In a world that took a different path, Kaleb Macintyre, a former Master, returned home after years away. All he wanted was a quiet life but encountering Nenne changed everything. Both of them bore scars from their pasts. As their relationship grew and they healed, Kaleb wondered if he could have more with Nenne or if his basic nature prevented him from ever finding happiness in Nenne’s arms.
The Nature of Beasts is a sweet romance focusing on consent, knowledge and growing together over time.
Warning / Themes: This novel addresses themes of abuse and recovery, BDSM and gay romance in a dystopian world. Please read with caution if you have any issues with these themes.
The Nature of Beasts
By Meyari McFarland
Kaleb roused from a deep sleep, blinking at the phone on his bedside table. He’d been so deeply asleep that he wasn’t sure that it had actually rung. A moment later the phone rang again, startling Kaleb into movement. He fumbled picking it up, nearly dropping it on the floor.
“Yeah?” Kaleb grunted.
“Kaleb,” Jack said in that cheerful ‘I’m worried but I’m not letting myself be worried’ tone that he always used when he was fighting against having a panic attack in front of Alice. “Has Nenne come home?”
“I thought he was with you,” Kaleb said, sitting up and shoving the blankets off as sleep fled in the face of worry.
“He was,” Jack said. “But we went to play in the frog room and then when we were done we couldn’t find Nenne anywhere.”
“Did you check all the rooms?” Nenne asked as he headed next door to check on Nenne’s apartment. “Since when did the club have frog chairs?”
“They’re new,” Jack said. “Alice and I looked but we didn’t see him in any of the play rooms or downstairs in the social areas.”
Kaleb’s shoulders felt like they were made of solid granite as he opened the door to Nenne’s apartment. The little studio was empty, the lights off and bed empty. He locked the door up again and headed back into his own apartment to pace between the kitchen and the living room. Nenne wouldn’t just leave without letting Jack know.
“He didn’t leave a message with any of the staff?” Kaleb asked.
“No,” Jack said in a far more tense tone of voice.
“Who did he meet that was new?” Kaleb continued. “There had to be something different, Jack. He’s never done anything like this before.”
He heard Jack swallow hard. In the background he could hear Alice’s voice worriedly chattering about something. There was enough background noise that he couldn’t make out what Alice was saying but she sounded as though she was on the verge of tears.
“We introduced him to Morgan Osie,” Jack said as if he couldn’t believe that Morgan had anything to do with it. “They did hit it off.”
Kaleb sighed, rubbing the back of his neck as he thought hard. Morgan Osie was one of the few Masters in the community that Kaleb had no issues with whatsoever. If Nenne had gone off with Morgan then he was probably perfectly okay. Morgan’s limits were so close to vanilla that Kaleb was continually surprised that the man even went to the clubs. Very few of the activities there appealed to him.
It wasn’t at all likely that Nenne would be in any danger if he was with Morgan. How he and Morgan had gotten lost, or more accurately how Jack and Alice had lost them, in the club was the question. No matter how big the club seemed most of the time it wasn’t actually that large.
“Jack, check with the staff,” Kaleb ordered. He used the military orders tone of voice that got generals hopping, not the Dom voice that automatically got Jack’s back up. “They track all the Masters who enter and leave. They should have records if Morgan is still there. You and I both know that Morgan would never leave Nenne to wander around alone. If they went off together then they’re still together. You just haven’t found them.”
“You’re sure?” Jack asked, murmuring something that was probably passing the order to Alice with his hand over the receiver of his phone.
“I know Morgan,” Kaleb said. “Nenne has to still be there.”
It wasn’t necessarily true. Nenne could have excused himself and walked out. He had his scooter so he was free to go whenever he wished. More importantly right now, it wasn’t that late in the evening. The club had to be full of Masters and Mistresses, both good and bad. Any of them could have latched onto Nenne and carried him off.
Except that Kaleb couldn’t bring himself to believe it.
Nenne had learned so much and gained so much confidence. He wouldn’t let himself be dragged away. Kaleb couldn’t be sure of it if Master Elshag was there but short of him or a major Black attack, Nenne could handle himself. Even if Jack couldn’t find Nenne, he was still there in the club somewhere.
