As I entered the town with Rosethorn my eyes recognized thing from every town I have ever been in. The large marketplace openly selling all the products needed to honest folk. Then down dark alley ways and through unprepared streets there are the other markets, selling women, drugs, the things that honest folk look down on.
Those streets used to be my home. I have the marks from my twelve years there, they decorate my back and legs. Violent men who looked upon my face and smiled. Taking me to their bedrooms. They were not looking for a boy to love. They were looking for a boy to fuck and beat.
These things I never told my foster sisters. Of course I wouldn't it was something they never knew of. Upon hearing that two boys had been found kissing in Gorse's kitchen Tris had laughed. She was raised with a merchant's prejudices and hatred. She had spent a good part of an hour laughing and telling jokes of what happens to men who lay with men.
I have always known I was attractive. Its hard not to when at five an old man in a tavern takes your face in his hand tipping it up and yells to a friend "This one's a beauty, make sure he's in my room tonight" When I was brought to Discipline I was surprised not to be beaten.
The girls there did not touch me or kiss me. They would sit in their corners and rooms and do what they would. The women who taught us did not have interest in me. They were always together, something that seemed to have escaped the notice of the rest of the inhabitants of the house. Tris would have left in a huff, Daja would have smiled slightly. Traders were known for their interesting love affairs. And Sandry, well she would have wished the two well.
In Discipline there was no one telling me I was beautiful, no one stroking my hair. But most of all there was no one beating me. Rosethorn was the one who I thought would beat me. Her temper and words scared me. The way her fist would fly out when weeding to grab at something would make my back arch back and scream in pain. Every time I did something remotely wrong I felt as if she would take what ever was closest and beat me with it.
Until one rainy day when they were forced inside. There was nothing to do, Rosethorn was diligently labeling the jars of herbs and I was sitting, feeling useless. Her sharp features were hell bend on ignoring my hands, picking up and putting away the jars, in what was supposed to be alphabetical order. She handed me one and I shoved it up on the shelf, causing another jar to fall and smash onto the ground.
"boy!" She yelled turning around. I instinctively fell back, my bare feet landing on the glass. Her hand reached for the broom, I debated whether or not I should move causing my feet to bleed even more or take the beating. "Sweep" She ordered "and you cost us a large supply of Lavender. I don't want to hear you complain about how much sleep you get" I nodded and stepped out of the glass, blood dripping from my cut up feet.
"Oh Green Man" She sighed looking at me "Sit" obediently I did, looking up at her. Part of me expected her to take me. I wasn't naive to the idea of cheating. But I was feeling safer then ever before. She sighed taking bandages and salve from shelves, sitting on the bench she took my foot in her hand.
"I'm not ever going to hit you Briar." She said, using my name as she cleaned out my feet.
"Sure" I said looking her in the eyes.
"Really I'm not" She sighed "I've seen how you watch me, I know you're afraid of me. I will not beat you" She started to bandage my feet. "What ever happened to you before, it will not happen here. No one will beat you, no one will take you to their bed"
I looked up at her, face hard. "Never said no one did."
"I'm just telling you. I've been in the area you are from. And you as well as I know that men take young boys as play things." she looked me in the eye. "Now I won't tell any one of this. But Boy, remember you are no longer in danger."
After that I knew I was safe. Because if Rosethorn promised it she would scare anyone who said different into hiding. It was the first time in my life I was safe and felt no need to hide ever. The fights I got in weren't over my life and I had mates to catch my mistakes.
Slowly as my powers grew my memory faded. I forgot a lot of the hell I went through before. But then I met Evey and I knew it was back to haunt me. Her thinking I wanted her for my own pleasure, just as I had thought Niko wanted me as a play toy. And for a few months I was forced to remember my life.
But here, walking from the tavern I am realizing how much I have grown from then. I do not take girls to my bed for no reason at all. I never did, but I had the chance. I am waiting for Sandry to come. She is going to visit me in this hell hole of a city.
I smile and sit down at the large table where all the inn patrons eat. I see the normal whores and as much as it hurts me to see it, young boys like I was. My eyes fall on a particularly attractive one, he sees me looking and moves over to talk to me. I can see the relief in his eyes. I am not ugly, far from it and have a kind look. Most of the men who were looking at him look hard, and are old. One of them grabs him and slips him some coin to come to his room in the evening.
I sigh, it has become a habit for me to stay in these inns. I could stay in the places the bags stay. But I do not want to loose who I am. I used to sit and laugh with the noble's we visited. They would treat me like a poor sap. Filling me with drink and making me tell stories of my training. Those places were the type that if you signaled would have a woman sent up and you would never hear cost of the extra money, it would be discreetly added onto your tab, nothing there to show to your wife or mother that you were doing disreputable women.
