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07 June 2013 @ 06:18 am
FIC: Serin's Secret Garden, Part 8/18  
Author: Osiris Brackhaus
Story Title: Serin’s Secret Garden
Part: 8/18
Rating: G/NC17
Configuration: m/m, M/m
Characters: Kendrik/Yaden, Kendrik/Luca, Kendrik/Yuri Dracon
Warnings: slavery, prostitution, rape mentioned, violence, sex, sex on stage, various abuse, severe brainwashing, murderous flora, drugs, potentially underage sex.
Word Count: 2.500/50.000
Setting: 'Phoenix Empire' verse, see Phoenix Empire Timeline & Index and the Phoenicipedia
Summary: A few days inside the Secret Garden, Kendrik realizes he has a lot more still to learn…
Feedback: Yes, please! Constructive criticism welcome!

“Well, that IS quite an improvement. Good work, Ryan.”

Sitting in the audience of a small theater within the Secret Garden, Mistress Ondine looked every inch the stern ballet teacher today. Her gray costume with its pencil skirt exuded the same cold professionalism as her severe chignon hairdo.

But she sounded genuinely pleased, and both Kendrik and Ryan were beaming at her praise. Inwardly, Kendrik was more than a little embarrassed to feel so proud for managing nothing more complicated than walking across a stage in three different ways while wearing nothing at all. But Ryan had been right, there was something eminently useful about being able to credibly offer some variations of himself.

Over the last several days, they had been training Kendrik’s ability of self-perception, both in terms of outfits and manners. They had worked on identifying some ‘styles’ that Kendrik was especially well suited to pull off, and trained the motion pattens of two of them. Unsurprisingly, ‘soldier’ was one of them. Kendrik wasn’t an especially talented actor, but at least he understood what he was doing. And judging by Ondine’s reaction, they had expected significantly less of him.

“We’ll have to expand his range, of course, but I think he’s not a lost case.” Ondine decided. Apparently, that was a good thing. “Is he ready for the next step?”

“Mostly, I think.” Ryan replied, all professional as well. “We should give him a dry run before we allow him to mingle, but he’ll be fine in assisting service.”

“So what’s he lacking?”

“If I understood correctly, Mistress, his owner wants to improve the way Kendrik is entertaining his owner’s guests.”


“He has nothing to entertain them with.”

For a long moment, Ondine gave him a picture-perfect you-gotta-be-kidding-me look. Then her eyes widened in disbelief when she realized Ryan was perfectly serious.

“He can’t even dance?”

“I needed a week to teach him how to walk. What do you think his dancing looks like?!”

As much as Kendrik had learned to ignore people talking about him as if he wasn’t even in the same room with them, Ryan’s outburst irked him unexpectedly. Kendrik was well aware that he wasn’t exactly a prodigious student. But the way Ryan put it made it sound as if he was barely able to stand.

“You didn’t even see me dancing once,” Kendrik retorted, almost managing not to sound petulant.

Both Ryan and Ondine just looked at him, their utterly unconvinced expressions almost comical in their synchronization.

“So he can’t dance, can’t play any instrument, nothing?” Ondine asked, still sounding doubtful. Still she was talking as if Kendrik weren’t standing right in front of her on the stage, stark naked. “What about pole dancing?”

“He’d rip the pole out.” Ryan’s deadpan reply was instant. “We’d need ages to teach him anything that requires precise measures of force.”

“What do I need all that for, anyway?” Kendrik interjected, already dreading the answer. “You’re not seriously expecting me to perform tricks for my master?”

“You’re a pet,” Ondine replied icily. “All you’ll ever do is perform tricks.”

“Even if you keep your Master interested enough to keep you over the years, he’ll need a reason to present you to his guests.” Ryan added a little less harshly. “If you don’t do anything, you’re as interesting as a painting – once seen, it won’t change. But if you are able to put on any kind of performance, you might become part of your Master’s hospitality for more reasons than your well-lubed holes.”

“So unless you suddenly find a whole ocean full of social graces that so far you have forgotten to put to good use, you’ll have to come up with something, anything that might be entertaining.”

Both Ondine and Ryan looked at Kendrik as if expecting a sudden revelation.

