A Slave to the Servants Ch. 35


Like the men I'd taken just a few things, enough to take the edge off of my hunger. My serving was quite small.

"They're right, Ciara," Rose intoned from several bodies behind us, "we've missed too many meals these last days. It isn't good to starve yourself. The little one will suffer, especially this close to her birth."

I took a normal share and felt embarrassed doing so. The rest of the adults in the hall were obviously rationing. I could have kicked myself for getting pregnant. It really wasn't a great time for it.

Damien's opinion on the matter was gruff. The pregnancy had not been planned as it should have been, but an alien invasion was not a foreseeable circumstance. There was no way any of us could have known this attack would happen. There was no reason for shame. My men agreed and I felt my embarrassment fade. We had done this but it wasn't like we had done it intentionally.

The next thought almost made me laugh.

Next time we'd plan the pregnancy and get permission first. If this was Kein's child, Bane wanted one next. As soon as I was healthy enough for it anyway.

I looked at my family around me and saw the thoughts in their eyes. They liked their big family. Seeing Hannah and Kennedy made them puff with pride. Aryn and his Brothers made them happy. Jonathan and his Brothers were their joy. More family with the woman they loved would make them very satisfied men.

"Not until I'm healthy enough and these guys have to be older," I said grabbing Bane's chin and meeting his eyes. I couldn't quite withhold the smile.

The big man beamed at me in return. Next time the child was his, he was ecstatic. He'd wait as long as I wanted.

A group of men finished at their table just as we left the line. They cleared their plates and wished us a good meal. Damien reciprocated for us and we settled down to eat.

Mycah's family was quiet at first. They watched everything and everyone in the hall, looking this way and that way. The curiosity seemed to be building in them and then Jonathan couldn't take it anymore.

"Why are there only two humans eating in here? Why is my female breeder human? Where do humans come from? Why does she look different? Why don't you call her 'it'? Why were we at the compound and not here?" burst out of his mouth suddenly and he looked quite ashamed.

Mycah looked at Jonathan harshly, but Christof spoke gently. Apparently, little boys were discouraged from asking questions. The lead Brother was tasked with controlling his family and not letting them "lose control", as the Child Keepers in the compound had called it. Christof wouldn't let that sort of training prevail.

"Questions and curiosity are important here," he told the boys gently. "You should be able to learn about everything around you."

The boys turned to look back and forth between Evan and Damien. They felt a connection to Evan, but Damien was the lead Brother. This was an important decision as far as they were concerned. Christof's opinion had to be confirmed by Damien.

"Christof is right," Damien said solemnly. "Learn about everything."

Evan nodded in agreement and seconded Damien's opinion, questions were healthy.

With that out of the way Christof explained as simply as he could about humans and where we came from. I was hesitant for him to explain slavery to them, but he didn't falter. Damien's family had bought me as a slave and then realized that was evil. I'd been freed and decided to stay with the family on my own.

Once Christof was done speaking the boys seemed to be mulling over it all. They sat and ate in silence and we did the same. My men ate slowly savoring the little food on their plates and the company of our children. A little hunger was a very acceptable price to pay to have the family together.

After the meal we walked through the crowds and made our way back to the place we stayed. The boys followed Damien and me obediently and the rest of the family walked behind them. Our young charges were watching everything and everyone around us. It relieved me that our rooms were off the main thoroughfare. I'd worry less about the little ones wandering off to explore. I knew they were curious children.

Men passed us heading for the transport storage area. They were armed and looked ready to fight.

"Night patrols," Damien explained, "we have young ones to watch at night. We will take day patrols. Those men are watching freed adults."

We turned off the main hall and walked into the complex of rooms where we stayed. It was usually quiet here with just a few men lounging around the central fire pit in front of all the rooms. Today it was crowded with men. Almost everyone had at least one family that were sharing their lodgings with them. They all became silent as they watched us enter.

"There are no slaves here," Mund announced loudly to the assembled crowd. "Damien's mate is with him and his Brothers by choice. We respect her and she respects us. This is a free female creature."

The men from the mountains and the men from the compounds seemed confused.

