WARNINGS: NC-17. slavefic. scifi setting. M/m. some graphic violence.
WORD COUNT: 4,961 (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 aurila and tuawahine for helping me make this chapter readable. :P
Fully dressed, Matt frowned down at Min. Buried under the covers, he’d showed little sign of life this morning. While Matt wouldn’t risk repeating yesterday’s ugly scene at the office by dragging him along today, being acknowledged would be nice.
“Minril,” he murmured, tugging the blankets down.
Belligerent eyes stared up at him in silent question. Not good. “I'm leaving,” he said, hating the tentative note that slipped in there.
“Figured.” Min turned his head away.
Matt’s stomach knotted. While Min didn't seem pissed at him anymore, he still sounded hurt. That was worse, but he didn’t know what to do about it. They’d spoken little last night, things too strained between them.
He left the bedroom, stopping by the kitchen for a quick breakfast. Somehow in the middle of his idle chat with Sadie he found himself saying, “Leave Minril to himself today. He's not feeling well.”
Disapproval flickered in her eyes—and rightly so, if only Sadie knew how much he let Min get away with—but she wouldn't go against his orders.
The workday passed quietly, due equally to lack of meetings and lack of Min. His desk being right there though, a constant reminder, ensured the black-haired pain in the ass snuck into his thoughts often. Someone had brought in cookies to work today, leaving a platter in the kitchen, and he went by three times, in some vain hope that they’d fill the gnawing hole in his stomach. He still didn't understand what had set off Min. What had he expected, for him to ignore Garthen's call completely?
Perhaps it had escaped Min's notice somehow, but he had a business to run. Certain things were too important to put off, like his large, multi-million credit contract with Jarvian Industries. Maybe it was too much to expect Min to understand such a high level of responsibility. Yes, he'd run around as an escaped slave, doing as he pleased with his little cargo job, but hauling crates around didn't involve having employees depending on him, or keeping rich, fickle clients happy.
Maybe he had dragged the call out longer than he had to, but he hadn't seen the harm in it. He'd had Min bent over his desk as he talked, a delicious mix of business and pleasure. Just thinking now of the sex they'd missed out on left him half-hard and restless—and wishing Min was at the office after all.
Had it been his teasing to blame? But he’d done it many times during those first months together with the more submissive Min. The Min who hadn't denied his Andorian nature.
He couldn't help thinking this latest drama was really about Min's denial, since in the past he had just seemed helplessly aroused by the play. Of course, he'd shown very little resentment to anything the first time around, later flinging numerous examples at him of Matt’s ‘offenses.’ Ashen hell, sometimes Matt felt like he was back at that warehouse on Festun, getting shot at again.
What if there was something more to yesterday’s incident than Min’s denial though? The question troubled him throughout the afternoon, and he found himself researching Andorians. It wasn’t the first time he’d done this, puzzled by the real Min’s outrageous behavior and what made him different, but it had been a while. And this time, thinking of the Chavelles, he looked more into the labs and cloning processes as well. Was there something odd in his breeding? What he learned about the labs was not soothing, to say the least. Even the details of Andorian training programs seemed… harsh now, imagining Min enduring them. He finally stopped and tried to focus back on work, without much success.
By the time he got home and found Min reading on the vid in the den, Matt’s head was still buzzing. “Is that wise?” he asked, his tone sharper than intended as he nodded at the screen. Sadie or Tara could easily come in before Min had time to hide the reading material.
Min shrugged from the den’s sofa, an edge to his response. “I don't have my PC.”
Right. It was still locked away at work, an extreme but necessary measure, given Min’s propensity for foolish risks. He supposed he could allow him to have it back; the Chavelles must be back on Mikodra by now, and that slave of theirs long sold.
Matt joined him on the sofa. He’d caught a flash of the novel Min was reading—a thriller of some kind, it looked like—but Min had switched over to the vid waves now, flipping through different programs. He looked casual enough, but there was a distance to him that discouraged Matt from pressing close, his chest tightening. Recalling the things he’d researched today only compounded the feeling.
“How was your day?” he ventured at last.
“Quiet,” Min said. He finally spared Matt a glance. “I suppose I have you to thank for Sadie not harassing me today.”
