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Fic: Comes a Horseman 2/5

And the crazyness continues... :)

Title: Comes a Horseman 2/5
Author: astri13
Genre: RPS AU
Characters/Pairings: Jared/Jensen, Chris/Steve, Chad
Rating: NC-17
Word Count: 6.122
Warnings: Graphic slash in later chapters
Summary: In the Bronze Age young healer-apprentice Jen is living a life of quietness. Though this may change once Jaret, leader of a barbarian horde, comes riding into his village.
Notes/Credits: Much thanks for beta duties go to xkatjafx and anutty1
Pure, unblemished CRACK, people.
For practical reasons the characters will speak/think in English, maybe even a bit advanced and not Ancient Sumerian. I used real names when they sounded fitting for the time period, perhaps with a different pronunciation - any eye witnesses are welcome to prove me wrong - and tried to "age" those that didn't. Though they should be easy to figure out, still.
The title is an hommage to a Highlander-episode which served as inspiration for this.
Disclaimer: Not real, don't own anything or anybody. Fair use only. Not created for profit.

Chapter 1




Chapter 2


Jaret led Jen away from the busy camp to a secluded space in the desert. Jen went docily, the shock over Krisian driving all other thoughts from his mind. Part of him wanted to rush back, confront Krisian but Jaret's firm grasp on him as well as the glowering look the barbarian sported, reminded Jen how little his wishes mattered now.

Nodding to a spot a few feet away, Jaret released Jen's arm. He was still holding onto the mysterious bundle. Jen gulped. The needs of his body had gotten more and more pressing but he didn't think he would be able to perform as long as Jaret was watching him. He coughed. "I…I will not try to flee," he offered weakly.

"You wouldn't get far if you did," Jaret retorted coolly. But he seemed to take pity on Jen because he turned his gaze slightly to the side.

Quickly Jen went about his business. When he was finished, he coughed again.

Instantly Jaret crossed the distance between them and grabbed his arm once more. Jen sighed, resigned that he would be led back to the confines of the tent straight away. To his surprise they didn't make their way back to camp but instead walked over to the tiny oasis.

Jaret nodded to the water. "Clean yourself," he ordered.

Obediently Jen knelt down beside the water. He cupped his hands into it and splashed some onto his face and arms. His fingers encountered slight stubble on his chin. He wondered if he would be allowed to groom himself? The men of the horde were surprisingly clean-shaven for the wild folk they were sure to be.

Watching his distorted image on the shimmery surface made Jen remember the times him and Krisian had spent frolicking here, and his heart ached with his former friend's betrayal. After the tribe had taken him in, giving him food and shelter, how could Krisian have joined forces with those that had so brutally attacked them? It seemed impossible yet proved the only explanation for Krisian enjoying the freedom that he obviously still did.

A formidable warrior like Krisian wouldn't have been taken easily, in fact earlier Jen had been caught between fear Krisian was dead and hope he'd come to their rescue. Would Krisian laugh about such childish naivety now if he learned of it? Jen wondered if maybe Krisian had been with the horde before and had simply returned to them? Maybe he'd even led them here? But no, it had been two summers, too long a time just to play someone for a fool. And to what end really? Jen couldn't believe he'd judged his friend so wrongly. Their friendship had been more than a lie, it had been real. Which made the betrayal all the more painful.

"I told you to clean yourself." Jaret's voice rang out sharply. "Not just dribble some water onto you. Now take off your tunic and do it thoroughly."

Jen's head shot up, and he blushed deeply. Take off his tunic? That would leave him naked before Jaret's eyes. Jen really, really didn't want to do that. However, going by Jaret's angry expression Jen's wishes on this matter might not count for much.

Now Jaret smiled again but it looked grim. "Do you want me to help you?" he asked with a sneer.

Jen bit his lip against the onslaught of fear and helplessness he felt right then. Hesitantly he pulled the tunic over his head. He'd been naked in front of others before but it had been for practical reasons, and the other men had never given him more than fleeting glances. Now, though, under Jaret's heated, appraising looks, Jen was burning with shame. And anger. Keeping his eyes downcast, he went back to the water and started to scrub the dirt and sweat of the last two days from his body.

"Slaves can't afford the luxury of shame," Jaret spoke up again, "You'd do well to remember that."

Something in his tone perked Jen's interest. Jaret's words had not sounded gleeful but full of anger and bitterness. Even hurt. An odd sentiment for a barbarian.

Jen finished and grabbed for his discarded tunic again.

"Wait." Jaret's voice stopped him.

Jen froze, keeping his eyes firmly on the water in front of him. Despite the blaring sun he started trembling when he felt Jaret coming closer. No, please no.

But Jaret just held out a piece of cloth to him, and only now Jen realized it as a new clean tunic. Softer and of finer hand making than his old woollen one, too. The thought of wearing something from the horde's loot sickened him but it was still better than wearing nothing at all. So Jen grabbed for it quietly and went to pull it over his head. He was stopped by Jaret's fingers trailing slightly over his bare shoulders.