“What do you want of me?!” Kendrik finally snapped. “I was a soldier before I was a pet, and I can’t do pretty!”

“We could do the classic courtesan/gladiator mix,” Ryan suggested halfheartedly without reacting to Kendrik’s outburst. “But that’s way overused and too risky for obvious reasons.”

Ondine nodded and rose from her seat. With measured steps, she walked up onto the stage as well, all the time eying Kendrik as if searching for something she had overlooked all this time.

“He has got a nice, resonant voice,” she finally said. “Have you tried singing?”

“Once.” Ryan replied. “Guess what, he belts like a soldier marching.”

“Little surprise there.” Still Ondine was looking at Kendrik, her cool, gray-green eyes perfectly beautiful and unreadable. “But maybe you’ve tried the wrong songs.”

“I did what little classics he knows,” Ryan told her, a little note of annoyance creeping into his usual professionalism. “But if you want, I can get you your guitar.”

“Yes, please, Ryan, that would be nice.”

Ryan nodded and left the room, while Ondine remained on the stage, circling Kendrik with measured steps like a shark seizing up a potential prey.

“You are a riddle to me, you know that?” she finally said.

“And why is that?”

“You pretend to be a soldier, but not a pet, and yet you try to learn being a pet for a Master you should hate.” Now a fine smile crept into her face, lightening up her features for the first time. “You act as if nothing here concerns or scares you, and yet, when you think you are unobserved, you worry and care about and for everyone here.”

Finally, she stopped in front of Kendrik, her expression at the same time fondly happy and deeply sad.

“I will not ask you why. We all have our stories here. But I can see you are one of the good guys, and I know how hard this must be on you. You still have a heart, and those with a heart can touch others’.” Raising a finger for emphasis and gently tapping his chest above his heart, she added: “Never think you’re just a fucktoy. You’re quite special.”

Not sure what to make of Ondine’s sudden confession, Kendrik decided not to say anything. Instead, he gave her a shy smile, hoping it would look grateful. Did she suspect anything? Did she feel that he was much more than a pet sent here for training?

Luckily, that was also the moment Ryan returned with her guitar.

“Here you go, Mistress.” he said, handing her the heavy case. “Anything else you need?”

“A chair,” she replied, pointing at the stage. “And proper lighting. Centre spot, nothing else.”

Wordlessly, Ryan nodded and produced two high bar-chairs from behind the scenes. He handed them to Kendrik and then disappeared again behind the curtains to rearrange the lights the way Ondine had asked him to.

Silently, Kendrik watched her take the guitar out of its case. What an odd woman, he wondered. Cold and professional one moment, and smart and sensitive, almost vulnerable another.

Right then, she turned around, smiling when she noticed Kendrik watching her.

“You can dress now,” she said pointing at the pile of clothes Kendrik had left at the edge of the stage. “It’ll make it easier for you, I think.”

Grateful, Kendrik nodded. At first, running around naked all the time had felt very surreal. He had never felt shy or self-conscious around his comrades. But here, among all these beautiful people that constantly judged his body, it was a different thing. He was getting used to it, though. As long as he had anything to do, he hardly minded by now. But standing around, being about to be tested once again for something he hardly understood, he was grateful for any kind of clothing. Even if it was just gray sweatpants and a tight white t-shirt.

“Alright.” Ondine declared as she slipped onto the chair with much more elegance than the guitar in her hands and the tight skirt around her thighs should have allowed. “Do you know ‘Moradi Nights’, Kendrik?”

“No, Mistress.” he replied truthfully.

He had been to the opera a few times with Yaden, to some clubs with Teagan and Myriam kept him well-informed about what was supposedly ‘hot’ right now. But that didn’t even scratch the vast musical repertoire of the Empire. And he sure as hell wouldn’t suggest one of the songs of his home.

“I’ll sing it for you then, first. The text is simple, but it’s the emotion that is important. Try to connect.”

Kendrik nodded, sitting down on the stage, cross-legged, while Ryan settled somewhere in the dark audience.

Ondine started playing, and it hardly surprised Kendrik that she was actually very good at it. With a few notes, she seemed to get herself in the mood, as if trying to forget where she was. To Kendrik, it almost seemed she imagined herself sitting on the tiny stage of some shady pub somewhere, wreathed in cigarette smoke and the hushed murmur of patrons at the bar.

