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
“Good morning!” Nenne called as he let himself into Kaleb’s apartment. He waved the note Kaleb had left on his door. “Someone said I should call but I figured I’d come visit.”
Kaleb laughed. He was sprawled on the couch with a book in his hands that he gladly set aside as soon as Nenne shut the door. To Nenne’s surprise, Kaleb didn’t look as though he’d missed any sleep. He stood easily, smiled broadly and gestured for Nenne to give him the note.
“Sorry about that, Nenne,” Kaleb said. “I intended to take it back down but I started reading this damn book and fell asleep again.”
“That bad?” Nenne asked as he gave the note to Kaleb.
“A friend of mine wrote it,” Kaleb sighed. “I’m… trying to figure out how to tell him that his writing style needs help. A lot of help.”
Kaleb threw the note away. Nenne picked up the book and flipped through a few pages. He frowned at a page that was all one long impenetrable paragraph. When Nenne tried to read the page he had to stop three times just to parse out what the first sentence said. Nenne stared at it before looking at Kaleb who was quietly laughing in the kitchen.
“Is it all like this?” Nenne asked.
“Every page so far,” Kaleb sighed.
“Oh my goodness,” Nenne groaned. “This makes my fingers itch for a red pen. It’s horrible. Does he know that he’s supposed to use periods to separate thoughts? And that you’re supposed to use commas more than semicolons?”
Kaleb’s quiet chuckles became belly laughs that made Nenne grin at him. He set aside the book with gratitude that he didn’t have to be the one to read it. It was worse than some of the technical manuals he’d had to read for school and Nenne had thought they were the worst thing ever even though they did have a lot of very useful information. As Kaleb laughed, Nenne contemplated making something for them to eat but it was well past breakfast and not close enough to lunch time to make sense. After a moment it didn’t matter because Kaleb came back over to the couch, flopping on it while waving a hand for Nenne to get comfortable too.
“You look like you had a lovely time,” Kaleb said.
“You look like you got a good night’s sleep!” Nenne countered, grinning when Kaleb just shrugged and raised one eyebrow. “I’m surprised. I sort of expected you to be fussing all night long, especially when I realized that Master Jack had called you about my ‘disappearance’.”
“I will admit to having been worried when he woke me up,” Kaleb admitted, his smile going wry and self-depreciating, “but once I heard that you were with Morgan I wasn’t worried. He’s one of the few Masters in the lifestyle right now that I have no issues with at all. Even Jack doesn’t rate quite as highly.”
That surprised Nenne enough that he stared at Kaleb. He had thought that Master Jack and Kaleb were best friends. Nenne wouldn’t have believed that Kaleb had reservations about Master Jack if he hadn’t heard it from Kaleb directly. Apparently his surprised showed because Kaleb sighed and looked out the window at the rain falling outside.
“I have the highest levels of respect for Jack and his practices,” Kaleb explained without meeting Nenne’s eyes. “He’s a little free about offering Alice to people for my comfort. I know that he rarely asks her ahead of time if it’s all right and that bothers me.”
“I think they have an agreement about what sort of people are acceptable and what aren’t,” Nenne commented as he squirmed to get more comfortable on the couch.
“I’m sure they do,” Kaleb said, smiling so wryly that it had to be at himself. “I tend to think he should check in more frequently with Alice about that than he does. It’s not a big issue. I have no problems at all with your spending time with him. Frankly, it’s only that his style of being a Master for Alice is different than mine.”
Nenne grinned and nudged his toes against Kaleb’s thigh. Kaleb looked over only to start laughing at Nenne’s expression. He seemed to know without Nenne saying a word that Nenne was thinking about Master Morgan. The sheer lack of upset over last night made Nenne fiercely curious about what Kaleb thought of Master Morgan and how they knew each other.
Another nudge got Kaleb to shake his head and pat Nenne’s foot. He grinned at Nenne encouragingly enough that Nenne dared to move to the middle of the sofa so that they were sitting side by side. Nenne hadn’t dared do that since very early on after Grant had been arrested but today it seemed okay. Kaleb didn’t stiffen or raise an eyebrow or get that shadowed sad look in his eyes when Nenne did it.
“You like Master Morgan,” Nenne said.
“Quite a lot,” Kaleb agreed.
“Why?” Nenne asked. He snorted when Kaleb just raised an eyebrow. “Kaleb, I want to know! I like him but I’d like to know why you like him. I doubt that it’s for the same reasons.”
Kaleb snickered. “Blow jobs?”
“Kaleb!” Nenne huffed as he gently smacked Kaleb’s shoulder with one hand. “Seriously!”
