sulli/krystal; r; approx 3.7k
warnings: foul language, mentions of prior abuse
disclaimer: messing around in danie's petau.
Krystal doesn't know what brought it on. She's been fine for nearly a month since she moved from the shop into Jinri's home. Since her mistress's birthday party, things have presumably returned to normal in the Choi household and Krystal has adapted to Jinri's quiet lifestyle - helping her mother, tending to the garden, painting or practicing music when she has time.
Occasionally, she asks Krystal to read to her and they drop asleep together in the study before being called to dinner. Jinri giggles as her mother scolds her for lazing the day away. Krystal's expression remains stoic, but she feels a little responsible, even if Lady Choi never directs her criticisms at her.
But such a minor thing shouldn't have caused this. Krystal doesn't know why she can't seem to move from the study, why her shoulders are shaking from barely suppressed sobs, tears making tracks down her cheeks as she cant even bring herself to wipe her face so that she may go greet her mistress at the dinner table.
Jinri has to come find her and years of conditioning have Krystal shuddering from a strange mix of shame and fear, though she knows there's nothing to fear because Jinri's arms are instantly around her, pulling her close so that she may rest he head against her mistress's shouldr, as she strokes her hair and hushes her quietly.
Her tears are soaking through the cotton fabric of the dress Jinri has changed into before dinner, now that the night is cooler than the afternoon during which they'd fallen asleep. Awareness of that fact has Krystal crying harder, but if Jinri is startled, she doesn't show it. She continues to hold Krystal, letting her cry herself dry, until she speaks.
What comes aren't the questions Krystal had expected. For the best, because she has no answers prepared. But all the same, she is surprised when Jinri looks her over and states, quite simply, "I think it's time for a bath."
This is the first time her mistress has ever picked her up and, if Krystal was honest, she hadn't expected Jinri to be able to. But her childish face aside, she's tall and strong - beautiful, Krystal thinks, as she looks up at her side profile. She keeps her arms hooked around Jinri's shoulders and neck, allowing herself to be carried into her mistress's chambers. Along the way, Jinri calls for a maid to draw warm water for a bath.
Inside her mistress's room, Krystal expects to be set on the floor. She's ready to help Jinri disrobe, to help her into the bath water undoubtedly being filled now. But Jinri is the one to undo Krystal's robes, letting them drop off her slim shoulders to the ground. Krystal shudders, looking up at Jinri with some confusion, as her mistress wraps her arms around her waist and pulls her in for a soft kiss.
Krystal kisses back, but it stays gentle, soft. With the tell tale knock on the door connecting her bedroom and the bath, Jinri breaks the kiss and sweeps Krystal up in her arms again. She opens the door with little difficulty, and with just as much ease, helps Krystal sink down into the tub.
With perfect care, Jinri lathers her body and hair with soap. With a few stolen kisses in between,she scrubs her down gently with a warm wash cloth. Krystal stands for her to rinse her off with small buckets of warm water. She's smiling by the time Jinri is toweling her off, kissing her again as she dries her off behind her ears.
"Don't take Mother's words too seriously," Jinri says, softly. "She doesn't blame you for when I fall asleep."
When they come back into Jinri's bedroom, they find a tray of dinner laid out for two at her desk.
Jinri grins. "See?"
Krystal feels like crying for an entirely different reason.
When Krystal falls ill for the first time since being purchased, she does her best to keep it a secret from the rest of the household. Despite her lack of appetite, she still eats breakfast as she normally does, and quietly disposes of it herself when no one is looking. Despite the chilly fall breeze, she goes out as usual to pick fruits from the trees to be sliced up for tea time snacks. In the privacy of her dance studio, she puts music on as usual and the stretches she does manages to produce a sheen of sweat that gives her the appearance of having been practicing.
Illness has always been dangerous. Illness has often gained her nothing but her master's wrath and annoyance. She doesn't expect harsh punishments from Jinri, but she doesn't like the idea of annoying her, either, by not living up to her expectations. It's still hard to tell what Jinri's expectations are, because she seems pleased with just about everything Krystal does, but Krystal has lived in the world long enough to know that everyone's after something.
Just before dinner, Jinri catches her in the parlor, trying to read a book but failing quite thoroughly. She stands before her pet, reaching for Krystal's hand, and Krystal lets her mistress's warm palms close around her, before pulling her up.
"Come here, pet," she says quietly, as Krystal is guided into her mistress's arms. Jinri is warmth and comfort and she closes her eyes, forgetting for a moment that her own skin must be rather cold to the touch, must instantly reveal her condition. "You're ill, darling. Why didn't you say something?"
