Pairing: Liam Neeson/Orlando Bloom, minor Liam/Johnny Depp, plus a few other pair-ups among the supporting characters.
Rating: NC-17 overall
Summary: Slave Orlando's been taken and the kidnappers aren't interested in ransom. And of course Master Liam's thundering rage is only at the personal insult, that someone would disrespect him by daring to touch his property.
Disclaimer: I don't own anyone you recognize. I know nothing about their social lives or sexual activities, more's the pity. This is fiction, period. It is done as a labor of love and I make no money from it.
Notes: 1) Set in poisontaster's Kept Boy universe -- FAQ here. See Chapter 1 for more notes.
Previous Chapters: One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight, Nine, Ten, Eleven, Twelve, Thirteen, Fourteen, Fifteen, Sixteen, Seventeen, Eighteen, Nineteen, Twenty, Twenty-One, Twenty-Two, Twenty-Three, Twenty-Four, Twenty-Five, Twenty-Six, Twenty-Seven, Twenty-Eight, Twenty-Nine, Thirty, Thirty-One, Thirty-Two, Thirty-Three, Thirty-Four, Thirty-Five, Thirty-Six, Thirty-Seven
Liam sat on a rock next to a picturesque (and rather loud) cascading waterfall, reading mail on his phone and deliberately not looking at his watch every forty seconds. He wasn't up pacing, either, or looking over his shoulder at the driveway leading up to the Monterey Clipper Inn where he'd booked a room, although he didn't expect to stay the night. The small hotel was near to where Thewlis would be picking up his new body-slave, though -- Thewlis, who'd finally surfaced, battered but alive, a few days after Liam had returned from India with ghostly blood on his hands and grim satisfaction in his gut -- and they were all meeting at the hotel, outside on the grounds where it was cold but peaceful and private, him and the young man he'd purchased.
Remember that, he reminded himself. It's a new boy. Orlando will never be back, he's gone and he's better off wherever he is.
He felt a wave of depression soak into him, his shoulders sagging just a degree or two, his face tightening into a slight wince.
Waiting. Mail. Check industry news. Stare out past the view for a while. Check mail.
Life at home was going to be... delicate for a while. He'd thought it'd be better if he met the new boy elsewhere first, let them at least begin to settle in before tossing the young man into a house full of strangers, all of whom would be staring and watching, and several of whom were still mourning his predecessor. This first meeting was likely to be emotional, on both sides. Best get it done in private.
Stare out at the bay, through the trees. Check mail. Play solitaire, losing over and over.
When a car finally pulled up the drive and stopped a ways away, Liam knew it was Thewlis. It was probably a subconscious recognition of his engine sounds or some such thing, but it felt like a fist to the gut. He didn't turn around, just put his phone away and sat, looking at the white curtain of water plunging down an ornamental arrangement of rocks into an icy-looking pool.
Footsteps. Thewlis's tall, lanky form came into view first, then the young man he had firmly by the arm. A blue-eyed young man with short, dirty-blond hair and a look of blank shock on his not-quite-familiar face.
"Lord Neeson, this is David," said Thewlis, his voice formal and respectful but perfectly calm. "David, this is your new master, Lord Neeson."
Liam said, "David," and looked him over.
Whatever initial scarring there might've been from the facial surgery had healed beautifully. As it should; actors and other celebrities frequented the same body shop, which was reputed to be the best in the world. For what they charged, Liam frankly expected perfection.
The face was a bit blunter in shape. The nose was straighter and a little narrower, giving it a sharp look. The old hair would've been removed so it could grow in its new color; it was shorter than Liam liked, but time would fix that.
They'd adjusted David's metabolism as well, and stimulated his muscle growth -- another treatment popular with male celebrities. He wasn't brutish, but he was subtley muscular in a way he never had been before, no matter how hard he tried, and for a year or so in his early-twenties, he'd tried rather hard.
His olive skin had been lightened a couple of shades, to go with the lighter eyes and hair. All in all, the effect was subtle.
Perfect. Just the thing to have attracted a pining fool of a master who was stuck in the past and hunting ghosts, but not so much of a resemblance as to arouse suspicion.
David opened his mouth once, twice, then said, "Master?" That one word was near to bursting with an agony of emotion, and the boy jerked in Thewlis's strong grip, as though he'd tried to lunge forward..
Before David could say anything else, Liam interrupted him. "Yes, I'm your new master. I'm sure you'll work hard and serve me well, and we'll get along just fine."
Liam glanced back at the waterfall, and Thewlis said, "My Lord, perhaps if you and David took a walk...?"
He was right; moving was better.