"They're everywhere," Jaret murmured wondrously. Upon Jen's confused look, Jaret explained. "The dots sprinkling your body. They're everywhere."

Jen felt the urge to cover himself even more. He'd had these sprinkles since he was a child and had never liked them much. Apparently Jaret thought differently.

Finally, Jaret let go of him, and Jen quickly dressed himself, heaving a relieved sigh once the cloth shielded his body's nakedness once more. It felt soft and comfortable against his clean skin. At any other time Jen would have been happy to be gifted with such precious garments. But Jaret probably only wanted him to look presentable for the time he was auctioned off, Jen thought bitterly.

They made their way back to the camp. Krisian was still milling around, he was standing a few feet away from the cluster of some riders. Jen noticed some of them giving Krisian suspicious looks but Krisian didn't notice. His attention seemed firmly focused on Jen, throwing worried glances at him, which made Jen's blood boil. How dare he? How dare that traitor pretend to be full of concern when he simply stood by as his friend was dragged off to do Gods know what with him?

Jen wanted to scream, throw himself at Krisian and kill him with his bare hands - even knowing that he'd most likely be swatted away like a fly - but his rage was so overwhelming it all but froze him to the spot. One of Jaret's big hands came down on his shoulder, squeezing lightly. Jen recognized it as a warning not to act out. He guessed that was a slave's lot too, suffering injustice without even being allowed to speak up against it.

When Jaret lightly shoved him back into the tent, Jen was almost glad because it meant he wouldn't have to look in Krisian's traitorous face anymore. On the other hand he was once again alone with Jaret. And in the seclusion of the tent Jen felt almost as naked again as he had been by the water.

Thankfully Jaret seemed to have other things in mind. He just reached for Jen's wrists and again tied them together, then trailed the end of the rope around the post. It gave Jen enough room to move around a bit. The loud rumbling of Jen's stomach broke the silence. He'd sipped a bit of water earlier, but hadn't eaten in two days. Jaret, who had already been about to leave, looked back at the sound, which made Jen blush. Jaret frowned at him for a second before he left, and Jen sighed, readying himself for the fact that he would have to go hungry for a while. With the harshness of desert life it wasn't anything Jen hadn't done before but that didn't make it any easier each new time it happened.

However, Jaret suddenly returned again, carrying a little plate with fruit. He put it next to Jen. "Eat."

Surprised at the small act of kindness, Jen looked up at Jaret. It wasn't what he would have expected from a barbarian. Jaret seemed to have surprised even himself because his features hardened at Jen's questioning gaze. "Wouldn't want to harm the goods," he barked before once again storming out of the tent.

This time Jen was left alone for good, apparently, and he greedily dug into the fruit, hoping the others of his tribe were equally lucky. Afterwards he made a few more futile attempts to loosen his bonds before he laid down again.

He must have dozed off because Jaret's hand shaking his shoulder woke him up. Jen swallowed when he opened his eyes and found himself in a position not unlike the one a day before when Jaret had pressed his lips to Jen's. The tall man's face was close enough so their lips were almost touching while Jaret's other hand gently combed through the soft strands of Jen's hair.

Jen turned his head to the side and closed his eyes to escape the burning look in Jaret's eyes. This gentleness confused him. He almost preferred it when Jaret caused him pain. At least pain was something clear, easily understandable. It allowed Jen to focus his feelings of rage and hatred on Jaret. When Jaret was treating him with kindness, though, Jen felt unsure, like he was standing on quicksand. He never knew what Jaret was going to do next and it wore down on him. Jen had learned a long time ago a beast was always at its most dangerous when it hid its lethal nature.

The hand in Jen's hair stopped its stroking motion and turned into a forceful grip. Also, Jen could no longer feel Jaret's warm breath ghosting over his skin so he carefully opened his eyes again. Jaret's expression was cold.

"You need to go out again?" he asked.

Jen nodded. Quietly they made their way to a secluded area but once Jen was finished, Jaret immediately ushered him back to the camp. Jen breathed in the cool night air, wishing he could stay outside a little longer but Jaret impatiently shoved him back inside.

To Jen's great relief their sleeping arrangements were the same as the night before, meaning Jaret ended up lying half on top of him. Soon, the big man's deep breathing told Jen that Jaret had fallen asleep. Cautiously Jen tried to wriggle free but a hard smack on his lower back told him that to Jen's great misfortune Jaret appeared to be a light sleeper.

Sighing, Jen gave in and tried to fall to sleep as well but found himself unable to. He listened to the sounds from outside, the howls of a hyena, the occasional clanging of metal, light voices, probably from the riders guarding the camp. At one point there was some yelling which quickly turned to painful crying, then dissolving into desolate sobs. Jen shivered. Did they torture a captive? Just for their wild, ruthless fun? As meagre a shelter as it seemed, at the moment Jaret's arms around him provided the only security Jen had. And a tiny part of him couldn't help but be grateful for that. As terrible as it was in here, it seemed to be a thousand times worse outside.

