I was trying not to lust after or fall in love with my pet, but several factors kept pushing me towards that end. First of all, she was breathtakingly gorgeous. Her hair looked like spun gold and contrasted sweetly with her light brown skin. Her face was flawless, and her brown eyes seemed to sparkle, even without light. Secondly, her fiery spirit was attractive. Even after she became loyal, she still tried to insert her opinion. Most of the time, I already knew how she felt, but her assertions were cute nonetheless. Thirdly, she was sweet. She blushed when I took my shirt off. She smiled at me, genuinely. She never tried to manipulate me. Lastly, I kept hurting her. I had to give her consequences, but every time she winced or a tear slid down her cheek, I inwardly crumpled to pieces.
Luckily, she never asked me to stop. If she had, I probably would have stopped. I would have melted if she started to beg, but she never did. The way her face lit up when I gave her a bit of light made my whole week. I never let her know. I never let her understand how deep my feelings really were for her. I was afraid that if she knew I liked her in any way, she would become like the others and use it against me. I was sick of being used.
She was really my Sunshine. Before her, I had no happiness. With her, my life was easier, lighter. I hadn’t realized that was the perfect name when I had claimed it, but it fit her like a key fits a lock.
At first, trusting her and bringing her with me everywhere was difficult. I found myself distracted by her. What did she think about how I handled myself with other darkies? Did she see me as a hypocrite? Did seeing my work help her understand me?
Eventually, I got to where I could ignore her constant presence behind me. My subjects never did. They smirked at her. They messed with her when they thought I wasn’t looking. They called her the prince’s pet toy but never to my face. They didn’t dare, for they knew I could light them up and make their lives miserable. I knew how wrong having a girl in my room looked, but I was doing nothing against my family’s rules. No matter what I felt for her, I would not corrupt my line. Even if it meant ripping my heart out, I would see my children grow black wings.
I knew word would eventually get to my family. I knew they would not trust me, but I didn’t expect intervention on the scale it came.
I was asleep on my bed. Sunshine was most likely snoring on her mat. The door burst open, and before I was fully awake, someone jumped on me.
“Hello, little brother!” my sister exclaimed, her straight hair brushing my face. “We’re here to fix you! You’re welcome!”
I nearly jumped out of my skin. “Fon! Get off of me! What are you doing?”
She giggled. “Taking your toy. Don’t worry, you’ll thank me later.”
I pushed her off of me and sat up. Tain, my oldest sibling, was holding Sunshine by the neck.
“I can see why you like her, bro, but we can’t let you corrupt our line.”
He was squeezing her throat. I stood threateningly. “I’ve not corrupted it! Let her go before she hurts you.”
He looked confused. “How is she gonna-”
I watched in amusement as she kicked him in the groin and took advantage of his pain to put distance between the two of them. She rolled to the ground and came up with her sword in hand, ready to defend herself.
“This isn’t funny, Dirg!” Tain ranted. “Tell her to stand down!”
“And let you take her? I don’t think so! She’s my pet, not my toy. I have not and will not corrupt our line, so get out of my room, the both of you!”
Fon got in my face. “Now, you see here, little brother! Mom sent us to intervene in your little love affair and we-”
“It’s not a love affair! Tell them, Sunshine!”
“You did try to kiss me once,” she offered.
“A long time ago!” I thundered, glaring at her.
“What, you think I want them to take me? Heck, no! I was about to say, ‘but then I spat in his face, and he left me alone,’ so there ya go, you overbearing jerk!”
Tain looked stunned for a moment before he shook himself and glared at me. “How are we supposed to know you didn’t train her to lie?”
Sunshine scowled. “Are you calling me a liar?”
“No, I believe he is calling me a liar and a scoundrel. You’ve called me both before too,” I noted.
“’Cause you were acting like one!”
Fon held up her hands between Sunshine and me. “Okay, okay, so you two lovebirds have an admirable act. Drop it, and tell us the truth, Dirg.”
“The truth? The truth is that she is my pet, and if you take her, I will come and take both your pet and your pet and tear them to pieces, so leave me alone!”
Tain advanced towards me, his hand going to his sword. I had Kindness within reach, but I decided to trust Sunshine. I just smiled at him.