Some of the pressure within Matt eased. Perhaps that act on his part would generate enough good will to get Min talking properly at last, he mused, until one word sank in fully. Harass? Was Min still convinced Sadie had some personal grudge against him? He stifled a sigh. “I didn’t think you were in the mood.”
“You guessed right,” Min said, pausing on a news program. They watched it for a few minutes without talking, until the young woman on the screen reported that there’d been five more attacks recently by Tercottan pirates along the Weshe Belt between the resort planet of Tamrik and Festun.
“It’s been bad out there for months,” Matt commented, not choosy about conversation topics at the moment. Anything to fill this awkward silence.
“They’ve tried to stop it,” Min said, sprawling back against the couch, “but they catch one ship, and two more replace it.”
“I know.” Matt fumbled for something else to say, his eyes slanting longingly to the bar in the corner, then chided himself for his hesitation. Ashen hell, this was Min. Since when did they ever hold back with each other?
Every time you censor yourself before speaking. He ignored that voice, commanding the vid to shut off. “We need to talk.”
His Andorian gave him a look. “Because those words always end well.”
“Don’t be difficult,” Matt growled.
Min’s mouth quirked. “Isn’t that my natural state these days?”
Another joke. Since the direct approach wasn’t working, he struck sideways. “You were cooperative enough yesterday, until you suddenly weren’t.”
The flush that suffused Min’s face was gratifying. “Fuck you,” he said in one of those light speed mood swings of his.
“No, I was about to fuck you,” Matt said with relish, “until you acquired a case of nerves like a trembling virgin. Which we both know you are very much not.”
Something dark rose in Min’s eyes. “Right. Because I’m a whore?”
Such an ashen ugly word. The details of Andorian training he’d faced today—confirming exactly that—froze his tongue. Ashes, that wasn’t what he’d meant at all. How did Min always twist his words in the worst possible way?
“No, of course not,” he began, but Min cut him off.
“You bought me in that market, just like you did others before me.” The grim smile held no humor whatsoever. “A bought and paid for bedslave. A whore.”
What could he say to that brutal truth? Part of him cried out that Min was special, and yet the rest of him quivered with the memories of trips to slave markets.
“You were different,” he insisted, searching for words that would convince them both. “I’d been looking for- the others weren’t-”
Min’s face didn’t soften any. “Yeah, I’ve heard this part. You wanted someone who was interesting. And yet when I was, you tried to beat it out of me.”
“Interesting didn’t mean disobedient,” Matt growled, feeling attacked for the actions of a man who was no longer quite him.
“If you’re about to insist that my obedience is what you still want above all else,” Min retorted, “then I don’t even know what I’m doing here anymore.”
Matt’s eyes widened. Had he somehow pushed Min to his breaking point? His body shook, sweat breaking out along his skin at the thought of Min leaving him again.
“Shit.” The word was breathed out of Min. “Don’t look so-” He paused, gathering himself as Matt waited, every muscle tense. “I just want you to see. Anyone could have bought me in that market. That short guy with the rough hands, or someone else.”
Some of Matt’s panic receded, his hands fisting as he remembered the man in question. The thought of that bastard dragging Min home and fucking him, or anyone else doing so, drove violence right to the surface.
Min placed a hand on his arm, the familiar touch bringing him back to the present. “And it was the same for everyone there. No choice who takes you home and fucks you.”
Matt frowned. It was wrong for anyone else to touch Min, because Min was his, but those other slaves…
Sighing, Min dropped his hand away. “It happened other times, Matt. That wasn’t the first market I’d been in.”
“I know,” Matt gritted, desperately wishing otherwise.
“You’re just expected to obey. They can be as harsh as they want once they buy you.” Min swallowed, looking away. “Even you were, sometimes.”
“Min,” he protested, but something in Min’s expression leveled him.
“If I told you someone beat the crap out of me just for asking about a book, how would you feel about that?”
Enraged, except he’d been the one that had done that to Min. The memories floated back to him at times, most often when they lay quietly in bed together, the bedroom dark and his fingers stroking along Min’s back. Tracing the skin he’d laid red welts into in the past. Once in a while it had been for pleasure, to watch Min’s body surrender to the sensation, heightening their mutual arousal, but mostly it had been punishment for those little flashes of attitude he’d deemed inappropriate back then.