* * *



The next day brought an unforeseen turn of events but, of course, Jen hadn't known that when he had woken up and found himself subjected to Jaret's huge wandering hands again. Luckily, Jaret had seemed to be in a playful mood and had resigned himself to spiking a bit of fear in Jen but never following through on the things he'd whispered in Jen's ear. Not that Jen had really understood most of them.

So he'd just lain there with hands balled into fists and clenched teeth, allowing himself to be fondled and thinking of the kind of herbs that would give Jaret a nasty, itching rash if his skin came into contact with them or, better yet, the ones that, if ingested, led to a painful and humiliating result. Now that the night with its terrors was over Jen felt less inclined to be grateful for Jaret's presence, and his thoughts turned to seeking vengeance once more.

Now they were sitting outside. Jaret was sharpening his sword with strong strokes while Jen sat next to him, lost in thought. He was glad to have been allowed to leave the tent's sticky hotness to take in fresh air but his heart was heavy when he watched the others from his tribe, held down by thick ropes and their faces full of despair. And there was so few of them left alive of all the tribe. Some women seemed to have been claimed by the riders. Jen noticed two women sporting ugly bruises. Maybe they had been the cause of the crying last night?

He swallowed heavily, wishing he could help them somehow. His own - unbound - wrists mocked him because, really, what could he do? Jaret would have long knocked him down before he even laid a hand on that heavy broadsword the barbarian was working on with such care. At least Krisian's face was nowhere to be seen which made Jen grateful to be at least spared that aggravation.

With growing dread Jen had also watched the preparations to leave the campsite which could only mean they were about to start their journey for the settlements - and with it their slave markets. From there his chances of escape would be even slimmer, he figured. He was so caught up in his own misery; he didn't even realize it was his name that was being called out right now, the noise reverberating throughout the camp.

Jaret looked up from his work, frowning. Upon seeing Krisian who struggled to support the weight of an obviously injured Stavus, Jaret jumped up and hurried over to them while Jen remained frozen in place. Krisian called out for him again - and Jen understood. Had they been with their tribe still, Jen wouldn't have hesitated to help but surely Krisian couldn't expect him to use his healing abilities on those who'd killed and enslaved them? He looked away.

"Jen!" This time it was Jaret's sharp voice, not Krisian's, that barked his name, making Jen look up again.

Jaret's eyes held an unmistakeable command and the promise of unpleasant retribution should it be ignored so hesitantly Jen trailed behind as Jaret and Krisian carried Stavus into a tent where they gently laid him down on some furs.

Jaret looked straight at him, his head only nodding in Krisian's direction while he spoke. "He said you're a healer. So help him."

"Snake-bite, we need to be quick," Krisian spoke up urgently, once again searching Jen's gaze.

"Hashid is our healer. I was only his apprentice," Jen explained, his voice taking on a petulant tone.

"Hashid is dead, Jen." Krisian spoke up gently.

Jen's head shot around to fix Krisian with a hateful glare at that. "And you killed him."

Krisian bit his lip. "I didn't--"

"But you're with them now. He saved your life and you joined with those who murdered him. Traitor," Jen spat - literally.

"Enough!" Jaret called out. He pointed to Stavus but kept looking at Jen. "You will help him. Now!"

"What if I don't?" Jen desperately tried to keep his voice from shaking at the thought of defying Jaret but the anguish on Krisian's face, the feeling that it was now him who held a small measure of power egged him on.

Predictably Jaret's eyes darkened. He took a few menacing steps towards Jen but Krisian caught his arm. "Wait. Be reasonable. Maybe…" He looked at Jen thoughtfully, "…maybe Jen could regain his freedom with this. A life for a life?" He looked at Jaret imploringly.

"What?" Jaret barked, seemingly offended by the suggestion. "The slave will do as he's told."

Jen stubbornly folded his arms in front of him at the words.

But Krisian wasn't deterred so easily. He pointed at Stavus. "Look at him, he is in bad shape. I've seen men die like this in the span of moments. But I've also seen Jen save others from such fate. Stavus told me about you, you owe him. And I…," his voice went down to a mere whisper, "…owe them both."

"I don't want anything from you," Jen said heatedly while Jaret continued to glower, obviously not happy about Krisian's words either. Once more he looked down at Stavus who appeared to have trouble breathing.

Jaret turned to Jen. "Can you help him?"

Jen shrugged, dropping his gaze to the ground. For a moment quietness descended upon the tent, which made Stavus, laboured breathing stand out even more. Krisian dropped down beside him and took Stavus' hand, whispering to him soothingly.

"His life for your freedom."

The words made Jen look up in surprise. He couldn't believe Jaret had just spoken them. "Why should I believe you?" He asked, wide-eyed.

Jaret appeared about ready to strike him. "I'll give you my word. He lives, you go free." His face got hard, "You do nothing and your whole people will learn the true meaning of suffering."