"Good idea. There's a path down to the beach." It was also windy, and the surf was making enough noise to be heard up a fifty-foot cliff. It would probably do. Liam took David's other arm in a grip just as solid as Thewlis's, to prevent David from doing what Liam wanted just as much -- to crush them together in a hug that'd probably crack bones. That wouldn't do, however. Not yet.
He hauled David toward the steps leading down to the sand, and heard Thewlis say something about waiting inside, at the bar. Fine.
When they got down near the water, enough to feel the stinging-cold spray, Liam said, "I assume Thewlis told you about my previous body-slave."
"Yes, Master." David sucked in a breath, hard; Liam could feel the tension in his body, from heart to arm to hand to heart. If the boy didn't relax soon, at least a little, something was going to break.
"You understand, then, that there can never be any confusion between the two of you. I realize you resemble him somewhat -- that's one of the reasons you were chosen -- but if there's ever any question of who you are, Commerce is likely to confiscate you first and investigate afterward. That would be... inconvenient for me. I've already been without a body-slave for considerably longer than I like."
Liam looked over and saw David swallow hard, then nod. "Yes, Master. I do understand." He paused, then added softly, "There was... an incident during my training. One of the handlers made Commerce's policy on that subject very clear."
It took a strong act of will not to grab David and demand an explanation. Liam could only imagine what David might have done to prompt such a lesson, or how it might have been taught. Instead he pushed the thought away, searched frantically for some other topic, and said, "I've never been a body-slave's first master before -- a body-slave fresh out of Commerce's training. I hope you found it useful. Interesting." He knew he sounded like an idiot but he couldn't help it; he had to ask.
David's step faltered for a moment, and Liam was alarmed until he realized the boy was laughing. It was a quick, harsh laugh, just as quickly stifled.
"I apologize, Master. The training was very thorough. Efficient. I'm sure... I hope my skills will please you. If you require anything I've not been taught, I'll do my best to learn quickly."
Liam swallowed and turned his head to stare at the surging water. "I'm sure you'll please me very well. And... I'm sure it will take you some time to become accustomed to me. Although I'll tolerate no disrespect, I won't expect you to show... to display particular affection right away, until you've settled in, and we've been together for a while."
David looked like he was about to protest, then nodded and said, "Yes, Master. Thank you, Master." They walked on for another minute, then David said, "Master? May I ask a question?"
"Mr. Thewlis said that... that your old body-slave had family in your household. Are they, that is, will they likely be still mourning? Missing him? I-- I wouldn't want to cause them any pain."
And that, of course, was part of the reason they were there, meeting away from home. How to explain it?
Liam had been trying to figure out how to say what he needed to say for hours. Days, weeks even, if he were honest. And if he was smart as well as honest, he knew that talking around a subject was pointless. Anyone who might be listening to a purpose would be able to decode the vague phrases just as easily as the people speaking; Liam's companies held enough classified contracts for him to know that basic tenet of security. If it was safe to talk around a subject, then it was safe to talk out in the open. If it wasn't, well, they were already fucked.
He stopped and turned, taking the young man by the shoulders, lowering his voice out of irrational and unconquerable reflex. "David. You know what happened. This is the only way I could have you; if you're discovered, you'll be taken away from me and killed. You know, I know, Thewlis knows. Kevin will figure it out but he'll keep his mouth shut or I'll sell him to a toxic clean-up crew, promise be damned. Don't let on you know him, by the way -- he helped me find you, but he's a conniving little bastard so don't trust him. But that's all -- no one else can know."
David looked confused for a moment while Liam warned him about Kevin, then visibly dismissed the question and said, "But my mother? Samantha? They'll recognize me, I know they will. So will Johnny."
"They might. They might think they recognize you, but if they do, it can't ever be acknowledged. You know what surveillance is like -- there might well be bugs at home and we'd never know. You're David, you have to be David forever, and that's the end of it.
"This will help," he added, running one hand through David's short hair, then brushing a finger along one eyebrow, down his cheek and neck and out across one slightly-broader shoulder. "If they come to doubt their memories, to truly accept you as David, then that's all to the good. If not, they have to be made to keep any suspicions to themselves. Even in private. It's important, David. I won't lose you again and anyone who even hints that you might not be my David will be punished harshly. I will not lose you."
David coughed on whatever he'd almost said in response, then instead said, "Yes, Master."
That should've been the end of it, but what the hell. If they were under surveillance, then someone would be listening as well as watching, so it didn't matter. He pulled Orlando-- David! David-David-David! --to him, arms tight around his back and waist, and wrapped him in an enveloping hug. David latched on, hugging back, and Liam heard a faint, hiccuping sob. He rocked back and forth, pressing a kiss into David's bristly hair.
