Picture of Malcolm
“I just have one question,” Malcolm says the moment Aias and Kalem were out of earshot. “How do you manage to mess up so frequently?”
I don’t reward his question with a response as I sink down into one of the large armchairs near the entrance of his ancient abode. The heavy sigh I’d kept in for the past two days came out now, loud and unchecked now that Kalem wasn’t close enough to hear it.
“It’s a serious query,” Malcolm continues as he takes a seat in the opposite chair, leaning forward with clear interest behind his amusement as he stared at my slouched figure. “It’s almost guaranteed that once every other week you come here for advice concerning some manner with literally the most obedient, pleasant being throughout all the realms. I want to know how you do it.”
“If I knew how to keep him happy all the time, I wouldn’t have to answer that question,” I reply through a groan, the statement only triggering a sharp sting to spread through my heart, the words I’d spoken to close to another I’d congregated in the past.
Rule No.12 of Master’s Rule: Master must keep his Kalem happy as much as he can.
A sick chuckle escapes me as the rule passes through my mind, I’d added that one in there thinking it’d be nothing more than a charming reminder that Kalem came first and that he deserved to be made happy at all times.
I didn’t actually entertain the possibility that it’d be my own actions that’d disrupt that goal.
“Okay, no more jabbing on my end,” Malcolm promises, offering me a symbolic white flag of settling back into his own chair with an open smile. “Come on, tell Uncle Malcolm what’s wrong so he can make it better.”
“You’re an imbecile,” I tell him and he laughs.
“An imbecile you need to fix your mistakes,” He replies, smugness covering his face in that way that always pissed me off more than it should. But I could see the underlying worry and patience behind that look at that, like always, stopped me from planting a punch that’d knock those stupid smirks from his lips.
I begin begrudgingly, sharing the events that’d passed between Kalem and me just two days ago when I tried to be romantic and take him on a date. I tell him about how great things were going despite the fact that I’d only been on a handful of dates in my lifetime, how Kalem liked the places I took him and was full of confidence from the moment we woke up.
My thoughts trail as I continue to speak and I tell him about how all my previous fears leading up to the date were useless and foolish. I tell him about the way I felt when I was out there with Kalem, how my heart felt full and like it could beat with just my joy alone. I tell him about how I arranged for the sunflowers to be planted weeks prior, having an incline that Kalem would love them over any others.
I tell him about everything.
Including how my entire world stopped when Kalem told me he loved me, that I’d never felt so fucking scared or happy to hear those words and that they’d triggered something so foreign and intimate in me, that my entire world fractured apart and left me exposed to this new unknown.
“It scared you,” Malcolm fills in when I find myself going silent with the sudden awareness that I’d shared too much. “Hearing those words from him, it scared you.”
“I don’t understand why,” Malcolm says subsequently, a deep frown contorting his features. “You’ve known that you’ve loved each other for quite some time now. Yes, you haven’t actually vocalized the feeling but you must’ve both been aware of it for long enough. God knows everyone else does.”
“It’s quite different hearing the words and considering that one day I might,” I reply as I run my fingers along my skin, trying to soothe myself the way Kalem often did when we was close, without knowing that he was. “A couple of years from now I’d guessed. When he was more aware of this world and our problems were all dealt with, I thought perhaps he’d grow aware of what we between us, if not develop those feelings with the time. And when he did, I’d say it back.”
“So he jumped the line and made a beeline for your heart and you weren’t ready.” Malcolm deadpans, his brain extrapolating the information faster than I could produce it.
“I don’t like when you analyse me,” I voice but Malcolm ignores me.
“There were side effects of you pussying out,” He carries out and I roll my eyes knowing his narrative of this situation had already been decided.
“I did not ‘pussy out’,” I reply slowly and Malcolm just continues to look at me, brown eyes still and awaiting for information he cared about. “There were, when he said that he thought he loved me and I didn’t reply immediately, he sort of panicked and now he’s... for a lack of a better word, malfunctioning.”
“He can’t get hard?” Malcolm asks, a true look of terror casting over his face as he raises a hand to his mouth.
“No you idiot, not that type of malfunctioning,” I reply angrily and he immediately relaxes, his posture deflating while his hand raised to wipe an imaginary trace of sweat from his forehead.
“Honestly, the most horrifying thing I can imagine,” Malcolm replies before making a gesture with his hand for me to continue.
