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Chapter 3: Shameful Bathing
John perked at the sounds of horses moving in the yard. He could hear faint voices, but nothing distinct. He'd been awake since dawn, amazingly enough he'd managed to get a little rest through the night. It was remarkably peaceful on the estate and he had only been awakened by the ranch hands getting to work in the early morning hours. Briefly after that, Mrs. Hudson had dropped by with breakfast. She'd told him that Sherlock was a late sleeper so he shouldn't worry and various other topics of gossip while they drank some tea. Mostly John just let the woman talk, he was still a little shy about saying much considering he was still more captive than anything. Once Mrs. Hudson left, John had been left to his own devices. Which meant John spent most of the morning listening to the ranch activities. Someone arrived on horseback close to mid-morning, they'd shared words with the owner close enough for John to listen in on.
“Ah, Greg...I admit I thought you would refuse.”
“Hard to turn down such a generous offer.”
“It helps that times are hard.”
There was a pause and sigh, “Times are always hard, makes no difference.”
“What's that supposed to mean?”
“Between the stories about your little brother and your 'hm', it's a wonder anyone works for you at all.”
“The value of paying well and having a very well-liked house keeper, Greg.”
There was a long silence before they started to walk, “Alright, well...I'll be getting started with Sherlock...” The rest of the conversation was lost as they walked away from the stable and out of John's limited hearing range.
When John heard the horses leaving the yard, he suspected it was Sherlock and his new tutor and they would be gone some time. It was a bit of a let down, considering he had hoped to see Sherlock again. John sighed and closed his eyes, settling to get some more rest. What else could he do?
The stable doors suddenly banged open, startling John and making him struggle to his feet. A group of ranch hands approached, Mycroft in tow. He walked only a few feet into the stables and watched his men approach the uncertain centaur. John backed away as much as the chains allowed, his head high and fists clenched. His tail started flicking as they sought out the dusty restraints throughout the stables. Restraints that John knew well, but by the look of them they hadn't been used in some time on this particular property.
“I suggest you behave...it will make this much easier.” Mycroft drawled as he leaned on his cane with a sigh, looking bored and yet amused by John's resistance.
The blonde centaur snorted and pawed, unwilling to accept more restraints...unwilling to play along. He knew resistance was foolish and wouldn't amount to anything, but John refused to be subservient to someone so smug. The ranch hands looked from him to their boss, waiting until Mycroft made a subtle gesture and turned away to walk out the stable doors. As soon as Mycroft turned...the men sprung! In the span of a heartbeat, John had two hefty men on him. He cursed and shook violently, trying to twist and buck and strike as more came at him. He threw the first man off after managing to get hold of his shirt, the second hit the ground when John bumped him against one of the beams he was chained to.
Dust stirred under his hooves, the chains jerked and clanked loudly as he fought them. For a few minutes he managed to keep them at bay, but with his limited mobility he didn't stand a chance. One man managed to get a solid hold on his mane of hair and grab one arm, when John tried to reach to dislodge him with the other hand...another man grabbed hold. In a handful of seconds, he couldn't use his arms and more of the ranch hands piled onto him to hold him still. They pinned his chained legs at the ends of the lengths, making it near impossible to move his feet again.
John panted and struggled against the restraining hands, but it was useless. Three thick, stiff, cold leather belts were fastened tightly around his torso, each of which buckled at his spine. Each belt had two cuff-like additions on the sides where his arms were. They were meant to hold his arms to his sides, which was exactly what happened next. The restraints buckled around his wrists, above each elbow, and just below each shoulder. John torqued and twisted, but his arms remained trapped at his sides. John's hands clenched as he twisted his wrists desperately, but to no avail.
The men clamped down a little harder, warning John that something was coming. He jerked his head up just as a blindfold pressed over his face. It was heavy and thick and blocked every shred of light. John thrashed wildly, finally dislodging most of the ranch hands while the rest merely let go. They let him struggle blindly for several long minutes until he finally stopped, panting and standing stock still.