Jen nibbled on his lower lip, thinking, He didn't have much hope Jaret would do any of the kind but he would punish Jen and all of the tribe for not helping. So he had much to lose by refusing but only to gain by obeying.

"Me and the children," he gambled.

A cold laugh was his answer. "A greedy slave, are you? I'm not losing ten perfectly good slaves." A curious expression came over Jaret's face. "But you can choose two and their mother and I'll set them free. That is, them or you of course."

The challenge was blatant, and Jen gasped. He heard Krisian's urgent whisper to be sensible and choose himself - and felt ashamed because he truly was thinking of it right now. Jaret's smug smirk and Krisian's concerned glance made the choice for him. He'd show them that he, Jen, unlike barbarians and traitors, was a man of honor.

"T…the children," he stuttered out. "There are twins, Alana and Ashan. And their mother Elena." Jen felt terrible for having to pick and choose but the twins were so small and vulnerable, among the youngest of the tribe. And Elena was one he'd already seen carrying ugly bruises, throwing tearful looks at her children. He just needed to help them. And then, he needed to find a way to help all the others too.

Krisian cursed, something about noble fools, and even Jaret seemed speechless at the answer but he nodded, then pointed at Stavus, and Jen hurried over to the injured man. He examined the bite mark on Stavus' leg. It wasn't deep but the area was already red and swollen. Clearly a poisonous snake, Jen figured. They were a constant danger to those who lived in the desert.

He turned to Krisian, now all entranced in helping Stavus - it was better to distract himself from the thought that he'd just traded away his possible chance for freedom - and inquired after the snake. Luckily Krisian could describe it quite well, and Jen immediately knew what to do.

"I'll need water. Some herbs. And a knife," he explained.

Jaret had tensed at the mention of the knife but he simply withdrew his own from the sheath at his side and held it out to Jen. "I'll see to the water. What kind of herbs do you need?"

"They're growing at the oasis. But Hashid had some dried ones in his tent. Those are better. If you raided his belongings…" he trailed off.

Krisian nodded. "I'll go look through the loot." For a second he seemed unable to tear himself from Stavus' side but hurried out finally.

Jen went to work, making several deep cuts above the bite mark to stop the flow of the poison and allow the tainted blood to drain from the wound, helping the process with his mouth when the need arose. The whole time he felt Jaret's presence beside him, tense and watchful, but the other man remained quiet.

When Krisian returned with the water and various bags Jen knew to be Hashid's, he bit his tongue to keep from making another scathing remark. He ignored the bruise on the chin and the bleeding cut above the eye that had suddenly appeared on Krisian's face though it made Jaret raise an eyebrow. Jen sensed an unspoken exchange of words between them but for his part simply took the offered items and went back to treating Stavus.

Snakebites were tricky, Jen knew that. Depending on how quick the wound was treated - and by whom - it could be fatal. Even a talented healer might not always be able to save the infected.

Once Jen was confident he'd done all he could, he looked up at Jaret who hadn't moved from his spot beside Jen. "I'm done."

"He will survive?" Jaret's voice was stoic but Jen noticed the hint of fear it carried. And he noticed Krisian's anxious gaze on him too.

He shrugged. "I've done my best. Now it's up to the Gods."

Jaret's eyes narrowed. "He dies and our trade is off. Among other things," he threatened.

Jen's lips twisted into a bitter smile. "I didn't expect anything else."

Jaret inclined his head. "Then we understand each other." He pointed to Stavus. "He doesn't need your magic anymore tonight?"

Upon Jen's headshake, Jaret grabbed his arm and pulled Jen upright. "Then come. We'll retreat to our own tent." Looking at Krisian, he said. "You will stay with him."

It wasn't a question but Krisian nodded nonetheless. "I'll come see you if anything…happens," he said quietly. Then to Jen. "Thank you, Jen. I'm in your debt."

Jen sneered. "I told you, I don't want anything from you, least of all your gratitude."

Jaret looked between them before he gruffly announced it was time to go and marched Jen from the tent.

* * *



Over the next few days Jen fell into an uneasy routine. Due to Stavus' illness the camp wouldn't be moving anywhere soon so, if nothing else, Jen had at least bought them time. Of course he'd broached the subject of the children with Jaret right away but Jaret had pointed out he'd first needed to be sure Stavus would survive. So far, it looked very promising. Jen tended to the injured man twice a day, and while Stavus had run a fever at first, Jen believed the worst was behind them now.

The rest of his time Jen spend in Jaret's tent, tasked with minor work like cleaning and keeping Jaret's things in order. Unfortunately that didn't include access to any weapons as Jaret never left Jen alone with his sword or knife. Jaret had even taken a bizarre pleasure in shaving Jen himself. Any scathing remarks Jen might have wanted to make as to that died in his throat once Jaret held the very sharp knife to it before slowly letting it glide upwards.

