There’s a girl seated on the edge of a bed. It’s not her haven but she’s here all the same, and the owner is otherwise occupied. She hadn’t asked what he’s doing. She’d just gone into the bedroom when he told her to, changed, and waited.

There has been a lot of that since their talk. Waiting. Waiting for him. Waiting for correction. Waiting for direction. Waiting for affection.

It so rarely comes these days.

He’s busy. Always so busy. Every night there’s another meeting. More planning. More friends. More allies. More promises.

So she sits. And she waits.

She occupies her time how she can. She takes long baths. She polishes her nails. She picks out his clothes. She reads. She studies. She hunts when he says she can, where he says she can, who he says she can. No more sickly-sweet lust-ridden mortals at the clubs, no matter how easy they are to find and bring home. He prefers the sour taste of fear, the knowledge that he has righted some wrong. Like a vigilante judge, he stalks the dark streets to find the thieves, rapists, murderers, and whores to deliver his measure of justice. It’s a far cry from the “girls in law school I can have a conversation with” that he had told her about years and years ago.

She learns from him when he has the time. History. Philosophy. Languages. Fighting. He doesn’t expect her to have to use it, but he doesn’t want to leave her without.

She’s important to him.

So very important to him.

He doesn’t like to let her out of his sight because he doesn’t want to lose her. He doesn’t want anything bad to happen to her. He wants her to be the best version of herself, so he helps her get there. He corrects her mistakes so she doesn’t make them again. He makes sure that she knows what she did wrong before and after her correction, making her recite the sin in her own words so he can be sure that she understands. She thanks him for the lessons. Sometimes they make a game of it: how many nights can she go without being corrected? When she beats her old record he rewards her: he gets himself hard and lets her have it the way they used to do it, even though the fluids from her body have started to disgust him. But he does it for her.

He makes her better.

She loves him for it.

He told her once that he’d protect her from everything that would ever try to harm her and he has. When he discovered she was messing around with demons he pointed out that they’re powerful, infernal beings and she should stop. When she mentioned going to Chicago he calmly told her that her travel partner is undesirable and might turn on her. When she mentioned her movie deal in LA he asked if she knew how to pass as an Anarch and whose domain she’d intrude on and how she planned on keeping her identities secret. He even pointed out which of her friends were bad influences and how subtle they’d been in their manipulations.

Clean break.

Savoy rarely summons her these nights. When he does her lover comes with her, waits downstairs, and has her tell him about the meeting as soon as it is over. Her grandsire lets her sit on his lap still, and sometimes he asks if she wants to join him in the jacuzzi. She always has a reason why not. Lebeaux managed to corner her at a party and asked if everything was okay, and she had nodded and smiled because everything is wonderful.

He loves her.

They haven’t gotten around to finding a doctor who can fix her. That’s why he keeps her inside, he says, because he worries. He doesn’t want one of the little ones coming out at the wrong time and causing a problem that she won’t be able to get out of. She’d let him meet them one evening, the beauty queen and the bitch and the little girl with the big blue eyes. There used to be another one… but she disappeared the night the bond settled into place and no one has seen her since.

She keeps a diary. She thinks he knows, but he has never said, so she doesn’t ask. She pours her soul onto the page. When he corrects her she writes down why, what she did wrong, how she was corrected. She believes him when he says that she is rife with sin and corruption and that the only way to get rid of it is to modify the behavior each time it comes up. It’s color coded based on who did what.

Pink for Celia.

Green for Jade.

Blue for Leila.

Gray for Luna.

There is more green than pink, more pink than blue, and more blue than gray. She knows it means that Jade is the most corrupt of them, so when Jade comes out she tries to separate herself from him, but then he wants to know why she’s hiding and she has to admit that she doesn’t want to be corrected, and her lack of desire for correction—she didn’t mean it like that, she doesn’t mind the correction, only doesn’t want to be someone who needs to be corrected, but she tried to explain and tripped over her words and he hadn’t understood—means that he thinks she’s hiding something, so he corrects her for that.

“Prove that I can trust you,” he says.

She thinks sometimes that she can’t control her thoughts, but he says that thoughts become words become actions become habits become character become destiny. So she watches her thoughts. Even when she’s alone. When her mind wanders to something that needs correction she writes it down and presents it to him when he comes to visit.

She doesn’t think it’s helping much. The correction comes too slow after the initial transgression to fix the pattern. She takes to correcting herself so he doesn’t need to. His time is valuable. She should be able to monitor herself more adequately.

It starts with the claws. When the sharp cut blossoms into pain it’s all she can think about: a tiny mark across the wrist to stop her sinful thoughts in their tracks. One cut becomes two. Two becomes four. So on and so forth until her arms bear the marks of her sin.

He doesn’t like it. He doesn’t want to look at her carved up like this, he says. Fix it.

So she does. She smooths out the scratches and scars and finds another place to dig her claws. Inner thigh. No one sees her there, not anymore. Fitting, isn’t it, that this hole between her legs has caused her so many problems, and now she marks it to show what she is. Whore, she writes across one thigh. Over and over and over again, every time she has a lustful thought or wishes for him to touch her she slips her claws from their dormancy beneath the tips of her fingers and makes the cut that much deeper. Eventually the other thigh gets a mark as well, another secret shame she carries on her soul: stupid.

Eventually the green begins to fade from the diary.

There’s less of her these evenings than there used to be. He spends time with the two he likes—the dead girl and the innocent—and the others stay away. The cat still visits. She had asked him for a collar and he had gotten her a pink leather thing with a tiny bell that chimes with every move she makes. She’s taken to wearing it in all her forms. He added a heart-shaped charm to the collar with her name on it.



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