Together with the lighting she had ordered Ryan to arrange, it was a fantasy Kendrik could share effortlessly.

When she started to sing, though, Kendrik couldn’t help but give a startled blink. Of course she had a nicely trained voice, but it was surprisingly deep and a little smoky, with a melancholic quality that didn’t seem to fit with the flawlessly professional person she displayed in public.

All but mesmerized, he listened to her, and soon it was clear why she had picked this particular song for Kendrik to try. It was about a craftsman from Del’Morad who had left home for work, and even despite everything going well, he found no happiness, his heart still longing for his home. In his words, even though he had found friends and riches abroad, the only thing of worth to him were his memories of the starlit nights on Del’Morad, of the ‘Moradi Nights’.

Of course that dangerous woman had to pick a song about homesickness, Kendrik grumbled inwardly. Of course he would be able to relate to that. Uncalled for, memories of his family rose in Kendrik, of his elder sister and his mother, of their home on Dawn when they were still children.

Looking up to Ondine, Kendrik realized she was looking at him, and giving him the tiniest of encouraging smiles. So she had guessed his feelings all the time, and gambled on picking a song that he wouldn’t ‘belt out like a soldier marching’. Well, she was right in one way at least, he was perfectly able to immerse himself in the mood of the song. Kendrik was sure he wasn’t a good singer, but he certainly wouldn’t be called out for lack of trying.

So when she started repeating the refrain for the third time, Kendrik joined her. Softly at first, then a little stronger as he started feeling confident with the text. Smiling, Ondine repeated the refrain again, and this time, Kendrik rose to his feet and walked over to the two stairs standing in the spotlight, joining her. They went through the refrain two more times before Ondine finished with a flourish, smiling with grim satisfaction.

For a moment, they looked at each other silently, until Ryan’s applause reminded them that they were not alone.

“I stand humbled, Mistress Ondine,” he remarked, sounding more amused than humbled. “It seems there’s more to our giant baby than I would have given him credit for.”

“I had a feeling that sad and longing might suit him more.” Ondine replied, still smiling and holding her guitar as if looking forward to playing another song together with Kendrik. “Do you think you can take it from here and get him presentable in a week?”

“A week?” Ryan exclaimed in the darkness beyond the spotlight. “I’ll try my best, Mistress.”

“You’re not seriously thinking of letting me sing publicly?” Kendrik asked as he realized what the two were talking about. “I know you’re desperate, but don’t you have a reputation to uphold?”

Now finally, Ondine laughed out loud.

“I don’t know who told you that you can’t sing, Kendrik, but they were wrong. You’re actually quite good. Not suited for the opera, sure, but for some seedy establishment with a small variety show it’ll be quite the stunner.”

“You’re kidding...”

“Ondine is never kidding,” Ryan replied flatly. “I thought you’d know that by now.”

Jumping up from the dark audience into the light on the stage, Ryan stepped up to Kendrik, his index finger raised admonishingly.

“And apart from that, young man, I think we have stern talking to do. Who was that person I could see in your walk, just a moment ago? When you walked up to Ondine, singing and for once not thinking about how other people see you?”

“I have no idea what you are talking about...”

“So I didn’t just imagine that.” Ondine chimed in, this time with a slightly amazed tone in her voice. “You looked... graceful.”

She pronounced the last word as if it held some special significance, but Ryan just nodded emphatically.

“He’s got it.” Kendrik wasn’t sure, but it almost sounded as if Ryan was a little envious. “I can’t believe it, but he’s got it.”

“I got what?” Kendrik asked, feeling somewhat left out of a joke on him.

“Grace.” Ondine replied laconically and slipped off her chair, once again looking much more elegant than her dress or the situation could allow for.

“I’ll show you,” Ryan offered in a friendlier tone.

While Ondine packed her guitar, Ryan sat down on the stage where Kendrik had been sitting. When he rose again, he was effortlessly mimicking Kendrik’s earlier movements, though Kendrik was hard pressed to say that it looked any special to him.

Again Ryan laughed amiably at Kendrik’s clueless expression.

“You really don’t see it, do you?” Ryan asked, adding: “Here. When you walked up to the chair, look at what your feet did. It looks almost as if you were dancing, the way you paused with the tip of your toe straight down.”