At least, seeing as Jaret's tent was right in the middle of camp and Jen wouldn't be able to leave it unseen, Jaret allowed him to remain unbound even when he was alone in there. That had come as a great relief, especially for Jen's sore wrists. A few times he'd peeked outside, trying to gauge his chances but each time he'd caught the watchful eye of a guard.

And of course there was the added matter of Jen's conscience. Who knew how the tribe would be punished if Jen managed to escape. Unfortunately, Jaret seemed insightful enough to know that about Jen, even though Jen held no illusion as to what Jaret would think of such nobility. For a supposedly wise man, Jaret had said, Jen had made a foolish choice in putting the children's fate over his own. Jen had told him how he wouldn't expect a barbarian to understand. Jaret had laughed at that but there had been this strange expression on his face again. Jen couldn't really put his finger on it but it somehow felt like he'd struck a sore spot.

Jaret continued to take him out to the desert to take care of his needs and freshen up with the cool water. On those short trips he'd gotten a good idea on how many of his tribe had actually survived. Most of the missing ones were men, which Jen had expected but the loss was still painful. Krisian's presence did leave little hope that the hunters had remained unscathed, and, upon Jen's tentative inquiry, Jaret had dashed even that.

For his part Krisian had tried to strike up a conversation the first time Jen had returned to Stavus but after Jen had pointedly ignored the attempts, Krisian had given up and did his best now to avoid the young healer. Jen knew what he was up to. In the past whenever they'd had a disagreement Krisian had just left him alone for a while until Jen started missing his friend all on his own and forgot about his grudge. Well, if Krisian thought that would work this time, he was sadly mistaken, Jen thought grimly.

Under Jaret's watchful eye Jen also gathered both their food and water and prepared their meals. At first he had tried to protest this but Jaret had cheerfully reminded him that if Jen didn't cook, Jaret might find other uses for him. So grudgingly Jen had obeyed. At least he had discovered that Jaret's mood improved vastly whenever he was well fed. He was nice and agreeable then, even joking around.

Of course getting the giant man fed in the first place was a difficult task as Jaret could eat a whole horse and still be hungry. Or so Jen thought. Surprisingly Jaret was very gracious with sharing with Jen who never went hungry or thirsty. Which was more than could be said for the other captives in the camp who looked perpetually hungry to Jen. The only exceptions were the children whom Jen had seen receive adequate meals. One time Jen tried to smuggle some food to his kinsmen but was quickly caught by Jaret. The punishment was unusual - having to sleep naked in Jaret's arms - but both the humiliation as well as the fear of Jaret making use of Jen's state of undress made Jen not want to repeat the experience if possible.

However as far as Jen could tell Jaret raised the rations for the prisoner a tiny bit after that. He still didn't know what to make of the man. From what he gathered, the riders had split the captives between them. Apparently him - and all the children - belonged to Jaret. Few of the women and two young men had fallen to someone named Chadan. Jen pitied them greatly for the man was obviously a brute with a particularly cruel streak. He always carried a thick-braided whip with him and didn't seem shy to use it. His captives were usually the ones with the most visible bruises on them. There also appeared to be some tension between Jaret and Chadan as Jen had seen them argue twice now, though he hadn't been able to hear the words.

Jen had a sneaking suspicion that Chadan was the source of a lot of the nightly crying and sobbing which wasn't an unusual sound in the camp. Though one time Jaret had gone out to take care of it, the noise had stopped soon after. The next day Chadan had been in an especially foul mood.

For his part Jaret still insisted on holding Jen close at night but he'd stopped touching him in certain places. Mostly. This morning, half-awake, Jen had burrowed himself deeper into Jaret's muscular body before shamefully noticing what he'd done. Of course Jaret had grinned that infuriating grin of his at Jen's involuntary weakness. Jen had been so angry with himself. No matter how much he craved a bit of comfort, some friendly touch, he musn't forget that Jaret was his enemy.

Soon after, Jaret had ridden out with a few men to hunt. He had told Jen to expect him back by nightfall and have a good meal ready by then. Another man had been tasked with keeping a watchful eye on Jen. Apparently his name was Tomin. He turned out to be a very quiet man, only ever requesting Jen to stay in eyesight, without bothering him further.

Unfortunately Chadan had been one of the riders staying behind, and Jen didn't like the looks the man gave him. Jaret never gave him such looks, even when his eyes feasted on Jen's nakedness. Chadan's eyes were dark and full of promises of pain. Jen shuddered, trying to make himself disappear.

The sun had reached its highest point, and from the corners of his eyes Jen saw Chadan approaching the children's resting place. As usual they were all gathered in the shade in front of one of the tents. Most had long since stopped crying but looked listless and broken. However, a small child, Cassandra, barely three summers, had started crying silently. A few of the older children tried to console the little one.