“Dirg, admit it. She’s your bitch, and you-”
She kicked him in the small of his back, and he stumbled forward, before spinning around to attack her. She blocked it and all the next attacks. Fon drew her sword and looked to join, but I grew light around her hand, which made her yelp and drop her sword.
“Dirg!” She yelled at me, exasperated.
I lifted my hands, and the ceiling started to glow. Sunshine smiled and started going faster, while Tain began to slow. Fon covered her eyes and yelled at me to stop. I just increased the brightness. Tain stopped and dropped his sword, curling into a ball to block the brightness. Sunshine sheathed her sword and looked at me.
“So what’s the point of me if you can just disable everyone with your gift?”
“I can’t just disable everyone all of the time, at least not without getting into trouble with Mother.”
“Make it stop!” Fon screamed.
“If you promise to stop blaming me for something I’m not doing.”
“I promise!” Fon begged
He groaned, so I shut it off. Sunshine sighed as the other two relaxed. Fon stood and glared at me. “You didn’t have to do that!”
“No, you didn’t! You probably burnt Tain!”
“Well, you both deserve it for not believing me. Sunshine, would you get out four eggs, some milk, pepper, and the leftover sausage from yesterday?”
She nodded and went to the kitchen. I went to Tain, who was still on the ground, and offered him a hand up. He glared at me and stood on his own. I could see the rash spreading from his eyes and the light pink all over his exposed skin.
“What did mom tell you about using your power on us?”
“Don’t use it unless I have to. Don’t touch my pet, and I won’t use it. Simple as that. Hungry?”
They both knew about my hobby and looked at each other.
“If you’re cooking,” Fon said.
“Of course I’m cooking. Sunshine is terrible.”
Sunshine stuck her tongue out at me. “I like ash, thank you very much.”
“Well, I don’t, so you ain’t ever cooking again.”
“Okay, okay. Here are your ingredients, sir I’m-the-best-chef-in-the-world.”
“I’ve never heard you complain, miss I-could-burn-water.”
“No one can burn water, dumbutt.”
I went into the kitchen and hit her upside the head. “What’d I say about name calling?”
“I can’t call you anything derogatory.”
“Exactly. Set places for them on the table. You’re eating on the floor.”
She did as told and Fon looked between us two. I had to be careful. Any affection shown towards her would give them grounds to again disbelieve me. I paid attention to my cooking and my cooking only. When I was done, I served Tain, Fon, and myself, giving Sunshine the leftovers. Of course, I took a bite out of hers before she ate. I only did that with her. I had meant it as a torture device the first time, but for some reason I kept doing it, not as torture, but as a ritual. It seemed right.
“So,” Fon ventured, “how are things here? Besides the new pet.”
I finished chewing before answering. Mom had instilled at least some “proper” manners in me since an early age. The future king couldn’t talk with food in his mouth.
“Nothing is out of line, as far as I can see. My general impression is that we darkies are idiots.”
Tain chuckled slightly. “You can say that again. You haven’t gotten any trash from light wings?”
“Oh, plenty the first few months. Then I lit this place up for a day, and no one has messed directly with me since.”
Fon nodded. “Sometimes, only every now and then, I envy your gift. But then I remember that I can freeze lightsies with a flick of my wrist. You can make them feel better. Speaking of, is she human?”
She pointed at Sunshine. My pet looked confused. I took a bite and mulled over it.
“Why wouldn’t I be?” Sunshine asked.
“I wasn’t talking to you! Don’t speak unless spoken to, pet!”
Sunshine bristled. “I am not your pet, and I do not have to obey you! I belong to Dirg, not you!”
Fon stood threateningly. “That is no way to talk to a princess, peasant!”
“I’m American. I’m not a peasant.”
I broke up laughing. “She’s feisty,” I explained, “and she only takes crap from me, and trust me, that was a difficult achievement.”
“So, is she human?” Fon glared at me.
“Well, she’s not a darky, and that is all I care about. She might, might, be a lightsy. But, I kept her in the dark for well over a week, and she’s obviously not dead, or sick, or really any paler than when I got her, so I think I can safely say she’s just a gifted human.”
Sunshine stood and collected our dishes, clearly listening. She was going to ask me many questions later, I could tell. I stood and stretched. Right then, my alarm went off. Sunshine ran over to it and hit the button with venom.
