flighty_dreams: (pensive)
[personal profile] flighty_dreams
Just squeaking this post in before the New Year here, but I wanted to wish you all the best in 2012 and hope you all had a wonderful holiday season.

And as a holiday present, here's a Scotch ficlet. These two have been neglected for far too long, so for any readers still interested (I hope there are some of you out there still...), there will be a proper update to the regular story very soon. :-)

And progress on Spliced continues, don't worry. Happy New Year!


A Scotch for the Road: Holiday Edition
Length: 2,213 words


The deluge of rain was almost worse than the holiday crowds.

Brett navigated his way carefully through the heavy foot traffic, seeking the last store he needed. Rain had been forecast, but not this amount of it, pounding down incessantly. He was glad for his heavy coat and his hat and scarf, pulled close. At least they hid the collar too; among all the wet bodies dressed similarly it was hard to distinguish status. It made him less careful to avoid jostling the pedestrians around him.

The department store he ducked into was busy despite the terrible weather. This close to the Midwinter holiday people couldn't afford to bypass the shops due to weather. And at least it was rain; the temperature had risen a few degrees just in time to avoid snow.

Hair clung to the back of his neck; the parts of it not covered by the hat were dripping wet. Chilled to the bone, he shivered as he adjusted to the warmer air of the store. But it was the packages stuffed inside his coat that he checked, making sure their contents hadn't suffered the same drenching as the rest of him.

He'd gone out in search of two things: a particular perfume Jenna's mother loved and a new wallet for her brother. Neither were people he was fond of, but they were her family. She'd searched for their Midwinter presents the previous weekend without success. They were the last two gifts she needed. With time growing short, he'd offered to go looking while she was at work today.

Besides, he'd had one more gift in mind for Jenna. He'd finally spotted the perfect shawl at the last store he was in, but not the perfume for her mother. He had found the exact wallet she wanted to buy her brother though, to his relief. The chore of choosing a different but acceptable one had been a prospect he dreaded.

As he walked down the crowded main aisle into the cosmetics department, his hands rose to loosen the scarf, but paused mid-action. It had taken forever to get service at the last two stores, the clerks taking every free customer who showed up before they would acknowledge him or any of the other slaves present. It was late afternoon now, and he was tired and soaked and wanted to go home.

Pretending couldn't hurt, could it? The dozen people he saw clustered in front of the counter he needed decided it for him. He patted the scarf and the lapels of his coat, verifying his collar was fully covered, then joined the line of people waiting to be helped before he could rethink the decision.

Two slaves stood near the line but not in it, knowing better than to presume in such a way. He swallowed; perhaps they were wiser than he, not taking stupid risks. He shivered even through the coat. It wasn't waterproof, and it felt soaked through in places. For the twentieth time today, he wished he hadn't forgotten an umbrella on his way out earlier.

He tried not to glance at the other slaves too much as he progressed slowly through the line. Better to pay them as little attention as most free people normally did. They hovered near the line, and a few people tossed them irritated looks. Brett stifled his own annoyance; what else could they do when they couldn't join the line?

His fists clenched at his sides. Openly joining the line would get them yelled at and kicked out of it. What would they do if they caught him pretending? Surely they wouldn't go so far as calling security on him. They'd probably kick him out of the store, and at worst would call Jenna to report his misbehavior. It was only the knowledge that Jenna wouldn't care that gave him enough daring to even try this.

Donovan had never allowed him out anywhere on his own—so he couldn't sneak off to see Jenna, he realized now—and Yorkfield... he'd run errands for him, but Brett would never have dared this with him. The man had been too unpredictable, and- and while with him he'd stopped caring about much of anything. Feeling nothing had been easier.

He took a step forward as another person finished. His heart beat faster; he was next. Since reuniting with Jenna, he felt more alive. The fear that it would one day end was still there, but it felt too good not to savor for as long as possible.

“Next,” a frazzled looking clerk with short dark hair said.

Stepping forward, he gave her a tentative smile, reminding himself not to duck his head. It was she that spoke first, asking, “How may I help you today?”

He forced himself to meet her eyes. “I'm looking for the Silken Forest perfume.”

“Silken Forest,” she murmured to herself, barely giving him a glance before bending down to look under the counter. “Ah yes,” she said after a moment, straightening and placing two bottles of different sizes onto the countertop. “Which would you like?”

He hadn't thought to ask Jenna which size she wanted him to buy. He worried at his lip. “How much are they?”

The prices she quoted decided it for him. “I'll take the smaller one.”

“Is there anything else you need help with?” she asked, summoning a smile for him despite her obvious exhaustion. “Perhaps another gift you need help selecting?”

A little startled by the solicitude—no clerks ever bothered to be so polite to slaves—he shook his head. “No, thank you.”

He only had enough cash on him for the smaller bottle—incredible that such a small amount of liquid could cost so much—and he couldn't pay with the card Jenna had given him months ago. Not without giving himself away. As it was he had to stop himself from taking his ID card out as he paid, the action instinctive with every transaction now. He removed the cash quickly from his wallet, in case anyone spotted the Bureau of Slave Affairs logo on the part of the ID card sticking out from its slot.

He placed the cash on the counter and slid it towards her. She glanced up at him, a frown touching her lips. It was part of slave training to carefully avoid making contact like that. His stomach clenched, the temptation to take the bottle and duck into the safety of the crowd overwhelming. Had he given himself away with such a stupid little mistake?