Rather than answering, Kaleb just laughed and then smiled as he stared at the rain outside. When Nenne rode home last night the clouds had been heavy and dark overhead, blocking out any star or moonlight. This morning they were invisible because the rain was falling so steadily. It was strangely peaceful to sit on Kaleb’s couch with him, looking out at the wet world.
To Nenne’s surprise, Kaleb curled an arm around his shoulders, tugging him gently until Nenne was cuddled against his side. Nenne smiled and let himself be held. Master Morgan had really enjoyed cuddling last night, doing more of that than almost anything else. It had woken an urge that Nenne had long forgotten, back before his father started drinking and his mother got so cold.
“Nice,” Nenne murmured.
“Mm-hmm,” Kaleb agreed. “Morgan’s a gentle, thorough, patient man. He trained with my Master, you know. Well, my second Master. My father taught me most of what I know but I did train with another man when I was in my twenties. Morgan was with him just before he retired. I think he was his last dominant student.”
“I didn’t realize that Masters got training, too,” Nenne commented, surprised.
“The good ones do,” Kaleb said with a deeply content smile at Nenne. “The temperament to be a dominant or submissive seems to be fairly inborn but the actual skills do take practice. You have to learn how to handle other people, how to handle the various tools. A lot of Masters learn as they go but the ones that I consider to be best will learn from someone more established.”
Nenne gasped, twisting so that he could meet Kaleb’s eyes easily. “That’s why there are lineages! I thought it was family lines, not lines of… training? Instruction?”
Kaleb nodded. “Both, actually. There are family lines and lines of instruction. It can get quite complicated considering that we all learn from each other and practices shift and change based on new information, new toys, and the individuals involved in the relationships. Either way, Morgan was one of my instructor’s students and he’s… I think he’s one of the best. Very clear on what he wants, what his limits are. Also very good at making sure he’s satisfying his partners within both of their limitations. His last lover was in a wheelchair and they seemed deliriously happy together. I’m rather surprised that they split up.”
“Master Morgan said that she’s off visiting her family in Europe,” Nenne explained. “They haven’t really broken up at all. It’s apparently an open relationship and always was, not that anyone seemed to realize it but them.”
That bit of news made Kaleb nod thoughtfully. Nenne leaned back into his side, wondering if he should put his head on Kaleb’s shoulder. It had been such a long time since anyone had just held him. Thinking about it in the shower before he came over, Nenne had realized that his parents had stopped holding him when he turned eleven. Grant never had indulged in any form of cuddling. Alice was more interested in being cuddled, usually while squirming and giggling, than she was in doing the cuddling.
And Master Morgan had looked as though being asked for a cuddle after sex was the most wonderful gift he’d ever received. Nenne smiled and let his head settle down on Kaleb’s shoulder with a happy sigh. Underneath his cheek, Kaleb’s shoulder was tense for a long moment but eventually, after Nenne squirmed a little to get a more comfortable angle for his neck, Kaleb chuckled and relaxed.
His arm settled more comfortably around Nenne’s shoulders, the fingers squeezing gently. Nenne patted Kaleb’s thigh, not surprised that he tensed and then relaxed again with a rueful laugh. It made Nenne wonder if Kaleb and Master Morgan’s shared instructor had encouraged cuddling.
“Did you two train on cuddling?” Nenne asked after a minute of rambling disconnected thoughts on how nice it was to get to cuddle two different people in the same twenty-four hour period.
“Yes!” Kaleb laughed so loudly and enthusiastically that Nenne turned to watch the wrinkles forming at the corners of his eyes and mouth. “Old Master Edward thought that cuddling and just holding your sub was one of the most important things a Master could do.”
“I think I like him,” Nenne said. He giggled at Kaleb’s face splitting grin, poking him in the ribs. “I do! If he taught my two favorite people to be such wonderful people then I think I’d really like him too.”
“He’s probably strongly approve of you too, Nenne,” Kaleb chuckled. “Master Edward always was more for helping people be stronger than he was for protocol.”
Nenne nodded as he settled down at Kaleb’s side again. Neither Kaleb nor Master Morgan seemed to care very much about proper address or subs meeting their eyes or any of the thousand other nit-picky things Nenne had seen other Master complain about at the clubs. It was nice not to be held to an impossible standard, to be able to just be himself, especially after all the anger, harassment and abuse he’d gotten from his family and Grant.
Master Todd was one of the Masters who was always picky about protocol. Nenne hummed quietly, wondering if that was another place where things had gone wrong between him and Kaleb. It seemed likely, not that Nenne thought Kaleb would want to talk about that. Honestly, Nenne didn’t want to talk about Todd, not when Kaleb was so calm and relaxed for once.