The sight cut into Jen. He should have named Cassandra as a prize for Stavus' life as well. Maybe Jaret would have gone for it. He tensed up when Chadan started yelling at the children to be quiet or taste the bite of his whip. Jen's hands balled into fists. Did this brute know no mercy? He looked around for Tomin. The man had struck him as friendly enough. Maybe he could diffuse Chadan's anger. Jen was chagrined to not see a sign of the other man. He surely couldn't have picked a worse time for disappearing.

The little girl shrieked louder, and a few of the children had started crying as well in obvious fear of the still screaming Chadan. When Jen saw the rider uncoil the vicious-looking whip from his side, he hurried over there.

"Leave them be. They're just children." Jen was proud his voice didn't tremble when he spoke, even though on the inside he was shaking. A tiny voice in his head him screamed at the madness of challenging Chadan but Jen just couldn't leave the children to the mercies or lack thereof of this barbarian. Better him than the children.

Chadan snarled in anger. "What did you just say, boy? Seems to me Jaret doesn't know how to teach his slaves respect."

Despite his instincts Jen refused to back down. "They're small. They are afraid of you. I'll make them stop crying if you let me." He tried to reason with Chadan.

The other man scoffed. "I'll make them stop just as well." He drew his arm back, seemingly wanting to strike blindly into the clutter of children and a red haze descended over Jen. He gripped Chadan's arm, halting the movement of the whip. Chadan's eyes bulged at the action. Even Jen was surprised at his own bravery.

Unfortunately, Chadan quickly recovered, shaking Jen's grip off and throwing him to the ground. The only warning Jen got was the sharp sound as the whip cut through the air before a white-hot pain struck all over his back. He cried out. But the next strike already fell. And the next. And the next.

Jen tried to get away, shield himself but it was no use. Suddenly the pain stopped, and Jen looked up, blinking back tears. His eyes widened when he noticed both Krisian and Tomin holding onto Chadan. Jen hadn't noticed their approach, too caught in the painful sensation.

Now Tomin was arguing heatedly with Chadan while Krisian looked about ready to tear Chadan's head off. With the split lip Chadan sported, he might have already started. For his part, Chadan looked no less angry than he had before. He shot Jen a hateful glance when Tomin simply dragged him away.

Krisian came over to Jen, kneeling down beside him. "Jen? I'm sorry. I didn't…How bad is it? Let me help."

Ignoring Krisian's outstretched hand, Jen painfully rose to his feet, swaying a bit once he had finished the task. Krisian rose as well. "Let me look at your back at least."

"I'm fine."

Angrily Krisian shook his head. "Your tunic is in scraps and I can see you bleeding. You can't treat the wounds yourself," he tried to reason.

"Yes, I can," Jen insisted.

"Jen, I just want to help," Krisian said desperately.

Pushing Krisian away with all the strength he had left, Jen yelled. "I don't want your help."

Ignoring the small crowd of staring riders and prisoners that had formed, he staggered back to Jaret's tent and went inside. He didn't think Tomin would mind anymore. He grabbed the little bowl of water from the corner and pulled his ruined tunic off, wincing as the cloth touched the lash marks. He cleaned it up as best as he could and pulled on another robe. Thankfully Jaret had gifted him with a few to choose from.

As dusk had fallen, Jaret and the men returned with their hunted prey. An uncomfortable silence descended over the camp. There was no sign of Chadan. Krisian probably sat with Stavus again. And Jen himself was awaiting Jaret with the ordered meal. Even the slight work had been a painful strain on his back and now all he wanted was to crawl back into the tent and sleep.

Jaret dismounted the horse, obviously in a joyous mood. "We made good hunting. Tomorrow we'll feast."

He grabbed for the plate Jen held out to him and dug into it heartily. "Mmm. But this is not bad as well. You're a good cook, little Jen." Jaret frowned when Jen reacted to the hated nickname with unusual quietness. He gave Jen a friendly slap on the back but even the light touch hurt like hell and Jen couldn't help the little cry escaping his lips.

"What is it?" Jaret frowned.

"Nothing," Jen kept his eyes downcast.

"That couldn't have hurt. Are you injured?"

Mutely Jen shook his head. From the corners of his eye Jen saw Tomin making his way over to them, looking less than happy. Chadan trailed behind him, wearing a disdainful sneer on his face.

"I ask again, what is it?"

"The slave was insolent. I had need to punish him," Chadan, who had come closer, spoke up.

From behind his bangs Jen risked a glance upwards, just in time to watch Jaret's face darken. Then Jaret went over to Jen and pulled down his tunic a bit, exposing the raised welts.

He turned to Chadan. "What did you do that for?" Jaret asked in a low voice.

"He spoke out of turn. And he dared to attack me." Chadan shrugged dismissively.

Jaret snorted. "The boy isn't a fighter. He's easy to frighten so you must have done something to provoke him."

Jen bristled at the words. He might not be a fighter but he tried his best to be brave. Especially today.

"I wanted to teach those children respect. He grabbed my arm," Chadan explained self-righteously.