“Take that, stupid beeping noise,” she muttered.
”Have you found her gift yet, then?” Tain asked.
“Nope. It’s not light, that I know. Or darkness. She hates darkness too much to be attached to it.” I went over to my closet, opened it, and glared at the neatness. “How’s your section, Tain?”
“Oh, no you don’t! We are not done talking about your female pet.” Tain admonished me.
“Sunshine, where’s my shirt?”
“Which one? The black one, or the other black one? Or the black one with black stripes? Or perhaps-”
“Enough,” I growled.
She shrugged. “Probably on a hanger with the other shirts, or in the dirty clothes because you’ve worn it since I washed your clothes the day before last. I still have no idea to which you are referring.”
“The one with the buttons that cut diagonally across my chest.”
“Oh, that one. Third from the back. Specificities are helpful, aren’t they?”
My siblings looked back and forth between us, clearly amused.
“You let her talk to you like that?” Tain asked with incredulity.
“Yes. I don’t need her to be afraid of me. Fear, in this case, is counterproductive. So, most of the time, I let her talk freely.”
“Why is it counter productive? What is her job?”
I paused for a moment and put on the shirt. “I’m not sure I want you to know, but since that sounds suspicious, her job is to watch my back. Keep an eye on those who might want to use me or cause me harm. Particularly, those I might trust.”
“So, us?” Tain inferred.
“Exactly.” I answered. “Which is why you can’t take her.”
“You need protection, mister lightheart?” My sister poked fun at me.
“Not protection, an extra set of eyes that I can trust.”
“Why do you trust her?” Tain asked. “You had to bend her will, didn’t you? She could want to plan your demise.”
I shook my head. “Not Sunshine.”
“And why not Sunshine?”
“Yes, Sunshine, why not you?”
She looked up from the dishes. “What? I’m sorry, I wasn’t listening.”
Tain snorted. “Some help. Why can he trust you, girl?”
Pain flashed across her face but was gone so fast I was unsure if I saw it.
“Because he’s all I have. I was about to be kicked out into the wide world, anyway. I’m almost eighteen. No family. No friends. Just Dirg.”
“And what is Dirg to you?”
She locked eyes with me. “He’s my owner. He feeds me and takes care of me and pets me. What more do I need?”
“He pets you!?” Fon asked, askance. “Where?”
“On that couch.”
“No, where on you?”
She looked confused. “On my head? You think I braided his feather into my own hair?”
I snorted. “Please. Now, I have duties. If the two of you would please wrap this up, I’d be on my way.”
Tain spoke up, “Okay, then I’ll say this plainly. Have you had or do you want to have sex with her?”
“I have not and I will not.”
“But do you want to?”
“Less than I want to see my children grow black wings. I will not corrupt my line. She’s not worth it.”
Sunshine finished the dishes and wiped off her hands. She turned away, letting her hair fall over her face. She did that when she was trying to hide an emotion from me. I would ask her later.
Fon looked me over. “Alright, kid. I decide to believe you. But if I hear of anything...”
“If I do anything, then I will kill her myself.”
Tain nodded and held out his hand. “Shake on it.”
I grabbed his forearm. We shook, and he glanced sidelong at my pet.
“Why’d you have to get such a stinking gorgeous pet?” he muttered.
I shrugged. My siblings quickly said their goodbyes and left.
“That was interesting,” Sunshine commented. “Why’d they leave so quickly?”
“My family is messed up. Not only are we darkies, but the royal line of darkies. What’s your opinion of them?”
“Tain is jealous and wants what you have, namely the right to the throne, and he might have been eyeing me... Fon just cares about your family line, while Tain is doing anything he can to discredit you. Fon simply wants to help.”
I nodded. “Sounds like them.”
She shook her head. “I still don’t see the point of me. Especially if you already know better than I do who might want to kill you.”
I went to her and ran a finger down the side of her face to reassure her. Her love language was touch; I could see that from the beginning, so I beat her with my hands instead of a whip and played with her hair to assert my dominance… and make her love me. Already, I could tell it was working. She always slightly shivered whenever I touched her skin, and I knew I had her hooked. She might still say she hated me, but I could see her heart, and it had Dirg written on it in big, black letters.