Damien took the lead and spoke to the men. He talked about innate rights to freedom and how wrong slavery was. The authoritative voice settled the crowd and they listened intently. When he wanted to, Damien could be quite commanding. I wondered to myself how long it would be before he wanted to be an Administrator.

Chairs were spaced around and lowered myself into one. Mycah's little family looked at the men and then looked at me. I saw their gazes dart all over the place. They were curious.

"Those are our rooms," I pointed them out. "You can go in there and look around. As long as you stay by us, you can look around out here, also."

Five heads turned to Evan in synchrony. Damien was busy talking and they needed to know if what I'd said was true.

"Mama is family and you can listen to her," Evan said firmly. "Go look around, but stay close."

The boys were gone in a flash to inspect our dwelling. As Damien talked, I sat with Christof and we watched the boys reemerge from our rooms. Mycah's family started to check out the community room. They found a pile of small rocks along the far wall and began to play with them.

"What are they doing?" I asked quietly as they sat the rocks in very specific places on the floor or cracked them together in the air.

Kein walked over to stand by the boys and he knew exactly what they were doing. They were making sounds as they moved the rocks around. He recognized the noises they made. The boys were remembering the battle and recreating what they'd seen. They were playing it out with the rocks.

I looked at Christof and he smiled. Evidently we needed to find them some toys. I appreciated their good imaginations, but children needed things to play with. For now they were perfectly well entertained though.

It didn't take long for me sitting in a comfortable spot to get sleepy. It became a battle to keep my eyes open and watch Jonathan. I nearly nodded off in my chair and Evan shook my shoulder.

"Go to bed if you wish to," he said with a lopsided grin, "we will join you later. We do not need to sleep yet and we will watch our sons."

I returned his smile and pushed myself up. Damien was still talking to a group of men about slavery and freedom. As I passed him I touched his arm and smiled. He returned the look and continued with his conversation.

As I left the room I heard several men comment that it was odd that I was going to the bed room on my own. They'd never seen a human decide when it needed to sleep or be left to go somewhere alone. None of them were sure how I knew I needed to rest. This new way of thinking was going to be a change for all of them.

I made sure the fire pit in the main room had enough fuel for the night. I didn't bother to light any of the torches. The men would not need them when they came to bed and I would soon be asleep. We'd be warm and comfortable in the space here.

In the quiet of the bedroom I slipped out of my day clothes and into my nighttime dress. It was a sleeveless linen shift that laced up the front and went to my knees. Smiling to myself I crawled into bed and lay on my side. It wasn't a moment before I fell quickly into my dreams.

The connection with my family was stronger now that they were here. In the periphery of my mind I heard their conversations and felt their emotions. It was a very soothing presence. When my men came into our rooms I felt the cool water they used to wipe the dirt from their bodies. In the morning they planned to go to the bathing pool, for tonight they would just clean up here.

We weren't sure the children could swim and the bathing pool would be busy tonight. It was safer to take the young ones in the early morning when we knew there would be less activity there. For now, the males all just got changed into their nighttime shifts and got ready to rest.

Damien and his Brothers lay down, but left a space on one side of the bed for our young charges. During the trip here Mycah's family had slept fitfully, clinging to one another. They hadn't used much room at all, even in their sleep they'd been anxious. The little boys crawled into their assigned spot and huddled together. Opening my eyes blearily I reached out to touch Evan in front of me and looked at our boys across the bed. I wanted to comfort them, but I didn't know what they needed.

"They need to feel safe," Kein said quietly from behind me. "This is a lot of change for them. Rest now, wife, take care of yourself. The boys will relax with time."

I assumed he was right. It was the same thing Hannah had said and it made sense. The boys had been trapped in the middle of a war and then whisked away to a new world. This was a big adjustment. We would just continue to provide a safe, stable home for them. I prayed they'd come around.

My eyes shut and I sighed. I would have been nice to sit and talk around our fire, but we had so many responsibilities now. My little boy would never get to know me if we were always doing something. I longed for a quiet day to spend with him. Perhaps then....I fell back to sleep thinking how wonderful it would be when everything calmed down again.