“I meant to say that he’s malfunctioning between acting like Kalem and the slave he was trained to be,” I explain, pain brewing in my chest from my own spoken words as Kalem’s behaviour over the past few days plays through my mind once more. “He’s trying to follow the rules he was trained to live by but also the ones we made together, but they completely oppose one another so he’s... malfunctioning. I try to talk to him, his slave brain tells him to kneel and beg but then he knows that isn’t the type of relationship we have, so he’s stuck in a limbo state of stuttering out an apology the whole time fearing punishment for speaking.”
The space between my heart and my lungs fills with an agonizing sense of woe as this morning’s events play out before my eyes like some torturous horror film.
It was time for breakfast and Kalem was quiet, trapped in his mind’s thoughts as he stood in the middle of the kitchen with tired honey-brown eyes, bags fulling them down. He’d stood there the entire time, eyes cast down to the counter where I was making his breakfast, not once looking up at me, no matter how much useless comments I threw out trying to hook his attention.
I made his favourite morning meal, a blended bowl of all his favourite fruits with honey and strawberries on top, then I’d told him to take a seat.
Kalem headed to his usual seat, a small smile on his lips at the sight of the bowl I was bringing to him. Then he stopped suddenly, right in front of his stool, he just stood there for a moment and stared at it. He looked to the bowl and then his seat, eyes darting furiously between them as his fingers started to shake slightly beside him.
“Kalem,” I called, wanting to help and I think he heard that in my voice because for the first time since he completely broke down in the library, he looked at me.
Those beautiful eyes met mine and I saw, for a brief, terrible moment, I saw the complete chaos that lived behind that gaze. Untamed and haunting it reigned, the sight of making my insides twist with personal disgust.
That chaos grew the longer he looked at me until he tore his eyes away from mine, his anxious state worsening by the second as he sat on the fell to the floor suddenly. Not kneeling but sitting down with his eyes glued to my feet.
“No Kalem,” I’d said softly, resting the bowl down to pull him to his feet but he’d already gotten up before I could.
With a trembling body and face soaked with tears, he’d stood there wailing out his apologies for the world to hear.
No amount of sweet words or kind kisses would soothe him, no matter how tight I held him or much I promised that I loved him too, nothing would get through that wall of chaos.
It was the worst moment of my life.
“I don’t know what to do,” I say returning from my haunting thoughts. “I’ve apologised, summoned up the courage to tell him I loved him too, I’ve tried everything but he won’t snap out of this... thing he’s in. I’m hoping some of that elf’s words may get through, if not I truly won’t know what to do.”
Malcolm remains quiet even after I’d finished my translation of events. He filled the large armchair with his bulk, one muscular leg folded over the other while he rubbed two calloused fingers against his chin in thought.
He’d always enjoyed puzzles, those involving me being his favourite so I sit and watch him work me out, work this situation out.
The answer would come to him, sooner or later it’d appear and he’d tell me and then I’d feel dumb for not figuring it out on my own. I wouldn’t say as much but Malcolm would make sure I knew it anyway, then I’d thank him, for being smart under all his stupid and he’d tell me no problem.
It was just how we worked.
“He left a place that told him all his life that his only purpose in life was to make his master happy, whoever that may be.” Malcolm starts, his eyes trained on a spot that wasn’t me as he began vocalising his thoughts for me to follow. “The only way to achieve that being to follow a certain set of rules that one must never break, because not only will his master not be happy, but he’ll be punished. Punishments are painful and they mean you’re bad, Kalem wants to be good.”
I nod in agreement even though he was looking at me.
“Then he meets his master and he’s nothing like what he was told a master would be like. This master doesn’t want a slave, he doesn’t want him to serve him, he doesn’t want to use him in the way he was told he would be. This Master is fucking weird, to him at least. But still, it’s his master and he wants to make him happy - it’s his purpose in life to make his Master happy.
How to make his Master happy? Do everything opposite to what he was trained to be. That must’ve been fucking confusing because how can he not be who he is, or at least who he made him think he is.” Malcolm gives a little shrug as he basically narrates Kalem’s and I’s entire relationship in third-person. “But he starts to figure it out, in his own way. Master is happy when Kalem is happy, so he starts doing the things that make him happy. Probably really tough trying to figure out what makes you happy, but Kalem figured it out. Some things were things you associated with slaves, cleaning and serving, and others were just Kalem, reading a book.
Eventually, you found a balance, he was happy and you were happy. He was being him, a weird mixture of things a slave is forced to do but he loves naturally and new pieces he’s picking up day by day.” Malcolm finally looks to me, the serious look on his face making me stiffen as he pins me down with harsh eyes. “Then he tells his master he loves him, or he thinks he does, he doesn’t know because what does he really know for certain. But it’s what he feels, it’s what he thinks so he tells his master because that’s what he wants to do. Then his master just freezes.”