“Don’t doubt me or my reasons,” I ordered, squeezing her arm for emphasis.
She looked down, ashamed. “Yes sir.”
A felt that flicker of guilt. The guilt had started when she had first said thank you. I had bent her will to mine, and she thanked me for it. I had beaten her, mocked her, and treated her like trash, and she felt gratitude.
I turned and walked out. “C’mon, girl. We are going out today.”
“Out? As in outside?”
“Yes, out as in outside.”
“Will it be daylight?”
“Frankly, I have no idea.”
“Why are we going out?”
“To check on the salvage crew.”
“What do they do?”
She was always full of questions. In the beginning, I had thought it was annoying, but as I got used to her, I realized that it was how she distracted herself. That was what also made her a good backup plan. She was more curious than me and might uncover something I would not.
We went into the entrance, and Sunshine shut up. I looked back at her and found her mouth agape, staring up.
“You really don’t want humans escaping, do you?” She said.
I smiled at that. “We weren’t thinking about humans when we built it. We just want to be as far away from the light as possible. Hop on.”
She hopped on my back, as I had taught her to, legs locked around my waist, hands on my shoulders but not pressed up against my back. I needed to be able to move my wings, and she restricted movement if pressed up against them. Once I got in the air, she would sit up. Her staying on depended entirely upon her leg strength, especially when I had to maneuver beyond just gliding.
I shot up, flapping heavily. We were half a mile underground, so I had to go straight up with my weight and hers. She was light, but half a mile straight up is difficult enough with just my own weight.
She seemed to understand this and stayed as still as possible; “still” meaning flexing with my movements and not squeezing the breath out of me. I neared the top and grabbed onto the grate separating us from the outside world. The lock was engaged, so I swung my feet up and latched onto it, suspending myself almost upside down. I let go with one hand and dug in a pocket for my master key.
Sunshine whimpered slightly, holding onto me for dear life. She was below me for the first time, and it scared her. If she dropped, it would mean certain death. I got out the key and put it in the lock, but I had to play with it for a minute to get the door open.
I felt Sunshine’s grip weaken. “Hold on, we’re almost out.”
She grunted and squeezed me. I finally got the door open and swung the both of us out onto solid ground. She rolled off of me and gasped for air.
“That was so freaky!” she exclaimed. “And difficult.”
I laughed and stood. “Good thing you hung on.”
“Would you have caught me if I let go?”
“No,” I answered firmly.
“Nice to know what I mean to you...” she muttered.
I stretched out my wings for a minute before I told her to hop back on. She did so, a little slower than before. I smirked with an idea and took off.
“Are you holding on tightly?”
“Yes. Why wouldn’t I-”
Her scream cut off the rest of her sentence as I went into a spiral dive. I yelled my war cry and swooped up, making Sunshine thump into my back.
“What are you doing?” she screamed
“Practicing!” I answered as I went into a loop-de-loop. She yelped and her legs crushed my abdomen. My abs were as hard as steel from years of flying, so I could take it. I did some more flight maneuvers, and she didn’t relax, even when I went back to just gliding. I could feel her shaking as she moved to where her weight was nearer my upper back, where my wings were. I taught her to do that when I was gliding to put less strain on my back and more on my wings.
I landed near the salvage yard. She fell off of my back and crouched on the ground, clutching dirt. She was visibly shaking and pale.
“Would you please never do that again?”
“Nope. I’ll do it on the way back.”
“Then I’m walking!” she declared and sat.
“No you aren’t. Come.”
I walked towards the salvage yard, and after a minute she caught up. I checked on the things the salvage leader had reported, making sure he was thorough. After a while, Sunshine finally spoke.
“Why might I be a lightsy?”
“Remember when I freaked out because of those bumps on you back?”
“I thought they were premature wings at the time, but upon further inspection, I’ve decided you’re just really tense. Only darkies and lightsies have them, and only one of their own kind can summon them and help them grow. Also, you react to light like a lightsy. But, you’ve lived in the dark for a month straight with little to no light. Even if you are a darkheart lightsy you’d be begging for more light by now.”
“So, I’m not one, but there could be a possibility I am.”
“I’m 85% sure you are human, Sunshine.”
“Nice to know. You know, Lucille Diana Amora is not my real name either.”