“Morgan’s still here!”
Alice’s voice came through loud and clear even with the background noise around Jack. Kaleb let himself sigh as he moved back into the bedroom. Jack’s sigh was equally heartfelt though Kaleb doubted that Jack would relax until he saw Nenne again. There was a rustle of fabric as if Jack had hugged Alice.
“Morgan’s still here,” Jack said.
“Well, then, it should be fine,” Kaleb replied. “Nenne and Morgan are off having fun. Stay by the buffet table and eventually they’ll show up. Or have the staff go double check. They could be in one of the darker orgy rooms, you know.”
“No, Nenne didn’t like that,” Jack said.
“True,” Kaleb agreed with a smile that Nenne had apparently told everyone that he wasn’t comfortable with orgies except under particular conditions. “But if it’s a busy night–”
“It is,” Jack interrupted.
“Then that might be the only place they could get bed space,” Kaleb continued as if Jack hadn’t said anything. “Double-check the orgy room’s smaller beds if you’re truly worried. You could have missed them, Jack. Both Morgan and Nenne are quiet enough that it could happen easily.”
Kaleb settled back into bed, waiting as Jack did something that sounded like hugs or maybe patting Alice’s back to reassure her. He was tempted to offer to speak to Alice but that seemed presumptuous. Jack was Alice’s Master so he was a much better choice for soothing duty than Kaleb was.
The little indignant noise he heard from Alice made Kaleb chuckle quietly. He pulled the blankets back over his legs, half of his mind wondering if he’d get back to sleep before dawn and the other half plotting out how quickly he could get to the club. It wouldn’t take too much time to get there at this hour of the night. Kaleb thought he could make the trip in a matter of half an hour at most.
But he didn’t think it was necessary. Nenne wasn’t going to let himself be abused again. Even if he got into a situation that frightened him, Kaleb knew that Nenne would be able to speak up or act out in such a way that the health monitors would intervene. Not that Kaleb could believe that Morgan would ever push Nenne’s limits.
“You are too calm about this,” Jack said over Alice’s continuing indignant muttering.
“I trust Nenne’s good sense,” Kaleb said. “Besides, Morgan’s a good man. He wouldn’t hurt Nenne at all.”
“You’re entirely too calm about that,” Jack huffed. “Seriously, given the way you behaved at the party I expected that you’d be halfway here by now.”
Kaleb laughed more than a little bit ruefully. “Granted. I was… well. I did apologize to everyone after the fact. But no, Morgan isn’t all the same thing in my mind as Shane. Shane is a known and open Sadist. Morgan verges on vanilla, Jack. I already know that he wouldn’t keep Nenne happy for terribly long.”
That made Jack splutter into laughter that Kaleb probably deserved. Still, it was true. Nenne had always been quite clear about his masochism. It was one of the very first things they’d ever discussed. As kind and supportive as Morgan was, he simply wouldn’t be able to give Nenne everything he wanted.
“He’s not competition the way Shane was,” Jack finally said.
“You don’t have to put it that way,” Kaleb growled.
“I know, I know,” Jack chuckled. “All right. We’ll go do another check of all the rooms this time and see what we come up with. I’ll call you when we’re back downstairs. The policy against phones in the play rooms is still in place.”
“Do. I’ll wait to hear from you.”
Kaleb gently put the phone back on the charging unit. No matter how he’d sounded to Jack, Kaleb was worried about Nenne. It just wasn’t the sort of worry that Kaleb was willing to act on. Half of him screamed that he had to rush out and save Nenne only to have the other start the same old litany of ‘not mine, can’t ever be mine’.
He curled back up under the covers, staring across his dark bedroom as he tried to sort out all the conflicting urges.
Rational thought said that Nenne was perfectly fine while his long-suppressed dominant side insisted that Kaleb needed to make sure of it himself. The part of himself that he was increasingly aware had truly been abused was terrified to do anything at all other than hide from the situation. It was enough to make his head hurt. Jack’s suggestion of seeing a therapist to sort through his emotions sounded better by the moment, frankly.