“Diana, have you seen that new Donna Abaran perfume anywhere?” the woman next to her asked his clerk. She then seemed to realize she'd interrupted her fellow employee and looked at Brett. “Sorry, sir, we'll be just a second.”

Too relieved by the interruption, he just smiled and nodded, bemused at being addressed as 'sir.'

They found the perfume in question, his clerk gave him his change, and Brett took the bottle and escaped. His pleasure at his success only increased when he reached the entrance again and saw the rain had lightened to a drizzle. Perfect timing.

Concealing his latest purchase inside a pocket of his coat, he pulled his hat down lower and stepped outside. It was a good twenty minute walk back to the apartment, and halfway there the rain intensified, falling harder than before. It pounded down, the freezing rain stealing away all warmth, and he left a dripping trail of water as he trudged into the lobby of Jenna's building.

Jasper gave him a sympathetic smile as he opened the door for him, but the security guard tossed him a dirty look. Considering the multiple muddy trails already left on the marble tile, Brett didn't let it bother him. All he could think about was getting changed and warm again.

His hands were half-frozen—he hadn't worn gloves, more fool he—and he fumbled with his keys. They dropped to the carpeted floor outside the front door. He cursed under his breath as he bent down to pick them up.

The door opened just as he finally got the key into the lock, startling him. Jenna pulled him inside. “Brett, you're soaked!”

He couldn't help a bedraggled smile, despite how wretched he felt. “It's raining a little.”

“A little? It's a flood out there!” Jenna eyed him, her voice filled with concern. He started taking off his coat, but she stepped in, pulling it off for him. She held it between two fingers, grimacing as she hung it on the nearby rack. The scarf and hat joined it a moment later.

He shivered. The coat hadn't provided much warmth anymore, but being without it was worse. His pants clung wetly to the lower half of his legs, and his thin sweater was damp too.

“Come on,” Jenna said, guiding him towards their bedroom. “Let's get you out of these wet clothes.”

It probably said something about his miserable state that those words didn't immediately make him think of sex.

The rest of his clothes dropped onto the bathroom floor, she folded a thick towel around him. He sat on one of the rugs in the bathroom and sighed, savoring its dryness. Through the limp wet hair hanging in his face, he watched her turn on the tub's faucet. Then she was back with another towel, scrubbing his hair with it.

As the worst of the chill left him, he found himself blushing. Jenna was pampering him. Not that she didn't spoil him terribly—she did, all the time—but normally he'd be the one drawing a bath and- and everything else, not her.

“Jenna,” he found himself protesting, “you don't have to-”

“Brett,” she said, the exasperated edge unmistakable, “if I want to take care of you, I'm certainly within my rights, aren't I?”

“I-” Both a smile and a sigh escaped him. “Yes, Mistress.”

“Good.” With one last rub, she lowered the towel and looked him in the eyes, her expression sobering. “What you can do is tell me where you were. I was getting worried.”

He blinked. “I was doing the shopping you wanted.”

Frowning, she squeezed his shoulder through the blanket. “For over four hours? You were on your way out when I talked to you at lunchtime.”

“I got delayed a bit,” he admitted, ducking his head. There'd been a home improvement show on television that had caught his interest, and he'd finished it first. Now he felt guilty for doing so when he should have been completing his duties faster. “I'm sorry, Mistress. Then the crowds and the rain-”

“Yeah,” she said, her frown deepening. “If I'd known it would get so bad out I would've told you to leave it for tomorrow.”

He shrugged. It was done now.

She rose, checking the water in the tub. He stood too, no longer so chilled. He could certainly help her with-

“Get in,” she said, beckoning him over. As if he would disobey that particular order, especially after the afternoon he'd had.

He sighed as the warm water worked its magic, driving the last of the cold away. His bliss seemed to inspire Jenna, who stripped off her clothes and joined him a minute later. It was her that insisted on washing him, scrubbing at his hair again.

He put up only a mild protest. Why fight her on it when it was what she wanted?

She dunked his head under the water to rinse it, then said, “I was about to go out looking for you myself.”

“What?” he said, turning to look at her.

“I left work early because of the weather,” she told him, “and you weren't here. I had two hours to fret, especially when you didn't answer your mobile.”

Dismay filled him. “I didn't think to check it. I thought you were still at work.” He touched her cheek, seeking to reassure her. “I'm sorry, Jenna.”

She smiled, giving him a quick kiss. “It's all right. You're here now.”

She went back to washing him, and he really didn't protest her pampering now. He knew it would make her feel better, and what higher purpose did he exist for than to make her happy?

“You were able to find the stuff?” she asked him after they passed some time in companionable silence.

“Yes. I had to check a couple different stores for the perfume, but I got it.”

She grimaced. “Yeah, that one is notoriously hard to find. Thanks for taking care of it.”

He kissed the smooth curve of her shoulder. “You're welcome.”

She leaned back against the side of the tub, taking him with her. “I hate going to the shops this time of year. How bad were the lines?”

“Terrible,” he said, recalling how he'd spent over an hour waiting to get her brother's wallet purchased. The line of free people waiting had taken forever to disappear.

“Well,” she said, that devilish note he loved entering her voice, “I'll just have to reward you handsomely for your diligence, won't I?”

He lifted her hand from the water and pressed his lips to it. “I wouldn't resist much, Mistress.”

She laughed, the sound sending a delightful shiver through his body. “I didn't think you would.”

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