"You're mine," he whispered. "I'm keeping you, if we have to go to fucking India and defect."
Another hiccup, this time around a laugh. David murmured, "Yes, Master." And that was that. They turned and walked back up the beach.
It was nearly noon by the time Thewlis saw Lord Neeson and David coming across the lobby. Thewlis finished the last swallow of beer in his glass and headed over to meet them.
"You two hit it off?" he asked when they met and paused in the middle of the marble floor. It was a bit more informal than he usually was with Lord Neeson, but if there was anything wrong, he hoped his Lordship could figure out a way of getting that across to him. Anything that needed fixing, needed fixing immediately.
"Well enough," Lord Neeson replied. "It'll take some time to adjust, but that's normal. I'm sure David will learn how to please me quickly enough."
"I'm sure he will," Thewlis agreed, hoping that meant everything was all right. "Did you want to head right home, then, or...?"
"Let's get some lunch first. I don't have any appointments this afternoon, and if anything burns down, people know how to contact me."
Thewlis grinned and tossed Lord Neeson a teasing salute. "That they do. Food sounds good."
David had been standing silently by his master's side while the free men talked. His posture was graceful, his position pleasing, and his expression suitably neutral, but he looked... off. Thewlis had never known David before, but he'd seen photos and a couple of vids, and the smiling, flirtatious young man was just a vague memory when compared with the still, tense slave standing before him. Probably just as well, all things considered -- the more points of difference the better, especially in the crucial first year or so -- but still, it was sad. Thewlis could only imagine how it felt for Lord Neeson, if even a stranger was noticing.
They started across the lobby toward a small but chic restaurant when what looked like six months' worth of baggage piled on top of a luggage cart teetered and fell to the floor with a crash.
In the middle of a bellhop diving after the cases, the guest who (presumably) owned the cases babbling in an angry voice about damage, and a manager-type rushing over to expedite the clearing up of the mess and the smoothing of feathers, David had slammed to the floor on his knees, with his forehead on the marble.
Lord Neeson stared down at him with a puzzled scowl. Thewlis went down on one knee and coaxed David back up to his feet. "New slave," he said over his shoulder to Lord Neeson. "They're fairly rigid in their discipline, and they drill until the reflexes are embedded down to the bone. If you don't plan to require the same standards, you'll need to work with him, and it'll probably take some time to re-train him. He really can't help it right now." There was also a generous helping of fear in the boy, but Thewlis could only hope time and being back home -- however strange the situation -- would ease that. After what he'd likely been through, though, healing from it wouldn't be quick.
David looked like he was about to kneel again, this time to his owner. "I apologize, Master," he murmured to Neeson's shoes. "I didn't mean to make a spectacle of myself."
And sure enough, when Thewlis looked around, he saw that there were just as many people staring at them as at the fiasco with the scattered luggage.
Lord Neeson stared at the boy for a few seconds, his jaw clenched. He finally nodded and said, "Forgiven. We'll work on it." Then he turned on his heel and continued on to the restaurant.
David automatically knelt next to Lord Neeson's seat, getting up only to serve his master when new courses came, or to refresh his drink. Lord Neeson fed David off his own plate; it wasn't something Thewlis was used to seeing, but his Lordship seemed to be doing it automatically, without any particular thought, and Thewlis noticed that David was... well, maybe not quite so tightly strung by the time the server came around to offer dessert.
"Will you need me for anything else, my Lord?" Thewlis asked, after ordering an espresso. Lord Neeson had ordered the creme brulee to go with his own coffee.
"No, I think we're finished," he said. "You might not've been able to find my boy for me, but you gave it a solid effort. And you did find me a replacement, so I'll count that as a good job. You can keep whatever's left on the retainer, and feel free to use me as a reference."
"Thank you, my Lord. That's very generous."
"You earned it." Lord Neeson sat back in his chair and cocked his head at Thewlis. "Do you have anything else lined up?"
Dave gave him a wry smile. "Well, I've actually been in contact with Mr. Vincent over the last month or so. He's insisting he wants to hire me as soon as you no longer needed me. I tried to explain that I have very few contacts on the eastern seaboard, but he doesn't seem the sort of man who takes no for an answer with any equanimity."
Lord Neeson smirked and said, "No, he's not and never has been. I suggest you give in gracefully." He paused for a moment and frowned, staring into Thewlis's eyes like he was trying to see the back of his head. He hesitated for long ticks of the clock, then he said, "You may tell him," and that was the end of that conversation.
Next Chapter: Chapter Thirty-Nine