“Miss Sparnage gave it to me when she found me on her doorstep. I don’t know if I even have a real name.”
“Sunshine is your name.”
She paused. “Maybe.”
“What do you mean, maybe?”
I turned and leveled my gaze at her. She was playing with a piece of metal, not looking at me. She shrugged.
“Maybe means maybe.”
I stepped threateningly towards her. “What did you do?”
She looked up, those light brown eyes meeting mine. “What? Why do you think I did something?”
“What is your name?” I growled
She shrunk slightly as I came closer. I saw the look of fear on her face, and my paranoid mind said that she betrayed me in some way. Why else would she fear me?
“Sunshine. I am Sunshine, Dirg’s pet. What’s wrong?”
I grabbed her throat lightly and growled in her face. “Did you betray me?”
The look of shock on her face made me think I was right.
“No! No! I would never! You’re-”
I squeezed harder, cutting off her words. “You little liar! What have you done?”
She choked for a minute and her lips formed the word “nothing.” She grabbed my forearm and gently tried to pry my fingers open. I squeezed harder, and her eyes filled with pain. She kicked at me, aiming at my knee, as I had taught her to do when someone was attacking her. I avoided it easily, for she didn’t put too much power into it.
Then, I realized what I was doing. I squeezed even harder for a second and let go of her, turning my back on her. I let my guilt and self-hatred show for a second where she could not see it. She could not see my actual emotions, just the ones that were best for her development. She couldn’t know that I cared about her. She couldn’t see that I had accidents and made mistakes. I couldn’t apologize. I was the master. I should do no wrong in her eyes.
I heard her gasp for air, probably on the ground.
“I- I don’t know. What did I do?”
I made sure my voice was hard, though I was mad at myself, not her. “You tell me.”
“I- I said maybe. You freaked out... I mean- I don’t know.”
“Why is your name maybe Sunshine?”
She hesitated, so I spun, glaring at her. She was on the ground, still wheezing, looking up at me.
“Answer me, girl!”
She flinched away from me an arm coming up as if it could defend her. “I’ve heard stories about you, sir. Stories about the original Sunshine, and what happened to him. I say maybe because Sunshine is your pet’s name, and you might decide you don’t want me anymore. Then what would my name be?”
I let my gaze soften, but not to sympathy. “You doubt me?”
She nearly whispered, “No, I doubt me.”
“Which, in essence, is the same as doubting me. I choose you. I claimed you. I own you. Stand up.”
She stood quickly, her hand absentmindedly going to her neck. I ran one of my hands down her arm and gently grabbed her chin to make her look me in the eye.
“I understand that you do not think you are worth much.” She winced. “However, just being my pet makes you worth more than if your hair really was made of gold. That man you heard stories of? He tried to kill me. You won’t do that, will you?”
Her soft brown eyes tried to search me. She did that, but I was sure I never let her see the real me. No one could know the real me.
“No sir,” she answered softly.
“Good. Then, you can be sure you will stay my Sunshine. Unless you turn on me or seduce me to bed you will always be my Sunshine. Do not doubt me again.” I squeezed her chin. “I believe I’ve already told you this...”
“You said not to insinuate that you made a mistake or to doubt you.”
“That I did. Next time you doubt me by doubting yourself, I’ll beat you. Get some respect for my pet.”
She blinked rapidly, as she usually did when processing something new.
“Yes sir. I’m sorry.”
I growled and let go of her. Growling was something I picked up on one day and it seemed to intimidate her, so I added it to my scare Sunshine arsenal. I had her in my hands like a putty; I needed to maintain in her the right balance of fear and love. Too much fear and she might turn on me. Too much love and she might not respect me or I might have to kill her.
Yes, I decided a female pet was much easier to handle than a male. All I had to do was get close to her, and it sent her into a spiral of revulsion and attraction. From there, my words shaped her. Once I got her in the land of uncertainty, I could make her into anything I wished. That’s why I trusted her, because with careful planning she was an extension of me. Her will wasn’t just bent, it was welded into mine.
I didn’t see the danger with that at the time. I was a blind, arrogant fool. I toyed with her emotions like a cat did a ball of yarn, tangling them until not even I could see where the beginning was or how it connected to the end. I didn’t realize I was tying a slipknot around my own neck.