“I’ve been thinking,” Kaleb said.
“No, not that!” Nenne explained and then laughed as Kaleb rolled his eyes. “Sorry, couldn’t resist.”
“Silly boy,” Kaleb chuckled, rubbing his hand over Nenne’s scalp and then grinning as Nenne sighed and cuddled against his side nudging him for more of the same.
“You can keep doing that while talking,” Nenne offered though his giggles made the offer rather less serious than he intended.
“You wouldn’t listen if I did,” Kaleb said, a laugh clear in his voice even though he didn’t let it out.
Nenne sighed and nodded. That was true enough. Master Morgan had spent some time rubbing Nenne’s scalp last night. It had been so soothing and wonderful that Nenne hadn’t wanted to move even when a bunch of people came into the orgy room to play.
“What were you thinking about?” Nenne asked when Kaleb’s hand settled back down onto Nenne’s shoulder.
“That I should go see a proper therapist for what happened with Todd,” Kaleb said.
His tone of voice was grim but when Nenne gasped and sat up to stare at him, Kaleb’s expression was wry and very self-aware. Nenne clasped his hands in front of his face for a moment, doing his best to keep in the explosion of feelings that the thought of Kaleb getting proper help set off. It took a moment for him to manage to swallow that down.
“You should,” Nenne said.
Kaleb raised his eyebrows in surprise. “Really? You approve?”
Nenne snorted and poked Kaleb in the ribs. “Of course I approve! I’m always here to listen if you want to talk Kaleb but I really do think you need to sort through it all with a properly trained person. I’d have gone to one if I’d had insurance. I probably still should. Heaven knows I haven’t really worked through three quarters of what happened with my parents. But anyway, yes, you should.”
“I suppose I didn’t think you’d approve,” Kaleb mused as he stared out the window again. “But then I’ve been second-guessing my reactions for so long that I tend not to trust myself on anything.”
“You really need to go to a therapist then,” Nenne said. “It’s that bad?”
The grim look in Kaleb’s eyes when he turned back told Nenne just how bad it was. He could see the pain and doubt in Kaleb’s expression, could see how much fear Kaleb was operating under. Nenne bit his lip and then hugged Kaleb tightly. Hugs didn’t fix everything but Nenne thought that they helped a lot.
Kaleb’s arm wrapped around Nenne’s shoulders to squeeze firmly. He held Nenne for a long while. Nenne smiled and rested his head on Kaleb’s shoulder once more. This was progress. There was nothing else that it could be. All these months of knowing Kaleb, Nenne had never once heard him admit that he could use help for his emotional problems. Admitting that what happened with Todd was serious enough to cause problems and that he needed someone professional to help him deal with it was a huge step forward in Nenne’s opinion.
Maybe once Kaleb was done with therapy they would be closer or maybe they’d drift apart. Nenne tried not to care. Granted, Kaleb was very much Nenne’s image of the perfect dominant but the most important thing to Nenne right now was that Kaleb got his strength back. Everything else could wait until later.
“Will you see Morgan again?” Kaleb asked. His voice had the sort of tightness that Nenne associated with Kaleb worrying that he’d never see Nenne again.
“Mm-hmm,” Nenne said. “There’s a new movie out that Master Morgan wants to see and it sounds really good. I said I’d go with him next Friday when I’m off. It should be pretty good. The reviews I’ve seen in the paper at work said that it was slow starting but after the one third point it picked up a lot.”
Kaleb laughed much more freely than Nenne expected given how tense he’d been a moment ago. “Are you two dating?”
“No more than we are,” Nenne countered. He snorted at how tense Kaleb went. “Seriously, we’re together all the time and we talk about everything, Kaleb. Master Morgan feels the same way to me. He’s open and kind and loving and a really nice person. It’s fun being around him. He makes me laugh. If we have sex from time to time, well, that’ll be lovely. If we don’t, that’s fine too. I like being around him and he seems to like to be around me. I wouldn’t call it dating. Friends with benefits?”
This time when Nenne looked at Kaleb’s expression there was nothing but relief and approval on his face. He smiled and rubbed his hand over Nenne’s scalp, tugging Nenne back into the cuddle. Nenne smiled and went with it happily.
Come what may, Nenne thought that he could be happy with his life as it stood. Sure, things could be better. They could always be better. But having Kaleb finally improving, finally looking to the future as something to plan for and enjoy instead of something to simply endure was wonderful. Having Master Morgan as another friend to spend time with was glorious. If Nenne was really lucky then maybe someday he’d have a Master of his own, too.
In the meantime he’d keep working to support Kaleb and to develop his own career so that he didn’t have to depend on anyone else for money, housing or the other basic needs of life.
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