Jaret's hands clenched into fists. "You wanted to whip children? Both them and him are my property, as you well know, Chadan. You have no right to damage them." He looked at Tomin questioningly. "Where were you when this happened."

Tomin dropped his head in shame. "I'm sorry, Jaret. I should have guarded the boy better. I have no excuse."

"We'll talk later," Jaret answered darkly.

"The boy is obstinate. You have to teach him better, Jaret," Chadan spoke up again.

Thunder blossomed on Jaret's face. He drew back his fist and dealt Chadan a mighty blow, knocking the other man clear to the ground. "I told you many times, Chadan. No one tells me what to do. It is you who needs to learn that lesson."

From his place on the ground Chadan looked up at Jaret with hatred, raising a hand to his bloody lips but wisely he didn't say anything.

"Never again will you touch what is mine, Chadan. Do you understand me?" Jaret asked.

Chadan nodded.

"Say it."

"Yes, I understand," Chadan forced out between clenched teeth.

Jaret regarded Chadan for a few more moments, then, obviously satisfied he'd made his point, and went over to Jen, helping him to his feet. Jaret's touch was strangely comforting. And when back in the tent the other man insisted Jen pull down his tunic so Jaret could inspect the lash marks properly, Jaret's big hands were surprisingly gentle. Even more surprising to Jen was Jaret's whispered promise Chadan wouldn't hurt him again.

Jen just didn't understand this particular barbarian. And he wondered if he ever would.

* * *

Chapter 3

Comments

( 89 have dazzled me — Dazzle me )
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ymmy12
Nov. 30th, 2007 05:08 pm (UTC)
i am so loving this
astri13
Nov. 30th, 2007 08:49 pm (UTC)
*jumps up and down in glee* Thank you muchly.
(Deleted comment)
astri13
Nov. 30th, 2007 08:51 pm (UTC)
I really like how their relationship is slowly changing, and that Jen(sen) is staying strong.

I`m glad you liked it because that`s such a tricky thing to write since I want neither to lose face.

Sounds like there might be an interesting backstory to Jaret...is that something you will be exploring?

Good catch. There will be indeed more to this. :)

Thank you so much.
nyoka
Nov. 30th, 2007 05:22 pm (UTC)
This is brilliant. You do a great job creating atmosphere, and your characters draw me in.

Thanks for sharing!

astri13
Nov. 30th, 2007 08:52 pm (UTC)
Thank you for reading and commenting. I`m so glad you dig the atmosphere - the Bronze Age world is a bitch to write sometimes :) - and the character.
lilieblues
Nov. 30th, 2007 05:27 pm (UTC)
thanks for the update! I really can't wait till next part :)
astri13
Nov. 30th, 2007 08:54 pm (UTC)
I`m trying to keep a fast updating rhythm. We`ll see how long it holds. :)

But I`m really glad you enjoyed the journey so far. Thanks muchly.
ohioala19
Nov. 30th, 2007 05:45 pm (UTC)
aww i love jen trying to protect the children, he's wonderful in this and i kinda feel bad for krisian wanted to help his friend cuz he's only in that position cuz he betrayed them and jaret at the end comforting jen, that was really perfect and i am so looking forward to reading more!
astri13
Nov. 30th, 2007 08:56 pm (UTC)
i kinda feel bad for krisian wanted to help his friend cuz he's only in that position cuz he betrayed them

Aww, cool that I managed to drum up some sympathy for Kris. I kinda feel bad for him myself. :)

Thank you so much.
scarlett_savage
Nov. 30th, 2007 05:52 pm (UTC)
Yay! Thank you for posting another installment, I have been waiting most impatiently :).

The pace is definitely picking up now, and it's very enjoyable. Your writing is simple and direct but it's quite visual at the same time, so scenes of events such as Stavus' injury and the altercation with Chadan play out vividly. Very well done.

I also enjoy how you're bringing out facets of both Jen and Jaret; it's very interesting to read, and the chemistry between them is made even more believable with these piecemeal revelations and hints.

Good work, I look forward to the next part!
astri13
Nov. 30th, 2007 08:58 pm (UTC)
Your writing is simple and direct but it's quite visual at the same time, so scenes of events such as Stavus' injury and the altercation with Chadan play out vividly. Very well done.

This is a great compliment and my ego is in the process of lift-off, I`m afraid. :)

I`m glad you`re enjoying the interaction between Jen and Jaret, I tried hard to balance between too fluffy and too harsh.

Thank you greatly.
legoline
Nov. 30th, 2007 05:59 pm (UTC)
And the creative name-giving continues... :-)

I don't really like the bit about Jen having to sleep naked in Jaret's arms (kind of seems off in the story, if you know what I mean :-) ), but I really liked the last bit.