I realized one day that I was getting to be just as bad as the men who I had hated in my youth, that I would look at street boys and scoff at them, warning people not to leave money handy. One day I realized that I was about to cuff a kid when he hadn't done something right. I stopped right before I hit him, the boys raven black hair shimmering in the light of the candle. I dismissed him and paid him probably what he would have earned that entire year. Apologizing every three seconds.
After that I moved back to the rat infested places of my youth. Allowing Rosethorn to use the money saved on medical supplies and the like. I was afraid to do so, of course, who in their right mind isn't terrified of the slums? But oddly enough the thing that scared me more was the look in that kids' eyes as I almost hit him. It wasn't fear, or terror. It was expectance. The look that must have been in my eye when Rosethorn was mad at her plants
I look down at the table, the stew in front of me is hardly edible. I could afford much better, I could buy this entire inn. But it wouldn't change anything. As I contemplate my stew, and whether or not it really is edible some one knocked into me. My elbow flying into the bowel, knocking it.
I turned around, knifes in my hands.
"Sorry" The girl smiled, her dress was dirty, that's to be expected, so was her face and her hair. But she looked amazing. Her teeth were in remarkably good condition, her body was healthy from what I could see, and her hair, though dirty was well pulled back into a thick braid that went down to about her mid back.
"Its okay" my blades go back into their sheaths, and I motion to the seat next to me. "Do you have any plans tonight?" I say, then realize how stupid that sounds.
She smiles at me, sitting down her skirts loosely settling around her, an ease about her. Suddenly I am reminded of Sandry. Sandry, who has grown from the little noble I first met, to the Duchess of Emlan. Who will be coming here, to see me. Her Fiancée, the former Street Rat. The only reason anyone would let the match be made was the fact that his coffers grew every time he sold a tree. The trees were absurdly priced, and worth every penny. And here I am, eating with a prostitute.
"So, what you here for?" She asks.
"Work" I say, deciding finally that the stew is inedible.
"Ah" She says, nodding her head, and tucking into the stew slopped in front of her. She must have the same kind of deal with the owner of this place that I had with one of the men in Sotat, they get a cut, I got fed. "What's your name?" she asks me, not really caring.
"Briar Moss" I say, she doesn't recognize it, or pretends not to.
"Yours?" I ask, watching her carefully.
"Porter" She says, looking up at me, slightly confused. "So you married?" She asks, and even though she's been nearly shoveling food into her mouth she still looks neat enough.
"Engaged." I say, remembering trying to make awkward conversation with the men.
"Ah, she a bitch?"
"Not give you what you need?" Her eyes looking up at me, trying to find out if even though I look nice enough really I have a disturbing pleasure.
"She's just far away." I say, giving my standard answer. I don't actually sleep with these women, or the boys. I just give them a place to sleep.
"Listen," She smiles "I ain't normally in this business. I'm a street fighter."
I knew a couple of them, they're part of a confidence trick, girls who look weak, but can sure pack a punch, then guys will have people bet on a pre selected man from the audience, and then, the girl beats up the guy and then the guys will take the money and run, the money is split up between the rest of them.
"Uh huh?" I nod watching her, noticing that what I had originally thought was dirt was really bruises. Her eyes looked over mine, trying to read me.
"Yeah" She said. "So, we gunna go up to your room?" I nod.
"There's a bath up there" I say, as she stands, her stew bowel clean as if some one had washed it thoroughly.
"Oh" She says, walking in front of me. I see the boy again, he's only ten or eleven and he looks so much older. Broken.
As I stand musing about the boy who I wasn't able to get that evening, a man pinched Porter's rear, lightning quick she pulled a dagger from her side, slicing his arm. Just a quick I was able to catch the glimmer of silver following her movement.
Shit, so this is what I get for attempting to be a nice guy, another ward.
Disclaimer: I not own anything but Porter. Everything else is owned by Tamora Peirce, and if she wants Porter she can have her. I won't put up a fight or anything
Author's note: Okay, This is something I've had for a while. I wanted to look at Briar like in his 20's successful and not worrying about saving the world, only about himself and his relationship with Sandry. And then having something thrown on him. That would be Porter. And through Porter he learns more about himself. Also, on FF.net there was a lot of people saying that it wasn't realistic. I guess its partly AU. But one other thing. Tamora Peirce has said that Lark and Rosethron are together.
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