In the wake of everything that had happened in the past year, he could no longer think of a single infraction that justified so harsh a punishment. Hell, he hadn’t been able to punish Min for the worst offense of all: running away. Not since learning of everything else Min had endured. In the middle of the night, their bodies tangled together and guilt eating at him, all he could do was hold Min tighter.
“Things are different now. Nothing like that’s ever happening again,” Matt said, reaching across the couch for him. “You’re safe.”
Min only let himself be pulled halfway towards him, his pained look drawing all of Matt’s attention. “No, I’m not.”
The words tasted like betrayal, Matt’s shoulders hunching.
“You don’t punish me anymore for ridiculous things, but you let people inspect me like I’m back at a fucking market.”
Matt flinched. Not that he was happy when other people touched Min, but it was a common practice, and caused him no harm. He had spent too much time ‘free’ if he had issues with a mild inspection like Lidia had given him yesterday.
“I don’t want them touching me, but I’m not given a choice.” Frustration was too mild a word for the look on Min’s face. “I feel trapped, like a Tamrikan cat in a cage. I have no rights here, Matt, and only whatever protection you deign to give me.”
Matt frowned. Did Min not trust him to protect him?
“It means depending on you to always be around, and for you not to change your mind,” Min said. “It’s only you stopping other people from taking advantage.”
Glaring at him, Matt said, “I am not changing my mind, and you are hardly helpless.”
“Can’t fight back while wearing this,” Min said, touching the silver collar at his neck. His stubborn Andorian never missed an opportunity to disparage the mark of Matt’s ownership. “Like when Sadie is a bitch to me, I can’t do anything about it except complain to your unsympathetic ass.”
“What?” Matt choked out, glad now that he hadn’t gotten that drink after all. “So now I’m unsympathetic?”
“Not about everything, no, but Sadie… I asked for your help, Matt, and you basically laughed it off.” Min’s hair slipped off his shoulders, shielding his downcast face. “If I could deal with her on my own, I would.”
Matt bit back a sigh, unable to resist this appeal despite the doubting inner voice reminding him of Min’s talent for manipulation. “What does she do that’s so bad?”
“Besides the constant insults you mean?” As Matt was still choosing a tactful response, Min added, “She’s always calling me an idiot, or lazy, or that I can’t do anything right. Like cleaning a damn bathroom is so hard.”
Despite a welling of unease, Matt’s lips twisted wryly. “You do have trouble keeping the sink area dry.”
“Matt,” Min growled, pulling away from him. “That’s what you take away from what I just-”
“No,” Matt said. “If she’s being too harsh, I’ll talk to her.”
Not that he was truly surprised by her conduct, once he gave it more consideration. How often had he heard his parents and other owners on Karta berate their slaves? Sadie wasn’t doing anything cruel by Kartan standards—slaves were generally thought to need constant supervision—but they were a long way from Karta, and Min was under his protection.
“What will you tell her?” Min asked.
He was butting into Matt’s affairs again, as usual. “That’s between me and her.”
Min glowered at him. “So suddenly I’m not involved?”
“She’s my employee. I’ll deal with her.”
Whatever ground he’d regained from the offer, he lost, Min’s expression smoothing into that neutral mask. “I’m not going to interfere. I just wanted to know what you plan to do.”
He wasn’t sure yet himself. Just saying ‘be nice to Min’ wasn’t an option because ‘nice’ had flexible standards. Sadie probably thought not beating Min for his less than subservient attitude was far too lenient, not that she’d by any means witnessed the worst of it. Ashen hell, if his father hadn’t disowned him already, the things he was allowing a slave to do under his roof would’ve sealed it. Even his grandfather, easily his kindest relative, would’ve been appalled.
No wonder Sadie thought nothing of scolding problematic Min, yet he’d still talk to her about it.
“I’ll make it clear that you’re mine, and she’s not to overstep her bounds,” he said.
“I see,” Min said, voice dry as kindling.
Matt crossed his arms. “I won’t tell her not to give you work. You’re here, you might as well help out.”
Giving him a look, Min said, “Did I ever complain otherwise? It’s just her attitude I don’t like.”
“Good,” Matt said with a little smile. “Keeps you busy and out of trouble.”