A hand patted his heaving flank, making him flinch. “There...now was that so hard?” It was Mycroft and his voice was nothing but smug.
John shifted uncertainly. He couldn't see and he was concerned to move for fear of stepping on something that would cause him to break his leg, even though he knew he was still chained in the small area. It was a primal fear...one that was deeply rooted in his nature and one that he couldn't override. They fastened a leather collar around his neck and then very carefully released his legs. Mycroft's hand remained on him for a moment before he stepped back, John felt the subtle tug of a lead on his collar. For a moment, he refused to move. His knees locked and his back braced.
There was a sharp crack an instant before John felt a sting on his rump. He jumped forward with a short yelp, stopping abruptly when his guiding pull was gone. Mycroft tutted nearby and John heard the swish of the thin horsewhip as the man flicked it near his flank. John wasn't a stranger to riding crops and he tensed in response to the very knowledge of its presence. When he felt the pull on his neck, he followed slowly. His steps were stilted and uncertain and he bumped into a few of the ranch hands as they exited the stables into the yard. If he slowed too much, Mycroft applied the crop to his sensitive rump and if he kicked out...he received another solid strike.
They led John, stumbling, through the yard and through a gate. Tentatively he worked his way along, his rump stung by the time they arrived at their destination. They left him standing for a moment. Then someone ran a hand down his foreleg, for a moment he refused...but he heard the swish of the crop and all but launched his leg off the ground. The leg was then fastened so he couldn't put it back on the ground, making moving even more difficult and terrifying.
The centaur’s breath was ragged, terrified and unsure. What were they going to do? Did they mean to leave him standing on three legs somewhere unknown? John flicked his tail nervously as he waited for some indication as to what was happening, but all he could hear was the scuffing footsteps of the ranch hands as they moved around him. Then, without any warning, freezing cold water was poured over his flanks and rump. Another bucketful of water was poured over his head, leaving him sputtering and shivering. The water was ice cold! They were relentless though, making sure he was thoroughly soaked before a harsh soap was worked into his coat and through his mane and over his skin. They were cleaning him...quite roughly. John shifted and squirmed, they weren't cleaning him out of consideration for his own well-being. It was to impress upon him his position. A position John loathed, but given that he couldn't move around he had no choice but to take the cleaning in bitter silence.
His tail was being combed out and his thick, unkempt, mane was untangled roughly. They rinsed him once they seemed satisfied the mud and mats were coming out, leaving him dripping and shivering while they tended to making him appear more as a “domestic” centaur should. His short tail was braided slowly while someone examined his hooves, starting to trim them so they would look more manicured. Each leg was restrained one at a time so the farrier work could be done, while making sure John was always on three feet. Not only were they trimmed, they were shod with heavy steel shoes. It wasn't the first time John had been shod, but the weight on his feet was unpleasant. He stayed still for the most part, unwilling to fall or trip in a place he couldn't see or to be struck by the stinging horsewhip again.
At least, that was, until he felt someone touching his mane. The thick hair was long and wild and did in fact go down his spine. He was proud of its length...mostly because it was a clear indication of being a free centaur. He heard the familiar creak of scissors and tensed, jerking his head away from the sound and twisting his body away with a short cry.
In an instant hands were on him, restraining him as he struggled to keep away from the shears. He was doing a good job of it and he was hoping they might give up, until a rough hand snagged his hair and his whole torso was bent forward so two strong ranch hands could hold his head down. He fought them, but they had him in a compromised stance and they outnumbered him drastically.
John felt his hair being pulled straight and heard the clip of scissors. He grunted and strained, growing more and more distressed with every clip. He could feel his long mane being trimmed to an unbearable shortness, exposing his elfin pointed ears. Most, he imagined, wouldn't understand it...but getting his long mane sheared forcefully off was demoralizing. Worse still, they didn't make it jagged... they instead took their time to make him presentable. Once his head was finished they worked down his spine to trim the lengthy hair away into the preferred style of a domestic pet. Tears formed behind the blindfold as he strained, fighting hopelessly to the bitter end. His chest and flanks heaving with despair.