“I’ll leave a note for Nenne to let me know he’s home safe,” Kaleb said after a minute of wrestling with his emotions. “He’ll laugh at me and everything will be fine.”
Despite writing a note and taping it to Nenne’s door being the work of a moment or so, Kaleb brought the phone along, tucked into his sleep pants’ pocket. He excused the silly act by reassuring the broken part of his soul that Jack would panic even worse if he couldn’t get ahold of Kaleb. The note was a simple thing, just ‘Call me when you get home’ with Kaleb’s initials at the bottom.
He taped it to Nenne’s door as he did his best to convince his worries that he’d be back out here to remove it in half an hour or so. Nenne was fine. He had to be fine. Morgan was a good man and the club had the highest of health and safety standards. No matter how worried Jack was about Nenne going off privately with Morgan, Kaleb was sure that he would be okay.
As Kaleb shut his door again he paused, looking at the note on Nenne’s door. Someday he might not be able to do this. Mismatched kinks notwithstanding, Morgan could convince Nenne to be his sub. Nenne could graduate from culinary school and get a job on the far side of town. He could move out of town entirely.
Kaleb sighed. “You don’t own Nenne. Stop being such an old fool, Kaleb!”
Going back to bed seemed to be the best idea. Kaleb trusted Nenne after this long around him. He also trusted Morgan. On top of that, Jack and Alice were looking out for Nenne. It was okay to go back to sleep or at least to go back to bed. By this point Kaleb knew he was too awake to drop right off.
Instead he grabbed the book he’d been reading before bedtime, a Master’s manual a friend in another city had asked him to review, and settled back down to read another chapter. Sadly, his friend had the driest writing style that Kaleb had ever had the misfortune to set eyes on. It was far more like reading a military procedure manual than a book on how to take care of your sub while making both of you happy.
“Really needs a ghostwriter,” Kaleb muttered the fourth time his eyes skipped over lines while his eyelids slid shut.
He checked the time and sighed. Half an hour had passed so Jack should be calling back at any moment one way or the other. Kaleb struggled through another page and a half, forcing himself to read every line despite the urge to roll his eyes at some of the more pompous phrases.
When he finally managed to finish this thing he was going to have to share it with Nenne if only to watch Nenne’s eyes go wide, then narrow as he tried to force his way through the text and then to laugh together as Nenne threw it across the room.
The phone finally rang, freeing Kaleb from his self-imposed reading duty.
“Yes?” Kaleb said only to be greeted by gales of laughter from Nenne. “Ah. I take it you were playing in one of the less well lit rooms, Nenne?”
“Yup!” Nenne wheezed. “Oh my, sorry Kaleb. Oh goodness, this is too funny.”
“Had fun?” Kaleb asked. “Jack said that you met Morgan.”
“Oh, you know him?” Nenne asked, giggling again as Alice’s huffy voice echoed in the background. “He’s really very sweet and very nice. I think we’re going to play again even though we both agree we’re not a good match. He sort of went pale when I mentioned that I wanted to try certain forms of impact play.”
“I most certainly did not go pale!” Morgan complained in the background. “That was just the lighting in the room.”
Nenne giggled again. He sounded so obviously content that Kaleb settled down under the covers with one arm behind his head. Alice’s voice was tearful, not that Kaleb could make out her actual words over Nenne’s giggles. Jack said something deeper in his soothing voice only for Kaleb to hear a squawk that had to come from Alice dramatically hugging him.
“Excuse me,” Morgan said. “Nenne’s trying to rescue Jack from Alice’s hug. Ah. No. He’s tickling her.”
“I almost regret that I’m not there to see it,” Kaleb chuckled. “Sounds like a good time is being had by all.”
“No, you really don’t want to be here,” Morgan said rather more seriously. “Todd’s here.”
“Yes,” Morgan agreed with a sigh that conveyed both annoyance and understanding. “With two new slaves, even. Not sure what happened to the last set of three.”