But there's none of the irritation Krystal expects in her voice and it makes Krystal relax a bit. She doesn't pretend to hide it. "I didn't want to disappoint you, Mistress."
"Silly." Krystal feels the ground being swept away from right under her, as Jinri lifts her into her arms. "You could never disappoint me. If you're ill, say you're ill. If you're tired, say you're tired. If you're sad, say you're sad. I'll understand."
Krystal closes her eyes, head resting against Jinri's shoulder as she is carried upstairs to bed. For the moment, she allows herself to believe.
Krystal doesn't know when Lord Chinhae leaves, but it doesn't matter. The moment they're back inside the manor, she's not given another chance to think about him, because Jinri is storming upstairs to her room, not to Siwon as she had led the young Lord to believe. Krystal is unsure about following, but her mistress has not dismissed her yet, so she does, stepping inside and shutting the door quietly behind her.
She's still shaking when Jinri turns around and pulls her into a tight embrace.
"I'm sorry, pet."
Krystal blinks. This is the first anyone's ever apologized to her. The words are difficult to make sense of, especially in this situation.
"For what, Mistress?" she asks, brow furrowed in confusion as her arms go around Jinri's waist.
"For him. He was horrid, wasn't he? If I could have, I would have strangled him then and there for speaking to you that way."
Krystal is blinking again, suddenly blinking right at her mistress's face as Jinri pulls back to look at her. Krystal realizes the silence must have dragged on for too long. "Mistress, it's all right." She lets her arms drop, her eyes straying from Jinri's face as she recalls distant memories she thought she'd done a fairly successful job of locking away. "Men have said worse to me than that."
Fucking bitch, think you can run away? Think you can find better than me? I'll show you who you belong to. I'll show you who you're messing with. You're not gonna get better than my cock between your legs, sweetheart.
"Pet? Darling, look at me. Krystal, look at me."
Jinri's voice is soft, but panicked. Krystal's head jerks back to her concerned gaze and she realizes Jinri's hands are on her face, stroking her cheeks - wiping her tears.
"Krystal... Are you all right?"
Krystal can't stop crying. No matter how much she wants to, the tears won't stop coming, and she can't speak from the way they're choking back her words. But she doesn't make a sound, not even when Jinri has her in her arms again, taking her to sit down on the bed and whispering quietly into her hair, "Shh... I've got you. I'm here. I've got you."
The first time Krystal meets Kai, she recognizes him. Not because she knows him, but she knows him. And it upsets her, his blank, placid expression - the way he won't do anything unless he's expressly ordered to. He's like her, but he isn't. He's a pet properly broken, the kind of pet they would have liked her to be.
It makes her angry, this reminder of her former life. She avoids him the rest of the evening, even when they're both sent to the pet corner, and she pretends not to notice when he panics after hitting Suho. Suho who looks so alarmed, so confused, because of course a pet raised like him could never understand. At Lord Tao's words - You knew, didn't you? - she looks away, afraid that she might implicate herself just by looking over.
She's on edge the rest of the evening, tense in her seat beside Jinri in the carriage. And when she's reached the privacy of her own room, it explodes. Her carefully controlled emotions can be contained no longer and she only barely suppresses a scream before she's knocked all her jewelry off her desk and onto the floor.
She's angry. She's angry and this is the only way she knows how to express it. This is the only way she ever expressed it, whenever they locked her up and laughed at her from the other side, listening to her scream and cry as she threw whatever she could at the door.
She's doing that now, throwing everything within reach at the walls. Her hairbrush, her pillows - they don't make as much noise, the impact isn't so heavy. But her jewelry boxes, her hand mirror - those shatter against the walls. And the vase- the vase is-
The door is open and Jinri stands with shattered porcelain at her feet. The vase had crashed on the wall behind her, but her eyes are wide open, shocked.
Pets don't dare to bar their doors from their own masters. Pets also don't throw vases at their heads. Krystal is quite certain she's the worst pet in the world in the moment.
"M-Mistress-" Panic overwhelms her. She's on the floor, her legs unable to move, not that she has anywhere to go. "Forgive me- Mistress, forgive me. I didn't- I didn't know you were- I'm sorry, Mistress. Your things- the fine things- I'm sorry, Mistress. Please forgive me- Please-"
She's inconsolable, even as Jinri steps towards her, no threat in her carriage at all. She's still apologizing, even when Jinri has her wrapped up in her arms, stroking her hair and quietly shushing her. She's crying again. And it's horrible, crying and being unable to stop. Hurt and angry and it's unfair - unfair that he still has such a tight hold on her.
"It's okay. It's okay, darling. Everything's okay now."
Krystal doesn't think she'll ever be okay. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry, Mistress." I'm sorry I'll never be good enough for you.