It was the middle of the night when I had the strong urge to wake up and stay still. The commands in my mind weren't fearful, just insistent. Breathe like I was asleep and don't move.

Mycah's family was awake and I sensed them sitting around me on the bed. The men had woken when the children did, but they wanted to see what the boys wanted. Like well trained soldiers my husbands had continued to breathe slowly and deeply, simulating sleep.

Someone's fingers touched my arm and I fought the desire to flinch. The boys must still think I was asleep because I felt all of them touching my arm. They stroked it and then pinched the skin of my upper arm. It took great fortitude not to move as they explored.

"Feels like us," I heard Niah say in a voice I'm sure he thought was a whisper. "You were right, Jonathan. You knew what Mama would feel like..."

Damien and his Brothers were glad the boys felt comfortable enough to explore, but they also felt some humor at their lack of stealth. The little ones had woken each other noisily and then walked across the bed to surround me. Damien knew we'd have a time teaching them to hunt quietly. It certainly wasn't something they would do instinctively.

Warm breath was on my cheek a moment before a kiss was pressed in the same place.

"I did it!" Mycah said triumphantly.

Each of the children pressed a kiss against my cheek. Jonathan went last and I felt him linger. Somewhere in my boy's memory was kissing. He knew what this was and he'd done it before. He repeated the gesture several times.

"Do you remember...?" he asked his Brothers in that same stage whisper Niah had used.

Aiden did. He sat behind my head and I felt him fiddling with my hair as he leaned down and pressed kisses to my temple. He remembered the gentle affection and the soft feel beneath his fingers. This was all so familiar to the two of them.

I felt the wet swipe of a tongue on my cheek and jaw. Jonathan was tasting. He did it over and over again before I felt him move away. Barely peeking, I saw him hovering over Evan's supine form. He licked his male breeder several times and then looked back at his Brothers.

They sat in silence for several heartbeats and we waited to see what they'd do next.

Jonathan stepped over Evan's head and knelt next to Damien. He tasted the big man's chin and then continued around the bed. My little boy tasted all of us until he came to sit pensively by Evan's side. Jonathan reached out and tentatively touched Evan's long hair. The sensitive locks were so much like his own, he must have recognized that.

Damien and his Brothers just continued to breathe evenly. The little family needed to do this experiment when they felt we weren't watching. This was the perfect time for it. We'd let them take as long as they needed. Finally, they reached a decision.

"We're okay here. I remember them. This really is family," Jonathan announced in that loud whisper and the little boys all murmured agreement.

"We will trust them, if you are sure, Brother," Mycah said with authority.

That familiarity they'd felt to us was a good thing. Apparently they'd decided to accept it. I almost smiled as I heard them relax. The tension they'd held in their little bodies had been palpable.

Mycah's family was yawning and stretching. Feet passed in front of me as two boys headed back to their original spot. Behind me someone stumbled over Aiden as they made their way past and hands dug into my hair. Aiden stretched out behind my head and wrapped the softness in his fingers. Glancing over I saw Jonathan curled up next to his father sucking on Evan's fingers.

"It's cold," I heard Niah complain.

He groused that he wanted his Brothers to come sleep with them. Mycah and Rees were also whining, they wanted to be closer. My men had had enough of being kept awake at night. It was time for sleeping.

Bane pulled Rees over his chest and cocooned him between himself and Kein. Niah followed his Brother and fitted himself in the crook of Bane's big arm beside Rees. Damien did the same thing with Mycah and the lead Brother snuggled between Evan and Damien, using Damien as a pillow as he yawned. My husbands tucked the boys in and I felt contentment spread around the bed.

Reaching out a hand I stroked Jonathan lovingly. He was sleepy and calm. I kept a hand on him and he didn't mind at all. In fact he seemed to relax further into the touch.

My men cradled the small family that had finally accepted them. For too long we had felt the separation of our family as an acute pain. We had our daughters returned to us, but our our sons had been lost. This night was the final step toward putting the family back together. We all felt right for the first time in a long time. The love in the room was throbbing round and round through the bonds that linked us.