“Condescending asshole. I don’t need a damn minder.”
Matt had a different word for what Min needed: an owner, to keep him from being so ashen reckless. Instead of saying so he shrugged, his thoughts shifting elsewhere in the quiet that followed. “Let’s get back to the point, which you derailed us from. What’d you get all worked up about yesterday?”
Min’s aggrieved expression said he didn’t appreciate the return to this topic. “You still don’t get it?”
“I wouldn’t be asking if I did.”
“Fine.” Min swallowed. The movement drew Matt’s attention to his throat, to his collar, as he said in a low voice, “I’ve been a thing to be used too many times, Matt. Including by you.”
“What?” Matt gasped out, but the condemnation in Min’s eyes said he believed otherwise. “When did I-”
The words died in his throat. A year earlier, how often had he just grabbed Min and used him? Ignored him, until he was ready for sex? Min had been his pet, and that was what they were for, but he had ceased to be ‘just a pet’ long ago. Matt felt- he didn’t know what he felt, but it was much more now.
He cursed himself silently, regretting having treated Min like that in the beginning. If he’d caused this pain, the pleasure back then hadn’t been worth it. Despite responding physically, had Min thought he was doing the same thing again yesterday?
Matt forced himself to meet the stormy gaze. “You don’t like it when I take you over my desk?” The Andorian in Min seemed to, but he had to ask.
A thick pause drew out, until Min finally said, “Shit, you gonna make me spell it out? It’s sex with you, and rough is good sometimes. Even very good, but sometimes I feel used.”
“Used, how?” Matt asked, pained yet relieved to finally be getting somewhere.
Min made a frustrated sound. “When you just grab me and drag me over… it’s not that I’m uninterested.” He let out a breath, as if searching for words. “But it can get close, too close to before, with others… and you.”
Matt’s stomach did a curious little flip. “Before?” Not that he didn’t have an idea, but he needed to hear a full explanation.
As if cold, Min rubbed at his arms. “It’s what I was saying earlier. You’re expected to obey, no matter what they want, or how much you hate it. The sex is forced on you. No choice makes it rape, Matt.”
The headache he’d had earlier at work returned with double intensity. For clones, was it really rape? And with that definition… “You think I-?”
“No, it wasn’t rape. With you.” Min stopped, his mouth hardening. “While you didn’t give me a choice either, at least I wanted you back. Imagine if Garthen found me in some market. You think I’d want it from him?”
No, no fucking way. Not that Garthen actually seemed interested in fucking his slave, but it was too easy to picture Garthen or some similar asshole grunting on top of a chained Min who was unable to stop him. Rage twisted through him again.
“When they-” Min’s voice dropped to a whisper. “You feel violated, helpless… disgusting.”
Matt pulled him into his arms, fury still beating at him—and helplessness of his own. He hunted for the right words to make it better. “Shh, you’re not disgusting. You’re fucking amazing.”
Impossibly, Min laughed, though it was as brittle as the Askry rocks on Karta, crumbling at the slightest touch. “Now I really know you’re lying.”
“Hey,” Matt said. Seeking to lighten the moment, he gazed at Min’s exquisite features. “I didn’t say you don’t drive me insane, because you do, but there are enough positives to make it worth the headache. Like this face for starters…”
Even stroking his cheek for emphasis didn’t seem to reassure Min, something troubled lingering in his expression, but then he rested his head against Matt’s shoulder, legs curling up on the couch, and all Matt could think of was how good their bodies felt tucked together.
They stayed like that, Matt reluctant to shatter the moment, and Min seeming in no hurry to share more. After a few minutes though, one burning question rose too strongly to be ignored. Lips brushing Min’s hair, he asked, “If you felt that way, why the hell would you go back for more?”
Fingers dug into Matt’s back. “A question several people have asked, and one I’ve asked myself a lot.”
“And?” Matt prompted when he didn’t continue.
Min sighed, fidgeting in Matt’s arms. “I don’t have a good answer. Guilt, for things I’d done, family I couldn’t save… I was happy with the crew, yet somehow it wasn’t enough. Then I felt worse that it wasn’t. Nothing would make those feelings go away… except to go back. Until you.”
Matt’s heart beat faster. “Me?”