Jinri doesn't know. Krystal is sure of it, that she doesn't really know about her past - her previous master and what he'd put her through. Krystal now has a sense that what he did was wrong, but his sins must have clearly ruined her, as well. She doesn't want his cruelty to taint Jinri like it's tainted her. She wants to keep her mistress as far away from such a harsh world as she's grown up in as she can. So she resolves not to talk about it. Even if Jinri always wonders at her tears, even if Jinri sometimes asks what her previous master was like.
No. Jinri doesn't know, and Jinri can't.
If she did, Krystal wonders if she would still indulge her in as many fine gifts as she always does. If she would still say she was so beautiful, when she places such fine jewels on her wrists, hands, ears. If she would so easily kiss her at every given opportunity knowing how many others have had a taste of her mouth, have forced their taste on her tongue.
These days - after Lord Chinhae - Jinri has taken a liking to head dresses and pretty tiaras. When they attend formal balls, these are the final touches she adds to Krystal, giving clear instructions to her maids when they dress her, if she isn't present herself to do it.
"Do you like it?" she asks when she places a new piece to the collection atop her head - a crown made of crystals, to match her name.
"This must have cost a fortune, Mistress."
"That doesn't answer my question," Jinri says with a wry smile, playfully chastising her.
Krystal accepts her kiss, before answering. "Of course I love it, Mistress."
"Good. Because for the rest of my life, I'll have you seen as the princess you are."
Her mistress can never know.
Tonight is one of those grand banquets during the week the council has off. The balls are more crowded than usual with young, handsome lords coming out and their admirers turning up in droves to see them. Krystal has gotten better at dealing with the crowds, but she can see Kai is tired at Baekhyun's side. Even though Baekhyun has suggested he leave off for the pet corner, he looks hesitant, wary of leaving his master alone.
They understand each other better these days, though neither talks very much. And Krystal knows Kai wants to be away from the crowd, but he doesn't want to be alone. It still seems dangerous, being surrounded by strangers.
She whispers into Jinri's ear and, as usual, her mistress is understanding. Jinri invites Baekhyun to dance, allowing Krystal to walk with Kai over to sit with the other pets.
She's discussing technique with Kai when he approaches. She barely recognizes him at first - it was so long ago. But he remembers her, it seems. And his voice makes her freeze on the spot, when his words reach her ears.
"Well, well... I thought it was you they must have been talking about. Lady Jinri's fine new pet - I bet she has no idea where you really came from." He doesn't address her directly. Pets like her don't deserve such a courtesy. She uses it to her advantage at the moment, pretending she has no idea who he's talking to.
But it's difficult when Kai is staring back and forth between her and him, confused, panicked. Kai panics easily, and she gives him a small shake of her head. It's okay. Ignore him, he'll go away. He'll go away and it'll be okay.
But he doesn't go away. He reaches to grab her chin and turn her to face him. His eyes are sharp and his smile is twisted. "Don't ignore me, pet. That's bad manners."
"I'm-" I'm not your pet, she wants to say. But the words die on her throat, die on a soft, pained moan because he's hurting her now, his grip on her chin tightening a moment before releasing her.
"You're pretending," he finishes for her. "And I suppose it's worked so far. You were always quite pretty, a doll made to be dressed up. But does your mistress know?"
He means to tell her. She can already see it in his eyes, and she panics. Because Jinri can't know. Jinri must never know.
His smile grows a little wider. Apparently that was the right response. "Please, what?"
"Please... I beg you. Please don't say anything." Not here. Not now.
There are other inquisitive eyes on them. Some are listening, some must have overheard. They're only gathering more attention and she needs him to go.
She can't say it. She won't say it. It's not true. It's not right. And she'll never belong to another man again.
"Shame, pet. I almost took pity on you."
He's walking away already. Krystal races after him, but there's only so far she can catch up, before he's located Lord and Lady Choi, Jinri beside them.
"Stop!" Krystal exclaims, having lost the sense to stop herself. Because of course now she has everyone's attention, including Lord and Lady Choi. Jinri looks at her with alarm, expression filled with her usual concern whenever something like this happens. Whenever Krystal causes a scene for no apparent reason, and she wishes she could sink into the very core of the Earth.
He smirks at her, before turning his attention to small crowd gathered around them. "I do believe the people here would like to know the truth, wouldn't they? About Lady Jinri's precious pet. How could I disappoint them?"
"Lord Chungho," Siwon says, stepping forward with confident, long strides. He grabs Chungho's arm, silencing his words. "If you've something to say to my mother and father, I believe they would prefer it be done in private." His words are mild, but his tone has even Krystal shivering. She's never heard his voice so sharp before.