The boys fell asleep almost instantly. They liked being surrounded by family. This new family was big and strong. Once they determined we were good, they fell into an almost instant deep sleep. Hearing Aiden snore behind me I knew they hadn't slept well in days.

I smiled at Evan in the dark and saw the flash of white as he smiled back. They were our boys again. We had nothing to worry about. I fell back to sleep feeling more loved than I'd ever imagined a person could feel.


"I like it here," I heard Jonathan whisper and I opened my eyes.

Evan was propped on his side talking to our son. It was near moonset and Evan had woken when Jonathan did. Now they lay side by side talking in the early morning.

"We didn't like the compound," Jonathan said with conviction. "My Brothers and I knew there were more in the family and not just us. We didn't like the Keepers and we felt lonely...."

"We missed you all, too," Evan told him, as he stroked his boy's hair. "You are family and we wanted to be close to you. I promise we won't let anyone take you all again."

As they lay next to one another and talked, I knew what Evan was doing. He was reestablishing the connection we'd worked so hard to cultivate with our son. Jonathan said he remembered us and he loved us. It was all coming back.

The rest of the little ones were waking up, probably at Jonathan's mental prodding. I felt Aiden behind me stretching and snuggling in my hair. Jonathan's attention turned and was on his Brother immediately.

In a flash I was smothered under Jonathan's writhing form as he attacked Aiden. I pushed Jonathan up and over and he continued to wrestle with his Brother behind my head. I tugged my hair free and sat up to watch the boys.

Once Aiden was excited and awake, Niah and Rees were their next targets. The boys pounced on Kein and Bane, intent on getting to their Brothers that lay nestled between the two men. Rees was the hardest to wake up and he didn't rouse until Mycah crawled over Bane to get to him.

The boys tumbled and played on the bed until Damien clapped his hands.

"We go to swim and bathe, boys," he said in a commanding tone, "put on your clothing!"

They were up in a flash. Watching the boys try to dress themselves was somewhat amusing. They were too young to get it completely right. They put their shirts on inside out and used each other's boots. At the compound the Keepers would have assisted them, for the first time in a long time I was able to help my boy. It was a wonderful feeling!

Before we left for the pool, Evan spent a moment untangling my hair. I sat on a chair and let him work behind me. Aiden had made a terrible mess of the back, as he had always done before.

"Where is Halil?" Aiden asked crawling up on my lap with absolute familiarity. "Where is Rynal?"

The other little boys looked up from what they were doing and started to ask similar questions. It sounded like they were all asking for their breeders.

"Halil went to The Great Harmonious Spirit," I told Aiden gently, "and we will have to find Rynal."

The rest of the boys asked only for one name and I assumed they only knew their female breeders. Damien promised we would find them and the boys seemed somewhat satisfied with that answer.

The halls were mostly dark and quiet as we made our way to the bathing hall. It was still early. Mycah's family walked with us and they were all questions this morning. We answered everything and encouraged them to look around.

"The camp is new to your family," Evan told them. "You should pay attention to everything as we pass."

That was all the permission Mycah and his Brothers needed. They bounded down the hall and peered into the unlit fire pits. Nosy boys stuck their heads in different doorways to see what was in each room.

It was like watching five parts to a magnet. The boys would separate and see five different things. A moment later they would be back in a group talking rapidly about what they'd seen. In the blink of an eye, they'd be off exploring again. It was not behavior I'd seen on the monitors from the compound, but then the Keepers had never encouraged curiosity.

"I am jealous," Christof said watching them.

We were encouraging their inquisitiveness and wonder, and not stifling them. Christof would have liked to have grown up with this freedom.

"And I am sorry, Brother," Damien told him solemnly.

It had been his job to control Christof. He'd had to limit Christof's nature, so the family could succeed.

"We did what we had to, Brother," Christof told him. "This is much better, though."

Inside the bathing hall were many men with small children. Evidently everyone had the same idea. It would be easier to watch the little ones with fewer grown men here. We got the boys undressed and guided them toward the pool.

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