Min rubbed his head against Matt’s chest, an ashen distracting sensation. “After meeting you, you could say the pattern lost its appeal.”
Matt was silent for a minute, letting it all soak in. Nowhere in his explanation had Min stated that he’d come back because he was a slave or even Andorian, with all that those genes entailed.
“You didn’t mention certain urges,” Matt said in a quiet tone.
Shifting, Min rested his hand on the back of the couch and gave him a look. “You asked why I’d subject myself to more abuse. Considering none of my siblings feel the desire to do this, I think it’s safe to say any Andorian urges merely provide a side benefit. They aren’t big enough on their own to push me back there.”
Matt supposed that was true. Min had definitely been resisting them pretty well these past months, yet it couldn’t be irrelevant. “Well, did you ever think maybe you came back because you were looking for something?”
Min frowned thoughtfully. “Maybe closure, I’ve started to wonder.”
“Closure?” Matt didn’t like the sound of that at all.
“I think I needed to come back as me, not a persona,” Min said, “as part of breaking the pattern. I fell into it for different reasons, but it’s not the answer to my issues. It never was.”
“I don’t see how you ever thought torturing yourself was the answer,” Matt retorted. The haunted expression on Min’s face made his chest tighten, regretting the harsh tone, and he couldn’t help adding, “If you felt violated-”
Min’s fingers covered his lips, blue eyes gazing into his with weary resignation. “I can’t really explain… You grow hardened to it over time, try to enjoy what you can. Maybe that’s the worst part, getting used to abuse... As Min I could let it go if I got used and ignored, even if deep down I’d resent it later.”
The fingers slid down, tracing along Matt’s jaw now as his voice dropped into a soft, almost rhythmic cadence. “And then I met you, and it was different. I resented it when you treated me badly. I wanted you to see me, not just use me. Something changed, and I won’t go back, I can’t go back. Returning here like this sealed it.”
“Sealed what?” Matt couldn’t discern the pensive look on his face.
“I won’t pretend I’m fine with things anymore, as you may have noticed,” Min said, his mouth twitching for a moment. “I’m done settling, and I’m done punishing myself. It was stupid to do in the first place.”
Matt couldn’t shake an uneasy feeling, no matter how relieved he was by the last part. “Good you’ve wised up, but you can’t just decide everything between us.”
“I’m not.” Min’s brow furrowed. “I’m just saying you have to be careful, okay? And Flame all, don’t ignore me, treat me like- like nothing.”
“You’re not nothing,” Matt said.
“No?” Min looked at him. “Yesterday you called me a thing slipping out of your grasp, like I’m just your whore to use or ignore at will.”
Fuck. That tangent hadn’t been random at all. “I didn’t mean it that way,” Matt hissed. He could almost feel the metaphorical wall against his back. “Whatever I said exactly, it was just an excuse! I wasn’t about to explain to him exactly what we were doing.”
Min’s mouth thinned. “You seemed eager enough to talk to Garthen about other things.”
Matt frowned, trying to decipher this latest taunt. “What, you think I shouldn’t have taken his call at all? I have responsibilities, I can’t just-”
“I know,” Min cut in. He got up from the couch, pacing away, to Matt’s disappointment. “I wasn’t mad about that, even though I personally hate the bastard.”
At least Min understood that much, not that it brought him any closer to an answer.
“You shouldn’t have pushed me to stay there… especially when you started dragging out the conversation, asking about things Garthen’s griped about a dozen times already.”
Matt looked at Min’s profile, his face turned towards the window. “If I’d just let you go, by the time the call ended, your head would’ve cleared and the walls of denial would be back up.”
Min’s mouth tightened, but at least he didn’t contradict him. “Why’d you drag it out then?”
His face heating, Matt fought with himself for a moment. Saying the truth felt like it would expose him in some way, but he pressed on. “Because I don’t normally get to savor having you there, pinned like that.”
Their gazes met. No, normally it was a tangle of limbs and half-removed clothes, punctuated sometimes by him teasing Min, getting him to drown enough in need that he would beg to be taken. The languid teasing he’d indulged in the day before had been something different.
Looking away, Min broke the thick silence. “That’s not what it felt like to me. It seemed like… before.”