He - Lord Chungho - seems amused, but nods. "Mm. You're quite right, how inconsiderate of me. Shall we retire to another room?"
"Krystal," Jinri says, approaching her and wrapping an arm around her waist. It's of little comfort in the moment, because Krystal feels that arm might be torn away at any moment. Her knees feel weak. She has no idea how to stop this. "Krystal, perhaps you'd better sit down. Perhaps-"
"No, do bring the pet along. I believe you'll want her there."
Jinri scowls outright at him. "She's my pet and I will decide if she comes or not."
"Oh, but I do believe you'll want to hear what I've got to say, Lady Jinri. And would you leave your pet now for it?"
Jinri looks at Krystal and Krystal's hands are shaking as she grabs onto her mistress's. She can't have Jinri leave now. It's unreasonable, but Krystal is overwhelmed at the idea that Jinri might never return once she-
"It's okay. I'm okay."
They find a private room in which to talk. Lord and Lady Choi are still frowning and Siwon is there as mediator. Geng has been left with the other pets and Jinri is sitting atop a small couch with Krystal in her arms. Krystal can't stop shaking and won't let go of her mistress's hand, so she has little choice.
What happens goes by in a blur for her. She is trying hard to catch her breath, watching the scene as if from the outside in, and Lord Chungho's words are slurred and distant as he explains how he'd come across her so many years ago. The kind of pet she'd been, how many people she'd been with, the things he'd seen her do. (The things he pretended he never had a hand in.)
Naturally Lady Choi looked shocked. Lord Choi's expression only grows darker. Siwon himself looks alarmed, eyebrows raised so high they were disappearing into his hairline. She's not sure she wants to see Jinri's face.
With the first step Lady Choi took forward, Krystal leans instinctively into Jinri's arms, expecting her to yank her daughter away from the filth Lord Chungho has just made her out to be.
But surprisingly, Lady Choi's palm connects with Lord Chungho's face, instead, in an almost deafening slap that leaves everyone in the room speechless for a few moments.
"How dare you speak about her like this? How dare you imply she deserved anything those horrible men did to her?"
Lord Choi steps forward, hand on his fuming wife's shoulder as she glares down a man nearly twice her size.
"I think you should go now, son. The council will be investigating your travel records. I find it hard to believe you just stumbled upon a scene as you've described."
"I'll personally escort him out, Father."
As a struggling Chungho tries to resist - but no matter how tall he is, Siwon is stronger - Krystal continues shaking in her mistress's arms. The further away he goes, however, the more she comes to her senses.
"Dear? Krystal, are you all right?"
It isn't Jinri's voice. It's Lady Choi, kneeling before her, taking her face into her hands.
"Oh dear. Jinri, you should take her home. I'll call for the carriage and we'll join you later. I can't imagine she'd want so much company around her right now."
But neither of them gets up for a while after her parents have gone downstairs.
"I'm sorry," Krystal offers. Because she doesn't know what else to say. It's a pet's place to humble herself, when she's caused such a scene, raised such speculation against her household. She's sure everyone outside must be talking about what just happened. She's sure she's ruined her mistress's name.
"Don't be sorry... Don't you ever be sorry for what they did to you." It startles her, how angry Jinri sounds. But her mistress is holding her tightly in her arms, as if she never intends to let go. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry I didn't find you sooner. I'm sorry I let that man put you through that. Father will make him pay. Don't be sorry - you have nothing to be sorry for."
"But because of me-"
"But nothing." Jinri takes a breath, as if realizing how her words might be frightening Krystal. When she speaks again, her voice is quieter. "Darling, I don't care how many people used you in the past. I only care enough to want them all to pay for it. But you - you as you are - you're the pet I bought and you're the pet I want. Nothing's changed. Don't you dare think anything's changed between you and me. You or any of us. You heard Mother and Father - they don't blame you. Neither would Siwon. Don't - please don't feel like you have to be sorry."
Krystal clings to her mistress. Her beautiful, pure, wholly innocent mistress, and wonders if her luck could possibly last.
Jinri carries her up to her room that night, as well. By the time they've reached home, she's at least managed to step out of the carriage by herself, but her mistress insists on keeping her in her arms.
"I'm okay," she assures her, a bit embarrassed at having all the servants seeing her be carried in.
Jinri smiles, kissing her temple. "I know. But I think after tonight, you deserve to be pampered a bit."
"Pampered?" She thinks she deserves a scolding, at the very least.
"Yes, darling. I'm thinking a bath and some desserts - but not too much or you might not sleep well. I'll rub your feet for you if you don't splash too much in the tub."
Krystal has never once splashed her in the tub, but she nods, anyway.
This was certainly not how she expected to end her evening, but it feels good to be home at last.