirts at him. He ensured the command was loud enough for the nearby store clerk to overhear.

Jaw clenched, Min turned and stalked into the changing area. Matt followed him as far as the outer part, letting him go into the stall alone. It was more fun to make Min come out and model the clothes.

A few rustles from the stall, and then the curtain was pulled aside. Min came out, still tugging unhappily at the hem of the shirt. Its green color was one that Matt believed went nicely with his coloring, but Min disliked it. The shirt clung as Matt had predicted, nicely accentuating Min's muscles without descending to that unclassy tightness they both loathed. Many owners relished showing off the attractive bodies of their bedslaves, but he hated people leering at what was his. Casual admiration like the owner outside had shown was fine, but he didn't want anyone looking at Min as an object ripe for fucking.

“Looks good,” Matt said, watching as Min visibly swallowed down a retort. Blue eyes swept the otherwise empty changing area, searching for a camera. There was one, right above the door. Min actually sighed with his eyes.

“It's too tight,” he settled for saying, pulling at the fabric across his chest. Min seemed to prefer looser clothing, things that would hide his muscles, make him appear weaker than he was. No doubt so if need be he could surprise someone later with the true physical strength he possessed.

Matt ran a languid hand over Min's abs, deliciously hard even through the shirt. The silky material—this particular one was used only on slave clothing—was a pleasant contrast beneath his fingertips. “Seems just right to me.”

Min's forehead twitched, and he drew away, back into the stall. The next one had a similar fit, except for the lack of sleeves, and with a flowery design to it instead. Min was even less happy with the little pink and purple roses on it.

It really was hideous. Biting back a grin, Matt said, “You'll at least match the garden when you destroy this one.”

A seething glare from Min, who then stalked back into the stall, the curtain scraping loudly against the top rail. After he changed out of the shirt, Matt finally took pity on him.

“Go find something you can at least tolerate,” he said, hanging onto only the green shirt. He knew better than to leave it in Min's 'accidentally' careless hands. The flowery shirt they abandoned on the rack of reject clothing.

Some of Min's rigid posture eased, but he didn't say anything as he followed Matt back into the store. After some searching Min found a gray button-down shirt that they both could agree on. It was flattering enough to receive Matt's approval without being what Min exaggeratedly termed 'skintight.'

Neither of them spoke on the way home, a thick silence permeating the car. It left Matt plenty of time to think over the earlier conversation in the store. He couldn't just let this one go. This approach probably wasn't what Hollis had had in mind earlier, but it would do.

Matt pulled the Spectra into the garage. As Min walked over to the trunk to remove the purchases, Matt intercepted him, trapping him between his body and the car. The maneuver, accompanied by the close contact of their bodies, already had both their cocks jumping to attention.

Ignoring his own response for now, Matt shifted one hand between them, clasping Min's balls in a way that warned him not to play. “Admit it.”

Those light blue eyes narrowed, showing only a little of the burning arousal Matt could feel stirring against him. “Admit what?”

Matt let his words drip cool confidence. “You play it off well now, but all those months you were here before... for all the other lies you told, you were honest in one very important way that you try to hide now.” He paused, gaze steady on Min's, daring him to deny it. “You didn't hide your kinks then.”

A slight tightening of Min's jaw, and Matt knew the shot had landed, even as Min lied convincingly enough. “I'm not hiding anymore. I thought that was the whole point.”

“Really,” Matt drawled, giving Min's balls a squeeze, the heel of his hand pressed against Min's stiff cock. “Then why are you so turned on right now?”

The darkening of his eyes was unmistakable, as were his harsher breaths and the heat of his flesh even through his clothes.

Min's mouth twitched. “I heard somewhere that stroking a man's cock can be arousing, maybe that's-”

Matt squeezed him harder, putting an end to the impertinent sarcasm.

“O-okay,” Min gasped out, and after Matt eased up he added, “Not in the mood for jokes. Got it.”

“Admit the truth,” Matt growled.

Of course Min opted to continue denying it instead, using both hands to free himself from Matt's southern grip. Matt didn't fight it, aware that he couldn't force Min to stop lying to himself, but he'd begun to realize he could prompt him, get him thinking.

So he felt the need to say, “The fact that you waited so long to free yourself proves my point.”

“Sadie and Tara could-”

“You can use that excuse if you like,” Matt said, stepping back. “For now.”

Irritation flickered across Min's features, but not bewilderment.

Chapter 5
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January 2013

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