A final dose of cold water to clean the loose hairs...and John was clean, shod, and trimmed. His pride was decimated and all the fight had gone out of him. He didn’t' resist them as they led him back to the stables and returned chains to his feet. His head was bowed and he just wanted to hide. It was humiliating for him and Mycroft knew it. The man was slowly breaking John down because he could....because John was nothing more than property. Worse than that...he was someone's runaway property who deserved to be punished for thinking he could be free.
John listened to the men leaving the stables, aware Mycroft was still watching him. The man tapped the brand on his foreleg gently, “I know who you belong to. We do business often. He is due for his annual visit soon and I know he will enjoy a surprise. I am certain he has been very worried about you.” Mycroft was probably smirking, he sounded like he should be, but John couldn't tell.
A tremor of fear went through him...his master was coming and Mycroft hadn't said specifically when. It was meant to make him fret and worry...and of course that's exactly what he did. He listened to Mycroft walking away calmly before he carefully lowered himself to the ground with a sniffle. Tears continued to gather behind the blindfold as he tried not to cry, but the utter hopelessness was starting to sink in...and it hurt so bad. John had had the smallest taste of hard won freedom...which he'd foolishly thrown away by being caught. He was frustrated and afraid...very aware that his master would be extremely displeased when he arrived and found John. Misery consumed his thoughts as he drifted in and out of consciousness...
It seemed like hours had passed before John heard someone push open the stable door, the footfalls were light and well placed. Not like the ranch hands, but similar to Mycroft...only lighter. John stayed where he was, just breathing deeply and waiting. The footsteps faltered and then hurried, reaching John in a handful of strides. Deft, nimble, fingers freed the blindfold from his eyes and John lifted his head slightly to stare into Sherlock's face. There were warring and complex emotions in his tense features, his eyes darting as they took in all of John.
The centaur stared, feeling utterly ashamed that Sherlock was looking him over in his current state. He swallowed and turned his eyes away as his head dropped again, shameful tears welling in his eyes once more. The young man stared silently for a moment longer, then reached out to unfasten the collar...throwing it with a growl.
“How dare he...” Sherlock hissed as he turned back to John, making the centaur lift his head uncertainly. “No wonder he let me go so bloody easily!” The young man reached to touch John's short cropped hair, but stopped short. “I won't let this happen again.”
John frowned slightly, “Why...do you care?”
Sherlock shifted, his nose wrinkling before he shook his head and murmured. “Let's get this off you...” Starting to free John's arms, an act which the centaur was most grateful for. “I have a new tutor, Lestrade, I think you'd like him.” Directing the topic easily away from John's question.
“Greg Lestrade?” John asked softly, blinking away the tears. He found talking with Sherlock a huge relief after another stressful day.
The dark haired boy gave him a glance as he nodded, tossing the leather belts away. “How did you know?”
“I...I heard him talking to your brother when he arrived. He sounded a bit...cheeky.”
“He is, a bit, actually. That or he's stupid...”
John scoffed a gentle laugh as Sherlock settled down next to him. “So, you...went for a ride?”
“Yes, Lestrade took me to the woods! Though, he wasn't much help identifying plants. I saw some that reminded me of the ones in your bag, but I didn't bring anything to carry them back with. Next time I told him that we needed to bring you along so you could help. And...” Sherlock continued explaining his day to John in great detail, which the centaur didn't at all mind. Sherlock didn't even pause when Mrs. Hudson brought them dinner. They talked...and talked...and talked...the stables growing ever darker. John yawned gently and shifted in his straw, Sherlock yawned and stretched out next to him...still talking faintly...though his myriad of words began to slow. Eventually it stopped all together, being replaced by the comfortable sounds of slumber from both centaur and boy...pb.wtf
Последний раз редактировалось: Drakosha (2014-07-10 04:19), всего редактировалось 1 раз
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