Again, the movements Ryan showed him made little sense to Kendrik, and especially didn’t feel like anything he’d ever do voluntarily, let alone subconsciously. Only when he tried to run through the motions again, he realized what he had been doing.

Ryan was right, there had indeed been a time when Kendrik had been dancing. Long, long before he was a soldier of the Scilla elite forces, before he had even wanted to be a soldier, things had been different.

As a small boy, he had always watched his mother train. Kendrik vividly remembered the brightly lit mirrored wall, a bar in front of it, scratchy music playing from an old recorder. His petite mother dancing, in her faded outfits and threadbare pointe shoes, with the rosy light of Caelius’ sun slanting through the large windows.
He couldn’t remember ever going to one of her performances as a child, but he could effortlessly recall himself sitting there in the corner of the room, underneath the baby grand piano, entranced by the beauty of his mother’s dance as only a child could be.

He couldn’t remember, though, why he had stopped wanting to become a ballet dancer himself.

“Whatever that thought is, try to keep it safe.” Ondine suddenly said right next to him, so softly it sounded like she was trying to keep a secret. “It makes you look radiant.”

A little embarrassed, Kendrik gave her an incredulous look, but she only smiled and nodded.

“Build on it,” she whispered, “and one day the Secret Garden will pay you to teach our youngsters.”

idolme922idolme922 on June 7th, 2013 04:59 pm (UTC)
Oh my. Kendrick seems to have cast a spell on Ondine. It's lovely to see him recall his past, his family. Of course he is there for other purposes but perhaps he will learn (remember?) a thing or two to take home to his husbands. Lovely. :D
osirisbrackhausosirisbrackhaus on June 8th, 2013 04:59 am (UTC)
I don't know if it's a spell he put on Ondine, but we will find out in the last chapter.

And yes, there will definitely be something he's gonna be taking home. Several somethings, actually. ^^

Thanks, dear!
debbiemethosdeb on June 8th, 2013 04:18 am (UTC)
loved it ,seems like he had a rather hard life before ,glad he has Yaden now, even though he is far away.
osirisbrackhausosirisbrackhaus on June 8th, 2013 05:02 am (UTC)
It wasn't so much a hard life as a difficult one, but yes. We will learn the details once we get down to write the story how Kendrik and Yaden met.
But yes, now he's got Yaden, and they have started building their happily ever after together.

Glad you liked it!
Herkko Rosvo-Ronkainenmissingkeys on June 8th, 2013 12:07 pm (UTC)
Oh. His trainers are surprisingly awesome, all things considered. I mean, I knew they'd be able to do their jobs, but I didn't realise they'd make Kendrik feel quite like that. How absolutely lovely. :) Thank you!
osirisbrackhausosirisbrackhaus on June 9th, 2013 09:55 am (UTC)
Well, thank YOU, dear.

I think I don't like having 'villains' in my stories - rather a lot of people at odds with each other, but each one trying to do the right thing.

And yes, Kendrik and his mother are something quite special. Really looking forward to them meeting again AFTER the Secret Garden. ^^
Herkko Rosvo-Ronkainenmissingkeys on June 9th, 2013 10:32 am (UTC)
Welcome. :)

That's such an excellent way of going about things; the 'road to hell' ideas where nobody's actually evil, as such, but things are different for everybody. I love the subtlety involved in writing that.

Also, you and your hints. I can't wait too!
Liliaethliliaeth on June 8th, 2013 08:48 pm (UTC)
I like that you didn't make the trainers just evil, that they're genuinely trying to teach him.
osirisbrackhausosirisbrackhaus on June 9th, 2013 09:58 am (UTC)
Ryan is a really nice chap, all considered, but Ondine isn't without her shades of gray, as well we see in the next chapter.

Glad you liked it, and thanks for commenting!
BerthaBlueberthablue on June 23rd, 2013 02:37 pm (UTC)
Such a pretty chapter :) I love the way they hunt out the little bit of hidden grace in Kendrick :)
osirisbrackhausosirisbrackhaus on June 23rd, 2013 05:48 pm (UTC)
Took them long enough to find any, though. But they good at what they do, else they's have been winterlisted long ago. ^^