And this,

"They're everywhere," Jaret murmured wondrously. Upon Jen's confused look, Jaret explained. "The dots sprinkling your body. They're everywhere."
astri13
Nov. 30th, 2007 09:01 pm (UTC)
And the creative name-giving continues... :-)

Who do you mean? :)

I don't really like the bit about Jen having to sleep naked in Jaret's arms (kind of seems off in the story, if you know what I mean :-)

I didn`t want a beating as punishment so this seemed something unpleasant enough for Jen but kinda more mischievious from Jaret`s side. *cough*

And aww to freckles-love. I just needed it in there. *g*

Thank you muchly.
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calijirl5150
Nov. 30th, 2007 06:24 pm (UTC)
I really like how you are weaving this verse. If is very rich in deatils, I also am enjoying the evolution of Jaret & Jen's relationship. Hopefully Krisian & Jen's can be mended somehow.
astri13
Nov. 30th, 2007 09:02 pm (UTC)
If is very rich in deatils, I also am enjoying the evolution of Jaret & Jen's relationship.

So glad you like it because I`ve been working hard on the interplay Jaret & Jen. As for Krisian and Jen, well, we`ll see. ;-)

Thank you so much.
(Deleted comment)
astri13
Nov. 30th, 2007 09:04 pm (UTC)
Personally I don't blame Jen for treating Krisian the way that he is,

Me neiter but Kris is trying at least. *pats him*

But absolutely right on Chadan, I picture him as the sneaky backstabber of the group. They definitely need to be aware of him. ;-)

Thank you muchly.

nachekana
Nov. 30th, 2007 06:40 pm (UTC)
God, I so want to know what happens next! I love the way you write, how the story evolves. And the little part about the freckles! One of my absolute kink, Jensen's freckles... *sighs happily*

I hope you'll update soon!
astri13
Nov. 30th, 2007 09:06 pm (UTC)
And the little part about the freckles! One of my absolute kink, Jensen's freckles... *sighs happily*

The freckles needed to be in it, even when I wasn`t sure the word "freckles" had been invented yet. :)

I`m glad you like the story`s evolution. Hopefully that holds.
Thank you muchly.

charw
Nov. 30th, 2007 06:43 pm (UTC)
An update! this is really interesting, thanks for sharing.
astri13
Nov. 30th, 2007 09:07 pm (UTC)
Glad you`re enjoying it. Thanks muchly.
listentorabbits
Nov. 30th, 2007 06:56 pm (UTC)
I'm on pins and needles reading this.
It's just... so... awesome. *lol*
More, please. I'm lovin' it.
astri13
Nov. 30th, 2007 09:08 pm (UTC)
My ego is doubling in size. :) Thank you so much.

And I`m looking to have speedy updates but don`t hold me to it.
runedgirl
Nov. 30th, 2007 06:58 pm (UTC)
Love this story! The characters are intriguing, complex and richly detailed. And a great sense of mystery as it slowly unwinds.

Looking forward to the next chapter,
Lynsey
astri13
Nov. 30th, 2007 09:09 pm (UTC)
The characters are intriguing, complex and richly detailed. And a great sense of mystery as it slowly unwinds.

*blushes furiously* *craddles comment* Thank you so much. I`m glad you`re enjoying it.
indusnm
Nov. 30th, 2007 07:49 pm (UTC)
I like that Jensen is committed to certain ideals- you raided my people and took women and children hostage, you beat the kids and rape the women--- ergo, I don't like you. I absolutely love that he bargained his talents; doctors should heal everyone yes, but if you have the power to save children, only an idiot wouldn't use it.
So this fic, your Jensen, makes me sooo happy. I don't want him to give in- I want Jared to give in to him!!! Because a slave relationship is to me not like D/S but like a parent's sexual relationship with a minor child- THERE IS NO CONSENT.
Sorry- I've just been reading up on trafficking, and I think there are some bright red lines in society. I love that the person wavering is the one on the wrong side. Too often fics are written that go the other way...
astri13
Nov. 30th, 2007 09:16 pm (UTC)
So this fic, your Jensen, makes me sooo happy. I don't want him to give in- I want Jared to give in to him!!! Because a slave relationship is to me not like D/S but like a parent's sexual relationship with a minor child- THERE IS NO CONSENT.

I tried keeping their interplay at a certain balance with Jaret neither being too soft - he would never have made leader then - nor too mean and Jen not being a total pushover and forgetting all about what happened to him but still acting properly scared and really smart. Of course there are always hints of Stockholm syndrome in situations like this but that takes time to develop.
I hope I can keep it up. :)

Thank you so much.
sawyersparrow
Nov. 30th, 2007 08:12 pm (UTC)
Brilliant chapter! Love the fact that Jaret hit Chadan coz he hurt poor Jen. Cant wait to see where you're going with this and whats gonna happen when they get to the markets coz I dont see Jaret wantin to sell Jen!

More soon please!!!!
astri13
Nov. 30th, 2007 09:12 pm (UTC)
Love the fact that Jaret hit Chadan coz he hurt poor Jen.

Awww, Jaret just can`t escape Jen`s charms. :)

Glad you`re liking it. Thank you muchly.

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