Kaleb sighed and shook his head. Someday he would need to talk to Todd again but tonight was definitely not the night. He shook off the memories of the past that continued to haunt him, focusing more on Nenne and Alice’s laughter. It sounded to him as though other people had joined in on the tickling because Alice’s laughter whooped and echoed even with the distance imposed by the phone.
“Did they start a tickle fest?” Kaleb asked.
“Yes!” Morgan chuckled. “I’d wade in to rescue Nenne but he appears to be enjoying himself.”
“No panic attacks with you?” Kaleb asked because he couldn’t keep himself from asking.
“A slight one when we were looking at the frog room,” Morgan said thoughtfully, “but that was it. He did tense up a couple of times in the orgy room but I think that was because of the other people there.”
Kaleb grunted, surprised that Morgan had managed to get Nenne into the orgy room. The play rooms must have been thoroughly packed for Nenne to submit to that, or possibly he’d just been that attracted to Morgan. He nodded thoughtfully as he considered the issue and listened to the growing laughter surrounding Morgan.
“He has to like you quite a lot then,” Kaleb commented. “Nenne’s quite uncomfortable with orgies. His last Master passed him around to his friends several times.”
“…I do hope that you did something horrible to him,” Morgan said through what had to be gritted teeth.
“Got him arrested and he’s been summarily sold into true slavery,” Kaleb replied. “He ran up a debt in another person’s name and got them put into the debt slavery system. The full cost of his sale, to a military owner by the way, went to the victim of the identity theft as reparations.”
“I think I can deal with that,” Morgan said, snorting and sighing. “You’re not in the least upset by our playing together.”
This time it was Kaleb’s turn to chuckle. The part of his soul that wanted nothing more than to claim Nenne as his own wasn’t necessarily happy about Nenne playing with someone else but even that part approved of Morgan. Nenne was a bright young man. If he had to choose someone, Kaleb thought Morgan was one of the best choices available in the lifestyle right now.
“I won’t say I’m delighted by it,” Kaleb admitted, “but I’m not upset. Well aware that the two of you aren’t good matches, which certainly helps.”
“You do want him,” Morgan said so quietly that probably no one other than Kaleb heard him.
“Desperately,” Kaleb said even though his heart started pounding. “Unfortunately, I’m rather too messed up by what happened with Todd to do it. I’m not at all sure at this point I’ll ever get over it. If Nenne finds the right person, someone he falls in love with who matches his kinks, I won’t stand in the way. Might grumble in the background but I won’t stand in the way.”
Morgan’s chuckle was sad and sympathetic. Kaleb could almost see his expression, the wry smile, the way that Morgan rubbed the back of his neck and then ran a thumbnail over his bottom lip whenever he was deep in thought. When Morgan spoke again it was in an understanding tone of voice that made Kaleb’s heart rate fall a bit.
“You’re a better man than me,” Morgan said. “I think I’ll resent every minute he spends with any other Master. Well, maybe not you. Your stamp on him is so clear. Everyone can see that he’s one of yours even though he says you’ve never laid a finger on him.”
The laughter and squealing in the background reminded Kaleb of better days before Todd became a part of Kaleb’s life. He smiled at the shadowed ceiling. No matter what happened with Nenne’s future Master, Kaleb was glad that he had a night like this. Hopefully there would be many more nights full of laughter and play in Nenne’s future.
“I taught him everything I know,” Kaleb murmured. “It was all that I could do, all that I can do even now. Maybe someday it will progress but for now he’s as dear to me as my flesh and blood.”
The request to take care of Nenne apparently came through loud and clear. Morgan cleared his throat, fabric rustling as he nodded or stood up straighter. Kaleb smiled across his bedroom, far more at peace about the whole thing than he would have expected.
“I’ll make sure he gets home safe,” Morgan promised.
“Thank you,” Kaleb said. “Make sure he’s happy and we’re good.”
“That’s easy enough,” Morgan chuckled. “Nenne makes it easy to care for him.”
“He certainly does,” Kaleb agreed. “He certainly does.”
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