Matt sighed, his regret swelling again. “It’s not like before. It’s so utterly not.”
“What’s it like then?”
“I don’t want to just bend you over and-” Matt took a breath, pushing down the effects of that image. Really, was there anything he could want more than sex with Min?
Sobering, he concentrated on the hurt he’d seen the afternoon before, aware this answer was too important to screw up. “It’s not about satisfying an urge. I don’t want anyone else, I want you. I like seeing you wanting me, responding to me.” At Min’s wavering look, Matt couldn’t help adding, “Despite your adamantly denied instincts.”
Jaw clenched, Min paced along the side of the den by the windows. After a minute Matt couldn’t help prodding, “Are you ever going to admit you do like certain things?”
Min stopped, scowling. “Are you ever going to see me as a man instead of a slave?”
Narrow-eyed, Matt studied him. Was Min saying he would only submit when Matt reached some outlandish threshold that only existed in Min’s mind? Sympathetic to his past and his differences from other clones, Matt already made far more exceptions for him than any reasonable man would. His Andorian was just impossible to please.
Min rolled his eyes—at what, Matt wasn’t sure—and turned away. The evening sunlight shining through the window caught the bluish highlights in his hair.“Yeah, that’s what I thought. Nice speech about how it’s not the same, but I don’t see how you were ‘savoring’ anything if your attention had all shifted to Garthen’s complaining.”
Matt’s mouth twitched. “You thought all my attention was on him? With you naked, restrained and ready to be taken? There’d have to be an explosion right in front of us. Maybe two.”
Min’s face reddened, and he turned away, leaning his hands on the windowsill. “Never mind.”
A lengthy pause followed, Matt watching him before finally approaching, his heart feeling lighter. “We okay then?”
Min glanced over his shoulder. “Yeah. I guess we are.”
“Good,” Matt said, grabbing Min’s hand. While he didn’t underestimate the value of airing things out, they’d wasted enough time already. “Let’s fuck.”
As Matt tugged him close, a laugh spluttered out of Min. “Impatient much?”
Matt closed his eyes, loving the feel of Min’s body against his, even with clothes interfering. Nipping his ear, he purred, “Always.”
With a little shudder, Min put his arms around Matt’s neck. Lips parting, Min’s tongue claimed his mouth with devastating ease. Groaning, Matt backed them towards the couch, finding it with the aim of long practice.
They tumbled onto the cushions, Min on top of him, yanking at each other’s clothes. When Min fumbled with Matt’s shirt, too rushed for buttons but too eager to lift off of him, Matt chuckled at his muttered curses.
The dark head lifted, Min shooting him a glare, though it lacked the vitriol it might’ve had a few minutes earlier. “It’s still not okay to treat me like-”
“I know,” Matt said, more aware now how Min’s past affected their present. He touched Min’s chest, the sides of the opened shirt framing it too temptingly. The smooth, muscled skin beneath his fingers sent that surge of familiar warmth through him, his mouth quirking upwards. “I won’t keep you waiting this time.” His misjudgment had ended up keeping them both waiting too long.
“That’s not-” Whatever Min had been about to say, he changed his mind, his chest rising under Matt’s palm as he huffed out a breath. “It feels like all I’ve done is wait since I got here. A lot of sex too, but mostly waiting for something to happen.”
Matt considered him, and what he wasn’t saying, fear beginning to flutter in his gut. “And if nothing happens?”
“I don’t know,” Min said, his face blank.
“Don’t lie to me,” he ground out. Min always had an escape route planned.
Min sat up, still straddling Matt’s hips. “I’m not lying. I don’t know what I’ll do.”
“But you have ideas,” Matt pressed, following him upright. “Like leaving.”
For once Min didn’t brush off or avoid the question, looking Matt in the eye. “It’s not something I’m considering, not while you’re still giving me reasons to stay. It’s just an option.”
“More than that,” Matt said, clutching Min’s arms now, as if he could keep him around through will alone. “You don’t want to stay here.”
Despite everything between them, Min said nothing. No denial, no reassurance, not even an evasion. The air in the room thickened, as if it were made of water instead, water enough to drown him. All his focus was on Min’s eyes, on the sadness and frustration and other emotions swirling in them, none of them comforting at all.
“Not like this,” Min admitted at last.