Guilt slips in alongside the regret before he even finishes and I wince but Malcolm carries on.
“Doesn’t say a single word, just freezes. To Kalem, I imagine, that must’ve been really scary.” Malcolm says, his crisp tone deepening with sadness. “After being told to just do what makes him happy, he does and is met with nothing. Even though he’s not your slave, you’re still his Master and he wants to make you happy, you’re reaction doesn’t seem happy for something so intimate. He must’ve freaked out, thought he overstepped which is confusing when he doesn’t quite understand that not only slaves can overstep at times.
But Kalem’s grown, he’s learning and he won’t just decline like that so he tries to touch you because he can, he’s not a slave who has to wait for permission. T-”
“Then I flinched away...” I fill in and Malcolm nods slowly.
“Then you flinch away and fuck to him, the only possible reason is that he upset you and slaves aren’t supposed to touch first. His minds telling him he’s wrong, he’s a slave and he’s wrong for making you upset. But months with you say different... he’s confused Lincoln.” Malcolm says with a sigh. “Very fucking confused. You said he doesn’t hug you back anymore, that’s probably because he’s terrified of doing something ‘wrong’ again and doesn’t know if he’s allowed to do that anymore. Your relationship took a turn in those moments you lost your shit and he doesn’t know where you stand anymore.”
I cover my face with my hands, suddenly so exhausted as a mountain’s worth of guilt settles itself on my shoulders. It was a natural reaction, not intentionally but that didn’t matter now, especially since Kalem was such a fragile creature. One moment’s misstep one my part could and did undo so much of our progress.
It was beyond terrifying and extremely frustrating, but it was the price of being with Kalem. A small one to pay when his company with the only thing I needed to carry on in this world.
“How do you pull him out of this state?” I ask through my hands. “Get him back to thinking like how he was before.”
“I know you don’t like to hear this Lincoln, but it’ll do you better in the future if you’d just accept it.” Malcolm says, grimacing before he even continues. “A part of Kalem is always going to be a slave. It’s engraved in him at this point and no amount of erasing on your end will ever completely rid that part of him and whenever he has nothing left to turn to, he’ll turn to that part of himself because it’s the base of himself.”
I don’t reply because there was nothing I could say that wouldn’t sound as if I was upset with him was stating the truth.
I knew he was right, but it didn’t make hearing it any easier.
“In a case like this one, I think it’d be best to treat it from that angle.” Malcolm carries on when I don’t argue. “You said the two of you have your own set of rules, right? With light punishments?” I nod. “Call out a few to me.”
I list them all, smiling gently at a few that Kalem had made himself quite adamant about having them in because he ‘couldn’t live without them’.
“Well, I think the answer is pretty obvious to me,” Malcolm replies when I finish. “Not to rub the salt in too much, but you failed number twelve so it’s only right that the punishment is carried out is it not? Following the rules will ease that slave part of him and so will enforcing a punishment, no matter the nature of it. But following your rules and actually carrying out the punishment will please the rest of him, the Kalem part that’s comfortable enough with you to agree to give you, his master, a punishment. It’ll settle his worries, help him find his footing again.”
“I don’t know what I’d do without you,” I say, not including my usual jab with my praise because I couldn’t possibly insult him now when he’d just laid everything out for me on a silver plate with a napkin on the side.
“I do,” He replies with a smirk. “You’d never have met Kalem if it weren’t for me so you’d be in your bed, sipping on a blood bag and reading a book. Depressed and lonely because he have no other friends besides me and I’d probably be out and about. You’d sit, pout and moan while thinking about the shit life you had and the shit one to come. Y-”
“Okay, okay, okay,” I say cutting him off in a rush while I push myself to my feet. “Thank you, but that’s enough.”
“I was barely getting started,” Malcolm says, following my lead before he pulls me into a hug.
I hesitate for a moment, not knowing quite how to hug someone who wasn’t Kalem. Malcolm and I had been friends for years, best friends for centuries and yet we’d never shared an embrace before.
Not because he didn’t want to, but because I rejected all attempts he’d made.
I’d never been in a place to actually _ someone like this, but now I was and he knew that... so I hug my best friend back.
It’s weird and doesn’t feel the same as the ones I share with Kalem, but it feels just as right and I find myself hugging him just a little tighter.
“Do you really think this will work?” I find myself asking him, fingers clenching around the ends of his shirt just a little tighter.
“I don’t think that’s the question you should be asking me,” Malcolm replies as he pulls back enough to show me another one of his wicked grins. “I think the real question is what on earth is Kalem going to do to you when it does.”
I actually adore their friendship.... like adore.
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